The remains of some of the military personnel who died in North Korea during the Korean War (1950-1953) have been returned and now are in Hawaii for analysis and identification. A U.S. military plane made a trip into North Korea to bring back the remains of 55 bodies, apparently soldiers killed in action or POWs who died being held in POW camps.

It is not known if the remains returned are of American or United Nations personnel since the war was a U.N. effort.

About 7,700 U.S. soldiers are listed as missing in action in the Korean War and about 5,300 of the remains are believed to still be in North Korea. Our government has been trying since the July 27, 1953, ceasefire to have the remains returned. Reportedly, during the recent talks between President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, an agreement was reached to return the remains to the U.S. military.

elatives of SFC Russell Calvin Pinnell undoubtedly are paying close attention to the return of the remains. Russell was a member of the Pinnell family that lived in Washington. He was a World War II veteran who decided on an Army career after he returned from WWII. In Korea he was a member of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. He was taken prisoner while fighting the enemy near Unsan, North Korea, Nov. 2, 1950, and died in a POW camp March 1, 1951. His remains were not recovered. Pinnell apparently was a POW in Camp 5 POW Camp Pyoktong.

ome years later, the Army recognized the efforts by Pinnell to help other prisoners and relatives went to Fort Leonard Wood for the presentation of a medal posthumously for the actions by Pinnell while a POW. We can’t remember for sure, but we believe he was awarded the Silver Star Medal. Information we were able to come up with, the family provided a DNA sample to the Army to help identify the remains if they are returned. Survivors of the POW camp where Pinnell died related the inhumane conditions they endured. The camp was wracked with starvation and disease, which killed roughly 1,500 of the 4,500 prisoners held there. Soldiers were crammed shoulder to shoulder in huts, which served as breeding grounds for lice. The cold winters added to the suffering.

Word about the conditions in the North Korean and Chinese POW camps was learned by the United Nations troops on line while the fighting was going on, and some of the troops feared being captured more than being killed in action.

The military makes a great effort to identify remains of personnel that are returned. The military’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in Hawaii studies the remains. It uses bones, teeth and DNA in its identification work, which can take months and years. Sometimes dog tags are with the remains, along with rings and other items that help in the identification process. Only one dog tag was with the 55 coffins that were recently returned.

American officials said the return of the 55 boxes was a positive step but not a guarantee that the bones are American. “The remains received from North Korea are being handled with the utmost care and respect by professional historians, forensic scientists, uniformed personnel and government officials,” the U.S.-led Command said. It added, it “never leaves troops behind, living or deceased, and will continue the mission of repatriation until every service member returns home.”

American officials believe North Korea may want to use the remains’ return to keep diplomacy with the U.S. alive and win more in concessions.

The ceasefire that ended the Korean War has never been replaced with a peace treaty. Efforts to recover remains in North Korea have been fraught with political and other obstacles since the shooting stopped in Korea. The Pentagon said U.S.-North Korean recovery efforts between 1996 and 2005 yielded 229 caskets of remains, of which 153 have been identified.

We hope the remains of Russell Calvin Pinnell are identified and returned to his relatives in this area. It’s been a long wait!