The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, unaccounted for from World War II, have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
U.S. Army Air Forces Pvt. Evans E. Overbey, 25, of Coeburn, Virginia, will be buried July 15 in Johnson City, Tennessee. On Dec. 8, 1941, Overbey was assigned to the 93rd Bombardment Squadron, 19th Bombardment Group when Japanese forces attacked Clark Field in the Philippines. With its aircraft destroyed, Overbey’s unit joined forces with American and Filipino infantry units fighting the battle of Bataan. Following the April 9, 1942 surrender to the Japanese, the surviving members of Overbey’s squadron began the torturous 65-mile “Bataan Death March” northward, where they were imprisoned at Camp O’Donnell. Because of overcrowding and an excessive death rate at Camp O’Donnell, Overbey and other POWs were transferred to Camp Cabanatuan. More than 2,800 POWs perished in this camp during the remaining years of the war. On Nov. 19, 1942, 14 Americans, including Overbey, were reported to have died and were buried by their fellow prisoners in Common Grave 717 in Cabanatuan Camp #3 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 Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, a permanent American Battle Monuments Commission cemetery in the Philippines.
In 2014, the Secretary of the Army granted permission to exhume the ten graves associated with Cabanatuan Common Grave 717, where Overbey was believed to have been buried. The remains were accessioned into the DPAA laboratory on Aug. 28, 2014.
To identify Overbey’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used forensic identification tools, including mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome Short Tandem Repeat DNA analysis, which matched the DNA samples provided by two nephews; anthropological analysis; as well as historical and circumstantial evidence.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war.
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.