Portage man to be buried after 74 years missing in action in WWII

Through dental records, DNA and other evidence, Edward Mintus was finally accounted for on June 25, 2018.

At 99 years old, Agnes Phillips makes her way slowly, but surely through the halls of John Paul II Manor in Cresson. The walls of her room are adorned with memories of decades ago.

"I got married in 1942 and of course the war broke out shortly after that and my husband went to the war. He was gone three years," Phillips said.

Her uncle, Walter E. Mintus, also served during World War II, as an aviation radioman third class in the Navy. But in July of 1944, he went missing in action in the Pacific Ocean near the Japanese base at Malakal Harbor, Republic of Paulau.

This past June, 74 years later, "Some dental work and neck bones were washed up from the water in the area where he was shot down,” Phillips said.

Through dental records, DNA and other evidence, Mintus was finally accounted for on June 25, 2018.

"I was just ecstatic, in awe. I couldn't believe it,” Phillips said.

This weekend, his remains will make one last trip home, where Portage Borough mayor James Kissell and many others will be waiting.

"It's an honor to have his remains brought back to Portage to be buried with his family,” Kissell said. “It's an answer to their family's prayer for over 70 years."

"Everyone had hope that one day he would come back, but never happened till now," Phillips said.

Kissell says it's not a funeral, but a celebration.

"Hopefully everything will work out and that people will be there to recognize it, understand it, helping the children understand what took place during World War II and how these guys actually sacrificed their lives for our freedoms,” Kissel said.

There are currently 72,787 service members still unaccounted for from World War II. Approximately 26,000 are assessed as possibly recoverable.

Mintus’ remains will depart Pittsburgh International Airport at 11 a.m. on Friday, en route to Portage. He will lie in state at St. Joseph Church, open to the public from 7 to 8 p.m. There will be a funeral mass on Saturday Nov. 10 at 11 a.m., also open to the public.

All are invited to line Main Street to bid farewell at 12:15 p.m. as the procession heads to Sacred Heart Cemetery, where Mintus will be buried with full military honors.

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