On Wednesday, the remains of what are presumed to be 55 U.S. troops arrived back home on American soil, 65 years after the Korean War ended.
There was a moving and somber honorable carry ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPH-H), Hawaii, during which Vice President Mike Pence spoke.
“Some have called the Korean War the forgotten war. But today we prove these heroes were never forgotten. Today, our boys are coming home,” Pence said.
Pence’s father, 2nd Lt. Edward Joseph Pence, fought in combat in the Korean War and received a Bronze Star.
“He came back with a medal on his chest, but my dad – gone now 30 years- but my dad always told us the real heroes of the Korean War were the ones that didn’t get to come home. I just know there’s no place Dad would rather have me be, than here with you, welcoming these heroes home,” the Vice President said.
Some have called the Korean War the “forgotten war.” But today, we prove these heroes were never forgotten. Today, our boys are coming home. pic.twitter.com/Sh9xUaUUB6
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) August 1, 2018
North Korea last week gave the United States 55 sets of of what are believed to be U.S. troops’ remains. The remains included only one set of dog tags, and the long process of identifying the remains can now begin.
“Today they are known but to God, but soon we will know their names and we will tell their stories of courage,” Pence said Wednesday. The repatriation is a sign of “tangible progress in our efforts to achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula,” he also said.
After the Vice President spoke, the cases containing the troops’ remains were taken off the two C-17 transport planes, Fox News reported; each case was escorted by a Marine, a sailor, a soldier and an airman.
Last week, North Korea handed over the remains to U.S. custody at the Kalma Airport in northeast North Korea. The remains were flown on two U.S. military transport planes that landed just outside Seoul, where they were then unloaded onto vans for a forensic review.
A repatriation ceremony was held at Osan Air Base in South Korea, where U.S. officials received the remains. The bases containing the remains were moved from the transport planes; soldiers in dress uniforms carried the cases.
Flags bearing the United Nations insignia were draped over the cases, signaling the U.N. Command’s oversight of the repatriation process. Military officers looked on from beside flags of the U.S., U.N. and South Korea.
The transfer took place on the 65th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice that ended the Korean War. The remains of more than 7,700 U.S. troops are still unaccounted for, of which 5,300 were estimated to be lost in North Korea.
On Wednesday, the U.N.-flag-draped cases were loaded back onto the military transport planes before taking off for Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, where they later arrived. A ceremony was held to welcome the remains home.
Here is a video showing the United Nations Command transferring the remains from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to Osan Air Base, South Korea:
This is a video of the 2-hour ceremony in South Korea to honor those who have been missing since the Korean War:
And this is footage of the aircraft taking off from South Korea for the United States:
July 27 marked the 65th year since the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement.
In April, North Korea and South Korea vowed to hold negotiations that would lead to an end-of-war declaration – The Panmunjom Declaration. The 1953 armistice halted the war after three years but it was never formally declared to be over. The delay in ending the war has frustrated North Koreans.
The repatriation was something President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un agreed to during their long-anticipated summit in Singapore this past June.
President Trump on Thursday penned a thank-you tweet to Kim, thanking him for beginning the process of repatriating what are presumed to be U.S. troops’ remains.
“Thank you to Chairman Kim Jong Un for keeping your word & starting the process of sending home the remains of our great and beloved missing fallen! I am not at all surprised that you took this kind action. Also, thank you for your nice letter – l look forward to seeing you soon,” Trump wrote.
North Korea claims to have identified the remains of at least 200 U.S. troops.