The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, accounted for from the Korean War, are those of Army Cpl. DeMaret M. Kirtley, 19, of Kaycee, Wyoming. Kirtley was accounted for on May 4, 2018.
In late November 1950, Kirtley was a member of Battery A, 57th Field Artillery Battalion, 31st Regimental Combat Team, 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 attacked by overwhelming numbers of Chinese forces. As the Chinese attacks continued, American forces withdrew south. The U.S. Army evacuated approximately 1,500 service members; the remaining soldiers had been either captured, killed or missing in enemy territory. Kirtley was reported missing in action on Dec. 6, 1950, when he could not be accounted for after the withdrawal. He was last seen in the vicinity of Hagaru-ri, Changjin County, Hamgyeong Province, North Korea.
Kirtley’s name did not appear on any prisoner of war lists and no returning Americans reported Kirtley as a prisoner of war. Due to a lack of information regarding his status, the Army declared him deceased as of Dec. 31, 1953.
In 1954, an agreement was reached between the United Nations Command (UNC), the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (D.P.R.K.) and the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces (CPVF) regarding the recovery and return of each side’s dead. This agreement, known as Operation Glory, lasted from 1 September to 30 October 1954.
During the Operation Glory exchange, Chinese and Korean officials returned the remains of more than 4,000 individuals to the UNC, of which 2,944 were determined to be American. Those remains were sent to the American Graves Registration Service Central Identification Unit (CIU) in Kokura, Japan, for possible identification. By the end of the CIU-Kokura identification process, 416 sets of American remains from the D.P.R.K. remained unidentified. Those 416, along with another 451 sets of remains recovered in the Republic of Korea by the AGRS, were sent to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP) in Honolulu, Hawaii, for burial as “Unknowns.”
One set designated as “X-15900 Operation Glory,” was among a group of remains that North Korea unilaterally turned over after reportedly being recovered from isolated burial sites on the east side of the Chosin Reservoir.
On May 8, 2017, DPAA disinterred X-15900 Operation Glory and sent the remains to the laboratory.
To identify Kirtley’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis, dental and anthropological analysis, and material and circumstantial evidence.
DPAA is grateful to the Department of Veterans Affairs for their partnership in this mission.
Today, 7,675 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. Kirtley’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing in Honolulu, 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 family contact information, contact the Army Casualty Office at (800) 892-2498.
Kirtley will be buried June 20, 2019, in Kaycee, Wyoming.
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) 699-1420/1169.
Kirtley’s personnel profile can be viewed at https://dpaa.secure.force.com/dpaaProfile?id=a0Jt000000fycUsEAI