After 81 years and a DNA match, an East St. Louis soldier has finally come home

The body of an East St. Louis World War II veteran who died in a Japanese POW camp arrived on a United Airlines flight Tuesday at St. Louis Lambert International Airport ahead of the funeral scheduled for Saturday.

It’s been more than 81 years since Cpl. James A. Hurt died in the Philippines after what’s known as the Bataan Death March.

Hurt’s family said last month they were relieved to receive news that Hurt’s remains had been positively identified by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency this summer.

“The family is looking forward to bringing him home and laying him to rest,” Ray Clyde, great-nephew of Hurt, told the Belleville News-Democrat after the military announced the identification of Hurt.

Hurt, who served in the U.S. Army Air Corps, was 25 when he died in a Japanese prisoner of war camp on July 19, 1942, near Manila in the Philippines, according to a news release from the U.S. military agency.

“Hurt was among those reported captured when U.S. forces in Bataan surrendered to the Japanese. They were subjected to the 65-mile Bataan Death March and then held at the Cabanatuan POW camp,” according to the news release.

James A. Hurt Department of Defense
James A. Hurt Department of Defense

After the war ended, the American Graves Registration Service exhumed those buried in the Cabanatuan POW camp and relocated them to a U.S. military mausoleum near Manila, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said.

In 1947, Hurt’s body and other unidentified soldiers were buried in the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial. Five years ago, Hurt’s remains were sent to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency laboratory for analysis and scientists were able to use DNA to make a positive identification.

Funeral services

The visitation for Hurt will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at Lake View Funeral Home & Memorial Gardens at 5000 N. Illinois St. in Fairview Heights.

A funeral service will be at 2 p.m. followed by a graveside service with full military honors at Lake View.