The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) 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 Cpl. Curtis J. Wells, 19, of Ubly, Michigan, will be buried Sept. 10 in Harbor Beach, Michigan. In late November 1950, while Wells was assigned to Company C, 65th Engineer Combat Battalion, 25th Infantry Division, his company joined with Task Force (TF) Wilson to fight the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces (CPVF) in the vicinity of Unsan, North Korea. The TF was overwhelmed by a large force of CPVF soldiers, and by Nov. 27, 1950, they began to extricate themselves south and Company C returned to the control of the battalion. As the battalion attempted to account for its casualties, Wells was reported missing in action.
Wells’ name did not appear on any POW list provided by the CPVF or the Korean People’s Army, nor did any repatriated American POWs have any information about Wells.
In late 1953, as part of a prisoner of war exchange, known as “Operation Big Switch,” no repatriated Americans had any knowledge of Wells’ whereabouts. As a result of this, the U.S. Army declared him deceased as of March 18, 1954.
In October 1998, during a Joint Recovery Operation, a U.S./North Korean recovery team excavated a site in Kujang County, North P’yongan-Pukto Province, North Korea, based on information provided by witnesses concerning buried American soldiers. This site correlated with the area of the battle between TF Wilson and the CPVF.
To identify Wells’ remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used circumstantial evidence, DNA analysis, including mitochondrial DNA, Y-chromosome Short Tandem Repeat and autosomal DNA, which matched two brothers, as well as dental and anthropological analysis, which matched Wells’ records.
Today, 7,802 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, find us on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa/ or call (703) 699-1420.