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In this special episode of Virtues of Peace, Dr. Jennie Jin, who leads the Korean War Identification Project (through which PFC Shelemba was identified) discusses the process of disinternment and identification with Michele Vance, PFC Shelemba's niece who was contacted by the U.S. Army subsequent to PFC Shelemba's identification. (Original airdate, November 12, 2020)

Click here for show description.
The Duty to Remember: Identifying POW/MIA from the Korean War - An Interview with Dr. Jennie Jin of the DPAA

In honor of Veterans Day, we continue our series on the Duty to Remember by welcoming special guest, Dr. Jennie Jin, a forensic anthropologist who works for the DPAA (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency). Dr. Jin leads to the Korean War Identification Project of the DPAA. Under her leadership, hundreds of missing US service members who fought in the Korean War have been identified. In this special episode, Dr. Jin discusses her work, and two recent identifications of Michiganders who fought in the Korean War: PFC John Shelemba of Hamtramck, and SFC Jesse “Johnnie” Hill of Highland Park. Dr. Jin discusses the different circumstances surrounding these identifications, the different methodologies used in each, the respective challenges that are faced in these identifications, and how this work is not only important to the families of the missing, but also to international cooperation, especially involving the U.S., ROK (South Korea) and DPRK (North Korea).

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Although the POW/MIA flag arose out of a movement of wives and mothers who demanded an accounting of their husbands and sons who were captured or missing during the Vietnam War, every U.S. war, including the U.S. Civil War, includes stories of the unaccounted for.

It was not until the Korean War (1950-1953) that the United States's commitment to identifying and repatriating all personnel began to be implemented.

Private First Class (Pfc) John Shelemba of Hamtramck, Michigan, left for Korea sometime in 1950
. He served in Company L, 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, and went missing in action on July 20 1950, during his unit’s defense of Taejon, South Korea. The clipping t0 the right from the August 25, 1950 Detroit Free Press lists Pfc Shelemba as among the missing from Michigan.

On September 13, 2019, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) identified the remains of Pfc John Albert Shelemba.

Remains were recovered from Taejon but Pfc Shelemba could not be identified. These remains were buried as an unknown X-251 Taejon at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii. In 2018, these remains were exhumed as part of DPAA’s effort to identify all Korean War unknowns. The recovery location of the unknown remains helped to establish a possible association with Pfc Shelemba. Analysts used dental, anthropological, and chest radiograph comparison analyses to successfully identify Pfc Shelemba. They also used "circumstantial evidence" which is discussed in the podcast above.

Pfc Shelemba will eventually be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. His father, (George Sr.), mother (Mary) and brother (George Jr.) are, unfortunately, all deceased. Thus we at CMU have elected to honor his sacrifice by remembering him and learning more about him. Pfc Shelemba's story provides a compelling and meaningful way to educate our community about the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the way in which families have been instrumental in the development and implementation of more humane norms governing armed conflict, and related philosophical issues related to the moral obligations of individuals, of nations and of the international community. There are no known photographs of him. Should you have any information about PFC Shelemba, please contact us at;

To read the news release of Shelemba's identification, click here.

To view PFC Shelemba's Personnel File, click here.

Pfc Shelemba is memorialized in perpetuity at the Courts of the Missing (Court 6) within the Honolulu Memorial which is part of The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. View his entry and print his Korean Honor Roll Certificate and/or his Memorial Certificate here.
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Only with the Korean War did the United States establish a policy of identifying and repatriating the remains of every dead soldier. Only with World War I did soldiers begin to wear official badges of identity – what came to be known as dog tags. Only with the Civil War did the United States create its system of national cemeteries and officially involve itself with honoring the military dead.
Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War
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