The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, recently accounted-for from the Korean War, are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Sgt. Kermit J. Lejeune, 23, of Church Point, Louisiana, will be buried December 14 in his hometown. In late November 1950, Lejeune was a member of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, engaged in combat operations against the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces (CPVF) in the vicinity of Unsan County, North Pyongan County, North Korea. Lejeune was reported missing in action on Nov. 28, 1950. Several returned American POWs reported that Lejeune had in fact been captured and died in a North Korean POW camp in February or March 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, Lejeune’s remains were not included, and he was declared non-recoverable. The remains that could not be identified were sent to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu to and were buried as Unknowns. One set of remains was designated Unknown X-14739.
After a thorough historical and scientific analysis of information associated with X-14739 it was determined that the remains could likely be identified. After receipt of approval, the remains were disinterred from the Punchbowl on Sept. 19, 2013 and sent to the Central Identification Laboratory (now DPAA) for analysis.
DPAA is grateful to the Department of Veterans Affairs for their partnership in this mission.
To identify Lejeune’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial (mtDNA) DNA analysis, which matched his family, as well as dental and anthropological analysis, and circumstantial evidence.
Today, 7,715 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. Lejeune’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl, 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.