Manila American Cemetery
Grave A-12-195 where Bud Kelder
was buried as an Unknown





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The information on this site was gathered as his family searched for the remains of Private Arthur H. "Bud" Kelder.


Bud was stationed at the Sternberg General Hospital in Manila at the outbreak of World War II. Upon the outbreak of war, he was consolidated in to General Hospital #2 located on the Bataan Peninsula. After the April 9, 1942 capitulation of the American forces in the Philippines, he endured the Bataan Death March, Camp O'Donnell and, ultimately, Cabanatuan Camp #1 where he died on November 19, 1942.


Bud's remains, and those of thirteen other men who died on the same day, were buried in the camp cemetery grave number 717. After the American victory over Japan in 1945 the cemetery was opened and the remains relocated to temporary cemetery Manila #2. By comparison of dental records, the American Army was able to identify the remains of Harvey A. Nichols, Juan E. Gutierrez, Lawrence Hanscom, Daniel C. Bain. Unfortunately, the Army managed to ship the wrong remains to these families. All four of these men were buried in the U.S. by their families in the belief that they had received the remains of their family member.


The other ten men, Arthur H. Kelder, Fredrick G. Collins, George G. Simmons, Evans E. Overbey, George S. York, Kovach, John Harold S. Hirschi, Lloyd J. Lobdell, John W. Ruark, and Charles M. Waid, were buried as Unknowns in the Manila American Cemetery operated by the American Battle Monuments Commission.


In 2009, the family of Bud Kelder began researching his life and obtained from the U.S. Army the records of his death. These records indicated that his remains had been buried and recovered from the Cabanatuan Camp Cemetery and were among ten specific sets of remains not identified.


Other records necessary to identify the remains of Bud Kelder were requested under the Freedom of Information Act. The Department of Defense refused to provide these records and the Kelder family brought a lawsuit in Federal Court. The records were ultimately received in 2012 along with thousands of other records of WWII unidentified remains.


The primary reason the remains of the ten men in grave 717 were not identified was due to the lack of military dental records. However, Bud Kelder's older Brother, Herman Kelder, had been a dentist and family records indicated that he had placed distinctive gold inlays in to his Brother's teeth. Only one of the ten remains recovered from grave 717 had any gold dental work shown in their files, although the documents showed that the teeth with gold inlays had disappeared from the remains while in the custody of the U.S. Army Graves Registration unit. Unidentified remains X-816 (Manila #2) were obviously the remains of Bud Kelder.


The evidence that X-816 was the remains of Bud Kelder was overwhelming and far exceeded the standard used by the Army in identifying the other remains. Most likely because current government officials were aware many remains had been shipped to the wrong families for burial, the U.S. Department of Defense, after much buck passing and excuses, refused to return X-816 remains to the Kelder family. The Kelder family was forced to file a second lawsuit in Federal Court and in 2014 the U.S. Government finally consented to exhumation of the ten Unknowns from Cabanatuan Grave 717. Ten anatomically complete sets of remains were recovered.


After nearly five months, the Department of Defense, using outdated mitochondrial DNA identification techniques, returned the skull and three long bones to the Kelder family. These remains were buried next to his parents as they had wished.


Examination of the ten sets of remains revealed fourteen different mtDNA profiles and that the remains were extensively commingled. To date, the remains erroneously buried as Nichols, Gutierrez, Hanscom and Bain have not been exhumed and transferred to the proper families. Only the remains of Collins, Simmons and Overbey have been returned to their families for burial.


2,729 Americans were buried in two cemeteries at Cabanatuan between June 3, 1942 and October 28, 1944. 1,756 of them were identified and buried as directed by their families. 973 are still listed as Unknowns, most buried in the Manila American Cemetery and a few in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (The Punchbowl). It is unknown how many were returned to the wrong families for burial.






Last update: Feb 20, 2017

Copyright 2017 - John Eakin