BY Irene L. Mandra
Originally, there were 867 sets of Unknown remains.
During the long process of repatriating the dead, 416 of these were returned by the North Koreans to the US during Operation Glory which ran from September to November, 1954. Another 451 were recovered by the US from either the DMZ or South Korea. The turnover during Glory was comprised of 4,219 bodies in 4,175 containers.
Of the remains repatriated by North Korea, 125 were from Camps 1 & 5, 125 were from both sides of the Chosin, and the remaining split evenly between Pyongyang region and the Western battle zone around Kunu-ri.
Although there was some commingling, the US was able to identify 2,944 as American, and return them to their families for burial. The remaining 416, Unknown.
As a result of major advances in medico-legal technologies (DNA, mtDNA, CT Scans), 4 sets of Unknown remains were exhumed from the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, on the island of Oahu, Hawai'i. The Punchbowl is known by locals as Puowaina Crater, Puowaina meaning Hill of Sacrifice.
of the 4 sets exhumed, 1 set has been identified as USMC PFC Ronald D. Lilledahl, and was interred at Arlington National Cemetery. (May 2003) The remaining 3 sets are at JPAC with hopes of identification.
That leaves 862 Unknowns.
"United States Department of Defense
IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 21, 2003
The remains of a Korean War U.S. Marine buried as an "unknown" have been identified and returned to his family. He is Pfc. Ronald D. Lilledahl of Minneapolis, Minn. This marks the first unknown serviceman from the Korean War to be identified.
On Nov. 28, 1950, Lilledahl's unit, Company C of the 7th Marines, was surrounded by Chinese forces on the west side of the Chosin Reservoir and cut off from supporting units. During a seesaw battle throughout the day, Lilledahl reportedly was struck and killed by enemy fire and buried in a shallow grave. In the ensuing withdrawal, C Company was unable to retrieve all of its dead, including Lilledahl.
Following the armistice, the North Korean government returned remains believed to be those of U.S. servicemen, but forensic technology at the time was unable to make positive identifications on more than 800 of those. They were interred in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as The Punchbowl, as "unknowns."
In 1999, the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii (CILHI) exhumed two of the Korean War unknowns for the purpose of possible identification. Between 1999 and 2002, CILHI scientists submitted 10 bone or dental samples to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory but no usable mitochondrial DNA data could be extracted from the remains.
Broadening their search effort, CILHI researchers uncovered a postage-stamp sized chest x-ray in Lilledahl's medical records at the National Personnel Records Center. The scientific staff enlarged it many times and was able to show very strong consistency with the remains. The final piece of evidence confirming his identity came from a new computer program recently developed by CILHI, which allows scientists to compare dental remains to a vast database of almost 40,000 dental patterns seen in the U.S. Lilledahl's were unique among the entire database, lending tremendous weight to the significance of the match.
Annual negotiations led by the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office since 1996 have enabled CILHI teams to conduct 25 operations in North Korea, recovering what may be 178 remains of Americans. More than 8,100 are still missing in action from the Korean War. "