Pvt. Overbey finishes final campaign, laid to rest at Mountain Home VA

Published 9:16 am Monday, July 18, 2016

Star Photo/Curtis Curtis Carden Family of Overbey share a moment with a member of the military after being presented with a Purple Heart in honor of the World War II veteran.

Star Photo/Curtis Curtis Carden
Family of Overbey share a moment with a member of the military after being presented with a Purple Heart in honor of the World War II veteran.

Much like the hero’s welcome earlier this week, World War II veteran Pvt. Evans E. Overbey was laid to rest with overwhelming support from the region on Friday.
Overbey, who returned to the area Tuesday after his remains were recovered over in the Pacific, was finally laid to rest at Mountain Home National Cemetery in Johnson City, where hundreds of citizens, law enforcement, military personnel, and government agencies were on hand to pay tribute to the fallen hero. This week marked the first time in nearly 75 years that Overbey returned to Tennessee.
“I just want to thank God for him being home,” said Rusty Wishon, pastor of Fishery Community Church in Unicoi County, during the ceremony prior to burial. “I also want to thank him to allow Mr. Overbey to have the proper ceremony and proper burial.”
Evans is the son of William and Mary Overbey from Elizabethton and was born in 1917 in Virginia. He enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps in Roanoke, Va., in 1941, at the age of 24 years old, according to reports.
Wishon, who opened the ceremony, went on to describe Overbey’s journey in the Pacific. In his mid-20s, Evans was assigned to the 93rd Bomb Squadron, 19th Bomb Group (Heavy), Far East Air Force at the Clark Army Airfield in the Philippines.
In the obituary provided by Valley Funeral Home in Erwin, where Evans’ first ceremony was held on Thursday behind the efforts of Michael Peterson, it documents the journey taken by the veteran.
“As the Japanese Navy and Air Forces were attacking us at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, the Japanese were also set to invade the Philippines. The next day on 8 December, many of the 93rd’s B-17 Flying Fortresses were destroyed on the ground during an air raid at Clark Field and many men were killed and more wounded. The survivors and surviving aircraft engaged the Japanese from Clark Field and secondary airfields until the situation became untenable and the order to withdraw to Australia was received. After launching the aircraft with air and needed ground crews, Evans along with the rest of the support and ground echelon fought as infantry for the remaining portion of what is now known as the Battle of Bataan.
They fought valiantly, but with diminished food rations, supplies, troops and the wounded they carried, the Defenders of Clark and Luzon made their way to the Bataan Peninsula, our last bastion on Luzon Island. They and the island were officially surrendered to the Imperial Japanese Army on 9 April 1942. Evans along with the other approximately 75,000 Defenders of which 10,000 were Americans were now going to be subjected to an even more grueling endeavor, the Bataan Death March. This 65 mile forced march in intense heat with very little to no food or water saw thousands more die or were killed making their way to Camp O’Donnell near Capas, Tarlac Province. Camp O’Donnell was a United States Army Training camp prior to being turned into a Prisoner of War (POW) Camp by the Japanese Army. Evans survived the march and was officially reported as a POW by the Japanese on 7 May 1942.
On 26 May, as Camp O’Donnell was filled with Americans and Filipinos, the Japanese moved Evans along with the other American POWs to Camp Cabanatuan near the village of Cebu in the Nueva Ecija Province. This prison camp was divided into three separate sites numbered 1, 2 & 3. These sites were deplorable and more than 2,800 POWs perished in them during the war. On 19 & 20 November 1942, 14 Americans including Evans, were reported to have died during this 24 hour day period at Site #1 Hospital and were buried in Common Grave 717 at Camp Cabanatuan Cemetery #3. Evans had been in the hands of the enemy for 196 days when he died on 19 November, he was 25 years old.
After the war, Grave 717 was opened and four of the 14 commingled sets of remains were identified and returned to the United States for burial by their families. While the prisoners had kept meticulous records of burials and they knew who was buried in each common grave, United States Army Graves Registration personnel were unable to individually identify those remaining 10, they were later interred in individual graves at the Manila American Cemetery and listed on the Tablets of the Missing. Evans remains then known as Unknown X-824 were interred in Plot N, Row 11, Site 190 with a marker that read, “Here Rests In Honored Glory A Comrade In Arms Known But To God. He had previously been known as C-284 when exhumed at Cabanatuan and moved to the U.S. Army Air Forces Manila #2 Cemetery and later as X-4854 when placed into the Manila Mausoleum at Nichols Army Airfield just south of Manila to await the establishment of the permanent American cemetery.”
Overbey was just one of thousands worth of POWs that lost their lives overseas.
“We need to honor our veterans,” Wishon said. “We need to honor (Evans’) sacrifice and remember the 9,200 American soldiers, sailors, marines … all of the ones that haven’t made it home and the 1.1 million that died.”
Members of the state government, including Rep. Phil Roe, Rep. Timothy Hill, Sen. Rusty Crowe, and Department of Veterans Services Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder each took time out to provide the family with accolades and shared remarks in honor of Overbey’s service.
For his service, Overbey was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Prisoner of War, American Defense Service with Foreign Service Clasp, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign with one Bronze Service Star and the WWII Victory Medals. Evans also received a Presidential Unit Citation with two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, the Philippine Defense Ribbon with Bronze Star and the Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation.

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