Finding Fae

Finding Our Fallen

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, a native Nebraskan, took action. A wounded combat veteran from the Vietnam War, Hagel consolidated those military organizations doing similar work.  In January 2015 the “Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency” (DPAA) was officially established.  Its mission of “providing the fullest possible accounting for our missing personnel to their families and the nation” was reaffirmed. They continue investigations for unaccounted service personnel in 19 countries worldwide, using 27 investigating teams and 57 recovery teams. Importantly, DPAA moved to strengthen partnerships with non-governmental experts who “desire to partner with DPAA in the areas of research, investigation, and recover.”  Including organizations like History Flight.

During the last decade, History Flight has recovered the remains of more than 120 individuals who – like Fae Moore – were once declared “unrecoverable” from Betio Island at Tarawa.  History Flight became “dedicated to finding, recovering and repatriating America’s war dead to American soil.  It has sent over 100 search and recovery teams all over the world to locate loss sites of missing service personnel and to recover them.”

The shipping yard of KSSL on Betio.  Some 29 Marines were
recovered from a burial trench in the highlighted area.  One
was later identified as Sgt. Fae Moore.  (
History Flight photo)
Their latest big success came last spring (March 2015) on Tarawa when a History Flight archaeological team discovered a long-lost burial trench on private property owned by Kiribati Shipping Services Limited (KSSL). They excavated this and other sites in May and recovered the remains of approximately 35 U.S. servicemen buried in the long-lost “Cemetery 27.”

According to Mark Noah, the team “excelled in difficult conditions to produce spectacular results.”  Its Tarawa team included forensic anthropologists, geophysicists, historians, surveyors, anthropologists, forensic odontologists, unexploded ordnance specialists, medics and cadaver dog handlers.

On July 26, 2015, History Flight turned over the remains found on Tarawa to a representative of the newly-created Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), who accompanied them to their laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor in Hawaii for identification. 

Thus began the intensive process of examining and testing the material evidence found with the remains --- including clothing, equipment, and personal items. 

An anthropological analysis focused on skeletal remains from grave #23 of Cemetery 27.   The evidence was encouraging, based upon what was known about Sergeant Moore.  But it was not enough, and the process continued.

Perhaps more telling was a dental analysis, comparing Sergeant Moore’s records with physical evidence found on Betio.   Again, the results were encouraging.

The dental remains consist of 31 teeth in complete upper and lower jaws, one tooth was lost prior to death.  The examined remains correspond to the antemortem evidence of Sgt MOORE with no unexplainable discrepancies.”

While government scientists were trying to unravel the mysteries contained within the remains of the 34 Marines and one Navy Corpsman found on Tarawa, news of the discovery was beginning to reach the American public.  Newspapers and broadcasting stations picked up the story, and – of course – it was also a hot topic in social media. 

In Herington Kansas, a grand nephew of Fae Moore was browsing the web when he learned about the History Flight discovery on Tarawa.  Jeffery Hampton alerted his mother and an aunt.  When they learned that the military was looking for DNA matches to help with identification, they ended up contacting a cousin, Lawrence Denton, in Lakewood, Colorado, to see if he would be willing to provide the DNA.  He, of course, agreed. 

A couple of weeks later, in mid-October, Denton received a phone call from DPAA.  It was retired Marine Master Sergeant Chuck Williams who almost immediately quizzed Denton with, “What does the name Fae Moore mean to you.”

That was my mother’s youngest brother, killed in World War II,” he responded.

Then I’m talking to the right person,” he remembers Williams saying.  We have discovered some remains, and what I’m looking for is a family member to give DNA, and if there are no siblings of Sergeant Moore still alive, what we like to have is DNA from the oldest living niece or nephew.”

Denton was dumbfounded.

It was one of those unbelievable moments that you can’t describe,” recalled Denton, who grew up in Chadron and graduated from both Chadron High School and Chadron State College.

I thought ‘Wow!’ and I remember immediately going into my office to the computer and sending word to Heather, Chip, and Lance – my kids – telling them that the remains of several Marines had been found, and that uncle Fae may be one of them.”

It wasn’t 20 minutes later that Heather called me back.  She had gone online and pulled up a site telling about the discovery of Marine remains on Tarawa and sending me a copy of it.”

And all of a sudden my excitement turned to thankfulness, as I realized we had the possibility of fulfilling the wishes and dreams of my grandmother.”

Several days later, a DNA kit arrived in the mail.  Denton followed the directions, swabbing the inside of his mouth numerous times, then forwarding the kit to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.  He heard nothing for several weeks, until receiving a confirmation letter from the DNA laboratory.  They had received his DNA package and would be forwarding their analysis to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency at Hickam Field in Hawaii.

In January and February, the identification process began to approach a conclusion.

The preponderance of evidence culminated in a simple notation on DPAA letterhead, dated 14 March 2016.

The remains designated CIL 2015-125-1-28, DPAA 2015-0012 are identified as those of Sergeant Fae Verlin MOORE, 317600, U.S. Marine Corps.”  It was signed by Edward A. Reedy, Captain, Medical Corps, U. S. Navy.  It was official, but it was an internal document, and no public announcement was made at that time.

In early July, Denton returned from an out-of-town trip and found a message on his answering machine from Mrs. Hattie Johnson, head of the POW/MIA Section at Marine Corps Headquarters.

She asked Denton to give her a call.

After a few days of telephone tag, Denton and Johnson finally were able to talk.  

Mrs. Johnson confirmed that they had identified the remains of his uncle, Sergeant Fae Moore.