WWII soldier from Centralia laid to rest at last

Remains of Centralian who died following the Bataan Death March return home


On Thursday, May 23, U.S. Army Sergeant George Frank Bishop, of Centralia, was buried with full military honors nearly 82 years after he died while being held captive in an Imperial Japanese Cabanatuan POW camp in the Philippines during World War II.

Approximately 100 people, including Bishop’s surviving family members, soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, members of the local Patriot Guard Riders, Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts and community members from throughout Lewis County attended Bishop’s burial at Claquato Cemetery in Chehalis.

Prior to finally returning home, Bishop was first buried in one of the POW camp’s mass graves. Following the end of World War II in 1947, the bodies in the mass graves were disinterred by the American Graves Registration Service in an attempt to identify prisoners’ remains, but Bishop was never identified.

His remains were left at the grave of the Unknowns at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines.

In 2018, renewed efforts by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) and scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA and y-chromosome DNA analysis to positively identify unknown remains.

The DPAA announced in a June 2023 news release — nearly 81 years after his death — that Bishop’s remains had finally been identified.

Stanley Yocom, of Chehalis, Bishop’s nephew, accepted his burial flag during Thursday’s funeral ceremony. He, along with his fellow family members in attendance, were relieved to finally have Bishop back home.

Having served in the U.S. Navy himself, Yocom was aboard the U.S.S. Winston Andromeda-class attack cargo ship just north of Manila Bay on Luzon in 1965.

“I spent a year in Subic Bay in the Philippines, and I didn’t even know he was there,” Yocom previously told The Chronicle.

Growing up, his mother would tell stories of his uncle who died during WWII, but all the family had left of Bishop before his remains were identified were a Christmas card and small Filipino doll he sent his sister in 1940. No photos of Bishop were found.

While the family did attempt to at least find a photo in the months leading up to his burial on Thursday, no images surfaced.

There was one couple who believed they might have found a photo of Bishop in a shadowbox they found in a Texas antique store and contacted the family.

While the shadowbox did contain medals belonging to a “George F. Bishop,” along with rank insignia and a photo of a soldier in uniform in front of a large grassy field, this soldier was one rank higher than Yocom’s uncle and also had several medals he never earned — including the WWII Philippine Liberation Medal, American Campaign Medal and Armed Forces Expeditionary Service Medal.

Bishop earned Bronze Star, Purple Heart, WWII Victory, Good Conduct, American Defense Service, Asiatic Pacific Campaign and the POW medals.

Bishop was born on Jan. 25, 1920, in Centralia to his parents Frank and Lucy. Bishop attended Centralia High School before enlisting in the Army in 1939.

After graduating basic training and getting stationed at Fort Lewis, he deployed and was attached to “K” Battery of the 59th Coast Artillery Regiment at Fort Mills on Corregidor Island, located at the entrance of Manila Bay on the Island of Luzon in the Philippines.   

There, he helped operate fixed seacoast 3-inch artillery guns facing Bataan to the north, along with 30-inch and 60-inch searchlights used to illuminate mine markers in Manila Bay.

On Dec. 22, 1941, Imperial Japanese forces invaded Luzon, and bitter fighting ensued over the next four months until Bataan fell on April 9, 1942, followed by the fall of Fort Mills and Corregidor Island less than a month later on May 6.

Bishop was officially listed as missing in action the following day. Along with his fellow American and Filipino soldiers, Bishop was forced on the infamous 65-mile Bataan Death March before being sent to the Cabanatuan POW Camp in central Luzon.

It wasn’t long before Bishop contracted diphtheria and dysentery and died in the prison camp’s hospital on July 28, 1942, at the age of 22. He was buried in Cabanatuan’s Common Grave 215.

According to prison hospital records accessed after the Cabanatuan POW Camp was liberated in early 1945, Bishop was one of 22 prisoners who died that day. More than 2,500 American prisoners died at Cabanatuan throughout WWII, and many still remain unidentified.

Bishop now lies in the west end of Claquato Cemetery.