The Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today the remains of a U.S. serviceman, unaccounted for from the Korean War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Earl E. Hilgenberg, 23, of Ironton, Ohio, will be buried March 27 in Willow Wood, Ohio. In early November 1950, Hilgenberg was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, when his unit was attacked by Chinese forces while occupying a position along the Nammyon River, near Unsan, North Korea. Hilgenberg was reported missing in action on Nov. 2, 1950, while his unit was conducting a fighting withdrawal to a more defensible position. A military board later amended his status to killed in action.
In 1953, as part of Operation Big Switch, soldiers who were returned told debriefers that Hilgenberg had been captured during the battle and died from lack of medical care. His remains were not among those returned by communist forces in 1954.
Between 1991 and 1994, North Korea turned over to the U.S. 208 boxes of human remains believed to contain more than 400 U.S. servicemen who fought during the war. North Korean documents, turned over at that time, indicated that some of the remains were recovered from the area where Hilgenberg was believed to have died.
To identify Hilgenberg’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, including mitochondrial DNA, which matched his brother.
Today, 7,852 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 by American 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 or call (703) 699-1169.