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Gov. Reynolds orders flags at half-staff to honor fallen WWII Marine Channing Whitaker


This news story was published on November 22, 2019.
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Marine Corps Reserve Pvt. Channing R. Whitaker

DES MOINES– Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered all flags in Iowa to fly at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Friday, November 22, 2019 to honor fallen Marine Corps Reserve Pvt. Channing R. Whitaker.

Marine Corps Reserve Pvt. Channing R. Whitaker, of Granger, Iowa was killed in action on November 22, 1943. Pvt. Whitaker was a member of Company A, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands, in an attempt to secure the island. Pvt. Whitaker’s remains were accounted for on May 29, 2019.

Pvt. Whitaker will be buried with full military honors.

Friday, November 22, 2019
Memorial Service
Glendale Cemetery
Des Moines, IA
2:00 p.m.


Flags will be at half-staff on the State Capitol Building and on flag displays in the Capitol Complex. Flags will also be half-staff on all public buildings, grounds and facilities throughout the state.

Individuals, businesses, schools, municipalities, counties and other government subdivisions are encouraged to fly the flag at half-staff for the same length of time as a sign of respect.

In November 1943, Whitaker was a member of Company A, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, which landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands, in an attempt to secure the island. Over several days of intense fighting at Tarawa, approximately 1,000 Marines and Sailors were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded, while the Japanese were virtually annihilated. Whitaker died on the third day of the battle, Nov. 22, 1943. He was reported to have been buried in the East Division Cemetery, which was eventually renamed Cemetery #33.

In 1946, the 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company centralized all of the American remains found on Tarawa at Lone Palm Cemetery for later repatriation; however, almost half of the known casualties were never found. No recovered remains could be associated with Whitaker, and in October 1949, a Board of Review declared him “non-recoverable.”

In 2009, History Flight, Inc., a nonprofit organization, notified DPAA that they discovered a burial site on Betio Island and recovered the remains of what they believed to be missing American service members who had been buried in Cemetery #33. In March 2019, following continued excavations, a previously undiscovered burial trench was uncovered. The remains were accessioned into the DPAA laboratory.

To identify Whitaker’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental, anthropological and chest radiograph comparison analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence.

DPAA is grateful to the Republic of Kiribati and History Flight, Inc., for their partnership in this mission.

Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,648 service members still unaccounted for from World War II with approximately 30,000 assessed as possibly recoverable. Whitaker’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with the others killed or lost in WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

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One Response to Gov. Reynolds orders flags at half-staff to honor fallen WWII Marine Channing Whitaker

  1. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    November 24, 2019 at 8:05 am

    This is wonderful work the History Flight people are doing. Thank you very much.

    PFC Channing Whitaker would be 94 years old today, instead, he gave his life when he was just 18.