Unknown Soldiers

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  Seventy-six years after his death, the government is still looking for my uncle.

  Pvt. Alexander Condit Macintosh (a.k.a., Uncle Sandy) had left his family in Canton, Conn. to join the Army Air Force in 1940. Unfortunately 1941 was the year of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the beginning of Japanese aggression in the Philippines, starting on the Northern part of the main Filipino island of Luzon where Sandy was stationed. He was with the 27th Regiment stationed at Nichols Air Field in Northern Luzon when the Japanese invasion began and his regiment was evacuated to the Bataan Peninsula.

  The 27th Regiment was a bombardment group, but on Bataan they were turned into a provisional infantry regiment making them the only Air Force unit in history to fight as an infantry regiment. They were captured by the Japanese and became part of the 60,000 to 80,000 American and Filipino soldiers who made the Bataan Death March. Starting from the south of Bataan on April 9, 1942, this huge group of prisoners was marched about 65 miles north. They were starved, beaten, tortured and murdered along the way. In the end, some of them were dropped off at Camp O’Donnell. Others, including Uncle Sandy, were sent to Camp Cabanatuan. It was there that Uncle Sandy died of dysentery and malaria. He was 26 years old.

  One day this year I received a letter from a genealogist who was looking for relatives of Uncle Sandy so the Army could identify his remains using DNA. The Past Conflict Repatriations Branch of the U.S. Army Human Resources Command works on the goal of identifying the remains of unknown soldiers who have died in our past wars.

  If only my father had been alive, his DNA would have solved all the identification problems. Instead the Army was trying to find two different types of DNA among Sandy’s living family members: y DNA handed down from father to son was one and mitochondrial DNA handed down from mother to all her offspring would be the other.

  Sandy’s y DNA would be the same as my brother Paul’s, coming from male Macintoshes. But descendants carrying the female mitochondrial DNA have been hard to find. Finally I got a call from a federal employee in Fort Knox, Kentucky who had gone back a few generations, then worked forward to find an appropriate candidate. The candidate was balking at giving up his DNA on behalf of a distant relative he’d never known, but a kindly government employee was trying to coax him into it.

  Sandy’s remains are still in the Philippines waiting identification. But his name and dates are inscribed with those of his grandparents on a gravestone in a New Jersey cemetery, and his family maintains fond memory of him. 

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