Korean War soldier identified after 63 years buried in North Dakota
JAMESTOWN — A Korean War veteran who was unaccounted for 63 years was laid to rest Thursday in a cemetery in New Rockford.
“Actually, the accounted-for date, which is Dec. 7, 2013, is the date the family was notified,” said Lt. Col Melinda F. Morgan, a public affairs officer with the Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office in Arlington, Va. Lies’ surviving family members asked not to be contacted by the press.
“Very often the family has certain things that they want to get done or get together before they select the funeral date, or they have a specific funeral date for specific reasons to have it on, so it’s up to them when the funeral is,” Morgan said.
Lies, a medic with the 32nd Infantry Regiment, 31st Regimental Combat Team, was killed in action Nov. 28 or 29, 1950, while tending to wounded comrades, according to the DOD’s website. The 31st RCT, known as Task Force Faith, named after Cmdr. Lt. Col. Don C. Faith, began a fighting withdrawal to a more defensible position while facing off against North Korean troops and Chinese allies.
In the U.S. military’s online historical archives, a narrative of the battle was provided by Capt. Martin Blumenson, a military historian and Korean War veteran, who recalled temperatures below zero that could keep light machine guns from firing properly and yellow clouds of dry snow and dust that were kicked up by the team’s trucks.
“Huddled together in the back of the trucks, the men of the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry, stomped their feet on the truck beds in futile attempts to keep their limbs from becoming stiff and numb,” Blumenson wrote. “… A man could take even stinging, stiffening cold if it meant the end of a war. And that was how things looked on this 25th day of November 1950 … some of the men had listened to a news broadcast from Tokyo describing the beginning of a United Nations offensive in Korea designed to terminate the war quickly.”
Of the 1,053 troops — officers and allied-Korean soldiers who began the operation — only 181 survived. The Korean War continued to drag on until an armistice was signed July 27, 1953.
Lies’ remains were among 208 boxes turned over to the U.S. by North Korea between 1991 and 1994 that contain an estimated 350 to 400 U.S. servicemen who fought during the war. Documents accompanying the remains state some of them were recovered near the village of Chongriyang-ri, near where Lies was believed to have died.
The DOD reports 7,882 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War. The DOD has an ongoing mission to account for every American serviceman who went missing while serving the U.S.
Lies’ remains were identified using circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools including two forms of DNA comparisons. Mitochondrial DNA matched Lies to his maternal-line sister and brother, and Y-STR DNA matched Lies to his paternal-line brother.
Morgan said Lies’ remains will be returned in time for the funeral, and full military honors will be offered at the burial service.
“Each family gets to choose what they want in conjunction with the burial,” Morgan said. “I’m not sure what they have selected out of what we typically do, because we can go from taps to a 21-gun salute, the list goes on and on; it’s what the family has asked for. This particular family does not want to be contacted by the media, which means I didn’t contact them either and ask any specifics. … When the family doesn’t want to talk to the press, I’m not press, but I consider that is also a sign they don’t want to talk to me.”