Kolkata: The last remains of Major General Harry Kleinbeck Pickett, one of America’s most highly decorated officers who served in both World War I and World War II, is set to return home to the United States for reburial at Arlington National Cemetery. Following his death in 1965 during a visit to Darjeeling, West Bengal, Major General Pickett was laid to rest in a local cemetery. In a collaborative effort between his family and the US Government, close coordination has taken place with Indian counterparts to facilitate the repatriation of his remains.
Melinda Pavek, the US Consul General in Kolkata, emphasized the primary objective of US government public servants to safeguard and support American citizens. Reuniting Major General Pickett with his beloved family in the United States, the country he valiantly defended in both World Wars, is considered a privilege and an honour. Pavek expressed gratitude for the support received from the Government of India and the state of West Bengal, which played a crucial role in making his return possible.
Commissioned into the United States Marine Corps in 1913, Major General Pickett achieved the extraordinary distinction of serving with distinction in both world wars. During World War I, he played a pivotal role 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 courageously engaged Japanese warplanes during the infamous surprise attack on December 7, 1941.
The American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit of the U.S. Consulate General Kolkata worked diligently alongside S. Ponnambalam, the District Magistrate of Darjeeling, and John Pinto International funeral services to locate Major General Pickett’s grave site in Darjeeling. Eventually, the Singtom Cemetery was identified as his resting place. With the assistance of the Special Secretary, Home & Hills Department, West Bengal, the necessary approvals for the exhumation were obtained.
The approval granted by BP Gopalika, Additional Chief Secretary, Government of West Bengal, has paved the way for Major General Pickett’s remains to be transported to the United States this month. The United States government expresses profound gratitude to all those involved in the arduous process. Noteworthy individuals who contributed to the endeavour include 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. Father Patrick Pradhan of the Cemetery, Darjeeling, and Father Paul D’Souza, whose invaluable assistance ensured the successful exhumation.
Pavek underscores this accomplishment as a testament to the strategic partnership between the United States and India, as both nations are stronger when they support their citizens. The forthcoming reburial at Arlington National Cemetery will serve as a final tribute to Major General Harry Kleinbeck Pickett’s remarkable service and unwavering dedication to his country across two momentous conflicts.