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Illinois Korean War Soldier's Remains Positively Identified


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WASHINGTON (AP)-- The remains of a U.S. soldier killed in the Korean War have been identified by American forensic experts 13 years after they were returned by North Korea.

The soldier was Pfc. Charles H. Long, of Durand, Illinois. He will be buried Saturday in Durand, the Pentagon said Wednesday.  Long's remains, along with his Social Security and other identification cards, were returned by the North Koreans in 1993. They were among an estimated 148 sets of remains returned that year.

Between 1990 and 1994, more than 250 sets of remains were returned by the North Koreans; Long is only the 17th to be positively identified, according to Larry Greer, a spokesman for the Pentagon's office of POW and MIA affairs.

In 1995, at the request of U.S. officials, the North Koreans stopped returning the remains they had excavated from battlefields. U.S. forensic experts had complained that the bones were being mixed by the North Koreans, which complicated the process of positive identification.

In 1996 a deal was worked out to allow U.S. teams to enter North Korea in search of remains, although that arrangement was suspended by the Bush administration in May 2005.

The excavations yielded 229 remains believed to be fallen U.S. servicemen, of which 27 have been identified positively.

More than 33,000 U.S. troops were killed in the Korean War, which began in June 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea. U.S. forces intervened on behalf of the South while Chinese forces backed the North.  Long was among four soldiers from L Company, 3rd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, who were declared missing in action on March 24, 1953, just four months before the war ended with the signing of an armistice.

Long and the three others were engaged in combat just north of today's Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea, on a piece of ground that became known as Pork Chop Hill.

The bodies of two of the MIAs were recovered and a third soldier, captured by Chinese forces, was returned alive during a prisoner exchange known as Operation Big Switch, which lasted from August to December 1953.Long remained unaccounted for and was officially declared dead on March 24, 1954.

When the North Korean government returned a box containing his remains in 1993 they said they had been found near Komsa-ri in Kangwon Province, which was near Long's last known location. Also in the box were his Social Security card and identification tags.

Forensic experts also used mitochondrial DNA and dental comparisons to identify the remains.

More than 8,100 U.S. servicemen still are listed as missing from the Korean War. The Pentagon believes at least a few thousand are recoverable, more than 1,000 from POW camp burial sites near the Chinese border and roughly an equal number around the Chosin Reservoir area in north-central North Korea.


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