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 Pfc. Robert E. Mitchell, 19, of Searcy, Arkansas, will be buried June 3 in Beebe, Arkansas. On Sept. 6, 1950, Mitchell was assigned to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, when his unit was attacking enemy forces of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) that had penetrated the Naktong Bulge portion of the Pusan Perimeter near Am-sin, South Korea. Following the series of attacks, Mitchell could not be accounted for and was reported missing in action.
During the war, Mitchell was not listed on any Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces or KPA’s prisoner of war lists.
In February and March 1953, an American Graves Registration Service team searched the last-known location for Mitchell, with negative results. Based on the lack of information, the AGRS declared Mitchell non-recoverable.
Additionally, following the war, during “Operation Little/Big Switch,” when the prisoners of war were returned, no repatriated Americans were able to provide any information on Mitchell. Based on the lack of information, the U.S. Army declared Mitchell deceased as of Dec. 31, 1953.
On July 10, 1952, the 565th Graves Registration Company recovered remains from a shallow grave near Hwasan-dong, South Korea, approximately 3.5 miles from where Mitchell was last seen. A local resident reported that he had buried the remains in a foxhole around Sept. 30, 1950. These remains, designated X-5698, were not able to be identified and were interred in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
Although the U.S. Army Graves Registration Service planned to recover American remains that remained north of the Korean Demilitarized Zone after the war, administrative details between the United Nations Command and North Korea complicated recovery efforts. An agreement was made and in September and October 1954, in what was known as Operation Glory, remains were returned. However, Mitchell’s remains were not included and he was declared non-recoverable.
In late 2014, DPAA disinterred Unknown X-5698 Tanggok, based on research and a tentative name association. Unknown X-5698 was disinterred from the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu and accessioned to the DPAA laboratory on May 16, 2016.
To identify Mitchell’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) DNA analysis, which matched a sister and a nephew, as well as laboratory analysis, including dental, anthropological and chest radiograph comparison analysis, which matched his records, and circumstantial evidence.
Today, 7,747 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.