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. Major General Pickett died in 1965 visiting Darjeeling in West Bengal and was buried in a cemetery in Darjeeling. His family and the U.S. Government have been closely coordinating with Indian counterparts to return his remains to the United States. “Our first priority as US government public servants is protecting and supporting American citizens,” said Melinda Pavek, US Consul General in Kolkata, according to a statement issued by her office on 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 honor for us. My team and I are grateful for the support we received from the Government of India and 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 American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit of the US Consulate General Kolkata worked closely with S. Ponnambalam, the District Magistrate of Darjeeling, and John Pinto International, funeral services, to locate Pickett’s grave site in Darjeeling. After locating it in the Singtom Cemetery, Special Secretary, Home & Hills Department, West Bengal, worked to get the approvals for the exhumation.
Finally, B.P. Gopalika, Additional Chief Secretary, Forest Dept. and ARD Dept, gave the approval, which now allows Major General Pickett’s remains to be sent to the US this month.
Among the others 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,” said Pavek.