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Published on: Monday, July 8, 2024 read more ...

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WWII Soldier Who Died in the Bataan Death March Buried at ANC

By Kevin M. Hymel on 5/14/2024

During World War II, Pvt. Doyle "Wayne" Sexton of the U.S. Army Air Forces bravely fought the Japanese in the Philippines for three months in 1942. Three months later, however, he tragically succumbed to the harsh conditions of the Bataan Death March. Sexton died in a Prisoner of War (POW) camp on July 19, 1942, and was buried in the camp cemetery in a common grave. He was only 23 years old. For decades, Sexton remained unknown until 2023, when scientists from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) identified his remains.

After American and Philippine forces on the Bataan Peninsula surrendered on April 9, 1942, the Japanese force marched them 65 miles to the Cabanatuan POW camp in central Luzon. Many died from lack of food and tortuous conditions along the way. More than 2,500, including Sexton, perished in the camp.

At Sexton’s funeral service at Arlington National Cemetery on April 26, 2024, U.S. Army Chaplain (Cpt.) Brady Feltz told the seven family members, “Wayne’s legacy now falls to us to ensure the values that he suffered for, endured for and ultimately died for, are not lost in vain.” Feltz spoke about the country’s commitment to never leaving behind a fallen comrade. “Although it took 82 long years,” he said, “today that promise is fulfilled, under the gaze of these warriors and patriots buried here.” As Feltz spoke, several family members wiped away tears.

At the end of the service, Sexton’s nephew, Robert Wayne Sexton, from Coram, Montana, stood before his uncle’s casket and thanked the government and the Army for identifying and bringing home his uncle. “We are grateful and honored to be here today on hallowed ground,” he said, “to welcome the uncle we were never blessed to meet at his final resting place among the heroes who preserved our freedom in the greatest country on Earth.”

He concluded by telling his family, “Private Sexton made the ultimate sacrifice and we’re proud to be a part of his family,” he said. “Thanks Wayne. I’m sad that I was never able to meet you.” The family than gathered around the casket and held hands, telling each other how much they loved them. They then each touched the casket as a final goodbye.

After the service, Robert spoke about tragedy of his uncle’s death. “My grandmother and grandfather mourned him for their entire lives,” he explained. When the DPAA informed Robert his uncle had been identified, he read all the letters Wayne had written after shipping out to the Philippines. “Now I feel intimate and familiar, and part of him,” said Robert, “and I’ve made him part of me.”

The DPAA personnel who visited Robert at his Columbia Falls, Montana, home offered to have his uncle buried in Montana or Salt Lake City, Utah, near where Wayne grew up, but Robert had recently taken his grandsons to Arlington National Cemetery and asked that his uncle be buried there. “After the sacrifices that he made it seemed like the most appropriate place.”