WASHINGTON — Sixty-five years after his death in a North Korean prison camp, the remains of Cpl. George Paul Grifford were buried Monday in Arlington National Cemetery as family members solemnly welcomed him “home where he belongs.”
His niece, Toni Murphy, 72, remembered Grifford as a hilarious uncle and said she felt honored and overwhelmed by his return.
“It’s been a long journey for both of us,” Murphy said. “After all this time, I thought I was going to die just like my grandmother and mother and I would never be here for this. After 65 years, he’s home where he belongs.”
They finally were identified in November 2015 using “circumstantial evidence, dental analysis, and chest radiographs,” according to a DPAA release.
While serving with 37th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, in November 1950, Grifford, of Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, was captured by communist forces in the vicinity of Kunu-ri, North Korea, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. He died at age 18 in February 1951 while being held prisoner in North Korea.
Grifford’s remains were recovered in 1954 and sent to Japan for further processing under the terms of the armistice agreement between the United Nations, China and North Korea. His remains then were buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, better known as the “Punchbowl.”
A dozen of his family members and James Fernandez of the Michigan Veterans of Foreign Wars attended the burial.
More than 7,800 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War, according to the DPAA.