Missing Korean War soldier from South Dakota identified

Little Bear Photo

Pfc. Melvin J. Little Bear

WASHINGTON — The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced Monday that a South Dakota soldier killed during the Korean War has been accounted for.

21-year-old U.S. Army Pfc. Melvin J. Little Bear of Standing Rock was a member of A Battery, 15th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, and he was reported missing in action on Feb. 13, 1951 after his unit was attacked by the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces and conducted a two-day withdrawal from Changbong-ni, South Korea, to Wonju.

Little Bear was captured and became a prisoner of war at POW Camp No. 1 in Changsong, North Korea. Reports and information from Chinese and North Korean forces said he died in captivity on or about July 21, 1951.

During Operation GLORY in the fall of 1954, remains from POW Camp No. 1 were returned to United Nations Command, but could not be identified. The remains, designated X-14251 Operaion GLORY, were buried Feb. 16, 1956, at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu, Hawaii.

In November 2019, during Phase 2 of DPAA’s Korean War Disinterment Project, X-14251 was disinterred from the Punchbowl as part of the planned exhumation of 23 Operation GLORY burials originating from the Changsong area, and transferred to the DPAA Laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii for analysis.

Scientists from DPAA were able to use dental and anthropological analysis to identify Little Bear’s remains.

Little Bear’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with the others who are still missing from the Korean War. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Little Bear will be buried in McLaughlin, South Dakota on Sept. 30.

Categories: National News, South Dakota News