Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Bringing them home from a “forgotten war”

Although the Korea War ended with an armistice over 55 years ago there are still over 8,100 U.S. service members still listed as missing in action from that conflict.


According to a recent Yonhap (a Korean version of the Associated Press) news release, “South Korean and U.S. officials will search the area surrounding the heavily fortified inter-Korean border to look for the remains of South Korean and American troops killed during the 1950-53 Korean War. Over 13,000 South Korean and some 2,000 U.S. troops are believed to be buried inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the world’s most heavily armed border, a four-kilometer wide buffer separating the two Koreas.”This joint search will be conducted to help provide valuable experience for future excavation projects inside the DMZ, and it will mark the first search ever inside the DMZ. The search will last until Nov. 25, involving some 20 officials from the United States Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and dozens more from South Korea’s Agency for KIA Recovery and Identification.

Additionally, “the joint search also aims to find the wreckage of a U.S. fighter jet, an F-84G that is believed to have crashed in March 1953 near a port in the southwestern city of Pyongtaek.”Some 100,000 South Korean and 8,100 U.S. troops still remain missing since the end of the Korean War.

 

That is a lot of service members unaccounted for from that three-year conflict that for all practical and semantic purposes was a substitution for World War III with the US, the Soviet Union and China facing off on the Korean peninsula.

 

 

What’s even more bothersome is while that our government sends our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives into harms way without batting an eye, when it comes to finding and bringing those missing in action or unaccounted for back home it takes years and years. Not once in the 30 plus years that I have been able to vote have I ever heard of a politician running for office mention anything about this—unless of course that politician was a veteran. I think it is a national disgrace that our government has not done enough to bring everyone back home.

 

As for the Korean War missing in action that’s 8,100 families who are still waiting for their loved ones to come home. And while on the topic of POW/MIAs there are still over 3,000 listed as Missing in Action from World War I, 78,777 from World War II, and 2, 583 from Vietnam. That’s a lot of “Johnny’s” who never came marching home.

 

A few years ago, when I was writing feature articles for the Korea Times, I had the opportunity to write about two ceremonies for the repatriation of UNC remains as well as the remains of a U.S. pilot. Those were two very somber events when you considered that someone was finally going home after all those years of having been listed as missing in action. When a funeral march was played by the Eighth Army Band during the ceremony I was really choked me up. (I also wrote an article about the laboratory in Hawaii that identifies the remains of service members.)

 

While missing in action or unaccounted for service members is just the heartrending reality of war (interestingly there are 1,426 MIAs from the Revolutionary War) and some remains may never be found, we should never forget those who have not been able to come home. These service members paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country and deserve much more in searching for their remains.

 

There is a POW/MIA Recognition Day on the third Friday in September that honors the commitments and the sacrifices made by our nation’s prisoners of war and those who are still missing in action. National POW/MIA Recognition Day is one of the six days specified by law on which the black POW/MIA flag is flown over federal facilities and cemeteries, post offices and military installations.

 

Perhaps this recognition is also best said in this very touching testimony from a Vietnam service member about his brethren missing in action.

 

“If you are able, save for them a place inside of you and save one backward glance when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go. Be not ashamed to say that you loved them, though you may or may not have always. Take what they have left and what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own. And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane, take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind.”

 

Major Michael O’Donnell – January 1, 1970, Dak To, Vietnam

 

O’Donnell, a helicopter pilot went missing in action on March 24, 1970 during a rescue attempt. His remains were discovered and returned in 1995 and later identified in 2001.

 

We must never forget.

 

We must bring them home.

2 Comments

  1. Touching post, and of particular interest to me – I’m a reenactor, and as such, very interested in history, and I also live here in Korea at the moment. Are you still in the country?

  2. Thanks for remembering our still missing servicemen from the Korean War. My uncle is among the over 8,100 who have yet to come home. He was an F-86 Sabre pilot and disappeared while on a combat mission in 1953.

    Hopefully, the day will come when all the families of missing servicemen will be able to welcome home their loved ones.

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