The remains of unknown American soldiers who died in North Africa during World War II will be repatriated back to the U.S. from the sole American cemetery in Africa, the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia said on Monday.
The U.S. and Tunisia signed a memorandum in which the U.S. will be allowed to exhume the remains of unknown soldiers for repatriation to be identified and reunited with their families, according to CNN.
On Memorial Day, Chargée Franceschi & Tunisian FM Jerandi signed a historic MOU paving the way for the disinterment of American service members buried at the North Africa American Cemetery as unknown soldiers for US repatriation to be identified & reunified with family. pic.twitter.com/7lSQv1M9ua
— U.S. Embassy Tunis (@usembassytunis) May 30, 2022
“We owe our fallen heroes and their families a profound debt of gratitude,” Natasha Franceschi, the embassy’s chargé d’affaires said in a statement, according to CNN. “Today’s historic agreement will ensure American service men and women who gave their lives to defend our freedom are recognized and honored for the ultimate sacrifice they gave to our country.”
The North African American Cemetery in Carthage, Tunisia, is currently the resting site for 2,841 U.S. service members, the outlet reported. It is not immediately clear how many remains will be returned to the U.S. (RELATED: President Of Tunisia Seizes Power, Orders Military To Stop Parliament From Meeting)
The taking of Tunisia during the Tunisian Campaign of World War II gave the Allied forces a strategic foothold during the invasion of Europe. In the summer of 1943, the Allies had successfully driven the Axis powers of Germany and Italy out of Tunisia, according to CNN.
In 1960, the North African American Cemetery was founded to lay service members who died during that battle to rest. Despite the establishment of the cemetery, the U.S. was never exhumed or attempted to identify the remains of the unknown soldiers, the outlet reported.
The newly signed memorandum of understanding will enable the U.S. to begin to identify them, but the embassy did not specify when that process would begin, according to the outlet.