US Soldier Missing Since the Korean War to Receive Military Burial

Cpl. Gerald Shepler (left); Korean War (right).
Cpl. Gerald Shepler (left); Korean War (right).

The US Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) made an announcement on Tuesday that they had recovered the remains of Army Corporal Gerald I. Shepler, missing since the Korean War.  He is being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Shepler, a native of Liberty, Indiana, was 20 when he went missing in action.  A member of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 187th Airborne, Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, he was the lead scout on a reconnaissance patrol when they met an enemy ambush near Hajoyang-ni, North Korea.  An enemy round exploded within ten yards of Shepler.  Afterward, he could not be located and was listed as missing in action.

Shepler was not included on any lists of prisoners of war from the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces or the Korean People’s Army.  Returning American POWs had no information on Shepler.  Witnesses to the battle said they believe he was killed in the mortar blast.  On November 29, 1950, based on all the information available, Shepler was listed as deceased.

Between 1990 and 1994, 208 boxes of mixed human remains were returned to the US from North Korea.  It was determined that the boxes contained the remains of at least sixty US servicemen who fought in the Korean War.  Documents included with the boxes showed that some of the remains were recovered from the location Shepler was thought to have been killed.

Scientists from the DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA), Y-chromosome (Y-STR) and autosomal (auDNA) DNA analysis to match Shepler’s DNA to a brother and three sisters.  Anthropological analysis and dental analysis matched his records.  Circumstantial evidence was also considered in reaching the conclusion that the remains were of Cpl. Shepler, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency reported.

There are still 7,761 US servicemen unaccounted for from the Korean War.  Work is still underway using modern technology to identify the remains returned from North Korea or recovered from North Korea by US recovery teams.

Ian Harvey

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