WASHINGTON–The Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) says the remains of a serviceman, missing from the Korean War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Pfc. James M. Smith of Abbeville, Georgia, will be buried March 9 in Arlington National Cemetery. In February 1951, Smith was assigned to Company K, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, and was supporting the South Korean Army in attacks against the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces (CPVF). On Feb. 12, the CPVF counterattacked and forced the South Korean Army units to retreat, leaving American forces to fight alone. After the battle, Smith was reported missing in action. In April and May of 1953, the U.S. Army Quartermaster Graves Registration Companies conducted searches of the battlefields associated with Smith’s unit, but no remains associated with him were located.
In 1953, during prisoner of war exchanges known as “Operation Little Switch” and “Operation Big Switch,” no repatriated American service members were able to provide any information regarding Smith’s whereabouts. A military review board amended his status to deceased in 1953.
Between 1990 and 1994, North Korea returned to the United States 208 boxes of commingled human remains, which when combined with remains recovered during joint recovery operations in North Korea, account for the remains of at least 600 U.S. servicemen who fought during the war. North Korean documents included in the repatriation indicated that some of the remains were recovered from the vicinity where men captured from Smith’s unit were believed to have died.
To identify Smith’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used circumstantial evidence; two types of DNA analysis, including mitochondrial DNA analysis, which matched a brother and a cousin, and Y-chromosome Short Tandem Repeat DNA analysis, which matched a brother; and dental analysis, which matched Smith’s records.
Today, 7,823 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War. Using modern technology, identifications continue to be made from remains that were previously returned by North Korean officials or recovered from North Korea by American recovery teams.