Bio: Schade, Lester A. - Capt. (Remains
Identification - 2015)
Contact: Robert Lipprandt
Surnames: Darcy, Maxwell, Schade, O’Brien
----Source: The Tribune - Phonograph (Abbotsford, WI) 5/27/2015
POW’s remains ID’d after 70 years - By Kevin O’Brien
The final months of Lester Schade’s life were likely some of the hardest he faced during his short time on Earth.
The 27-year old U.S. Marine had been taken prisoner of war (POW) by the Japanese during the invasion of the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines in May of 1942. Over the next two years, according to an Aug. 2, 1945 article in the Abbotsford Tribune, he spent time at two different POW camps in the Philippines.
As 1944 drew to a close and the end of the war neared, Capt. Schade was one of hundreds of POW’s brought aboard a shop called the Enoura Maru - referred to as a “hell ship” because of the horrid conditions and terrible treatment by crew members. He and his fellow soldiers were to be transported to Japan.
Like so many others of his generation, though, Schade never made it home. The town of Holton native was declared “lost at sea” after the Enoura Maru was bombed and later sank in Takao Harbor, Formosa, Jan. 9, 1945.
Now, more than 70 years later, a Virginia-based nonprofit organization says it has positively identified his remains as among those buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii, also known as the “Punchbowl” because of the volcanic crater it sits atop.
Officially, though, the headstone is still listed as “Unknown” with the grave number, 423, chiseled into the corner.
Ted Darcy, founder of the WFI Research Group, said his group’s finding will be presented to Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) which is in charge of returning the remains of fallen soldiers who died abroad. Darcy said he has also notified Schade’s next of kin so they can put pressure on their elected representatives. “The government is not just very responsive unless you have a congressman pushing for it,” he said.
Darcy, a retired Marine himself, said it’s the government’s responsibility - not the family’s - to pay for a reburial in the United States if that’s what the family wants.
Sadly, according to Darcy, Schade’s parents, Richard and Margaret Schade, could have brought their son home for a proper burial shortly after the war ended if it weren’t for the military’s reluctance to thoroughly sort through the POW’s who died on the Enoura Maru. “The family was lied to,” he said. “They were told the bodies were cremated. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Based on research Darcy has done, Schade’s remains were positively identified using dental records back in 1949. However, the agency in charge of making that determination did not accept the dental record evidence because the body was initially buried in a mass grave on the coast of Taiwan.
“There is no sound scientific basis that his case can be attested to as one individual considering the nature of burial in Formosa (Taiwan),” medical examiner Capt. John B. Maxwell wrote in a 1950 report. Darcy said it was easier just to write off Schade and the others who died aboard the ship as “unknowns.” “If they identify one, they have to identify them all, and they didn’t want to do that,” he said.
Darcy said Schade is one of 2,044 unknowns buried at the Punchbowl, and many of them are buried 20 to a gravesite.
Groups like Darcy’s push the federal government to set the record straight when it comes to the nation’s war dead, even if the means exhuming remains. “Just kicking somebody under the rug after they’ve died for their country is just not acceptable,” he says.
Schade’s surviving kin include his two nieces, Elaine Gosse of Abbotsford and Patty Bowen of Wausau, and a nephew, Wayne Schade of Austin, Texas. When reached by phone, both Bowne and Wayne Schade said they don’t recall their parents saying much about the uncle they lost during the war.
“I can’t remember them talking about it at all,” Bowen said. “I don’t have any memories of Lester.” Wayne said he knows there’s a headstone for his uncle in Abbotsford, but that’s about it. “We recognize the sacrifice he made, that’s for sure,” he said.
Fortunately, the archives of the Abbotsford Tribune are able to shed some light on the final years of his life, at least from the perspective of those waiting for news back in Wisconsin.
According to a Jan. 25, 1945, blurb, Lester’s parents had just recently receive three postcards from their son, which he wrote in May and July of 1944. “The cards were the first word received from him since last August when his parents received a card from him reporting he was in good health,” the newspaper reported.
It wasn’t until the Aug. 2, 1945, edition of the paper that Schade was officially reported lost at sea in a telegram sent to his parents by the Marine Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C. His parents had previously been informed of their son’s murky fate by a buddy of his who arrived in Japan and was able to send a letter though an “underground’ route.
Schade had been sending his parent updates on his condition every six months, using postcards provide by his captors. “The last of these form postcards, dated July 1944, furnished by the Japanese, came on Christmas of that year,” the newspaper said. “It stated that he was in excellent health and sent his regards.
Not knowing what lay ahead, the final words from the Wisconsin farm boy to his parents indicated “he was hopeful to see the war end and of returning home soon.”
Note: Previously transcribed biographical material related to Capt. Lester A. Schade, can be viewed at http://www.wiclarkcountyhistory.org/index/bios/Bio_S.htm
Previously transcribed obituaries related to Capt. Lester A. Schade, can be viewed at http://www.wiclarkcountyhistory.org/index/obits/Obit_SC.htm
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