Two soldiers who died during the Korean War have been identified from the remains returned from North Korea, President Donald J. Trump announced last night.
Personnel at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency identified Army Master Sgt. Charles H. McDaniel and Army Pfc. William H. Jones. Their remains were repatriated from North Korea following Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Both men died in North Korea in 1950.
DoD officials expect many more identifications from the remains. “The 55 boxes we don’t necessarily attribute to 55 remains,” DPAA Director Kelly K. McKeague told the Defense Writers Group here yesterday. “The remains are comingled, … and we expect there to be more than 55.”
He noted that 208 boxes of remains turned over to the United States from North Korea in the late 1990s turned out to contain more than 400 U.S. service members.
The White House announcement came on the eve of today’s National POW/MIA Recognition Day observance.
The agency seeks to recover and identify service members missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Cold War. More than 72,000 Americans are unaccounted-for from World War II. More than 7,200 are unaccounted for from Korea, and around 1,600 from Vietnam. Today, 126 Americans are unaccounted-for from Cold War actions.
The agency’s priority is the missing from the Vietnam War because the acidic conditions of the soil in Southeast Asia is dissolving any remains.
Scientific breakthroughs – most notably DNA analysis – have made identification of remains more certain. McKeague said family members of the missing have provided DNA samples to aid in identification. The agency received the World War II identification effort in 2010, and it is hampered by the fact that only 6 percent of the families have DNA samples on record. This is compared to 92 percent for those missing in the Korean War and 87 percent from Vietnam.
Negotiations With North Korea
The agency has begun negotiations with North Korean officials to restart joint excavations in the near future, McKeague said. The agency received permission from the State Department to continue this humanitarian mission.
“So, we were allowed … to pursue active communications with the North Korean army separate and distinct from denuclearization talks,” he said. “Immediately when we received permission, we reached out to [North Korea’s] U.N. Mission in New York as our conduit.”
If the two sides can work out an agreement, joint excavations could resume in the spring, the director said, adding that he hopes the agency can sit down with the North Koreans in a neutral country in October to begin negotiations. The last negotiations on this subject were held in 2011.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)