Army scientists recently added a new chapter to the story of a 19-year-old Army private presumed to have died fighting in the Korean War in 1950.
Unit officials had declared Pfc. Ithiel E. Whatley, of Pensacola, Florida first missing in action and, nearly four years later “issued a presumptive finding of death” on Jan. 4, 1954, later declaring his remains “unrecoverable” in January 1956, according to a Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency release.
Findings made in September 2022 and publicly announced on Jan. 20, now show he survived the fighting if only for a short time, to be held as a prisoner of war before his death.
Whatley served with M Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division. During a “fighting withdrawal” south of Chochi’won, South Korea on July 12, 1950, fellow soldiers reported him missing.
With no eyewitness accounts of his capture nor records to show he had been held as a prisoner of war, the Army presumed him first missing and then dead.
However, during these declarations, the service recovered a set of remains on Oct. 6, 1950, designated X-143 Taejon from the Kum River. Officials transported those remains to the United Nations Military Cemetery Taejon and buried them with 164 sets of remains previously recovered from the area where officials believed Whatley went missing.
Whatley’s remains and other unidentified remains were then moved again to Japan in 1951 for further identification work. When that effort failed, the remains were again transported to Hawaii in 1956 and buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as the Punchbowl Cemetery with other unknown remains from the Korean War.
During Phase 2 of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency’s Korean War Disinterment Project, Whatley’s remains were again disinterred and transported to the agency laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii for further analysis.
In September, the X-143 remains were identified as Whatley’s.
“Whatley’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,” according to the release.
For family and funeral information, contact the Army Casualty Office at (800) 892-2490.