CLEVELAND — After leaving his hometown to fight a war thousands of miles away, a Cleveland native who was unaccounted for after being captured by enemy forces is finally coming home. The 22-year-old Cleveland native who never returned after leaving home to fight in the Korean War in late 1950 has been identified as Army Sgt. 1st Class Riley Burchfield, according to a release from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
Burchfield was accounted for on Sept. 3, 2019 after scientists identified his remains using dental, anthropological and chest radiograph comparison analysis, along with material evidence.
On Nov. 26, 1950, Burchfield was captured by enemy forces near Kunu-ri, North Korea. He reportedly died while in custody of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces at Prisoner of War Camp 5 in February 1951.
In 1954, North Korea unilaterally turned over remains to the U.S., including a set designated Unknown X-13439 Operation Glory. The remains were recovered from prisoner of war camps, UN cemeteries and isolated burial sites.
Authorities said none of the remains that were recovered could be identified as Burchfield. He was subsequently declared non-recoverable. The remains were buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.
It wasn’t until 2018, when the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency exhumed X-13439 Operation Glory as part of the Korean War Disinterment Plan, that his remains were sent to a laboratory.
The Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA and autosomal DNA analysis to identify the remains.
Burchfield will be buried Jan. 10, 2020 in his hometown.
Today 7,604 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War. Identifications continue to be made using modern technology. A rosette will be placed next to Burchfield’s name at the Court of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, in, Honolulu to indicate he has been accounted for.