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Japanese researchers help bring American fallen WWII soldiers home
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Japanese researches are spending time combing through archives in the basement of the New York State Military Museum in a race against the clock.
Representatives from Kuentai-USA say condominiums are set to be built at a location in Saipan where more than a dozen fallen soldiers are believed to be buried.
The U.S. Army's 27th Infantry, a former New York National Guard unit, landed on Saipan back in July of 1944. More than 400 men were then killed making it one of the deadliest attacks in the Pacific during World War II.
"Just think about it; If you find some remains in your backyard, or in your garden at home, can you just leave it like that and don't do anything?" Kuentai-USA Chairman Usan Kurata said through his translator Yukari Akatsuka.
Kurata has spent the last nine years searching through archives while his team from Kuentai-USA has been sifting through dirt. Their job is to find the remains of fallen soldiers in the Pacific and bring them home for a proper burial.
Kurata and other researchers have determined that the remains of 16 soldiers, who are still considered missing-in-action, are buried on the small section of island where the condos are set to be built in the fall.
In the past three years at least five sets of remains have been unearthed, four of which have been positively identified with the help of dog tags and DNA.
But Kurata, who hails from Japan, says speaking with surviving family members, who are American, is one of the hardest parts.
"At first he was really nervous because family might tell him that, 'You guys, [the] Japanese, killed our father and our uncles,' and might have that kind of objection from people," Kurata said through his translator. "So he was really nervous about that in the beginning. But it wasn't like that at all."
In fact, Kurata says all of the families he has worked with are really happy to get his call. Now those families, along with more than a dozen others, are waiting for their loved ones to come back home.
Kuentai-USA works closely with historic preservationists in Saipan when they are on their digs and these excavations cost a lot of money.
For more information on how to donate to this group and even assist in the search go to www.kuentai-usa.com.