Remains Of 6 Servicemen Recovered From North Korea Arrive In Hawaii

Thursday, April 12th 2007, 8:26 pm
By: News On 6

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii (AP) _ The remains of six American servicemen handed over by North Korea to a delegation led by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson arrived on U.S. soil Thursday.

The caskets, tightly draped in a U.S. flag, were carried one by one off an Air Force C-17 cargo plane and loaded onto a bus and transported to a military laboratory for possible identification.

``They're finally home,'' said an emotional 82-year-old Lucio Sanico.

Sanico was one of a dozen Korean War veterans who joined a joint-service color guard and hundreds of active military personnel in honoring the remains of the Americans who died more than a half-century ago in the Korean War.

Soldiers, past and present, stood at attention and saluted the caskets from the moment the pallbearers stepped on to the ground until the remains were carried 100 yards to the awaiting bus.

Taps echoed through the giant hangar as the bus drove away.

Richardson, candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, said the 15-minute ceremony was worth the effort of the four-day trip by a U.S. delegation to North Korea.

``All our fallen heroes should have this kind of honor, no matter how long ago their war was,'' he said.

During the visit to Pyongyang, the U.S. delegation _ joined by the top White House adviser on Korea, Victor Cha _ pressed the North to follow through on its promise to start dismantling its nuclear weapons programs.

The remains were recovered from the Unsan region in the northern part of the communist nation.

Three sets of remains had identification tags, but military officials will not disclose the names until a positive identification is made through dental records, DNA or other methods.

The remains were taken to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command to undergo forensic identification. Since 1993, the lab has identified 71 servicemen whose remains were recovered from North Korea, including 20 last year. Of the 71, 19 were turned over by the North Korean government, similar to the latest remains to be recovered.

Tom Holland, lab director, said identifications can take months, if not years.

The Korean War ended in a 1953 cease-fire that has never been replaced by a peace treaty _ leaving the two Koreas technically still at war.

The U.S. and North Korea had previously been involved in a joint project to recover remains in the North, but the effort was halted in 2005 after Washington said security arrangements for its personnel were insufficient.

The program had recovered remains believed to be from 220 soldiers since 1996.