A U.S. Army soldier from San Francisco who died more than 60 years ago at a Korean War prison camp was buried full military honors Thursday near San Francisco.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Steinberg was buried in the same plot as his brothers at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno. His remains were returned Tuesday to his family in the San Francisco Bay Area, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Steinberg’s remains were among those of hundreds of U.S. service members that were turned over by North Korea in the early 1990s.
In 2006, the Defense Department asked relatives, including Steinberg’s, to provide blood samples to help identify the bodies, the Chronicle reported.
Steinberg’s family members were told earlier this year that mitochondrial DNA testing and dental records had led to a match.
“I hate to use the word closure, but I think this is it,” Baisa said. “He’ll be with his brothers now, and we won’t have to worry about where he is and what happened to him. Now we know the whole story.”
Steinberg’s family long knew he died of malnutrition at the prison camp through accounts from other service members. He was captured and taken prisoner after the Chinese Army attacked U.S. troops near Hoengsong, South Korea in February 1951.
Steinberg was marched to Suan Bean Camp in North Korea, where he died at age 31, according to the Chronicle.
He grew up in San Francisco’s Mission District before being drafted by the Army in World War II. He fought in the Philippines and New Guinea during that war. He rejoined the Army after struggling to find a job, Baisa said, and was posted in Japan before the Korean War broke out.
In a letter to a sister from Japan, he said he wanted to earn a pension so he didn’t have to worry about food and where to sleep, the Chronicle reported.
Shannon Sullivan, Steinberg’s great niece, told KTVU.com her relatives were shocked to learn that her uncle's remains had been positively identified earlier this year.
“It was eight years ago that they asked my father and my aunt for their DNA,” Sullivan said. “They didn’t hear from the government for eight years so when they did get the call back in May, they were stunned."
Sullivan told the station her family is grateful for the effort the government made in locating and identifying Steinberg’s remains.
"It’s been a great effort by our government to find people who have been lost like this," she said. "They are not forgotten in our hearts."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.