NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A WWII soldiers remains will return home to New Orleans next week, after nearly 70 years in an unmarked grave on a Pacific Island. Private Earl Keating died in 1942, and now the return of his remains brings his family closure.
"It was a fierce battle. The Japanese were using machetes to cut. Poor soul," says Keating's second cousin Sue du Treil.
du Treil tries to imagine the horrible last hours of her second cousins life. New Orleans native Private Earl Keating served in the 126th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Division. Japanese invaders killed him and other soldiers on December 5th 1942 on Papua, New Guinea.
"While he was training he met John Klopp who ended up going to New Guinea with him," said du Treil. They were wrapped in the same tarp and buried them in a shallow grave."
Keating's nephew du Treil Keating was a baby when his uncle died. He promised his dad would never stop trying to find his brother's remains were. Sue says the focus of du Treil's life was to bring his uncle home.
It was 2011 when a native found the dog tags and buttons that led to the primitive grave site.
"Most of his skull, arms and legs and most of his teeth,"said Sue explaining what was left in the grave.
DNA from Sue and other relatives proved it was Keating. She says Keating's mother wrote to the Army that before her son left she gave him a sheaffer pen. That pen was buried with Keating. He had held on to it until the end.
Some of Keating's remains were buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Klopps remains were laid to rest next to him, as they had been for 70 years. Sue and other family members were there. The majority of the remains of the New Orleans native, Jesuit and Delgado graduate will come home.
Earl Keating's remains will be buried in St. Joseph's Cemetery with full military honors. He will be in a family plot beside his mother and other relatives.
Sue du Treil feels a connection to this man, her grandfather's sisters son, whose life was cut short at the age of 28. He is family.
"I've never met him but if he walked in the door right now I would give him a big hug and kiss," she said. "He's a part of me."