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The remains of a soldier who went missing during the Korean War have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial, the Defense Department announced Wednesday.

Army Master Sgt. Olen Williams, of Verbena, Ala., is to be buried Sunday with full military honors near his hometown in Clanton, Ala., according to a statement released by the Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office. Williams was 37 when he went missing.

In late 1950, Williams and elements of the 31st Regimental Combat Team were establishing a defensive line near a small village in Sinhung-ni, North Korea, when they were attacked by enemy forces, the statement said. Williams was reported missing in action after the battle.

Four years later, the United Nations and Communist forces exchanged remains of war dead in what would be called Operation Glory. The remains — which included servicemembers who had been buried on the eastern bank of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea — were transferred to the Central Identification Unit in Kokura, Japan, for analysis.

In October 1955, a military review board declared seven boxes of remains unidentifiable, the statement said. They were interred as unknowns at the “Punchbowl” National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.

In 2012, Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command analysts re-evaluated Williams’ records and determined that the remains recovered from Operation Glory should be exhumed for identification due to advances in technology.

Scientists from JPAC used circumstantial evidence as well as dental and radiograph comparisons, which matched Williams’ records, to positively identify the remains, the statement said.

More than 7,900 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War.


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