The Remains of Our American Servicemen Will Soon Be on U.S. Soil
Of those who died during the Korean War, one veteran said, 'Give them a decent burial. I would go down to Hickory, Tennessee, to see that Johnnie got one'
The military remains of servicemen missing in action or who died fighting in the Korean War are coming back to the United States.
And very soon now, at least to start: The U.S. military in South Korea said Saturday it had moved 100 wooden coffins and U.S. flags to the border with North Korea to prepare for the repatriation, The New York Times reported.
That’s a direct result of the historic meeting in Singapore several weeks ago between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. “The United States and the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified,” the joint statement noted. It was one of the summit’s four main points of agreement.
The announcement was among the concrete diplomatic achievements for the Trump administration after the U.S. president’s face-to-face historic meeting with Kim. The leaders also generally agreed to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” and to strive for a “lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.”
The Korean War, a conflict between the United States, the current North Korea, and at one stage, China, did not officially end in 1953; the principal warring parties signed only an armistice, not a peace treaty.
In total, nearly 40,000 Americans died in the war and 100,000 were injured.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency estimated that “7,800 men [were] lost and unrecovered from the Korean War” and “about 5,300 were lost in North Korea.”
The agency also reported that Operation Glory, conducted from September through November of 1954, resulted in the Chinese and North Koreans’ providing “a total of 4,167 containers, with an estimated 4,219 human remains, of whom 2,944 are known or believed to be Americans.”
Between 1996 and 2005, the North Koreans agreed to assist with the repatriation of military remains. It is estimated that “joint U.S.-North Korea military search teams conducted 33 joint recovery operations and recovered 229 sets of American remains,” the Associated Press reported.
Military veterans naturally reacted positively to the news of the Singapore summit, and to the announcement that military remains would again be repatriated to the U.S.
Joan Morris, the niece of 1st Lt. Robert Schmitt, who had led a hilltop charge against Chinese forces in the war, has been working tirelessly to have her uncle returned to the U.S..
“It would mean closure for our family,” Morris told Fox News in an interview (see the video above). “In particular, it would mean that we have completed something our grandmother always wanted us to do, and that was to bring our uncle Bobby home to North Dakota.”
“So we are very encouraged by what is happening with President Trump, and it would mean the world to have [Uncle Bobby] home,” she added.
John Zimmerlee, who considers himself among a group of war orphans, has sought to bring back his father’s remains. U.S. Air Force Capt. John Henry Zimmerlee Jr.’s B-26 bomber disappeared in 1952.
“As a young person, four and five years old,” Zimmerlee told Fox, “the military told my family, myself and my mother that if they found anything, they would continue looking for it … If they find anything at all, they would notify us immediately. Well, I was the person in the family that went to the mailbox every day looking for that information. And never received it.”
“We’re amazed. This is only the second president in history that has ever given our case any attention at all.”
Frustrated by the results of the government’s search for the remains, Zimmerlee revealed he began his own investigation in 1995 into what happened to his father.
Of the historic agreement between Trump and Kim, Zimmerlee told Fox, “We’re amazed. This is only the second president in history that has ever given our case any attention at all.”
Korean War veteran Gene Esselborn, an 86-year-old Indiana man, gave WHTR his reaction and reminded Americans of the heavy cost of the war.
“I lost all my buddies over there and what I didn’t lose end[ed] up captured, and they weren’t quite right when they got home,” he said.
Not all U.S. military casualties died from contact with the enemy; some perished from the brutal weather and other harsh environmental conditions.
“He died there in his sleep, frozen,” he said about fellow soldier Johnnie Stout, a Tennessean and one of the thousands who are unaccounted for as of now. “It was bad. It was better than 50 [degrees] below [zero]. I know. I was there.”
The veteran expressed his hopes for his fallen comrades.
“I want to see them bring back the bodies,” he said. “Well, it won’t be the bodies. It will be the skeletons. Give them a decent burial. I would go down to Hickory, Tennessee, to see that Johnnie got one.”