A New York soldier who was reported missing in the Pacific theater of World War II 70 years ago will be buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery after his remains were identified using DNA tests.
Army Pfc. Bernard Gavrin, of Brooklyn, was reported missing on July 7, 1944 while fighting on Saipan, in the Northern Mariana Islands of the western Pacific Ocean. His regiment had come under attack from the Japanese and suffered many casualties.
Gavrin was declared dead the following year, and his remains were deemed unrecoverable in 1948. However, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that excavations by a Japanese non-profit group last August had uncovered Gavrin's dog tags, as well as graves containing the remains of several American troops.
The paper reported that the dog tags bore Gavrin's home address, and listed his next-of-kin as his father, Max. The remains were turned over to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii for testing. Gavrin's identity was confirmed using a family member's DNA.
Gavrin's nephew, David Rogers, now 82, told the Associated Press he planned to be at the burial on Sept. 12. He said it was "absolutely incredible and unbelievable to all of us" that Gavrin would be laid to rest in "the most honorable place you could be buried in this country."
Rogers, whose mother was Gavrin's sister, said Gavrin was the youngest of three children and had enlisted in 1940. He said the last time he saw his uncle was when he was 8 years old. Rogers had injured himself, requiring stitches, and Gavrin went to his bedroom.
"He awakened me and kissed me on the forehead," Rogers recalled.
Gavrin's loss was shattering, Rogers said. When the telegram came and Gavrin's mother, Rogers' grandmother, opened it, "She let out a scream that lives with me to this day."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.