The Unknown Soldiers of the Korean War – Innovative Technology Allows Identification

Recoilless rifle team fires their weapon at Chinese positition near Qnmong-Myon, Korea, 1951.
Recoilless rifle team fires their weapon at Chinese positition near Qnmong-Myon, Korea, 1951.

Another American soldier who lost his life in the Korean War has been identified and will be returned to his homeland for a funeral with full military honors.

Army Master Sgt. Ira V. Miss, Jr., 23, of Frederick, Maryland, will be taken to a final resting place in that hallowed home of heroes, Arlington National Cemetery.  He was a member of Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, reinforcing South Korean forces against elements of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces (CPVF) in the region known as Central Corridor in South Korea.

A counterattack by the CPVF with overpowered South Korean units, who retreated, leaving U.S. Army units behind enemy lines.  Sgt. Miss was reported missing in action on February 13, 1951.  Subsequently, Chinese Communist Forces overran the roadblock he was staffing.

The Army Graves Registration Service tried to tally the losses inflicted during the battle, but searches failed to turn up results for this soldier.

Returning American prisoners of war reported that he died in a POW Camp 1, located at Changsong, North Korea in May or June 1951.  With this information, the U.S. Army listed Sgt. Miss as deceased as of June 1, 1951, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency reported.

In 1954, United Nations and Communist forces exchanged the remains of war dead in what became known as ‘Operation Glory.’ All remains recovered in the Operation were taken to the Army’s Central Identification Unit for analysis. At the time, the Unit was unable to identify remains which had been interred as unknowns at the Hawaii-based National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific known as the ‘Punchbowl.’

In 1999, technological advances prompted the Department of Defence to re-examine their records. They determined that the identifying the remains of some unknowns was now possible. The remains designated X-14124 were exhumed on May 18, 2015, to permit further analysis.

To determine whether these were Sgt. Miss’ remains, the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System and DPAS used dental, anthropological and chest radiograph comparison analysis, and mitochondrial DNA analysis, which matched a sister and niece, in addition to material and circumstantial evidence. They have now achieved a positive ID.

Currently, 7,763 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War.  Thanks to advances in technology, identifications continue to be made from remains that were earlier provided by North Korean officials or retrieved by American teams.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE