Homecoming plans for the remains of Utah's "luckiest guy" are on hold.
It appears that Lt. Jack J. Saunders, who described himself as being "the luckiest guy alive" prior to his departure for Korea in 1950, is not included among the five sets of remains returned to U.S. officials last month by North Korea.The North Koreans said dogtags found with two sets of remains belonged to Saunders and Cpl. Arthur Leo Seaton, Chester, Pa.
Evaluations at the U.S. Army's Central Identification Laboratory in Honolulu indicate none of the remains are those of Saunders or Seaton, according to a statement from the United Nations Command. The statement said comparisons of dental and physical characteristics proved negative.
The statement said the findings are preliminary and that, "until the identification process is complete, we can't even be sure they were the remains of Americans."
Kim Padelsky, Layton, who was two years old when her father left for Korea, said the family has received no official word from the government confirming the U.N. statements. But she said her mother received a telephone call from a man involved with POW recoveries confirming the U.N. statements. The family also received a copy of a Connecticut newspaper story with similar information.
"It's a great disappointment, but maybe there is still a chance that he will be found," Padelsky said. "We really feel saddened and disappointed. Maybe we will get lucky if they find more; maybe he'll be one."
Padelsky said about all the family can do now is sit back and resume the waiting and hoping that has marked the past 39 years.
Saunders was a World War II veteran who served on the front lines in Italy for three years before his honorable discharge in 1945. When the Korean War started five years later, he re-enlisted.
In February 1951, at 27, he was reported missing. It is believed Saunders was among a number of prisoners of war who starved to death in a prison camp in Hwanghae Pukto province south of North Korea's capital of Pyongyang.
According to U.S. military officials, 8,172 U.S. soldiers remain unaccounted for from the Korean War.
The return of the remains was widely seen as a sign of healing and reconciliation after decades of enmity. The United States does not have diplomatic ties with North Korea.
The United Nations Command says 33,629 U.S. soldiers were killed and 103,284 wounded in the war. More than 2 million Koreans were killed.