William "Teetum" Carneal was born in Paducah, Kentucky, ninety-four years ago yesterday. He left home as a young man in 1941 when he entered the U.S. Army to fight in World War II. Sadly, he never returned after the war.
Friends with whom he served reported that Private First Class Carneal was killed in action on the Pacific island of Saipan on July 7th, 1944, when a Japanese soldier jumped into Carneal's foxhole and pulled the pin on a hand grenade - killing both men. His body was not recovered at the time, leaving young Carneal to be numbered among the 80,000 service men and women reported missing after the war ended.
Last year a Japanese non-profit group that tries to recover the bodies of Japanese soldiers from World War II discovered the remains of Carneal and three other Americans while digging in several feet of clay on Saipan. His body was identified through artifacts - his 1939 senior ring from Heath High School in Paducah and his dog tags - and later by DNA testing. Those items, along with his poncho, were returned to family members.
William Carneal was buried yesterday in his hometown next to the elder sister who raised him after their parents died. The family passed up the opportunity to bury their loved one at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC, opting instead to bring him back to Paducah.
Welcome home, soldier.