Condensed from Graves Registration Division,
Korean Communications Zone (KCOMZ)
Historical Summary, Jul-Dec 1954
Part of the Armistice Agreement signed in Panamunjom in June 1953 called for the exchange of military war dead on both sides. In the months that followed, members of the U.S. Graves Registration Division in Korea met repeatedly with UN and Eighth Army officials to work out the details for how such an exchange might be effected. The resultant draft plan was approved and signed by all the major parties on the Allied side in early July 1954, and was forwarded to Communist officials. They in turn signed the new agreement on July 20th. And together they also agreed that the exchange of deceased personnel should formally commence on 1 September 1954 and end no later than 30 October, if possible.
Implementation of Korean Communications Zone (KCOMZ) Op Plan 14-54 – better known as “Operation GLORY” – was put into effect on 22 July 1954. United States engineers furnished by the United Nations Command, Military Armistice Commission Support Group, constructed a railhead and reception area. UN Command also provided a battalion from the 1st Signal Unit to establish signal communications. The Transportation Corps made plans for the evacuation, by rail, of all deceased military personnel on our side. The Quartermaster Corps issued all necessary supplies and materials. And the KCOMZ Quartermaster Graves Registration proceeded with the disinterment of all enemy remains of deceased military personnel interred in South Korea.
In the month leading up to the actual exchange of military remains, the Quartermaster Graves Registration Committee held three additional meetings with the Communist side – to discuss the approximate number of deceased involved, examine the signatures of officers who sign receipts for the remains, and to decide how both sides would proceed from the railheads to the reception areas within the demilitarized zone. Also to discuss the means of identification, use of vehicles in the proscribed areas, and ground rules for photographers and news correspondents.
On 30 August 1954, the disinterment of all enemy deceased military personnel was completed, and all remains delivered and stored at “Glory Railhead,” near Munsan-Ni, Korea. At 0930 the next day (September 1st) the Chief of KCOMZ Graves Registration Division met his North Korean counterpart at the reception area within the demilitarized zone, and received the first 200 remains of deceased UN military personnel. At 1300 hours these remains were evacuated to “Glory Railhead,” where a ceremony was held. In attendance were several major figures from the United Nations Command, U.S. Far East Command, Military Armistice Commission, and representatives from the Republic of Korea Army. A religious ceremony was conducted by chaplains of the Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish faiths.
The exchange of deceased military personnel between the United Nations in South Korea, and the Communists in North Korea, continued daily, except Sundays, until 21 September 1954. On that day North Korean representatives turned over 123 remains, and advised UN Graves Registration officials that there were no more to be delivered. The United Nations group continued delivering enemy deceased until 11 October. A final tally showed that 4,023 UN deceased personnel had been received from the North Koreans, and that 13,528 had been delivered to them.
Of the 14,074 remains of deceased enemy military personnel disinterred in the territory of the United Nations Command, 546 were determined to be civilians who died while interned in prisoner of war camps. The government of the Republic of Korea requested that the 546 remains be delivered to them for further delivery to the next of kin, who reside in South Korea. Of the 546 remains, seven were determined to be Unknown civilians. The seven remains were interred in Pusan, Korea. The remaining 539 remains were delivered to the Republic of Korea government on 30 October 1954.
At the last formal meeting on October 11th, both sides agreed to continue searching in remote areas, and if additional remains were discovered, they would be returned prior to the end of the month, if possible. The UN Chief of the Graves Registration Committee further advised the North Koreans that the exchange facilities would be left standing for as long as was felt necessary.
For their part the North Koreans announced that they had disinterred 78 more bodies, which they forwarded to UN officials the next day (October 12th). Then again 66 additional remains were handed over on November 9th. This brought to 4,167 the total number of United Nations deceased military personnel turned over by the North Koreans during Operation GLORY.