June 17, 2018 10:37 PM
Ruth Santella of St. Paul hopes one day to get some answers about what happened to her 19-year-old brother who was reported killed in action during the Korean War in 1950.
He's one of about 7,700 members of the U.S. military whose remains haven't been returned since the fighting stopped in 1953. That includes about 140 Minnesotans still unaccounted for.
"They never sent any dog tags," Santella said of the U.S. Army. "I think that's what they're called, back to my mother, because they didn't have any. They sent nothing that proves his body was found."
The family received a letter about the fate of Private First Class George D'Amico of Cumberland, Wisconsin, on Oct. 3, 1950.
The letter said D'Amico was killed in action on Sept. 27, 1950, near Taejon, Korea, "while performing his duty as a bow-gunner on his tank." The tank hit a land mine and killed D'Amico instantly, according to the letter from the Army. That initial letter didn't say anything about his body or remains being returned to the family.
Now 68 years later President Trump made a request during the Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to get that nation's assistance in resuming a search for remains.
The D'Amico family still has no idea what became of George D'Amico's remains. A letter to the family from the Army dated Oct. 2, 1952, said many remains were buried in "temporary United Nations cemeteries established in Korea to receive these honored dead until the military situation would permit our forces to evacuate them to Japan."
However, at that time the Army said "a Report of Burial or other information pertaining to your son's remains has not been received in this office."
To this day, the military has never clarified what became of D'Amico's remains. Santella said it left her mother broken-hearted until her death a few years ago.
"She cried nearly every single day and I'd find her by her bed reading these letters," she said, referring to a stack of letters on her coffee table written home by George from Korea during his two months there before he was killed.
Many of the letters referred to how soldiers didn't have adequate supplies, including clothing and food. He said it was so bad some soldiers were killing themselves after going days without food or sleep.
Her mother also kept a letter from the military saying George D'Amico had been awarded the Purple Heart and that it would be sent to the family. It never arrived, according to the family.
Although Santella sees a glimmer of hope the search for remains will resume, she's also resigned to the fact it's unlikely they'll find her brother after so many years. The last time North Korea cooperated in a search between 1990 and 2006, only 229 sets of remains were returned until the U.S. backed out of the search after being unable to guarantee the safety of the search teams.
"I don't believe it," Santella said of the possible cooperation of the North Koreans again. "I don't think it's going to happen. I think it's just plainly a promise to get people all hyped up that things are going to be fine." However, for her late mother's sake she keeps at least a sliver of hope alive.
"Miracles...anything can happen," she said.
Updated: June 17, 2018 10:37 PM
Created: June 17, 2018 08:54 PM
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