BELFAST, Maine — A New York City forensic anthropologist has determined that the human remains mailed from Belfast to the Big Apple last month could be those of an Asian soldier who fought during World War II.
The mystery sender included a typed note with the skeletal remains that identified them as being from a Japanese World War II soldier. He mailed them on Sept. 7 to the consulate-general of Japan in New York City, requesting they be given a proper burial.
Consulate employees in turn called the New York Police Department for help in determining whether the bones were in fact Japanese and whether they dated to the most recent world war, which ended 65 years ago.
“It appears to be a fully developed adult male of small stature, likely from that time frame and likely from that area of the world,” Officer James Duffy, spokesman for the New York City Police Department, said Thursday in a telephone interview.
The New York City medical examiner’s office, which has a forensic anthropologist on staff, picked up the bones from the consulate and conducted the investigation, he said.
The final report is not finished and the bones remain in the medical examiner’s office in New York, but once complete it is expected that the bones will be returned to the Japanese consulate, Duffy said.
The NYPD contacted the Belfast Police Department last month in an effort to try to find the unknown man who sent the remains.
Officials are aware that some American soldiers brought back skulls or other bones as souvenirs of their service in World War II.
“It’s not a criminal matter,” Duffy said, adding that police just want more information about the origin of the bones.
“The wishes of the mailer were that the remains be returned to Japan,” Detective Sgt. Bryan Cunningham of the Belfast Police Department said in an e-mail Wednesday. “He felt this was a soldier who fought for his country in World War II and deserved a decent burial in his home country. The problem is the Japanese consulate cannot accept these remains without a little more information.”
Belfast police said Thursday the mailer had yet to be identified.
Local police are asking the person who sent the package to contact them, and said they will keep the name anonymous.
Those with information about the Belfast remains may contact Cunningham at 338-5255.