Black Knights welcome back WWII Airman during interment ceremony

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Maria Umanzor Guzman
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Two Airmen from the 19th Airlift Wing attended the interment ceremony of U.S. Army Air Forces Pfc. Glenn A. Harris in Bradley, California on Sept. 30, 2023.

Harris was a member of the Army Air Corps previously assigned to the 19th Bombardment Group, who was captured and died as a Prisoner of War during World War ll and was accounted for by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, July 7, 2023.

During the ceremony, Harris was buried in Pleyto Cemetery, a small cemetery where most of Harris’ family is buried. The Army Honor Guard performed full military honors and a 3-ship flyover was conducted by the Estrella Warbirds aircraft to honor his service. During the service, Harris was honored for his numerous sacrifices and was awarded several medals, including the Purple Heart Medal.

“Harris was finally identified through DNA 82 years later and brought back to his hometown of Bradley, California,” said Staff Sgt. Sean Stubbs, 19th AW Honor Guard noncommissioned officer in charge. “Harris’ family was finally able to find the closure that many of his immediate family was never able to see.”

Harris was a member of the 93rd Bombardment Squadron, which fell under the 19th BG.

“The 19th BG was redesignated as the 19th Air Refueling Wing in 1983 and deactivated in 1996, until being reactivated and redesignated as the 19th AW in 2008,” said Master Sgt. Keith Dengel, 61st Airlift Squadron interim senior enlisted leader. “He is a proud part of the heritage and lineage of the 19th AW.”

In April 1942, Harris was taken as a POW when the Japanese invaded the Philippines after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He was then forced to march the 65-mile Bataan Death March and died due to probable malaria in Cabanatuan POW Camp No. 1, where more than 2,500 POWs perished during the war.  Harris died July 26, 1942, and was buried along with other deceased prisoners in the local Cabanatuan Camp Cemetery in Common Grave 225. He was 26 years old.

“When Harris joined the military, he didn’t know he would be captured and endure such terrific events,” Stubbs said. “He didn’t know he would never see his family again, and yet he gave it his all, knowing he might not make it home. So many people today forget the sacrifices that were made in distant wars, and being able to physically be here today has a whole new meaning on freedom.”

As representatives of the 19th AW, Stubbs and Dengel described the ceremony as heart-moving and were able to obtain a few main takeaways from their experience.

"The experience to be part of Harris' history of returning home is an honorable feeling that I will hold in my heart forever," Stubbs said. "I can always look back on the legacy that Harris left behind and know that everything we do matters, no matter how big or small."

Harris will never be forgotten and will be remembered, of course, by his family and the Airmen of the 19th AW.

“It was evident how much Harris meant to his family and how grateful they were to finally answer the questions that have tormented them for over 80 years,” Dengel said. “To honor the courage and sacrifice of a brother in arms and finally return him to the soil he fought so hard to defend was an experience I will never forget.”