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.