Buried as an "Unknown" at the Manila American Cemetery - PVT Martin Kunik, served with Company H, 31st Infantry Regiment in the Philippines. He died at Cabanatuan and is buried as an Unknown at the Manila American Cemetery
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and lead researcher buried as an unknown at the Manila American Cemetery. Private Martin Que Nick served with company H 31st Infantry Regiment in the Philippines at the outbreak of World War Two. Martin was captured by the Japanese when General Edward King surrendered the Bataan Forces on April 9th 1942. Martin died at the notorious prisoner of war camp Combat Antoine in July of 1942. This is Martin Story of being an immigrant to the U. S. His ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms and his family's long struggle to get Martin identified to be brought home for an honorable burial under a headstone with his own name. His nephew, Dr Frank Unit Junior, talks about the process and the roadblocks his family has faced getting Martin identified.
So my name is Dr Frank Cooney Jr. Um, I am the ah paternal nephew of Private Martin Ah, Louis Koo Nick, who was born in a small town in Slovakia present day Slovakia of baklava. Um, Martin grew up in a very poor family. And with the end of world war and my grandfather having fought in the war, my grandmother felt it necessary to take the family out of out of the interwar years of of Europe. And so they made connections with friends that had come over from Europe and eventually landed in Erie, Pennsylvania. From that was in 1929 and Martin came across the Atlantic on the Aquitania, which was sister ship to the Mauretania and the Lusitania, which, of course, was some good in World War One. And so, coming to America, Martin was able to assimilate into American culture fairly well. Ah, although he didn't speak any English when he came to the United States, and so school was definitely a struggle for him. But what he did when he got here was that he integrated into the Slovak community of eerie and was able to pick up odd jobs and eventually was able to work for the Civilian Conservation Corps. Uh, because obviously this was during the years of the Depression, and so he felt that there was a need for him to give back to the country that accepted him. And so he ended up in listing in the United States Army, following the tradition of all the men in our family. I'm certainly his father in World War One and ultimately his. His soon, soon to come Brothers, um that weren't born at the time he came to the United States. And so he so after his enlistment, he was initially in the ah, 12th Infantry regimen, and that was fairly uneventful at the time. Circumstances in Europe were such that there was no United States involvement. However, it was pretty obvious that war eventually would come to the United States. And so he re enlisted in on his re enlisted. He was reassigned to the 31st Infantry Regiment and was ultimately stationed in the Philippines. And at that time, there wasn't too much going on in the Pacific. Of course, the war hadn't come to the United States yet in the Pacific Theater. But the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 7th 1941 obviously changed that. And just prior to that, Martin actually was scheduled to be discharged and was preparing to come home and the letters that he had written to my grandmother. He had stated that he was looking forward to being home, back with her and and back in the United States. Sometime in the middle of January s O. Of course, once Pearl Harbor was attacked, his discharge was canceled. And, uh, he ultimately ended up in the Bataan Peninsula on Luzon in the Philippines. Shortly thereafter. Ah, the battle of Bataan took place and he wasn't able to be relieved. And And the men that were fought in that bottle, of course, we're all undersupplied and had no ammunition and little food, uh, all all holding off the invasion of the Philippines by the Japanese. But because of the spread of the war throughout the Pacific Theater, all those men knew that there was not going to be any relief. There was not going to be any resupply, and they were not going to get out of there. He fought very bravely. He received 14 different citations and medals, including the Browns star and the Purple Heart. The forces were ultimately ordered to surrender in April of 1942 and Martin was stationed on the Bataan Peninsula, uh, to the forces were essentially concentrated in two main areas. In that area, there was a force of his on the Bataan Peninsula and a force that was on triggered or island, and Martin was on the Bataan Peninsula. So the surrender of forces came a little earlier. The forces on Cricketer Island were actually able to hold out a little bit longer until the middle toe end of May, but ultimately the forces were surrendered. The Japanese were completely unprepared for the numbers of American soldiers that ultimately were surrendered. And so the Japanese concentrated the soldiers in camps in the southern part of Bataan and organize them into groups and march them north into the interior portion of the Philippines. On this became subsequently known as the Bataan Death March. And so ultimately, Martin survived the Bataan Death March and ended up in a transition camp called Camp O'Donnell. And at that point in time, the Japanese created ah, prisoners of war. Can't they actually took over Cabanatuan camps, which were initially Filipino training facilities, and there were three subdivisions of the camp, initially ah, with Camp One, the largest, and Martin ultimately ended up in Camp one. The other two camps were in existence for a short period of time. And then they Ah, we're all consolidated into camp one. Ah, the men that were initially in the camper, all the survivors of the Bataan Death march in. So they were particularly sick, malnourished, and course of the Japanese didn't treat them with any degree of kindness. And they're starvation and their malnutrition there. Overall, health was very poor. Finally, Martin succumb to diphtheria on July 23rd 1942 at approximately 3 30 in the afternoon,
Going back with, you know, when you were talking about how your family immigrated to the United States and Marv circuit at first joined What? What? What was the regimen he first joined?
He was initially in the 12th Infantry regimen.
Yeah, And I think if you think it was that at that time that he actually applied for his naturalization and coming naturalized U. S. Citizen,
that's right. And I actually I don't have the date in front of me, but I know in one of the files Ah, that you sent me. Ah, you have the exact date of when he became naturalized. Yeah, well, so that's actually a really good point.
Yeah, I'm just thinking back to what it would have been like for Martin. Um, you know, barely being able. Probably very, you know, speaking very broken, broken English enjoyed in the U. S. Military. But ultimately to receive is his naturalization. Er's is his citizenship and continuing on with his military career, you know, going into the 31st Infantry.
Well, by the time I think he became naturalized in 19 I think it was 1938. November 1938 if I remember correctly, somewhere around and there you had a copy of his his certificate. But by that time, having come from, he came in 1929. And so he was naturalized in 1938. So by that time, he at least had nine years of nine years of practice to learn the English language. However, my father said that they didn't use English at home at all. And so you're right. He would have had unlikely would have spoken broken English. Well, although, well, plus two here they went into a slow about community, in theory as well. And so, yeah, I would imagine that his actual English speaking would have would have been, um, it would have been a problem.
Yeah, I was just I was just thinking about, you know, thinking back to what it would have been like for him, you know, coming to a new a new world. And, you know, joining the military and doing his part. What was What was the reasons why the family immigrated? Exactly. Was it was it because of the stuff that was going on in Germany, You know, prior to their immigration, you know, with Hitler and the third right and things like that, Or was it more just because of the whole world war? You know, your great great grandfather fighting in World War I and and thinking about that was was was your grand great great grandfather fighting on the side of Germany or what? Which were you referring Thio?
Sure. So my grandfather fought. Ah. He was actually conscripted into the Austria German, uh, army of World War One. And he the stories in our family, he really had a very bad time with things. Um, he was He was gassed. Hey, Under underwent a chlorine, um, and mustard gas attack. And apparently, what happened was, according to my grand mother, when he came back from the war, he just was not the same person and was was very angry and and mean. And so initially my grandmother, ah, brought the family over from ah, from Europe to eery where they had friends. She eventually went back to Europe and brought him over when it became apparent that that war was coming to Europe. Ah, and one of her fears was that he would end up being constrict, conscripted again into the German army. Um, both times, Sorry. When he was conscripted into World War, it was very much against his will. He had no choice. Ah, and so her fear was that he would end up getting conscripted again, to go in to fight for the Germans and if not be already killed. Ah, then then he could be damaged even more. Uh, and at the time, though, the racial policies of Nazi Germany hadn't been strictly enforced all across of Europe and, of course, being of Slavic descent, the Slavic people as a whole, not necessarily Slovaks, although they were a part of that. But also Russians and Poles. They were all considered to be racially inferior by the Germans. And so Ah, he may have started out in the army, but his long term, his long term prognosis with fighting for the Germans had that happen, of course, would have unlikely area would have very likely not ended up very well. So she was able to bring him over before the outbreak of World War Two. I don't know when exactly he came, but it was in sometime in the early to mid. It was before the and Schloss and before the ah seizing of Czechoslovakia by Hitler. Ah, and I don't remember exactly when when those dates were. But I believe it was sometime in the early thirties to mid 19 thirties. And so Martin, when he immigrated at in 1929. At that time he was only 15. And so ah, too young Thio to have remembered all of the details of any of the details of World War. Um, but certainly had they stayed, he would have been old enough that that he could have either been pressed into service in some capacity by someone but again, with the racial policies of of Nazi Germany, the family could could have certainly endured, um, some some really horrible things, but thankfully, none of that happened
exactly exactly. But it's just, you know, having to run from something like that. You know that knowing what what's going to come. And luckily they were able to escape that part of it.
And it's interesting to talk to individuals from around that that time frame and the the perception that Americans seem tohave was that all of these things were happening. They they were happening incrementally in Europe, but that they were each and of themselves, a surprise and a shock. But you talked to the Europeans that lived through that time, and they all knew it was coming. If you look at the history of how Hitler went about these things, he didn't negotiate with Czechoslovakia. He negotiated with Britain and a T Munich. I think it was the Munich when the Munich accords were signed, which I believe allocated chuckle. Slovakia, too Nazi Germany's control checklist factions weren't even weren't even invited Thio to discuss the matter. And so, if you hear the Europeans talk about this time in, in in in history, they all knew what was coming and they may not have known the degree of the horrors that would eventually be unleashed. But anyone outside of Germany who really paid attention to the political situation we're well aware that that Nazi Germany was was a I was really gonna be a a real significant problem for for Europeans to come.
And when they, you know, when they immigrated here, you're sanding. They went toe to Pennsylvania because of the Slavic community that was there. What what were these Slavic communities like? Well,
personally, I don't know. Ah, the When my family came to the country, of course, they went through Ellis Island and my grandmother took the family to theory for two reasons. The primary reason was that friends of theirs from Europe, from that area where they came from in what's now Slovakia, they they had friends there. They had contacts there and actually a very good family friend. My father in Slovak uncle is streets. And so this this gentleman is a very close friend of the family. And my father grew up calling him states. Ah, and he was in theory. And so there was a draw there because number one, there was a Slovak community where they were, Ah, high number of Slovak speakers. But also in addition to that people that my grandmother knew and that the family knew. And so that transition was a little less harsh for them being able to be amongst people that spoke the common language. Ah, that they spoke and, ah to help them with their transition into into America.
Go ahead and move on Here, Thio. You know you talked about the Bataan Death march on Ben Course, The Battle of Bataan, where were Filipino American forces held off Japanese dreams about three and 1/2 4 months. I couldn't imagine going through what they went through knowing that, you know, they they had had the assumption that helped becoming, you know, through all I don't know if you've looked into the, like, the war plan Orange three plans that they had back then about how they would fall back to Baton if that they were ever attacked and how they could hold off for a few months until reinforcements arrived. And so that's what all these men assumed. Help was going to be on the way, but they didn't really I don't think they really realized how devastated navels forces were, you know, when they were attacked on attacked at Pearl Harbor. But there was always rumors and things that the America's Navy was on its way. And soon they'll be relieved. And, you know, of course, that never happened. And I just can't imagine how devastated they felt, you know, the day on the day that General King actually surrendered their forces. I know many of them wanted to continue on fighting and a lot of them, you know, actually didn't surrender. They actually found their way and they're escaped and made their way over to rig Craig a door or others became a guerrilla fighters. But
that's right. And unfortunately, one of in addition to everything that you rightly summarize, one of the most unfortunate things is that the documentation from the people who actually were on the ground unfortunately, a lot of that has been lost to history. Of what? That what the soldiers were actually seeing and feeling, we know from studying the battle maps where they were and what forces were wear and in the general timeline. But as faras, the actual detailed history s so many of them were lost and with them lost their history for us, the only glimpse that we have of Martin, Uh, other than the few letters in the family that have survived and those letters came before he actually went to battle. Yeah, I was Abie Abraham's book. And, you know, the two have his name mentioned the few times that were mentioned in there. Um, even then just a few sentences to be able to, you know, for someone like me who obviously it it was many decades after Martin died before I was born. Sometimes it's you fall into the trap of forgetting that every single one of these names was a living, breathing Rio person who had dreams and fears and hopes, um, who was scared, who suffered, uh, who fought and fought, fought for their lives, fought for their country fight for their friends. And and I think that that's one of the one of the hardest things for us is all of that is is lost to us. We don't know what he felt, but I agree. It's it's it's humbling to sit in my warm house surrounded by my family with all of the things that I enjoy to try to think about what these men went through. Sitting in the jungle alone, not knowing what's coming. Fighting, eh? A vicious enemy. It just it's end to be half starved with no medications and not be able to be treated with with no word coming from the outside and just the general idea of not knowing. And then then to be surrendered without any input in that Ah, it must. It must have been very distant hardening. I agree. I can't imagine what What it must have been for any of these men to sit there. And I have to go through that and obviously, most certainly our own relative. Yeah, it's hard to think,
you know. And you talked about how Martin died and camp got a ba twan. I could never see the name.
Good man. That's one. Yeah, It took me a long time to learn it. E
always get tongue tied with it. Um, you know, you talked about how he passed away. Uh, what was the cause of his death?
So Martin ended up dying of diphtheria. There's a few things. Ah, with diphtheria. First of all, it's very treatable with with penicillin or suitable antibiotics and and basically decent nutrition in rest. It's a It's a very survivable illness. And now, of course, in modern America Ah, it's a required inoculation for students. Tohave So. So this was a truly treatable condition. But to have it untreated has got to be a unimaginable death.
What happens, you know, Would Woods What? What what kind of what happens to the body? You know that when it goes on it untreated?
Sure. So diptheria attacks one of the main areas that it attacks eyes in the oral cavity, and it causes the tonsils to swell. It causes the throat to swell. There's toxins from the bacteria, actually create a high amount of basically puss what we call exit eight in the neck. And so ah, he would have felt like he was choking continuously. Ah, he would have gasped for air. Ah, and of course, being the malnutrition and the starvation and almost certainly dehydration all would have compounded it. But they also Ah, the diphtheria also would have made those things worse because swallowing becomes a problem, eating becomes a problem, and so one it becomes, ah, vicious circle where one makes the other worst. So without question, Ah, he died a very painful, very, very painful death. There's no doubt about that Entirely preventable.
It sounds a lot worse than you know what I mean the main cause of death. You know, going through those camps is actually Larry and dysentery,
right? And then those air horrible in their own way. Yeah, but
they're so easily, easily treatable with the right medication.
Exactly. And the biggest. The worst thing about the diphtheria is in addition to the high fevers and everything else is just that feeling of choking and that feeling of of gagging and not being able to catch your breath and to put myself in those positions when I'm in a safe environment. And I endure those things, the fear that that induces. But but to be in that circumstance and to have that go on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Camp records show that he entered the hospital around July 1st. Ah, and died on July 23rd. So that means that he laid there and suffered like that for three weeks or nearly three weeks.
You've probably suffering long before that too.
and certainly. And that's coming on the heels of having survived the death march,
the day that he passed. You know, they you know, there was two different scenarios that they had back then, just depending on the time time, you know which month the person died. But at that time, there was a 24 hour burial window. What? What happened with the Martin when he when he died?
So when he died, the window that you're speaking about the 24 hour burial window was from noon to noon. And so Camp records state that he died at 3 30 in the afternoon. And so, typically, what would have happened is that soldiers that died the day before, uh, were stored in a temporary morgue and they were placed into a temporary morgue, and the next day, the ah burial detail would have taken them and buried them in graves that were dug the previous day for that day, that berry of detail would dig two graves that would be used in the following 24 hour period. And as the camp went on that that 24 hour window from noon to noon changed Ah, it went uh, I believe Thio 7 to 7 and then ultimately midnight to midnight. But the process was still the same, but emergence case dying so early in the camps existence. The Japanese didn't allow for the graves to be marked. And so also it was disorganized. In burial itself, a swell and oftentimes multiple graves were, ah in use. At the same time as the camp went on, this became much more organized and the Japanese allowed, actually four records and and, ah, documentation of deaths. And when they occurred in and ah and also to have the camp cemetery organized. But But in those first few months, essentially what was happening was that holes were dug into the ground. Ah, and the bodies were haphazardly thrown into them and then buried. And so the existing records for the first several months of the camp are not specifically detailed, and that creates a lot of confusion down the road. Now, there were some individuals in the camp who, as the camp went on, it became more organized. Different individuals took the task of the equivalent of graves registration. And so the individuals that took on this task went back and interviewed a CZ many of the inmates at the campus possible to try to create as detailed of a history and a detailed record as possible. In addition, there were some reports that some of the inmates were keeping records. But all of this had to be done, of course, without the Japanese being aware of it. Ah, there's some uncertainty. With the first several months after the camp, um, was in its existence of who exactly was buried where And of course, all of this becomes relevant in the post war years, when the camp cemeteries disinterred and identification czar attempted to be made.
Yeah, you know that one of the one of the graves registration officers that took over later on was Captain Khan? Yes. What caused some of the lot of the confusion? You know, Captain Khan didn't excellent job actually going back to the original records of the hospital and and finding the date and time that, you know, push the hospital kept good records on the day in the time that the service member passed away. But he had to go back and reconstruct a lot like you were talking about reconstructive lot of that effort?
Absolutely. And for him to be able to do that under the most extraordinary of circumstances Ah, I think we can all we all have, Ah, huge debt of gratitude, um, for the work that he was able to accomplish because especially in the early days of the camp Ah, there was so little documentation that was able to be compiled that what does exist in what was compiled is absolutely invaluable and in some cases, the only record that that remains
Exactly. And they even actually have to bury the records and keep the records buried until liberation. That's when I think it was a be Abram. Abrams went back, dug up a lot of those records. Is that correct? Or
I don't know the specifics of that, but I know that had had any of the prisoners been found with any of the records, they almost certainly would have been executed.
Yeah, I'm working with another family. Who's who's Ah, Grandfather actually showed up to a Donald Campo Donald write out the death march. He was executed on the spot because he had Japanese currency in his pocket.
They did not any excuse. Ah, and even without excuse there without reason. Ah, they the Japanese viewed, uh, all of these soldiers with contempt, and they view them a subhuman first because they were the enemy. But secondly, because they were surrendered and the individual soldiers position or belief didn't matter, they were surrendered on behalf of the United States, and so they were unworthy of life. Certainly there are anecdotal reports of some of the Japanese guards taking pity on on some of the soldiers. There's a a large amount of information about the the abject cruelty and brutality that was shown to these men, particularly. We read some of the documents from the Bataan Death March talking about, you know, not being able to imagine what these men went through. I can't imagine being marched in the sun without water with your comrades in arms and watching them be bayoneted or beheaded for no infraction. Other than being too weak to walk, it boggles. It's almost unimaginable what what they saw and had to endure that any of them came out on the other end alive. You know, I there must be a point in time where the reality of what you're facing around you becomes such that a primal instinct kicks in and it's it's simply about survival at that point. It's not about kindness. It's not about love. It's not about compassion. It's about pure, pure survival. And a lot of the guys didn't survive.
General MacArthur ended up coming back and liberated the Philippines. And of course, a lot of this information had gotten out about the Bataan Death March and and these the extreme cruelty that are presently war had to face. You know, in these in these death camps what I like to call him, they were they were, yeah, and how the government actually covered it up for many years because while they covered it up during the war years, they didn't want the general public to get, you know, this information to get out. And actually, I guess, to keep it from hampering their their, uh, their spirits of sorts. I guess you would say, um but then they finally Ah, a couple of these POWs that actually escaped a couple of the prison camps and they made their way out in order to some islands, and they ended up being liberated early on in the United States and but they were told to keep quiet about what they went through until I think was 1943 or 43. 44 is when we were finally able to talk about it in America. Heard about it. And I just can't imagine what these POW families because at this, by this time, most families knew that their their son had become a POW of the Japanese, but they didn't know their fate. And then, uh, when General MacArthur finally come back and liberated, they actually have the graves registration units go out and document thes sites and start the the disinterment process and trying to identify these these remains. And I'm not sure I think it was in 46 I think is made. They actually started disinterment process their camp cattle stolen. What? What do you know about the process that they went through on this disinterment?
Sure, So I can talk a little bit about that, But just to go back to something you just said, um, it's an interesting thing. There are books dedicated to the World War two propaganda and how even the military leaders, of course, knew what was happening. But how the government work, too. Manipulate the information that was getting out into into the public sphere. You know, of course, this is all before theat advent of instant news. Uh, these things couldn't exist in in today's day, day and age. Automatic transfer of information. You know, the click of a button.
Yeah, they were getting it off of newsreels when they went to the movie theaters or through the radio.
Exactly. Exactly. My mom, actually, before she passed away, would talk about ah, when she went to the movies. You know, seeing all the war reels and ah, and of course, the posters and the newspapers. The censorship was so high in the newspapers to make sure that that things were not done to undermine Well, just look at the fact that there is Ah, you know, these gentlemen's agreements, if you will ah, between the media and and the president of President Roosevelt, and with him being in a wheelchair that that the media wouldn't wouldn't want that to be published because it may be seen as a sign of weakness. And so it's just interesting the propaganda that was in place by by the government, and then the other thing you were talking about. Ah, the information that was actually coming out. Ah, At the end of the final chapter, if you will in Cabanatuan is history, of course, is the famous raid that took place in January of 1945. But the reason part of the reason why that raid even took place was because of word getting out from these other camps. Ah, for example, the Palo on Mass secure. Ah, where the Japanese drove all of the prisoners into air raid shelters and then doused them with gasoline and burn them alive. And then, of course, shot and ban added anyone that tried to get out. I don't recall the exact number of men that died in that, but it was It was certainly well over 100 of these horrible and horrific deaths. And so word began trickling out getting back into the military leaders information, and because of these other atrocities that were taking place, the decision was ultimately made that military action toe actually rescue this arriving pow is at the camp needed to take place. And that was the din itis of the creation of the famous Cabanatuan raid. Uh get back to your question.
Yeah, they were the disinterment problem,
the disinterment. So in the post war years, when the final years of the camp, the camp cemetery, uh, was in a very different state than was initially and particularly during the time when when Martin had passed away. And so so in the post war years, the United States Army son representatives over, uh, to begin the disinterment process and collecting the information all with the hope of being able to make as many identifications as possible. And so the disinterment process ultimately became a very complicated process. But initially, the first identification took place at graveside the soldiers who were buried. The identification was partly dependent upon the origin of ah, the prisoners. The prisoners it came from the Bataan Peninsula were typically stripped of all of their possessions, including their identification. The prisoners that originated from Keurig a door after Corrigan or finally fell. Many of them were allowed to actually keep a least some of their personal effects in their identification. And so, at the camp, when a prisoner would die if they had identification dog tags or or some other type of ah possession that could identify who they were. Typically, it was put into their mouths when, when they were buried for the soldiers that had no identification. Most of the time they used what material they had available writing their names on paper or our bark or or something that But of course, these were all organic and they rotted away. And so when the bodies were first disinterred automatically, you have a certain subset that are able to be identified immediately whether or not they had it, their identification president on their body. But then you had a whole other group that unfortunately, had no identification. And so one of the mistakes that was made at that time was given them the scale of the number of deaths. Ah, there's just shy of 3000 men that died a ticking up. And so you're dealing with a very large number of sets of remains. And unfortunately, one of the decisions that the army made at that time was to recruit individuals who had funerary experience but didn't necessarily have the anthropological archaeology experience. As the remains were removed from the ground. Ah, the graves that were in use in the early part of the existence of the camp were essentially, they were thrown into the grave, and so the bodies were intertwined. Of course, the soil conditions being such that most of the organic material had already decomposed at that point. So it's really a recovery of bones. But the initial evaluation took place at graveside and ah, the individuals not being properly trained in the techniques. Unfortunately, a lot of the bony remains got mixed up. Ah, and then complicating the matter was this complicated system of evaluation and the remains were transferred to up to three different facilities each time receiving a different number being evaluated, utilizing different individuals using different paperwork. And so it each each of these locations. You have untrained individuals using paperwork that doesn't match any other facility, and you're evaluating remains that were already in bad condition when they came out of the ground and continued to get worse, that each place that they were evaluated at and so
sometimes already mixed up before they even got tool. The remaining
absolutely and also to the bones may have been damaged. A drop skull is certainly going to create a lot of problems. Ah, and so the evaluations at each place, even though they may be looking at exactly the same sets of remains having the paperwork be different and having different individuals that aren't properly trained in the technique with bones that are already not related into the individual but rather associate ID with having been buried in the same common grave. It created a lot of problems, and so the process was that these best attempts were made and what was not to be re associated by their determination. Ah, the leftovers, if you will ah, were again categorized in an entirely different manner and and we're completely disassociated with with the bony remains. And so, unfortunately, that process well, so then each set of remains was ultimately given a final disposition. Most of them were buried in the Middle American cemetery. The ones that were identified usually were returned to their families about most of the ones who were identified or buried in Manila. American Cemetery under on unknown. A grave that is marked unknown is an individual. Now. The problem with that processes, uh, even though the sets of remains indicate that it's the remains of one individual because of the way that the bones were disinterred and evaluation process. Unfortunately, most of the bones air mixed up with different individuals. And obviously, when you think about this of the more than 1000 that remain unidentified, having all of these bones mix, as well as the remains that were returned to families, families may have buried a relative that wasn't really the relative or may have unintentionally have, ah, portions of other individuals bones of other individuals that have been mixed in with their relatives. And so it's really created a lot of problems and really has made the identification of the unknown individuals very problematic. Which, of course, brings us to to where we stand today.
Yeah, and, you know, they did, you know, try to go back and look at some of that in the 19 fifties with the Combat Antoine Project. But ultimately, you know, it was determined that I think they contact one of the officers that kind of took over the grave registration, and he told them that they couldn't depend on, you know, even even the ones that work that they thought they had identified correctly through identification like their dog tags might have been buried with him or, you know, shoved into their mouth when they were buried. He let the the War Department know that that's probably not the case, that that probably wasn't that individual service member, because a lot of them that did have identification when they knew that they were dying, they gave it to their buddy. You know, their dog, haggard or whatever or their wallet, and said, Make sure when you make it home give this to my family, right? And so when that person was buried, ended up dying and was buried, you know that identification followed that person who wasn't actually who was who had died. Um, so the the officer told Cold War Department, You can't rely on that. And so they ultimately closed the combative one project, and they sent sent, uh, telegrams homes home to the family, to the families of those that weren't identified and told them. Unfortunately, there's no word received on where your loved one was buried. He died in this camp, but there's no word on where his burial was, and so therefore we can't find him and and therefore, if we do hear something or something comes up in the future where we can reopen the case. We will. But what the families really didn't know was that they actually knew where where the POW was buried and they had the process in place. That actually followed a lot of the remains like you were talking about and that they were ultimately buried in an individual grave. And the Manila American Cemetery is an unknown. But the family didn't know that the family thought they were just lost the time out there in some camps cemetery that could never be found.
Right. And actually, I can, I can tell you that that's exactly the impression that we had from from ah within our own family and how we discovered we discovered everything. The telegram, My grandmother had received notification that Martin was missing. Ah, so she knew that he that he was was ah, missing and likely had been taken prisoner of war. The final notification I believe that she received was in the early parts of the 19 fifties. And of course now we know being ableto thio. Look at all of the files. When the government realized through their research that they had basically botched this job of identification of these, these soldiers, as you say, they went back and initiated this this project to try to straighten all of this out in reviewing the Cabanatuan project, it's actually very interesting that they based those decisions on who they believe was buried in each graver who was most likely associated with each grave based on the documentation that they had from the inmates or the records that ended up surviving. And so, exactly as you say, Ah, at the close of that project, recognizing that that the tasks at hand of being able to provide definitive diagnoses at that time Ah, we're very limited because obviously this is all long before the advent of DNA technology and being able to utilize Deanna for both re association and ultimate identification. And so my grandmother finally received notification that, ah, that his remains were unrecoverable and that, Ah, as you said, if if more information became available, they would reopen. The case is, but that was basically case closed. And that's what our family had believed for the longest time. And it wasn't until my father started digging in and he actually went to ah Punchbowl Crater in Hawaii in the 19 eighties and suddenly became aware that there was a memorial on which Martin's name was inscribed in the Philippines. He wrote to the government, and at that time the government didn't give him hardly any information at all. Ah, they sent him a picture and a sent him some duplicate medals which were not his official issue, but that was it. And so it wasn't until I began a genealogy project to try to find information about my grandfather. Um, having fought in World War One, we thought it would be interesting to find out if there is any information about where he fought or what battles he was in or any of that information. In doing so, we suddenly realized that perhaps we could do the same type of research to find out something about Martin. We knew when he died, we knew what he died from. We knew the unit he was in, but that was essentially it. And so not knowing what to do. Initially, we reached out our state senator, Senator Ah Schumer and I sent a letter of inquiry just saying, This is a situation. This is what we know are you able to help us? And that kicked open the door for us and And we suddenly got all of this other information that we never knew and were actually able to start seeing his records. And through reviewing of those records, we found out that he's associated with a specific grave at the camp and that those remains were ultimately, after a process of of evaluation were ultimately buried in single graves. Marked isn't unknown in middle of cemetery. So we had no idea that any of this was happening. None of this was provided to us from the government. It was only by us digging around that, Ah, that we got this information that was ultimately given tow us.
What's crazy is how these families died. You know, basically, you know your grandmother going to her grave, not knowing that you know where Martin was.
That's right. And and Martin was her special baby boy. She you read the letters that Martin wrote to her. It's very, very clear that they had very, very close and special bond and my father, when he talks about his brother and ah and his mother. Ah, he said that she was never the same, and I would imagine, um, that I can understand how that would be the case, but she just never, never recovered from from losing him. So for her to end up losing him and then dying without knowing, uh, anything about him, it's just It's heartbreaking. But interestingly enough, did one thing that probably is the greatest single thing to assist in identifying Martin. And she inadvertently saved some of his DNA some of Martin's DNA the final two letters that Martin wrote to her before Pearl Harbor when she received them from him. He wrote them from the Philippines. She cut the envelopes on the side. She didn't open them by the flat abs, and she cut them on the side. And she jumped the letter out. Uh, of course, reading the letters. We know what was happening in Martin's life at that time, but she saved those envelopes, and so contained in the glue and those envelopes is is Martin's DNA. And so we're fortunate our family is fortunate enough to actually have sourced DNA from Martin himself. Ah, that's preserved in the glue and that existed on Lee because of chance that she happened to open these envelopes by clipping the ends and and taking the letters out that way. So in one way to look at it, her actions, even though she died without knowing what happened to him, her actions ultimately will be part of what finally identifies him. Ah, when we get to the point where we're ultimately successful to have remains, that we believe are our hiss to be tested and verified by DNA.
So in that process of the DNA, I know, after you got contacted, Schumer's office did they put you in touch with a caseworker or what? What? What exactly was the process that you had to go through to, uh, to give family reference samples of DNA to to the government for his identification?
So when I wrote to his office, I was actually very shocked. They wrote back immediately. It was within a few weeks, and they told me that that they would be forwarding my I had a series of questions, um, that I had asked about the details of his time in the army and the circumstances surrounding his loss. And so they explained to me that they would forward this over too. Uh, first to the casualty office, the, uh, past conflicts Ripper. Uh, what is it? Past conflicts?
Yeah, the branch. The branch of the Army that actually deals with casualties.
Correct. And they would put put me in touch with a caseworker who would facilitate all of the information and facilitate the any process that that would move forward. So I got information from that. And when that case worker got in touch with me, uh, she took a lot of information that we had the little bit that we had. And she told us that she would make arrangements tohave Martin's metals officially reissued and my father being the only surviving next of kin. Of course, he was entitled t have those those medals and awards. In addition, she put us in touch with the G p A, the defense pow, um, missing in action, account of accounting agency and their agencies there that processed the DNA. Ah, provided a kit to us so that both my father and I could submit our d n a ultimately for testing so that if at any point in time in the future, recovery is made of of remains that we believe that they believe to be Martin. They can be verified. Also confirmed with DNA from from us as well.
Yeah, the process that you go through. You kind of think, you know, we were talking about this on the phone earlier. The process you kind of thinks gonna happen is over. You know, they know exactly where fairly, exactly where Martin's buried. And so you submit your DNA and voila. 12 years later, Martin's gonna come home right? And fighting come home. But that really isn't the case, is it?
Unfortunately, it isn't. And that had been, of course, our understanding was that he was missing, um, and that he was non recoverable, which to us we interpreted that he had died somewhere, had been buried in an unmarked grave that had been lost to time or lost a circumstance or something else, but that there was nothing to recover. And he was never found. And what we suddenly found out was not only was that not the case, we know exactly where his remains are now. We don't know the exact grave that he's in, but we know the graves that our associate id with the day and time surrounding when he died on July 23rd. And and so, even though we don't know the exact grave, we have a list of graves that will contain him. And so we had absolutely no idea that there were any physical remains that that were, ah, availed to be tested. And so, yes, our impression was Oh, great. We submit our DNA a they're going to run it against profiles. They'll be able to disinter or Exume what remains they have on file on dhe. We have him return. Once we found out that that not only were there physical remains, but that we know where those physical remains actually resist. Uh, actually reside at this moment, we thought it would be just a simple matter of of formality, of doing the DNA analysis and some paperwork. And, you know, and lo and behold, here we get to bury my father's. Um, my father's older brother is there could have been nothing further from the truth. How
did you How did your father feel about you know, when you when you learned that that Martin was within reach, so to speak
Well, initially he was really very excited because again he saw the effects of losing Martin. What that did to to his mother. Um, of course as well to him, I mean, he lost his older brother. He was eight the last time that he saw him. And he'll be 89 this year. And so it really brought up a lot of old, uh, feelings from his childhood thinking about his older brother that he had lost that he had assumed and accepted a long time ago, uh was missing and would never be found in suddenly. When this glimmer of light shone on the situation where it appeared, not only would it be possible, but that we thought it would be likely that we could have him identified and brought home. Ah, he was overjoyed. And then, unfortunately, when the realities of the situation came into focus Ah, that in fact, this is not going to be an easy process. And then to find out, not only is it not going to be easy, there's presently almost nothing being done to identify any of these men. Ah, it was very heartbreaking for him. It was in some ways almost having to relive losing Martin again. and I feel I feel bad for him for that.
And so So you guys received a you know, of course, a case record from the Army Cavalry office that that basically said what? You know, this is the grave that Martin was in, and and how many there associate it associating with that grave. But they also threw another one on copy it. They decided to add three more graves to that bringing the told, I think a total, including Martin 101 pow disassociated, correct now, right process. Now the process is having to sit back and wait for these other families to kind of go through the same process that you have from the start, where you, uh, get get interested in some genealogy of your family and and find out that Oh, you know, you're my relative could be identified and, uh, then go through that process. But but a lot of families aren't looking at their at their genealogical record there, you know, the lot of them don't even realize that this could be done. So therefore, you guys were in limbo waiting. Do you know current policies that are on the books where they have to have 60% of family reference samples for all the men associated with the grave that includes those that even were identified back in the forties and fifties.
Right? So when we when we finally began to understand exactly what the situation waas, Uh, and to understand what the process that identification, um, would entail, uh, it became almost from sad to bad to worse. And initially we looked at the cabana. It's one project listed Martin to be most closely associated with one particular grave. And in that grave, I believe there was something around 2022 individuals, some of them having been identified and returned the ra mess, the rest remaining unidentified. And so when we looked at what the policy would be of disinterment, which you which you alluded to, What DP A's policy is for petitioning disinterment is that DNA profiles have to be on file from the families of the men that are associated with that grave. And they have established this rule that they need to receive 60% of those samples. Ah, of the number of the grave. So, for example, of their 10 men associated with the grave they would require having to receive six of those family reference samples. And their rationale for doing this is that one. Ah, there's something inherently disrespectful, I guess, about egg zooming remains that have been laid to rest with honor. Ah, and then, secondly, that they would be provided with a greater than 50% chance of identifying the individuals present in the grave. You. Now, while I'm sorry,
think Do you think that they were actually laid to rest with honor, though being being buried under across it just doesn't know?
Well, no. I mean, they're they're being robbed of their name, and I think that that's inherently dishonorable. Ah, but what I mean is that they they had been buried with full military honors and as soldiers, but they're missing the thing that's most closely associated with there being, and that's their name. And so they're. Their idea is that ah, these remains have been treated with respect. They were buried with military honors that they are in a place of dignity and that disturbing that process, even for the best of intentions to identify them, that there's something inherently disturbing that belief. Now I disagree with that and many people disagree with that. But that's basically what was explained to us as to why, even though our family reference sample, our DNA is on file, Ah, that's not enough. And then not only is that not enough, you need to have this this arbitrary amount of 60% of the entire grave. But even that's not enough, because in addition to having them on file, the DP A also has to be convinced that that individual is actually present in that grave. So what that all boils down to is a greater than not likelihood that opening a particular grave will result in identification of of 60% of the individuals in that particular in that particular grave now, while that may sound logical to someone on the outside looking in, look at it this way, using 10 sets of remains. What happens when you only have five samples instead of the required six of the 60% of the 10 so you can identify five men? Five men after 75 years could be identified and returned to their families, but But they're being prevented because you haven't met met that 60% threshold, and that's problematic because as time goes on, you're actually less likely to obtain D N A. From family members, families first of all, memories fade within the families. Individuals don't know that they had a missing great uncle. They don't know where to go. Look, family history becomes less reliable. And all the while these remains air sitting in the grave in a known location. Uh, degrading the DNA inside of them is becoming harder and harder to identify, even though the technology to do so is becoming better. There is a threshold at which point DNA is is simply not usable anymore. And so, while it may seem that the 60% rule makes sense, in fact, creating such an obstacle makes it less likely that these men can come home now, in our case, because Martin died early in the camp and the records, uh, were not as reliable at that time, and the Camp cemetery wasn't organized as well at that time, we have the added burden of not only is that the one grave that the Cabanatuan projects stated he's most likely associated with, but also the graves that were potentially in use around that time, so instead of just one grave with 20 individuals. Now we have four graves with a grand total, as you said of 100 101 individuals. So now, instead of only needing 13 reference samples, we now need 60. And as of May 19 2039 have been received. So again, looking at their requirements, there are 39 men who could come home right now that could be identified right now and could have been within the last decade. Ah, but we're being prevented from moving forward because of this 60% rule. And as time goes on, you're less likely to get DNA out of the remains, at least statistically. And you're losing families. We've already in searching for families that are associated with with these with these graves. Uh, we're already unable to find some of them that we've that we've looked for that you've looked for and and so, ah, if you take the fact that we have 40% if you were to take that 40% across Ah, the average of the 1000 that are missing, there's 400 men that could come home right now that that are being prevented from from doing so. And what's even worse than that is that the first grave wasn't opened until 2015. Even though the DNA technology has been around since the 19 eighties, these problems have been known. The Cabanatuan project was concluded in 1950. It was no secret that these bones and these remains were mixed. And the only thing that can solve the problem is going in and performing DNA testing on all of the remains. And I'm not suggesting that that's an easy process. It's not. There's 208 bones in the human body times 1000 people. Um, you know that it's a massive undertaking, but it's very solvable. And the fact that it's been only four years is is frustrating.
Wouldn't it make more sense? You know, you, you know, instead of the government requiring this 60% or even if they 50% 40% whatever the percentage is that they want, you know, if they have a good number of the families that have inquired about their their POW relative, Um, like, in your case, the was 39
39 hours of May 2019.
Yeah, wouldn't it. You know, that means that, like, you were saying 39 39 men could come home today. Um, why wouldn't it make sense to you? Exhumed the grave and these graves and do the DNA testing on all the remains for this particular grave And the ones that do do not have family reverend samples, at least by exhuming the remains they would be taken Samples of already have samples with ones that that don't have family associate ID and have that already in the database. So in the future, when a family does inquire about it, they could just do a nen a match up within a few weeks,
willing in from our perspective, of course, all of that makes sense. And we we do need to be realistic. There are ah ah, lot of missing soldiers from many different conflicts. There is a set amount of funding for de p A that the government allocates that Congress allocates There's a finite number of individuals. There's a finite number of of machines, and resource is, and so no one. I'm not suggesting that this is a simple matter of opening up a whole bunch of different graves sending them to the lab. The lab Do their thing in a couple hours. Throw the throw the results into a computer and poof, the problem's solved. This is a very complicated problem. There's no doubt about it. There were many mistakes that were made, Um, some through incompetence, some that were entirely unintended, unintended. But the only guarantee that absolutely nothing is going to happen is to do absolutely nothing. And right now, on Lee, a handful of remains have come out of the ground for Cabanatuan. Even though ah, there are hundreds of reference samples to compare them to Ah, you're not going to get all of them down the road. And right now Ah, the reasons that G p A. Says that more can't be done is a combination of, um, lack of resource ing lack of funding. Um, they are already overwhelmed with all of the other work that they do, which is probably true. I have no reason to doubt that. And I have no reason to doubt Ah, the patriotism of the people that work at thes these institutions. I question some of the decisions that the higher ups have made. I question maybe some of their, um, motivations for some of the decisions that they made. But I want to be clear that that I don't point the finger at the people that are doing a good job. But these these agencies day in and day out and they are doing good and people are being identified and being returned, and so I don't want to hold a very narrow view of that. The only thing that exists is is the remains of my relative in the context of of the remains of of Cabanatuan strivers. It's not that simple whatsoever.
What I'm going into here is if you look at the graveyard or at the God of Combat it Juan, graveyard of the whole. I mean, I can't remember off top my head how exactly how many common graves there were that were in use. But if you look at the entire cemetery as a whole, um, there's probably a good percentage of families that have inquired. And, uh, that's a good percentage of those individuals that could be identified. No, absolutely individual graves. I'm talking about the entire cemetery alone, you know, cause for each common grave, there may only be anywhere from at this at this present time, anywhere between, uh, 7% 8% 10% Anywhere between there and 50%
right? Absolutely. Ah. And what it's going to take to solve this issue into to specifically address the limitations of what has happened is a dedicated effort. Untangle at least this situation. And I'm sure that there are other situations in the world where mass graves have taken place, but it is going to take a dedicated and specific effort. What we're hoping for is that all of these remains can come out of the ground and that a lead process, a d n a lead process could be formulated in which, ah, what that entails is that systematically, every single set of remains air evaluated. Ah, there are different DNA studies that can be done to both re associate and identify. Ah, the sets of remains. And so ah, putting all of that into a database, Then you can compare to the DNA of families that are already on file. And then as more families come forward, you didn't no longer need to worry about the re soc ation of arrange because that's been done. You no longer need to worry about further degradation of 75 year old DNA because that's already been done. And then as families come forward and as identification can be made it simple. It's a simple matter. Ah, it's a simple process of making a match between, ah, a source in in a donor and and again, this is a very complicated process. It's very complicated problem. Ah, and there's a lot of we're leaving out. Obviously, a lot of a lot of things that that come with this, Um, you know, I mean, there's there's a lot of different things that a lot of different arguments that could be made. Um, you know, as faras Congressional action and then hiring new staff, it's You have political appointees, you have career officials and, you know, it's it's It's not an easy on entanglement, but again, the situation isn't gonna fix itself. And so the only way to fix it is to dedicate something to fixing it. And right now, you know, again, the first grave wasn't open until 2015 on D. P. A's public facing site. There's been less than 50 united notifications in four years, and so you're talking about 1000 men who remain missing. Ah, we have no idea how many, uh, family reference samples of DNA profiles they have on file. Um, but if their trackers is 15 identifications in four years and even that's not complete identification, Sze, um, there's no hope of this being done in my lifetime or my Children or grandchildren. Sze Lifetime Ah, and again, as time goes on, as distance increases with source DNA from the remains and with family members, you're going, it's becoming less and less likely that any identification is going to be made. The time for action is now, and I'm not suggesting that's easy. But as time goes on, it's not going to get easier. And it's not gonna fix itself. And people like my father, who again will be 89 this year who lost his brother, age eight, who's been waiting all of this time? Ah, it's it's just I it leaves me speechless for words. I don't understand how my father, as a veteran, as a family member, ah, who lost someone who gave their life for their country ah has to lay in the ground granted, buried with honors and military honors and all of that. But who's being robbed of their names? Um, why? That has to be the reality of the situation when the technology exists with a reallocation of of funding. Ah, uh, with isolating this project and making it a priority. Um, you know, I think we owe I We owe it to these guys. We owe it to these. These heroes, um, who gave everything and there ends were horrible there. They fought bravely under horrific conditions. Um, I think after 75 years, it's inexcusable that this goes on even 11 year more, um, to not focus what needs to be done to fix this problem, to get these guys identified and to get them home to their families.
Yeah, I agree. 100% With that, I think more can be done. And there's there's opportunities for for agencies that air that air in charge of making these identification, there's a lot of opportunities out there partner with other organizations and nonprofits and colleges, universities in different different groups that actually could do this work to help support him.
And those were all. And I agree with you absolutely, and we we could talk for another hour or more about all of the potential fixes and, ah, the many different options that are out there. And the bottom line is is that, uh, what what they are doing right now is inadequate. Ah, and again, just looking at the track record. The first grave was opened after extensive litigation in 2015. DNA technology to do identification between relatives has existed since the early 19 eighties. Um, the new technology, uh, for example, looking at the tragedy of September 11th the condition of the remains, um, of the of the victims of that terrible, uh, event, the technology to do the proper D N A analyses didn't exist. And so companies and the government came together, and they actually created the technology. They created the algorithms and the testing. Um, the testing protocols. Ah, to identify as many remains as possible and a lot of them more identified. Ah, but they were all able to do that in about the course of a decade. Um, they've had 75 years to fix this. And, um, the fact that they haven't the fact that this has been allowed to continue the fact that so few we didn't talk about for World War Two only 6% of family reference samples or even on file. Why? Because there was no dedicated project to go out and get them. Compare that to the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. 92% of the DNA profiles are on file for identification. That is a fixable problem again. Why hasn't that been done? There are There are definitive steps that can and could have been taken, and none of them are happening. And so when you look at that from the bigger picture overall, it's hard to reach the conclusion to accept what DP A's responses to this, that they're doing everything they can, that everything is being done that can be done again. I don't question their sincerity. I don't question their motives that that's your irrelevant, Um, but when you start looking at the facts of the matter and the fact that ah fewer than 15 have been identified in in 15 years after 75 years, Uh, no. I don't agree that everything is being done. Um,
it's not in the, you know, the defense, p o W. M I. A accounting agency as the right algorithms, the right process in place in their own internal lab, too. I mean, it's it's basically right. I think Last I heard from armed forces DNA, DNA Identification Laboratory is that they have. I think in a lot of these cases it's like 80 90% success rate. Aw, in making the DNA identification
the market conjugal side, right? If they could just take that same technology or the same process is the same algorithms that they're using and partner with other organizations or other certified laboratories that they can help handle. Ah, larger, um, in a larger numbers of of M. I. A's, in other words, that you know, not just not just do all this and in house in their own little kingdom. But do you actually partner with other groups or agencies that could help get this done?
Sure. And in an ideal world Ah, you know, every d n a capable laboratory in the United States would be devoted to this task, and, uh, you know that I understand that there's there's a lot of politics that go with that Ah, you know, the D. P. A. And and their associated agencies are, um, dependent upon political process is, um but I think, you know, and and again we could go through all of, ah, the different scenarios in the different things that that we believe should happen or could happen. Um, you know, and in which one would be right. You are incorrect. It is beyond me. But the way that I look at it again is not what they say. It's what they do and what they've. What they've done is they've had 75 years to fix this. Almost 35 years of the technology available to make these identification. Sze were the richest country on earth with the greatest scientific advancement. Ah, you know, we're we can do this. This is not beyond our capabilities. I mean, this is not solving some bizarre disease that one person has. Um, you know, we've got we've got the tools to fix this. What we need is the will for people to get involved to actually do it. Um, and there needs to be a concerted effort on the congressional side. Ah, and the public needs to be aware. The public needs to be aware. First of all, that this is happening and it's being allowed by our government. Ah, government who purports that we treat our veterans with reverence and in a lot of ways, we do in a lot of ways we don't. Ah, but that we don't leave people behind. Um, and, um, the public needs to be aware of that in the public needs to get involved. We are dependent. At this point in time. According to DP, a rules were dependent upon the relatives of the other men who are associated with the graves with Martin to submit their DNA. That, at present is the only recourse we have. Um, So why Why is there? Why were they not soliciting this? Why are they not going out to find these families? They did it for the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. It can be done for World War two conflict for the World War two conflict in particularly in World War two. You know, you have 80,000 soldiers said her missing. Um, you know, that's not reason enough to ignore. Ah, a situation like this, with these soldiers in a known location from unknown origin against a list of men who they could all possibly be. Ah, this is a very, very fixable problem. But people have to act, and that's what's not happening is people aren't acting on this and d. P. A is overwhelmed with their current capacity. So until something changes, we're gonna be stuck in this this endless process
again in the you know, they have taken those 80,000 plus or minus more war two losses, and they've even whittled that number down to actually around 30,000. Right, active pursuit, right? We just recoverable for just those 30,000 at this point, You to get those family reference samples. Um, you know that. And I guarantee, out of that 30,000. There's a lot of those that are related in some where another, You know what I'm saying? Exactly it. So it wouldn't take 30,000 actual samples.
Correct? That's correct. No, I just I always just try to look at again. You know, what are they saying and what are they doing? And there's so much more that can be done. But what's being done is not what is being said is being done. Um, and people need to be held accountable to that. The government needs to be held accountable. Ah, for the fact that they are not putting All of the resource is that are necessary to bring all of our missing soldiers home,
right in the public needs to play. I'll play their part two and helping to hold him accountable. But on also, on the other hand, the kind of work. But I do a lot of these families when you contact them. And, uh hey, you haven't m I? A relative? I'm working with another family or or it could be the family. Call it another family. That's saying, Hey, would you mind providing you You're a DNA reference sample, um, so that we can get our relative identified. And yours a lot of these. There's quite a few families that I don't know. They don't take it seriously, you know, they give it some thought, but they never follow through to actually provide a sample. That's really disheartening to the families that were really trying to get their their loved one identified because of this. This policy.
Yeah, and that is definitely frustrating because we are directly dependent upon their action. And if they for whatever the reasons, maybe, uh, if they choose Not not to be. Ah, participant. Um, then that makes that makes all of our jobs a lot harder. However, ah, if we use the d n a lead process, we eliminate the need for that. Um, then it's only dependent upon a missing individuals family donating their d n A. And it's not dependent upon anyone else anymore. Once that databases is determined and the remains Air Re associate ID, then all one would need to do is submit their DNA, have that processed against the database of the remains. In all of those problems, go away.
That's because that's protected and it is a huge undertaking. But yet in the same sense, it's not. When you compare it to the other options. Well, you know again, I'll go. I'll go back to say that there's there's other agencies and different things that could help support it. If if the g p. A. Will just reach out to him to do it right, processes remains in a timely manner using multiple resource
well, and there's there's a lot of documentation in the in the scientific literature dealing with other events that have happened across the world. Other genocides and mass killings and identification of individuals in mass graves. And, uh, most of those have been undertaken by private organizations, and they were all very largely successful in in one way or another you're always going to have There will be a boundary of what can be done. Um, and that that's a reality of anything that takes place, uh, by it. We can't let that be any determination on what we have to do, uh, to do the most we can, the best we can. Ah, utilizing the technologies that are present and and the resource is that are available.
Exactly. Well, Martin, our brand. I hope I got Martin on my mind a bit. Buying two? Yeah. You know, it's not just Martin. All these other families that I've had the opportunity to assist. You know what? He keeps coming down too. Some of the things that go through my mind is you know, you you die twice. You know that the first time when you actually died in the last time. When when somebody speaks your name for the last time and, uh, you know, it's it's important to, you know, tell the tell the stories of these these amendments that gave us the freedom that we now enjoy. And hopefully, well, hopefully we can get them identified. Brought home to their families. You know, your father, like you, said, his 89 years old, and, uh, he doesn't have many, many more years on this earth to see that day coma. And there's, you know, he's your father is not unique. Uh, there's there's a quite a number of World War two families that still have siblings that Israel living absolutely in your case, just researching POWs in your case case, I think I found, you know, off the top of my head right around five or six siblings that are still living right? Yep, absolutely. And, uh, you know, it's it would be a travesty not to not to do more. For for these families and before the service members who gave their lives for our freedom.
Absolutely. And I think the most important thing is we could be stuck in the past and look at all the things that went wrong, and that's important to learn from. But the most important thing right now is to look forward and to do the things that we can do right now that are the changes that are necessary to finally fix this problem and to bring these guys home. The all of these guys are heroes. They all have their stories. They they all had loved ones. They all had people that cared about them. They died in service of their country, and we should be. They should have our unending respect and they should be in the forefront of our thoughts. Ah, and we need to do what we can to bring these guys home.
Yeah, I agree. Well, I I appreciate you taking the time to talk, but talk about Martin's case and and what your family is going through and the steps you're taking and providing information, you know, just from this to provide information to other families on the steps that they can take two thio kind of get themselves up to speed to where where you are at your at it.
And the most important thing that I could say the best piece of advice that I can give is, no matter what, do not give up until you achieve what you're what you've set out to achieve and and you're gonna you're gonna meet obstacles. You're going to be frustrated. You're gonna be shocked. Uh, but you've got to just you got to keep with it. And when something doesn't work, find another way and make it happen. Um, you know, that's what these guys did during their lives and, ah, and what we do pales in comparison. But I think that that they are good examples of how we can go about doing this. They didn't give up, and neither should we.
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. 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. 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 confined us on the Web at us POW am 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 at process remains of our own knowns located in the national cemeteries. You can help by contacting your congressional representatives and asking that the implement a DNA leave policy for those unknown pow. Thank you for listening.