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Published on February 25, 2024
After Eight Decades, WWII Soldiers Clifford Strickland and Robert Hurst Identified and Brought Home Through DNA TechnologySource: Unsplash/Lucas Sankey

After 82 long years, two families are finally able to passionately embrace closure as their loved ones, soldiers who had remained unidentified since World War II, are brought back home. The remains of Clifford Strickland and Robert Hurst, both soldiers from World War II, have been identified thanks to advances in DNA technology and persistent forensics work.

In a case that was almost written off as hopeless, the family of Clifford Strickland, who enlisted in the Army back in 1939, has been brought to a place of solace. According to 12News, his nephew Clark Baldwin said, "We're bringing him home. And that is so vitally important." Strickland, who served in the 803rd Engineers Battalion, was captured during the Bataan Death March in the Philippines and later died in captivity on July 29, 1942.

Similarly, the Hurst family of Vero Beach, Florida, has received the news they never thought they'd hear. WPTV anchor and Navy veteran Mike Trim interviewed the nephew of Army Private Robert Hurst, who said, "I said to myself, this will never come true in my lifetime." Hurst, who served in the 429th Signal Maintenance Company, also succumbed to the harsh conditions of a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in 1942.

Both families had to endure an intergenerational journey marked by uncertainty and hope. It was a long-standing mission that took unwavering dedication and collaboration with the Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA). As WPTV reported, the DPAA's senior historian Dr. Gregory Kupsky described the identification process as "like a needle in a haystack," or like trying to put together a "very problematic and incomplete puzzle."

The arrival of closure came when DNA matches were established linking the remains to their respective families. Around 72,000 American servicemen from World War II have been listed as unaccounted for, but thanks to the effort of the DPAA and advancements in forensic science, this number is gradually decreasing. Strickland's remains will be flown to Colorado for a burial with military honors, escorted by his great-nephew, who is now a captain in the Air Force, as per 12News. Likewise, Robert Hurst will be given full military honors at his burial in Winter Beach Cemetery in Vero Beach.

The DPAA continues to urge the loved ones of missing servicemembers to provide family reference DNA samples to assist with the identification process. This weekend, the agency is set to hold a family member update in Scottsdale to discuss the status of their loved ones, further detailed in a live stream accessible through the 12News website.