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Remains of Lancaster Soldier missing from Korean War identified

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SGT Wilson Meckley Jr

The Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing from the Korean War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Army Sgt. Wilson Meckley, Jr., 22, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, will be buried April 4 in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C.  In November 1950, Meckley was assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, and was assembled with other soldiers into the 31st Regimental Combat Team, historically known as Task Force Faith.  While operating along the eastern banks of the Chosin Reservoir, elements of his unit were overwhelmed by Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces and were forced to withdraw to more defensible positions at Hagaru-ri.  During this withdrawal, Meckley was reported missing on  Dec. 2.

In 1953, during the prisoner of war exchanges historically known as “Operation Little Switch” and “Operation Big Switch,” returning American soldiers who had been held as prisoners of war did not have any information concerning Meckley. In 1954, a military review board amended his status to deceased.

Between 1990 and 1994, North Korea returned to the United States 208 boxes of commingled human remains, which when combined with remains recovered during joint recovery operations in North Korea, account for the remains of at least 600 U.S. servicemen who fought during the war. North Korean documents included in the repatriation indicated that some of the remains were recovered from the area where Meckley was lost.

To identify Meckley’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used circumstantial evidence and two forms of DNA analysis, including mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome Short Tandem Repeat DNA analysis, which matched his brothers.

Today, 7,819 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War. Using modern technology, identifications continue to be made from remains that were previously turned over by North Korean officials or recovered by American teams.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil or call (703) 699-1420.