Michigan son is returning home from war after 75 years

A Michigan son is coming home, three-quarters of a century after he fell in battle on one of the Pacific Theater of War’s most forbidding battlefield.

U.S. Army Technician Fourth Grade Pete M. Counter, 24, of Detroit will be buried Saturday in Onaway, 75 years after he was killed in bitter fighting in the vicinity of Soputa-Sanananda Track in the Australian Territory of Papua, known today as Papua New Guinea.

Counter was a member of Company C, 126th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Infantry Division. The terrain where he was killed on Dec. 5, 1942, is both mountainous and swampy, a nightmare location that made large-scale troop maneuver all but impossible. According to the Detroit Free Press, his body was initially buried north of Soputa. That resting place would be the first in a series of graves Counter would occupy over the coming years.

Several months after his initial burial, the Free Press reported that the remains of an unidentified American soldier, tentatively associated with the 32nd Infantry Division, were interred at the U.S. Temporary Cemetery No. 2 at Soputa. On April 6, 1943, the remains, designated “Unknown X-10” were re-interred at Temporary Cemetery No. 1 at Soputa, then interred at U.S. Armed Forces Finschhafen No. 2, and re-designated “Unknown X-171,” the Free Press reported.

More stops followed. In 1947, the body was exhumed, redesignated to X-2693, and shipped to the Central Identification Point at the Manila Mausoleum in the Philippines. X-2693 could not be identified and were interred at Fort McKinley.

In November 2016, DPAA received authorization to re-examine the remains. Unknown X-2693 was disinterred Nov. 4, 2016, and sent to the laboratory in Nebraska for analysis where a match with a Counter descendent was made, the Free Press reported.

It is a credit to this nation that it continues to search for its fallen military heroes. Although 75 years have passed, Army Tech Counter wasn’t forgotten. We honor his sacrifice and welcome him home.