Korean War soldier from Pennington Gap accounted for

PENNINGTON GAP, Va. (WJHL) – A Southwest Virginia soldier who served in the Korean War has been accounted for decades later.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced Wednesday that U.S. Army Private 1st Class Harold D. Wilder, of Pennington Gap, was accounted for.

Wilder was killed in the Korean War and was officially accounted for on Feb. 17.

The DPAA stated that in the winter of 1950, Wilder was a member of L Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division.

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On July 11, Wilder was reported missing in action following defensive actions by his unit. His unit engaged enemy forces north of Chochiwon, the DPAA stated.

Unofficial accounts by enemy forces claimed he was killed in action about 20 miles north of Taejon, South Korea; however, his remains were never recovered or identified.

North Korea turned over the remains of soldiers in 1954 as part of Operation Glory. One of the sets of remains was referred to as Unknown X-5139 Operation Glory.

The remains recovered in 1954 came from prisoner-of-war camps, isolated burial sites and United Nations cemeteries. The DPAA said at the time, Wilder could not be identified and was officially declared non-recoverable in 1956.

The remains of Unknown X-5139 were buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

However, the DPAA reports that in 2019, those remains were disinterred. Thanks to modern technology and historical research, the DPAA was able to positively associate the remains with Wilder.

Scientists used a variety of methods including dental and DNA analysis to confirm his identity.

Wilder’s name is recorded with other missing soldiers from the Korean War on the Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl. The DPAA will place a rosette next to his name, indicating he has been accounted for.

Wilder will be buried back home in Pennington Gap on April 28.

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