The Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a serviceman, killed during the Korean War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Cpl. Vernon D. Presswood, 19, of Pinckneyville, Illinois, will be buried Dec. 3 in his hometown. In late November, 1950, Presswood was a member of Heavy Mortar Company, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. Approximately 2,500 U.S. and 700 South Korean soldiers assembled into the 31st Regimental Combat Team (RCT), which was deployed east of the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea, when it was engaged by overwhelming numbers of Chinese forces. By Dec. 6, the U.S. Army evacuated approximately 1,500 wounded service members; the remaining soldiers had been either captured or killed in enemy territory. Because Presswood could not be accounted for by his unit at the end of the battle, he was reported missing in action as of Dec. 2, 1950.
Presswood’s name did not appear on any prisoner of war lists and no repatriated Americans were able to provide any information concerning Presswood as a prisoner of war. Due to the prolonged lack of evidence, the U.S. Army declared him deceased as of Dec. 31, 1953.
Although the U.S. Army Graves Registration Service hoped 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, Presswood’s remains were not included and he was declared non-recoverable.
During the 25th Joint Recovery Operation in 2001, recovery teams conducted operations on the eastern bank of the Chosin Reservoir, Changjin County, North Korea, based on information provided by two Korean witnesses. The site was approximately one kilometer from the 31st RCT’s defensive perimeter. During the excavation, the recovery team recovered possible human remains of at least seven individuals.
To identify Presswood’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used circumstantial and anthropological evidence, including chest radiograph comparison, as well as DNA analysis; including mitochondrial and DNA, which matched his sister and nephew.
Today, 7,780 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War. Using advances in 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, find us on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa or call (703) 699-1420.