NEW YORK, July 31 (UPI) — A U.S. Army private from New York who died in a Korean War POW camp 60 years ago has finally returned home, his family said.
The remains of Pvt. John Lavelle, of Brooklyn, New York, reached Kennedy Airport Saturday, the New York Daily News reported.
“It was unbelievable,” said Lavelle’s niece, Mary O’Brien. “There wasn’t a dry eye.”
Lavelle was 24 when he was captured in December 1950 by enemy forces near Kuni-ri, a town in what is now in North Korea. He died of what is believed to be malnutrition in a Chinese POW camp in 1951.
His remains were turned over to U.S. officials in 1954, but the Army couldn’t positively identify them. They were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii as unknown.
The remains were exhumed a year ago when Army researchers found evidence suggesting the remains were Lavelle’s. The identification was made possible by dental records.
The remains arrived in New York in a wooden casket draped by an American flag. A Port Authority fire truck sprayed water over the plane as it taxied down the runway before members of an Army honor guard removed the casket to a waiting hearse.
Gloria Webber, Lavelle’s sister, said the return of her brother’s remains have finally brought her family “closure.”
“We’re so happy to see that he’s back [home],” said Webber, 81. “We’re nice and relaxed. There’s no more worrying.”
Lavelle will be buried in Calverton National Cemetery in Long Island Monday.