A wallet with a newspaper clipping and 15 cavity-riddled teeth helped the U.S. Army identify a man who was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday, nearly 56 years after he was killed in action in North Korea.
Master Sgt. Robert V. Layton was among 225 members of an Army battalion killed by Chinese forces on the east side of the Chosin Reservoir and buried in a mass grave between Nov. 27 and Dec. 1, 1950. The battalion had to retreat and listed Layton, 26, as missing in action on Dec. 2, 1950.
Layton was buried at Arlington, the country's most honored ground for war dead, in a small ceremony attended by his daughter, Judith Saylor, and other family members, said Larry Greer, spokesman for the Pentagon's POW-MIA office.
A few blocks away from Layton's grave, the Pentagon keeps working to identify remains of other soldiers and Marines killed at Chosin Reservoir. Greer said bone fragments gathered between 2002 and 2004 can be hard to identify, but 15 fillings and well-maintained dental records helped forensic scientists at the military's main identification laboratory, in Hawaii, positively identify Layton.
"The fillings made them almost as unique as a fingerprint," Greer said.
Layton's remains were recovered by joint U.S.-North Korean teams. Searchers also found Layton's dog tags and a billfold containing a 1944 Cincinnati Enquirer clipping about the Bronze Star awarded to Layton in World War II. Layton lived near the Ohio city.
They further established Layton's identity when DNA from bone fragments matched a sample provided by his sister, Greer said.
More than 33,000 U.S. troops were killed in the Korean War, which began in June 1950.
Layton's family could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Greer said the Pentagon's recovery and identification work helps heal old wounds.
"We meet with family members every month, three-quarters of them are from the Korean War, and most of those had no idea we continue to pursue their fathers and grandfathers from the war," he said. "And many of them say it brings closure to a sad chapter of that family's life."