Kentucky POW to be laid to rest at Mammoth Cave this fall

Thomas F. Brooks, 23, was imprisoned by the Japanese during World War II. More than 80 years...
Thomas F. Brooks, 23, was imprisoned by the Japanese during World War II. More than 80 years have passed since he was last at home, but he will be buried in the Mammoth Cave community in October.(Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency)
Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 4:23 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (WBKO) – More than 80 years after being imprisoned at a Japanese prisoner of war camp, a Kentucky soldier will return home to be buried.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced U.S. Army Pvt. 1st Class Thomas F. Brooks, 23, of Mammoth Cave was accounted for June 20. He was captured and died as a POW during World War II.

In late 1942, Brooks was a member of the Company D, 194th Tank Battalion, US Army Forces Far East, when Japanese forces invaded the Philippine Islands in December. Intense fighting continued until the surrender of the Bataan peninsula on April 9, 1942, and of Corregidor Island on May 6, 1942, according to a news release from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

Thousands of U.S. and Filipino service members were captured and interned at prisoner of war camps. Brooks was among those reported captured when U.S. forces in Bataan surrendered to the Japanese. They were subjected to the 65-mile Bataan Death March and then held at the Cabanatuan prisoner of war camp. More than 2,500 prisoners of war perished in this camp during the war, they said.

According to prison camp and other historical records, Brooks died Dec. 10, 1942, and was buried along with other deceased prisoners in the local Cabanatuan Camp Cemetery in Common Grave 917.

Following the war, American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) personnel exhumed those buried at the Cabanatuan cemetery and relocated the remains to a temporary U.S. military mausoleum near Manila. In 1947, the AGRS examined the remains in an attempt to identify them. Five sets of remains from Common Grave 917 were identified, but the rest were declared unidentifiable. The unidentified remains were buried at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial (MACM) as Unknowns.

In early 2018, the remains associated with Common Grave 917 were disinterred and sent to the DPAA laboratory for analysis.

To identify Brooks’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.

Although interred as an Unknown in MACM, Brooks’s grave was meticulously cared for over the past 70 years by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC).

Brooks will be buried on Oct. 1, 2023, in the Mammoth Cave community.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at

Brooks’s personnel profile can be viewed here .