Friday, December 21, 2018

The Identification of Leo Duquette

1949 or early 1950.  Japan.  Leo Duquette (circled) of Toledo, Ohio, out on the town.
From this festive photo, fast-forward to October 1950.  As U.S. forces push northward to recapture territory lost during the opening weeks of the Korean War, graves registration teams revisit those battle sites in search of remains.  Many sites hosted multiple sets of remains, sometimes buried, and sometimes not.  Identification of individuals was not always possible.

Search teams active to the south of Chonui found pretty much what they expected.  On July 11, 1950, the 21st Infantry Regiment's third battalion was ordered to stand fast on a ridge line that straddled the road south to Choch'iwon. It was there in October that graves registration found the remains of 164 Americans.  Time and the elements compromised much of the material that would aid in identification.  Persons who could not be identified with technologies prevailing at that time were assigned an inventory number.  Among these was X-132, who was buried as an unknown at the National Cemetery of the Pacific, better known to some as "The Punchbowl."  Officially, Leo would remain "missing in action."

Fast forward again 67 years, almost to the day.  The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency is working round-the-clock to examine disinterred remains of U.S. servicemen retrieved from the battlefields of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.  On October 16, 2017, the DPAA completed its DNA analysis to determine that X-132 was PFC Leo Duquette of L Company, 21st I/R.  Like PVT Philip Thomas Hughes, Leo enlisted in the Army as a 17-year-old kid. In July 1950, at age 19, Leo and much of his battalion were surrounded by superior numbers of North Korean forces. Few of the Americans made it out alive. Leo was the son of Lucien, a carpenter, and his wife Corrine.  Both parents have long since passed away without knowing the fate of their son.

Leo is survived by some younger siblings. In November 2018, Leo's siblings received his remains for interment in northwest Ohio.

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