Ky. soldier who died in Japanese prisoner of war camp coming home for burial

Published 9:59 am Friday, September 8, 2023

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A Kentucky soldier who died at a Japanese prisoner of war camp in the Philippine Islands in 1942 but whose remains were not identified until this summer will soon return home for his final burial.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced Tuesday U.S. Army Pfc. Thomas Franklin Brooks, 23, of Mammoth Cave, who was captured and died as a prisoner of war during World War II, was accounted for June 20, 2023.

Brooks was a member of the Company D, 194th Tank Battalion, U.S. Army Forces Far East, when Japanese forces invaded the Philippine Islands.  Intense fighting continued until the surrender of the Bataan peninsula on April 9, 1942, and of Corregidor Island on May 6.

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Thousands of U.S. and Filipino service members were captured and interned at POW camps.  Brooks was among those reported captured when U.S. forces in Bataan surrendered to the Japanese.  They were subjected to the 65-mile Bataan Death March and then held at the Cabanatuan POW camp.  Brooks was one of more than 2,500 POWs who died in this camp during the war.

According to prison camp and other historical records, Brooks died Dec. 10, 1942, and buried with other deceased prisoners in the POW camp cemetery in a common grave.

Following the war, American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) personnel exhumed those buried at the Cabanatuan cemetery and moved them to a temporary U.S. military mausoleum near Manila, where the AGRS examined the remains trying to identify them.  Five sets of remains were identified, but the rest were declared unidentifiable and buried at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial as Unknowns.  His grave was meticulously cared for over the past 70 years by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

In early 2018, the remains were disinterred and sent to the DPAA laboratory for analysis, where scientists used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as DNA and circumstantial evidence to identify him.

“It is heartbreaking to learn about this loss, but we are thankful for those doing the work to finally identify so many of the unknown casualties of war,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “We are grateful to bring Pfc. Frank Brooks home where he belongs.”

Brooks will be buried on Oct. 1, 2023, in Mammoth Cave. Gov. Beshear will order flags lowered to half-staff in honor of Pfc. Thomas Franklin Brooks on the day of internment.