SARVER (KDKA) — A soldier from Butler County killed in the Korean War is finally back home.
It took more than 60 years to return his remains, but it’s happened thanks to the dedication of the soldier’s nephew and DNA technology.
Cpl. James T. “Tommy” Mainhart was just 19 when he died in 1950.
Tom Mainhart, of Summit Township, never knew his uncle, who died six years before he was even born. But he was named after him, and he decided to make it his mission to take up his grandmother’s dream.
“I was pretty close to my grandmother, and she always was wishing they could have brought his remains home,” said Mainhart. “She was pretty heartbroken over it.”
Cpl. Mainhart died in one of the Korean War’s most decisive battles: The Battle of Chosin Reservoir. It was brutally cold, and U.S. troops were vastly outnumbered.
“They couldn’t get the dead out,” said Tom. “If the wounded couldn’t walk, they couldn’t get them out.”
Cpl. Mainhart was listed as missing in action and later declared dead.
Once the Army began using DNA to identify remains, Tom’s dad gave a DNA sample in 1999, but they heard nothing.
Tom gave a DNA sample in 2006. Still, nothing.
Tom had given up hope, but this past December, the phone rang: “‘Is James T. Mainhart your uncle?’ And I said yes. ‘Well, we have a positive identification. His remains are in Honolulu.'” recounts Tom.
He couldn’t believe it.
“I was flabbergasted. I was floored. I had to have them repeat it, because I couldn’t believe what he was telling me,” Tom said.
Tom’s uncle’s remains had been flown to Hawaii and eventually were identified using DNA.
They recently arrived in Pittsburgh, and are now at a funeral home in Butler. A homecoming 67 years late, but possible thanks to a nephew who was determined bring his uncle home.
“I’m just glad I could do it. I’m happy. I mean I didn’t think it was ever going to happen,” Tom said.
The family will hold a memorial service Saturday, and then Cpl. Mainhart will be laid to rest at a cemetery in Sarver.