WELCOME HOME: Remains of Korean War vet returned to U.S.

The Old Guard conducts plane-side honors for U.S. Army Pfc. Walter W. Green, at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on July 18. Green was taken as a Prisoner of War on Nov. 2, 1950, while fighting near Unsan, North Korea, where he perished in captivity June 30, 1951. Recently, the Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced that Green’s body had been recovered and identified. Green was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.
Dana Guthrie
Staff Writer

More than 7,500 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War. Thanks to advancements in DNA analysis, one Benton family no longer counts their loved one as lost.

“To be able to give him a proper burial is just amazing,” said Benton resident Tonya McLain, who is the grandniece of U.S. Army Pfc. Walter W. Green, who was Missing In Action for 67 years.

In Nov. 1950, Green was involved in combat actions against the Chinese People’s Volunteer forces near Unsan, North Korea. He was serving as a member of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Calvary Regiment, 1st
Cavalry Division. Green was reported MIA on Nov. 2, 1950, when he could not be accounted for by his unit.

During an operation known as “Operation Big Switch,” prisoners of war were returned to their respective countries. The Americans returning from Pyoktong Camp 5 reported that Green had been captured and died while being held at POW Camp 5. The U.S. Army declared him deceased in June 1951.

Although many efforts to recover American remains were made, the details between United Nations Command and North Korea complicated recovery efforts by the U.S. Army Graves Registration Service north of the Korean Demilitarized Zone following the war. An agreement was made and remains were recovered in 1954, however, Green’s remains were not included and he was declared nonrecoverable.
A set of remains were received from North Korea in September 1954 that were reportedly recovered from the Pyokton Cemetery, but they could not be identified. The remains were then buried as “Unknown” at the Nation Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

“He was buried in Hawaii as an unknown for many, many years,” McLain said. “The military, realizing that there’s been a lot of advancements in DNA, have started exhuming these people. They have been doing DNA drives to identify these people and give them the proper burial and recognition that they deserve.”

In November 1998, the Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii recommended the disinterment of 15 previously unidentified sets of remains. The remains were sent for analysis in 2001. Scientists used mitochondrial DNA analysis, lab analysis, dental records and other items for comparison.
McLain said that because her husband also serves in the military, the whole process has been near to her heart.

“It is incredibly meaningful to me as a military wife,” McLain said. “(Green) deserves the respect and a dignified burial.”
McLain’s husband, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Jason Myers, is currently deployed abroad, but was allowed to travel to Hawaii to accompany Green’s remains to his final resting place in Arlington Nation Cemetery where he was buried with full military honors.

“The compassion and the professionalism that everyone we dealt with in the Army showed me and (Green’s sister,) Kathy, it was just outstanding,” McLain said. “The care that they took with her in dealing with all of this. She was not able to attend the funeral, but once I got there, it was super respectful. I can’t even tell you.”
Soldiers assigned to Charlie Co., 1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) conducted plane-side honors at Ronald Reagan National Airport, as Green’s flag-draped coffin arrived at Arlington. The funeral was held July 18 with members of The Old Guard in attendance there as well.

“It was awe inspiring,” McLain said of the funeral and burial. “There was a full band and a 21 gun salute. There were probably 50 people from The Old Guard to bury him and to serve as witness to his burial. It was amazing.”
McLain said that this experience has been something that will stay with her for the rest of her life.

“The honor they bestowed on him was just amazing,” McLain said. “He deserved it because of his sacrifice.”
Green’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, along with other MIAs from the Korean War. A rosette will be placed next to his name to show that Green has been accounted for.