CULLMAN, Ala. — It has taken more than 65 years, but a Cullman native who went missing during the Korean War has finally been identified and brought home for a full military burial.
U.S. Army Cpl. Larry M. Dunn, who was 18 at the time he died in service in North Korea, will be buried Saturday at a small cemetery in Cullman County.
Thanks to recent technological advancements in forensic research, the U.S. Department of Defense was able to match Dunn’s identity with the unidentified remains of a fallen soldier recovered soon after the war. He had previously been interred at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii, until the Defense Department exhumed and positively identified his remains.
Dunn’s life was brief, and all of it — up until the time of his enlistment — was spent in Cullman. According to his niece, Rhonda Courington of Pinson, Dunn was raised as the youngest sibling in a large farming family.
“There were seven brothers; my father the oldest, and Larry the youngest,” said Courington. “They lived on a farm in Cullman. My father, Jonathan Fletcher Dunn, had to quit school, along with another brother, and take care of the younger ones. As the younger brothers reached an age where they could join the army, they did.
“Larry’s mother died when he was eleven or twelve. She died of tuberculosis at age 47, and eventually Larry wanted to enter the army. We were all so young. When he went in, I was probably only five or six. From that time, I just remember grandfather getting a letter in 1950 stating that Larry was missing in action; that he was captured.”
After consulting with Dunn’s family, the Defense Department’s POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced its finding to the public, adding that Dunn’s remians would be returned to the family for burial with full military honors.
In a press release, DPAA pieced together a narrative of the events that led to his going missing, as well as the government’s inability to positively identify him at the time.
“On Dec. 1, 1950, Dunn was a member of Company B, 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, when his unit was fighting through a roadblock that was heavily defended by enemy forces near Sonchu, North Korea. Dunn went missing in action as a result of the battle,” DPAA said in the release.
“Dunn never appeared on any list of the captured released by North Korea or the Chinese Communist Forces, nor did any repatriated Americans report that he was a fellow prisoner in any internment camp in North Korea. Because of the lack of information, the U.S. Army declared him deceased as of Dec. 31, 1953.”
Nearly a lifetime later, Dunn’s family received the news that the mystery of Larry’s fate, as well as that of the body of the unidentified soldier, finally had been solved.
“Surprised — I was surprised. It’s unbelievable,” said Courington. “But we are happy that we can put him to rest after all these years, and that he can rest in peace, and with honors and love from his family.”
Courington’s father moved his family to the Birmingham area when she was “only seven or eight,” she said. But she remembers enough about her life in Cullman to sketch the outlines of the small-town, rural upbringing that likely influenced the shaping of her uncle’s young, short life.
“My grandfather was good at raising chickens and all kinds of fruit and strawberries. Fruit trees; apples, peaches and pears. Grandfather, at some point, got training to become a barber, and he had a barber shop there in Cullman,” she said. “My grandfather had bought a rock house there in the City of Cullman somewhere, and that was where he lived when he got the message that uncle Larry had gone missing in action.
Dunn’s body had remained in the custody of the Defense Department since 1954, when the United Nations and communist forces “exchanged the remains of the war dead in what came to be called ‘Operation Glory,'” DPAA said in its release.
“All remains recovered in Operation Glory were turned over to the Army’s Central Identification Unit for analysis. The remains they were unable to identify were interred as unknowns at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii, known as the ‘Punchbowl.'”
It’s from that location that Larry Dunn’s remains were eventually exhumed for forensic analysis.
“In 1999, due to advances in technology, the Department of Defense began to re-examine records and concluded that the possibility for identification of some of these unknowns now existed,” explained DPAA. “The remains designated X-14754 were exhumed on Aug. 20, 2015, so further analysis could be conducted.
“To identify Dunn’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used anthropological, dental and chest radiograph comparison analysis; which matched his records, as well as circumstantial and material evidence.”
Dunn’s body was returned to Cullman Wednesday. He will receive his final burial, with honors, Saturday at Mt. Carmel Cemetery on County Road 1614 east of Cullman. Cullman Heritage Funeral Home is handling arrangements.
Information from: The Cullman Times, http://www.cullmantimes.com