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WWII soldier to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery after 78 years

Flags stand vigil at gravesites in Arlington National Cemetery. (Adam Skoczylas/U.S. Army)

A Central New York soldier, whose remains were identified more than 75 years after World War II, will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

WKTV reports Army First Lt. Myles W. Esmay, of Utica, N.Y., will be buried in the Arlington, Virginia, cemetery on Aug. 1. The infantry engineer was reportedly 27 years old when he was killed in Burma (now Myanmar) on June 7, 1944, while serving with Company B, 236th Engineer Combat Battalion, reinforcing the 5307th Composite Unit — also known as Merrill’s Marauders.

According to Nexstar Media, Esmay was leading his company battalion in action against the Japanese at Namkwi village when he died instantly from a Japanese hand grenade explosion during the third and final day of fighting. His remains were not identified and buried at the U.S. Military Cemetery at Myitkyina, along with other unidentified soldiers, before being disinterred in 1946 and transferred to the U.S. Military Cemetery at Kalaikunda, India, before an exhumation in 1947.

The Rome Sentinel reports one set of remains, designated Unknown X-64 Kalaikunda, was moved to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu, in March 1949. In 2019, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency disinterred the remains and transferred them to a DPAA laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

Scientists used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence and mitochondrial DNA analysis, to determine the identity of the WWII serviceman. The DPAA announced in February that the remains had been identified on May 25, 2021, as Esmay.

Esmay, who was born in Utica in 1917, attended Utica Free Academy and graduated with honors from The New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University — today known as the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, or SUNY-ESF — in 1940. He enlisted in the U.S. Army months later, becoming the first person from Utica to be accepted into the Air Cadet Program.

According to The Observer Dispatch, Esmay was living in Warrensburg, N.Y., when he registered for the draft in 1940; his enlistment record in 1941 listed his occupation as actor and his residence as Oneida. He was listed as single with no dependents — his father was his only next-of-kin — but a 1944 Acacia Triad article said he was married to Mary Ellen O’Hanlon at the time of his death.

According to the DPAA, First Lieutenant Esmay’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery in Taguig City, Philippines. The Rome Sentinel reports a rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.


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