Soldier Who Disappeared During Korean War Identified 67 Years Later - NBC Bay Area

Soldier Who Disappeared During Korean War Identified 67 Years Later

"It was, you know, amazing to me, I was so happy," Mary Lynch said

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Sonny Skates' sister never let his memory fade. NBC 7's Steven Luke has the story.

    (Published Friday, Sept. 8, 2017)

    Nearly 70 years after a man disappeared while serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, his family is finally getting some long-awaited answers.

    Army Cpl. Clarence R. Skates, also known as Sonny, was just 17-year-old when he joined the Army. At 18, he was on the front lines for the Korean War. 

    Skates was reported missing on Nov. 30, 1950, after his unit was overrun by the Chinese People's Volunteer Forces (CPVF), according to the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). 

    "My mother and I took him to LAX when he was flying back to Washington and that's the last time I saw him," his older sister, Mary Lynch told NBC 7 Friday.

    Lynch said when the letters they wrote back and forth to Skates stopped coming, she and her family knew something was wrong.

    "So, we knew he was a prisoner and we didn't hear from anymore, of course," Lynch said. "So when it was over with and they released the prisoners, his name wasn't on the list. We knew he wasn't coming home."

    During "Operation Big Switch," when all remaining prisoners of war were returned, one former prisoner reported that Skates had died while marching to POW Camp 5.

    Skates was declared dead as of Feb. 5, 1955, according to the DOD. 

    But his family never got the closure they needed--until June of this year.

    "I'd been praying the last two months before they found him, 'Please find him, have closure before I go and have closure for the family,'" Lynch told NBC 7. "And it was like a miracle to me."

    In 2002, remains of nearly 11 people were found at a site in North Korea that was reported to be a temporary prison camp, according to DOD.

    Scientists used high tech DNA and anthropological analysis, coupled with circumstantial evidence to identify Skates' remains.

    "I was in shock, yes. Cause I was hoping and praying they'd find him for closure before I die," Lynch said.

    She told NBC 7, her brother would have been 86 years old today, had he survived. Although their family has never had a chance to know him, she said they have heard stories.

    "They all felt like they knew him and they never even met him," Lynch said, speaking of her daughter, her grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

    Skates will be buried on Sept. 15 in Riverside.

    According to the DOD, there are 7,729 Americans that remain unaccounted for from the Korean War.

    Nearly 40,000 Americans died in the 3-year war.