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Remains of Korean War soldier identified as 17-year-old who went missing 74 years ago

Thomas A. Smith (U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency/Released)

After a 17-year-old American soldier went missing in action in 1950 during the Korean War, military officials said they couldn’t find his remains.

Nearly 74 years later, Thomas A. Smith of Grant, Michigan, has been accounted for, the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced on May 14.

Smith went missing on Aug. 2, 1950, during a battle in Chinju at the southern end of the Korean peninsula. Soldiers were unable to recover his remains, officials said, and they determined he was not a prisoner of war.

The U.S. Army presumed Smith dead in 1953, officials said.

In late 1950, a set of remains was recovered near the village of Hwagye, South Korea, but they were unidentifiable. The remains were buried in 1956 at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, commonly known as Punchbowl, in Honolulu with other unidentified Korean War soldiers, officials said.

A proposal in 2018 became a second chance for the unknown soldiers buried at Punchbowl to be identified. Their remains were dug up in 2019 and taken to a lab for analysis.

Using DNA, dental and anthropological analysis, scientists were able to identify Smith’s remains in September, officials said.

His remains will be transferred to Grant, Michigan, to be buried, officials said.

The Korean War started on June 25, 1950, and ended on July 27, 1953. About 36,000 U.S. military service members and 2.5 million people total were killed during the war.

Grant is about a 30-mile drive north from Grand Rapids.


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