Photos by Gale Mahan
By William Tauro
This past Saturday, the remains of Army Sergeant George Schipani were buried in Somerville after a memorial ceremony in his honor.
Army Sergeant George Schipani was killed in action in 1951 after becoming a Prisoner of War during the Korean War.
Schipani was the 70th person interred in the Cemetery, and the first burial from an active duty death since 1983.
Schipani’s remains arrived in Somerville last week and were process by his former home of Somerville.
For more than 30 years, the remains of an unknown American soldier were buried in the National Memorial of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, alongside other fallen soldiers. In January 2019, the remains were identified as Somerville resident George R. Schipani, and on June 15, he was finally returned home.
In March 1951, Schipani, a Sergeant in the United States Army, was killed in active duty in the Korean War after becoming a Prisoner of War. On June 15, 2019, his remains were returned to his hometown in a procession led by Massachusetts State Police and the Somerville Police Department. Sgt. Schipani was laid to rest at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Somerville this past Saturday, June 22.
Also in attendance at the services were Sgt. Shipani’s fellow solider and friend from Company K, Cliff Benoit, a resident of neighboring Cambridge. Benoit was a prisoner in Camp 5 (see details below) along with others from Sgt. Schipani’s unit. In all, half of the more than 3,500 soldiers held at Camp 5 were killed, including Sgt. Schipani. Benoit survived in Camp 5 for approximately two years before being rescued.
According to the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA):
Sgt. Schipani was a member of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division when his unit took part in the Battle of Unsan, North Korea. Early in the morning of Nov. 2, 1950, Schipani’s battalion was struck by enemy units of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces. After several days of intense fighting, survivors escaped to friendly lines. Schipani was reported missing in action as of Nov. 2, 1950.
At the end of the war, returning American prisoners stated that Schipani had been captured and marched to Pyoktong, Prisoner of War Camp 5, and died in February or March 1951.
In 1954, in what was known as Operation Glory, the U.S. Army was able to recover the remains of American soldiers from Korea. Remains that were unable to be identified were buried as Unknowns in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu, including a set of remains designated Unknown X-13448 Op Glory. In July 2018, DPAA disinterred Unknown X-13448 Op Glory from the Punchbowl, and sent the remains to the laboratory for analysis. In January 2019, the remains were identified as Sgt. George Schipani.
Sgt. Schipani is the 70th Somerville veteran to be interred in the cemetery, and the first burial as a result of death during active duty since 1983.
“It’s an honor to be a part of Sergeant Schipani’s final journey home to Somerville,” said Somerville Director of Veterans Affairs, Bryan Bishop. “His story is among countless others of America’s youth who answered the call to protect and defend democracy and freedom. We will always remember the sacrifice Sergeant Schipani and those who served with him made for our Country and we will never forget their bravery and devotion to duty.”
From the DPAA:
We are grateful to Department of Veterans Affairs for their partnership in this mission. Today, 7,662 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War. Using modern technology, identifications continue to be made from remains that were previously returned by North Korean officials or recovered from North Korea by American recovery teams. Schipani’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, along with the others who are missing from the Korean War. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.