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Northern California Army soldier who died in Philippines prison camp during WWII accounted for

PIX Now - Morning Edition 5/14/24
PIX Now - Morning Edition 5/14/24 12:03

The remains of a U.S. Army soldier from Northern California who died as a prisoner of war in the Philippines during World War II have been accounted for, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced Tuesday. 

Pvt. 1st Class Marcus A. Engesser, 21, of Vallejo was accounted for in September 2023, but the DPAA said his family just recently received their full briefing on his identification.

Engesser was a member of Company L, 31st Infantry Regiment in the Philippines when Japanese forces invaded the islands on December 8, 1941, just hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Thousands of U.S. and Filipino forces surrendered to the Japanese on the Bataan peninsula in April 1942 and on Corregidor Island in May 1942.

U.S. Army Pvt. 1st Class Marcus A. Engesser
U.S. Army Pvt. 1st Class Marcus A. Engesser U.S. Department of Defense

Engesser was among those reported captured when U.S. forces surrendered to the Japanese in Bataan, DPAA said. The captured forces were subjected to the 65-mile Bataan Death March and the survivors of the march were held at the Cabanatuan POW camp where more than 2,500 POWs perished.

The DPAA said prison camp and other historical records indicated that Engesser died Sept. 23, 1942, and was buried along with other deceased prisoners in a common grave at the local Cabanatuan Camp Cemetery. Those remains were exhumed after the war and examined for possible identification. Nine sets of remains from the common were identified, but the rest were declared unidentifiable and buried at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial (MACM) as Unknowns.

In early 2018, the remains associated with the common grave were again exhumed and sent to a DPAA lab. Scientists used dental and anthropological analysis, circumstantial evidence, and mitochondrial DNA analysis to identify Engesser's remains.

Engesser will be buried in Vallejo on a date to be determined, the DPAA said. His personnel profile can be viewed on the DPAA website.

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