Missing POW remains return to Ottumwa

·2 min read

May 26—OTTUMWA — Remains from a former corporal in the U.S. Army are being returned to Ottumwa, over 70 years after he died.

The remains of Ottumwa native Delbert L. White, who was captured and held as a prisoner of war during the Korean War, will return to Ottumwa for a funeral June 16 at 10 a.m. at Reece Funeral Home, followed by burial in the Calvary Cemetery in Ottumwa.

Ottumwa City Council member Doug McAntire announced the upcoming funeral during the council's May 16 meeting. White's remains were accounted for last September.

"I have the honor to co-officiate that funeral," said McAntire, who is a chaplain for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. "I think it's important to support a cause like this, because this doesn't happen every day.

"To be missing for 72 years and find that the remains are from right here in Ottumwa, it's pretty special."

White was 20 years old when he was captured, and he was part of the 2nd Infantry Division. According to his personnel file from the U.S. Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, White was part of a group that advanced within 60 miles of the North Korea-China border, but was counterattacked by 300,000 Chinese Communist Forces soldiers.

The 2nd Infantry Division was then told to withdraw, but suffered heavy losses in action. White and others were captured by enemy forces Dec. 1, and were marched toward POW Camp No. 5 in North Korea where he died of malnutrition March 18, 1951.

Initially, during Operation Glory in 1954, which marked the postwar exchange of casualties, 550 sets of remains from the camp were returned, but White's were among the 38 sets that went unidentified and were buried as "unknowns."

However in October 2019, as part of an exhumation project of White's camp, one set of remains was found and sent to DPAA for study. It was determined through dental and anthropological analysis, chest radiograph comparison and circumstantial evidence that the remains were White's.

Because he could not be identified initially, White was already memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1956.

A rosette will be placed next to his name at that site to indicate he has been accounted for. According to list of Korean War MIA's published in the Des Moines Register in 1953, White's was listed as "the son of Mrs. Darlene Edith White, Belknap."