In a moving ceremony held on Wednesday, the remains of Army Pfc. Arthur Barrett, a Vermont World War II soldier who died as a prisoner of war in the Philippines in 1942, were finally laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. The solemn event marked the end of a long journey for Barrett, who had been captured by Japanese forces during the invasion of the Philippine Islands in December 1941.
Arthur Barrett, a member of the 31st Infantry Regiment, was among the thousands of U.S. and Filipino service members who were taken as prisoners of war and held in various camps. Tragically, more than 2,500 individuals lost their lives at the notorious Cabanatuan camp during the war. Barrett, 27 years old at the time, succumbed to the harsh conditions on July 19, 1942, and was buried alongside his fellow prisoners in a communal grave.
Following the conclusion of the war, the American Graves Registration Service took on the task of exhuming the remains from Cabanatuan camp. Remarkably, they were able to identify 12 sets of remains, including Barrett's. However, the unidentified remains were interred at Manila American Cemetery and Memorial as unknowns. It wasn't until 2018 that Barrett's remains were exhumed once again and sent to a lab in Hawaii, operated by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), for further analysis.
To identify Barrett's remains, a team of scientists employed a combination of anthropological analysis, circumstantial evidence, and mitochondrial DNA analysis conducted by experts from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System. After careful examination, the DPAA announced in July of last year that the remains belonged to Arthur Barrett, bringing closure to his family and loved ones after nearly eight decades of uncertainty and waiting.
The identification of Barrett's remains is part of the ongoing efforts by the DPAA to bring closure to the families of those who lost loved ones in World War II. Since 2015, the agency has successfully identified nearly 1,200 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines using remains returned from 45 different countries. However, with more than 72,000 soldiers from World War II still unaccounted for, the task at hand remains enormous.
The poignant burial ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery served as a reminder of the sacrifices made by individuals like Arthur Barrett and the lasting impact of war on families. It provided solace and closure to Barrett's family, while also honoring the memory of all those who have yet to be accounted for. As the DPAA continues its tireless efforts to fulfill its mission, the hope remains that more families will find answers and find solace in the knowledge that their loved ones have finally been laid to rest with the dignity they deserve.
themes: Military War Hawaii Vermont