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Hickam-based lab identifies 5 missing war dead

By WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: June 19, 2017

HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — A 19-year-old who died in the Korean War and an 18-year-old who perished on the USS Oklahoma on Dec. 7, 1941, are among five identifications announced Friday by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency for return to family.

So far this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, 89 identifications have been made by DPAA’s Hickam-based lab, the agency said.

DPAA investigates, recovers and identifies missing American war dead. Congress mandated in 2009 that the Pentagon have the capacity to identify up to 200 MIAs a year by fiscal 2015 — a goal the agency has struggled with since it has gone through a Pentagon — ordered reorganization.

In the summer of 2015, DPAA dedicated a new $85 million building at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam with new lab and administrative space.

The identifications announced Friday for return to family and burial with full military honors include:

Army Cpl. Billie J. Jimerson, 19, of Kerens, Texas, a member of Company C, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. Jimerson’s unit fought with opposing forces near Anju, North Korea. He was reported missing in action as of Nov. 28, 1950.

Returning American prisoners of war reported that Jimerson was captured, died in captivity and was buried at Camp 5, Pyoktong, North Korea, DPAA said.

His remains were transferred to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl and he was listed as a Korean War “Unknown.” In February 2014 DPAA requested disinterment and identified Jimerson.

Navy Seaman 1st Class George A. Coke, 18, of Arlington, Texas, died on the USS Oklahoma on Dec. 7, 1941. In April 2015, the Pentagon ordered the disinterment of all Unknowns associated with the battleship.

Scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA to match a cousin and Y chromosome DNA analysis to match a nephew, as well as circumstantial evidence and laboratory analysis, to identify Coke.

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Arthur C. Neuenschwander, 33, a gunner’s mate, of Fessenden, N.D., also died on the Oklahoma. Like Coke, he was listed as an Unknown at Punchbowl. He will be buried June 24 in his hometown.

Army Pvt. Gene J. Appleby, 30, of Columbus, Ohio, was a member of Company A, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, as part of Operation Market Garden to advance from the Netherlands into Germany in 1944 during World War II.

Appleby successfully jumped and was seen on the ground but was struck by enemy fire. The Army listed Appleby as missing in action.

On Sept. 8, 2011, the Royal Netherlands Army Recovery and Identification Unit was notified of possible human remains found at a farm. The remains were subsequently transferred to DPAA for identification.

Army Cpl. Leslie R. Sutton, 24, of Rochelle, Ga., in late October 1950 was a member of Battery C, 99th Field Artillery Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, when his unit received orders to move to a position in the vicinity of Unsan in North Korea.

Many of the men were captured or killed by the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces, and after days of searching for him, Sutton was reported missing in action as of Nov. 2, 1950.

In July 2000, a joint U.S. and North Korean recovery team found military equipment, personal effects and human remains. To identify Sutton, scientists used mitochondrial and Y chromosome DNA analysis that matched a brother, as well as dental and anthropological analysis.

According to DPAA, 73,052 Americans remain unaccounted for from World War II, 7,745 from the Korean War, 1,608 from the Vietnam War, 126 from the Cold War and six from Iraq and other conflicts. Seventy-five percent of the losses are in the Asia-Pacific and more than 41,000 of the missing are presumed lost at sea.

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The POW/MIA flag at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall on Nov. 11, 2012.
C.J. LIN/STARS AND STRIPES

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