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A Tribute to a Hero, WWII Army POW returned to Florence for burial

Clifford Stickland Medium.jpeg
Posted at 7:45 PM, Jun 29, 2024

FLORENCE, Colorado — An American soldier who died in a Japanese POW camp in the Philippines during World War II was returned Colorado and given a proper burial this weekend.

Army Technician Clifford Strickland served with the 803rd Engineer Aviation Battalion. His remains were identified back on December 20, 2023 by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA.)

According to the agency, Strickland's unit was tasked with defending the Philippine Islands and training the Philippine Army. He was captured following the surrender of the Bataan Peninsula in April 1942 and endured the Bataan Death March.

Hundreds of people joined Strickland's relatives Saturday for a memorial service at Runyon Field in Pueblo. Kupsky's flag draped casket was carried onto the ball field by a horse and carriage hearse.

Historian Gregory Kupsky researches missing American servicemen from World War II for the DPAA. He said it is rare for lost veterans remains to be identified.

"We spent a lot of time in the early parts of the process, but it's not very often that we actually get to participate in a happy event like this where we've brought someone home and get to celebrate with the family," Kupsky said.

The agency reports Strickland died July 29, 1942 at the Cabanatuan Prison Camp. At its peak, the camp held roughly 8,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war. Conditions in the camp were poor. Malnutrition and outbreaks of malaria and dysentery were widespread. An estimated 2,800 Americans died at Cabanatuan by the time the camp was liberated in 1945.

Strickland was buried in a common grave at the camp. The American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) exhumed the remains buried Cabanatuan after the war and relocated them to a temporary military mausoleum near Manila.

The AGRS examined the remains in 1947 but could only identify five fallen service members. Remains associated with Common Grave 215 were disinterred again in 2018 and sent to the DPAA laboratory for analysis as part of the Cabanatuan Project.

The National Museum of the United States Air Force describes Engineer Aviation Battalions like 803rd as "self-contained units" that became central the the military's aviation operations. Technicians like Strickland were skilled in construction and engineering. They would build, repair, and defend small air fields.

The memorial service for TEC 5 Stickland was organized by the American Legion Post #25 in Florence. He now rests at Union Highland Cemetery in Florence.

Watch the video above for the emotional weekend and homecoming of US Army Tec 5 Clifford Strickland.

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Seven people and five pets displaced after duplex fire Friday evening

Seven people and five pets are displaced after a duplex fire, according to the Colorado Springs Fire Department (CSFD).

CSFD responding to a second alarm house fire on the south west side of the city

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