Forensic scientists will analyze the bones to identify them. The process can take months or even years.
More than 990 U.S. Marines and 30 sailors died as the U.S. wrested control of the atoll from Japan during the three-day Battle of Tarawa in 1943. It was one of the first major amphibious assaults in the war, and one of the most brutal.
Japanese machine gunfire killed many Marines when their boats got stuck on coral reef during approach. Many others died in hand-to-hand combat after crawling ashore.
JPAC had indications it might find the remains of a couple hundred servicemen on the trip. Osorio said the mission was successful even though it returned Monday with the remains of only two.
“Any time we can come back with even just one, that’s a good thing,” Osorio said.