The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced recently that U.S. Army Air Force Pfc. Henry J. McConnell, 28, of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, who was captured and died as a prisoner of war during World War II, was accounted for July 27, 2023.
In early 1942, McConnell was assigned to the 2nd Observation Squadron in the Philippines, when Japanese forces invaded the Philippine Islands in December. 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 captured and interned at POW camps. McConnell was among those reported captured when U.S. forces in Bataan surrendered to the Japanese. They were subjected to the 65-mile Bataan Death March and then 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, McConnell died July 26, 1942, and was buried along with other deceased prisoners in the local Cabanatuan Camp Cemetery in Common Grave 225.
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 mausoleum near Manila. In 1947, the AGRS examined the remains in an attempt to identify them. Three of the sets of remains from Common Grave 225 were identified, but the rest were declared unidentifiable. The unidentified remains were buried at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial (MACM) as Unknowns.
In March 2018, the remains associated with Common Grave 225 were disinterred and sent to the DPAA laboratory for analysis.
To identify McConnell’s remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological and dental analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), Y-chromosome (Y-STR), and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis.
Although interred as an Unknown in MACM, McConnell’s grave was meticulously cared for over the past 70 years by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC).
McConnell will be buried in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, on November 30, 2023.