to perpetuate the memory and history of our dead

7.1 US POW DEATHS

7.1.1 early TXNG deaths

It is generally agreed that 131 US POWs died during the construction of the Thai-Burma Railway. An additional 2 died of TBR-related conditions in different locations (Saigon & Singapore) soon after the TBR was completed.

Actually, the first 3 soldiers to die were KIA before the 131 FA Rgt was taken as prisoner. When they arrived on Java in early Jan 1942, they affiliated with a squadron of B-17s at an airport near Malang where they began to assist the AAC crews. These men had evacuated from the Philippines but had had to do so without their ground crews. So the 131 members assumed those duties. The B-17s had access to some bombs and ammunition so they continued to fly recon and interdiction raids of Japanese shipping. The first 2 deaths occurred when one of the B-17s was shot down during the first of many air raids on that airfield. Five additional AAF died of wounds received in such raids.

As the Japanese invasion force landed on Java, the Army Air Force (AAF) members flew off to Australia taking 23 members of the FA men and 3 others from the US Forces (Java) contingent. It is an interesting side-story that two of these men were KIA and another became a POW in the European Theater.

It is worthy of note that during the rather brief combat operations of the main body in western Java and E Battery in the east, no TXNG members were either WIA or KIA [2].

7.1.2 USS HOUSTON deaths

The USS Houston (CA-30) was sunk in the early morning hours of 1 Mar 1942 with an assigned crew 932 Sailors and 74 Marines. 638 crewmen died as a result of the sinking. All of the crew members[1] who made it to shore were soon captured by the Japanese who were just beginning their attack on the island of Java (335 Sailors & 33 Marines). The first sailor to die as a POW was Lt(jg) Francis Weiler who succumbed to wounds he received in the sinking of the ship but he was officially a POW at the time of his death. A second crewman succumbed to Dysentery on Java in May ‘42. As a side note, 56 crewmen had been KIA (39) / WIA (17) in the 4 FEB attack that destroyed the aft turret. Only 4 of the 17 wounded survived the war. [see SECTION 28.8 for rosters and status of those crewmen]

7.1.3 their POW fate

The Dutch government officially surrendered to the invading Japanese on 8 Mar. The US ARMY contingent evaded capture for a few days to weeks but with no way off the island they too all became POWs. The Army and Navy personnel first met each other when they were moved to the Bicycle Camp near the city of Batavia (modern day Jakarta). Once they were consolidated there, their branch of service became somewhat irrelevant and they were simply treated as ‘the Americans’ by the IJA.

A few months later (OCT 42), a small group (about 200 US personnel) were selected by the guards at the Bicycle Camp as having technical skills. Under the command of Army CPT Lundy Zeigler, they boarded a ship bound for Japan via Singapore. They were scattered to a number of different camps in southern Japan. Of those, only two died there; both on the same day (12 DEC 43) but in different places. GM3c Gene Fanghor died of diphtheria in Ohasi and EM3c Alfred Seidel died of bronchitis at the Hokadate camp. The third, fourth and fifth sailors (in sequence) died of diseases in Japan in Nov-Dec 1942. [see Section 28 for rosters of these various groups and the fate of their members]

Also in October of 1942, the first group of Americans (about 200) under the command of ARMY CPT Fitzsimmons (aka Group 3) departed from Java for an unstated destination. After short stay at the Changi POW camp in Singapore, they were sent into the jungle in southern Burma to work the railway. In stark contrast to the experience of the Tharp Group, almost all of the deaths in this group occurred after the completion of the TBR as they were moved first into the Burmese highlands then on to the ‘rest camp’ at Kanchanaburi.

It wasn’t until Jan 1943 that the majority of the US POWs (a mix of soldiers, sailors and marines) along with the command staff of the 131st FA Rgt under LTC Tharp were sent to Burma as Group 5. A small number of the US POWs were left behind on Java, most of whom were too ill to travel. Two sailors died there in Apr 43. The first six deaths while working the TBR were among sailors (3) and marines (3) who died of malaria or dysentery. The first soldier to die in Burma (Jun 43) was killed by an errant bomb as the Allies began attacking the railway bridges.

US Military deaths on the TBR during the height of the construction and the Speedo period. These were almost exclusively in the Tharp Group working in the Burmese highlands.

Over the course of the next six months (Jun 43 to Jan 44) 121 US POWs died at one of two camps called 80 Kilo and 100 Kilo where the Tharp Grp 5 spent the bulk of their time in the middle of uncharted jungle in the Burmese highlands. Complications from Tropical ulcers accounted for the majority of these deaths (50) followed by Dysentery (38), Beri-beri (21) and Malaria (4). Interestingly, no US POW was killed by a direct assault by the Japanese and none died of cholera which ravaged some of the other camps along the TBR. The Americans were never alone. That is, they were always a small part of the total number of prisoners (British, Australian and Dutch) at the southern Burmese camps. Overall, 682 US POWs worked the railway making them roughly 1% of the TBR prisoners.

The TBR was built from both ends at Nong Pladuk Thailand and Thanbyuzayat Burma and the two sections were joined in OCT 1943 marking the completion of the construction phase which had begun about JUN 42 by about 3000 Australian POWs who were moved overland from Changi to Ban Pong.

Following the construction phase, the POWs began to be consolidated, many – including most of the Americans – were moved down the railway to various camps in and around Kanchanaburi where the now famous Bridge over the River Kwai is located. Interestingly, of the total of 13 deaths that occurred in the Fitzsimmon’s Party, only two took place during the construction phase [SM2c Musto (Jul 43) & PVT Pfeil (Aug 43)] at the 30 Kilo camp. The other 11 died post-TBR: 7 at the Songkurai camp between NOV 43 and Jan 44 and 4 at Kanchanaburi / Nakorn Pathom after the consolidation.

Life at these ‘rest camps’ became much better than what they had experienced in the jungle camps. Between NOV and MAY 44, only 6 more US POWs (2 ARMY & 4 NAVY) died of either Dysentery or Beri-beri.

For the few dozen POWs left behind on Java, life was nowhere near the ordeal experienced by those in Burma. Only 1 soldier died of Dysentery (in Oct 43). But that was all to change in JUN 44. Fourteen soldiers and two sailors aboard the Hellship Tamahoko Maru[3] died when it was torpedoed while en route to Japan. Then in SEP 44, the Hellship Junyo met a similar fate, killing 2 soldiers. These 18 deaths accounted for the highest death toll of US POWs from these two main groups.

Following the completion of the railway, the POWs continued to be employed to do maintenance or to repair bomb damage along the course of the railway, but no US POWs died there after MAY 44. Many of those who had worked the railway were reassigned to other places. A fairly large contingent were sent to Saigon where they worked unloading ships and building a railway tunnel. Only one sailor died there of Dysentery. Some of the TBR POWs were sent back to Changi prison camp in Singapore where one TBR veteran died of cancer in MAY 45. A third large group of POWs were sent via Hellships to Japan where they were finally liberated after the war. Here, too, only one soldier who had come from the TBR died of Beri-beri. His death in AUG 45 was the final POW death of this group.

Of the 954 US POWs (including 29 Merchant Marines and 9 USN reserve sailors who were on the SS Sawolka and 1 civilian volunteer to the Flying Tigers Sqn), 792 (83%) were liberated. But the insidious effects of their time as POWs continued to take their toll. Over the ensuing years, as many as 39 former POWs have died of causes that could be attributed to their POW status.

Within three years after the war, TB and the effects of malnutrition caused the deaths of 4 former POWs. In 1958 (14 years after liberation), one of these men died of what his doctor termed Beri-Beri heart disease. Over the years, alcoholism and suicide claimed the lives of 11 of these men. Two former POWs have died of cancer. Oddly the first was in OCT 45 – just weeks after liberation – in a 31yo sailor. The other died at age 90 (65 years after his liberation), but his daughter (in a private communication) is convinced that that cancer was a result of the years he spent working the coal mines in Japan as a POW. It is possible, then, in addition to the 3 who were KIA before becoming POWs that 202 US military men died as a direct or indirect result of their POW status. As of this writing (JAN 2022), only 2 (both USN Veterans) of these former POWs are still alive.


[3

[3] Tamahoko Maru sailed on 20 June 1944 with 772 POWs (197 British, 42 American, 258 Australian and 281 Dutch) from Takao for Moji in convoy HO-02. There were also some 500 Japanese soldiers on board. On 24 June 1944 at 11:50 pm, in the Koshiki Straits 40 miles SW of Nagasaki, the Tamahoko Maru was torpedoed by USS Tang and sank in less than 2 minutes. 560 POWs, 35 crewmen and an unknown number of Japanese soldiers were lost. Among the lost were 13 Merchant Marines from the SS AMERICAN LEADER.

Here are the names, dates and causes of death plus what I call “the ordinals” = the order of events as they pertain to their deaths:

Barnes Don HenryPVTKIA-AAF (Java)3-Feb-42KIA1 131 KIA JvPRIOR
Bingham John Edward            “Red”PFCKIA-AAF (Java)3-Feb-42KIA2 131 KIA JvPRIOR
STANDISH, WalterGSgtKIA-Java [1]1-Mar-42KIA01 casualtyPRIOR
RHODES Bruce Edward         “Dusty”PVTKIA-Java [2]5-Mar-42GSW02 casualtyPRIOR
WEILER FRANCIS BrooksLT(jg)OTH-V26-Mar-42KIA1 USN DOW JvBC
HILL DONALD WaynePVTOTH-V-BC31-Mar-42DYS1 MC dis JvBC
ROSS RUSSELL ROOSEVELTLTOTH-V-BC4-May-42DYS1 USN dis JvBC
West BrysonPVTKIA-AAF1-Jul-42KIA1 131 KIA-othOTH
GRIFFIN GORDON ROBERTPFCOTH-V-BC23-Oct-42DYS1 131 DIS JvBC
ALDERMAN HARMON PRICEChRMZeigler-Sg26-Nov-42GI1 USN at sea ZgAT SEA
Fraser William Gerard JrPFCKIA-AAF (Rabal)5-Jan-43KIA2 KIA-oth 131OTH
YOUNG KENNETH ASAS1CTharp22-Jan-43BB1 USN dis Th100
HERNANDEZ Abileno (Abelonoa)PVTE Batt-Jv2-Feb-43TB1 Ebat dis JvJAVA
KONDZELA LAWRENCE FrancisS1CTharp13-Apr-43MAL1 131 dis Th80
WHITE JAMES HENRYSFICTharp13-Apr-43MAL2 USN dis Th80
FELIX IRVING ARTHURYM1COTH-V-BC18-Apr-43TBBC
LUSK JOE Martin True  “Egghead”SGTTharp22-Apr-43MAL1 MC dis Th80
DUPLER HARLEY HAROLD1SGTTharp14-May-43DYS2 MC on TBR 1SG ThTHAN hosp
LINDSLEY ALBERT JOHNS1CTharp1-Jun-43DYS1 SPD Th100
WILLIAMS DAVID MARVINS1CTharp1-Jun-43DYS2 SPD ThKAN
WILLIS DONNIS WAYNES1CTharp10-Jun-43DYS 80
WILSON Edwin ParisCPLTharp12-Jun-43KIA1 131 Th KIATHAN hosp bombing
BENNER CALVIN WILLIAMEM3CTharp26-Jun-43DYS100
DRAKE James PPVTTharp1-Jul-43TU80
HUTCHINSON BILL MARTINS2CTharp5-Jul-43DYS80
ANDERSEN Julius APVTTharp17-Jul-43BB100
ARMOUR FLOYDSM1CTharp17-Jul-43DYS100
MUSTO JAMES WILLIAMS2CFitzsimmons17-Jul-43DYS1 131 dis Fz30
JAMES EDWARD RichardEM2CTharp21-Jul-43DYS80
CARNEY Wendell DPVTTharp22-Jul-43DYS(med)100
GRAHAM RICHARD GRESHAMY3CTharp23-Jul-43TU80
TREMONTE Ted JoePVTTharp29-Jul-43TU80
HAMPTON Robert W1LTTharp31-Jul-43DYS100
LUMPKIN SAMUEL HCPTTharp1-Aug-43DYS(med)100
HALL Howard LSGTTharp2-Aug-43DYS100
SILVA Eugene JohnPVTTharp3-Aug-43TU100
ROTH JOHN THOMASMM2CTharp5-Aug-43DYS100
TUCKER WILLIAM EDWARDMUS2CTharp9-Aug-43TU80
PYE GUY EDGARGM3CTharp13-Aug-43TU1 USN Th ampu100
PARISH BARTOW HARRISONAMM2CTharp16-Aug-43BB100
BRANHAM LAWRENCE RANDOLPHS2CTharp17-Aug-43TU100
HITTLE ROBERT GLENNSK3CTharp17-Aug-43TU80
DEMPSEY Austin ElmoPVTTharp20-Aug-43BB100
KELM ALBERT MCPLTharp21-Aug-43DYS100
HANSEN RALPH ROBERTS1cTharp22-Aug-43DYS80
PETERSON LENNART OLEYGM2CTharp22-Aug-43DYS100
PFEIL STANLEY ArthurPVTFitzsimmons22-Aug-43DYS2 131 dis Fz39
KUNKE CZESLAUS JohnGM2CTharp23-Aug-43TU100
MANION TOMMY JRS1CTharp23-Aug-43TU100
REED CLARENCE OSCARRM2CTharp23-Aug-43DYS80
YATES DONALD RALPHMM3CTharp24-Aug-43BB80
HOCH JOYCE WPVTTharp25-Aug-43TU80
SHAW Edwin Earl  “Jack”M SGTharp25-Aug-43TU100
WHATLEY Hiram Jefferson JrPVTTharp26-Aug-43TU100
DOIRON Llyod WPVTTharp27-Aug-43MAL100
ROSZELL LYLE THOMASS1CTharp-Sg29-Aug-43DYS1 USN on Hin disHIN
BUSHNELL EDGAR WAYNECSKTharp30-Aug-43TU100
PULLEN ROBERT HAROLDS1CTharp31-Aug-43TU100
WATERS Nelson HCPLTharp3-Sep-43TU80
KETMAN ROBERT Earl JRS1cTharp5-Sep-43DYS100
BUHLMAN CLARENCE NELSONS1CTharp6-Sep-43DYS80
SHAVER HARVEY DPVTTharp6-Sep-43DYS100
RUSSELL CHARLES E JRPVTTharp7-Sep-43TU100
BRAY Charles BruceSGTTharp8-Sep-43TU100
FAULKNER Harold LCPLTharp8-Sep-43TU80
GARWOOD EDWARD DERINGRM2CTharp9-Sep-43TU80
SOULE IRVIN George TGM3CTharp9-Sep-43DYS80
GUTHRIE William LPVTTharp10-Sep-43BB100
WIDMEYER HARRY CLARKS1CTharp10-Sep-43DYS80
JONES SAMUEL APVTTharp11-Sep-43TUamputation80
KOELLING VERNON LOUISMUS2CTharp11-Sep-43TU80
GUY JAMES ANDREWS2CTharp12-Sep-43BB100
BAXTER Billy RayPFCTharp13-Sep-43TU80
DEATS Louis Frank JrCPLTharp13-Sep-43TU80
CARTER FREDRICK LESTER JRQM3CTharp14-Sep-43TU80
DEMOEN ACHIEL RENECEMTharp14-Sep-43TU80
SCHANDUA EDGAR JPVTTharp14-Sep-43TU100
KALOUS EDWARD BPFCTharp16-Sep-43TU1 USF100
OMOTH ROBERT ENGMANS1CTharp16-Sep-43CVD100
GRAY HarryPFCTharp17-Sep-43DYS1 1314 (med)80
HOLSINGER FRANK OSCARCPLTharp18-Sep-43TU3 MC on TBR Th80
JOHNSON EDWARD IRVINSK3CTharp18-Sep-43TU80
YELL Archie BCPLTharp18-Sep-43DYS80
EBAUGH FOREST VERGILS2CTharp19-Sep-43NEU100
WYNN MARVIN ANGLOUSS1CTharp19-Sep-43DYS100
LEE EARL HENRYS1cTharp21-Sep-43BB100
WARD FRANK CalvinEM3CTharp21-Sep-43TU100
LUNA ELTONPVTTharp22-Sep-43BB100
GILLIAM Robert EPVTTharp23-Sep-43TU100
CANTRELL JAMES ALBERTS2CTharp26-Sep-43TU80
IVEY DAN RPVTTharp26-Sep-43TU80
BAERMAN DONALD GEORGES2CTharp27-Sep-43DYS80
COOPER DALE ROGERSPHM3CTharp27-Sep-43TU(med)100
FORGEY Jed DillmasCPLTharp27-Sep-43TU100
ALEXANDER James GarlandSGTTharp29-Sep-43TU80
SEWELL Dan HomerCPLTharp29-Sep-43TU80
HENDRICKS ROBERT HarryS1CTharp30-Sep-43DYSKAN
BATCHELOR WILLIAM CHARLES JRS1CTharp1-Oct-43TU80
HALL ERVIN LEROYS1CTharp2-Oct-43TU100
COX Charles ACPLTharp4-Oct-43TU100
GODFREY DONALD FRANCISS1CTharp6-Oct-43DYS100
WOLTZ Donald GlennPFCTharp6-Oct-43NUT80
UPPERMAN MaxSGTTharp9-Oct-43DYS100
MOORE GLEN Everett  “Cy”PFCTharp-Sg10-Oct-43DYS1 131 on Hin disHIN
KITCHINGS HARRY ACPLTharp14-Oct-43TU80
JOWELL JOHNNY DPVTTharp17-Oct-43TU9 131 on TBR80
THOMAS BillyPVTE Batt-Sg28-Oct-43BB3 EBat at Hin disHIN
STOUT George WashingtonPVTTharp31-Oct-43TU80
Rich Robert LPFCTharp1-Nov-43BB80
BROTHERS FRANK WHEELERS1CFitzsimmons8-Nov-43MALFz3 pTBR114
ABRAMS RUSSELL EUGENEY3CTharp9-Nov-43BB100
SPENCER MASON DALES2CTharp9-Nov-43DYS80
Boren Lemuel Maxey1LTTharp13-Nov-43MAL80
BOYLE Algers CarlingCPLTharp16-Nov-43TU80
MATTFELDT WILLIAM FullerPVTFitzsimmons16-Nov-43CVDFz4 pTBR114
PARKER ALLARD THOMASPVTTharp17-Nov-43TU(med)80
WILSON JAMES Raydell  “Goon”PVTFitzsimmons17-Nov-43MAL4 MC at pTBR Fz5114
MORRISON CLINTON DouglasPFCTharp18-Nov-43TU80
OFFERLE IRVIN OSCARSGTTharp18-Nov-43TU80
BROWN Joseph Roy Jr    “Georgia”CPLTharp24-Nov-43BB100
HIRSCHBERG LOUISFC1CTharp26-Nov-43TU100
FEELY JAMES JOHNS2CTharp28-Nov-43BB80
BALDWIN Ray GPVTKIA-ETO29-Nov-43KIA1 131 ETOETO
KALICH Nolan Oscar FrederickCPLE Batt3-Dec-43NEU1 Ebat dis JapanJAPAN
BOWEN Glenn MarionSGTTharp11-Dec-43TU105
TRIM DONALD PAULCOXTharp11-Dec-43TU115
FANGHOR GENEGM3CZeigler-Sg12-Dec-43INF1 USN Japan ZgJAPAN
SEIDEL ALFRED GLENN “Bus”EM2CZeigler-Sg12-Dec-43INF2 USN Japan ZgJAPAN
TIEMANN Elton WilliamPVTTharp14-Dec-43BB100
HATLEN EDWIN ArthurSM1CTharp21-Dec-43BB100
DALESIO Frank  (D’Alessio)PVTFitzsimmons25-Dec-43DYSFz6 pTBR133
PISTOLE FRANK LYLE HOWARDAMM3CTharp26-Dec-43BB100
DICKENS William HPVTFitzsimmons1-Jan-44BBFz7 pTBR114
EKLUND Rudolph Leroy    “Swede”PVTFitzsimmons3-Jan-44BBFz8 pTBR114
CALLAHAN MELVIN CARLS1CTharp4-Jan-44TU133
BUSSEY Sam MPVTTharp9-Jan-44DYSKAN
PITTS Gaston EPVTFitzsimmons14-Jan-44BBFz9 pTBR114
ROGERS JOHN WilliamPVTFitzsimmons21-Jan-44DYSFz10 pTBRKAN
BOWLEY Raymond JPVTFitzsimmons26-Jan-44TUFz11 pTBRKAN
EASTWOOD Howard WCPLTharp28-Jan-44NUTKAN
WILLIAMSON Babe RuthCPLTharp28-Jan-44DYSKAN
SIMPSON Ward HelveyPVTFitzsimmons30-Jan-44TB3 pTBR12 Fz TBKAN
ELLIS FRANK DOPSONCWTTharp24-Feb-44DYS105
COLLINS Columbus MPFCTharp29-Feb-44DYSKAN
Bartee J. W.PVTKIA-ETO6-Mar-44KIA2 131 ETOETO
BLAIR KENNETH SUTHERLANDCBMTharp23-Mar-44BBKAN
SCHUELKE JOHN HENRYSC2CTharp12-Apr-44DYSKAN
HERRERA LIVORIO Montana “Lolo”PVTTharp7-May-44DYS9 at TBR 131KAN
BENDER GEORGE FREDERICKS2CFitzsimmons22-May-44DYSFz13 pTBRKAN
ALLEVA JOSEPH GEORGES1COTH-V20-BC24-Jun-44SEAAT SEA
GLATZERT PAUL APVTOTH-V20-BC24-Jun-44SEAAT SEA
HAMNER HARRY BurnerPVTOTH-V20-BC24-Jun-44SEAAT SEA
HARRISON JAMES WalterPFCOTH-V20-BC24-Jun-44SEAAT SEA
JASTER ADOLPH HermanPVTOTH-V20-BC24-Jun-44SEAAT SEA
LAWSON THOMAS LafayettePVTE Batt-Jv24-Jun-44SEAAT SEA
LOONEY FRANK AudiePFCOTH-V20-BC24-Jun-44SEAAT SEA
McMAHON ROBERT WoodrowPVTE Batt-Jv24-Jun-44SEAAT SEA
REDWINE Ardell LPFCOTH-V20-BC24-Jun-44SEAAT SEA
SALZMAN MELVIN FrancisPVTOTH-V20-BC24-Jun-44SEAAT SEA
SEWELL HAROLD ThomasPVTOTH-V20-BC24-Jun-44SEAAT SEA
SHULTS LUCIAN DPFCOTH-V20-BC24-Jun-44SEAAT SEA
SPARKMAN LEON StephenSGTOTH-V20-BC24-Jun-44SEAAT SEA
WILLERTON ROBERT PAULY2COTH-V20-BC24-Jun-44SEAAT SEA
WILSON THOMAS AltonPFCOTH-V20-BC24-Jun-44SEAAT SEA
WISMANN EDWARD JrPVTE Batt-Jv24-Jun-44SEAAT SEA
MILLER Gordon Rowe           “Brodie”SGTOTH-V-BC18-Sep-44SEAAT SEA
SOKOLOWSKI JOSEPH FPFCOTH-V-BC18-Sep-44SEAAT SEA
JOHNSON HAROLD MARTINS1COTH-V-BC10-Oct-44TBBOR
TANBERG ALBERT NealBKR3CTharp2-Nov-44DYSlast TBR  USNVIETNAM
STAVER Lavern PeterPVTE Batt-Sg28-May-45NEUlast HIN E batSINGA
HELEMAN DonaldSGTE Batt12-Aug-45BBlast POW E BatJAPAN

Of these 172 total deaths, there are quite few that are unique. There are many firsts and lasts as well. Among the unique events is Gunny Sgt Standish who within minutes of arriving on the beach at Bantam Bay Java struck off on his own to evade capture and kill Japs. He was never seen again. One man (Lt(jg) Weiler) died of wounds; only one POW was KIA in an Allied bombing of the Thanbyuzayat hospital camp (Marine 1Sgt H.H. Dupler). Only one is recorded of having died following amputation for Tropical Ulcer disease — although there was possibly a second. Only one died on board a Hellship ( Navy ChRN Alderman). A few succumbed to ‘usual’ causes of death (cancer and heart attacks) altho undoubtedly exacerbated by their ordeal.

Also a tribute to those fallen and entombed in the wreck:

https://www.facebook.com/jerry.ranger.9/videos/10220497802627841/

7.1.4 an “outlier” death date clarified:

One of the outlier facts (of which there are quite a few) with regard to these POWs was the official date of death of PFC Wm Fraser. It was listed in many places as 12 DEC 1945 – after the end of the war. But the story line was that he had been shot down (or crashed) in a B-17 over Papua-New Guinea. He had transferred to the AAF in Feb 1942.

Just recently I found serial number of the B-17 that he was assigned to and that led me to his REAL story as listed here:

https://pacificwrecks.com/aircraft/b-17/41-24458.html

I could never understand why his death would have been three months after the end of the war and yet he was listed as KIA. It seems that he was indeed KIA on 5 Jan 1943, but the crew were officially listed as MIA until Dec 45 when they were declared deceased. Neither their remains nor the aircraft were even located. PFC Fraser is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at Fort William McKinley in Manila.

7.1.5 Official Dates of Death

15 DEC 1945 is a pivotal date in this saga and for thousands of other US military members who died in WW2. On that date, the Navy ‘officially’ declared that those listed as Missing in Action were in fact deceased. Indeed, there must have been more than a few who had been classified (and their families notified) as MIA who were taken as POWs and whose fate (living or dead) was not known until after the end of the war. The simple fact that it only took 4 months from the end of hostilities for the War Dept (precusor to the Dept of Defense) to adjudicate the final status of tens of thousands of MIAs is a miracle in itself.

Yet, the widespread use of that date easily results in historical confusion. Like PFC Fraser’s story above, when taken alone and out of context, it is hard to explain a post-war death of a soldier.

In a similar vein, historical inaccuracies abound in the place of death of thousands of these MIAs. The sheer fact that they are memorialized in the Tablets of the Missing or, in some cases, actually buried at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines, has led to the assumption that they were KIA/MIA in the PI campaigns. Thousands of these men died on ships throughout the Pacific Theater and had no direct association with the PI. Yet multiple ‘official’ documents link this post-war declaration of death and their place of remembrance as their actual date and place of death.

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