GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WLNS) — The remains of a World War II soldier killed in action in Nov. 1942 were recovered and will be buried in Grand Rapids on May 19.
The remains of U.S. Army Private First Class Willard H. Brinks, 24, of Grand Rapids, were accounted for on July 20, 2022, the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced Monday.
Brinks was reported as killed in action on Nov. 22, 1942, following his unit’s attempt to flank enemy defense lines across the Sanananda Track in present-day Papua New Guinea.
He was part of the Company K, 3rd Battalion, 126th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Infantry Division. His unit was attempting to neutralize the Japanese threat to the Allied center of communications in the area when he was killed.
“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,” said the statement from DPAA.
“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 statement continued.
The unidentified recovered remains from Papua New Guinea were eventually interred as “Unknowns” in the Philippines at McKinley Cemetery, now known as Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, according to DPAA.
After years of investigation, a set of remains from Manila American Cemetery was eventually recovered in Nov. 2016, and sent for analysis to the DPAA Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.
DPAA scientists used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence, and scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.
Eventually, they were able to identify the remains as belonging to Brinks.
Brinks’ name is on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, along with others’ still missing from World War II.
A rosette will be placed next to his name on the wall, to mark him as accounted for.
For more information on his funeral, you can contact the Army Casualty Office at 800-892-2490.