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72 years after his death, Korean War soldier ID’d as central Pa. native

  • By Zack Hoopes/ PennLive
Visitors walk around the sculptures at Korean War Veterans Memorial on Veterans Day in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Visitors walk around the sculptures at Korean War Veterans Memorial on Veterans Day in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

After 72 years and four previous burials, the remains of Pfc. Donald Born are coming home to a final resting place.

The Department of Defense confirmed this week that a set of previously-unidentified remains from an American soldier who died during the Korean War have been confirmed to be those of Born, a central Pennsylvania native.

Born’s remains, previously interred at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii, are scheduled to be re-buried Aug. 30 at the Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in Lebanon County.

“My grandma would be overwhelmed and just at peace knowing he was coming home and I feel like we’re carrying that out for her,” said Amber Hogan, whose grandmother was Born’s half-sister.

Although he was born in Steubenville, Ohio, Born was brought back to Lancaster shortly thereafter and grew up there, Hogan said, and his surviving relatives still live in the Lancaster area.

Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense

Donald Born, a central PA native who was killed in 1950 during the opening battles of the Korean War, is to be re-interred at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery.

Born joined the U.S. Army in 1948 at age 17, Hogan said. He was then stationed in Japan as a member of the 24th Infantry Division.

In the summer of 1950, soldiers of the 24th were among the first U.S. soldiers to be rushed from Japan to Korea to assist Western-backed South Korean forces against the invasion by the Soviet- and Chinese-backed North Koreans. Outnumbered and outgunned, soldiers of the 24th fought a number of delaying actions in order to slow the advance of enemy troops during the opening weeks of the Korean War.

Born is believed to have been killed in late July during fighting around the city of Chinju, although he was not officially reported missing from his unit until a month later on Aug. 30. On Dec. 31, 1953, according to the DoD, Born was finally issued a presumptive finding of death.

The remains that were later discovered to be Born’s were first recovered in January 1951, according to the DOD, in a village near Chinju. Hogan said her family was told that a Korean farmer had pointed out to American authorities the locations where soldiers had been buried during earlier battles.

The remains were initially re-buried at a cemetery in Masan, Korea, before being moved to Japan, according to the DOD. The remains, known by the identification code X-220, were circumstantially believed to be those of Born, but could not be conclusively proved, and were eventually re-interred as an unknown soldier at the memorial in Hawaii.

Hogan’s grandmother had given a DNA sample to the DOD in 1999 in hopes that it could eventually be used to identify her half-brother; her aunt did the same in 2011, Hogan said.

Although her grandmother would not live to see it, the samples paid off. X-220 was exhumed in March of 2019 in the first phase of the DOD’s Korean War Disinterment Project, and a DNA analysis confirmed the remains were Born’s.

Her mother had changed phone numbers, and her aunt didn’t answer the call from the DOD thinking it was a scammer, Hogan said. But officials eventually tracked her down as Born’s next-of-kin, and on June 28 – a day before her grandmother’s birthday – the family received the news, Hogan said.

With her grandmother’s passing, there is no one left in the family who knew Born directly, Hogan said. Memories come from her grandmother’s reminiscing about their childhood in Lancaster, such as Born playing the trumpet.

“She would often talk about her half-brother, how he enlisted in the army, how he was never found,” Hogan said.

“Part of her had hoped that he had started a new life in Korea or Japan,” Hogan continued. “But deep down I think she knew that he was probably killed in action and wasn’t coming home.”

Now, at long last, he is.

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