Services set for St. Landry WWII soldier who was recently identified.
The public is invited to pay tribute to a fallen World War II soldier from St. Landry Parish, whose remains were identified nearly 80 years after his death.
23-year-old Army Pvt. Hillary Soileau went missing during a mission to clear Guadalcanal of Japanese forces in January 1943. He was declared killed in action in December 1945.
Soileau’s remains were identified in 2020, following a forensics investigation by The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).
“It’s a supreme honor to be a part of bringing someone home who has been missing for 80 years,” said Pvt. Soileau’s nephew Greg Badeaux, who is working with the agency and the military to organize his uncle’s final arrangements. “It’s amazing the attention to detail the Department of Army and the DPAA are putting forward to make this an honorable event.”
Badeaux’s mother is Soileau’s only living sibling. She was contacted by the DPAA in 2018 to provide a DNA sample as the agency investigated the identity of a soldier known as “Unkown X-52,” whose remains were uncovered in Guadalcanal in 1943. The DNA was a match.
“It was very emotional for her,” said Badeaux. “She remembered being nine or ten years old and Hillary leaving for war hugging everybody and everybody crying. And unfortunately, that was the last time they actually saw him.”
Badeaux says the family decided to bring Pvt. Soileau home to St. Landry Parish. He’ll be laid to rest next month in Cedar Hill Cemetery in the town of Washington. It’s also the resting place of Soileau’s parents, who died never knowing what happened to their son.
“There are no emotions to describe what they would be going through right now, if they had the opportunity to see this come to fruition,” said Badeaux.
Funeral Services will be held on May 21, 2022, at Sibille Funeral Home, located at 2309 George Drive in Opelousas. Visitation for the family will start at 8:30 am, with the public invited to attend at 9:00 am. Rosary will begin at 10:45 am followed by Chapel services at 11:00 am. A procession will begin around 11:30 am and will conclude with the Burial and Gravesite honors at Cedar Hill Cemetery, located at 702 Cedar Hill Rd., in Washington.
Below is Pvt. Soileau’s full obituary:
Pvt. HILLARY SOILEAU
WWII – X-52
Born Feb. 26, 1919 - KIA Jan. 14, 1943
Identified: Dec.8, 2020 Buried: May 21, 2022
Hillary Soileau was born, February 26, 1919, to Odey and Leona Soileau of Bunkie, La. Later the family moved to Whiteville, La., where at age 22, Feb 14, 1942, only 12 days shy of turning 23, Hillary would be called to war in the Pacific. Pvt. Soileau was a member of Company F, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division when American forces went on the offensive to clear Guadalcanal of Japanese forces. On January 10, 1943, troops began their attack on “Galloping Horse”, an enemy stronghold in which troops incurred heavy fighting, resulting in many casualties. Pvt. Soileau was never seen again and was assumed missing in action. This was the last the family would hear from their son.
On Feb 22, 1943, the remains of two soldiers were found on the battlefield and buried at the Army, Navy, and Marine Cemetery and classified as Unknown Soldiers X-50 and X-52.
In 1947 the remains of the soldiers were moved to Hawaii and on March 11, 1949, Unknown Soldier X-52, was interred at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
After many years, Historians and Anthropologists with the DPAA conducted a review of Unknown Soldier X-52 Guadalcanal and two potential missing soldiers recovered from Guadalcanal. The staff determined that the remains buried as Unknown Soldier X-52 were likely the remains of Pvt Soileau and recommended the disinterment of Unknown Soldier X-52 Guadalcanal.
In April of 2019, the DPAA exhumed the remains of Unknown Soldier X-52 Guadalcanal. Through exhaustive examination of Historical and Dental records, in addition to DNA testing from a sibling and maternal nephew, it was determined that the remains were that of Pvt. Hillary Soileau.
Pvt. Soileau’s arrival home was preceded in death by his father and mother, Odey and Leona Soileau and all but one sibling. Pvt. Soileau is survived by his sister, Mary Soileau Badeaux and many nieces and nephews. Mary’s last recollection of her brother was the day of his departure from home.
Funeral Services will be held on May 21, 2022, at Sibille Funeral Home, located at 2309 George Dr., Opelousas, La. Visitation for the family will start at 8:30 am, with the public invited to attend at 9:00 am. Rosary will begin at 10:45 am followed by Chapel services around 11:00 am. Procession will begin around 11:30 am and will conclude with the Burial and Gravesite honors at Cedar Hill Cemetery, located at 702 Cedar Hill Rd., in Washington, La. where Pvt. Hillary Soileau will be reunited with his father, mother, siblings, and friends.
We encourage all to come celebrate and pay tribute to a fallen soldier and welcome our family member home. UNTIL THEY ALL COME HOME