After 71 Years, Korean War Soldier's Remains Identified
Littleton Native Sgt. Alfred H. Sidney Now Buried Beside His Mother at Glenwood Cemetery
Carlene Hartford of Littleton has never met her uncle, but she was on hand in Boston in early December 2022 to meet the plane returning the remains of Korean War hero Sgt. Alfred H. Sidney to his family. Alfred went missing in action 71 years ago while fighting in Korea.
"The miracle is still with me," says Carlene, who travelled to Boston to welcome her uncle home, "as now another soldier has been identified from that long ago war."
Carlene never knew her Uncle Alfred, her mom's brother, but she had heard stories about him. "I think it was difficult for my mom to speak about him. There was a lot of sadness and uncertainty when he disappeared during the war. About 25 or 30 years ago, my aunt and my mom were called on by the military for their DNA. I remember their disappointment. They were invited to meetings and got their hopes up, but nothing happened."
Carlene's mom Marguerite Pageau, who was known as Peggy or Peg or Aunt Peg even to those not related to the family, instilled pride and patriotism in her family of seven, and now Carlene sees it as a privilege to carry on this family honor. She and her family take part in Memorial Day activities each year in Littleton, watching the parade and honoring the soldiers on the Memorial Bridge on Cottage Street.
"Every time these ceremonies are held," she says, "there is love, hope and healing. When I walk across the bridge, I feel an emotional connection with those who are no longer with us."
Carlene's mom, who passed away nine years ago, had an interest in genealogy and researched the family on both sides who served in any war, and compiled all of the information into books and albums.
"I've definitely felt Alfred's presence and felt it was my calling to keep his memory alive," she says. "It really started shortly before my mom passed. She knew she was going to meet him soon."
Alfred Comes Home
In March of 2022, Carlene received a call out of the blue from a military representative in regards to the search for Alfred's remains. He told her they were resuming the search and wanted her DNA along with the DNA from another family member. Carlene and her Vermont cousin, Alfred, provided their DNA to the military. Everything was quiet for a couple of months, she remembers, but she felt it was a positive sign that the military had reopened the search.
In May 2022, family members participated in a Zoom call with the military and were taken step by step through what was being done to identify the remains. "They were super kind, super respectful, compassionate, and answered our questions. I had a very good feeling, although they couldn't tell us how long the process would take.
By late August, the family had an answer. Sgt. Alfred H. Sidney's remains had been identified.
From there it was a whirlwind of formalities. Alfred's surviving sister, Patricia Lyons, had the Power of Attorney to have his remains returned and buried. Patricia turned her POA over to her son Ben Lyons of Virginia, and the family worked with The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) to arrange for Alfred's return.
Carlene, her husband and son, along with a contingent of members from the local VFW, travelled to Boston on December 1 to meet the flight that was carrying her uncle's remains. Until he was identified his remains had been interred at the Punchbowl Cemetery in Honolulu which houses thousands of unknown soldiers from the Pacific wars.
Sgt. Alfred Sidney's remains were escorted from Boston to the Phaneuf Funeral Home in Manchester by a military escort. His remains were then transferred to Pillsbury Funeral Home in Littleton where calling hours were held on December 7, Pearl Harbor Day. The following day the Korean War hero was buried with full military honors next to his mother at the Glenwood Cemetery in Littleton.
"It's been emotional and uplifting," says Carlene. "I find it all divinely planned. Under every layer of something sad there is aways something brighter. His homecoming is a healing message and event. This is a community's loss, a nation's loss, the military's loss, and our family's loss. But every time someone comes home, everyone is blessed and the greater the healing is."
The Sidney Smile and Twinkle
From family stories Carlene has formed a picture of her uncle. "He had that Sidney smile and twinkle in his eye. My family are such fun people, so happy go lucky. Even though they had their traumas like everyone else, they held on and shined their light."
Her dad, Robert Pageau, called Alfred, "the most generous, kind man," says Carlene.
According to family members, Alfred was a family man who was good and kind to his siblings. Her mom and aunt saw him as their hero and were devastated when he was reported missing in action. Carlene's mom was just 16, newly married and pregnant with her first child.
Before her marriage, Carlene's mom loved to socialize. Alfred was a quiet man but he loved his sister and would drive her to the roller skating rink where he would wait hours for her, and drive her home just in time so that he could make his shift at the paper mill in Gilman, Vt.
"When my mom was ill, she told this story over and over again," Carlene recalls. "He was born in 1927 and she in 1934. He would sleep in the car while she was having fun with her friends. I never got to know him but got to feel his presence over the years through stories like this."
Littleton High Grad
Alfred was graduated from Littleton High School in 1945, worked at the Gilman mill and then, in 1946, enlisted in the U.S. Army Engineer Corps; he was stationed in Germany and graduated from specialized training there. Discharged in 1949, he returned to Littleton, but was recalled to active duty in October 1950 and shipped out to Korea as a light weapons infantryman.
The last letter the family received from him was dated May 13, 1951 when he wrote that he was resting behind enemy lines.
Missing in Action
Sgt. Sidney was reported missing in action (MIA) on May 18, 1951, in the vicinity of Hangye, South Korea after his unit was overrun by opposing forces. Based on eyewitness testimony, Sgt. Sidney was taken captive and marched northward to POW Camp #1 in Changs'ong, North Korea. He died in captivity in July 1951. His remains were buried with his identification tags behind the camp hospital.
In December 1955, the People's Republic of China exhumed remains from a burial location in Changs'ong and transferred the remains to the custody of the United Nations Command in a mutual exchange of all war dead. Sgt. Sidney's remains were not identified at that time. An identification number was issued, and his remains were buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu known as the Punchbowl. On January 28, 2010, President Barack Obama posthumously honored Sgt. Sidney with a Purple Heart, for giving his life to his country while a prisoner of war.
On August 23, 2022, Sgt. Alfred H. Sidney's remains were identified, and arrangements were initiated to repatriate him back to New Hampshire, to finally be laid to rest in the family cemetery plot in Littleton, beside his mother.
Family members include a sister, Patricia Lyons of Littleton; brother-in-law Robert D. Pageau; 25 nieces and nephews; and many grandnieces and nephews. In addition to his parents who have since passed away, he had two sisters, Marguerite (Peggy) (Sidney) Pageau and Judith Sidney McCoy; a brother, Martin Sidney; and brother-in-law Benton Lyons who have also passed away.
"I've been talking about going to Hawaii for years, but nothing worked out," says Carlene. "In early 2022, before the military called, family and friends planned a trip to the islands for January of 2023. And then this happened."
The January trip was especially meaningful. Arrangements were made for the family to visit the American Battle Monuments Commission's Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl, where Sgt. Sidney was honored with a rosette next to his name signifying his return home.
The visitors also took of tour of the Punchbowl and the lab where the identification process takes place, along with a visit to Pearl Harbor.
"The way things have worked out, it's as if the universe wrote the story before Alfred was born as to how this would play out," says Carlene. "It's something for all of us to consider. Whatever we see of our story in this lifetime is a tiny drop of what the universe has in store for us. It's limitless Everyone has a best-selling story in us and it always leads to greater knowledge and greater trust."
-Many thanks to Carlene Hartford for sharing family memories of her uncle, Sgt. Alfred H. Sidney.