MADISON, Wis. — A Wisconsin National Guard Soldier was buried in his final resting place Saturday, Nov. 9 in Beloit more than 75 years after his death in New Guinea during World War II.
Army Sgt. Robert W. McCarville of Beloit, Wisconsin, was a member of the 32nd Infantry Division’s Company L, 128th Infantry Regiment when he was killed Dec 5, 1942 during the Battle of Buna.
McCarville’s remains since 1947 rested unknown at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines. The military recently identified him and his family requested that he be buried at the site of his memorial grave located next to his parents at Beloit’s Mt. Thabor Cemetery.
"It will be nice to have him home buried next to his parents instead of just a memorial grave,” said Monica Partlow, who is the eldest of McCarville’s four living siblings.
Born in 1918 in Burlington, Wisconsin, McCarville was the oldest of 13 children. He graduated in 1938 from Beloit Memorial High School. He enlisted in the summer of 1940 as a private in the Wisconsin National Guard with Beloit’s Company L, 128th Infantry, 32nd Infantry Division. The unit departed Beloit in October 1940 for a year of training in Louisiana to increase military readiness of the U.S. Army.
McCarville trained with the 128th Infantry in Louisiana and was with the unit when the 32nd Infantry Division deployed to Australia in July 1942. He had been promoted by this time to sergeant. Gen. Douglas MacArthur ordered the 32nd to the New Guinea jungle in November 1942 to halt the Japanese approach to Australia.
His remains were hastily buried on the battlefield and they could not be positively identified when he was reburied in early 1943 at a small nearby cemetery at Cape Endaiadere. McCarville’s remains were designated “Unknown X-35” when he was reinterred in 1947 in the Philippines at the Manila American Cemetery. The family in 1960 placed a memorial grave stone for him in Beloit.
McCarville’s remains were exhumed Nov. 4, 2016 and sent to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency for identification using mitochondrial DNA technology and other procedures. The agency sought out McCarville’s relatives to provide DNA samples to assist the investigation.
McCarville was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and a number of other awards according to Tom Partlow, who is McCarville’s nephew.
“He was in ROTC while in high school,” Partlow said. “He had a tremendous sense of service to others according to the stories my family has told me.”
McCarville’s funeral was conducted with full military honors. Brig. Gen. Joane Mathews, Wisconsin’s deputy adjutant general for Army, presented McCarville’s awards to the family during a Nov. 8 memorial service and on the next day at the graveside service presented the U.S. flag to Monica Partlow on behalf of the entire Wisconsin National Guard.
“It was such an overwhelmingly honor to be able to present the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and finally the U.S. flag to Sgt. McCarville's 96-year-old sister,” said Mathews. “I was able to spend several minutes with her on Friday and Saturday and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to her stories of her and her brother growing up.”
McCarville’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery along with other Soldiers designated Missing in Action from WWII. A rosette will be carved next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
McCarville is the second WWII-era Wisconsin National Guard Soldier to be identified and returned to Wisconsin in recent months. Army Tech 5 John E. Bainbridge was buried Sept. 29, 2019 in Monana. He was killed Dec. 2, 1942 during the Battle of Buna. At least 39 Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers remain Missing in Action from World War II. Most were with the 32nd Infantry Division or Company A, 192nd Tank Battalion, a Janesville unit that fought in the Philippines at the Battle of Bataan and endured the Bataan Death March.
The 32nd “Red Arrow” Infantry Division was formed on July 18, 1917 for World War I from the Wisconsin and Michigan National Guard. The Red Arrow reorganized after the war in the National Guard of both states and entered active service in 1940 to improve national military readiness during the opening years of WWII. The Battle of Buna lasted from Nov. 16, 1942 to Jan. 23, 1943 and was the 32nd’s first WWII battle. Its 654 days of combat in New Guinea and the Philippines were the most combat days of any American division during the war.