The 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 Sgt. Bailey Keeton, Jr., 20, of Oneida, Tennessee, will be buried June 25 in his hometown. In late November 1950, Keeton was a member of Company D, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, as one of approximately 2,500 U.S. and 700 South Korean soldiers who were assembled into the 31st Regimental Combat Team (RCT). The 31st RCT was deployed east of the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea, when it was engaged by overwhelming numbers of Chinese forces, driving the remnants of the 31st RCT, known historically as Task Force Faith, to begin a fighting withdrawal to more defensible positions near Hagaru-ri, south of the reservoir. As the unit withdrew from the area, only wounded soldiers were evacuated. Keeton could not be accounted for by his unit at the end of the battle, and the U.S. Army reported him missing in action as of Dec. 2, 1950.
Although the U.S. Army Graves Registration Service hoped to recover American remains from north of the Korean Demilitarized Zone after the war, administrative details between the United Nations Command and North Korea complicated recovery efforts. An agreement was made and in September and October 1954, in what was known as Operation Glory, remains were returned. However, Keeton’s remains were not included and he was declared non-recoverable.
During the 32nd Joint Recovery Operation in 2004, U.S. and North Korean recovery teams conducted operations on the eastern bank of the Chosin Reservoir, Changjin County, North Korea, in the area where Keeton was reported missing in action. At least nine individuals were recovered and returned to the laboratory for processing.
To identify Keeton’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used circumstantial and anthropological evidence, as well as DNA analysis, including mitochondrial DNA, Y-chromosome Short Tandem Repeat DNA and autosomal STR DNA, which matched a sister and a brother.
Today, 7,812 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War. Using advances in 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.