Dog tag of US soldier killed in Korean War given to sons

Larry McDaniel (left) and brother Charles McDaniel Jr (centre) receive their father's military identity tags.
Larry McDaniel (left) and brother Charles McDaniel Jr (centre) receive their father's military identity tags.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The two sons of a US Army soldier who went missing during the Korean War were given his long-lost military identity tag on Wednesday (Aug 8), after North Korea handed over the remains of dozens of US troops.

The chipped, stainless steel "dog tag" belonged to Master Sergeant Charles McDaniel, an Army medic thought to have been killed in action in October 1950 during a Chinese attack deep in North Korea.

It was uncovered among a jumble of bones and small personal items such as buttons and boots that North Korea gave to the United States last month.

The repatriation of what are thought to be the remains of 55 US troops followed a summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, during which Kim agreed to send home some of America's war dead.

"I sat there and I cried for a while, and it took a while to compose myself," said Charles McDaniel Jr, the namesake eldest son of the missing soldier, reflecting on the moment he learned that the identity badge had been discovered.

McDaniel, 71, was three years old when his father went missing and has only fuzzy memories of his dad.

His younger brother, Larry McDaniel, was just two and does not remember him at all.

He said he was proud his dad was extremely patriotic and had dedicated his life to his country.

"But the thing is he was one of thousands of guys in that generation that did it and I don't think the fact we found his dog tags should overshadow any of that," Larry McDaniel, 70, told reporters after a brief ceremony in Arlington, Virginia, close to the Pentagon.

Forensics experts have told the brothers that the identity tag does not necessarily mean McDaniel's bones are among the remains.

Scientists need to test these for DNA matches and look for other identifiers such as teeth that match military dental records.

More than 5,300 US troops are still missing in North Korea.

Every year, hundreds of relatives of missing troops from the Cold War and Korean War gather in the Washington area to hear updates from military officials about their loved ones' cases.

The McDaniel brothers received their father's military tag at this year's event in a hotel in Arlington.

Marie Willower, who was attending the gathering, said she had come in the hopes of finding news about her uncle, Private First Class John McDonnell, who was captured in July 1950 and died after a forced march up the banks of the Yalu River on the border with China.

Aged just 17 or 18, he is thought to have died of malnutrition.

Willower said she had been given new hope that his remains might one day come home after learning of the recent repatriation from North Korea.

"It would be closure to know that he's finally home and put to rest," she told AFP.