The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that U.S. Army Pfc. Willard H. Brinks, 24, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, killed during World War II, was accounted for July 20, 2022.
In November 1942, Brinks was assigned to the Company K, 3rd Battalion, 126th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Infantry Division, deployed in present day Papua New Guinea. As part of an attempt to neutralize the Japanese threat to Port Moresby, the Allied center of communications in the area, Brinks’ unit attempted to flank the enemy defensive lines stretched across the Sanananda Track in northern Papua. Brinks was reported as killed in action on Nov. 22, the first day of the Allied attack.
Following the war, the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS), the military unit responsible for investigating and recovering missing American personnel in the Pacific Theater, conducted exhaustive searches of battle areas and crash sites in New Guinea, concluding their search in late 1948. A number of remains were found in the area where Brinks was killed, but none could be positively identified as him. He was declared non-recoverable Sept. 7, 1949.
The unidentified remains from Papua New Guinea were eventually interred as Unknowns at Fort McKinley Cemetery, now Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, an American Battle Monuments Commission site in the Philippines.
DPAA predecessor organizations began researching and recovering service members from Papua New Guinea in 1995. Years of investigation led to the disinterment of a set of remains from Manila American Cemetery, X-70 Finschhafen #2 in November 2016. The remains were sent to the DPAA Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, for analysis.
To identify Brinks’ remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.
Brinks’ name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, along with others still missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
Brinks will be buried on May 19, 2023, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.