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.
Sgt. 1st Class Max E. Harris, 21, of Monticello, Indiana, will be buried August 27 in Monticello, Indiana. In late November 1950, Harris was a member of Company L, 3rd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. Approximately 2,500 U.S. and 700 South Korean soldiers assembled into the 31st Regimental Combat Team (RCT), which deployed east of the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea, when it was attacked by overwhelming numbers of Chinese forces. The American forces withdrew south with the Chinese attacks continuing. By December 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 Harris could not be accounted for by his unit at the end of the battle, he was reported missing in action as of Dec. 12, 1950.
A returning American prisoner reported that Harris had been captured and died while en route to prisoner of war Camp 3 in September 1951. Based on this information, the U.S. Army declared him deceased on Sept. 30, 1951.
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, Harris’ remains were not among them and he was declared non-recoverable.
In April and May 2004, a joint U.S. and Korean People’s Army (KPA) recovery team conducted a Joint Recovery Operation on the east side of the Chosin Reservoir on Hill 1221. During the excavation, the recovery team recovered material evidence and human remains. The remains were sent to the laboratory for analysis.
To identify Harris’ remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) and Y-chromosome (Y-STR) DNA analysis, which matched his family, as well as anthropological analysis, which matched his records, and circumstantial evidence.
Today, 7,731 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. Harris’ name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at an American Battle Monuments Commission site along with the others who are missing 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.