LOS ANGELES (AP) — Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph E. Gantt went off to war 63 years ago, leaving behind a wife who never gave up on his return.
On Friday, 94-year-old Clara Gantt stood up from her wheelchair and wept in the cold before the flag-draped casket.
Sgt. Gantt was finally home.
“He told me if anything happened to him he wanted me to remarry. I told him no, no. Here I am, still his wife,” she told reporters at Los Angeles International Airport, where his remains were carried from a jetliner by military honor guard.
Gant was a field medic who went missing in action on Nov. 30, 1950 during the Korean War while serving with Battery C, 503rd Field Artillery, 2nd Infantry Division, according to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office in Washington, D.C.
According to the office, elements of the 2nd Infantry Division were attacked by greater numbers of Chinese forces near the town of Kunu-ri, North Korea. The division disengaged and withdrew, fighting its way through a series of Chinese roadblocks. Numerous U.S. soldiers were reported missing that day in the vicinity of Somindong, North Korea.
After a 1953 exchange of prisoners of war, returning U.S. soldiers reported that Gantt had been injured in battle, captured by Chinese forces and died in a POW camp in early 1951 from malnutrition and lack of medical care. His remains were only recently identified. Information on when they were found was not immediately available from the missing personnel office.
Nearly 7,900 Americans are still unaccounted for from the Korean War. According to the Defense Department, modern technology allows identifications to continue to be made from remains turned over by North Korea or recovered from that nation by American teams.
“Sixty-some odd years and just receiving his remains, coming home, was a blessing and I am so happy that I was living to accept him,” Clara Gantt said.