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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, July 21, 2001

Search begins for remains in North Korea

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Pentagon investigators are beginning a search for the remains of hundreds of American servicemen killed in the Chosin Reservoir area of North Korea in 1950, officials said yesterday.

 •  See photos of the Chosin Reservoir area
The search, set to begin today, is the first in the Chosin Reservoir area since the Korean War ended in 1953. The area was the scene of fierce battles in November-December 1950, when the 1st Marine Division was overwhelmed by a surprise Chinese army assault and was forced to withdraw under fire.

Searches and excavations have been done elsewhere in North Korea since 1996, yielding 107 sets of remains.

Larry Greer, a Pentagon spokesman, said a team from the Army's Central Identification Laboratory in Hawai'i was due in North Korea today. Part of the team will continue excavation work in Unsan and Kujang counties, about 60 miles north of the capital of Pyongyang, where previous efforts have been concentrated. Others will go to the remote Chosin Reservoir, northeast of Pyongyang, to identify specific burial sites where excavation work could begin this summer, Greer said.

In his classic account of Korean War battles in "This Kind of War," author T.R. Fehrenbach described the Chosin Reservoir battles as "some of the most savage actions in the long history of land warfare."

Until now, U.S. search and excavation efforts have focused on battlefields near the Chongchon River in Unsan and Kujang counties. In this region, elements of the 8th U.S. Army Cavalry Regiment were surprised by hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops who had slipped across the border, largely unnoticed, in October 1950 as U.S. and South Korean forces pressed toward the Yalu River.

When U.S. troops were forced to retreat south of what is now the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas, they left behind thousands of U.S. servicemen in temporary graves.

The Pentagon hopes to eventually gain North Korea's agreement to search for remains at former prisoner-of-war camps along the Yalu. The Pentagon estimates there are more than 1,000 burial sites near the POW camps.

In all, about 8,100 U.S. servicemen are still listed as unaccounted for from the war, which ended in July 1953.