Corporal Joseph Puopolo is believed to have died in a prisoner of war camp in 1951 (US Defence Department via AP)
24 September 2022

Remains of US soldier who went missing during Korean War are identified

24 September 2022

An American soldier who went missing during the Korean war and was later reported to have died in a prisoner of war camp has been identified using modern scientific techniques, military officials said.

The remains of Army Corporal Joseph J Puopolo, 19, of East Boston, Massachusetts, will be buried in Malden, near Boston, at a date to be determined according to a statement Friday from the Defence POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

It was the news his family, including his 99-year-old sister Elizabeth Fiorentini, has been awaiting for decades, Ms Fiorentini’s grandson and Cpl Puopolo’s grandnephew, Richard Graham, said on Saturday.

“We have all heard about him, and we all knew of him, and we all knew he was a war hero. We always hoped we’d find him,” he said. “But I never thought my grandmother would be here for it.”

Ms Fiorentini had not seen her brother since she was in her 20s, and had mixed reactions on hearing the news that his remains had been identified.

“In her mind it was like he died again,” Graham said.

The soldier was identified and accounted for in August, but his family was only recently briefed, the agency said.

Cpl Puopolo, an artilleryman with the 8th Army, was reported missing in action on December 2 1950, after his unit attempted to withdraw from Kunu-ri, North Korea following the Battle of Ch’ongch’on, according to the military.

Four former POWs reported in 1953 that Mr Puopolo had died at a POW camp in February 1951.

After the war, the sides exchanged remains, but not all could be identified and those were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, the agency said.

A set of previously unidentified remains were disinterred in December 2019, and identified as being those of Puopolo through dental and anthropological analysis, mitochondrial DNA analysis and circumstantial evidence, the agency said.

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