For 60 years, Artie Hodapp's family agonized over a heart-rending mystery: Where had the young man, known for his rollicking sense of humor, come to rest after dying in the Korean War? The answer was among 17 boxes of remains that the North Koreans turned over nearly two decades ago. More than half a century after he died in Korea, Hodapp's bones are returned after being matched with relatives' DNA. Hodapp's long journey home came to an end this week at a Catholic cemetery in northern Illinois, where he was buried with full military honors beneath a grave marker his sister bought despite not knowing where he was. That sister is now 88, and one of few family members who lived to learn Hodapp’s fate.
Through a review of Army reports and the memories of a fellow POW tracked down in New Jersey, the AP was able to reconstruct the conditions under which the Arthur Leon Aloysius Hodapp starved to death in or near a prisoner of war camp. Dysentery, beri beri and other diseases ravaged the men. What little food they did get was sorghum that cooked into paste; some just let themselves die. Many soldiers would smoke marijuana to help get food down, but Hodapp was not one of those. The drug grew wild near the camps and many prisoners smoked it, historians say. "We weren't raised that way, and he would have just thought, that's not right," his sister said. (Read more Korean War stories.)