CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — Human remains discovered in South Korea near
the Demilitarized Zone may be those of a U.S. soldier, a 2nd Infantry Division
official said this week.
Lt. Col. Chris Bailey, 2nd ID's assistant chief of staff, visited the site in
December and passed information about the find to the Central Identification
Laboratory in Hawaii.
The laboratory recovers bodies of Americans, including U.S. servicemembers,
lost in foreign conflicts. Bailey said evidence indicates the remains could be
American but laboratory investigators would make that determination.
The 2nd ID museum confirmed U.S. units fought during the Korean War in the
area where the remains were found, Bailey said, but the museum had yet to
specify the units involved.
A South Korean construction worker, using a front-end bucket loader to set in
concrete power poles, discovered the remains two years ago, Bailey said. The
bones were larger than human remains the man had uncovered previously, leading
him to believe they were American, the lieutenant colonel said. Also, nearby
was a pot stamped "Made In the USA."
"He moved the remains about seven feet and performed a ceremony. He buried
them with a glass of soju and a Buddhist prayer," said Bailey, who contacted
the construction worker while investigating historic battlefields in South
"I'm a history guy. Back in November when I got over here I said, ‘Let's see
if I can go to some places, less developed, battlefields that aren't tourist
attractions, and get into fighting positions and find some old trinketry.'"
The construction worker spoke out about the remains only after watching a
local television documentary that told the importance Americans place on
recovering lost soldiers' bodies.
"He was worried he might get into trouble," said Bailey, who traveled about
18.6 miles northeast of Dongduchoen, to the edge of a Republic of Korea (ROK)
Army security zone near a heavily mined DMZ section, to examine where the
remains were found.
The ROK Army maintains control points along roads approaching the DMZ so
reaching the site was a bureaucratic nightmare, Bailey indicated. On his first
attempt, he got only as far as the ROK Army's Typhoon observation post.
"We met an officer there who directed us to request access from his
division's staff. It took a month to get through to them," he said.
Once all of the red tape was cleared, the ROK Army was exceptionally
supportive, Bailey said.
"We drove into the DMZ area and went to the site with the construction guy.
Because of where it was, just below the crest of a hill, next to a minefield,
he remembered it.
"We have treated this like a potential find site," Bailey said. "The remains
are pretty much protected. They are on the edge of a South Korean military
Bailey photographed and surveyed the area, then sent his information to the
Central Identification Laboratory. CILHI dispatches recovery teams to suspected
sites to conduct excavations and search for remains. Remains thought to be
American then are flown to Hawaii for forensic identification. The laboratory
tries to match the remains to MIA records using DNA, dental, medical, military
records and any other means for identification.
Finally, CILHI is responsible for locating the next of kin and returning the
remains to family members. Since 1973, CILHI officials have said, the
laboratory has identified more than 1,089 servicemembers. Pentagon officials
say some 8,000 U.S. soldiers remain missing from the Korean War.
Bailey is familiar with the process: He supervised the recovery of human
remains for CILHI in Thailand in 1992, when he was with 45th Corps Support
"These guys have the ability to look at a site and remains and say whether
they are Asian, Caucasian, or Negroid. They have a record of who is not home
yet. Whenever they get a potential find they ask who was here from different
units and do their own science project," he said.
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