WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - A veteran of the Korean War is on a different mission these days.
One of Harold Davis' life goals is to find the families of service members listed as missing in action in the Korean War. For the last 15 years, he has worked to find families of MIA prisoners of war and he wants to encourage family members to donate their DNA to an Army database to help identify recovered remains.
"At the end of the Korean War, there was 8,000 of our troops unaccounted for and we abandoned them," Davis said told WECT's Ashlea Kosikowski on First at Four. "We declared them deceased, settled with the families. It was a done deal.
"Years later, DNA was perfected to where we could identify people from DNA and the government said, 'Well, we started to find remains too, and the government said we need to identify these remains and return them to the proper families.' All the files were in St. Louis and they went to get the files. The files were burned in a major fire in 1973 in St. Louis. They had no records on these people at all. They didn't know who they were, just names, and so that's why I got involved in finding the family of this particular POW MIA."
Davis said the casualty office has turned the project over to genealogists, paid genealogists and volunteers. For him, identifying "forgotten" soldiers is personal.
"I'm a combat veteran in the Korean War," he said. "I spent over 10 months in North Korea and my greatest fear was being captured and I know how these kids died. They didn't just die. They suffered and then died and I know that and they're forgotten. The Korean War is known as the forgotten war. These POW MIAs are really the forgotten ones."
According to Davis, eight POWs were from New Hanover County. None of them came back.