FORT DRUM — After 77 years lost in a mass grave outside a prisoner of war camp, Sgt. Lawrence Hanscom has finally been brought back home.
Sgt. Hanscom served as a driver, squad leader and rifleman with E Company, 2nd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment during World War II. But before he could return home, he was captured.
Although he survived the Bataan Death March at the hands of the Japanese soldiers, he is believed to have died after falling ill in Cabanatuan Prison in the Philippines.
Sgt. Hanscom’s corpse was buried there in a mass grave with nine of his fellow Americans, 6,500 miles away from his hometown of Augusta, Maine. And there he remained. But now his remains have been positively identified with DNA testing and brought home to American soil.
On Oct. 23, soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team’s 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, honored Sgt. Hanscom with a repatriation ceremony at the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery in his hometown.
“When I think back on what must have been going on here in Augusta during the war, I imagine that his family knew something was amiss as the war in the Pacific wore on,” Lt. Col. Steve Wallace, 4-31 Infantry commander, said during the ceremony, as stated in a press release from the Fort Drum Public Affairs Office.
“The letters stopped, and the bad news from the Philippines dominated the headlines. I know when his memorial headstone was dedicated in the 1950s that some closure was achieved. But the Army never forgot. We kept looking, and now Sgt. Hanscom is home.”
Lt. Col. Wallace and Command Sgt. Maj. Gavin Holmes, 4-31 Infantry senior enlisted adviser, presented Sgt. Hanscom’s nephew, Dave Erickson, with his awards following the ceremony — the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart.
Before the casket was sealed for burial, Sgt. Maj. Holmes placed a regimental unit coin inside it.
Sgt. Hanscom’s niece, Lisa Erickson, said her family was honored to have members of 4-31 Infantry travel from Fort Drum for the ceremony and present their uncle’s service medals to his nephew.
“We were grateful for the history of the 31st Infantry Regiment that Lt. Col. Wallace and Sgt. Maj. Holmes were able to share with us,” she said, as stated in a press release.
“The dignity, care, respect and honor these gentlemen showed our family and, more importantly, a soldier who was lost 77 years ago, definitely demonstrates that they do not forget and they always take care of their own.”