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James Wilmer White is a United States Army soldier who was killed in Myitkyina, Myanmar on July 2, 1944. His remains were identified on January 29, 2020.

Background

James White was born in Roane County, West Virginia on May 3, 1923. His family would later move to Chester, Ohio when he was still an infant via wagon. Growing he was the youngest of twelve children and attended school at Pomeroy and Chester schools. Family members and friends would remember him doing things such as exploring the Shade River for "treasure" and drawing cartoon characters. Between 1942 and 1944, White was living with his aunt and uncle at 161 West Street in Chillicothe, Ohio working for the Baltimore and Ohio railroad. On January 4, 1943, he married Mary Frances Hunt, a former employee at the local Newbury Store.

Military service

On February 18, 1943, he was inducted by the selective service board and joined the United States Army from Chester, Ohio. He received training at Camp Swift, Texas, Shreveport, Louisiana, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and Camp Meade, Maryland. He was sent overseas in late April of 1944.

White was a Private First Class of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 5307th Composite Unit AKA Merrill's Marauders. The Merrill's Marauders were a famous unit that was known for their missions behind Japanese lines and confronting superior Japanese forces compared to them during the Burma Campaign.

After the Marauders and Chinese forces captured the airfield near Myitkyina, Myanmar (then known as Burma) from the Japanese on May 17, 1944, the 2nd battalion was tasked with holding the airfield and taking part in the siege of Myitkyina. In addition to heavy Japanese forces, the Marauders and Chinese suffered through intense weather, lack of supplies, and rampant disease. During intense fighting on July 2, 1944, White was reported to have been killed. He was buried in one of the eight temporary cemeteries or buried in an isolated location. On August 3, 1944, the city was captured by the Allies.

The Japanese commander escaped with about six hundred of his men, while a hundred and eighty-seven Japanese soldiers were captured and some three thousand eight hundred men were killed in combat. The Marauders suffered two hundred and seventy-two killed, nine hundred and fifty-five wounded, nine hundred evacuated for illness and disease with some later dying from said illnesses and diseases. The Marauders would disband a week later with a total of a hundred thirty combat-effective officers and men out of two thousand nine hundred and ninety-seven left.

All of those buried at the eight temporary cemeteries or buried in an isolated location were reburied at the US Military Cemetery at Myitkyina.

Aftermath

White was not among the remains or Prisoners of War returned to US custody after the end of World War II. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. He was also memorialized at the Tablets of the Missing Manila American Cemetery Manila, Philippines.

Between January and February 1946, all of the remains at the US Military Cemetery were disinterred and transferred to the US Military Cemetery at Kalaikunda, India. That cemetery was exhumed between September and October 1947. One set of remains, "X-52 Kalaikunda" was never identified and was buried at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, AKA the Punchbowl, in Honolulu, Hawaii in March of 1949.

Identification

On July 16, 2018, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency disinterred "X-52 Kalaikunda" from the Punchbowl and transferred the remains to the DPAA laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. To identify the remains, DPAA scientists used dental and anthropological analysis and circumstantial evidence. Additionally, the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.

Through these methods, James Wilmer White was identified on January 29, 2020. His identification was announced on May 11, 2021. He will be buried at the White Cemetery in Long Bottom, Ohio on June 12, 2021.

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Sources

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