San Diego

Army Sgt's Remains Returning to US from Korea 69 Years After He Was KIA

Sergeant Donald Lee Murphy will be interred at Rosecrans National Cemetery in Point Loma in November

An Army Sergeant whose remains were accounted for 69 years after he was reported missing in action during the Korean War can finally be laid to rest on U.S. soil.

Sergeant Donald Lee Murphy joined the Army with his brother Harold and both were stationed in Japan when the Korean War broke out. In December 1950, Sgt. Murphy disappeared and later died during the war when he was 20.

“He was adventurous, he was the one that wanted to join and see the world,” said retired Army Colonel Don Murphy, Sgt. Donald Lee Murphy’s nephew, who was named after him.

More than 7,600 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War. Using modern technology, identifications continue to be made from remains returned by Korean officials, recovered from Korea by American recovery teams or dug from unknown graves, according to The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).

“It was in that area where there was a lot of fighting and the U.S. got pushed back, and so a lot of soldiers' remains were not recovered because it is now in what is North Korea,” said Sgt. Murphy's nephew.

In 2018, the North Korean government repatriated 55 boxes containing the remains of American service members lost during the Korean War. One of the boxes contained remains recovered from the east side of the Chosin Reservoir, which were later confirmed to be those of Sgt. Murphy, according to the DPAA.

Sgt. Murphy's nephew found out about DPAA years ago and was able to get his dad, Harold, to give a couple of blood samples so they could get a positive DNA match to any remains recovered from Korea.

“My dad had always hoped they’d find the remains when he was alive, but he died a few years ago, so that didn’t occur, but the fact that we can now repatriate and put Don to rest in the same cemetery as my dad, that’s my focus,” said Murphy's nephew.

Sgt. Murphy's brother and father, who also served in the Army, are both buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in Point Loma.

Harold and Donald Murphy
Murphy Family
Sgt. Donald Lee Murphy (left) brother Harold Murphy (right)

Sgt. Murphy’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, along with the others who are missing from the Korean War. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

His remains are currently at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific and will arrive in San Diego next week.

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