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Remains of a POW who died in a North Korean camp confirmed as those of an East Boston man

The federal government reports the remains of an American POW interred at a military cemetery in Hawaii have been identified as those of Army Cpl. Joseph J. Puopolo, 19, of East Boston.

Puopolo was captured by North Korea during the Battle of the Ch'ongch'on River in late 1950. During the battle, American and UN forces, which had driven the North Koreans past the 38th parallel that now divides the two parts of Korea, were driven back by a huge, primarily Chinese counter-attack aimed at keeping the Western forces well away from the Chinese border.

According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency:

Puopolo was a member of C Battery, 38th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Infantry Division Artillery, 8th U.S. Army. He was reported missing in action on Dec. 2, 1950, after his unit attempted to withdraw from Kunu-ri, North Korea, on Nov. 30, following the Battle of Ch’ongch’on. In 1953, four POWs who returned during Operation Big Switch reported Puopolo had been a prisoner of war and died in February 1951 at Prisoner of War Camp #5.

In 1954, North Korea returned remains of Americans from the camp, located in Pyoktong, on the Chinese border. One set of remains, labeled Unknown X-14430, was buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

In December 2019, the DPAA disinterred Unknown X-14430 as part of Phase Two of the Korean War Disinterment Plan and sent the remains to the DPAA laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, for analysis.

To identify Puopolo’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.

The agency reports that Puopolo will be buried in Malden at a later date.


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