The search for remains in South Korea started before the armistice was signed in 1953, and since then, North Korean and U.S. military authorities have conducted exchanges of remains and information. From 1951 to 1956,
the U.S. Army Graves Registration Service and divisional quartermaster units recovered remains for over 25,000 individuals. In 1954, North Korean representatives returned over 3,000 remains in an exchange known as Operation
Glory. The U.S. identified thousands of these remains
In 1956, a total of 848 sets of remains that could not be identified were buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl. Others were added later as unknowns. One of the unknowns was
interred in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C. Since the mid-1980s, the U.S. Department of Defense has authorized exhumations of unknowns for potential identification,
and starting in 2016, established policy to govern the disinternment of unknowns for identification. DPAA’s efforts to disinter and identify unknowns from the Korean War are ongoing
Between 1990 and 1994, North Korean representatives gave U.S. officials 208 boxes of human remains that Department of Defense scientists estimate may hold remains of over 400 individuals. From 1996 to 2005, North Korea
granted U.S. search teams access to crash sites, battlefields, and prison camp cemeteries. Excavations done in those areas have resulted in the repatriation of over 220 U.S. remains.
Outside of disinterments and field activities, DPAA has conducted archival research and has collected oral histories from veterans. From 1997 to 1999, North Korea provided the U.S. with documents and artifacts for review.
In the U.S., Korean War veterans have been interviewed at reunions and other venues
On July 27, 2018, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DRPK) turned over 55 boxes that reportedly contained the remains of U.S. servicemen killed during the Korean War. DPAA received the remains on August 1, 2018,
and efforts to identify these remains are ongoing.
In October 1950, a North Korean Army major referred to as "The Tiger" took command of more than 700 American servicemen who had been captured and interned as POWs. In August 1953, following the signing of the armistice,
only 262 of these men returned alive. One of the survivors, Army Pfc. Wayne A. "Johnnie" Johnson, risked his life during his imprisonment by secretly recording the names of 496 fellow prisoners who had died during their captivity.
DoD debriefed all returning American POWs concerning their knowledge of those who did not return from the Communist prison system. Johnson's painstakingly written record was a major contribution to this effort and
helped to determine or confirm the fate of many POWs.
In 1995, a Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) analyst learned about Johnson's Tiger Survivors List while attending a Korean War Ex-POW reunion in Sacramento, California. DPMO analysts then located
intelligence archives which contained Johnson's original debriefing report as well as other POW reports corroborating his information. Among these records a debriefer's handwritten memorandum recommending that Private
Johnson be recognized for his bravery. This information was forwarded to the Department of the Army, and in 1996, Johnson was awarded the Silver Star, the nation's third highest military combat decoration for valor.
A document examiner was able to recover almost all the names from Johnson's original wartime list. Some entries, however, could not be saved. Thus, there are fewer than 496 names on the typed listing, which is available
on the Johnnie Johnson List page.