Remains of Korean War veteran returned to Bay Area decades after death

ByLauren Martinez KGO logo
Wednesday, November 13, 2019
Remains of Korean War veteran returned to Bay Area decades after death
A Bay Area family has been reunited with the remains of a Korean War veteran who has been missing for decades.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Frances Herrera, 92, from Vallejo has waited nearly 70 years for this day. The remains of her brother, Army Sergeant First Class Phillip Mendoza arrived at the San Francisco International Airport.

According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, in 1950, Mendoza was reported missing in action when his unit engaged with enemy forces near the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea. His remains were never recovered after that battle. Mendoza was 27 at the time.

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In 2018, President Donald Trump held a summit with North Korea leader Kim Jong-un. That June, North Korea turned over 55 boxes appearing to contain the remains of American service members killed during the Korean War. The remains of Mendoza were identified by scientists from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

"I am happy, I am happy that he's in heaven I know," Herrera said. Herrera's granddaughter, Rachel Zaragoza, said this is a bittersweet homecoming for her grandmother. "She wishes her mother was here alive to witness her son coming home. We received letters from the military that he was missing in action for the longest time so this is actually a bittersweet homecoming for her that she can finally know that her brother is back with our family again" Zaragoza said.

Mendoza is one of 10 siblings, Frances and one other brother from El Paso remain. The family says that the brother is coming into town tonight.

"I feel good my brother is okay, he's in heaven, I will see him someday," Herrera said.

Mendoza's funeral will be held on Friday at the military cemetery in Dixon where two of his brothers are.

According to the DPAA, there are 7,608 Americans that remain unaccounted for from the Korean War. They hope by using modern technology, identifications continue to be made from remains.