The Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a serviceman, killed during the Korean War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Cpl. William H. Smith, 18, of Hornell, New York, will be buried Oct. 10 in Elmira, New York. In late November 1950, Smith was a member of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, when his unit was part of a planned attack north of a larger United Nations Command offensive to end the Korean War. The Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces (CPVF) launched a counter attack on the units left and right of the regiment, but not the regiment itself, in hopes of drawing them into a trap. The regiment was ordered to withdraw, but Smith’s battalion was ordered to hold its position and coordinate a withdrawal as tactical conditions permitted. During the night of Nov. 27, the CPFV attacked the regiment 10 miles southwest of Unsan, South Korea, near an area known as “Turtle’s Head Bend.” When the unit regrouped after the battle, Smith was reported missing in action as of Nov. 28, 1950.
Smith’s name did not appear on any prisoner of war lists provided by the CPVF or KPA, and no repatriated American prisoners of war had information regarding Smith as a prisoner of war.
Although the U.S. Army Graves Registration Service hoped to recover American remains that remained 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, Smith’s remains were not included and he was declared non-recoverable.
Between 1990 and 1994, North Korea returned to the United States 208 boxes of commingled human remains, which when combined with remains recovered during joint recovery operations in North Korea between 1996 and 2005, included the remains of at least 600 U.S. servicemen who fought during the war. North Korean documents included in the repatriation indicated that some of the remains were recovered from the vicinity where Smith had gone missing.
To identify Smith’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification laboratory used mitochondrial (mtDNA) and Y-chromosome short tandem repeat (Y-STR) DNA analysis, which matched a brother, as well as dental and anthropological analysis and circumstantial evidence, all which matched his records.
Today, 7,790 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.