The Leon Cooper Story

Return to Tarawa


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During a recent visit to a World War II memorial in France, Leon posed beside a Higgins Boat, like the ones he used in the Pacific.

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Leon Cooper served four years during WWII as a Naval officer, primarily in the Pacific Theatre, as Boat Group Commander for his ship. In that capacity he assisted in the direction of landings, in Higgins Boats, of assault troops on the beaches of Japanese-held island strongholds. He took part in six invasions, starting with Tarawa and ending with Iwo Jima.

In 2008, he produced “Return to Tarawa-the Leon Cooper Story,” a documentary film about his return visit to the islands of his first battle experience.

During his return visit to Tarawa he learned that hundreds of Americans still lay where they fell, sixty five years before, in the fury of the three days of savagery that became known as “Bloody Tarawa.” At the time,  Cooper wondered whether there were “other Tarawas” among the many battles fought during the Pacific War.

Back home, he learned indeed there were, and was shocked and saddened to learn how little our government had done to recover the remains of those who had died in defense of our nation’s freedom, and how seemingly callous our nation’s leaders had been to the needs of the relatives of the fallen—to bring closure to a painful chapter in their lives. Where were his remains? What were the circumstances of his death? Why hadn’t the remains of their husbands, their uncles, their brothers, their grandfathers been found and repatriated?

As a result of this experience. Leon formed a charitable trust called, “MIAs– You Are Forgotten” to promote the repatriation of all those missing on foreign battlefields. As a part of our effort to get out the message, our foundation intends to fund the production of a documentary film, “MIAs—You Are Forgotten”. For further details, please click here.


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