Now that North Korea has turned the remains of 55 service members over to the U.S., the daunting task of identifying them begins. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is urging families of Korean War missing in action (MIA) troops to come forward and provide DNA samples to the Defense Department.
” Some 5,300 of the 7,699 American unaccounted-for war dead are believed to be in North Korea, yet family reference samples on file only account for 91 percent of Korean War missing and 85 percent of Cold War losses,” VFW National Commander Vincent ” B.J.” Lawrence said in a statement on the organization’s web site. ” I’m calling on the more than 1.6 million VFW and VFW Auxiliary members to canvas their neighborhoods and urge every MIA family – even distant relatives – to provide a family reference sample in the hope that the next identification announcement is their long-lost soldier, sailor, airman, Marine or contract civilian.”
The U.S. accepted the remains during a July 27 ceremony at Osan Air Base, Korea. The cases that contained them were draped in United Nations flags, because of the uncertainty of their nationalities.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has begun the identification process, at its laboratory at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. The Pentagon stated that identification would be particularly difficult because the North Koreans did not record the locations or dates the remains were found and recovered. Dental and DNA records will play a key role in the process.