On today’s Stories of Sacrifice we will be discussing a very heroic POW/MIA who was awarded our Country's second highest combat valor award, the Distinguished Service Cross. Major James J. O’Donovan was the Executive Officer of the 3rd Battalion, 31st...
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A's Podcast, the Voice of the Missing in Action and the voice of those buried as unknowns in our national cemeteries. I'm your host and lead researcher John Bear. Over 75,000 service members are still listed as missing in action from World War two. Of those, over 30,000 are currently listed. Is Active Pursuit by the defense P O W M I, A. Accounting agency. Active pursuit, meaning they could possibly be identified with the proper family reference sample DNA being on file with the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. The process of doing DNA reference material is easy, painless and free of charge. If you are the relative, um, of a missing service member, you can contact the service casually Office of the M I A. For information on how to provide a DNA sample, the service casually office. Will millions melt to your home DNA donor kid that contains a donor consent form instruction form three cheek swabs and a shipping envelope. All you have to do is fill out the paperwork, rub the inside of your cheek with the swabs, place the swabs back into the containers and fix the label the collected samples air, then placed in a pre addressed and prepaid envelope and then melt to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Lab at Dover. That's it. It's completely painless process. To get more information about your missing in action relative, you can visit our website U S P O W M I. A family locating dot com, and we can help you to determine if your relative is currently listed on the D. P. A. A active pursuit list and the next steps to help get them identified. Just visit our website or email John at U S. P o W m. I. A family locating dot com on today's story of sacrifice will be discussing a very heroic p o w M I A. Who was awarded our country's second highest combat valor award. The Distinguished Service Cross major James J. O'Donovan was the executive officer of third Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment. Major O'Donovan lead by example on the front lines during the ill fated defense of the Philippines. Always packing three pistols, he proved to be an inspiring inspirational leader to his men and a very aggressive, courageous fighter. He sustained multiple injuries and was hospitalized at least twice Before the war. He served as a captain in the Army Reserves and was employed full time as an instructor of military science and tactics at the LaSalle Institute in his hometown of Troy in New York. He'd been married nine years to the love of his life. Evelyn Murray. Together, they had five Children. He enjoyed boxing and writing, but most of his interests were in some way related to his calling in the military. Today, I want to welcome his grandson. Steven went to the show. Welcome, Steve. Please tell us a little bit more about Major O'Donovan and his early life before the war.
Thank you. Uh, Major Donovan, whose first name was James. But he went by Jam or J. J. All his life. He was born in 1911 to a military family. His father was a ward war one hero and two of his great grandfathers were in the Civil War. Both of them were Irish immigrants, and both were injured in civil war. And he also had a uncle that was in world War, not in the same area as his dad. But his uncle, unfortunately, was killed in action. And so his family was very patriotic and very much committed to patriotic service, particularly in the army. And my grandfather was seven years old when his father went off to war and and when he came back, he was celebrated in New York and was in all of those parades that you oftentimes see with ticker tape coming down off the buildings. And I'm thinking that it must have made a big impression on them to see so much applause for his dad, and he was celebrated in his hometown as a war hero. Also, he was involved in the veterans organizations like the American Legion and some other reserve officer organization, so it was very much a big part of his family. My grandfather, I'm sure, felt that it was important to make his own name in the military, and so even out of high school, he joined the Army reserves. Um, I could be it could be the National Guard. I'm getting a mixed up sometimes, But he was involved in the National Guard and I think the Army reserves ah at different times and was trained at Plattsburg Barracks in the 30 years he was involved in the Civilian Conservation Corps making building camps in the forest. Um, my grandfather also went to Fort Benning at where he was trained in the infantry school, and basically he he had a wife and a family, but his his main avocation outside of that was any kind of military training or experience that he could get by the time the war began, he was already a captain in the Army Reserves and was ready to go when, uh, MacArthur called in to Philippines in 1941. So that pretty much brings you up to speed on his life before the war.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the LaSalle Institute?
Yes. The LaSalle Institute is a cop. It still exists. It's a Catholic high school in Troy, New York. It's a military prep school. And so a big part of that organization is cadet. You know, rifle drill training, Nothing. I don't know enough about it now, now that you mention it. But they have a long history of rifle drill. They have actually to Cadet course. I think of rifle drill training. And well, the reason why it matters is because my grandfather was the instructor of military science. And he was also in instructed drill team on their maneuvers that his role in that school was important in that when the war came and he was called away, he had to leave his job as a professor in order to go to the Philippines in service in World War Two. And unfortunately, when he died, the school wanted Thio, the honor, his memory. And so they named their premier, uh, rifle drill team. They named it after him. It's called the Donovan Rifles.
And that better Donovan rivals they still exist today. Correct.
That's cool. That's very cool that I did that for him.
Yeah. Yeah, we're real proud of that. Actually, our family maintains some connection to the school. We have basically we share emails from time to time, and sometimes they'll find records or photographs and share that with us. And they were kind enough also to send us some patches of the O'Donovan rifles for my sons to wear on their Cub Scout and Boy Scout uniforms. So that Ben Carson
Well, I wonder I wonder how much of the your grandfather's history they share actually share with the the Cadets. I mean, that'd be interesting toe to sit through. They talk much about his history.
Yeah, I actually don't know the full answer on that because I don't know any modern cadets, Although, although I am in contact with a few older men that used to be cadets at the school back in the fifties, and so they definitely knew about him in his name. But I don't know if they know exactly his war history. I guess not. Because I don't I don't see any evidence of that. Anyone looking on their website, things like that. I'm just not seeing it. Although I did find Ah, I may have put it on my website, a document that was shared with the cadet. Okay, it's on the section of the website called Postwar Honors, and it's a document that, um my family had. That was the name of the document is you are a member of the O'Donovan rifles. This is what you represent. And it's basically a summary of his service in the military and what became of him. And it talks also about his awards. I think that this document is intended to, uh, inform a cadet what it is that they represent. And why their name to be of Donovan rifles.
Oh, okay. That's that's cool.
So can you Can you tell us a little bit more about your grandmother and your your grants and uncles? Um, you know your mother or siblings?
Uh, yes. Um, yeah. So my grandfather had five Children. My mom was the youngest of those five, and when he went off to war in 1941 she was She was about two years old, and she has no memory of him at all. The next A list child has only one memory of him, and it's kind of Ah, big memory. But basically, when he left his family, his wife was living with his parents at that time. And, you know, there was every expectation, of course, that he would survive. So they had planned for when he came back. Actually, I know know that they had planned for his wife and my mom. And there are other Children to live in Manila with him while he was being stationed there. Yeah, before those plans were able to be executed, they had already started to evacuate family members of military men
in the Philippines.
So that kind of put an end to that. I should also mention since you asked about it. His siblings, James had Donovan siblings. Uh, every one of them ended up in the in the military service during World War Two. Um, there was a pilot and a couple of infantrymen, and his sister was a lack. Um, and she served in that northern Italy Indian that Northern Africa and in Italy, so that his mother was a five star mother
Children active in World War Two.
Oh, man. Yeah, they answered the country calling. That's for darn sure.
So he left them for, you know, exactly when he left for the Philippines.
Uh, yes, I d'oh. So he was called in for active duty in January of 41. That's when he left his post as a professor at LaSalle, and he ended up going to I believe he first went to Fort Benning for some training. And then he went He was stationed to import Walters, Texas, and, uh, not exactly sure what his job was there. Uh, while he was there, he sent for his family and mail, came to live with him in Mineral Springs, Texas, and right, almost right after they arrived, he was then sent to Manila. So my mom grew up with a Texas accent because they were basically in Texas, waiting for him to come back from his service. And when he was basically missing in action, they just decided to move back home to Texas. Oh, actually, you're asking how it also left that he ended up in
Yeah. Okay. So just to pick up from there from Fort Walters, Texas, he was, uh, sent to Philippines. And I know that he d bark from or embarked from, um, Angel Island in, um San Francisco Bay aboard the President Franklin Pierce, which was later named. It might have been at around that time renamed the Hugh L. Scott Army transport and that was June 23rd 1941 when they took off and they arrived in Manila. They departed on June 6 at 1941 they arrived in Manila on June 23rd 1941.
Okay, so, yeah, they took off from California there and then ended up going through Hawaii and then over to Manila on the ship. You know, I was reading on your website. He got to be well known with the other officers and one of the officers kind of in that actually survived the war. Uh, wrote a book, and, uh, he actually mentions your grandfather in that book, and he talked about how he spent a lot of hours talking with talking with your grandfather. You know, which quote I'm talking about there on your website with a major yet major mental or what? Yeah, Yeah, I mean, I think Yep,
that was in the book called Surrender On, See Boo. And they were both officers on Bore the Hugh L. Scott or the Franklin Pierce, depending on what you want to call it. And the I'm not sure if they were roommates, but they became acquaintances while onboard ship and William miner had something to say about my grandfather. And he also, uh, because he was, I believe in Cabanatuan. After the war, he was able to sort of pick up on the story about my grandfather and what became of him, especially in Bataan. That's where I learned that he had been involved with hunting down snipers. And so I didn't know anything about that story until I read that book by William Miner.
That's cool. That's cool. Yeah. So on the voyage to Manila, he had a chance to I don't He kept a diary. Is that is that what I'm getting here?
Are you speaking about William Miner? My grandfather,
Your grandfather? He d talked about how he viewed. Going to Manila is a chance for advancement in the military and an opportunity to transition from the reserves into the regular army.
Oh, yes, what you're speaking about is that a personal letter written by my grandfather to hiss one of his brothers and his brothers at that time were not active. They were in the Army reserves and so he was giving advice on military post that they might try to seek. That was one of two letters that I have written by my grandfather prior to the war. Unfortunately, that's the only two letters that we have in our family's possession.
Yeah, and he was talking about in that in that letter. How he did drive it. He'd be arriving to Manila tomorrow night, at which time I will get my assignment to a regiment. The three possible assignments are the 31st and country and two regiments of the Philippine Scouts. This may be an excellent chance to get into the regular army, as I will be here two years. So he was really planning ahead for his career.
Yeah, I think that he is. Next move after this post in the Philippines was a full time in the Army, and I know from what my mom told me that he had planned to retire from the from the Army. Also, she thought that he probably would have gone into politics, had survived the war.
Yeah, it's kind of sounds like, and I really I really appreciate kind of what he wrote after he got in and he was assigned to the 31st is in the letter. He talks about how ah, a lot of the the the regular and reserve officers were losing their commissions. Duccio due to drinking and inefficiencies. You know, at that time the Philippines was known as the Pearl of the Orient. And, uh, it was pretty laid back and relaxed type of ah, post fact. Ah, lot of a lot of people thought over getting to go over there because of such a great, great place to be.
Yeah, that was a pretty good quote. Uh, also, he was expecting to be in the thick of it since he was in the 31st. And I like how he puts in his letter. If we move out, I'll probably be promoted. So here's hoping, in any case, if you hear of U. S troops being engaged in the Far East, I'll be in it, probably as battalion commander.
And then it came true. He came through for him. Yeah, So when he first when he first arrived there than they actually assigned him to the 31st Infantry being the ass three, which was the regimental training officer. So he held that position for about five months before the war, and then he takes over third Battalion 31st Infantry after about five months would be in there. Um, yeah. And I like how he put in his in his, uh you know, when this quote, sir, he says to put some much needed discipline into it.
Yeah, he was. I see it all throughout his writings. He's always talking about, uh, the need for training and preparation. Um, I mean, he's a but that was his job, That regimental training officer for the 31st Um, but no doubt that he felt that their last we're gonna depend on there preparedness. And I'm sure that trying to persuade these guys that, you know, they needed to go and exercise more when there was a lot of fun to be had in town. I'm sure that was probably an uphill battle that that was his job to do.
Um, yeah, at that time, kind of that kind of how they were, you know, they were on duty from early morning till about noon, and then they took their siesta time throughout the heat of the day on, Then who then drilled more in the in the evenings. But, yeah, it sounded like he was a top notch officer that's that's the way I want to put it out. You know, he expected he expected his men too, Uh, here to the army standards and, uh, in discipline.
I would agree with that assessment. Um, from what I can tell, ah, he was very serious. I don't see a lot of jokes or any any kind of levity in any of his writing and from all the people that I have that I have spoken with or have read there comments about him that they're always complimentary and saying that basically, he's top notch soldier. So that's kind of an interesting description of him.
want to also mention Thio kind of an interesting thing When the day that that the war began in the Philippines, he was, ah, signed the commanding officer that there battalion. And then, uh, I'm not sure what happened, but the very next day, I should say real quickly. What he immediately did was rearranged the commanding officers and the companies of the third Battalion. And so that's that's how Thompson of l company will just name Donald G. Thompson of l Company ended up becoming the commanding officer of l company because basically they had known each other and were friends before the war began. But the next day it might have been the next day. Colonel Brady was then smoothed in, and he ended up becoming the commanding officer of Battalion. And my grandfather was right underneath him as XO of Third Brutality.
Okay, okay, okay. Yeah, they were shuffling a lot of men men around at that time. Ah, there. You know, the ended up with with a lot of the enlisted men at that time, the more senior enlisted men, they actually promoted a lot of them, too. Second lieutenants and things like that to ah ah and reassigned him over to the Philippine Scouts. Do you start grilling them and getting them up to speed and infantry tactics and that sort of thing? So, yeah, there was a lot of movement of men, and resource is because they knew what was common or at a good idea what was coming.
Yeah, And in light of what you just said, it is a little surprising that he remained within the 31st Infantry Regiment because of the training needs that would, you know, he was a specialist in training and he would have been well suited for training any of the Philippine Army Regiment or unit. But
that's true. Very true. That's that is surprising that they didn't. But it sounded like from what he was talking about, they had a pretty pretty strong need there to get the 31st U. S. Infantry upto up to speed do. Yeah. So on the day of the the first attack there in the Philippines, which was December 7th in the United States but it was actually December 8th in the Philippines. Um, the 31st or most of the 31st was was first placed in nickels field. Is that correct?
Uh, that's what I understand from the case summary that was written by a D. P. A. I don't have any, uh, other sources for that information. Then I I'm not sure I ever found the source their source for that information, But that sounds right. I know that Bill Miner William Miners book again. Surrender on C booth. He talks about, uh, running into my grandfather on that first day, and he was at that time they were in Manila, and he was, uh, describing. Basically, he was talking with my grandfather about who had been hit, What portions of the Philippines had been hit so far, and so that when they were having that discussion, it was near or in, um, Manila. I'm not day zero.
Okay, Yeah, I was probably at the headquarters there in Manila. Yeah, so I was kind of go through the different steps of the engagements that that your grandfather was involved in, You know, the kind of give us a timeline of in whatever you want to say about, you know, starting at Nichols Field or or what you might know from from the time of attack to the time of surrender.
Sure. So I don't have any narrative story about what happened in on Nichols Field. In fact, I really haven't found any accounts written by members of the 31st that were there in the first real information that I have comes primarily from ah U s army monographs that were written by officers after the war. And so you kind of get a story of what happened, and it all the story for the 31st really begins from what I can tell, uh, with battalions two and three I think we're on 10. And I believe Italian one was I had a hard start and ended up on Keurig a door for a little while before they were able to rejoin the rest of the regiment. But the first real action happened at Laich Junction, which is basically a top of the peninsula. Uh, read it the neck of a peninsula before it starts, come out of the mainland, and there function there. There. The role was to hold the Japanese advance back so that the last of the retreating so units could make it into Bataan too, and basically prepare for the defense of that of the Peninsula. Third Battalion was ah, Reserve battalion, and the line of defense at Lake Junction was first and second Battalion. And, um, they were, um, they were aside the 70 71st division, which is a Philippine, uh, the Falcon Scout think they are Philippine scouts. And when the Japanese came up and they ended up having more cannons with greater range and so they pretty much outclassed the artillery capabilities of the American troops,
I was going to say, Well, why wasn't there a quote that he that he mentions about that about That was like an eight hour artillery attack. And he kind of Yeah, that kind of thinking back to his, his father and his father during roll or one. And he kind of kind of described
Yeah, that's right. Uh, so she my grandfather was quoted by Donald G. Young, who was a captain in L Company, and this was written about him after the world. But he quoted my grandfather saying it was a greater concentration of artillery fire than during the Meuse Argonne campaign of 17 18 or 1917 to 1918 when the Allied field artillery pieces were lined up hub tub. So he was comparing, uh, this attack from the Japanese to artillery battles in World War One, that his grandfather that his own father was a big part of. So the Americans were getting softened up by the Japanese artillery for eight hours. And then came the Japanese infantry attack, which was able to basically forced back company be a first battalion, and they ran for the hills pretty much. And so General Steele, who was the regimental commanding officer, ordered third Battalion to basically fill the gap, and I believe that Colonel Brady sent M and L or Mountain I and l company back to fill the hole that the the company had vacated. And they were successful in that attempt. And for that, uh, my grandfather was a part of that operation. And for that, he received the Silver Star.
Yeah, so he is. The third Battalion was able to reestablish the defensive line. Can you, uh, read us? Do you have the citation for that Silver Star?
Yes, I d'oh.
You read that? This
is James Joo Donovan Major, 31st Infantry Executive officer, third Battalion, 31st Infantry, during the counter attack made by the third Battalion, 31st Infantry. And they're laying junction, Bataan Province, Philippine Islands, on January 6 1942. Major O'Donovan said if I am example for the attacking elements by his bravery under severe enemy fire. Hey, Joe Donovan's leadership and bravery under fire were important contributing factors to the success of the attack
s. Oh, So have you know that he was awarded the Silver Star for that action? And that's you know, there are countries third highest award there for for valor in combat. So that that that was pretty cool. That's pretty cool. He's There was some other mentions of him and in other books and personal letters that were written Thio your your grandmother after the war. I see it in in Under website here, where Sergeant Abie Abrams. Abraham. Excuse me, Uh, sent a white lettered thio. Your grandmother?
Yeah, that's right. There's a letter that was written by a bee Abraham to, uh not to my grandmother, but to my great uncle. So the brother of Major Donovan and, um and he said, Ah, on the second day at Les AC, I was talking with him, my grandfather, all the ones. The Jap plane comes over on a scraping rent. I live for the foxhole. The major kept glancing toward the bridge to see what the Japs were up to, and I yelled, Damnit, Major, get your standing into a foxhole and he there's not a bullet that has my name on it.
So that's the end of the location. Now we'll probably talk about this here and a little bit later. But a B Abraham Ah, for our listeners that don't know a B was survived. The war survived captivity was record rescued from Combat a con by the Army Rangers and 45. And ah, he was actually assigned to Great Britain to the Graves Registration Quartermaster General Unit and actually went back on the Bataan Peninsula and disinterred hundreds of hundreds of graves of our fallen and also the Philippine Scouts. So we'll get in a little, had a little bit later.
Presumably Major Donovan included. Right,
Nastya, that's that's that's that's our understanding. So, um yeah, so the so the first engagement was was that and he was actually awarded the Silver Star for that engagement. Then they know they were following Ah prewar plan called the War Plan Orange at that time. And so they had different defensive lines that were pre established. You know that MacArthur had pre established in this in the defense of the Philippines. And so they fell back to another position. Um what what was the second engagement there or second position?
Well, they didn't immediately fall back to I think what you're talking about is the main line of resistance at Abou Chi Hacienda.
But I think they were sent back, um, further back behind the line that the place that you're talking about was when they had to go in until the whole that was vacated by the 51st 51st commission. So they were about They were, I believed, um, training and getting recuperating about 15 miles south of the mainland Resistance, when the 51st division was having trouble with the Japanese infantry attack. So they were commanded to go and basically fill the whole once again. And so his Italians did a forced march basically for 15 miles to get to the mainland resistance and basically be thrown into the fight. So that's where my grandfather's. I mean, you know, that's where you were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. And that's where he was injured at least two times. And pretty much most of what I know about my grandfather's actions in the 10 where accounts that were written about these about this time.
Yeah, working, working. You tell us about this time.
Um, actually, I can tell you quite a bit. So there was about, uh, there was a division of Japanese that had forced themselves into the main line of resistance. Uh, which started near the town of Abba Kai and ended near the foothills of the mountains at a place called Abacha Hacienda, which was a sugar plantation. And there was the Japanese had pushed about 1/2 mile in and created basically a bulge, which they were able to reinforce from, uh, the other side of a big river valley in the 31st in Countries job, along with the 45th Infantry, was Thio restore the line the 45th. I don't think they could get there on time. I believe it was. They were coming from different places. So the 31st got there just on time in order to fulfill their command admission. But the forties 1st 45th was not able to make it, so that was part of the problem at that location was they were making valiant efforts that they were not really well coordinated efforts with other units, and so consequently they would go out, shoot the enemy and get shot at the enemy would disperse. And then, you know, the next day they would pretty much have to do the exact same thing because none of the you know, none of the efforts that they were making were really being consolidating.
Yeah, no mention at this time, Thio. Um, this is actually where the first medal of honor during this engagement was where the first Medal of Honor was awarded. Do. And it was Thio Lieutenant, Second lieutenant, and Inger, who died was killed in action at this time. But, uh right. Yeah, he was awarded the first Medal of honor for World War Two. And he's still missing in action.
Yeah, the manager was down further down the lion within the 57th. Filthy scouts, I
he was known for doing the same thing that my grandfather had become known for, which is sending out or going out in parties and hunting snipers. Because snipers were a major problem at that location, Japanese would find a place to hide in a tree or a palm tree and shoot it officers. And that was becoming a problem. They had to essentially create taskforce, you know, task force in order to hunt them down. And according to William Miner, my grandfather was part of a group or partly responsible for taking out a couple of snipers. Just kind of guy.
Do you have the his citation for the Distinguished Service Cross? Do you have
of the world. In fact, could you? Yeah. Did you read that one? Phyllis, please.
I also have a purple heart medication as well.
Okay, Yeah. Go ahead and read. Read metals if you want.
Yeah, actually, the Purple Heart. In terms of timing, the Purple Heart came first, So we'll read that first. The following Officers and enlisted men of this division are cited for performing singularly notorious meritorious act of essential service while in action against an armed enemy and are awarded the Purple Heart on the dates and places independent. Each of the men was wounded as shown, and Major Donovan is listed here. James J. O'Donovan, Major 31st Infantry on 17th January 1942. Mayor Abou Chi Hacienda, The pan Philippine island by grenade fragments. So I do have the story on that event, and it's written in a couple of different books. One of the books is the one that's been put out by the 31st Infantry Regiment Association. And another one, another account of that that day was in a letter from Captain Donald G. Thompson to my grandmother after the war and the 3rd 1 and I can reduce for you if you like. The 3rd 1 was from the book Bataan. A Last Ditch. So I'll read that first, says the battalion executive officer. Uh, which is my grandfather? Lead Subtlety Cos. Men up the ravine and to within 30 feet of the enemy. The six American spread into a line and prepared to throw a grenade. They tossed a grenade and then and quote. And then we all started firing. We called private first class Albert Taylor. I couldn't see the enemy, but I could hear them. Japanese responded with their own grenade, wounding Taylor, Major Donovan and three others. The small party of Americans withdrew, mostly heading towards the aid station. So that was that account was in the book Bataan. A Last Ditch, and what follows next is from the book called the 31st Infantry Regiment. Here it goes. Because the terrain and the second battalions known was overgrown with dense vegetation and fragmented by ravines and ridges, soldiers became separated from their comrades. In one such incident, Private Michael J. Campbell, Albert Taylor and George Bullock of G Company found themselves isolated when there platoon cell back under enemy mortar and small arms fire, joining a five man patrol from an adjacent company. The group advanced deeper into enemy territory, only to be stopped by a sudden burst of fire that wounded five members of the patrol. Japanese troops advanced on there, exposed position, moving in short rushes, preceded by grenade attacks. Tenaciously clinging to his position for two hours, Private Campbell and his comrades ticked off at least 12 of the enemy trying to overrun them. Campbell withdrew only after the wounded reached safety and after receiving a direct order from his commanding officer to withdraw. The commanding officer was Donovan and, um, the last, uh, one from Captain Donald G. Thompson. The letter to my grandfather, he wrote. He went out on patrols seeking information of the Japs. He was fearless and gained much valued information. He was wounded in the arm on one of these patrols, reported to the hospital, had his arm fixed and reported back to the battalion for more duty all in one day. So that was the Purple Heart, which happened on January 17th and believe that was the second day on the line because they were on the line January 62 27. Now I can go ahead and read for you. The, uh, distinguished service glass eye patient this was for this was given to him after the action. ABAC I asked me, Andy, you know, they had to basically have a phased withdrawal from the line. And in order to do that, eh have, uh, a small force that is trying to represent themselves as the full, uh, enemy so that most of the guys can escape. So these these small representative forces referred to is a shell, and they basically pretend to be a large force so that most of the other force can escape. And here's Here's what he received a citation for, um, James J. O. Donovan, Major 31st Infantry, for extraordinary heroism in action in the vicinity of Abacha Hacienda, the 10 Philippine islands during the period January 20th 2 24th 1942 During the four day battle of Abacha, Hacienda Major gentleman was serving as Italian executive officer. His constant exhibition of bravery and effective leadership in front line positions under intense rifle fire, machine gun, mortar and artillery fire was a significant factor in a successful resistance of his unit on the night of January 24th Major O'Donovan, in command of a covering shell of three depleted companies, was charged with securing the withdrawal of his regiment. Shortly after the withdrawal was underway, a general attack was launched by the enemy again. His competent leadership and exhibition of bravery in the most advanced positions contributed to the efficient accomplishment of his mission and the consequent successful withdraw of the regiment.
Yeah, So another word is hit the long lives at night.
Yeah. I would like to read a segment of a letter that Captain Donald G. Thompson wrote again to my grandfather about this particular occasion. This was written after the worst some years after the war. I was with Jim throughout that long, terrible night, fighting Japs continuously until seven in the next morning. It was an inspiration to me as well as all the men in the covering force for his fearlessness. Good judgment, his superior commanding ability. How we got out of that action that night. I'll never know, but Jim O'Donovan had a great deal to do with it. Now, um, this was a This particular event, I think, had an important effect on the outcome of the war because as the shells were withdrawing, the Japanese were following and see the designer to the face. Withdrawal was such that the last guys out passed through a screen of tanks. And so as the 30 you know, the covering shell on the last guys made it through the Japanese were found themselves, you know, marching into the face of a bunch of American tanks and they were completely mowed down. And I think that that was at that point, the Japanese sort of re thought there, um approach and that, you know, there was essentially, there was no more fighting until basically, I want to say April like that was that was in late January and there was not a lot happening after that until the Japanese were able to reinforce their army and take another stab at it at the last. Basically, in the Easter offensive,
do you have a pretty much decimated the Japanese? Ah, counterattacks and things like that. And you know, pretty much there wasn't, uh, e mean if at that, at this point in time, if the Americans, instead of falling back to the next position, if they would actually counter attack the Japanese and really concentrated their efforts. They may have really pushed the Japanese back. Um, general home was, uh you know, the Japanese commander, You know, his defenses and his ah offense was pretty much decimated at that time. And he was kind of awaiting reinforcements to, er to arrive. And that's kind of what, like you're saying that bill action in between there it was just, you know, maybe, you know, just a little bit of ah, you know, attacks here and there. You know, nothing. Nothing major until, like you were seeing in April. Yeah. So he your grandfather then was able to kind of get a little bit of much needed rest and recuperate a little bit. Was what was the second? Where was the second Purple Heart for? Was that during the April campaigns Or
the second Purple Heart? Officially. So I know that my grandfather was injured more times than he received a purple heart for, uh, based on letters that were written felt I mean, I can assume that they're correct, but the second official Purple Heart was given for dying as appeared of you.
Okay, that's what I was wondering. That's what I was wondering. So that was the posthumous Purple Heart Award for his death there. Too bad it, Juan. Okay, uh, so we're into the April time frame. Would would you know about April?
Yeah. So, um, I have not been able to kind of figure out the story of what happened at during the Easter offensive. Um, in the area of Mt. Samit. I know that from a letter that was written, uh, bye, Captain Donald G. Thompson, that he and my grandfather were in a clearing discussing what? Their next move was on the defense near Mount Climate. And they got shelled. Basically, a shell landed right in the clearing that they were in, and Donald Thompson was rendered deaf. And so he had to go to the hospital. And so my grandfather was not injured at that time. That was the last that Major Thompson stopped my grandfather until they reunited on the death much so I don't know exactly what happened. Only because I haven't studied it as much as I have Abacha hacienda family a junction. But my feeling is that it was basically ah, chaotic defense. Um, there was not enough of any. Not enough of anything that they needed in order to really have a coordinated defense. And I do know that from Donald Constant again that my grandfather, at the very end of the war was called back to, um Maravillas to start destroying weapons caches, ammunition dumps in naval installations. So Donald describes in detail that my grandfather was involved in organizing essentially sapper squads to just blow up what remained and I don't have any more. I wish I had more information on that other than what Donald Thompson wrote. But he said that a lot of people hey, heard after the war. A lot of people were discussing those actions that they were successful in basically destroying anything with the Japanese good views against American forces after the war.
Yeah, that was on the night of April 8th, when General King had sent some of his staff officers forward for surrender to talk about terms of surrender they had done destroying all the ammunition supplies and things like that would fall into the enemy hands.
Yeah, that would be something that I would love to know more about. I just don't know much about it there. I mean, I know they were blowing up a lot of things. A TTE that time. And but I don't know who was involved in blowing up What?
All right, but there was. There's a document that was written by on Officer that survived Clarence Best. You know much about that document for
day's render on the 9 April?
Uh, yeah, I did. I did read that since the last time we talked. I know that they start the third, uh, third battalion requested that service company, uh, basically for me, shell so that they could move back to the rear and right after the successful withdrawals with third battalion service company was essentially surrounded and surprised by the Japanese, Mrs. Essentially, the very last action of the 31st interview Regiment that I know about where they were doing any kind of official defense.
Yeah, I did. I just wanted to note that causes because my relative was actually with service company, and, uh, I was very surprised to find that document written by by, uh, Mr Best, that, uh, you know, describe service kind of cos actions on that last day and form in that line of resistance to ah allow the third Battalion to try to escape Thio Grigor. Um And then they were overwhelmed by Japanese up to in the Japanese tanks Overwhelmed him. But I was Ah, I was really proud to see that, You know, my uncle was a part of service company, and he didn't They didn't surrender. They actually fought it out to the end. Um, yeah, which was really cool to see just
about the last guy.
Exactly. And And to know that, you know, they were they were providing a protection force for Third Battalion. Was was amazing to find out.
I was thinking that best was, um, the one that wrote about I have a coffee and where the tanks were lined up and basically mowed down the Japanese right at the very end there. But I guess that was Everett Mead. Uh, not that, but
Oh, God. You? Yeah. Yeah. So they surrendered. And that this starts the, you know, the day of surrender on 9 April. That that's the ended up surrendering. General King surrendered all the Bataan forces that were left the service car. Excuse me. The 31st Infantry Regiment was pretty much all located that Marty Mar v. Alice. I'm sorry. I'm not getting pronouncing all the names, but, uh, So they they ended up enduring, you know, having to go through the longest part of the Bataan Death March, which was because they were at the bottom of the Bataan Peninsula and they had to march all the way to the campus. Pretty much, though. Woody, what do you know about the Bataan Death March? Er, is there anything significant that you might have found about your grandfather and what he went through on the mark?
Uh, yes. What I know about my grandfather during the march was written by two letters. One was from Major Donald G. Thompson, again, a friend of my grandfather's during the war. And also another letter that was written by a bee Abraham to my great uncle. So I have kind of Ah, uh, and also a be Abraham wrote something about my grandfather in his book. Oh, God. We're aren't out and, uh, two books, but you wrote about my grandfather and one of his books, um, or both of his books. Multiple times. So what I know happened was that Donald Thompson and my grandfather, Major Donovan reconnected on the death march, and at that time my grandfather was leading a column. Moves soldiers. I don't know how that works. I don't know what authority you retained, um, you know, leading a bunch of captives to their prison camp. But for whatever reason, he was setting the pace and, uh, a be Abraham describes that the Japanese guard thought that his pace is too slow and he tried to encourage him to speed up and because my grandfather essentially refused, he was beaten in the face. Or I think maybe describes that he was punched in the face. Um,
So, yeah, that's, uh, some some abuse of my grandfather on the death. Much that
I'm sure the jury setting the pace for his men. I mean, at this time, Ah, lot of these men were all sick with malaria, dysentery, beri, beri. They had so many tropical diseases that, you know, even even a small crawl would have been hard for him. And I'm sure your grandfather was tryingto look out for the men in this column. Thio. So nobody was left behind. And and probably one of the reasons why is because you know when when when one of these men would fall out of line, try to take a break. The Japanese would, uh, you know, a lot of them were shot and Band added, So I'm sure your grandfather was trying to look out for his men and the men in his column.
Yeah, I agree that a. B Abraham's assessment, he says as much in his book. I do have a quotation from a letter that Donald wrote about that event. This is Donald Thompson again, he said. The night after our surrender, I found Jim in the column, marching out of Bataan on what has come to be known as the Death march again. This letters written to my grand mother so she might not have known about that. I. So I joined him and we marched, slept march for four days and nights on that long trip to Camp O'Donnell, our first prisoner of working Jim, had malaria from the second day and was a very sick man. But he refused to let me or anyone else carry its pack. He said he was a soldier and a good soldier carrying his own load.
so marching on the death march with malaria, especially after fighting on frontline positions for four months with quarter rations. Must have been a real treat.
Yeah, and in being wounded, you know, in the process, do
you know, thes men were You know, I would I would. I would describe it from what? The stuff that I've read, I would describe all these men is the walking dead.
They are described that way, and I'm not sure which book. But many many books talks about the men on the avocado and the line of defense as the walking dead.
Um, there's, um there's a story that I think is worth reading just to return real quickly. Back to be Day six on the Abbott chaos and the line
You have a story? Is, um, about my grandfather burning down the sugar cane trees. I came across this book in, um, called Death March, The Survivors of the Pan, and it's written by a guy named Pft Wilder and Snyder. This is just one of many accounts of the same events, all redistrict. If it's pretty interesting, he writes. Quote the shooter cane at Avoca Hacienda was tall enough to gather it was also tall enough to hide the Japs who used to infiltrate our line. So one of our officers, a major, decides to burn down the cane fields. And he puts himself. He gets himself some gasoline and starts to burn them down. Now, this Major was a good officer. He doesn't say private. You go out there and set cane fields instead, he does it himself. He always wore to 38. Well, he spreads this gasoline all throughout became field. So you can really get it burning whether you bang the two camps together, causing a spark or what? I don't know. But while he's in the cane field, it starts on fire. Huge conflagration. All we knew was he was in there, but no one could go in to get him. The fire was so hot. Then all of a sudden, he steps out of the flame and all he's wearing. Our there's 2 38 He done had all his clothes burned
Yeah, man, we ran up to him and said, Major, we've got to get you back to the hospital Hospital. He said all I needed some new clothes. Thistle. Wilburn doesn't actually mention my grandfather's name, Uh, in this. So, uh, it's kind of slightly circumstantial, except that there a couple other accounts that described the same exact scenario and it does mention him by name. So we're figuring that it would be highly unlikely that it's somebody else with almost the same description
after Eazy. That's crazy. I'm surprised he wasn't a ward of the Medal of Honor for all the stuff that he did that in that engagement. I mean, that's that's that's putting your life and everything else.
So I mentioned to you that there are multiple accounts of the same event and I'll read you another one that I ran that I saw on a YouTube video of Richard M. Gordon to get where Richard Gordon, where you what his action was. But I believe you, as in the 31st and he says that he says we had a major. We had a Major Donovan and use example names, and he found a way to get rid of them. You circled this sugar cane fields and he set it on fire, and the Japanese came out of there in a hurry, and it was sort of a duck shoot at that point in time.
If you don't have a flamethrower, that's the next best thing.
Yeah, now they were at a real disadvantage with those sugar cane field.
Yeah, it's Yeah, you know what he did there, you know? Took the cover away from them, burned them out of there. That's that's That's quick thinking that, in my opinion,
there's another version of the story from a B. Abraham in the ghost of the 10. When he writes, I saw many of my close friends die Major Donovan, Major James or Donovan, a tough fighter and a brave one. He had gone with three of us into a sugar cane field in Bataan, set it on fire and driven the Japanese out. So there's there are a few more stories like that. But, um, there's some of the mainland that I'll never forget.
Did anybody hear your family get to meet a B before he passed away here a few years back?
Yes, Um, my my aunt met him, and I think, but least when one of my great uncle's met him, my aunt corresponded with him while they were alive, but they bad before, maybe did so. He was He was considered a family friend after the war.
Oh, I bet he was, too. But Iwas
Yeah, Yeah. In fact, I'll just go to AA letter that A b wrote about my grandfather real quick. Um, sorry for messing up your time. Like it
don't go out at all. Not at all. Like I said it all. It's just a confrontation conversation between the two of us. So it's Ah, it's all good.
Uh, so here's a bee's account of the death march with my grandfather A V right in the middle of this letter to my grandmother on the death march. He was leading the men. The guard came over telling major gentlemen to move faster. Your brother kept up a slow pace against him. Submit to my grandfather's brother. Not my grandmother, he said. Your brother kept up a slow pace. He knew by moving fast the men would pass out and get shot. The Nips slugs a major in the face, but he still kept a slow pace, and he held his head up as he led the men away. I'm reminded that my grandfather was one of his May. Nabi's was a boxing so I'd be willing to bet that that, uh, Japanese punch to the face didn't really count. Uh, for much.
No, it's my grandfather was a
Exactly. And again that it just goes back to show what? What? Your grandfather and how he thought of his manner, The men of that he was leading in that column where he was trying thio, you know, keep up. You know, keep the pace for the for his men and not not terribly, not taking his own safety and everything else. An accountant. He was thinking of them, not himself.
Uh, I would agree with that. Um, that that is pretty remarkable, considering that at that point it may have felt like it was every man for himself and that, um you didn't owe anybody anything anymore. And you just were entitled to watch out for your own well being, especially considering that he was sick.
And that's why, at a time that's exactly what a lot of the men felt at that time during the march. Is it? It was every man for themselves. They were surrendered. They were no longer. You know, they didn't have thio taken account. You know what their officers orders were any of that kind of stuff. You know, many of the men you know at that point in time escaped whenever they could escape and ran to the hills and became guerrilla fighters and things like that, you know, it didn't. This whole thing just sounds like your grandfather was thinking of of his men. And that's that's that Says something about your grandfather.
Yes. Um, I selfishly wish that he would have security zone. Uh, needs first. Um because I sometimes feel like he almost survived captivity because he died only a month before the gifts came from the Red Cross. And after that, the death rate plummeted. So he nearly survived. Thio started getting food and medicine, but unfortunately
so we'll jump ahead. They ended up making it Todo San Fernando. They were loaded on the railroad boxcars that were, you know, they were packed in there like sardines. Many you know, a be talked about in his book about how the men a lot of these men just died standing up, which that's crazy. I mean, they were just standing there pack So so in so tight When the when the man unloaded our descent trained the boxcars. You know, the men who died fell down and they were marched. Thio pow Camp O'Donnell is there. Was there any mention of any anything about your grandfather when they first arrived there to a Donald
there is mentioned in the letter from Donald Thompson to my grandmother, and he says at O'Donnell, he worked as a group leader of the enlisted men of the Air Force's and managed to get that command in fairly good order. I have no idea what any of that means.
That I would have done wonders when the window when the Japanese first attack on intact their fields, they're in In the Philippines, a lot of the Army Air Corps enlisted men and officers were actually, uh, retrained as infantry. And they, uh it was called the Provisional Infantry Regiment, and they were actually on the front lines of Bataan. You know, it object. A hacienda and other defenses were they were. They fought valiantly against the Japanese, and I mean the the Air Corps unit or the provisional Air Corps Infantry. They were decimated, you know, uh, just almost completely wiped out in certain places and ah, a lot of their leadership was was knocked out as well. So it sounds like he, uh, took it upon himself. Thio, get those those men gathered back up or whatever there. It'll it'll, Donald.
So you're saying that it was necessary for them to have some sort of organization as a as a unit of men and that they are lacking leaders? What if my grandfather would have stepped in for that leadership role?
Yeah, that's kind of what it sounds like to me from from what? He's right in there in the book. And I just know about their the provisional air corps. Infantry was heavily wiped out during the during the battle. Oh, I'm working out of the cases,
so I don't have any more to say about O'Donnell. Only because I just haven't read anything. But I do have a couple of quotations that relate to Cabanatuan.
Yeah, so So, uh, uh, they were They were at Oh, Donald for a few months and then on the sick and death rate was so I from Listen, you know, things were very unsanitary there that the Japanese closed O'Donnell down. Except for that, I think there was the hospital left there with a bunch of sick and dying. Ah, and moved everybody to combat it. Come on. And so what? What do you have on combat it warm.
Yeah. So this is a get a quote from Donald Thompson, written to my grandmother. Afterward, he says, at Cabanatuan camp Jim came down with malaria and bury burying was put in the hospital. So I know that that was, uh, according to the case summary, I know that he went into the hospital on July attempt and remained in the hospital until his death. So he was hospitalized his entire time in Cabanatuan, continuing with the letter. Uh, no medicine was available, and Jim got down to about £100.
body became. His body became bloated from the berry berry lack of protein in the bloodstream, and it finally reached his heart. You lasted only about three days. When the infection's reached him introduce heart. He died as he had lived without complaining. And that peace with his God, something I've always admired in any man on, uh, he also talks about his burial. He said he was buried in the common grave at Cabanatuan by order of the Japs. I believe last rights were given him by the Catholic chaplain, but I was not present for. The Japs would only allow a small detail to go into the cemetery.
Well, that's Yeah.
So I also have another letter from a B. Abraham Thio James of Donovan's brother. And it talks about his time in Cabanatuan. Very red. At Cabanatuan prison of war camp, we were herded like animals into a small camp. The major developed very berry. His stomach and feet swelled. The doctors say this is caused by the lack of protein and vitamins I used to bein the major. And Pete Um damn wormy rice. If we could have gotten some meat and vegetables, the major would be alive today. However, I was with the major when he died on October 18th 1942. It was early afternoon that he died. I saw the mess kit of rice not touched as we were issued the rice a short time ago. So he claims that he was right there with my grandfather on that day.
It's sad that the majority of these men died the way they died, you know, just a little bit of medicine and food. Decent, decent diet would have saved the lives of thousands of
Oh, certainly. I recently read a letter from, uh, Colonel Jeff for Brady, who was the commanding officer of their battalion, 31st Infantry. And he he This was a letter that he wrote to his wife prior to giving on the hell Ship. So, uh, essentially, it was his last will and testament because he knew that there was a high likelihood that he wouldn't survive the trip, and in fact, he didn't. But what he wrote to his wife was that, uh, 50% of the 31st Infantry Regiment was not alive at the time that he was writing a letter, which I think is a staggering statistic. It's one that I haven't come across anywhere else because you hear about, you know, 30% of the cabana it one prisoners were buried there. And of course, that's true. And there's other, equally startling statistics. But half 50% of the All American regiment was was wiped out by the time that he had written that letter. And that's pretty remarkable. And I mean, it's obvious that those guys so, uh, a lot of the hardest action. Um, they were on the front line, so they probably got the least amount of food. All right, guys, you know, nothing gets the guys in the back. But the guys that were getting shot at, um, you know, they they didn't have anyone riding up to the front to give my hot meals. So they were eating less, and they were suffering more for months and months. And then, you know, those are the guys that did the death march. Anyone in Cabana, anyone on the Keurig adore didn't do the death mark. So these guys, we're just endured one suffering after another. And so there's no wonder that 50% of their number was dead by whatever year that letter was written. I think 1943.
Yeah. And them there's probably probably accurate up till the time you know, the first up to the 12 1st 12 months in combating corn. Yeah. 43. Yes. Yeah, that's that's That's well, and And it could all been prevented, you know, on the on those that were sick.
Yeah, at the heartbreakers,
it really is. So your grandfather, he succumb to the illness on Ah, on the 18th of October 1942 and was buried in a grave. 6 49 of the officers plot, located in the cemetery outside of bad it on one. He was the 1998 American to die at that camp from malnutrition. Poor sanitation, no medicine. So that's up to the time of his death. He was the 1998 American to die and, ah, the sick rates at that time. And that was just kind of when the secret kind of took a turn. And there was last men dying per day at that at that time, Um, you know, in that grave that he was buried in? Sorry. I'm trying to gather my thoughts here was kind of reading through your reading through your description There on your website. Um, but he was in buried in grave 6 49 Now he was supposed to be buried in a grave. A single, isolated grave, or was it a common grave? What do you know about this grave that he was buried in or what? Don't you don't you know either, uh,
surprised what I do know it. Hey was very Singley and 6 49 was a single burial because that's the practice of bearing officers Singley and they were even buried in there. Own officers plot which theoretically should have made identification after the war. Slam dunk. Um
I don't know what other complicating factors might have been. Um, part of that sometimes you read it that the burials were shallow at Cabanatuan and that there were dogs and that there was, uh, you know, it was a swamp or the water table was really high. And so there's a lot of factors that can make the compromise that survivability remains.
But this is also the time that brought about the same time that off that Colonel Brady he took over graves registration. They're combative kwon about this time. And, uh, he went back and, ah, the cemetery, up to this point in time was not allowed any beautification. Um, so it was There was a lot areas of the cemetery that were overgrown with weeds and grasses and things like that, and, you know, it was kind of hard to determine exactly where all the graves were. There was also, you know, he went back and re interviewed. You know, Colonel Brady re interviewed a lot of the men that were on the burial details, and, ah, trying to got got their perspective on where they thought each man you're each of these common graves were in the cemetery on. It was all based on, you know, the Japanese guard of the day on where thes men got put because of, you know, like what you were saying, the shallow graves and things like that. And I guess the stench was overwhelming. So the Japanese guard, you know, there was never any order to the burials. You know, the smell was so bad in this area, the Japanese guard would make a move across to the other side of the cemetery the next day and do burials over there so long that I didn't know that idea on the officer side. You know, like you said, there, there was the plots for the officers. Um, there was There was after the war, there wasn't too many officers that weren't identified, But I think your grandfather and there was a couple others. Is that Yeah, but I
recently found out that there was three officers that were not identified after the war.
And, you know, if the graves were next to each other or were the it was so
I'm what? Good question. I don't know. One way or the other.
Okay, I know you. When you were looking through some documentation that you were given that you had some thoughts about, uh might have been remains of a couple different men are What's what. What? What's your take on the whole grave deal?
Oh, yeah. Um uh, that you're asking basically about our whole process of trying to find and have our grandfather returned to us. But my take on the documents that I've seen is that there may be there may possibly be more than one person's remains in that set of remains that are associated with my grandfather. The only reason I say that again, I have no training. This is not my field. But there are two bone charts in the file and they don't look to be in my eye. They don't look to be the same person. And they also there are also some discrepancies between what is known about my grandfather, for example, of his height and the calculated height of the remains of the bones. You know, it's not a slam dunk, at least from my point of view. It looks like there's sound confusing issues in the file not clear. Ah, that it's one person. And it's not obvious to me that it it lines up with anything that I was known before the war about my grandfather, his, uh, dentist, dental records or hype, for example.
so it's, uh there's no, um, you know that there was no other information with the remains that could be identifying, for example, uh, you know, dog tags or anything like that. So it's all is basically all bone analysis that was used after the war to try to figure out who was it was buried in that grave. And I really don't disagree that there's just not enough to say for certain that it was Major Donovan, even though camp records indicated that that's where he was buried. It's just not obvious, but that him
Yeah, I would, I would have to say at this time in October, the records were prepared, the accurate. So, um, my gut tells me the chances of being your grandfather or a lot more likely than not.
I agree. And I think that I haven't seen the, you know, they made the decision for dis internment, and I haven't seen the the letter that justifies that decision with any kind of documentation that justifies that decision. Uh, except for the case summary, Um, which does mention probably worth taking a look at? Okay, Summary. But, you know, they they are convinced sufficiently to disinter those remains, and they're willing to do the test. So enough for them and good enough for me.
Yeah, well, in their policy on that is ah, for these isolator or individual graves like this is they have to have a 50 50% chance of more than likely identifying the Not so, um, and that's probably the decision behind it. There were more than 50% sure it's him.
Yeah, I would say it. Um, you know, depending on your point of view, there's there's no other name. There's no other identity associated with those remains. It's x 13 50 is associated with Major Donovan, but no one else. So, in terms of require that 50% or 60% likelihood of identification, Um I almost want to say it's 100% likelihood of identification on Lee because there's no one else associated with those remains.
100% of the d N A. Uh, that is so seedy with these only person that is known to be. You know, uh, link those remains
were held. Exactly. Exactly. So, uh, you've been attending, you know, the d p. A. Or the defense pow, my accounting agency. They host family family updates all throughout the country. And you, your families have the opportunity. Now, you you've attended one. Or how many of you attended
last month was our 1st 1
Okay, so that
was January of 2020.
So I have a lot of families that listen to this podcast. And, uh, what are your recommendations? Do you recommend they attend those? Is it? Uh, what are your thoughts about him?
I was glad that I went, Um, you know, um, the e p A. Uh They get a lot of criticism. They don't, um, like bottom line, for example. And they don't I don't feel like they do a good job of defending themselves from that criticism. And I understand why they don't, uh, essentially, you know, they probably have picked the high ground and, you know, just, you know, respect people's opinion, and they just leave it at that.
opinions can sort of influence, uh, people's impressions of them, especially if they're not contradicted or, you know, there's no other opposing point of view. So I went to that kind of with a little bit of, ah, critical attitude and, you know, sort of all of us don't have any experience with the government. Uh, can, you know, especially in places like the D. M. V. You know, he's
just like you
just have negative impression from experience. But after that meeting with the d. P. A, I came away with a much better attitude. Um, and I was I was really impressed with people that I met.
were presentations. They have presentations of the technology that they were using thio identify family members. Um, they talked a lot about missions that they were involved with. It didn't relate to Mike, my loved one at all. It was like, um, Korean war, for example, Vietnam War so that there wasn't, uh, in some cases, it was not pertinent to what I was interested in. But I would say the most important part for me was meeting the, uh, historian that was involved in my grandfather's case. And she proved to be just a very confident and admirable person. And it was very, uh, I would say, committed to finding out the truth about my grandfather in a way that made me can think, Wow, she actually has picked me this answer personal mission until I was really impressed in particular by the I don't know what her job pedal was. Maybe it was his story, and I think she basically wrote the justification or rationale for disinterment. And so this was a person that was intimately involved in the case and new more about it than anyone else that I had met so far. And so, after meeting her, I felt like, you know what? I think we're in pretty good hands, so I would recommend going. It's only to meet the individuals that are actually working the case, and I think that gave me a lot of confidence that this organization is going to be able to If there's an identification to be made, they're going to be able to make it. So that was a real comfort to me. And also to my mom and my uncle, Uh, you know, but they might within their lifetime be able to have their father brought home.
Yeah, Yeah. Then the men and women, you know that we're on the front lines of this making the identifications and doing the research. And, you know, the historical reviews of the cases that they do an amazing job. Their hearts are 100% in into the work. And and, uh, you know, they do it do a hell of a job for those of those that are missing. Um, now, you kind of had a a little bit of a surprise when you went into this one on one, didn't you? You never never knew before that that your grandfather's remains had been disinterred. Possible remains had been disinterred. Or did you know that prior to going to the update?
Oh, I I didn't know that. And I think that they probably would have liked to share that information with us at the, um, at the meeting. But I My practices I call my case manager uh, almost every two weeks. And, you know, is there anything new? What's going on with the case? And
e they were probably hoping to bring that to me in person, but I basically requested it. So they had. I had known for a couple at least a couple weeks prior to the meet up that they had disinterred my grandfather already, and he's his remains presumed remains are in Hawaii.
Okay, all right. That was some good news. That's for darn sure. What? What was your mom's feelings and your uncle's feelings when they found out
Oh, uh, over the moon, uh, just completely thrilled. Each step along the way has, you know, this there's a lot of waiting and there's a lot of not knowing. And when when I was able to share the good news with my mom that the government had made the decision for disinterment on, and also when I was notified that they had in fact, this insurance remained, uh, my mom, I've got real emotional, and it was just very, uh, important moment for her. Of course. You know, uh, ultimately, you want to protect yourself from disappointment. Bye. Not investing too much you know, potentially this could be her father. You know that that's
But if it isn't, that would also be a really big disappointment, considering all the time that we've kind of been hoping for this. So they're sort of a mixture of emotions. And I, uh I like to just celebrate when there's good news, I celebrate and worry about the possibility that it's not him, you know, for another time. I'm just gonna go ahead and claim that Jim and, you know, deal with it afterwards if it's not, But but you mainly a matter of personality, I think. But
well on. And I agree with you, you know, you celebrate all this, all the small steps that have taken place, you know, each step of the process is a time for celebration and just the fact that his remains, her possible remains, were disinterred and sent to Hawaii to the lab to start that process of identification. You know, that's that's That's the biggest step of all in this whole process is just knowing that yeah, you know that he's at the forefront of identification and, uh, the realities of him coming home or or better than not.
Yeah, I would say that The for me, the most important decision was when they made the decision to disinter. Because after that decision has made, everything is just a matter of procedures and date on the calendar and, you know, work orders. And, you know, basically you're in the process, the gears grinding, and hopefully at the end there there's an identification made.
Yeah, but but what's amazing about that is that from the time that they actually make a decision to disinter, sometimes it can take a year to two years for that even happen to actually disinterred the remains. And it sounds like this whole thing just happened just like that.
No, I wouldn't say that. Um, so we I first contacted d p. A. And we're not Army Casualty. That is, in February of 2018 they made the decision for disinterment in about August of 2019. So it was a year and six months before the decision for disinterment. So that was that. I felt like it was a pretty long time, um,
during during that whole period. That's a a giant question, Mark. Will. Will they make the decision for disinterment, so that's where the sort of stress is. But once the decision was made, that's when I knew that. Well, now it's just a pity. It's the way. Yes, we have to wait more, but we're no longer waiting for a favorable decision. We're just waiting for actions to happen. You know, it means that
in my mind. It's much less stressful to wait when I know that it's going to get done in my lifetime. But like if they made the decision to not disinterred that, I feel like that would have been the end of it. And we just need to go back to what we were doing before all this and just, you know,
it was It was a huge moment when they made,
but the decision came in October 20. Excuse me, August 2019 but that remains the remains actually got disinterred. Was it in December 2019
that that's I believe, correct. I'm
certain on the date, but ah, it's I'm probably right within a month. Uh, I want to say December 2000.
Yeah, that that that's the time frame I was talking about from the time that the decisions made to the time that they actually go stick a shovel in the ground. Um, usually, it could take a year to two years for that processed, even happen. And it happened. And it happened quick.
Yes. Um, I think I recall. So they've been Seems like they have been some Ah, a lot of activity at the American cemetery in Manila. And so they have, uh I felt like they kind of have case is already going at that cemetery, and I still like they were able to kind of slide my grandfather's disinterment into something that was already on going. I don't know if that makes
sense that that's the point I was getting at it. It was amazing to see that kind of see that happen, because, yeah, they do. They have numbers of graves that they've already got scheduled with the Battlement Monuments Commission to do the disinterment. And then it sounded like this happened so quick that he was just get this other one. Where were there and that that that that's amazing.
Well, I'm glad you said that because I didn't realize that it was abnormally fast.
Yeah, That's from from the other cases that I've saw it. It was abnormally passed in that that's that's That's good. So so now what now is the sit back and wait part of the process where you're waiting for the identifications to be made. And once once, once that happens, where her has has your family talked about where they're gonna have him re intern or where he's gonna be buried out here in the United States?
Yeah, I'm almost certain that he'd be buried in my mom and dad plot at the, um mere Mar Mer Mara Marines Miramar Marine Air Base in San Diego has a veteran's cemetery, and I think that's where they intend to bury him.
Okay, Okay. All
all of his Children ended up moving to San Diego. So a lot of his descendant are in San Diego all 90 91 or 92 descendants.
Yeah, it's it's I'm looking forward to the day that I hear that he comes home, so
two it's gonna be, you know, it's gonna be one of the most important events in my life, I think because, uh, this is kind of a personal matter for me until I spent like, I think, like a lot of us have spent a lot of time researching and thinking about it and writing and organizing information, and it just kind of one of my hobbies. It's important. It's, you know, it's really hard to express how important it is actually the last pot test that you did. I listen to that part of it today and what you had said. Or maybe it was Frank who said it was. He was buried in the Philippines, and I know that they had an honorable burial, but it wasn't buried as an individual who was buried as an unknown. And so, like essentially, his identity has been stripped away from his remains, and that is one of the saddest things that I can think of. And so to be, able to be part of a process of identifying, you know, identifying him and having him buried at, as, you know, with his individual, with his identity associated with its remains, Uh, it's really important to me. And if I was him, yeah, I know that that's what I want for you. I wouldn't want to be buried with my name on some marker in my homeland and not in the place that I, you know, died in a terrible way.
Yeah, exactly. Now, just have just just just so people know that you were on this earth and and, uh, this is your final place, and this is your name and who you were and what you done. Yeah, there's, You know, I understand why they buried these men isn't as unknown. Basically, they're cross if if it's Lister's don't know, the cross that they're buried under their manila says here rests in honored glory. A comrade in arms known. But God, just being able to have your name on your headstone, I think, makes it the world of difference in there to the end of the story.
Yeah. Yeah. Hopefully my my Web site kind of chronicles what What happened in this case over time. And hopefully, you know, I'll be able to write a concluding chapter, you know, and say And now, after all this work and, you know, thanks to, you know, our government and because of science and we're able to bring him home once and for all, you know, our homeland a pretty good feeling about I think I think we did have some good news. Maybe this year, maybe next year.
Yeah. Yeah, that's I wish I wish it was a lot faster process and especially for everybody involved. You know it. Uh, you know, your your mom and your uncle don't have too many more years left on this earth to see it happen. And and hopefully it, uh, hopefully it happens quick. You know, we're looking at a year, maybe two years, you know, depending on what their backlog is, butt in the air lab. But they're they're they're they're working it as fast as they can with what the resource is and and what space that they have been in the labs. So, yeah,
I would I would mention that already, Uh, the first primary next of kin has already died. That was my other uncle. When I started this process in finance in 18. He died the next year, and there's already a part of that. There was two two of his daughters that had died. So it is getting down to a small number of surviving Children, and hopefully it will be too.
Yeah, in the last one that has a memory helping.
Yeah, that's right. Last time, the happy memory.
All right. Well, is there anything else that we might have forgot to talk about or anything you want to mention? Anything you want to bring up that you want the listeners to know?
Yeah. I would mention that I have created a website in honor of my grandfather and ah, I believe I've made it. Google searchable now. Um, but it's called the Major James J. Of Donovan Memorial website, and I did just Google sites website put together and because you can link to it, but
yeah, definitely how we'll have a link to your website to your website in the show notes for listeners. If you want to go to the show notes, you'll be able to click, Blink and I'll take you to the website. I will also have ah, your contact information from the Web site. Your email address that's down at the bottom of the website. Also post that in the show notes. They could get ahold. You do, Stephen. They if they have any questions. Yeah,
that'd be fine.
All right. Well, I I really appreciate you taking the time to tell us your grandfather's story. And, uh uh, like I said, I'm sitting back here rooting that this happens real quick. Thanks.
Really appreciate it. It's been it's been a little front,
and I and I hope our listener, especially if you're a family member of of anyone that's missing in action from from this, you know, from the Philippines. And, uh, you know, you haven't made contact with the army casualty yet or, you know, there was Navy and Marine Corps as well. If you haven't talked to the casual the office of the respective service that you're, uh, m I A's from, please do please reach out to them, talk to him, get a case started. This process has been in place for a few years now that a lot of a lot of families don't know that that can happen. So ah, um, you can. And as as this case has unfolded, you see it'll happen and they'll be eventually identified. So I hope everybody does start that process.
Yeah, I'll follow up on that and just mentioned that that timing really does matter. And the reason why I say that is because we needed the army casualty wanted to requested from us family reference sample DNA, and we had just enough family members to provide them with the DNA that they needed just enough. And then soon after, the last person that gave me an A unfortunately, she died. And so if she was not alive, we would not ever we wouldn't have been able to provide enough DNA to identify my grandfather. So it was It was really a matter of months, uh, that we should have got in there. And if we had delayed or hesitated this, we wouldn't have a positive outcome.
um, I would I would suggest that anybody that's even thinking about it to act quickly because, you know, people die. And once they're gone, you can't get you know you can't get that DNA sample
another family members, men. Their memories, they do know is, is we get deeper into the descendants of these m I. A's. You know, we're looking its 1st 2nd 3rd cousins when it comes to that point on the mother's side. So yeah, yeah, it's very important to get this close It close the DNA as close as possible to the to the service members All right, Steve. Well, I really appreciate you coming on and telling us the story, and and, uh, I hope to get a follow up, but as soon as, Ah, as soon as we hear their identification is made, I'd love to do another another podcast with you about it. So
I'd be happy to thank
you for listening to stories of sacrifice. World War Two American P O W M I. A's in the Philippines. This has been a production of the U S p o W m I. A family locating you can find us on the Web at U. S. P o W m I a family locating dot com opinions expressed in this podcast our own and given in the best intention overall, the p o w m I. A accounting community is doing what it can with limited resource is it is our hope additional federal funding will be provided along with additional partnerships established to disinter process remains of our own knowns located in the national cemeteries. You can help by contacting your congressional representatives and asking that the implement DNA leave policy for those unknown pow M eyes. Thank you for listening