Friday, December 20, 2013
An Army sergeant who died as a prisoner of war in Korea nearly 63 years ago but whose remains were only recently identified was returned Friday to Los Angeles, where his remains were greeted by his 94-year-old widow and other relatives.
Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Gantt joined the Army in 1942 and served in the South Pacific during World War II. He met his wife, Clara, while traveling by train from Texas to Los Angeles, and they married in June 1948. They had no children.
Gantt was then deployed to Korea as a field medic and taken prisoner near Kunu-ri on Dec. 1, 1950. He was listed as missing in action/presumed dead for nearly 63 years. It was later determined that he died March 27, 1951, according to the USO.
His remains were flown to Los Angeles International Airport this morning from Honolulu -- the home of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and forensic labs.
Gantt's widow was on hand when the remains arrived around 5 a.m. aboard United Airlines flight 534. Airport Police and U.S. Army honor guards also greeted the plane, which was saluted with water cannon arches.
"I'm still his wife," Clara Gantt declared this morning as she stood on the tarmac alongside the aircraft, close to 65 years after she and Joseph Gantt last said goodbye. She recalled their final conversation. "He told me, if anything happened to him, he wanted me to re-marry." said Clara Gantt. She told her husband, "You had a hard time getting me to say yes." "He said, 'Well, you can't never tell,"' she said. "Here I am, still his wife and will remain his wife until the Lord calls me home." The flag-draped coffin was expected to be taken to Inglewood for burial.
Gantt was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star with Valor medal for his service. He has also received a host of other military honors, including a
World War II Victory Medal, Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge, National Defense Service Medal and Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation. In honor of Gantt, the LAX Gateway Pylons were illuminated red, white and blue Thursday night.