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WWII soldier's remains return to the Lehigh Valley

By Will Lewis, Reporter, WLewis@wfmz.com
Published On: May 22 2013 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: May 23 2013 05:08:38 AM CDT

A Lehigh County man says his family will finally be at peace now that his uncle's remains are back on American soil.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

A Lehigh County man says his family will finally be at peace now that his uncle's remains are back on American soil.

Private William Yawney died in 1944 in combat in the Pacific.

And his remains weren't found until six months ago on the island of Saipan.

Army Private William Yawney, from Freemansburg, fought in the battle of Saipan in 1944.

Once the Army confirmed the death, there were still questions.

The main one: where was his body?

"In '49 they wanted to remove all the graves from Saipan and put them in Hawaii," said John Yawney, William's nephew. "Well there was nothing in his grave. So the search began, where is he."

For years, the family looked for him.

"Where's our brother? Why haven't you found him?" said John, as he was talking about how his father communicated with the Army.

Then John Yawney says in October of 2012 his uncle got a call after construction workers in Saipan found skeletal remains and the Army confirmed a DNA match.

"There was a DNA match and they want to bring him home," added John Yawney.

It's taken six months but Wednesday afternoon William Yawney returned to the Lehigh Valley.

John Yawney says he is overjoyed.

"I was really just so happy to be able to be able to touch his remains and say okay, you're home. We're going to take care of you now," said John.

For a long time, the family had only pictures of William, as well as his Purple Heart medal and his Bronze Star.

Now his nephew says he will get to fulfill his grandmother's wish and have her son buried right next to her at St. John the Baptist Ukraine Cemetery in Northampton.

"My grandmother, she cried for years over him. She wanted to be with him."

William Yawney will be buried with full military honors on Saturday May 25 at St. John the Baptist Ukraine cemetery in Northampton. The public is invited to attend.