Champion of the Month

Pvt. Fred Freet, USMC (KIA), WWII Share

May 2, 2019  |  Layla Price-Bodkin

A col­lab­o­ra­tion of efforts has led to the recov­ery of remains and home­com­ing of a KIA World War II U.S. Marine. The Marine was final­ly laid to eter­nal­ly rest in Mar­i­on, IN, on April 18th, 2019, 76 years after his death.

Fred Evert Freet was born in Gary, IN, then spent years liv­ing in both Mar­i­on & Colum­bus. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1942 to answer the call to defend the Unit­ed States fol­low­ing the Japan­ese attack on Pearl Har­bor. Pvt. Freet was assigned to Com­pa­ny F, 2nd Bat­tal­ion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Divi­sion, Fleet Marine Force. This group faced heavy resis­tance against the Japan­ese dur­ing an attempt to secure the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. Though the mis­sion was ulti­mate­ly suc­cess­ful, over 1,000 U.S. Marines per­ished dur­ing the 76-hour bat­tle in 1943. Freet was among the ser­vice mem­bers buried in bat­tle­field ceme­ter­ies’ on the island, then lat­er interred in a nation­al ceme­tery in Hawaii. Freet’s body was nev­er actu­al­ly found, decade after decade, until August of 2018.

There were mul­ti­ple fac­tors lead­ing to the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and home­com­ing of Pvt. Freet. The first was an ini­tial find­ing through an orga­ni­za­tion named His­to­ry Flight com­mit­ted to return­ing miss­ing ser­vice­men. The group announced to the Defense POW/MIA Account­ing Agency (DPAA) in 2015 that they had recov­ered remains on Betio Island (at Ceme­tery #27). The DPAA team con­firmed the remains through den­tal records and oth­er iden­ti­fiers to be that of Pvt. Fred Freet. Anoth­er key fac­tor was the result of a DNA test of which Freet’s nephew, Bill Freet, took in 2014. Bill was con­tact­ed by the DPAA in 2018. From that point, ques­tions from remain­ing fam­i­ly mem­bers became answered, awards that Pvt. Freet would have received were pre­sent­ed, and records includ­ing cor­re­spon­dence from Pvt. Freet’s moth­er were dis­trib­uted to his family.

On April 18th, 2019, Pvt. Freet, was per­ma­nent­ly laid to rest. A funer­al ser­vice took place at Need­ham Sto­ry Wamp­n­er Funer­al Home in North Mar­i­on, then a large pro­ces­sion brought him to Mar­i­on Nation­al Ceme­tery, where he received a long over­due active-duty memo­r­i­al ser­vice with full U.S. Marine Corps mil­i­tary hon­ors. Pvt. Freet’s half-broth­er, Roger Cov­ey, trav­eled to Mar­i­on from Arkansas to be present, and accept the flag in his brother’s honor.

Nephew, Bill Freet, was not only a key link in unfold­ing chain of events, but instru­men­tal in prepar­ing the hon­or­able home­com­ing and final rest­ing place of his uncle whom he had nev­er had the hon­or and priv­i­lege to meet. Bill is a retired Mar­i­on police offi­cer, and now serves as the Sweetser town marshal.

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