POMEROY/LONG BOTTOM, Ohio — It was a homecoming nearly 77 years in the making.
Military services, proclamations, presentation of medals, and a procession through flag-lined streets welcomed home Army Pfc. James Wilmer White last Saturday nearly 77 years after he was killed in Burma during World War II.
The city of Chillicothe, as well as village of Pomeroy and Meigs County all declared Saturday, June 12, 2021, as Army Private First Class James Wilmer White Day in honor of the late soldier.
Presentations from both Pomeroy and Chillicothe, as well as the Ohio VFW were made before the services at the Ewing-Schwarzel celebration center (former Maple Lawn Brewery) with veterans from across the state in attendance. Major Patrick Hernandez, who is part of the Casualty Operations division of the Ohio National Guard, had been working with the White family leading up to the services and spoke briefly during the presentations.
During the public visitation, veterans and active duty military members were given the opportunity to pass by the casket to pay their respects to White and his family.
Following the funeral service, military pallbearers carried the flag draped casket to the horse drawn hearse as a bagpiper played “Going Home.” Doves were also released from the hillside above.
As the procession moved from the Ewing-Schwarzel Funeral Home toward Main Street, local band members under the direction of Toney Dingess played patriotic music. Hundreds of people lined the streets, waving flags in tribute to White.
Local fire departments also took part in the tribute with an American Flag draped from the Middleport and Pomeroy ladder trucks. It was at that location that local veterans served as pallbearers, moving the flag draped casket from the horse drawn hearse to the motorized hearse. The procession then moved to the White family cemetery off Bashan Road for burial of White with his family.
At the cemetery, military members and veterans lined the walkway where the casket was carried. Military honors were conducted, with the flag from the casket folded and given to the family at the conclusion of the service.
White, who grew up in Meigs County, later moved to Chillicothe, married his wife, Mary Frances Hunt, and joined the United States military.
On July 2, 1944, Pfc. James Wilmer White was killed in action and unidentifiable outside Myitkyina, Burma (now known as Myanmar). He was fighting with the famed 5307thComposite Unit Provisional — The Merrills Marauders. His Army Infantry Unit was conferred the Congressional Gold Medal by both Houses of Congress this past fall.
He was temporarily buried in U.S. Military Cemeteries in Burma and India. In 1949, one set of remains, designated Unknown X-52 Kalaikunda, was still unable to be identified and was buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu, Hawaii.
In July 2018, the remains of service members from that battle were transferred to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
White was accounted for by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) on Jan. 29, 2020 after his remains were identified using dental, anthropological and mitochondrial DNA analysis and circumstantial evidence.
His name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Taguig City, Philippines, along with others still missing from World War II. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
A portion of the information provided by the United States military and Ewing-Schwarzel Funeral Home.
Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.