Fifty-five boxes of remains returned to the U.S. by North Korea last week are “consistent with being Americans,” according to a U.S. government scientist.
The containers, returned to the U.S. Wednesday evening with 55 flags draped over them carried the remains of American soldiers who died during combat in the Korean war.
During a solemn ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, in Hawaii, on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence said the nation has worked tirelessly to keep its sacred promise to “leave no man behind.”
“Today we prove these heroes were never forgotten. Today, our boys are coming home.”
John E. Byrd, the director of the laboratory that is working on identifying the remains, told reporters at the Pentagon that it is too early to know how many people are represented, but the remains are consistent with American soldiers. The U.S. Defense Secretary was transparent about the missing identities of the returned individuals, saying “we don’t know who is in those boxes.”
Byrd said the only identification provided by North Korea was a single dog tag; the two sons of the deceased soldier will receive their father’s dog tag next week.
The North Korean officials who handed over the 55 boxes at Wonsan, North Korea, last Friday, told Byrd that they believed the remains to be American from the bloody Korean war, which killed thousands. After examination, Byrd said he agrees.
“The military equipment found with the remains is consistent with equipment issued to soldiers during the Korean war.”
According to Fox News, who the Pentagon showed the equipment to, the military equipment found includes several pairs of boots, two helmets, several canteens, dozens of buttons, buckles, a bayonet handle, socks, and one pair of what appeared to be finger-less gloves.
The remains, including skeletons, are undergoing forensic analysis at the lab in Hawaii, another official added, where the U.S. is “guardedly optimistic” about the situation.
The Pentagon believes the remains are those of many soldiers who went missing during the Korean war and were never found.
During the 1950-53 Korean War, nearly 7,700 U.S. service members were listed as missing and unaccounted for. The Pentagon estimates about 5,300 are unaccounted for on North Korean soil, according to the Associated Press.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that many families who are awaiting the anxious return of their loved ones from the Korean War have already submitted DNA samples to the laboratory in order to aid in the process.