Malibu, CA, – Leon Cooper, WWII veteran, author and subject of the Military Channel’s recent documentary, Return to Tarawa: The Leon Cooper Story, is asking the U.S. Government to give long overdue attention to our country’s fallen war heroes, who were forgotten and ignored by our nation, sixty-five years ago, in the battle of ‘Bloody Tarawa’ during World War II.
The remains of hundreds of Americans still lie in Betio, the tiny South Pacific island in Tarawa where the battle was fought. Their relatives know only that these dead who gave their lives in defense of America’s freedom, are classified as ‘MIA’.
The Military Channel documentary ‘Return To Tarawa: The Leon Cooper Story’ has served to expose this shameful chapter of America’s history, causing the question to be raised: ‘How many more Tarawas are there?’
There are 45,120 World War II dead in the Pacific Theatre, a tally as of September 6, 2006, according to the Department of Defense. The Pacific War MIAs account for more than 55% of all of the 73,291 MIAs of WWII.
These shocking numbers stem from the Defense Department’s policy: ‘Most recent wars first.’ In other words, the Department gives top priority to the recovery and repatriation of the dead from the current Iraq and Afghanistan wars. All of our nation’s wars prior to Viet Nam are classified by the Department as ‘Ancient Wars,’ thereby putting WWII veterans in the same group, for example, as the Greek warriors of the BC era who fought in the Pelopponesian War.
‘It is particularly contemptuous to treat WWII MIAs as if they were fossilized remains. The Defense Department’s recovery rate of 0.2% per year of WWII MIA ‘returns’ simply emphasizes the Department’s contempt,’ states Cooper. One study has estimated that, at the Department’s recovery rate, it will take more than 300 years to recover all of the Pacific War MIAs that are ‘recoverable.’ He goes on to say, ‘Will the thousands of Americans who still lie where they fell in Papua New Guinea, in the Solomons, in the Philippines, in the Marianas, and in the many minor land skirmishes ever be returned to their homes?’
William Gladstone, Britain’s 19th century Prime Minister said, ‘One can judge the conscience of a nation by the recognition it gives to those who died for it.’
What is the state of our country’s conscience?
Mr. Cooper is available for interview. Copies of his books, ’90 Day Wonder Darkness Remembered,’ and ‘The War in the Pacific A Retrospective’, are also available upon request.