Photos show the emotional repatriation ceremony marking the return of US troops who died in the Korean War

A formal repatriation ceremony was held at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii for the 55 crates of what are believed to be the remains of US service members from the Korean War.

US military aircraft flew the remains, which were held in North Korea for around 65 years, to South Korea last week before transporting them to Hawaii where a forensic lab will perform identification tests. Around 5,300 US remains are still believed to be in North Korea, and the US has long sought them to bring closure to the families of the war dead and missing.

“Today, we prove these heroes were never forgotten,” Vice President Mike Pence said at the ceremony. “Today, our boys are coming home.”

Here’s what the repatriation of the US remains from North Korea looked like:

In a joint statement between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June, the two leaders pledged to “commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.”

In a symbolic move, North Korea returned 55 sets of remains on the same day of the 65th anniversary of the armistice that paused Korean War hostilities.

Over 7,700 US troops are still unaccounted for from the Korea War. Around 5,300 US remains are believed to be in North Korea.

Source: Reuters

The remains were transferred from the boxes they arrived in to full-sized caskets draped with UN flags.

Source: Reuters

Over 400 caskets of remains from North Korea were repatriated to the US from the 1990’s to 2005.

The bodies of around 330 US troops were also identified, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

Source: Reuters

Previous returned remains indicated that they were already out of the ground for a long time and could have been stored in an abandoned mine.

Source: The New York Times

A single US dog tag was provided by the North Koreans with the remains. It is unclear whether the remains of the service member who the dog tag belonged to was included, however, the service member’s family was notified.

A woman cries as caskets containing the remains of US service members from the Korean War arrive at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii, August 1, 2018.
Hugh Gentry/Reuters

Source: Reuters

Only 181 out of the 450 sets of returned remains in recent years have been identified.

Many of the identified remains did not belong to US service members, and the unidentified remains were kept in storage.

Source: The New York Times

Vice President Mike Pence delivered an emotional speech at the ceremony.

“We will never stop striving until every hero lost in the Korean War is home,” Pence said at the ceremony.

In a late-night tweet on Wednesday, Trump thanked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for returning the remains, which the US hopes will be the first of many transfers.

“Thank you to Chairman Kim Jong Un for keeping your word & starting the process of sending home the remains of our great and beloved missing fallen!” Trump said on Twitter . “I am not at all surprised that you took this kind action.”

But some of the remains returned by North Korea may not even be from humans.

In previous cases, North Korea reportedly turned over the remains of animal bones, according to a North Korean diplomat who defected in 2016.

It is unclear whether North Korea intentionally included the animal bones to deceive forensic analysts or were unable to differentiate them with human bones.

Source: Daily Mail

Still, forensic experts who received the latest batch of remains were hopeful.

Dr. John Byrd, the US Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency’s laboratory director, said that an initial review suggests the latest remains “are likely to be American.”

Source: The New York Times

Boots, canteens, and other military equipment were included with the latest set of remains.

Source: The New York Times

Almost 800 remains are buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

Source: The New York Times

Over 33,650 US troops were killed during the Korean War.

Over 3,260 US troops died from illness, accidents, or other non-battle injuries during the Korean War, according to the Department of Defense.

Source: CBS News