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Father Lost in Korean War Comes Home After 68 Years

Ryan Finnerty
Hawaii Public Radio

After 68 years of uncertainty, a father has been reunited with his sons. Army Master Sergeant Charles McDaniel Sr. went to war for the second time when his eldest son was only three years old. He never came back. But that changed last week.

Credit Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency
Master Sergeant Charles McDaniel Sr.

When the 55 boxes of remains arrived in Hawaii, a single dog tag accompanied one set. Dog tags are the metal identification tag worn by all members of the U.S. military. This particular dog tag bore the name and service number of Charles McDaniel Sr.

However, the presence of the tag was not enough to confirm the missing American's identity. Several weeks of forensic analysis followed, including DNA testing of McDaniel's children, Charles McDaniel Jr and Larry McDaniel.  

A few weeks after learning that his farther's dog tag was among the repatriated remains, Charles McDaniel Jr. received confirmation that his father's bones were among those returned from North Korea in August. 

McDaniel Jr. had in fact joined the U.S. Army himself, becoming a Green Beret and later a chaplain. He never gave up hope that some news of his father's fate would evenutally reach him. 

Credit Ryan Finnerty
PFC William Jones.

Living through 68 years of uncertainty, he told those assembled for a National POW/MIA Recogtion Day ceremony at the National Memorial Ceremony of the Pacific, required putting aside grief. He stressed the urgency of the MIA identification mission. McDaniel Jr.'s  mother is now 93 years old and is no longer able to fully comprehend her former husband's return.

Another man was identified alongside Master Sergeant McDaniel. Private Frist Class William Jones was had also been listed as Missing In Action from the Korean War. Investigators had nothing but his human remains to help them in indetifying Jones. 

There are still some 80,000 American servicemembers still unaccounted for - most from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Finding them is the job of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. In 2018, the DPAA successfully identified nearly 200 sets of remains that had been repatriated. The case of Master Sergeant McDaniel garnered some attention because of the high profile return from North Korea, but most identifications occur with farless fanfare. 

Credit Ryan Finnerty
Charles McDaniel Jr., left, and Larry McDaniel place a symbolic marker next to their father's name on the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific's Courts of the Missing.

Following the ceremony, McDaniel Sr.'s chidlren placed a symbolic marker next to his name on the cemetery's Court's of the Missing monument; signifying that he had been identified and brought home. The McDaniel's are hoping to bury their father in a family plot at a cemetery near their home outside of Indianoplis. 

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