Story County


Lt. Charles Henry O'Neil


Charles Henry O'Neil was born Dec. 14, 1918 to Patrick Henry and Gertrude Allen Cooper O’Neil. He died Sept. 7, 1944 and is buried in Ames Municipal Cemetery, Ames, IA.

Lt. O’Neil served in World War II with the U.S. Army Air Corps and fought with the First Provisional Air Regiment on Bataan after all of the planes were destroyed at Clark Field. He surrendered with the remaining U.S. forces on Apr. 9, 1924 and survived the Bataan Death March to Cabanatuan, Prison Camp No. 1. He was transferred to Prison Camp No. 2, near Davao and in Mar. 1944 was transferred to a work detail on a Japanese air field. In Aug. 1944 he and the other prisoners were loaded on to a Japanesse freighter and set sail. On Sept. 7, 1944, two torpedoes struck the vessel and it was later sunk and very few POWs survived. Lt. O’Neil was officially declared KIA and his parents received his Purple Heart.

According to testimony from surviving POWs, Charles never lost faith during his long interim as a POW and assisted Father Carberry at Mass and was a leader in building altars and places of worship in the prison camps. Charles established camaraderie with his fellow prisoners which helped many to survive the terrible conditions of the camps. Fellow POWs saw Charles as a beacon of hope in the bleak camps.