PFC Michael Leo Salerno

PFC Michael Leo Salerno

Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA
Death 20 Nov 1943 (aged 19)
Tarawa, Gilbert Islands, Kiribati
Burial Torresdale, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA
Memorial ID 194860189 · View Source
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Marine Corps Pfc. Michael L. Salerno, killed during World War II, was accounted for on Sept. 27, 2018 and laid to rest next to his mom and dad in a family plot at Saint Dominic Cemetery on April 27, 2019.

In November 1943, Salerno was a member of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 2nd 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, but the Japanese were virtually annihilated. Salerno died on the first day of the battle, Nov. 20, 1943.

Despite the heavy casualties suffered by U.S. forces, military success in the battle of Tarawa was a huge victory for the U.S. military because the Gilbert Islands provided the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet a platform from which to launch assaults on the Marshall and Caroline Islands to advance their Central Pacific Campaign against Japan.

In the immediate aftermath of the fighting on Tarawa, U.S. service members who died in the battle were buried in a number of battlefield cemeteries on the island. The 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company conducted remains recovery operations on Betio between 1946 and 1947, but Salerno’s remains were not identified. All of the remains found on Tarawa were sent to the Schofield Barracks Central Identification Laboratory for identification in 1947. By 1949, the remains that had not been identified were interred in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu, including one set, designated Tarawa Unknown X-267.

On Jan. 30, 2017, DPAA disinterred Tarawa Unknown X-267 from the NMCP for identification.

To identify Salerno’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis, anthropological and chest radiograph comparison analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence.

DPAA is grateful to the Department of Veterans Affairs for their partnership in this mission.

Salerno’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl (56121259, cenotaph), along with the others who are missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Marine Corps POW/MIA Section
DPAA Release No: 18-263 (Dec. 17, 2018)

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  • Created by: JSMorrison
  • Added: 20 Nov 2018
  • Find A Grave Memorial 194860189
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for PFC Michael Leo Salerno (26 Mar 1924–20 Nov 1943), Find A Grave Memorial no. 194860189, citing Saint Dominic Church Cemetery, Torresdale, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by JSMorrison (contributor 47978427) Burial Details Unknown.