The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that Navy Chief Machinist’s Mate Class Lada Smisek, 42, of Cleveland, Ohio, killed during World War II, was accounted for Aug. 19, 2019.
In 1942, Smisek served at the Naval Ammunition Depot and Submarine Base in Cavite, Philippine Islands, when Japanese forces invaded. 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 and sent to prisoner of war camps. Smisek 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, Smisek died Sept. 28, 1942, and was buried along with fellow prisoners in the local Cabanatuan Camp Cemetery, in grave number 437.
Following the war, American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) personnel exhumed those buried at the Cabanatuan cemetery examined the remains in an attempt to identify them. Due to the circumstances of the deaths and burials, the extensive commingling, and the limited identification technologies of the time, all of the remains could not be identified. The unidentified remains were interred as “unknowns” in the present-day Manila American Cemetery and Memorial.
In 2016, the “unknown” remains associated with Common Grave 437 were disinterred and sent to the DPAA laboratory for analysis, including one set, designated X-1473 Manila #2.
To identify Smisek’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis as well as circumstantial and material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.
Smisek’s 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 World War II. Although interred as an "unknown" in Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Smisek’s 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.
Smisek will be buried on Jan. 29, 2021, at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.
For family and funeral information, contact the Navy Service Casualty office at (800) 443-9298.
DPAA is grateful to the ABMC and the Department of the Navy for their partnership in this mission.
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) 699-1420/1193.
Smisek’s personnel profile can be viewed at https://dpaa.secure.force.com/dpaaProfile?id=a0Jt0000000LlrkEAC.