The Korean War has been over for 66 years, yet the families of the 7,667 still missing men have yet to get answers to their most obvious questions:
Did the MIAs actually die on the battlefield or were they captured and suffered in POW camps until they died of starvation? If they died on the battlefield, were their remains collected and buried nearby? If remains couldn’t be identified, what happened to them?
What is really surprising is that most of our questions already have answers! Yes, the demise of most of the still missing men can be answered by reading through thousands of documents at the National Archives in College Park MD. The only problem is . . . no one is committed enough to spend that much time reading old documents.
From my 25 years of research . . . of the nearly 4,000 so-called MIAs, at least 156 are known to have died on the battlefield . . . and more than 910 are known to have been POWs . . . and the families were never told! Of the 1730 still unaccounted-for supposed KIAs, more than 238 were known to have been POWs . . . and their families were never told as well!
So, as a family member, what should you be doing to learn more about your missing loved-one??
First, gather up all the info you already have . . . pictures, dental records, details on any prior injuries like traffic accidents or sports injuries, finger prints if he was ever arrested, time period in Korean, names of fellow soldiers or crew members, estimated height, facial structural appearance (Caucasian, Negroid, Mongoloid), Age when missing.
If you have ever attended a DPAA meeting, study the summary report you were given. Note the field search case number or air loss case number at the end of the first paragraph. If he was MIA or KIA, note the area where he was last known to be in. If an airman, note the area where his plane went down. If known or suspected a POW, note the prison camp where he was taken. Note the map attached to the summary. Study it carefully and compare to a current google map.
Next, call your casualty office: Army 800-892-2490, Air Force 800-531-5501, Marines 800-847-1597, Navy 800-443-9298
Provide your loved-one’s name and service number. Ask if any other family members have been in contact? Ask which one of you is the primary next-of-kin? Request your loved-one’s IDPF file and all other info available. Request the full field search case or full air loss case report. Request his unit’s daily records beginning two days before his loss date and ending two weeks later.
Provide your case officer with all of the info you gathered: previous injuries, photos with a smile, dental records, etc.
Request a report with all of the men who went missing from his unit from the day before until the day after his supposed loss date. Loss dates are often the day after the incident, because he didn’t show up for role-call. If the battle was three days long, he may have been actually lost even earlier.
Once you get the report, note those who were captured and which of those men returned alive after the war. Then request their debriefing reports which identify other men also captured but often also men who died on the battlefield. Sometimes, they mention someone like “Jones” from Montana . . . which often goes unnoticed . . . but would be very useful to that family!
I know you’re thinking that all of this has already been done . . . over and over again . . . and you probably won’t get any further with all of this effort.
Recently, I’ve been working the case of Cal Charles William Cook, who DPAA claims was “Killed-in-Action” on 8/8/1950. In studying his case, I noted that he was among 9 men killed that day from 9th regiment. All were buried together locally and later exhumed and sent home to their families, yet Cook was the only remains that did not get sent home.
Other units were also fighting in that area and a number of them were captured, marched north to Seoul, and wound up in Moo Hak Girl’s school, where their names were written on chalkboards before they were moved on Pyongyang in September 1950.
Ironically, the name “Cook” showed up on this chalkboard. Yes, this is a common name, but this was early in the war . . . . and only one “Cook” went missing early enough to show up on this board.
Most cases are this simple to enlighten. So. I urge you to get involved. Ask your casualty officer to help you get in touch with other family members whose loved-ones were lost at the same time from the same unit. You will be flabbergasted at what you learn.
I have details to share on more than 4,035 individual cases (maybe yours) and can help you get started on your mission.
Imagine, you’re 18 years old and a proud American. World War II has been over for five years and you are not sure what you want to do for the rest of your life, so you take a chance, sign up for active Army duty to see the world and make up your mind.
First stop . . . Japan! Wow, what an experience!
Days later, you learn that North Korea has invaded South Korea and your upcoming assignment is in Pusan to push back the North Koreans. Fresh off the boat, you immediately hit the battlefields and wind up in Hadong where bodies are dropping everywhere. Your commander tells you to surrender and you drop your weapon. It is July 27, 1950.
Almost immediately, your government lists you as MIA, “Missing in Action” . . . along with 46 others who were also known to be captured yet labeled MIA. But, you assume that your country knows you are a POW and will be coming to get you very soon.
Your captors line you up and start marching you North. The line is as far North as you can see. Fear rushes in.
Months later you are finally in Pyongyang. American Forces were approaching. Three of you are bound together at the East Gate Ferry site along the Taedong River in Pyongyang. The guards beat you up and toss you into the river. You all drown.
Days later, your Comrades recovered your 3 remains and buried them on the west side of the courtyard of the Provincial Government Building. On October 24, 1950, George Gibbs disinterred the bodies and found your ration card in the jacket pocket of one of the remains. The remains were moved to the Military Cemetery in Pyongyang and buried on plot A, Row 1, Grave 9. A report was filed that you died as a POW, but your family was never told, and you remained just “Missing in Action.”
According to enemy documents that our government claims . . . to this day . . . to be confidential, your name appeared in those documents during the war. Prior to your death, you were photographed by the enemy and you were identified by the “Office of Special Investigation” from those photos as an obvious POW, but your family was never told, and you remained “Missing in Action.”
After the war, remains were shipped from North Korea to South Korea and N-17030 was among them. It appears to be the same remains that had your ration card in the shirt pocket. But as of 1955, your remains were reburied as an unknown in the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii, grave number 333 and you remained “Missing in Action”.
With a budget of $140 million a year, DPAA has been sitting on this compelling information while their laboratory was just 9 miles from your remains . . . for the last 63 years.
In reality, James Elbert Beller, we hope that our government will soon open your file; give your case the attention it so deserves; disinter these remains; identify you; return you to your family . . . and no longer refer to you as just “Missing in Action”!!!
The Korean War has been over for almost 65 years . . . or has it?
For the families of any war, we expect our loved-ones to come home or be told when and where they died . . . and when to expect their remains to be returned if possible. Most of the Korean War families of the Missing were essentially told, “Our government doesn’t know what happened to them, so stop asking questions and forget about him!”
Some of us did not accept that answer and we now have the forensic files on more than 800 unknown remains which clearly identify some and will lead to the identification of others.
N-17156 was found at location CT126649. That code narrows down the location within 500 feet. The remains was so badly damage that the race, height and age could not be determined or even estimated. Yet, it was found with aviation parts included. Duh . . . a plane crash! A quick study of air losses in that vicinity indicates that Willie Wall went down within 2.5 miles . . . and Thomas Helton, John Maniatty, and Bernard McManaman all went down within 2 miles of where this remains was found. Perhaps, the families would like to know?
N-17152 surfaced from CT869718. There were no ID tags but aircraft parts were included. Remains were Caucasian and over age 30. Only two missing airmen fit location . . . Walter Clinnin and Marce Dunn, but only Walter was over 30. If anyone knows his family, please contact me.
N-17157 surfaced from CT154636, Caucasian, age 22-24, no ID tags but AF vest included. Ideal candidates include Robert Gross, Charles Gunther, Ernest Oliphant, Joseph Ratti, and William Roy. Only families of Oliphant and Ratti could be found.
N-17121 was found at BU869452. It was determined to be Caucasian, approx. 68.5” tall, and age 25-30. It was shipped as unknown but an oxygen mask and a/c parts were included. Only two airmen come close . . . Elwood Brey (23 years old) and Joseph Collins (29).
N-17110 surfaced from BU467631, undetermined race, but over 30 years old, and included aircraft parts. Only two come close . . . Lyle Moore (27) and Herbert Smith (35)!
N-17111 was found at BU471625. Just by location that narrowed the candidates down to just Edgar Gray, Lyle Moore, and Herbert Smith. Yet, the age was 30 plus. Only Herbert was that old and his estimated crash site is less than a mile away from the remains! Like most, I haven’t found any family members to share this with!
N-17118 was found at BU729552, Caucasian, 68-70” tall, age 28-32. There were no ID tags or teeth, but included flying suit and Mae West. Another . . . Duh! That fits Henry Dixon, Robert Finch, or Alan Hoff!
N-17134 surfaced from CU021039, Caucasian and over 27 years of age. Originally associated with Royce Carruth, a Navy pilot, but could not be confirmed. The only other likely candidate is Eric O’Briant. Fortunately, I was able to contact his nephew who is requesting disinterment and DNA testing.
N-17124 surfaced from CU494753, Caucasian, age 22-26. Only three are close . . . John Lush, Cordice Teague, and Alfred Ziegler.
N-17126 surfaced from CU519528, Caucasian, age 20+, no ID tags, but included flying suit. Closest matches are James Anderle, James Hughes, Richard Jackson, and Harold Podorson. Unfortunately, I have no family contacts for these.
N-17143 surfaced from YC544593, Caucasian, age 30 plus, no ID tags or teeth, but included flying suit and parachute parts. From the location, only one airman is a logical match . . . Bill Elsom.
N-17145 surfaced from YC564859, Caucasian, age 26-30, included flying vest. Robert Lacey and Ray Wilk are primary candidates.
N-17146 surfaced from YC564859, undetermined race, age 25-30, major trauma to remains, included a landing light switch. Only two come close . . . Robert Lacey and Ray Wilk. If anyone knows their family members, please contact me.
N-17147 surfaced from YC564859, undetermined race, age 24-27, included flying vest. These last 3 all came from the same location. Again Robert Lacey and Ray Wilk are prime for each . . . or anyone with an IQ above plants would deduct one of these is Lacey and another Wilk. The closest third loss would be Curtis Smith or Bill Elsom . . . both about 15 miles away.
N-17102 was found at YD364328. It was shipped as unknown but included AF flying suit, crash helmet, parachute line, and Mae West. That narrows down to just 9 individuals, but it is doubtful that any of the families were told.
N-17104 surfaced from YD328567, Caucasian, age 25-30, no ID tags, but parts of a/c included. Barney Casteel and Marlyn Ford are ideal candidates from location and age. Marlyn’s daughter has been notified.
N-17106 surface from YD284553, Caucasian, age 20-23, no ID tags, but included a/c parts. Four men fit this description . . . George Barbiere, Richard Caldwell, Dean Crabb, and Nicholas Palmiotti, yet Palmiotti is the only one for which I have a family contact.
Please note my frustration. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency calls me a “Hobbyist”. Well, if a Hobbyist can pull together this much information, just think what an agency with a 130 million dollar budget should do!!!!!
Please share this with other family members and encourage anyone and everyone to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on those missing from the Korean War.
It was 1956. The war had been over for 3 years and family members had been asked not to discuss their still missing loved ones fate.. Why? Because secretly our Government knew a lot more than they were telling, and they couldn’t afford for the truth to come out!
Not only had our Government left over a thousand men behind alive in Communist prison camps, they also had done a poor job of identifying remains and shipping the wrong bodies home! The mistakes needed to go somewhere, so they buried them as unknowns in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punch Bowl) in Hawaii.
A few years ago, I acquired the forensic files on the unidentified remains, but more recently someone sent me the spreadsheet of the grave sites and their related unidentified X-files. All of a sudden, I had the potential to associate logical missing men with actual grave sites!! So here are some of my early findings.
Of the 848 Korean War unidentified remains in the Punch Bowl cemetery, more than half, 433, came through Operation Glory, an exchange of remains after the war. These remains arrived typically with names and service numbers attached to the box by the North Koreans. They were known Americans who died in prison camps. After double checking by the forensic team, these 433 were challenged and excluded from being the name on the casket, and buried as unknowns.
Even if the North Koreans accidentally mixed up the bodies, they somehow came across the name and service number somehow, so anyone with common sense would surmise that these names should be in the POW column, yet 35 of those excluded from the bodies remain MIA and KIA on DPAA’s lists.
Lewis Brickell was an MIA, even though Operation Glory remains N-14889 arrived in 1954 with his name on it. Forensics excluded him, so the family was never told. But, in 1999, they disinterred that same remains from grave 928, and miraculously confirmed it as . . . yes you guessed it . . . Lewis Brickell. That story can be repeated over and over again for William Butz, Richard Isbell, Anthony Massey, Arnold Olson, Frank Sandoval, Donald Walker, John Ward, Carl West . . . . and probably countless others. This same scenario occurs for remains recovered from the battlefields where men were identified, then excluded and families never told, then confirmed 60 years later. I’m sure the families of Nehemiah Butler, Richard Clapp, Norman Dufresne, James Constant, Bernard Fisher, Will Giovanniello, Lee Henry, Everett Johnson, Donald Matney, Robert Mitchell, James Mullins, Donald Skeens, Luis Torres, John Ward, Carl West, and Edris Viers, . . . would have jumped at the chance to help confirm or exclude the remains 60 years earlier.
So, back to shipping wrong bodies home. Grave 807 contains X-1404 unidentified remains, but it hasn’t always been that way. It was originally shipped home as Eugene Molinar . . . and only one person objected . . . Eugene, who came back alive. Only one missing person now actually fits the forensic criteria, Robert D Miller, but our government sees no need to disinter him.
Commonly, I find comments like “Operation Glory originally labeled remains N-14142 as ‘Reginal Smith’, but his previously identified(?) remains were already returned to his family.” This makes one wonder if the previous identification was accurate. If not, the cemetery is full of mistakes. At least 28 remains share this comment.
Louis Mutta was driving a jeep when it was hit and exploded. His fellow servicemen put him in an abandoned building with the intent to recover him after the incoming attack. The building burned, but there was only one body inside, obviously Mutta. Yet our government wouldn’t assume the obvious, and then buried him as unknown in grave 356. It’s about time to get him back to his family.
When evidence reduces candidacy down to one person, there should be no excuse to procrastinate. Yet in 116 cases, only one person is logical and they continue their 60 year long wait for someone to care!
If you have a relative missing from the Korean War, please email me at email@example.com or call 770-565-4420.
(Editor's note: X-Files are the collected information on unidentified remains of American servicemen returned following the Korean War and buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific [Punchbowl/Hawaii]. Each set of remains has an X-File number.)
For the past two years, my articles have been mostly about unidentified remains files acquired by John Eakin and generously shared with us. Recently, Eakin found some more from the lab in Yokohama, and here is what we have learned.
The first 10 files were about Mongoloid remains and were assumed to be Korean.
The next 15 were remarkably detailed and surfaced some surprising info on individuals, mostly American.
X-6366 was shipped to the National Cemetery in Hawaii on March 30, 1963, as an unknown, but this is what they actually knew. The Caucasian remains was found near Naepyong-ni DS087909 Mul-gol Kari-San. About 85% of the bones were recovered. Though dozens of missing men were considered from 38th and 9th regiments who were in that area, three compelling pieces of evidence were found with the remains . . . the dogtags of John Shay, Gerald Crippen, and Larence Monn. The science team couldn’t find info on Crippen . . . even though he was awarded the prisoner of war medal for being captured March 15, 1951. But, being a POW places him away from the site where the body was found. Oddly, Larence D Monn does not show up in any obvious Korean War records. However, John B Shay was with the 9th infantry and went missing May 19, 1951 and matches the dental info of this remains. Yet, he was buried as unknown!
X-6367 was found next to X-6366 (above). Logic would lead most of us to suspect the same individuals considered for the 6366 remains. The bones indicated that the man was about 5’-3” tall and the only man missing from that area and that short was . . . Edward Carico. Yet, he was buried as an unknown.
X-6369 was found near Taejon-ni CT327085. Later it was determined to be a comingling of two Caucasian remains. A dogtag imprinted Howard A Morgan US51024548 and a helmet with “Morgan” painted on it were also found. Yes Morgan was with 7th regiment who went missing April 25, 1951 in that area and among 20 of unrecovered men. The head was missing so dental comparison was not possible. He was buried as an unknown. I wonder, “Was the family notified that Morgan’s dog tags and helmet were found with the remains?”
X-6370 is a co-mingling of 3 men found near Sonjong-ni SK at DQ008481. Two were Caucasian; one was Asiatic Mongoloid. ID tags for Frank Di Pino RA11165706 and Harold Cutlip RA15014310 were found with the Caucasian remains. Frank went missing 7/29/1950 from the 34th regiment and is still unaccounted-for. Harold Cutlip supposedly died on 7/29/1950 and his remains were supposedly shipped home to his family . . . hopefully it was this X-6370 remains . . . or our government has some explaining to do.
X-6377 was shipped to Hawaii 11/12/1965. Average size, average muscularity, medium skull, Caucasian. Included two dog tags of Carlos Bidopia US 44192659. Buried as unknown. I wish I had contact info for the family of Carlos Bidopia (MIA 5/17/1951) from Dade County FL. They may wish to know that Carlos is probably in a Hawaiian cemetery.
X-6378 came from Kawan-Do CT771238. Negroid Race. The only personal item with the remains was a wedding ring inscribed “From FJ to AF”. Four non-recovered men match the initials AF, but all were single. Five “AF”s from the area have been identified, but only one was married, Alflorence Flowers, who died of wounds in a hospital and his body returned. But, maybe, a soldier gave the ring to another soldier when he was wounded and asked him to return it to his wife with a personal message. Who knows? There are 10 unresolved Negro cases who were MIA or KIA in that area and not enough obvious evidence to associate. So why can’t we dig it up and test it for DNA?
On April 27, 1966 a Korean, was using a metal detector, found remains X-6379 . . . with dog tags of Vincent Vega RA16324985 who became “Missing-in-Action” 7/5/1950. The remains was still buried at NMCP as an unknown. Fortunately, I had a family contact so I sent this info to his niece. But, the email was rejected as non-deliverable and the phone inbox was full! This usually indicates a deceased family member.
On 9/16/2005, Michael Flowers of JPAC sent a letter to the Director of the cemetery in Hawaii stating “the remains (X-6385) are believed to be associated with the May 23,1951 loss of Army PFC Albert Edwards Atkins.” Yet the DPAA website still has Atkins as unaccounted-for. What is taking so long?
With all of the obvious cases, it makes one wonder why DPAA is not meeting their mandate of 200 identities each year.
If you have a missing loved-one from the Korean War, please give me a call at 770-565-4420 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You will be amazed at all of the known information on each of these men that has not been shared with the families!
John Zimmerlee is an accomplished researcher on the Korean War POW/MIA issue. He is founder and executive director of the Korean War POW/MIA Network. John's father, Capt. John Zimmerlee, Jr., is missing-in-action.