The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that a U.S. serviceman, missing from World War II, has been identified and is being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Pvt. Arthur H. Kelder, 26, of McHenry, Ill., will be buried July 18, in Chicago. On Dec. 8, 1941, Kelder was assigned to the Philippine Department, U.S. Army Forces in the Far East, when Japanese forces invaded the Philippine Islands. Kelder and his unit cared for those wounded in intense fighting until May 6, 1942, when the U.S. fortress of Corregidor fell, and the Philippines fell under control of Japanese forces. 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. Kelder 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. On Nov. 19, 1942, 14 Americans, including Kelder, were reported to have died and been buried by their fellow prisoners in a common grave in a local camp cemetery in Cabanatuan.
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 Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, a permanent American Battle Monuments Commission cemetery in the Philippines.
In 2014, after the Kelder family had requested the disinterment of remains they believed to be Kelder, the Department of Defense determined that in order to apply its modern identification technologies to the Kelder case and enhance the possibility of identification, 10 graves in the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial associated with Kelder’s loss would have to be exhumed. Kelder’s DNA was identified in 3 of the 10 sets of remains disinterred.
To identify Kelder’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) used the available evidence and forensic identification tools, including mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome Short Tandem Repeat DNA (Y-STR), which matched the DNA samples provided by his cousins.
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 or call (703) 699-1420.