The Oklahoman - - FRONT PAGE - BY MATT PAT­TER­SON Staff Writer mpat­ter­

An Army honor guard car­ried the cas­ket con­tain­ing the re­mains of Army Sgt. First Class Al­fred Bensinger into a wait­ing white hearse Wed­nes­day at Will Rogers World Air­port, a solemn home­com­ing decades in the mak­ing for the Korean War POW.

As the Delta Air Lines MD-88 carrying Bensinger tax­ied to its air­port gate, fire trucks fired their wa­ter can­nons over the jet in his honor. A TSA color guard stood at at­ten­tion. Pas­sen­gers watch­ing from up­stairs in­side the ter­mi­nal re­moved their hats.

Oklahoma High­way Pa­trol mo­tor­cy­cle of­fi­cers and a pha­lanx of Pa­triot Guard Rid­ers then es­corted him from the air­port to Smith and Turner Mor­tu­ary in Yukon where a short cer­e­mony hon­or­ing POWs was held.

Gary Clay­ton es­ti­mates he last saw his fa­ther when he was 2. He has no mem­ory of him, and has strug­gled through­out his life with how he feels about a man he never knew.

“He dis­ap­peared in my life when I was 3 years old,” Clay­ton said. “Much later I found out what hap­pened to him and the chances of him com­ing back were slim to none. I go through my life with some­one who I al­ways said had no mean­ing to me be­cause I never knew him. As I pro­gressed and got older, I re­al­ized that wasn’t true. There is still an amaz­ingly strong con­nec­tion there.”

Born in Oklahoma City, Bensinger served in the 2nd En­gi­neer Com­bat Bat­tal­ion, 2nd In­fantry Di­vi­sion in Korea. In the fall of 1950, his unit found it­self with­draw­ing through a moun­tain pass as the Chi­nese army pur­sued them.

The 2nd En­gi­neer Bat­tal­ion held the en­emy off long enough for other troops to evac­u­ate, but

in turn found them­selves sur­rounded. More than 700 troops were killed or taken pris­oner. Bensinger was one of them. He was of­fi­cially de­clared MIA in 1950.

Re­turn­ing POWs re­ported Bensinger died in Jan­uary 1951 at Ho­fong Camp while a pris­oner. His re­mains were iden­ti­fied by the POW/MIA Ac­count­ing Agency in July.

As his fa­ther’s flag­draped cof­fin was un­loaded, Clay­ton stood with fam­ily mem­bers. Even with months to pre­pare, he found him­self nav­i­gat­ing emo­tions he hadn’t an­tic­i­pated.

“In­tel­lec­tu­ally you have some­thing you are pre­pared for and you think emo­tion­ally you would also be ready, but I wasn’t,” he said. “This whole thing is amaz­ing to me.”

Clay­ton be­gan to con­front his fa­ther’s ab­sence in his teens.

“My mom was just amaz­ing about it,” he said. “When I was younger she told me about him and won­dered if I had any ques­tions. I had a cou­ple but it wasn’t any­thing sig­nif­i­cant. I didn’t have any real ques­tions un­til I was 16 or 17. It was very emo­tional back then.”

Bensinger also served in the Pa­cific theater dur­ing World War II from 1943 to 1946. He was just 25 when he was de­clared a POW.

A sec­ond pro­ces­sion will es­cort him to Fort Sill Na­tional Ceme­tery in El­gin on Fri­day for an 11 a.m. ser­vice. For Clay­ton, Fri­day will be about clo­sure, or at least the clos­est he will come to it.

“It’s amaz­ing you have a love for some­body that you never re­ally knew, but I love my dad,” he said.


An Honor Guard stands at at­ten­tion Wed­nes­day to wel­come home the re­mains of WW II and Korean War Army vet­eran Al­fred Bensinger Jr. at Will Rogers World Air­port.

Army Sgt. Al­fred Bensinger dur­ing his ser­vice.


The re­mains of WW II and Korean War Army vet­eran Al­fred Bensinger Jr. are un­loaded off of a Delta Air­lines plane at Will Rogers World Air­port. Bensinger went miss­ing dur­ing the Korean War.


Army Sgt. Al­fred Bensinger dur­ing his ser­vice. Bensinger’s re­mains were re­turned to Oklahoma City on Wed­nes­day.

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