Can The U.S. Government Identify X-656?
On March 14, 1951 remains designated X-656 were interred at the United States Military Cemetery, Tanggok, Korea. Based on information contained in official military records, the family of Army PFC Louis P. Mutta believes X-656 is their loved one. They have requested an exhumation of X-656 for the purpose of mt-DNA testing. That request has fallen on deaf ears.
Louis P. Mutta was the only unaccounted for member of a patrol ambushed at Kumyangjang-Ni, on January 18, 1951. Witnesses last saw PFC Mutta laying near his jeep, gravely wounded. A recovery operation was conducted on January 28, with one set of burnt remains recovered. No personnel effects or identification tags were recovered with the remains.
The remains were tentatively associated to Pfc Mutta based on interviews conducted with local residents, by the Companies Executive Officer - Lt. Leach. According to the Resume of Case History "Lt. Leach's statement indicates, in part, that an attempt was made by him to recover the bodies of the men of his company who were KIA 19 January 1951." (Note: date of 19 January appears in records, correct date is 18 January).
The Resume of Case History continued; "He states that all of these bodies were recovered with the exception of PFC Mutta. Further search resulted in the recovery of Unknown X-656...."
"Civilians in the area stated that on the 20th January 1951, the enemy returned to Kumyangjang-Ni, removed the body of a UN soldier from a vehicle and placed the body in a nearby house which burned to the ground, 27 January 1951. Lt. Leach associated subject remains with Pfc Mutta thru the description of the body and the location of wounds. These factors led Lt. Leach to 'believe it was Mutta.'"
The report continues "...Since the remains are incinerated, physical and dental characteristics cannot be determined, with the exception of age estimate of 18 to 20 years which is in agreement with the age of Pfc Mutta (20 years, 1 month, 1 day) when reported MIA."
Based on the above information, American Graves Registration Service Group submitted, on November 2nd, 1951, a recommendation that X-656 be identified as Pfc Louis P. Mutta. That recommendation was rejected, on January 14, 1952. Identification Branch Memorial Division stated; "It is the opinion of this investigator that there is insufficient evidence to establish conclusive identification of the remains in question as those of Pfc Mutta."
The report also stated; "it appears that a very definite means of identification is necessary."
As stated above, the family has requested exhumation for the purpose of mt-DNA testing. While mt-DNA should never be used as a primary means of identification, we believe there is circumstantial evidence to indicate X-656 may be Louis P. Mutta. Certainly, mt-DNA testing can either rule out that possibility or offer an indication as to the identity of X-656.
>So, why is the U.S. government refusing to exhume this grave and provide answers to one Korean War POW/MIA family? According to CIL-HI and Army Casualty, since the remains are burnt, mt-DNA can not be extracted.
How can we get U.S. government officials to stop telling this lie? How many times do we have to repeat this? During the 1997 Alliance meeting in Washington D.C. AFDIL representative James Cannick stated "By looking at a bone, if you would bring a bone into us and say, Hey, can you get DNA from this, I would not say yes or no. We really don't know until we try."
In later questioning, Mr. Cannick stated that the condition of the bone does not determine the ability to extract mt-DNA. Referring to bone samples, Mr. Cannick said: "We've had some that often look really bad where we've gotten results and other that, you would expect to get results where you don't."
We contacted our own mt-DNA expert, Dr. William Shields. Many of you met Dr. Shields at our 1998 Alliance meeting. Here is what he had to say: "Cannick was correct- CIL-HI mistaken. Burned bone can produce enough undamaged tissue from within to allow for successful mtDNA analysis. Such tests have been successfully done on actual cremated remains- so one will not know until the extraction is performed and the amplification attempted whether good DNA can be had from such samples. The smaller the remain, the less likely the success. Hope this helps. Bill"
Imagine, mt-DNA extracted from "actual cremated remains."
The ability to extract mt-DNA can not be determined until the test is run and only AFDIL can run the tests. If CIL-HI, Army Casualty or any other government agency makes a determination, regarding the use of mt-DNA, they are perpetrating a fraud on the POW/MIA families. But, what else is new?
Is X-656 Louis P. Mutta? Does he rest in the United States Military Cemetery, Tanggok, Korea (Plot M, Row 5, Grave 1336.) Or, is Louis Mutta still among the missing. His family deserves an answer.
Family Members, Veterans Organizations and Concerned Citizens, we need you on this one. Let's find out if Louis Mutta is X-656. If he is, let's bring him home! Contact Secretary of Defense William Cohen, at the Dept. of Defense, The Pentagon, Washington D.C. 20301 - Call 703-695-5261 or Fax 703-697-9080. Ask that Plot M, Row 5, Grave 1336 at the United States Military Cemetery, Tanggok, Korea be exhumed for the purpose of an identification review. Let's help the Mutta family get their answers!
We wonder how many other records of Korean War POW/MIA's indicate a name association to remains currently buried as Unknown?
Alliance Press Release in Support of Exhumation of X-656
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