Oxford attends Dignified Transfer of Korean Unknowns

They’re coming home. Still simply “known but to God,” seven fallen Americans from the Korean War are undergoing an identification process at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) in Hawaii that will likely verify their true identities within the next two years.

As their caskets were moved in what military officials refer to as a “Dignified Transfer of Remains” last month, American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford stood in formation and rendered a salute.

“Many years have passed, but these veterans had and may still have family members who want them home,” Oxford said. “They may be ‘known to God,’ but they are forgotten by no one. The American Legion has numerous resolutions supporting a full accounting for, and whenever possible, a repatriation of the remains of every American who has served and made the ultimate sacrifice. I was honored to have observed the Dignified Transferred at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. The American Legion fully supports the mission of DPAA. We owe our heroes and their families nothing less.”

The seven remains that were disinterred Nov. 18 were turned over to the United States from North Korea in 1954. The men reportedly died in captivity while being held at three separate POW camps in North Korea. Based on the operating dates of those camps, they would have died in the first six months of 1951.

“The increase in identifications of U.S. servicemen previously interred as Unknowns is due to a few different factors,” said Stephen E. Thompson, a spokesman for DPAA. “Advances in forensic science now allows DPAA to make identifications previously not possible. The DNA scientists at AFDIL (Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory) have greatly assisted in this process.”

In addition to DNA analysis, the scientific advances include isotopic mapping. This science involves studying markers that are the result of dietary habits and remain in bones for many years. Clavicle matching is also helpful at providing characteristics considered as unique as a fingerprint.

Dignified Transfers of Korean War Unknowns occur every two weeks, with each set of remains undergoing rigorous testing until DPAA officials have met a “clear and convincing” burden of proof to make a positive identification. There are more than 7,600 unaccounted for Americans from the Korean War. AFDIL has collected DNA samples from family members of 92 percent of these unaccounted for veterans.

Family members or those who wish to learn more about DPAA’s mission are encouraged to visit its website at www.DPAA.mil.