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WWII soldier who died in Japanese POW camp identified 81 years later

Military scientists have identified the remains of Army Pfc. Harry Jerele of Berkeley, Illinois, who in 1942 died of pneumonia while held captive at Cabanatuan.

Military scientists have identified the remains of an Illinois soldier who died during World War II at a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in the Philippines.

The remains of Army Pfc. Harry Jerele of Berkeley, Illinois, were identified in December, about 81 years after he died of pneumonia at the Cabanatuan POW camp, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced Thursday.

Jerele, who was 26 when he died in December 1942, will be buried on Oct. 6 at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, about 40 miles southwest of Chicago, the agency said.


His niece, Rosemary Dillon of Chicago, said she was a young child when Jerele left for his military service but she remembers him as a quiet man who liked to sing and play guitar. She said it's "a miracle" his remains have finally been identified.

"I only wish my mother and grandmother were here to witness his homecoming," Dillon said in a news release from the Illinois National Guard.

Jerele was a member of the U.S. Army's 192nd Tank Battalion when Japanese forces invaded the Philippine Islands. He and thousands of other U.S. and Filipino service members were captured by the Japanese and interned at POW camps after U.S. forces in Bataan surrendered in April 1942.

According to historical records, Jerele died on Dec. 28, 1942, and was buried along with other deceased prisoners in a common grave at the Cabanatuan POW camp.

Remains from that grave were exhumed in 2020 and sent to the DPAA laboratory for analysis. Jerele's remains were identified using anthropological analysis, circumstantial evidence and DNA analysis.

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