Remains Of Killed WWII POW Finally Identified After More Than 80 Years

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John Oyewale Contributor
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A U.S. Army Private who died as a World War II prisoner of war (POW) in 1942 and was buried as an Unknown Soldier has finally been accounted for, authorities announced Thursday.

U.S. Army Pvt. Robert L. A. Hurst, 21, of Wabasso, Florida, was identified July 10 using dental and anthropological analyses, circumstantial evidence as well as mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome DNA analyses, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) said in a statement Thursday.

Hurst, a member of the 429th Signal Maintenance Company, was captured alongside thousands of American and Filipino service members by the Japanese in 1942 following fierce fighting and the surrender of the Bataan peninsula April 9, followed by Corregidor Island on May 6, according to DPAA. He survived the 65-mile Bataan Death March after his capture but was among the 2,500 POWs who died while being held at the Cabanatuan POW camp during the war.

Hurst died July 27, 1942, and was buried in Common Grave 225, a mass grave in the local Cabanatuan Camp Cemetery, the DPAA said. The American Graves Registration Service identified three sets of remains from the mass grave in 1947 while the unidentified, including Hurst’s remains, were interred at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial (MACM) as Unknowns, according to the DPAA. (RELATED: Remains Of WWII Bomber Lost At Sea Will Be Buried In Maine Hometown)

The unidentified remains were exhumed in 2018 from the MACM and sent to the DPAA for analysis, leading to the identification of Hurst’s remains. Hurst will have a burial in Vero, Florida, on an as yet undetermined date, the statement read.

Another Private, Homer J. Mitchell, 20, of Portales, New Mexico, was accounted for July 24, 2023, 78 years after he was reported “killed in action on Dec. 10 by enemy artillery fire” in the Pachten Forest close to Dillingen, Germany in 1944, the DPAA said Monday. Mitchell reportedly will have a burial April 26, 2024 in Portales, New Mexico.