Press Release | Feb. 25, 2005

Missing Korean War Serviceman Identified (Cope)

The Department of Defense announced today that the remains of a U. S. Air Force pilot, missing in action from the Korean War, has been identified and will soon be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Air Force Captain Troy “Gordie” Cope of Norfork, Ark., will be buried in Ft Worth, Texas, on May 31.

On Sept. 16, 1952, Cope and his wingman, both flying F-86 Saber Jets from Kimpo Air Base in South Korea, encountered six MiG-15s of the North Korean Air Force. Cope was flying near the Yalu River, separating North Korea from China, on combat air patrol in an area known as “MiG Alley.” In the ensuing aerial dogfight, Cope lost contact with his wingman and was never seen again.

In 1995, an American businessman saw a metal dogtag belonging to Cope in the military museum in Dandong, China. He copied the data and reported it to U.S. authorities, yet inquiries to both the Chinese and North Korean governments yielded no further leads.

Then in 1999, during archival research by analysts of the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), documents about Cope’s shootdown were discovered in Russian archives in Podolsk. These archives held documents that included statements and drawings by the Russian pilots who were flying the MiG-15s for the North Koreans. Also included were detailed reports on the ground search carried out by Russian and Chinese officials in Dandong where the crash site was located.

After DPMO’s discussions with the Chinese government in 2003, a team of specialists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command excavated the site in May 2004 and found aircraft debris and human remains which were identified in October. Dandong citizens and officials assisted the team throughout the excavation, and were praised by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/Missing Personnel Affairs Jerry D. Jennings.

“Without the assistance of the people of Dandong, this would not have been possible. The family of Troy Cope and the American people express our appreciation to all those who helped us bring Troy Cope home again,” said Jennings.

Of the 88,000 Americans missing from all conflicts, 8,100 are MIA from the Korean War.