Remains of WWII soldier Joseph Lescaut who died in Philippines identified
masslive.com December 3, 2022
(Tribune News Service) — Eighty years after Joseph E. Lescaut’s death in World War II following his capture by Japanese forces and internment as a prisoner of war, the Massachusetts soldier’s remains have finally been identified and he will soon be laid to rest.
Lescaut, a 21-year-old Cambridge man, was captured during the war and died in 1942 in a POW camp run by Japanese forces in the Philippines. The U.S. Army Air Forces private was accounted for more than half a century later on Aug. 15, 2022, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced Friday.
Now that his remains have been identified, Lescaut is expected to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia on a date that has yet to be determined, according to a statement from the agency.
In December 1941, Lescaut was a member of the 16th Bombardment Squadron, 27th Bombardment Group when Japanese forces invaded the Philippines. Intense fighting continued in the country until the surrenders of the Bataan Peninsula on April 9, 1942 and Corregidor Island on May 6, 1942, the statement said.
Thousands of U.S. and Filipino service members were captured and interned at POW camps. Lescaut was among those reported taken prisoner when U.S. forces in Bataan surrendered to Japanese forces. They were then subjected to the Bataan Death March, according to the agency.
During the Death March, tens of thousands of POWs were forced to walk 65 miles through the Philippines, enduring intense heat and humidity, lacking basic medical care and suffering from starvation. Those unable to make it were beaten, killed and even beheaded, the National WWII Museum detailed.
After the march, Lescaut was held at the POW camp in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, where more than 2,500 prisoners died during the war. Historical records showed the Massachusetts soldier died on July 26, 1942 and was buried along with other deceased prisoners in Common Grave 225 in the camp cemetery, according to the agency’s statement.
Following the war, personnel from the American Graves Registration Service exhumed those buried in the Cabanatuan cemetery and relocated the remains to a temporary U.S. military mausoleum near Manila, the capital of the Philippines. In 1947, the group examined the remains, and three sets of remains from Common Grave 225 were identified, but the rest were declared unidentifiable. The unidentified remains were buried in the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial as “unknowns,” the agency said.
Roughly 70 years later, in March 2018, the unidentified remains associated with Common Grave 225 were dug up and sent to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency’s laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii for analysis. It was there that Lescaut’s remains were finally identified, according to DPAA’s statement.
To identify his 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 analysis, the agency said.
Although buried as an unknown soldier in the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Lescaut’s grave was meticulously cared for during the previous seven decades by the American Battle Monuments Commission, DPAA noted.
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