Trailer for the documentary Return to Tarawa: The Leon Cooper Story.
In 1943, Naval Ensign Leon Cooper was charged with protecting the lives of marines during the bloody assault on the islands of Tarawa. Sixty-five years later, he returns to protect their memories. But Leon found things far more disturbing than garbage—the remains of Marines, possibly hundreds, still lie where they fell, in unmarked graves.
Return to Tarawa follows the journey of Leon Cooper, a United States Navy veteran who ferried marines through murderous gunfire to the shores of the Tawara island on his Higgins landing craft in 1943. Now a war historian researching for his book The War in the Pacific: A Retrospective, Leon has come across alarming rumors that the beaches, where so many had fallen, are now covered beneath piles of garbage and refuse. Outraged, he now returns to the battlefield of his youth to find his worst fears realized. Not only is the beach neglected, but live ammunition and potentially the remains of MIA Marines still lie buried under the historic ground. A small film crew follows Leon on his mission to restore this landmark, and with it, the honor of the brave American servicemen who fell in the line of duty.
Golden Globe Winner and Academy Award nominated actor Ed Harris narrates this Veteran's struggle while providing a concise history of the infamous engagement itself. When combined with Leon's moving personal accounts of the battle, Return to Tarawa goes beyond the simple documentary to provide a full perspective of warfare, from its sudden eruption, to its enduring aftermath in our memories. It is film dedicated to preserving the monuments of war, let us to never forget its heavy cost and the harsh lessons it has taught.