CENTRALIA, Ill. – After missing for more than 70 years, the remains of a Centralia, Illinois, native who died during the Korean War are finally coming home.
Following the Singapore Summit between former United States President Donald Trump and North Korea Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un in June 2018, North Korea turned over 55 boxes containing the remains of American service members killed during the Korean War.
The remains were brought to the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii on Aug. 1, 2018, and turned over to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) to be identified.
Scientists from the DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System painstakingly used dental, anthropological, and isotope records, as well as circumstantial evidence, and DNA analysis to identify the remains. In August 2022, they were successfully identified the remains of Army Master Sgt. Merritt Leroy Wynn.
Wynn served in K Company, 3rd Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment in the 25th Infantry Division. He was reported missing in action on Nov. 26, 1950, following an attack on his unit’s position just east of Unsan, North Korea. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star that same day.
The U.S. Department of Defense said there was no evidence that Wynn was ever a prisoner of war, and that his remains were declared “nonrecoverable” on Jan. 16, 1956. However, Wynn’s obituary from Irvin Macz Funeral Homes indicates a witness, who was a POW with Wynn, reported the master sergeant died while in captivity.
Wynn’s name was added to the American Battle Monuments Commission‘s Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. Now that his remains have been recovered and identified, a rosette will be placed next to Master Sgt. Wynn’s name to show that he’s been accounted for.
Wynn was born on Aug. 28, 1919, to Tom and Daisy Wynn in Centralia. His obituary says Wynn was an accomplished boxer and a U.S. Army heavyweight and Golden Gloves Champion, and once went three rounds in a sparring match against former world heavyweight champion and boxing icon Joe Louis.
He was preceded in death by his parents and siblings, and survived by his nine nieces and nephews.
Wynn’s remains will arrive at St. Louis Lambert International Airport on Tuesday, April 11, just after 5 p.m., and placed into the care of Irvin Macz Funeral Homes.
A celebration of life and burial will take place at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 15, at Elmwood Cemetery in Centralia, with a procession from the funeral home beforehand. Residents, supporters, and those who would like to honor Wynn’s service and sacrifice are invited to line Elm and Gragg Street.
The Defense Department will honor Wynn with military rites, with members of VFW Post 2055 and American Legion Post 446 in attendance.
Those who wish to offer condolences to Wynn’s family can do so online at MaczFuneralHomes.com or on the funeral home’s Facebook page.