SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — An Air Force Private from Salt Lake City has been accounted for and will be returned home over 80 years after his capture and death.
Doyle W. Sexton was 23 at the time of his capture while serving in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) said Sexton served as a member of the Headquarters Squadron, 19th Bombardment Group in late 1942.
That’s when Japanese forces invaded the Philippine Islands, creating intense fighting until the surrender of the Bataan peninsula in April and the Corregidor Island in May. After the surrender, thousands of U.S. and Filipino service members were captured and interned at Prisoner of War camps, including Sexton.
The DPAA said these prisoners were forced into the 65-mile Bataan Death March before being held at the Cabanatuan POW Camp. Conditions at the camp were described as “poor,” with extremely limited food and water, leading to malnutrition and outbreaks of illness. More than 2,500 prisoners died in this camp during World War II.
According to historical records, Sexton died of diphtheria on July 19, 1942. He was buried with others who lost their lives in the local Cabanatuan Camp Cemetery in “Common Grave 312.”
When the war was over, the American Graves Registration Service exhumed those buried in the cemetery and relocated the remains to a temporary U.S. military mausoleum. Using 1947 technology, the AGRS was able to identify just twelve sets of remains from Common Grave 312. The unidentified remains were buried at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philipines as “Unknowns.”
In early 2018, the remains found in Common Grave 312 were disinterred and set to a DPAA laboratory for further analysis with modern technology. Sexton was finally identified and accounted for on July 13, 2023.
“To identify Sexton’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence,” explained the DPAA. “Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome DNA analysis.”
Despite being buried as an “Unknown” for the past 70 years, Sexton’s grave was reportedly meticulously cared for by the American Battle Monuments Commission. Sexton’s remains will be moved and buried in the Arlington National Cemetery on an undecided date.
Sexton’s name is memorialized on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery where his remains were originally buried.