COLUMBIA -- The remains of a South Carolina pilot, whose fighter plane was shot down during the Korean War, have been identified and will be returned to his family.
Capt. William K. Mauldin will be buried with full military honors, 56 years after he was declared missing in action, the Defense Department said Thursday.
"If anything, there's some closure and there's some peace about him being able to come home," said Corinne Mauldin, the aviator's daughter.
On Feb. 21, 1952, Capt. Mauldin took off from Kimpo Air Base, South Korea, in a RF-51 Mustang, the Pentagon said. His mission was to take aerial photos of enemy targets in North Korea.
Mauldin's plane was hit by enemy fire and crashed near Sinanri in North Korea. Aerial searches that day and the next could not find any signs Mauldin survived the crash, the Pentagon said.
He later was declared missing in action.
Identified through DNA samples
Corinne Mauldin, who was 3 years old when her father died, started writing letters about his case to the Air Force in the 1960s, when she was in college.
"I've always wanted to know the details about what happened," said Corinne Mauldin of Charleston.
Capt. Mauldin's remains were in some 200 boxes of U.S. servicemens' remains the North Koreans turned over between 1991 and 1994, Pentagon spokesman Larry Greer said.
One set of remains included fragments of life-support equipment, which investigators learned had been recovered from the crash site near Sinanri, he added.
That evidence led investigators to think the remains were Mauldin's. He later was positively identified through DNA samples from family members.
A graveside service for Mauldin, a Pickens native, will be held July 18 at Robinson Memorial Gardens in Easley.
Mauldin is one of three S.C. service members, killed in the Korean War, who have been identified from remains.
More than 400 South Carolinians were killed in the war.
However, 113 S.C. servicemembers who served in Korea remain missing in action, according to a Pentagon Web site.