Army Master Sergeant Joseph Durakovich, of Gary, Indiana, was 30 years old when he was killed during fighting with the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces (CPVF) in November of 1950.
Durakovich was a member of Company G, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. They were establishing a defensive position east of Kunri-ri, North Korea, in Pongmyong-ni. When the CPVF attacked, the Americans withdrew along their main supply route to Samso-ri, under attack by the Chinese forces the entire way. The Americans eventually reached a roadblock that they could not pass. After the battle was over, Durakovich was unaccounted for. He was reported missing in action on November 28, 1950.
Lists of POWs released by the CPVF and the North Korean People’s Army did not list Durakovich’s name. Returning American POWs did not have any information about Durakovich in any of the prison camps. In 1953, a military review board changed his status to deceased.
A joint recovery operation between the US and the Korean People’s Army at a site in Ung Bong Village, North Korea, was undertaken based on information from two Korean witnesses. The site where they worked was about 30 meters from the spot where Durakovich was last seen alive. At the site, the team recovered physical evidence and possible human remains.
Using mitochondrial and Y-chromosome short tandem repeat DNA analysis, the DPAA and Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory were able to match the remains to Durakovich’s niece and grandson. Dental and anthropological analysis was also used to match the remains to Durakovich’s records, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency reported.
Durakovich’s remains were returned to his family for burial with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery on April 10th.
7,755 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War. The DPAA continues to use updated technology to identify remains returned North Korea or recovered by American teams.