US Returns Remains of 147 Soldiers in Largest-Ever Korean War Repatriation
A masked navy sergeant in white gloves approached the table in the quiet aircraft hangar, where a small coffin with the flag of the United States lay on a table. There were rows of socially distant dignitaries nearby.
The sergeant saluted and picked up the coffin during the ceremonial honor ceremony at Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Joint Base, on Tuesday to complete a 70-year-old remains-in-charge transfer.
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The U.S. flag was removed and briefly replaced under strict protocols by the flag of the United Nations Command in South Korea and then the flag of the Republic of Korea.
A South Korean soldier who fought with US troops in the Korean War in 1950/53 eventually went home to the "Land of Morning Silence" and went to a welcome ceremony in Seoul on Wednesday under the direction of President Moon Jae-in. the son of North Korean refugees.
The coffin was the last of a total of 147 ships aboard an Air Force of the Republic of Korea's A330 waiting for the flight home from the U.S. Defense Agency POW / MIA (DPAA) as the largest remittance remnant ever from the U.S. South marked boxes were used Korea.
The DPAA's forensic teams have determined that all of the remains are Korean. According to the DPAA, at least seven sets of the remains have been identified by laboratory analysis to be returned to their families in South Korea.
The remains "represent the ultimate level of full devotion and sacrifice for their nation in the Korean War and believe that their existence would have been meaningless without their country," said Lt. Col. Chul Kim, chaplain to the US Army Pacific, first in Korean and then spoken in English.
"Let your bravery become a seed for lasting peace and prosperity in the Republic of Korea," he said at the ceremony, which was restricted to civil servants and guards due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his remarks, counter-administrator Darius Banaji, deputy head of operations at the DPAA, said the 147 repatriations were made possible through close cooperation with the South Korean Ministry of National Defense for KIA Recovery.
"We are looking forward to many more events like this in the future," said Banaji, although there has been no recovery since North Korea transferred 52 boxes of mixed remains to the United States after the summit between President Donald Trump and Singapore in August 2018 North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June.
Since then, Kim has denied DPAA rescue operations in North Korea and has become increasingly hostile, launching frequent missile tests and threatening to resume underground nuclear tests.
According to the DPAA, a total of 62 U.S. service members have been identified from the remains returned by North Korea in 2018.
More than 7,500 Americans are still listed as missing in the Korean conflict, and approximately 5,300 of them are believed to have died on battlefields or in prison camps in North Korea.
Some of the remains transferred on Tuesday came from the remains returned by North Korea in 2018, while others recently identified as South Korean came from past 30-year restoration efforts, according to the DPAA.
At the Pearl Harbor ceremony, Jae Min Park, South Korea's Deputy Secretary of Defense, stated that "it has been seven decades since the Republic of Korea and the United States fought hand in hand as allies".
He said it was particularly appropriate "to return to the nation the remains of our heroes for whom they gave their lives on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Korean War [June 25]".
Park promised that the United States and South Korea would continue to work together to "bring everyone home," among the ranks of American and ROK service members who are still listed as missing from the conflict.
In his keynote speech, Adm. Phil Davidson, head of the Indo-Pacific Command of the United States, that those killed in the Korean War have contributed to a solid and lasting partnership between the United States and South Korea that has brought security and stability to the region.
"Our missing and unaccountable service members are entitled to a certainty - that they will never be forgotten," he said. "The conflict in which South Koreans and Americans fought side by side to defend the values and entities embodied in the established rules-based international order that was still in its infancy ... brought peace and prosperity to the world . ""
In conclusion, he said "Katchi Kashida", the motto of the US and South Korean armed forces on the peninsula, which means "We Go Together".
- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.
Related topics: Korean War: Work continues to find remains of MIAs, POWs, and Bring Them Home.
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