The third Friday in September is the annual National POW/MIA Recognition Day. MIAs from World War II, Vietnam, and Korea are recognized on this day at Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals. This year’s honoree representing World War II was PFC Irvin T. Ebert, from Ellicottville. He was represented by his nephews, Conrad Martinez, son of the former Beatrice Ebert, and Ron Carr, grandson of the former Alice Ebert, siblings of Irvin.
Conrad, of Ashburn, VA and Ron of Orchard Park, NY, along with another cousin, Joe Ebert of Ontario, NY have been searching the past several years in hopes of locating the remains of their uncle.
Irvin entered the service in February 1941. After training at Fort Monmouth, he was sent to the Philippines where he was a member of the Signal Company, Aircraft Warning at Ft. William McKinley. Immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese turned their attention to American property in the Pacific, specifically the Philippine Islands where Irvin was stationed. Irvin was able to send a few letters home giving a glimpse as to his situation. In his last letter, dated Feb. 7, 1942 he wrote to his mother apologizing for not writing sooner and stating that, “we’ve been sort of inconvenienced. But I guess you’ve probably heard all about that.” With the United States Pacific fleet decimated at Pearl Harbor, there was no hope to giving Irvin and his fellow soldiers any relief. The Philippines would fall on May 1942 and Irvin would never be heard from again.
The family story was that Irvin surrendered with the rest of the American soldiers and died during the Bataan Death March but recently declassified government documents along with eyewitness reports indicate that PFC Ebert avoided capture and never surrendered. What happened to him after that remains a mystery.
Following the war, there was a search for missing Americans in the Philippines. An interview of a young Filipino resulted in the discovery of the remains of five American soldiers buried in a shallow grave by the Japanese in May of 1942. Testing was done on these five soldiers in an attempt to uncover their identity. One of the remains had all the characteristics of Irvin; location, approximate height, approximate weight, similar bottom teeth. Unfortunately, the upper teeth were no longer present, which would have made for proper positive identification. Twice it was recommended that the set of remains labeled X-1944 be designated as those of PFC Irvin T. Ebert and twice those recommendations were canceled. Finally and officially, X-1944 was buried in the Manila-American Cemetery and Irvin T. Ebert was declared MIA with remains unfound.
The 21st century brought new desire to find some of those MIAs from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam and a government agency called JPAC (Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command) was formed to handle the search. JPAC would be dissolved after accusations of mismanagement surfaced. It would be replaced by DPAA (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency), however that group is suffering under the same accusations. One area lacking is the disinterment of the unknown soldiers to be tested and identified. Conrad, Ron, and Joe have gone to conferences called Family Updates in New Jersey, Virginia, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania in hopes of bringing attention to their desire to locate and bring their Uncle Irvin’s remains back to the Little Valley Cemetery, where a headstone is placed in his honor.