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. Felipe A. Champion, 19, of Brownsville, Texas, accounted for on Aug. 8, 2017, will be buried June 21 in his hometown. On Feb. 12, 1951, Champion was a member of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, when he was reported missing in action following a battle with the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces (CPVF) in an area known as the Central Corridor, South Korea. After CPVF units withdrew north beyond Hongch’on in early March, American units began moving forward and found war dead, however Champion’s remains could not be identified.
A list provided by the CPVF and Korean People’s Army (KPA) listed Champion as a prisoner of war, and a returning American prisoner of war reported that Champion died while in custody at the Suan Bean Camp prisoner of war camp in 1951. Based on this information, the U.S. Army declared him deceased on May 3. 1951.
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, Champion’s remains were not included and he was declared non-recoverable.
Between 1990 and 1994, North Korea returned to the United States 208 boxes of commingled human remains, which when combined with remains recovered during joint recovery operations in North Korea, account for the remains of at least 400 U.S. servicemen who fought during the war. On May 28, 1992, North Korea returned 15 boxes of remains reportedly to have been recovered from where Champion was believed to have died.
To identify Champion’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) DNA analysis, anthropological analysis, and circumstantial evidence.
Today, 7,702 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. Champion’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, site along with the other MIAs from the Korean War. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
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) 699-1420/1169.