Marine Missing From Korean War Is Identified
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office 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.
West was a member of Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Regiment, of the 1st Marine Division deployed near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. On Nov. 27, 1950, three Communist Chinese divisions launched an attack on the Marine positions. Over the next several days, U.S. forces staged a fighting withdrawal to the south, first to Hagaru-ri, then Koto-ri, and eventually to defensive positions at Hungnam. West died on Dec. 8, 1950, as a result of enemy action near Koto-ri. He was buried by fellow Marines in a temporary U.N. military cemetery in Hungnam, which fell to the North Koreans in December 1950. His identity was later verified by the FBI from a fingerprint taken at the time of the burial.
During "Operation Glory" in 1954, the North Korean government repatriated the remains of 2,944 U.S. soldiers and Marines. Included in this repatriation were remains associated with West's burial. The staff at the U.S. Army mortuary in Kokura, Japan, however, cited suspected discrepancies between the dental remains and West's dental file as well as discrepancies between the biological profile derived from the remains and West's physical characteristics. The remains were among 416 subsequently buried as "unknowns" in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (The Punchbowl) in Hawaii.
In May 2006, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command exhumed remains from The Punchbowl believed to be those of West. Although the remains did not yield usable DNA data, a reevaluation of the skeletal and dental remains led to West's identification.
For additional information on the Defense Department's mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO Web site at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call (703) 699-1169.