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 Sgt. 1st Class Lawrence J. Smith, 25, of Crowley, Louisiana, will be buried Oct. 28 in his hometown. On February 11, 1951, Smith was a member of Company A, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, supporting South Korea’s Army attacks against the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces (CPVF) in an area known as the central corridor. The CPVF launched a massive counterattack, forcing the Americans to fight at Changbong-ni. Smith was reported missing near the village of Saemal, South Korea, on Feb. 12, 1951.
In August 1953, a repatriated American soldier stated that Smith had been captured. Smith was likely taken to the Suan Prisoner of War camp complex near the village of Namjong-gu in the North Hwanghae Province, North Korea, where he was reported to have died.
Although the American Graves Registration Service hoped to recover the remains of United Nations Command (UNC) and American soldiers who remained north of the DMZ after the war, conflict between the UNC and North Korea complicated efforts.
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 was believed to have died.
To identify Smith’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used mitochondrial and autosomal DNA analysis, which matched a niece and daughter, as well as dental, chest radiograph comparison and anthropological analyses, and circumstantial evidence.
Today, 7,788 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War. Using modern technology, identifications continue to be made from remains that were previously returned by North Korean officials or recovered from North Korea by American recovery 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.