Not long after Thanksgiving of 1950, a group of soldiers and the 1st Marine division battled for two weeks. They fought through droves of Chinese soldiers to make it to the Korean coast.
The Chinese were not the only thing they had to fight. They also had to deal with severe cold with daytime temperatures below zero and nighttime temps reaching -20 or lower, causing many deaths on both sides.
End of the War
When the Korean War ended in 1953, many of the remains of soldiers who died in battle did not come home. In 2018, 55 sets of remains were brought back to Hawaii.
The U.S. Military believed that the remains were servicemen from the U.S. and likely service members from the United Nations. Then-Vice President Mike Pence was there to greet the caskets and speak at a ceremony before they were taken off the plane.
“Whosoever emerges from these aircraft today begins a new season of hope for the families of our missing fallen. Hope that those who are lost will yet be found. Hope that after so many years of questions, they will have closure.”Vice President Mike Pence
The military arranged for each casket to be carried by one Marine, one sailor, one soldier, and one airman. The containers were all set on risers in a hangar.
Identifying The Remains
Many family members of service members who never made it home hoped that the remains of their loved ones were in one of the containers. There are around 7,700 soldiers who are MIA from the Korean War, and the U.S. believed around 5,300 are still in North Korea.
It is the task of the U.S. military’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency to identify soldiers’ remains with DNA samples provided by their family members. They use bones, teeth, dog tags, and personal effects to make positive IDs.
However, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says this is a step in the right direction, but there is no guarantee that American remains in the boxes. It takes years to sift through remains and find matches.
For one Illinois family, the news came sooner rather than later. The department identified U.S. Army Cpl. Asa E Vance, handing his remains over to his niece so that he could receive a proper burial with full military honors.
Hopefully, many more families will get the opportunity to lay their soldiers to rest as the identification process continues.