A Mystery in Plain Sight Worthy to Help Solve

mystery grave worthy to solve

One of the Hell Ships

By John Davis

You would think that American military men held in Japanese slave labor camps, men from almost every state in America, and even a Medal of Honor Winner, would be greatly honored by the country they died for, for which they gave the last true measure of devotion. In one grievous case, you’d be wrong.

Some 399 bodies bodies of American servicemen lie buried in several unmarked graves in the famous national military “Punch Bowl” cemetery, Hawaii. They are from a common initial burial site in World War II. A friend here in Alabama has tirelessly identified almost 200 of their names.

Let me tell you of only one. Captain Donald Snoke, US Army Coast Artillery, was captured when the Philippine island of Corregidor fell to the Japanese in 1942. He survived years of abuse, torture, starvation and thirst in a Japanese slave labor camp, only to then be shipped on what became known as Hell Ships.

Locked in storage holds, the Americans were simply starved of food, water, and even air by the Japanese. The Enoura Maru, his ship of living Hell, was bombed at Takeo Harbor in Japanese occupied Formosa by Americans. The ship was not properly marked to indicate sick and wounded prisoners aboard. The Japanese buried some 400 men from the ship in a common pit in Formosa, then occupied by Japan.

Repatriated to Hawaii after the war, the men remained together, in common, unmarked graves. Unremarked, and unknown, they lay there, still together, forgotten.

Their story was discovered through tedious historical research. Japanese records, together with Red Cross documentation, available witness accounts and Army records helped in the identity of those buried, although the bodies were not individually discerned.

All attempts to get the bodies identified through DNA by the Defense Personnel Accounting Agency of the Federal Government, have come to naught. Since the end of World War II, these men remain together, forgotten in their American graves.

Despite almost monthly reports of recently discovered American war dead, found throughout the world, identified, and returned to their families, these 399 lie there unremarked, and unidentified. Congress has a mandate that 200 bodies a year must be identified, and yet these men remain where they are, as if they weren’t there.

If you read this, share it with your Congressman. You can find out if a serviceman from your state is among those mentioned in this story on Facebook at Enoura Maru Hellship.

Please let me know if you do. Maybe someone, from some state, will succeed in getting these men exhumed, tested, and finally returned home.


~By MW Team Writer:  John Davis

John William Davis is a retired US Army counterintelligence officer and linguist. As a linguist, Mr. Davis learned five languages, the better to serve in his counterintelligence jobs during some 14 years overseas. He served in West Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands during the Cold War. There he was active in investigations directed against the Communist espionage services of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. His mission was also to investigate terrorists such as the Red Army Faction in Germany, the Red Brigades in Italy, and the Combatant Communist Cells (in Belgium) among a host of others.

His work during the Cold War and the bitter aftermath led him to write Rainy Street Stories, ‘Reflections on Secret Wars, Terrorism, and Espionage’. He wanted to talk about not only the events themselves, but also the moral and human aspects of the secret world as well.

Click to Read John’s Complete Profile




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2 Responses

  1. Strawshadow says:

    One of the forgotten sad realities of war. Makes one wonder how many more stories like this remain unsolved. At least Congress is on the ball with they’re “quota”.

  2. John Davis says:

    Hello Strawshadow,

    Sad to sat, Congress mandated it, but have not followed up at all. These bodies lie there, unidentified to this day. All we have found is if someone writes their congressman, perhaps they will act because a constituent asks about it. Please write your congressman. You are the only one to comment on this site, and yet the bodies are from almost every state. Even a medal of honor winner is buried there.

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