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Two 17-year-old American soldiers killed in Korean War accounted for after more than 70 years

Military labs identify fallen soldiers
Military labs identify long-fallen soldiers 02:54

The remains of a 17-year-old soldier from Michigan who went missing in action during the Korean War have been accounted for, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said Tuesday, just days after the agency announced that the remains of a 17-year-old Illinois soldier killed in the war had been identified.

Thomas A. Smith, of Michigan, was a member of the 2nd Squad, 3rd Platoon, Company A, 3rd Engineer Combat Battalion, 24th Infantry Division in the summer of 1950. He was last seen when his unit took part in a defense action near Chinju, a region at the southern end of the Korean peninsula, according to the DPAA. Following the battle, Smith could not be accounted for. The DPAA said there is no evidence that Smith was ever a prisoner of war, and no remains were recovered following the fighting. 

The Illinois soldier was identified as U.S. Army Corporal Richard Seloover, a member of the Heavy Mortar Company, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. Seloover went missing after his unit "engaged in combat actions" along South Korea's Naktong River on Sept. 6, 1950, the DPAA said. The circumstances of his death are "unknown," and at the time, his body could not be recovered because of what the DPAA called "intense fighting in the area." 

Thomas A. Smith. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency

Both men were declared dead by the Army on Dec. 31, 1953, more than three years after they went missing. Both men's names were recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the cemetery. 

Amid the war, the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps was tasked with "recovering, identifying, and repatriating those lost" in battle, the DPAA said. In late 1950, two sets of remains were recovered near villages in South Korea. The sets were labeled as "Unknown X-5077 Tanggok" and "Unknown X-348." Neither set of remains could be identified at the time, and both were buried as unknowns in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii. 

In March 2019, the "Unknown X-5077 Tanggok" remains were disinterred as part of a plan to exhume over 600 sets of unknown remains. The "Unknown X-348" remains were disinterred in June 2021, the DPAA said.

Both remains were sent to the DPAA laboratory for analysis. Research on the remains included the use of dental and anthropological analysis, as well as mitochondrial DNA analysis. 

The tests identified the "Unknown X-5077 Tanggok" remains as belonging to Smith in September 2023, according to his personnel file.

Corporal Richard Seloover. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency

In January 2024, the "Unknown X-348" remains were identified as belonging to Seloover, according to his file. Studying his remains also included the use of a chest radiograph and "other circumstantial evidence," the agency said. 

Now that the men have been accounted for, rosettes will be placed next to their names on the Courts of the Missing.

Smith will be buried in his hometown of Grant, Michigan, on a future date, the DPAA said. Seloover will be buried in Rock Falls, Illinois on a future date. 

The DPAA did not say if either man had any surviving family. A call to the U.S. Army Casualty Office, where the DPAA directs family and burial inquiries, was not answered. 

The remains of over 450 Americans who died in the Korean War have been identified and returned to their families for burial with full military honors, according to the DPAA. More than 7,000 American soldiers remain unaccounted for from the conflict. Hundreds of those remains are believed to be "non-recoverable," but the agency is continuing to work to account for and provide burials for as many fallen soldiers as possible. 

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