The Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a serviceman, missing from the Korean War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Pfc. Elmer P. Richard, 20, of Exeter, N.H., will be buried June 3, in his hometown. In late November 1950, Richard was a member of Battery D, 15th Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion, 31st Regimental Combat Team (RCT), operating along the eastern side of the Chosin Reservoir, in North Korea. On Nov. 29, 1950, elements of the 31st RCT, historically known as Task Force Faith, were overwhelmed by Chinese People’s Volunteer forces which forced the 31st RCT to withdraw south to more defensible positions. On Dec. 2, 1950, Richard was reported missing in action.
In late 1953, during a prisoner of war exchange, known as Operation Big Switch, a returned U.S. service member told U.S. debriefers that Richard was captured by Chinese forces and to have died in mid-December 1950, from battle wounds and dysentery. His remains were not among those returned by communist forces during Operation Glory in 1954.
Between 1990 and 1994, North Korea turned over to the U.S. 208 boxes of human remains believed to contain more than 400 U.S. servicemen who fought during the war. North Korean documents, turned over at that time, indicated that some of the remains were recovered from the area where Richard was believed to have died.
On Oct. 5, 2000, a joint U.S./Democratic People’s Republic Korea (D.P.R.K.) team excavated a secondary burial site where U.S. servicemen were believed to have been buried after the Korean War. The team recovered commingled human remains.
To identify Richard’s remains, scientists from the DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) used circumstantial evidence and two forms of DNA analysis including; mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome Short Tandem Repeat DNA (Y-STR) analysis, which matched his brothers.
Today, 7,852 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War. Using modern technology, identifications continue to be made from remains that were previously turned over by North Korean officials or recovered by American 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 or call (703) 699-1420.