Soldier’s Remains Identified 81 Years after Capture in Philippines

Private First Class Harry Jerele was among the thousands of U.S. and Filipino service members who were captured and interned in prisoner-of-war camps after the surrender.

Private 1st Class Harry Jerele

Top Photo: Private First Class Harry Jerele. Photo source: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) 

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced in April that researchers had successfully identified the remains of a member of the US Army who was captured following the Battle of Bataan and later died as a prisoner of war. 

Private First Class Harry Jerele, 26, of Berkeley, Illinois, was a member of the 192nd Tank Battalion when Japanese forces invaded the Philippine Islands in December 1942. US forces engaged in intense fighting with the Japanese until the surrender of the Bataan Peninsula on April 9, 1942, and of Corregidor Island on May 6, 1942.

The DPAA says Jerele was among the thousands of American servicemembers who were captured and interned in POW camps after the surrender. Those prisoners were subjected to the 65-mile Bataan Death March and held at Cabanatuan, where more than 2,500 POWs perished during the war. 

According to prison camp and other historical records, Jerele died on December 28, 1942, and was buried along with other deceased prisoners at the camp cemetery in Common Grave 804.

After the war, the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) exhumed those buried at the camp cemetery and relocated their remains to a temporary US military mausoleum near Manila. In 1947, the AGRS examined the remains to attempt to identify them. Two sets of remains from Common Grave 804 were identified, but two more were declared unidentifiable at the time, including those of Jerele. His unidentified remains were buried at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial as unknown. The remains were cared for over the past 70 years by the American Battle Monuments Commission. 

In early 2020, the remains associated with Common Grave 804 were disinterred and sent to the DPAA’s laboratory for further analysis. Scientists used anthropological analysis as well as circumstantial evidence to identify Jerele’s remains. Additionally, the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System conducted mitochondrial-DNA analysis.

Jerele was officially accounted for on December 20, 2023. He will be buried in Elwood, Illinois, on October 6, 2024. 

The National World War II Museum is honored to support the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency’s (DPAA) mission to offer “the fullest possible accounting for our missing personnel to their families and the nation.” The Museum participates as a host institution for DPAA Research Partner Fellows who support the mission by contributing research on missing World War II personnel.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website.