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U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-10th, recently endorsed a resolution calling for new action to locate American soldiers missing from the Korean War.
"At least 8,000 American servicemen are still listed as POW/MIA on North Korean soil," Wolf said in a November 1 news release.
We thought this would be an interesting claim to check. In the end, it didn’t rise to the level of a Truth-O-Meter, but we wanted to let you know what we found.
Wolf backed a resolution -- introduced by Rep. Charles Rangel, D-NY -- urging the U.S. to restart recovery efforts to find remains in North Korea and investigate sighting reports of American POWs. The measure is pending in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The search for missing U.S. soldiers from the Korean War has been in the news lately. The Department of Defense announced last month that the U.S. will be allowed to look in two North Korean areas: Usan County about 60 miles north of the country’s capital Pyongyang; and near the Chosin/Jangjin Reservoir.
The Pentagon noted in a news release that the operation, expected to start next year, will mark the first return of U.S. search teams returned to the secretive communist state since 2005, when search efforts were halted amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
The U.S. Department of Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office estimated in October that 7,983 Americans are still missing from the Korean War. That includes soldiers who are listed as prisoners of war, killed in action and missing in action.
So the Defense Department’s tally of missing soldiers from the Korean War is close Wolf’s number. But, contrary to the congressman's statement, not all are believed to be in North Korea.
The Department of Defense estimates 5,500 are in North Korea. The others are believed to be in South Korea, said Maj. Carie A. Parker, a public affairs officer at the Department of Defense.
Dan Scandling, a spokesman for Wolf, said the congressman’s statement came from language in the House resolution. But the resolution simply says more than 8,000 are "unaccounted for from the Korean war."
Wolf’s office, after talking to us, corrected the news release. ,
Rangel’s House resolution calls for repatriating any American POWs still living in North Korea.
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Peronnel Office states on its website that finding live Americans is the highest priority in their efforts to locate Americans still unaccounted for from the war.
"Since 1995, more than 16,000 defectors from North Korea have been screened for information concerning Americans possibly living in the North," the agency says on its website. "To date, this effort has produced no useful information concerning live Americans."
The Defense Department’s POW/Missing Personnel Office said most reports of live Americans in North Korea are related to six known U.S. defectors. Four of them are reported to have died, one returned to the U.S. in 2004 and one remains alive in North Korea, according to the DMPO.
Between 1996 and 2005, joint search missions in North Korea have recovered more than 220 sets of probable U.S. remains., according to the Defense Department.
From World War II, there are more than 73,000 Americans still unaccounted for, and from the Vietnam War there are nearly 1,700 who are missing, according to the Defense Department.
Congressman Frank Wolf, "Wolf cosponsors measure to bring home Korean POWs and MIAs,"corrected news release, November 1, 2011.
E-mail from Maj. Carie A. Parker, public affairs officer at the Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, November 21, 2011.
Interviews with Maj. Carie A. Parker, November 21 and November 22, 2011.
U.S. Department of Defense, "U.S.-North Korea conclude POW/MIA talks,"October 20, 2011.
E-mail from Dan Schandling, spokesman for Congressman Frank Wolf, November 22, 2011.
Library of Congress, H. Res. 376, accessed November 22, 2011.
E-mail from Hannah Kim, communications director for Congressman Charles Rangel, November 22, 2011.
Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, "Progress on Korean War Personnel as of October 26, 2011,"accessed November 22, 2011.
Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, "Korean War MIAs,"accessed November 21, 2011.
Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, "Korea War Accounting,"accessed November 10, 2011.
Congressman Charles Rangel, "Rangel introduces resolution to repatriate POW/MIAs and abductees from North Korea,"July 27, 2011.
Interview with James Ferris, first vice president of the Korean War Veterans Association, November 22, 2011.
Interview with Larry Kinard, second vice president of the Korean War Veterans Association, November 22, 2011.
Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, "World War II,"accessed November 22, 2011.
Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, "Vietnam War," accessed November 22, 2011.
Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, "Cold War," accessed November 22, 2011.
Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, "1991 Persian Gulf War,"accessed November 22, 2011.
Washington Post, "U.S . to resume search for POW/MIA in N. Korea,"October 21, 2011.
U.S. State Department, "Background Note: North Korea,"accessed November 23, 2011.