The remains of 11 U.S. servicemen killed in the Korean War were on American soil Tuesday, the 41st anniversary of the start of the war.
The remains arrived Monday in flag-draped coffins and were carried off a cargo plane at Hickam Air Force Base by a military honor guard.Small boxes accompanying each set of remains held buttons, leather gloves, boots, an infantryman's insignia and a small figure of Buddha.
"Eleven heroes from the Korean War have returned home," said Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., who went to North Korea to retrieve the remains. "Their bodies are now back on American soil where soon they'll rest for eternity, always remembered and always honored by a grateful nation."
Smith said their return is another sign that North Korea wants to end its long isolation.
The remains were taken by bus to the Army's Central Identification Laboratory for possible identification.
Three boxes contained dog tags bearing the names John R. Bowers, Peter Kubic and David Woodruff. It's not known if the remains of the three men were among those returned. No hometowns for the three were immediately available.
Seven sets of remains returned by North Korea in May 1990 have yet to be identified.
Five million Americans served in the war, which began June 25, 1950, and ended in 1953. Records show 33,629 Americans listed as killed in action. More than 9,000 military personnel who fought under the U.N. flag remain missing.
Smith said he and North Korean officials agreed in principle to form a committee to search for other missing Americans.
The remains were turned over to U.S. officials earlier Monday following two days of talks in the village of Panmunjom, in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.
Li Sung Ho, a North Korean lawmaker, said his government was "acting from a humanitarian point of view, and we hope that our sincere efforts and cooperation would bring good results in improving relations between the two nations."