Mount Clemens Marine accounted from World War II

Man To be buried Oct. 25 in Holly

By: Alex Szwarc | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published September 20, 2019

 Earlier this month, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced that Kenneth Likens, of Mount Clemens, was accounted for on May 31, 2019. Likens, a Marine, was killed on Nov. 22, 1943, during World War II.

Earlier this month, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced that Kenneth Likens, of Mount Clemens, was accounted for on May 31, 2019. Likens, a Marine, was killed on Nov. 22, 1943, during World War II.

Photo provided by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency

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MOUNT CLEMENS — Over seven decades after the end of World War II, the remains of a local Marine were still unaccounted for.

But on Sept. 5, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, or DPAA, announced that Marine Corps Reserve Pfc. Kenneth Likens, 20, of Mount Clemens, was accounted for on May 31, 2019.

Likens was killed on Nov. 22, 1943, during the assault on the Japanese-held island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll, and his remains were missing until recently.

Likens served in Company B, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division. His remains were reportedly buried in the East Division Cemetery on Betio, later renamed Cemetery No. 33, but he was not identified among the remains exhumed from the island after the war.

In 2019, the DPAA, in partnership with the nonprofit organization History Flight, traveled to Betio where it uncovered a previously undiscovered burial trench and recovered human remains. U.S. analysts used modern forensic techniques and identified Likens from these remains.

He is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, near Honolulu, Hawaii.

In November 1943, Likens’ unit landed against stiff Japanese resistance on Betio 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,” the DPAA release states.

Likens died on the third day of the battle.

The release includes that in 1946, the 604th Quartermaster Graves Registration Co. centralized all of the American remains found on Tarawa to Lone Palm Cemetery for later repatriation,. However, almost half of the known casualties were never found.

No recovered remains could be associated with Likens, and in October 1949, a Board of Review declared him “nonrecoverable.”

In 2009, History Flight notified the DPAA that it had discovered a burial site on Betio Island and recovered the remains of what it believed to be missing American service members who had been buried in Cemetery No. 33.

In March 2019, following continued excavations, a previously undiscovered burial trench was uncovered. The remains were accessioned into the DPAA laboratory.

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

Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently, there are over 72,000 service members still unaccounted for from World War II, of which approximately 30,000 are assessed as possibly recoverable.

A rosette will be placed next to Likens’ name on the Courts of the Missing to indicate that he has been accounted for.

His remains will be buried Oct. 25 at Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly.

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