The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that U.S. Army Sgt. John V. Phillips, 25, of Cassville, Misssouri, who was captured and died as a prisoner of war during World War II, was accounted for Dec. 11, 2019.
In 1941, Phillips was a member of Headquarters Company, 31st Infantry Regiment, when Japanese forces invaded the Philippine Islands in December. Intense fighting continued until the surrender of the Bataan peninsula on April 9, 1942, and of Corregidor Island on May 6, 1942.
Thousands of U.S. and Filipino service members were captured and interned at POW camps. Phillips was among those reported captured after the surrender of Corregidor and held at the Cabanatuan POW camp. More than 2,500 POWs perished in this camp during the war.
According to prison camp and other historical records, Phillips died July 27, 1942, and was buried along with other deceased prisoners in the local Cabanatuan Camp Cemetery, in Common Grave 225.
Following the war, American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) personnel exhumed those buried at the Cabanatuan cemetery and relocated the remains to a temporary U.S. military mausoleum near Manila. In late 1947, the AGRS examined the remains in an attempt to identify them. Due to the circumstances of the POW deaths and burials, the extensive commingling, and the limited identification technologies of the time, all of the remains could not be individually identified. The unidentified remains were interred as “unknowns” in the present-day Manila American Cemetery and Memorial.
In March 2018, remains associated with Common Grave 225 were disinterred and sent to the DPAA laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, for analysis.
To identify Phillips’ remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis as well as circumstantial evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.
Phillips’ name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, an American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) site along with others missing from WWII. Although interred as an “unknown” in Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Phillips’ grave was meticulously cared for over the past 70 years by the ABMC. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
DPAA is grateful to the ABMC and the United States Army for their partnership in this mission.
Phillips will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. The date has yet to be determined.