The last remains of one of America’s most decorated officers, Major General Harry Kleinbeck Pickett, who fought in both World War I and World War II, is being returned home to the United States for re-burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
The US Consulate General Kolkata stated in a release that Major General Pickett died in 1965 while visiting Darjeeling in West Bengal and was buried in a cemetery in Darjeeling. His family and the US Government have been closely coordinating with the Indian counterparts to return his remains to the United States, it stated.
“Our first priority as US Government public servants is protecting and supporting American citizens,” said Melinda Pavek, US Consul General in Kolkata.
“Helping reunite Major General Pickett with his beloved family in the United States, the country he defended in both World War I and II, is a privilege and honour for us. My team and I are grateful for the support we received from the Indian Government and the state of West Bengal which made his return possible.”
Major General Pickett was commissioned into the United States Marine Corps in 1913, going on to become one of the few Americans who served with distinction in both World Wars. During World War I, he participated in the capture of the German cruiser SMS Cormoran in Guam in April 1917. Twenty-four years later, as the Commanding Officer of the Marine Barracks at Pearl Harbor, he and his fellow Marines fired on Japanese warplanes during the surprise attack on December 7, 1941, the release stated.
The release further stated that the American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit of the US Consulate General, Kolkata, worked closely with S Ponnambalam, district magistrate of Darjeeling, and John Pinto International, funeral services, to locate Pickett’s grave site in Darjeeling. After locating it in the Singtom Cemetary, the Special Secretary, Home & Hills Department, West Bengal, worked to get the approvals for the exhumation.
Finally, BP Gopalika, additional chief secretary, West Bengal, gave the approval, which now allows Major General Pickett’s remains to be sent to the US this month, it stated.
Mentioning that the US Government extends its gratitude to those who helped during the long process, the US Consulate stated that other officers who were involved in the process are Arunima De (Special Secretary to the Government of West Bengal), S Ponnambalam (District Magistrate, Darjeeling), the Superintendent of Police, Darjeeling, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Darjeeling, the Executive Office, Darjeeling Municipality, the Executive Health Officer, Rev. Fr. Patrick Pradhan of the Cemetery, Darjeeling, and Father Paul D’Souza, who provided invaluable assistance that allowed the exhumation to proceed.
“We are grateful to amplify this as a success story under our strategic partnership because the United States and India are better together when we support our citizens,” Pavek added.