The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that a U.S. serviceman, recently accounted-for from World War II, is being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Pfc. Billy R. Ball, 20, of Matthews, Missouri, accounted for on Aug. 28, 2017, will be buried May 4 in St. Louis, Missouri. On Dec. 8, 1941, Ball was a member of Headquarters Detachment Philippines Department, 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, 1942.
Thousands of U.S. and Filipino service members were taken prisoner; including many who were forced to endure the Bataan Death March, en route to Japanese prisoner of war (POW) camps, including the POW camp at Cabanatuan on the island of Luzon, Philippines. Ball was among those reported captured after the surrender of Corregidor and who were eventually moved to the Cabanatuan POW camp. More than 2,500 POWs perished in this camp during the remaining years of the war.
According to prisoner records, Ball died on Sept. 28, 1942, and was buried along with fellow prisoners in the local Cabanatuan camp cemetery.
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 cemetery near Manila. In late 1947, the AGRS again exhumed the remains at the Manila cemetery 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 reburied as unknowns in the present-day Manila American Cemetery and Memorial.
In May 2016, the Secretary of the Army granted permission to exhume six graves associated with Cabanatuan Common Graves 437 and 439. On May 11, 2017, the remains were sent to DPAA for identification.
To identify Ball’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) DNA analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence and laboratory analysis, to include dental comparisons and anthropological analysis.
DPAA is grateful to the American Battle Monuments Commission for their partnership in this mission.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently there are 72,934 service members (approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly-recoverable) still unaccounted for from World War II. Although interred as an "unknown" in Manila, Ball’s grave was meticulously cared for over the past 70 years by the American Battle Monuments Commission. His name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery site along with the other MIAs from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil, find us on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa or call (703) 699-1420/1169.