Granger teen killed in World War II finally coming home

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This undated photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense shows Marine Corps Pvt. Channing Whitaker of Granger. Whitaker's remains will soon return to his home 76 years after his death in World War II. The Defense Department used DNA from a niece to identify the remains of 18-year-old Pvt. Whitaker, who died Nov. 22, 1943, during the Battle of Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands in the South Pacific. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Defense

GRANGER, Iowa — The remains of a Granger Marine killed in war nearly 76 years ago have been identified and will be interred with full military honors in Des Moines Nov. 22, according to a statement issued Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Marine Corps Pvt. Channing Whitaker, 18, died Nov. 22, 1943, in the Battle of Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands in the South Pacific.

The statement said DNA from Whitaker’s niece, Marla Brubaker, was used in order to positively identify Whitaker, who was one of 1,009 U.S. Marines and 687 U.S. Navy Seamen killed during the amphibious landing on the Japanese-occupied island.

Archeologists have been working for 10 years to unearth and identify the remains of soldiers buried in a previously undiscovered trench on the Gilbert Islands. The Gilbert Islands are a chain of sixteen atolls and coral islands in the Pacific Ocean about halfway between Papua New Guinea and Hawaii.

The Gilbert Islands are located about 2,400 miles southwest of Hawaii.

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