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 Sgt. Harold L. Curtis, 18, of Hannibal, Missouri, will be buried Dec. 23 in Mesa, Arizona. In late November 1950, Curtis was a member of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, on the east side of the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea, when Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces (CPVF) attacked the regiment and forced the unit to withdraw south to the Pungnyuri Inlet. Many soldiers became surrounded and attempted to escape and evade the enemy, but were captured and marched to POW camps. Curtis was subsequently declared missing in action as a result of the battle that occurred Dec. 12, 1950.
Curtis’ name did not appear on any POW list provided by the CPVF or the Korean People’s Army. Based on this information, a military review board amended Curtis’ status to deceased in 1951.
In 1953, during the prisoner of war exchange historically known as “Operation Big Switch,” one repatriated American soldier reported that Curtis died in the vicinity of the Chosin Reservoir in December 1950.
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 between 1996 and 2005, included the remains of at least 400 U.S. servicemen who fought during the war. North Korean documents included in the repatriation indicated that some of the remains were recovered from the vicinity where Curtis was believed to have died.
To identify Curtis’ remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial and autosomal DNA analysis, which matched his mother and sister, as well as anthropological analysis and circumstantial evidence.
Today, 7,773 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.