The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) 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. Delbert D. Kovalcheck, 20, of E. Millsboro, Pa., will be buried June 11, in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C. In late 1950, Kovalcheck was assigned to Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 31st Regimental Combat Team (RCT), deployed east of the Chosin Reservoir, in North Korea. On Nov. 29, 1950, the 31st RCT, known historically as Task Force Faith, began a fighting withdrawal to a more defensible position. Following the battle, Kovalcheck was reported missing in action.
Between 1991 and 1994, North Korea turned over the U.S. 208 boxes of human remains believed to contain 350 - 400 U.S. servicemen who fought during the war. North Korean documents, turned over with some of the boxes, indicated that some of the remains were recovered from Sinhung-ri, near the area where Kovalcheck was believed to have died.
To identify Kovalcheck’s remains, scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, including DNA comparisons. Two types of DNA were used; mitochondrial DNA, which matched his maternal-line niece, and Y-STR DNA, which matched his paternal-line cousin.
Today, 7,883 Americans remain unaccounted-for from the Korean War. Using modern technology, identifications continue to be made from remains that were previously turned over by North Korean officials or recovered from North Korea by American teams.
For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO web site at www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call (703) 699-1169.