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Editor and Contributing Writer

Photograph: Freddie Herpin

U.S. Army Private Hillary Soileau returned to St. Landry Parish for the first time in 79 years Tuesday accompanied by a Louisiana State Police and St. Landry Parish Sheriff Department motorcycle escort.The Whiteville-area soldier missing in combat since 1943, arrived in Opelousas where an honor guard at Sibille Funeral Home removed his remains which will be prepared for a noon burial service with full military honors Saturday at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Washington.

Also following the escort from New Orleans where Soileau arrived on a commercial flight from Hawaii were his nephew Gregory Badeaux and great nephew Marine Captain Joseph Soileau.

Nephew Gregory Badeaux and Great Nephew Marine Captain Joseph Soileau of U.S. Army Private Hillary Soileau. (Photograph by Bobby Ardoin)

Gregory Badeaux, whose mother Mary Soileau is the remaining sibling of Hillary Soileau, who grew up in the Whiteville area with seven other children of Odey and Leona Soileau. Hillary Soileau was born in Bunkie, but Gregory Badeaux said Hillary Soileau moved to Whiteville with the family before Soileau left for the Army in 1942,

Joseph Soileau, currently stationed at Camp LeJeune, N.C. is a 2003 graduate of Port Barre High School.

St. Landry Parish Sheriff Deputy David Doucet greats Marine Captain Joseph Soileau. Doucet rode into Opelousas with the state police honor guard. (Photograph by Bobby Ardoin.)

The Hillary Soileau Story
Soileau’s military story is complicated and unique and after extensive testing by military analysis his remains were finally identified with certainty in 2020.

Military records indicate that Soileau was apparently killed in action on Jan. 14, 1943, after he went missing as his 27th Infantry Division unit were engaged with Japanese forces on Guadalcanal.

Soileau and other members of his division had contact with the Japanese on a series of hills called Galloping Horse. After action with the enemy ceased, Soileau and another member of the 27th Infantry could not be located. Soiled was declared missing in action by the Army on Feb. 3, 1943 at 23 and declared killed in action on Dec. 13, 1945.

Records obtained by the military indicate that two bodies near the head of the Galloping Horses hill complex were located by other soldiers on Feb. 22, 1943, but those remains were not identified.

Soileau and another solider were buried later at the Army, Navy and Marine Cemetery on Guadalcanal and then disinterred about three years later and their remains transferred to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

Making the Identification Military officials suspected that Soileau was one of the two unidentified soldiers found on Guadalcanal in 1943 and in 2019 efforts were made to make a positive identification.

In April, 2019, Boileau’s remains were exhumed in Hawaii and brought to laboratory at the Defense POW/MIA Laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, Hawaii for further testing.

Bateaux said DNA samples provided by him and his mother were obtained by military officials in 2019 and used to help determine the identity of Hillary Soileau.

Military records show that Soileau was accounted for on Dec. 8, 2020, using circumstantial evidence, as well as dental, anthropological and DNA.

Subsequently Soileau’s name received a rosette on the Wall of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines following the positive identification.   

Bertha Reed, Carla Schultz, JoAnn Caillouet discuss the military honor guard with Gregory Badeaux and Joseph Soileau. (Photograph by Bobby Ardoin.)