Amid new clues, fam­i­lies push for U.S. to seek Korean War dead

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION - By Charles J. Han­ley

SEOUL, South Korea — Trapped by two Chi­nese di­vi­sions, troops of the 8th U.S. Cavalry Reg­i­ment were left to die in far north­ern Korea, aban­doned by the U.S. com­mand in a Korean War episode viewed as one of the most trou­bling in Amer­i­can mil­i­tary his­tory.

Sixty years later, those fallen sol­diers — the lost bat­tal­ion of Un­san — are stranded anew.

North Korea is of­fer­ing fresh clues to their re­mains. Amer­i­can teams are ready to re-en­ter the north to dig for them. But for five years, the U.S. govern­ment has re­fused to work with North Korea to re­cover the men of Un­san and oth­ers among more than 8,000 U.S. missing in ac­tion from the 1950-53 war.

Now, un­der pres­sure from MIA fam­ily groups, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is said to be mov­ing slowly to re­verse the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s sus­pen­sion of the joint re­cov­ery pro­gram, a step taken in 2005 as the North Korean nu­clear cri­sis dragged on.

“If I had a di­rect line in to the pres­i­dent, I would say, ‘Please re­in­sti­tute this pro­gram. There are fam­i­lies that need clo­sure,’ ” said Ruth Davis, 61, of Pales­tine, whose un­cle, Sgt. 1st Class Benny Don Rogers, has been listed as missing in ac­tion since the Un­san at­tack in Novem­ber 1950.

It was one of Rogers’ I Com­pany com­rades, Pfc. Philip Ack­ley of Hills­boro, N.H., whose iden­ti­fy­ing dog tag ap­peared in a photo that the North Kore­ans handed over at Korea’s Pan­munjom truce vil­lage in Jan­uary of this 60th year since the war started. The North Kore­ans also de­liv­ered pho­tos of re­mains, a stark re­minder that Un­san’s dead still wait to The U.S. re­ceived Pfc. Philip Ack­ley’s Korean War dog tag from the North Kore­ans, who are urg­ing that a search project be re­sumed. come home.

The U.S. “has de­vel­oped the hu­man­i­tar­ian is­sue into a po­lit­i­cal prob­lem,” said a North Korean state­ment urg­ing re­sump­tion of the MIA search project, which earned hard cur­rency for the Py­ongyang govern­ment.

The dev­as­tat­ing losses at Un­san came as China in­ter­vened to fend off a fi­nal North Korean de­feat.

Two of the 8th Cavalry’s three bat­tal­ions man­aged to es­cape, with heavy losses. But only small groups of sol­diers from the five com­pa­nies of the doomed 3rd Bat­tal­ion made it out.

About 600 of the 3rd Bat­tal­ion’s 800 men were lost, about half thought to have been killed and half cap­tured, many of whom died in Chi­ne­serun prison camps.

An es­ti­mated 260 U.S. dead are still un­ac­counted for at Un­san, among nearly 4,600 U.S. MIAs in North Korea, the Pen­tagon says. Sol­diers of the 8th Cavalry Reg­i­ment ad­vance through low brush dur­ing the Korean War. Some were later aban­doned in a trap at Un­san. About 260 are still missing in ac­tion.

Max Desfor

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.