SGT Leonard James McNeill, WW2 POW/MIA and buried as an Unknown in an American Military Cemetery. This is his Story of Sacrifice and his family's quest to bring him home!
Welcome to stories of sacrifice. World War two, American POW two. M. I. A's in the Philippines. This is a production of the U. S. P o W m I A family located. I'm your host and lead researcher job. 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 Mel 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 to our listeners for joining us today. Please take a minute to subscribe to our podcast to help get these heroic stories out to the public. On today's story of sacrifice podcasts. I wanna welcome Mike Real, who is a grandson of Sergeant Leonardo James McNeal, who served as a tail gunner in the 881st bought of Marmot Squadron 500 Bomb Group in the Pacific during World War Two. Welcome, Mike Thank you for joining us to tell us about your grandfather sacrifice and the steps that you're taking to get him identified and brought home.
I'm doing very well. Very well, John. Thank you. Better chance McNeil was born on Prince Edward Island, Canada, in 1917. These thes son of Willie and Margaret McNeil m little see big in little E I l l McNeil. Um, so he was born there on Prince Edward Island. He has a a older brother and a older sister. Wiliam. Willie is the brother's name, and Melba is assistant. So he was born there in Canada. The family moved. Relocated to Boston, Massachusetts, Um learned. Got his high school diploma from Summerville High School near Boston, Mass. Um, from there, he worked at the J. J. Pearce Roshni. Uh, judge appears grocers on dhe, the greater Boston area, And what they did it, J. J. Pearce was a They took grocery orders from around the community, the groceries to come in, being shipped in from all over the country. They would pack them on trucks and cars and things, and then they're be shipped out to the community for folks. They're running businesses are their families. Whatever the delivery grocers went toe. So, um, after my grandfather graduated work J. J. Pearce for a couple of years, it's a subsequently JD Pierce is currently is owned by Craft Food Company. So that's the That's what it turned into old. So from from their letter went thio Orlando, Florida Um, he earned enough money working J. J appears. It appears I don't have a lot of history on his on his life prior to the military records that I have simply because his letters existence was officially withheld from his family For reasons I'll explain here later on. So he makes enough money, buys himself a car drive south, goes to Orlando, Florida When you just Orlando, he winds up meeting my grandmother there and you could see gets employment at a diner that she worked at the Green Tree Green Tree Cafe. I believe they call it So he's working there. Two of them meet for love. 19 3rd This is 1930 early 1937 1938 steps of their courtship. They go to takes my grandmother. Her name is Melanie. They taste Nelda to Somerville, Mass. Introduces her to the parent to his parents. They make an announcement that going to be married and they're married. And Somerville, Massachusetts, and night in August of 1938. So the honeymoon back down, these hosts get back into Orlando, Florida. Um, they start the life of the married couple. They have three Children. My mother was born in 1940 my oldest uncle and born earlier than that. And my youngest uncle, who is still alive today. I was born in 1941. Life goes on there in Orlando, Florida, with this young family. Um, let it is about 26 years old at the time. He received his draft notice in 1943. So from there, marriage and life and building this family and had three Children, he has gainful employment. He's involved in the hospitality industry in Orlando, Florida. He's working at a place for me and built, which is a hotel in the cat room. The name is escaping me right now that you're working at a cap room there and Orlando for family life goes on. Of course, 1941. We the U. S. Centers in the World War two. He's still doing his thing working daily doing this staying 1943 receives his notice. He reported to Camp Blanding, Florida for his induction.
Yeah. So then So then he was drafted then, huh?
Yes. Yes, sir. He was dropped. Yeah, he was. He was drafted at likes age 26. Um, with three Children and a career ahead of him and all this stuff. You know, even if he was doing his part here on the home front, let's say, uh, you know, So that's just what that was going. It's quite interesting. I found a letter from his brother that was written in 1944 to my grandmother. And in the letter there by his brother. Leonard's brother is expressing to my grandmother how it's so wrong that they're taking men with families when there are still plenty of young, single men back home that can do the fighting. And then he goes on to say that this is no place for a married man to be. He could not explain where he was at the time, but I did ascertain from the letter and the timing. What have you He was actually on a ship at that time use on a ship in the Pacific, Uh, probably heading towards, say, pan for the invasion. I'm say, Pan. So that is that some kind of put those things together from the time Linus to what was happening with him at the time. It was It was it was a communication there that, you know, here's here's this guy has got a family intensity or, you know, he's drafted to go. Who would do this part? So lo behold. Yes, sir. He went in. Did, um, women through? Champ Landing was inducted there. I guess they went to a battery of testing. At that point in time, my grandfather scored very high on the testing, which put him into a brand spanking new program that was underway at that time, which is one that ultimately, I would say one. The war ended the war anyhow, and the program that he was put into was the B 29 bombing program. So he was trained as a B 29 tail gunner.
And for our listeners, the B 29 is the same aircraft that actually carried the atomic bombs over her Shima Nagasaki.
Exactly. Yes, sir. Yes, And that's the reason I stayed, it's that it's what ended the war. That plane was the delivery system for the atomic bombs that ultimately one would say into the war. However, in this and what I'm going to tell you today, you might have a little different thought and pat pattern of just what did end this war. Okay, so anyway, ultimately, yes, it was all troops together in America's perseverance, that one in the war. Then the B 29 program is put into place. Uh, well, I say is putting a place. It's store is at its infancy, So it's being the B 29 being built as the men were being trained. My grandfather's flight records indicate that he was on the between. AI program is beginning that building to be 20 nines, and the crews are being trained. When my grandfather was inducted, the training that he received was to become part of a replacement crew for the between nuns, of course, when he first went in there, didn't realize what would be happening. But what happened with the between AI program was as it moved along the between nine for being shot down more frequently. Let's say they could keep up with to keep more planes coming in. Well, these they developed replacement crews and the replacement crews that were coming in when they were trained. What's described by some is very well, and by others as kind of hastily. So it depends on which, which side you're you look at it from, I guess. Ultimately, though, the men are trained between well inducted and 43 so November of 43 induction, eso goes through training through of 44 all of 44. He spent times, and he spend spends time in Texas doing his gunnery work. They dio practice flights on mostly B seventeen's because the B 20 nine's were not available for training. So there are a few B 20 nine's available for training out of peyote, Texas. Ultimately, before, before they were shipped overseas over to the Pacific, they would make a single flight from Texas to Havana, Cuba, and back. And that would represent the long flight over water that there would be resembling over there in the Pacific. So they went to this process to their training. He's trained as a gunner for the tail. These these but this the between eyes, the first airplane equipped with computers at this point in time in 1944 there computerizing the gunnery system on these particular planes. So the guns were set up on the plains of 50 caliber guns on the bubbles underneath and the tail and on top. They were controlled by a computer system that would enable the gunner to turn his head essentially and where his head was, where his vision, Woz and where the gun was. Then the turrets would turn Thio, and it would. It is, Ah, it would. It would focus in on this on a site and then fire when it was ready to be fired. The guns could be fired by, um, a single point in the aircraft, the C F C gunner, Central Fire Control when he could control all guns. Or he could give a gun to any one of the other gunners to operate at any time. It's really, really fascinating stuff what they're getting into cutting edge equipment, you know, I say computers on the plains in 1944 it's like, uh
yeah, yeah, that's that's That's something I never even knew. That's
not yeah, Between AI program is, it really is fascinating. There approximately 3100 B 29 built and total throughout the entire program. So Ah, little more information on the B 29 program is, you know, they were. It's one of these typical deals where the military said, Okay, we need him and the contract was let and the plans were not delivered on time. And then when things got bad, things started to be delivered essentially. But these with these particular plans, they were kind of manufacturing them and sending them into battle at the same time, if you will. So they're learning and doing things as says, the plan's going long. From the time my grandfather got on a plane February 14th of 1945 he got on a between I and brand new between, and it just manufactured, um, he and the crew that he was with got on that B 29 in Kansas. They then flew to Mather Field, California, which is just north of San Francisco. From Mather, they made a trek to Hawaii and in a second island. I've got the name of it right now and then on into to the point that they were based at, which was, say, pay an island. So on February 25th 1945. The law crew with my 11 man crew on the B 29 which consisted of Gunners Obama, dear engineer, a pilot, a co pilot and 11 man crew. They all arrived there and say, Pan as a replacement crew, the island of ST Pan. I don't know how much I should share when you hear about anyway. So the island of ST Pan was set up as a base, and over the summer of 1944 the Marines took, say, Pan, they was in turn into a base that that the that the B 29 could operate from, say, Pan Island, Tinian Island, Guam are all in the general area. Those three islands with How's that B 29 bombing program from November 44 1944 forward so that that's where the between I infer station at that point here we are. On February 1945 25 February men ride in ST Pan Island, say Pan Island was still had combatants on it. They were there still Japanese soldiers fighting at that time the CDs had taped constructed runways. They had a tent city set up things from progressing. By the time my grandfather got there, they had started have clients. It hunts, don't they? Came, is my grandfather's crew came as replacement crew. They were there for five days and then were put on a mission as an observer's, essentially to go to Tokyo on a mission that was phone on the fourth of March 1945. So his first mission is to Tokyo March 4th, 1945. The plane he was on to go on that mission had mechanical problems within 30 minutes of reaching their initial initial point. So in the initial point, the I P point is where the planes focus on and then they go in for their for their raid. From that point, they're bombing missions. From there, he's on this plane. Essentially just get broken in total flight time from, say, pan to Tokyo back. The state hand is someone the neighborhood of 14 hours, so the crew is able to get as faras almost to Tokyo. Had mechanical problems, had to turn the plane around and go back to say pan, dropping the bombs at any any given point along the way and then getting back to say Pan. Now that was an experience that he went through and had to had to endure. What have you? What's interesting about that is there were quotas. The crew's room were required quotas before there'd be shipped back home. Attn. That time I don't know what the number waas for the quota, but ultimately toward latter part of the war, it became 35. They had to do 35 35 combat missions in order to be let loose and be sent home. So anyway, so number one mission, my grandfather goes on, they got turned around, sent back because they didn't make the bombing run. They don't get credit for that mission. So from there, the from there is quite interesting to scum. LeMay Djamila May is now taking over the forces for the B 29 program. The B 29 is an aircraft that was designed to fly at high altitude to avoid anti aircraft and to drop bombs from about 30,000 feet.
That's a pretty high bombing,
right? Yes, sir. And what that was was that was out of the out of the aircraft reach of the Japanese. So you know, it's it's the way to go. Makes a lot of sense. Okay, problem that was found out with that ISS when you dropped bombs from such a high haIf and enters a a stream of air that makes all of your calculations from point A where the plane to point b the ground. Suddenly nothing works because the bombs gets get swan all over the place. And it Mr Targets. So the between nine program is having a hell of a time hitting its tart. When LeMay came in and opted to limit, LeMay came in and said, If we cannot hit the targets from 50,000 feet, then we're gonna bring the bombing run down and elevation. So what they did is they came and they did a few tests. Things where they brought brought the planes down a little bit lower. They saw that there was a success. So and then LeMay decided to do was to launch the most horrific firebombing that's ever taken place. And that would be March 9th 1945. And the pre flight conditions were that you're flying between 7 to 8000 feet and drop your bombs on Tokyo. That was the plan. Also, part of the plan was you wouldn't carry extra ammunition or guns because we're making more room for more bombs. So now the whole planning hold between I'm program. The premise of it is now everything these guys practice for for the bit of train that did have now is no longer doesn't apply anymore. You were not high level. We're not flying pressurised by dropping bombs from high altitude weren't down so close to the ground. You can almost be hit by a small arms fire, you know? So this is what this was the command. This is what they did. LeMay sent those guys in there with Sin and Sin Dory bombs on March 9th. And they came back without one loss of B 29 after setting ablaze 16 square miles of Tokyo. Wow. The estimated loss of life is someone between 80 and 120,000 people in one night. Here we are the bartender, family man from Orlando, Florida. Canadian born 26 years old is now and this in this arena. This, uh, this area this venue, if you will, through what would happen for the next month from the islands of Tinian, say pan in Guam. And what wouldn't what is described as the fire bombing of Japan or the fire blitz of March? So during that time frame, they the 21st of Air Force 500 bomber group all the bomber groups involved down there in the in the islands they attack of Saka Tokyo, Nagoya Cold, bad. Those cities. They pelted on five separate occasions through the month of March that that essentially brought Jack the Japanese to a point that it was pretty obvious that they had a significant. They really have a significant problem from this point forward. What was going on? So that takes us through the month of March. Easter morning is April 1st 1945. My grandfather and the law crew get onto a B 29 serial number. 4469666 is described as thes e 11. So the mission is to is to go into Tokyo back to Tokyo again. Target number 3 57 which is a story in itself. Target number 3 57 was the most heavily guarded aircraft manufacturing plant in all of Japan. It had anti aircraft batteries set up all around it because of what its importance waas as matter of fact, it took 13 I believe 13 missions to that bomb to that menu for that factory before it was actually destroyed. And I believe the day it was destroyed was August of August 8th of 45. There just just 20 end of the war s o the Easter morning. They board, they board the plane, the underway to Tokyo. They are hit by significant flak. The Japanese were operating something called a baka rockets and Ibaka suicide rocket was essentially a man would guide a rocket that was dropped from an airplane. So drop the rocket, they ignite the engine. A man steers the rocket into its target and explodes. So it's a suicide rocket was believed to have hit. But first of all, the plane was hit in the the wing and started a fire there in the right wing. And then they took another hit in the few Salah JB I flak, and then the Baka rocket came in. A nudism exploded and that trips the plane into a condition that the pilot, Lieutenant Law, uh, hey, see, Lieutenant Law. He could You gave the command for the crew to abandoned.
Now, that rocket that you're talking about, what's interesting is they had the same thing on submarines where they were using his torpedoes. Man out of torpedoes. I was busy. What they came up with try to count counter. Ah, us making the mainland of Japan.
Yes. Yeah, yeah. The, uh Yeah, the whole up. Oh, yeah. The whole invasion plan is uh oh, my God. The good thing America didn't have to experience that. I think the rest of the world either, for that matter. Yeah.
So his aircraft was in hit. And, uh, Lieutenant log?
Yep. That there was trouble up front is the reports that the report there has been I give you just the move ahead here. Quickly. One of the crew members survives the war. So we have. We have significant information from one of the crew members. Survived war. Okay, so they're so they name. There was trouble up in the front they couldn't get they couldn't get out for some Really couldn't get back because of the fire. So they had to go out through through the front landing year, had to crank it down my hand because the electrons were gone. So they, the guys that front were able to get out. So Lieutenant Law died and the plane when it exploded. Um, at this point, the 10 the 10 men that survived the crash are on the ground near Tokyo. The we have one survivor when when the crew survived the war. His name is Raymond Hopper. So we have some good detail from his his accounts. All the all the men were taken prisoner and taken thio much called Kim Peek I headquarters in Tokyo. I don't have any description of the other men's capture, but Raymond Hoppers capture is described by himself being in going something like this. He's sought shelter off the side of the road, heard some voices, and then he left the area that he sought shelter while crossing a rice patty. He was seen by several Villagers, and they began to head toward him. At the same time, a man with a black suit on came through. The crowd came over to where Hopper Waas took his 45 pistol from him and had Hopper and put his hands up because the soldier took his turkey, uh, 45 pistol from fired, two shots in the air. His description was that he felt the next shot would be from him, Uh, then his hands behind his back. And he was taken other rice paddy a cz. They were walking out to get to a truck of the Villagers being to attack, attack him. He got kicked a few times and paints trio bad by by the folks and, uh, was treated. Treated pretty rough there, Issa taken captive. He also was taken to the Kempe Tie headquarters where he saw and and was in a similar cell to where my grandfather waas can't be. Tai was located money, understand? Just within within a few 100 feet of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, the men were kept there for a period of time, interrogated, held as war criminals. Essentially, while they're waiting for their trials from their Raymond Hopper. He, in a letter he wrote to my grandmother, explained that the last time he saw the crew was around April 16th as they were put onto a truck. From there, it is presumed that the men were transported to Tokyo military prison in Tokyo, Japan. The prison that there is sent to the actual military prison for the Japanese. They held Japanese prisoners, dissidents. And what have you in this prison? There are about 400 prisoners Japanese prisoners in the prison the men were sent to. So my grandfather, along with the rest of the crew, is sent to this Tokyo military prison. Um, that was round mid the latter part of April. That time until May 26th they were joined by a number of other Americans totaling at this time. Now approximately 62 to 65 American. Between nine airmen were taken to the Tokyo military prison approximately April 16. Toward toward the latter part of April, Raymond Hopper was taken to a moray with another POW camp called the Moray and Japan Dear Tokyo. Hey was taken to that prison camp, put in solitary confinement. Basically, I understand he was in a box for several months and that's how you finished out the war at that POW king back to my grandfather and the rest of the men there at the Tokyo military prison in Tokyo, Japan, between the time that they're brought there up until April. I'm sorry. Up until May 25th there amount a number of other American B 29 airmen are also brought there totaling approximately 62 to 65 airmen. At this point in time, they're all held in what's called cell block number four. The Japanese command September of 44 had determined that they would need more prisons space than everyone put prisoners in different places. And this is one of the accommodations they made at this particular prison that was held primarily Japanese president. So there's, um, about 60 60 to 65 American airman in cell block number four. From that point, um, May May 23rd year the bombers came in over Tokyo, and they had bombed a significant area of Tokyo, hitting the portion of the prison at that time and started a fire. That fire was put out there was dealt with. On May 26th there was a bombing of Tokyo. Approximately 500 B 29 came in over Tokyo and over the span of about a three hour bombing campaign, coming into the city from different directions at different times, a firestorm was created in the Tokyo prison area when so intense that essentially the neighborhood's people's homes the prison itself was engulfed and inflamed. Everything everything's described is everything that was wood was burns. So everything, I mean, even even the handles of shovels and picks or what happened. So what? What What took place on the 26th was this. As the bombs were coming at the fund, the the alarms went off around 11 o'clock at night. People formulated with doing what they had to do to fight fires that this program set up in the prison that had prisoners within the prison that would fight fires and they would do to fireworks. Well, because of the bombing that happened in the 23rd that caused so much havoc, the prison was short hand on the 26th. I understand they had 11 official prison guards on hand, So the, uh, the president, the prisoners shorthanded there says the prison was being hit with bombs. And what have you? The guards were ordered to move the prisoners out of the prison to the safe area. So the job All the Japanese prisoners were evacuated from the prison site the American prisoners were still held in cell block four as fires are raging and bombs are falling. The commandant of the prison made previous statements that he didn't care what happened to the prisoners. And if the prisoners were it to get out a time that it might be okay to kill. So this was the way that the mind set was in the prison area. Now, if you put yourself in perspective here on the 23rd of bobbing was so intense and a lot of these guards lost, their families lost their homes. They're pretty arranged. And they're they're they're understaffed on the 11. So the balmy stating place on the 26 they were able to get the Japanese out. The American sells a problem. What's called Half lock, which would, which would enable you to basically flipped sick a lever and ended prisoners to get out There was determined that there would not be adequate support for the Americans to be brought out and put into a safe site because it didn't have guards to do it. So ultimately, what happened? Waas? One of the bombs did hit cell block number four for
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as the as the Americans are locked up there, a commotion starts. Some of them are able to get out about half of the prisoners they really get out so block for and make their way toward what they thought would be a safe area. But as they brought into the prison there blindfolded so they have no idea where they are, they have nobody speaks in Listen. Oh baby, no, no bacon understand how ghetto a different place on ditz. This fire raging everywhere Commandant of the prison was heard to say Don't let them escape. Kill them! At that time, a couple of the guards took it upon themselves to an act that order and chill some of the men with swords as they were heading toward the acidic area. Ultimately, what happened there that night on May 26th droid the prison And in the heinous acts that took place and inactions that took place, the 62 American Airman were also killed. So the following morning, about 6 a.m. Some people start moving back into the prison. Bodies are observed from that. From that moment, Forward and order is given. Thio, get rid of the bodies. So the American bodies air now put into what is 1/2 dug bomb shelter buys are essentially We can still use the term dumped into this area. Dirt and debris thrown over them. That's what happened there that particular night from there the story moves forward. We know what happened with the war. The B 29 continues to bomb Japan. There are I read an account from a particular prisoner that was in in the another area of Tokyo, that he was extremely puzzled. By the month of June, the month of June, nothing happened. And all of the area there's nothing happened just went silent, and he found out after the war would actually taken place. Waas. Every target that was worth bombing in the Tokyo area had been destroyed at that point. So they weren't they weren't focusing their anymore. They were focusing things more toward the South at that point. The bombing campaign. Waas, which is also quite interesting, so has a As the war move forward, the B 29 steps up. Sherry's the atomic bombs War comes to end now, At the end of the war, there is the massive things that take place there with graves, registration and identifying The dead American now at that time has suffered more than 400,000 casualties, of which approximately 72 words, so 1000 are unidentified, of which approximately 30,000 are remains unidentified. Remains are in the Japanese Philippine area. On land. Those 62 American soldiers that are in the hole in the ground now in in February in 1946 and exclamation team comes in and they are aware of what stay in place and they removed. They start removing the bodies that are in in the grate in the mass break under president site, so that work determines that there are 62 bodies. They also stated the report states that some 30 some skulls are missing It. Also in the report, states that the, uh, the majority of the femur bones are broken are fractured. And, uh, there's there's debris and newswire and there's other things in the in the graveside areas well and some very, very little of Sabbath service. Everyday, that parts is very good. When one Japanese T shirt they said that's that's how they were found there during also is happening now, as the exclamation going on is a war crimes prosecution team is beginning their work, and what ultimately happens here is there is a war crimes tribunal that takes place, and the case number is described as Yokohama T Dash 078 and that war crimes tribunal relates to case number 111 which is described as the Tokyo Prison fire. So the what took place there that night turns into a war crimes tribunal. Five men ultimately are convicted miscellaneous acts of insubordination by the some through murder, the different different accounts. The men deal with all of this information that I'm describing to you and all the documentation of this war crimes trial will be available on Google Docks at Tokyo Prison fire at gmail dot com. Amy, that's, um that's what took place with my grandfather's service up to the very end that he waas Joel murdered. And whatever way we might see through this through this horrific action his body was placed in Great. Now, the trial that took place stated that there 45 identified soldiers there and another 17 unidentified. So my grandfather falls into one of the 17 and identified all the information that I just given to you about my grandfather, from his birth to this very in, and his war crimes tribunal was completely and totally unbeknownst to me my entire life. I never knew that my grandfather existed as when I was a child. Nothing was ever spoken of him. My mother and his Children of my my uncles. They knew nothing of him. I The reason they're waas is because my grandmother after her after letter, not returning from his service, she closed up their entire relationship into a box of photographs, documents, everything that she had relating to him and them. And they're pre war life was put into a box and put into storage. No one ever spoke of him. My grandmother remarried. I did have a grandfather that I thought was my grandfather Turns off you. This was not a mighty turned up here ever is pro practical purposes, my grandfather. But not my true blood. My uncle had this box. My uncle that's living today. He had this box, I got into it and I was able to this entire story. I just gave you out of that box. And of course, it doesn't stop there because he is an unidentified. That brought me to the defense. Pure W M I, A accounting agency. The DP double. You can reach them at DP delay dot mil on your Google machine. So anyway, um, his body's unidentified. I go to them, explain my story, and they then start me on what becomes another task here. Let's say not just getting to know this man and my grandfather throw the information that I was digging through, but also in the idea that his remains may be able to be Exum's from Manila and brought back to America. Um, the way that this is done through d. N a. Sampling testing now the science is available today. Thio evidently do this in a lot of cases and is being done regularly. There are there are regular identification is happening from World War Two personnel regularly from islands and other places around. What What happened here now, at this stage for May as the grandson of this man is, I have found myself facilitating the research on recovery of his remains now because he was with 62 men in the calming brave, the DP Double A would like the families of all 62 men to come forward and offer DNA samples. Now this is quiet and undertaking for a fellow like myself, I got to tell you, but we are underway with the task and we are having some success thus far. We have more than 22 families on record for giving DNA samples to the DP double A at this point in time. So we're feverishly reaching out to any of these families that were trying to reach in to get them too. Of course. Contact DP double I provide there d n A samples so that they dp double A and do their work to progress the exclamation requests to get the remaining unidentified back from this Tokyo prison fire from May 26.
So what was the process that you took? Um, you know, you you found out about your grandfather. Ah, you contacted? Ah, D p a. They assigned you a case researcher from the Army Casualty Department. Um, and then you received your case record, which, on that case record, listed all the names of the other POWs that were associated with the with his with your grandfather's death. What steps did you take? Thio, identify the other POW family members. You ah contacted the genealogist. And what what other steps did you take there?
Okay. Through through the help of a genius biologist, I was able to get family been living family relatives today of these soldiers from 75 years ago. So, as as that was put forth to May I, then I wrote letters I started right writing letter and sending a letter to folks. What? I've developed a newsletter sitting toe sitting to the families and hopes that they'll respond. Get contact the DP double. So what I've done is I've started something called the family M I A P O W. Research and recovery service is what that is is just just subjected. What it sounds like that is myself reaching out to these families and attempt to bring us all back to bring us all together, not back together. I can't say that, but bring us together as our family members were together at one time in his prison, all these men hide together. So what I'm attempting to do is bring us all back together now have combined these these samples. So anyway, that one step them doing is writing letters to each of them, uh, looking on Facebook to see if I am finding the any of it that way. And I'm just, um I'm just going through the motions. This this whole process is happening through me, I would say. And I am like, a safer sit facilitating things here. But this almost his other greater power working this human right? Yeah, really way revenge over the brainy lights. It's 2022 24 DNA samples on the 62. And then the minute that's that's pretty significant. For less than years, Working
Citizen has has the Army casualty assigned a genealogist to the case? Thio support it. You know
not not to my knowledge. I I'm not aware of that being the case. I I am planning to attend the family meeting that they'll d'oh this march in Miami. And I plan on attending that with a litany of quest, the requests and questions because, like I say, this is in our particular case, this is a war crime. This witness well documented. Everything that happened with these men's lives at the very end is documented to the to the second and minute of what what was happening Win Bob for falling. How they stayed were happening. What the actions of the different individuals were. How the men were treated prior to it is well documented and well worth the the read of anyone interested. I can assure you of that.
Yeah, I saw. I saw, you know, you knew you were talking about your newsletter that you had that you're sending out to the families. When you when you find the descendants information, you send them the newsletter and then you also have a Facebook page. Can you give us information on that Facebook page?
So So, A quest for repatriation Sergeant Leonard James McNeill not forgot. So quest for repatriation? You'll see a picture of littered on that on Facebook and that has a lot of information on what was its journey has been thus far with him of also setting up a pager for the family M. I. A POW research recovery service and, well, as some other folks that I've been extremely instrumental. What's going on here with this is the M I A. Recovery network? Uh, the those folks braid over there. Paul axioms at the DP Double A. I've been working with him this project. Katy Raddatz Dorf is a friend I have in the Maryland area to Harvard's color, and she's she should be fantastic for this project. She's She's been very helpful and supportive of ah, of the work in contact.
You got that you went to visit their lives. Isn't that correct? You went and visited archives and pulled a lot of documentation
Yes. Yes, right? Yes. I found that the my investigation. I was the only I found that the physical evidence for the war crimes tribunal for the for the Yokohama T 078 is held at the archives and College Park, Maryland. So when I found that information out and in the summer of 18 2018 but I just immediately got on up there for about a week. I spent up there at the archives going through thousands of documents relating to the trial. And it is the fascinating mentioned photographs. Diagrams? Yeah, testimony from witness testimony from thing from the thunder guards for the prisoners from, uh, just just let me just amazing amount of information that I'm able to view and see. And And I believe the scandalous materials are physically I physically have scanned. All those things will go to the to the Google doc for everyone's review. So, I mean, I'm going from not knowing who this man was at all to detail instance of his lad
is incredible. It's incredible that you know that the you know that it was a common thing, you know that I've I've saw that. Ah, lot of times when these men went off to war on died, and a lot of times the family didn't talk about it. You know, they just ah, I don't know if he could say moved on, but
yeah, it's That's exactly what I've found him. But contacting these families, the majority of them have said that there were There was not a lot of discussion about the family member that went to war and did not return. And the letters I have. Like I said, this box that has all these artifacts in it from my grandmother, the letters from the crew members and so the the crew went missing M. I. A notices were sent to the families so naturally the families that began writing each other. So I have letters from the other crew members, families to my grandmother, and now that made contact with some of the crew members. I also have the letters that my grandmother had sent to them. They've given me a copy of those. So that's that. That really opens up the holes. Ah, whole new tingly feeling in the whole concept of research. When you start looking at things that way, you see. I mean, it is a man. It is a really heartbreak when these what these folks went toe and went through and then and then to not to not have the closure. You know, the families I'm talking to very few of them. No, just what happened? Very sure Them know about the Tokyo prison fire. They only know that their their loved ones, their family member, went to World War two and didn't come back. But they're finding out now. Lot of Sami's very grateful to me for giving in the information because they're able to know No, what in God's name happened and it's, you know, it's horrific as it is. Knowing is is very therapeutic. Yeah, it really is a man. I'm talking about brothers and sisters of these men that were at that prison. So So some of these people are 80 plus years old up talking. Yeah. I mean, it's, uh it's, uh it's Ed's amazing A lot. A lot of by the grandchildren. A lot of the nephews and nieces. This as well. I mean, some of these guys I mean by guy Manny, maybe we got we got musicians, and this and this lot of people there are, you know, they're just ready there, guys, their career career servicemen that are involved in this no lot of 62 contenders. It is a man
is they come from all walks of life
that you truly great, The greatest generation truly. I mean, you could I totally support that. That has, as the reality here with this, with this group with what they like. I really honestly believe the lives were living today as good as they are is because of what? End? Forget it
exactly. Um, is there anything that you want people to know? Ah, you know, a lot of times, you know, because I kind of do this, Do do the same thing that you've been doing in contacting these other families. And and there's times that people think it's a scam or
Well, yeah, I would say that if you if if any of you anyone out there thinks that they have a family member that may be a ball from World War two m I a. Get in touch with the DP double A talkto you given the soldier's name. If you have any other information, give them the information and let them. They start the discussion with us whether or not there's a relationship in any way that could help. Let's go out. You know, there's, um, more than 72,000 unidentified. Am I a small word till you said that earlier. And total is an 80 some odd 1000 in total. So if we look att f in perspective, the World War two of the Greatest Generation deserves some of our attention at this point.
Yeah, they do. And there's never been an active government program that's actually like they did for Korean Vietnam, where they actually went out and tried to solicit family reference sample DNA. Ah, to get it on file to make identification is and they're just they're just now starting to start making these World War Two the identifications. I think they started back in 2015 and Manila the minute Manila American Cemetery has the largest numbers of ah unknown ah, service members that are buried there. And so, yeah, if you have ah, appeal Toby relative or am I a relative that you you might might have heard about? You know, your grandparents talking about Ah, it's Yeah, check into it. Check with the D P. A. And I'll actually have all the links posted in the show notes where people can click the link and take him right to the ah where they need to go toe to find that information out.
Yeah, yeah, that's that's a good thing to put up. Yeah, don't don't. But that absolute folks can see and
be proactive. Like like what you've been, uh, you know, you're one of the first that I've talked with. It's been so proactive enough to actually put out newsletters and have that nice Facebook page put together. And with all the information and a CZ well, as your Google drive that you're gonna have all the documents on for the families.
Yeah, Tommy, for myself, you know, it is very personal, and it's so it's also it's also very patriotic, too, on me. I feel I lace that. May I feel that this this group has set our lives for the way they are today. So there's there's a lot of there's not, ah, no unfinished business back there from World War Two. I'm in a position in my life that I can reach out to 62 families. No, I mean, I'm honoring these men to this process as well, you know? So that's that's what I'm attempting to do through my actions, you know, it's the is toe. Get my grandfather's remains back for the sake of my uncle, essentially. I mean, my uncle is up three years old, four years old. He watched his father walk out the door and never saw him again. But Dylan again, never got to talk about. So s So this is all the information we've gotten together on. You know what I've given him? He's he's blown away by it, really is bringing some significant enlightenment enclosure and his ladder port latter days here. You know, he's he's getting to find out things about his father. He never knew before. It is like as horrible and they are still wear look to determine is unsafe hand what he was doing. His part of the effects that came back from, say, Pan was a Gillette, uh, Gillette shaving kit. And in this in the shaming kit, we're five bomb tags from from the missions that he flew and inscribed on each one of the bomb tags are what the missions where they were going, what they were doing. Altitude. All that stuff. Main man. Yeah, it means, you know, that is, that stuff belongs in a museum, quite frankly, really. And at some point in time, I'll be I'll be working on a docudrama that will tie it all together and make it may be entertaining in a, uh,
Michael, I really appreciate you coming on here and telling your grandfather's story. And, uh, you know, each every one of those men died as a hero, and and hopefully we can honor their honor, their sacrifice and bring them home and get him buried under ah, headstone that has their own name on it. Um, where do you Where does the family plan on when he's identified? Where do you plan on having it
has turned? Okay, well, as I said, my uncle so let it, son. Um, His name is Melvin. James McNeill. He is. He is event. He served as an in the Navy. He we have a national cemetery in Tallahassee, Florida. Uh, my uncle has He hasn't gone to any actions, but he suggested that he would like to get a marker there and if he goes first, he wants to go in there. And if, uh from that point, if I'm able to bring my grandfather back, then my own means he needs to go there as well. So that would be That's the the only talk of of any event we can bring my grandfather's remains back. So they are. See if that happens. I'm game. I've had some contact from some of the some of the family members that have mentioned Arlington. At this point in time with Theo, it's as wrapped up as I am into it. I feel like you're special. Monument for this crew is group that 62 men is in order. Well,
again, I appreciate you coming on here today, and and, uh, well, for our listeners, you know, a lot of these links and information's gonna be down in the show notes where you can ah be able to ah, you know, make contact with the defense Pow, my accounting agency in the Army Casualty Office. Thio, inquire about a relative of yours that might be, uh, still listed as missing in action. And I'll also have links down there to Michael's Google Information, where you can look at the be able to look at the records if your family member again. Michael, I appreciate it. And is there any any last thing that you were gonna bring up?
I just like the Oh, you know, just don't be afraid to look into these things on. Don't think it's not important. It really is. This is significant history we're looking at, and if we do not preserve it until these stories, they will not be told. Thank you, Thank you. I appreciate how
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 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 am I? Thank you for listening.
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