Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The forgotten nature of Korea

This is Iowa's memorial to its Korean War dead, located near other memorials southeast of the state Capitol in Des Moines.

This is the second version of a post about Lucas County's Korean War dead. An earlier version posted a couple of weeks ago was incomplete, so rather than fiddle with it, it seemed simpler to delete it and start again.

As said in that earlier post, when I started working on this the only Korean War fatality I knew anything about --- or so I thought --- was Manuel J. Spoon, the father of a Russell Community School classmate of mine. I had forgotten about Jerry Parker, a distant cousin buried after his remains were repatriated in the Russell Cemetery and about whom my dad used to speak occasionally. His family had moved from Lucas County to Britt in north central Iowa and that was his home of record at the time of enlistment.

The most moving element here now is the photo of Donald Halferty, only 17 when he was killed, shared with the historical society by his sister. The point here is neither pro-war nor anti-war, just an attempt to report our collective loss. But look into that face and it practically breaks you heart.


The Sunday afternoon speaker in September of 2009, during the visit of a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall to Allerton , asked veterans of the various U.S. wars represented in the crowd to stand, naming wars one by one --- World War II, Vietnam, Desert Storm …. He forgot Korea. Until a veteran of that war stood up and yelled to remind him, decisively, of it.

Often called the “forgotten war,” Korea claimed at best count about 36,500 U.S. lives, no small number. But post-World War II weariness, the undeclared nature of the conflict, the fact it ended in stalemate and that U.S. participation did not divide the nation plus the absence of the collective anger that developed among veterans of Vietnam all contributed to what now seems more vague collective unease than distinct remembrance. Unless one is a veteran of that war or loved someone who fought or died there.

The war is said to have begun on June 25, 1950, when North Korean forces crossed the 38th Parallel to invade the south. President Harry S. Truman committed U.S. troops two days later to what became officially a United Nations war led by the United States. The war ended with the armistice of July 27, 1953, during the presidential term of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Hundreds of young Lucas Countyans fought or served in support units during Korea and several died. Different sources given different numbers. The official U.S. database lists four, but there is no doubt about a fifth. When others with close ties to Lucas County are added, the number approaches 10.

Four Lucas Countyans died in Korea, according to the National Archives and Records Service Korean War fatality database --- Donald D. Halferty, George Musick, Lyle R. Shelton and Manuel J. Spoon. Iowa records, available at Camp Dodge, list others, including Elmer A Rowe.



There is no doubt that U.S. Army Private Donald Lee Halferty, age 17, Co. C, 34th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, killed in combat Aug. 6, 1950, at Naktong Bulge, was the first young man --- painfully young --- from Lucas County to die in Korea.

A son of Dennis W. and Mildred W. Halferty, Private Halferty was born Feb. 22, 1933, at Chariton and spent his first eight years with his family on a farm near Derby. After the family moved to Chariton, he attended school and worked as a carrier and assistant route manager for The Des Moines Register and Tribune Co.

With reluctant permission from his parents, he dropped out of high school to enter the U.S. Army as soon as he turned 17, enlisting on Feb. 23, 1950. After 14 weeks of training at Fort Riley, Kansas, during which the Korean War commenced, he was sent to the war zone where he was killed a few weeks later. His parents learned during late August that he was missing in action and his death was confirmed in mid-September.

The editor of The Chariton Leader, reporting in his Aug. 29, 1950, edition, wrote that the last letter his mother had received from Donald was dated Aug. 5, one day before he was killed. “The letter was written in that vein of a boy in camp, and he asked about the people at home and his dog,” the editor wrote. His mother had written daily to her son, according to Donald’s sister, Shirley Hamilton. All of those letters eventually were returned unopened because he did not live long enough in Korea to receive them. That, Mrs. Hamilton said, was one of the great sorrows of her mother’s life.

In addition to his parents, he was survived by five sisters, Juanita, Doris, Shirley, Kay and Sandra; and one brother, Dwaine.

Private Halferty’s remains were returned to Chariton a year later and funeral services were held during early August, 1951. Burial was in the Chariton Cemetery.


Little more than a week after Dennis and Mildred Halferty learned that their son, initially reported missing, had been killed in Korea, Anna Musick received word in late September, 1950, that her son, George, 33, had been reported missing as of Sept. 3.

U.S. Army Sergeant First Class George Musick, age 33, Co. H, 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, had indeed been killed in action on Sept. 3, 1950, at Yongsan, his family eventually learned.

A son of Andrew and Anna Musick, born during 1917 in Monroe County, George was a veteran of World War II who had re-enlisted in the Army following an honorable discharge, most recently just two months prior to his death. In addition to his mother (Andrew Musick had died during 1947), George was survived by three brothers, Frank, John and Andrew; and by two sisters, Mrs. Wayne Trumbull and Mrs. John Grennet.

George, who had earned the Silver Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster for valor during World War II, was awarded posthumously the Bronze Star Medal with “V” Device for valor in Korea, accepted by his mother during a ceremony in Chariton in March of 1951. The citation that accompanied the medal tells us how George died.

George was part of a small group of men from a heavy weapons company cut off and surrounded by the enemy near Yongsan on Aug. 31, 1950, The group formed a defensive perimeter and dug in, holding off constant assaults from Sept. 1-3. Rations were low and the only water the men had was the morning dew. According to the citation, Musick’s valor in these circumstances continued until death claimed him; the survivors telling and retelling the record of his bravery.

George’s remains have never been recovered. His name is inscribed in the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial, National Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu.

Anna Musick accepts the Bronze Star Medal awarded posthumously to her son, George, for his service in Korea (George already had earned the Silver Star Medial during World War II). Photos courtesy of Charlie Musick


U.S. Army Corporal Elmer A. Rowe, age 20, was one of three young Lucas Countyan who died in Korea during a very short span, but his parents were informed of his missing-in-action status before either the Halfertys or Anna Musick learned that their sons also were among the missing

Wayne G. and Ethel Rowe of Chariton were informed prior to Aug. 22, 1950, that Corporal Rowe, Co. F., 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, had been reported missing as of Aug. 12. They were informed later that he had died in combat on that date.

Born in Wayne County, Elmer enlisted in Jasper County, but his home of record was Millerton. His father, employed as a railroad worker, seems to have moved his family fairly often. His parents had received a letter from Elmer dated Aug. 7 telling of preparations for an attack and it may have been during that engagement that Corporal Rowe was captured, then killed.

His remains have yet to be recovered and his name, too, is inscribed in the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial, National Cemetery of the Packfic, in Honolulu.


U.S. Army Private First Class Lyle R. Shelton, age 20, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, the fourth Lucas Countyan to die in Korea, was critically injured in combat on Nov. 26, 1950, in the vicinity of the Chongchon River and died of his wounds Nov. 27.

A son of of Emmit and Ethel Shelton, Lyle was born at Russell July 13, 1930, where along with his family he was active in First Baptist Church. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in August 1948 and later transferred to 23rd Infantry Division. He arrived in Korea during August 1950. Memorial services were held Dec. 10, 1950, at First Baptist Church in Russell.

The Shelton family was large and Lyle was survived, in addition to his parents, by eight sisters and two brothers: Olin, Irene, Leola, Erma, James, Marnie, Mary, Viva, Ora and Zora.

Four years after his death, his remains were repatriated during December of 1954. By that time, the Shelton family apparently had moved to Des Moines and funeral services were conducted there by the Rev. Archie Beals of Russell, his childhood pastor. Burial was in Glendale Cemetery in Des Moines..


U.S. Army Master Sergeant Manuel J. Spoon, age 32, 38th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, was captured in combat in the vicinity of Kunu-Ri Gauntlet, North Korea, on Nov. 30, 1950, just three days after Lyle Shelton was killed.

He died in enemy hands five months later, on April 30, 1951, although his family did not know that until late August, 1953.

Son of Manuel N. and Emma Spoon, husband of Lena (Mitchell), and father of Kathy, Manuel was born Aug. 24, 1918, in Kossuth County, but moved to southern Iowa as a child. A career soldier, Spoon was a World War II veteran assigned to Korea when the war started there. Reported missing in action after Nov. 30, 1950, his death in a North Korean prison camp was first reported in August of 1953.

His remains were repatriated to the Keokuk National Cemetery during late October, 1955, where funeral services and burial occurred. His widow, Lena, later married Walter LaRue and lived a long life in Lucas County.


Iowa records on file at Camp Dodge in Johnston identify Roy R. Kirton as a Korean War loss from Lucas County although federal records identify him as a resident of Marion County. U.S. Army Corporal Kirton, age 40, assigned to Service Battery, 39th Field Artillery Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, was, like Manuel J. Spoon, captured in combat near the Kunu-Ri Gauntlet, North Korea, on Nov. 30, 1950. He died in enemy hands more than a year later, on Dec. 1, 1951.

Unlike Spoon, however, his body has never been recovered. The Chariton Leader of May 14, 1954, reported that a memorial service for him was to be held at Newbern. His name is inscribed in the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial, National Cemetery of the Pacific, in Honolulu.

Roy's parents, Lee (1875-1952) and Mina Pearl (Shounkwiler) Kirton (1883-1915) are buried in the Newbern Cemetery and they were living in Liberty Township, Lucas County, near Newbern, when Roy was born 29 March 1910. Mina Pearl died during 1915 and Lee raised their three children, Rosa, Roy and Ray, by himself, living much of the time on a farm in Dallas Township, Marion County. He still was a resident of Dallas when his son was reported missing but was dead by the time his death was confirmed.


Frank Mitchell, while researching a contemporary history of Lucas County, identified three former residents who also may be considered among our losses. They are: Jerry Parker, Alfred Agan and Harold H. Thorne.

Sergeant Parker, 38th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, was captured in the vicinity of the Chongchon River on Nov. 26, 1950, the same day Lyle Shelton was killed there. He died in enemy hands on March 6, 1951.

A son of Chester Alan and Ethel (Hull) Parker, Jerry, 23, was a Lucas County native whose family had moved to Britt, in Hancock County, and that was his home of record. When his remains were repatriated after the war, they were buried in the Russell Cemetery.

U.S. Marine Corps Captain Alfred H. Agan, 32, Marine Fighter Squadron 212, 1st Marine Air Wing, was the pilot of a F4U-4 Corsair fighter deployed aboard the carrier USS Bataan. His aircraft was damaged by the explosion of its bombs on Jan. 20, 1951, and he crash landed it in the water a mile off shore and eleven miles south of Inchon. Search missions found Agan, but by that time he had died of exposure. His home of record was Centerville. He is buried at Fort Rosencrans National Cemetery, San Diego.

Private Harold H. Thorne, 21, was assigned to the 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, when he was killed in action on July 15, 1953. His home of record was Rockford, Ill. He was the last of the young men with links to Lucas County to die. He is buried in Willwood Burial Park, Rockford.

The sculptued figures below of Korean War soldiers form part of the Korea Memorial in Washington, D.C.


Anonymous said...

Hello Cuz Frank, always enjoy your wonderful site with stories, history, genealogy and your commentary on issues past and present
keep up the good work maureen

이시태 said...

Thank you for the saving Korea.

we'll never forget.