Paducah Funeral Held for World War II Soldier 69 Years After Missing In Action

Apr 25, 2014

The Patriot Guard conducts a flag folding ceremony. The flag was presented to the Carneal family.
Credit Lance Dennee

The remains of a Paducah-native who died during World War II and has been missing for nearly 70 years have finally returned home. 

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) recently announced that the remains of Army Pfc. William T. Carneal, 24, of Paducah, Ky., who has been missing since World War II, have been identified and have been returned to his family for burial with full military honors. 

Governor Steve Beshear has directed flags at all state office buildings be lowered to half-staff today in honor of a Carneal. 

Funeral services for Pfc. Carneal were held at 1 p.m today at Lindsey Funeral Home in Paducah. 

Credit Brandon Heine

Carlton Carneal, Pfc. Carneal's nephew, says it was a happy day as his family has finally received has closure. 

"My uncle has finally come home," said Carlton Carneal. "I have one first cousin who remembers one thing only about my uncle and that’s the day he left for the army. He was my friend, he taught me to play baseball and many other things. I remember hugging him goodbye at a baseball game at Metropolis Lake on a Sunday afternoon before he left the next day, and we never saw him again. It’s a happy day that my uncle was found. 

Carlton says the amount of community support for his family has been comforting. 

"It shows that there's still people who care what happened to people in the military," said Carneal. "This celebration is not for me, it's for my beloved uncle and I'm  grateful to him." 

Carneal family members and community leaders spoke of their gratitude during the service. 

"I want to thank everybody for their patriotism, but I could never go through all the names because I might forget somebody and I don’t want to do that," said J.T. Carneal, nephew. "But I hope to say thanks to all those from the city of Paducah, the county, the state and United States military and all who paid homage to the Carneal family." 

“In life and in death, private Carneal demonstrated courage and because he lived and died, others today have freedom," said Judge Shea Nickell, 1st Appellate District Court." As we stand before his casket, grateful for his sacrifice, inspired by his courage and devotion and saddened by a life cut so short, we wonder if we’ve led a good life. And the answer is not in words, but in deeds.”  

Credit Brandon Heine

In mid June 1944, the 27th Infantry Division (ID) landed on Saipan as part of the Allied strategic goal of securing the Marina Islands. On July 7, 1944, enemy forces conducted an intense attack on the 27th ID, 105th Infrantry Regiment (IR) position. During these attacks, elements of the 105th IR sustained heavy losses, killing and injuring more than 900 servicemen. As a result of these attacks, Pfc. Carneal was reported to have been killed in action.

On March 21, 2013, a Japanese nongovernmental organization worker uncovered human remains, personal effects, and military equipment while searching for Japanese soldiers on the northern coastline of Saipan Island. The remains and equipment located suggested that the burial site belonged to an American soldier. The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) was notified of the findings. On March 24, 2013, two JPAC anthropologists excavated the site. 

Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died. Today, more than 73,000 are unaccounted for from the conflict.