Guest Host: Celeste Headlee

John Byrd, director of scientific analysis at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency , speaks as US Lieutenant General Wayne Eyre, deputy commander of the United Nations Command, looks on during a press conference before a repatriation ceremony for the remains of US soldiers who were killed in the Korean War and collected in North Korea, at Osan Air Base on August 1 in Pyeongtaek, South Korea.

John Byrd, director of scientific analysis at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency , speaks as US Lieutenant General Wayne Eyre, deputy commander of the United Nations Command, looks on during a press conference before a repatriation ceremony for the remains of US soldiers who were killed in the Korean War and collected in North Korea, at Osan Air Base on August 1 in Pyeongtaek, South Korea.

What happens when soldiers are designated missing in action?

We had Noreen Loper on our show last week. She’s been waiting a long time to know what happened to her brother, Airman James O’Meara Jr. O’Meara was shot down during the Korean War. “It’s heartbreaking to live not knowing one way or the other…you can’t simply let it go,” she told us.

From the BBC:

More than 326,000 Americans fought alongside soldiers from South Korea as part of a UN coalition during the war to support the South against the Communist North. About 33,000 coalition troops remain unaccounted for.

The US government has said it wants to resume field operations in North Korea to search for an estimated 5,300 Americans who “have not yet returned home.”

Noreen also spoke to Robin Wright, of The New Yorker..

“I’m not angry at North Korea. After all, it was a war,” Loper told me. “But I don’t know what they hope to accomplish by not returning the prisoners of war or the remains. I’d love them to death if they returned our missing. I’d even thank them. I’d go up to the North Korean leader in person.”

But Reuters is reporting that identification and peace for families like Loper’s could take anywhere from three days to two decades to complete.

So what is the process like? How does the government identify these remains? And what more is the U.S. doing to try to get these remains returned?

This conversation won’t be limited to only remains from the Korean War. We’ll also talk about the process for soldiers deemed MIA from the Vietnam War, and more recent conflicts like the war in Afghanistan.

Produced by Denise Couture. Writeup by Gabrielle Healy.

Guests

  • Kelly McKeague Director, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which oversees the search for American prisoners of war and missing in action; retired Air Force major general; @DODDPAA
  • Ann Mills-Griffiths Chairman of the board and CEO, the National League of POW/MIA Families; @POWMIAFamilies
  • Bryan Bender Defense editor, Politico; author of "You Are Not Forgotten: The Story of a Lost World War II Pilot and a Twenty-First-Century Soldier's Mission to Bring Him Home"; @bryandbender

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