New York Korean War Veteran Remains Identified After Nearly 70 Years

by Jennifer Shea

Army Pvt. Donald Fabrize died in the Korean War. But scientists didn’t identify his remains until roughly 70 years later.

Fabrize died in battle on July 16, 1950 at age 19. He was along the Geum River near Daejeon, South Korea at the time. Fabrize was there with Army Company B, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, the Auburn Citizen reports.

Fabrize was the first soldier from Cayuga County, New York to die in the Korean War. But it took just over seven decades to identify his remains.

The veteran earned multiple medals for his service in combat. Among them: the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and the Korean Service Medal.

It Took a Long Time to Recover Korean War Vet’s Remains

The Army declared Fabrize’s remains to be unrecoverable in January of 1956. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency had said they couldn’t locate them, according to the Citizen.

Meanwhile, at the United Nations Military Cemetery in South Korea, they dubbed Fabrize’s remains “Unknown X-36 Taejon.” They then buried the remains. They had examined them there. But they deemed them unidentifiable.

Eventually, Fabrize’s remains joined other unidentified bodies at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

Then, in 2018, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency hatched a plan. They decided to disinter and identify the remains buried at the Honolulu cemetery. Among the 652 corpses, there were 53 from Daejeon, South Korea.

On July 16, 2019, 69 years after Fabrize’s death, the agency disinterred his remains. Then they sent them to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency’s lab at Hawaii’s Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. In September of 2020, long after the Korean War had ended, the agency identified the remains as Fabrize’s.

His family only recently received a briefing on the identification of his remains. Once they did, a public announcement went out.

A Difficult Ordeal for Fabrize’s Family

Fabrize’s mother, Stella Leone, had to find out the hard way that her son had died in the line of duty. She started getting mail returned marked “deceased,” the Democrat & Chronicle reported in 1950. And so she reached out to the Department of Defense. The DOD replied via telegram that her son had died in combat.

Fabrize’s surviving family members only found out that his remains had been identified after extensive efforts by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. Not to mention by scientists. The latter used anthropological, chest radiograph and dental analysis to identify Fabrize’s remains. They also pieced together circumstantial evidence. And Armed Forces Medical Examiner System experts helped out with mitochondrial DNA analysis.

Fabrize’s name is listed on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. The cemetery will now put a rosette next to his name. It symbolizes that the agency has, at last, identified his remains.