The Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a serviceman, missing from the Korean War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Cpl. Donald A. Therkelsen, 23, of Chicago, will be buried Aug. 8, in Medical Lake, Washington. In July 1953, Therkelsen was assigned to Medical Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division (ID). On July 16, 1953, Chinese forces launched a massive attack, commonly known as the Battle of Kumsong, centered along the Kumsong River, North Korea. The attack caused Therkelsen and elements of the 3rd ID to withdraw to a more defensible position. Therkelsen was reported missing in action July 17, 1953.
In June 1955, a military board interviewed three U.S. soldiers who all stated that Therkelsen died while providing aid to a fallen soldier during the battle. Based on this information, the military review board amended Therkelsen status to killed in action. His remains were not among those returned by Chinese forces during Operation Glory in 1954.
Between 1990 and 1994, North Korea turned over to the U.S. 208 boxes of human remains believed to represent more than 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 the vicinity where Therkelsen was believed to have died.
To identify Therkelsen’s remains, scientists from the DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) used circumstantial evidence, chest radiography analysis, and mitochondrial DNA analysis, which matched his cousins.
Today, more than 7,800 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) 699-1420.