Wisconsin man who died in Japanese POW camp finally identified
By MEG JONES | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | Published: February 2, 2018
MILWAUKEE (Tribune News Service) — For 75 years, Lloyd Lobdell was denied a headstone printed with his name, birth date, rank and military unit.
Entombed with nine other men in an unmarked grave in the Philippines, Lobdell was not forgotten by his grieving family but he was never properly buried.
On Friday, the Elkhorn, Wisconsin, man will finally get the burial he deserved when he died of illness in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.
Cheri Delaney, whose 88-year-old mother, Priscilla Schmall, was Lobdell’s first cousin, is traveling to Hawaii with her mom for the military ceremony. Delaney remembers visiting her Aunt Ruth, Lobdell’s mother who died in 1982, when she was a child and hearing stories about him.
“I wish my aunt was alive because I think it was very difficult for her, not knowing,” Delaney said in a phone interview. “It will be closure for my mom. She knew him.”
Lobdell was a member of Company A, 192nd Tank Battalion, an Army National Guard unit federalized in November 1940. Known as the “Janesville 99,” Company A consisted of men who signed up for the Wisconsin National Guard before the war and trained at the Janesville Armory.
Lobdell grew up on a farm and graduated from Janesville High School in 1938. In October 1940, Lobdell enlisted in the Wisconsin National Guard’s 32nd Tank Company because he knew it was being called to federal duty for one year and he figured he could fulfill his military obligation before he could be drafted into the regular Army.
Once they mobilized for overseas duty — by this time part of the 192nd Tank Battalion — the soldiers trained for almost a year and arrived in the Philippines on Thanksgiving Day 1941 to help beef up American military forces.
When the Japanese attacked the Philippines less than three weeks later on Dec. 8, 1941, the 192nd Tank Battalion fought valiantly but was forced to withdraw to the Bataan Peninsula and surrendered with the rest of American troops in April 1942 before embarking on the brutal Bataan Death March.
Lobdell, a private first class, was assigned to the POW camp at Cabanatuan on the island of Luzon.
He became ill from malaria and beriberi, died Nov. 19, 1942, four days before his 24th birthday, and was buried with fellow prisoners in the camp cemetery. Only 35 of the original “Janesville 99” returned home from the war — two were killed in combat, one died on the death march, and the rest succumbed, like Lobdell, to disease and starvation.
After the war ended, American Graves Registration Service personnel exhumed the graves of Lobdell and others who died at Cabanatuan and relocated them to a temporary U.S. military cemetery near Manila.
In 1947, the remains were exhumed in an attempt to identify them. But because of extensive commingling of remains and limited means of identifying the fallen, they were not identified and were reburied as unknowns in the cemetery at Fort McKinley in Manila.
Four years ago, 10 graves associated with Cabanatuan Common Grave 717 were exhumed and sent to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency for identification. Two of Delaney’s cousins gave DNA samples that were used to match Lobdell’s remains. Last summer, the family was notified of the positive identification.
Delaney has a copy of the telegram sent to Lobdell’s parents telling them of his death and she received his medals, including the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, which were donated to the Elkhorn Historical Society.
Lobdell’s family chose the American military cemetery in Hawaii known as the “Punchbowl” for his final resting place.
“We thought it would be nice for him to be buried with his comrades,” said Delaney, of Fort Atkinson.
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