LOS ANGELES – Sixty-three years after Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph E. Gantt went missing in action during the Korean War, his remains were returned to his 94-year-old widow in a solemn pre-dawn ceremony Friday at Los Angeles International Airport.
Clara Gantt wept as she stood in the cold before the flag-draped casket that was carried from a jetliner by a military honor guard.
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.
Joseph Gantt was reported missing in action Nov. 30, 1950, while serving with Battery C, 503rd Field Artillery, 2nd Infantry Division, according to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office in Washington.
According to the office, elements of the 2nd Infantry Division were attacked by 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 from malnutrition and lack of medical care in a POW camp in early 1951. His remains were only recently identified.
Information on when they were found was not immediately available from the missing personnel office.
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.
Burial with full military honors is scheduled for Dec. 28 in Inglewood, Calif.
Gantt was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor, a Purple Heart and other honors.