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





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Missing 192nd Tank Battalion Soldiers Return Home for Burial - The Rest of the Story


More than seventy years after their deaths, Technician 4th Grade John Kovach, Jr. of Company C and PFC Lloyd J. Lobdell of Company A will finally be buried in their hometowns of Port Clinton, Ohio and Elkhorn, Wisconsin, respectively.


Both men became prisoners of war when the United States declined to reinforce and resupply American forces in the Philippine Islands in order to pursue the Europe First war strategy.  After surviving the infamous Bataan Death March, they were imprisoned under harsh conditions in the notorious Cabanatuan POW camp.  Each succumbed to tropical disease and starvation on November 19, 1942 and were buried in Communal Grave number 717 with twelve other men who died that day. 


A total of 2,655 U.S. casualties were removed from the camp cemetery in 1946 by victorious American forces and the remains transferred to a temporary cemetery near Manila where identification of the remains was attempted.  While the prisoners had secretly maintained detailed records of the occupants of each grave, the difficulty of individual identifications was compounded by the Army’s use of untrained contract personnel who commingled the remains.


Ultimately, only four men from Grave 717,

·                    PFC Daniel C. Bain, 803 Civil Engineers;

·                    PFC Juan E. Gutierrez, 200 Costal Artillery;

·                    SGT Lawrence Hanscom, 31st Infantry; and

·                    PFC Harvey A. Nichols, 33rd Quartermaster Company,

were identified and returned to their families for burial.  However, minor success was compromised when the Army shipped the wrong remains to those families.


In addition to Kovach and Lobdell, the remaining men;

·                    Private Arthur H. Kelder, 2nd General Hospital;

·                    Corporal George G. Simmons, 60 Costal Artillery;

·                    Private Evans E. Overbey, 19th Bomb Group;

·                    Corporal Fredrick G. Collins, Quartermaster Corps;

·                    Private Harold S. Hirschi, 19th Bomb Group;

·                    Corporal John W. Ruark, U.S. Marine Corps;

·                    Private Charles M. Waid, Medical Corps; and

·                    George York, a US Navy civilian employee

were buried as Unknowns in the Manila American Cemetery.  Records of the burials were classified as defense secrets and not shared with families of the missing men.  None of the families knew how their loved ones had perished or the location of their remains.


By 2009, the records had been declassified and were obtained by the families.  When the Department of Defense refused to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence of the identities, family members filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court demanding the remains be returned to the families for burial.  In spite of intense government opposition, the remains were disinterred in August of 2014 and moved to the Central Identification Laboratory in Honolulu, Hawaii.  In the ensuing years, the remains of only seven of the men have been identified and partial remains returned to their families for burial.


The remains of Ruark, Waid, York, Bain, Gutierrez, Hanscom, and Nichols await identification and an honorable burial.


The delay in identification of even partial remains and questions concerning the ultimate disposition of the balance of the recovered remains casts doubt on the adequacy and intent of the Department of Defense’s Central Identification Laboratory and Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory.


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Families of Seven Missing U.S. Servicemen File Suit Against U.S. Government


Link to complaint filed in U.S. District Court


.PDF file of this Press release



San Antonio, TX – May 26, 2017 - The families of seven soldiers missing from World War II have filed suit in U.S. District Court in San Antonio demanding that the U.S. Government return the remains of their missing family members.

Thousands of American Servicemen remain missing from the Battle of Bataan and the Bataan Death March Seventy-Five years ago. Some were killed by the enemy and some died of disease and malnutrition while prisoners in brutal camps. Their families never knew where or how they died and never received the closure that comes with burial of loved ones. Recently released documents show that the U.S. Government negligently failed to identify the remains of thousands of missing servicemen and buried them as Unknowns in the Manila American Cemetery to avoid responsibility.

Among the missing was 1LT Alexander R. "Sandy" Nininger who was awarded the first Medal of Honor of WWII. Five times Army Graves Registration recommended identification of his remains, and five times Washington disapproved because the incorrectly calculated height of the remains didn't match his known height.  The remains of Lt Nininger are buried in Grave number J-7-20. 

The remains of Colonel Loren P. Stewart, commander of the 51st Infantry Regiment, were not identified because investigators misspelled his name as STUART and couldn't find his dental records. The remains of COL Stewart are buried in Grave number N-15-19.

Brigadier General Guy O. Fort commanded the 81st Infantry Division until he was captured and executed by the enemy in retaliation for his guerrilla activities. His execution was witnessed by the Provincial Governor who was also a prisoner. After the war, Governor Cruz recovered the remains and presented them to the Army with a sworn statement that they were the general's remains. In this statement he said that when the enemy bayoneted the general, he heard him shout, "You may get me but you will never get the United States of America."  The remains of General Fort are buried in Grave number L-8-113.

Also joining the suit demanding the return of their loved ones are the families of PFC Lloyd Bruntmyer, Private Robert R. Morgan, PFC David Hansen, and Private Arthur H. "Bud" Kelder, all of whom died of disease and starvation in the infamous Cabanatuan POW Camp. Kelder was the subject of prior litigation in which the government agreed to return his remains to his family, but ultimately handed over only three bones. Investigation revealed that the Government's highly touted DNA identification laboratory has neither the capacity nor the capability of identifying more than a small handful of remains each year.

The seven families are represented by Benoit “Ben” Letendre of the firm of Cross Jenks Mercer & Maffei LLP in Baraboo, WI and Ron Sprague of the firm of Gendry & Sprague in San Antonio, TX.

John Eakin - 210-695-2204 -




Last update:  May 26, 2017

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