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Remains of Kentucky POW from WWII finally coming home

An old photo of a military service member in khaki uniform.
Brooks family
Army Pfc. Thomas Franklin Brooks

An Army private from Edmonson County who was taken prisoner in the Philippines during World War II, but whose remains weren't identified until this summer, is coming home.

Pfc. Thomas Franklin Brooks of Mammoth Cave was a member of the Company D, 194th Tank Battalion, U.S. Army Forces Far East, when Japanese forces invaded the Philippine Islands. Intense fighting continued until U.S. forces surrendered the Bataan peninsula and Corregidor Island to the Japanese.

Brooks was among thousands of U.S. and Filipino soldiers captured and sent to Cabanataun POW camp. He was injured in fighting, but survived eight months before dying of starvation in 1942. Brooks was buried in a communal grave at the POW camp, and after the war, his body was relocated to a cemetery for unknowns in Manila. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency later exhumed the remains for analysis.

His great nephew, Gerald Carroll of Mammoth Cave, contacted Brook’s last surviving sibling in 2014 to ask for a DNA sample.

“I felt like it was her decision to make whether to leave well enough alone or try to bring him home and she said, 'We need to bring him home,'" Carroll told WKU Public Radio. "She passed the next year.”

Brooks family

In June, Carroll received a long-awaited call from Ft. Knox where the 23-year-old soldier was stationed. "Uncle Frank" had been accounted for after more than 80 years, using DNA, dental, and anthropological analysis.

“I was just taken aback. I don’t guess I spoke for two or three minutes. I was just absolutely overcome," Carroll recalled. "I had anticipated the call sometime, but I was still unprepared for the emotion.”

Frank Brooks will be buried at Mammoth Cave, Kentucky next month beside his parents and not far from his home place. Gov. Andy Beshear will order flags lowered to half-staff in Brooks’ honor the day of interment.

“It is heartbreaking to learn about this loss, but we are thankful for those doing the work to finally identify so many of the unknown casualties of war,” Beshear said. “We are grateful to bring Pfc. Frank Brooks home where he belongs.”

Burial with full military honors will take place Oct. 1 at 11:00 a.m. at Hill Grove Missionary Baptist Cemetery and is open to the public.

Copyright 2023 WKU Public Radio. To see more, visit WKU Public Radio.