WWII Vet escorted home by Patriot Guard
McCracken County - After 70 years of waiting to find out what happened to their loved one, the family of Private First Class William T. Carneal finally got to welcome him home.
On Tuesday, the remains of the WWII casualty were escorted from Nashville International Airport by a procession led by the Patriot Guard all the way to Lindsey Funeral Home in Paducah.
Carneal’s remains and personal belongings had been found last March during an excavation in Saipan by the Kuentai Group, a nonprofit in Japan, whose job is to locate the bodies of Japanese soldiers who had died in WWII. Among the findings were Carneal’s dog tags, American and Japanese coins, a pocket knife, a key, and a 1939 Heath High School ring.
Back in January, Kuentai’s Secretary General, Usan Kurata, had come to Paducah with translator Yukari Akatsuca to meet with the Carneal family. At the time, Kurata had said he took comfort in the fact that the nonprofit is able to bring individual soldiers back home, no matter what nationality they are.
At the end of February, members of W.T. “Teetum” Carneal’s family gathered at Reidland Clothing Company as U.S. Army Sgt. Tyler Holt took items belonging to W.T., one-by-one, out of a cardboard box, including the Heath High School ring.
On Tuesday, J.T. Carneal, W.T.’s nephew, spoke of the importance of the ring, which was one of the contributing factors in determining W.T.’s identity. “He [W.T.] grew up very modest; the first Carneal ever to graduate from high school from Heath High School in 1939,” said J.T.
“It’s final closure. The thing is that so many people that have in life experienced it can tell you, you can never know and you always wonder,” said J.T. “None of our family ever knew what happened to him until March of 2013 when the Japanese found him and they gave the remains to the Japanese Military,” he continued. The Japanese then gave the U.S. military the remains.
J.T. said he still didn’t believe it when he received an email saying that an archeologist buff had said his uncle had been found. “The thing that really made our mind up was his high school class ring. It was still on his finger in the final burial place where they found him,” said J.T.
Recent investigations have revealed the exact nature of W.T.’s death. He, along with four others, was killed by a grenade blast during a suicide attack by enemy forces, according to J.T. Carneal. All five soldiers were buried under more than 3 feet of clay.
“It’s history. It’s a great feeling. The Carneal family wishes to take this opportunity to thank all,” said J.T. “The military has really done a great display of patriotism and spent a lot of time. This is why we are here today,”
W.T. Carneal was born in Grahamville in 1920. His mom had died when he was a little over 18 months old, and his dad had died when he was seven. He was raised by his oldest sister Ruth and her husband L.O. Anderson. W.T. joined the Army in 1941 after graduating from Heath High School in 1939. That was the last time his family had ever seen him.
“He lost his life, the ultimate sacrifice and price that anybody can do. He lost his life for this county,” said J.T. “But the military decorated him with 6 medals and the bronze star,” he continued. J.T. said his family is very honored that W.T. had given up his life.
“We have a sorrow, but today we are looking at happiness because he is finally home,” said J.T. “The sorrow is that his brothers and sisters are not here today, but otherwise we are happy.”
J.T. Carneal said his family had been asked if they wanted W.T. to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, but they decided to bury him next to his sister Ruth Anderson at Palestine Methodist Church in West Paducah. W.T. Carneal will be laid to rest today, on his birthday, April 25th, following a brief ceremony at Lindsey Funeral Home. He will receive full military honors, which will include a rifle salute and flag ceremony. Ballard County WWII Veteran Earl Gidcumb will play taps.