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The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing from the Korean War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Cpl. Gerald I. Shepler, 20, of Liberty, Indiana, will be buried March 11 in Liberty. On Nov. 29, 1950, Shepler was a member of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, on a reconnaissance patrol. Shepler was the lead scout when the patrol encountered an enemy ambush near Hajoyang-ni, North Korea, during which an enemy mortar round reportedly exploded within 10 yards of Shepler. Following the battle, Shepler could not be accounted for and he was declared missing in action.
Shepler’s name did not appear on any list provided by the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces or Korean People’s Army as a prisoner of war. Though no returning American prisoners of war provided any information concerning Shepler, testimony from witnesses stated they suspected he was mortally wounded by the mortar explosion. Based on this information, the U.S. Army declared him deceased as of Nov. 29, 1950.
Between 1990 and 1994, North Korea returned 208 boxes of commingled human remains to the United States, which we determined to contain the remains of at least 600 U.S. servicemen who fought during the war. North Korean documents included in the repatriation indicate that some of the remains were recovered from the vicinity where Shepler was believed to have died.
To identify Shepler remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA), Y-chromosome (Y-STR) and autosomal (auDNA) DNA analysis, which matched brother and three sisters, as well as anthropological analysis and dental analysis, which matched his records, and circumstantial evidence.
Today, 7,761 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.
For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil, find us on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa or call (703) 699-1420.