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Remains Of Korean War Soldier Finally Return Home To Southern California

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Army Cpl. Robert Witt (Photo courtesy of Robert Witt's family)
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The remains of a U.S. soldier who died during the Korean War have finally been returned to his family in Southern California.Almost 65 years after his death, the remains of Army Cpl. Robert Witt were recently identified and just last week returned to his last surviving family member, sister Laverne Minnick, reports the Long Beach Press-Telegram. Witt has been missing since the Korean War and following a lengthy recovery and identification process, his body was finally identified last month.

Witt grew up in Bellflower, attended high school in Norwalk and afterward enlisted in the Army in 1948 at the age of 18. Then in December 1950, while fighting with his battalion in North Korea during a particularly difficult battle near Chosin Reservoir, he was reported missing. But in 1953, U.S. officials established that Witt had died of malnutrition as a POW, sometime around 1951. However, Witt's remains were not among those returned to the U.S. by North Korea.

Witt's surviving sister, Minnick, now 82 and living in Huntington Beach, recalls the day when Army officials informed her family of her brother's death. "When I got up the next morning and looked at my dad, his hair was gray," Minnick told the Press-Telegram. "It was brown the day before. It seemed like his hair turned gray overnight." But Witt's remains were still missing.

Then from 1990 to 1994, North Korea began returning 208 boxes of unidentified human bones—mostly fragments—that were believed to be the remains of roughly 600 U.S. veterans. Documents included with the remains suggested that some were recovered near where Witt was believed to have died. And in 2000, an excavation near the village of Hweaong-Ri recovered more remains.

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The Pentagon's POW/MIA Accounting Agency then started the long process of trying to match the remains to missing soldiers using historical information and DNA samples—including those provided by Witt's family, reports the L.A. Times. The family received periodic updates on the project, but wasn't sure it would be successful in identifying Witt.

"I didn't think I would hear anything," Valerie Davis, Witt's niece, told the Press-Telegram. "My mom didn't think she would be alive to hear the news."

Then, last month, specialists identified two femurs that belonged to Witt and informed the family.

Last Friday, Witt was buried with full military honors at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier.

"He's going to be home, where he belongs, with his family," Minnick explained to the Press-Telegram.