View Full Version : At last, his brother is home from the war

04-21-06, 11:59 AM
Last update: April 20, 2006 – 10:29 PM
At last, his brother is home from the war
Staff Sgt. Walter Knudsen's remains were found 58 years after his plane was lost in New Guinea.

Chuck Haga, Star Tribune
Harold Knudsen, 85, of Park Rapids, Minn., hasn't seen his brother in more than 60 years, but he is in Iowa today to be close to him once more.

Walter Knudsen joined the Army Air Forces during World War II and served as a gunner on a B-24 Liberator. Harold, three years older, served in the Marines as an aircraft welder.

Harold came home. Walter didn't.

"All we heard was that his plane had taken off and never returned," Harold said. "It was lost over the jungle" on Oct. 9, 1944.

In 2002, a New Guinea villager walking through the thick foliage of the rain forest found a set of dog tags. They were Walter's. The villager took the tags to officials in Port Moresby, who contacted U.S. authorities.

An MIA recovery team based in Hawaii searched the site, 11 miles southwest of Lae, New Guinea, in 2003. They eventually found the buried wreckage, recovered the remains and began trying to identify them.

Harold Knudsen provided a blood sample, and DNA testing proved that one set of remains was his brother.

Walter will be buried Saturday in Memorial Park Cemetery in Sioux City, near his parents.

"It's unbelievable -- 62 years," said Terri Knudsen, Harold's daughter, who with the help of the Iowa National Guard arranged for Saturday's memorial service and burial. "We're so blessed to have him returned to us."

She watched at the Omaha airport Tuesday as her uncle's flag-draped casket was delivered from Hawaii, accompanied by a military escort. "They stay with it 24 hours a day until he's buried," she said.

Her father wasn't there. "He said he couldn't handle it emotionally," she said.

Harold went to the cemetery Wednesday to let his parents know that Walter was coming.

"It's a great relief to have a loved one returned to our home," he said.

Harold moved to Park Rapids in 1970 and opened a laundry in the northern Minnesota town. He retired in 1985 but continues to live there.

Terri Knudsen, 57, lives in Maryland. She was born nearly five years after her uncle died.

"I never met him, but boy, did I hear incredible stories about the man," she said. "He was so young, just 21. And look at the amount of responsibility he had at 19 and 20, when he was promoted to staff sergeant and was training gunners."

The brothers were close, she said. "They shared a bedroom, and they did everything together. They helped support the family during the Depression, delivering papers."

"My uncle had wavy blond hair and was Hollywood handsome," Terri Knudsen said. "His crewmates on the B-24 called him 'Daisy.' " Chuck Haga • 612-673-4514