LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A Marine killed in the Korean War will be returned home to Kentucky nearly six decades after his death.
Donald Morris Walker was a 19-year-old Marine fighting in the Chosin Reservoir in Korea - where outnumbered U.S. forces faced a Chinese onslaught in one of the war's bloodiest battles - when he was killed.
He was buried during the December retreat on land that soon fell into enemy hands. The United States was allowed to exhume his remains, but for decades they lay in Hawaii as an unknown soldier.
Now, the military's forensic lab has confirmed it has positively identified the remains, which ends decades of uncertainty for Walker's family, said his niece, Carolyn Stewart of Louisville.
"It's very good news," said Stewart. "We've heard so many different stories. There was no closure. Even though my grandmother isn't alive to know, at least we know."
Troy Kitch, a public affairs officer for the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, confirmed Walker's identification. The command is the world's largest forensic anthropology lab, working in part to recover the more than 80,000 Americans missing from conflicts dating to World War II.
Stewart wants her uncle buried at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C.
Walker attended a black Catholic high school in Louisville, and joined the Marines with some of his friends, according to friend Robert Buckner, 75, of Louisville.
"We talked about how we'd wear our medals and be the conquering heroes -- dreams of grandeur," Buckner said. "Publicity had said war would only last a few months."
In the Marines, Walker was assigned to the 1st Service Battalion of the 1st Marine Division, a support company that drove trucks loaded with ammunition, rations and fuel.
He was killed Dec. 7 - Marine records say he was hit in the head with a missile during combat, though records from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command showed he died of a gunshot wound.
After the Marines evacuated the area where Walker was buried, the area fell under North Korean and Chinese control.
The United States was allowed to exhume the Korean graves in 1954. About a half-dozen remains couldn't be identified, including Walker's. They were considered unknown soldiers for decades and buried in a military cemetery in Hawaii.
When the military eventually identified the other unknown soldiers, scientists figured it was likely that the last set of remains belonged to Walker. After more tests, Stewart said, the military recently "called my brother and left word that the remains were his."
--- Information from: The Courier-Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)