Remains of WWII soldier from Santa Fe identified

New Mexico News

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The remains of a New Mexico soldier who died in WWII will be buried in December. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency reports in a news release that 26-year-old Pfc. Juan F. Gutierrez of Santa Fe was captured and died as a prisoner of war in 1942.

The department states that Gutierrez was a member of the 200th Coast Artillery Regiment in late 1941 when Japanese forces invited the Philipines in December. Fighting continued until the surrender of the Bataan peninsula on April 9, 1942, and of Corregidor Island on May 6, 1942.

DPAA reports that thousands of US and Filipino service members were captured and interned at POW camps and that Gutierrez was among those reported captured following the surrender of Corregidor. He was held at the Cabanatuan POW camp where more than 2,500 POWs died during the war.

According to prison camp and additional historical records, Gutierrez died on Nov. 19, 1942, and was buried with other deceased prisoners in the local Cabanatuan Camp Cemetery in Common Grave 717. DPAA states that after the war, the American Graves Registration Service exhumed those buried at the cemetery and relocated the remains to a temporary US military mausoleum near Manila.

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The remains were examined in 1947 in an attempt to identify them and Gutierrez was identified in March that year. However, the department indicates that recent discoveries have revealed this to be a misidentification due to technology that wasn’t available in the 1940s.

What were believed to be the remains of Gutierrez were sent back to his family who buried him at the Santa Fe National Cemetery in 1950. However, a few years ago, the military realized they may have made a mistake and DNA tests confirmed the body was actually that of someone else.

Thanks to new DNA technology, the military has properly identified Gutierrez’s remains in a mass grave in the Philippines and returned them to his family who now lives in California. Pfc. Gutierrez will be buried in Oakland in December.

Following DNA analysis the correct remains were sent to his family in California. A burial has been planned in Oakland.

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