The remains of a Wilcox County man killed during the Korean War have been identified, the U.S. Department of Defense announced Monday.
A service at Arlington National Cemetery to bury the remains of Army Pfc. James M. Smith, of Abbeville, is scheduled for Wednesday, according to a news release.
Smith's niece, Geneza Smith, who lives in Texas, has been closely involved with the case and is attending the funeral with her children and grandchildren.
Her father was James Smith's brother. Her father, who died in 2011, gave a blood sample in 1991 for DNA matching in the case. She was notified in December that her uncle's remains had been identified.
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"It's unbelievable to me because I know how much it meant to my father and his father," she said. "It was a big thing in my growing up. Everybody was always talking about my uncle."
Smith was reported missing following a battle on Feb. 12, 1951, against the Chinese People's Volunteer Forces, the release said.
Searches of the battlefield were conducted in 1953, but his remains were not discovered. Later that year he was declared deceased.
In the early 1990s North Korea returned 208 boxes of commingled human remains to the U.S., and at least 600 U.S. servicemen have been accounted for as a result. Documents with those remains indicated that some were recovered from the area where Smith was believed to have been killed.
Scientists with the Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency used DNA from Smith's brother and cousin to link some of those remains to him, the release stated. Dental records also were used.
Geneza Smith said the remains were from a large group found near a prisoner of war camp, so she thinks her uncle died as a prisoner of war. She said it has taken so long to identify the remains because all the remains were boxed together, and researchers have been going through them piece by piece to make DNA matches.
To date, 7,883 U.S. troops remain unaccounted for from the Korean War.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.