CALUMET (AP) – More than six decades after Army Pfc. Arthur Leiviska died in a Korean prisoner of war camp, the soldier will be buried with full military honors on Memorial Day at a cemetery in his hometown in the Upper Peninsula.
Leiviska’s remains were among those of more than 4,200 dead soldiers that were returned in 1954, but his weren’t identified until 2010. His relatives were located and notified over the past few months, The Daily Mining Gazette in Houghton reported Saturday.
Leiviska was 18 when he was reported missing in action in 1951.
His remains will be buried in Calumet at Lake View Cemetery, where a marker remembering Leiviska is already placed.
“For a total of 61 years, our government has been working to recover his remains. PFC Leiviska was never forgotten,” said Sgt. Joseph Battisfore, who is coordinating full military honors for Leiviska. “It exemplifies how our country regards its veterans, especially those who have fallen.”
Leiviska was a member of L Company, 3rd Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. He was on patrol in the Central Corridor of the Republic of Korea in January 1951 when his division was ambushed by a large enemy force, according to a February 2011 report by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory.
Nineteen soldiers were killed, and the 18-year-old Leiviska was reported missing in action later that day.
Post-war interviews with other prisoners of war revealed that he’d died, possibly of malnutrition, at a POW camp complex in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The Army declared him dead as of April 30, 1951.
Leiviska’s remains were among of 4,219 handed over in 1954 to the United Nations Command. More than 400 could not be identified.
DNA from relatives helped eventually lead to Leiviska’s identification.
“We were pretty floored,” said Leiviska’s niece, Melissa Huuki. “My mom was hoping they’d find him someday. It’s good to have some closure.”
Huuki’s mother, Kathleen Basto, was Leiviska’s younger sister. Basto died several years ago. She was 6 when he joined the Army.
Battisfore will lead a planning meeting on April 26 at the Michigan Army National Guard Calumet Readiness Center to coordinate the Memorial Day ceremony.
“There wasn’t any one person or office that brought this into being,” Battisfore said. “It took a lot of people working together, from the former POW witnesses that reported Pfc. Leiviska’s death in a prison camp, to diplomats who worked with the North Korean government to recover remains, to the laboratories, scientists and doctors that identified his remains, to his family who participated in a DNA database to the U.S. taxpayer who made it possible.
“As an American, I guess I expect that, but it is inspiring to see it firsthand and it makes me even more proud of my country.”
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