Clay Goodman
Clay Bonnyman Evans, a former Daily Camera journalist, holds a picture of his grandfather, 1st Lt. Alexander "Sandy" Bonnyman Jr, at his mother's home in Gunbarrel on Monday. (Ryan Gooding / For the Camera)

The bodies of 36 US Marines who were killed 70 years ago in World War II, have been found on a remote Pacific island.

The remains of the men were uncovered after a four month excavation on Betio Island in Kiribati, director of US charity History Flight Inc, Mark Noah told Radio New Zealand, according to AFP.

Noah, who was a member of the recovery team, said the men were killed during the Battle of Tarawa in 1943.

"[They] had an expectation that if they were to die in the line of duty defending their country they would be brought home ... that was a promise made 70 years ago that we felt should be kept," he said late Tuesday (7 July)

The remains have not been formally identified but Noah believes that one of those include Lieutenant Alexander Bonnyman, who posthumously received the highest military award in the US, the Medal of Honour for conspicuous gallantry.

AFP said Bonnyman's citation says he led a series of assaults when Marines stormed the island.

Bonnyman's daughters plan to have his remains interred in a family plot in Knoxville, Tennessee, next to his parents. A public funeral service is being organised, a statement on History Flight's website said.

The remains of the 36 soldiers would be repatriated this month and identified using dental records and DNA comparison with surviving relatives.

Noah said efforts would the bodies of several hundred US soldiers still lay in makeshift, unrecorded graves where they were buried after the battle. "There's a lot of work to be done on the island," he said.

More than 1,000 Americans died at Tarawa while the entire Japanese garrison of 4,800 were killed, AFP reported.