POW/MIA UPDATE

December 2020 Report

 

Judy Cates - Eddy USMC

 

 

 "I joined the Marines right out of Pearl High School, Mississippi . . . I weighed 100 pounds and was a complete mouse afraid of my own shadow. But the Marine Corps transformed me.”
-  Judy Cates-Eddy, Gunnery Sergeant, USMC

Judy Cates still remembers the day she told her father, a US Army WWII and Korean War veteran, that she was joining the Marines. "My daddy cried,” she recalled.

But it wasn’t because he didn’t approve. As she later learned, her father's response came from the memories of his brother, James "Jabbo” Cates, a 29-year-old US Army Master Sergeant killed at the Chosin Reservoir in December 1950.

According to survivors of the horrific battle fought between US and Chinese forces deep in the mountains of North Korea, MSgt Cates, a combat-decorated WWII veteran serving with the 31st RCT (Regimental Combat Team), attacked up a snow-covered hill and was never seen from again.

Judy’s father, Travis, spent the rest of his life waiting for his brother to return and was upset about Marine veterans of Chosin who had spoken disparagingly of the 1,000+ soldiers who were killed or declared MIA during the battle.

But despite her father’s reaction, Ms. Cates, determined to become a Marine, left for Parris Island. "I weighed 100 lbs and was a complete mouse afraid of my own shadow. But the Marine Corps transformed me,” she said proudly.

Cates spent the next 20 years serving her country as a Marine journalist, public relations specialist, and legal secretary. At one point in her career, Gunny Cates even worked as a receptionist for Marine Corps Commandant General Louis H. Wilson, Jr., a WWII Medal of Honor recipient.

She retired from the Marines in 1988, and for the first time in her adult life, was a civilian. But she never forgot the impact her uncle’s death had on her father. "I made an unspoken promise to my father that I would never forget his brother," she said.

Last year, on September 10, 2019, nearly seven decades after being listed as MIA, MSgt James Cates came home. His remains, finally identified and returned to the family, were buried eleven days later. "When his remains were returned, I cried in joy for both Jabbo and my father,” Judy said.

Postscript:
In a strange twist of fate, Judy’s father, who had served in the US Army during WWII and Korea and died in 1988, was buried with full military honors by a Marine Corps funeral detail.

"Due to budgetary cutbacks in the late 1980’s,” Judy explained, "the military curtailed funerals for soldiers unless they were MOH, POW, or Purple Heart recipients.” 

But Judy’s commanding officer at the time, fully aware of Cates' story, stepped in. In an effort to pay tribute to Judy’s father and her uncle, he arranged to have a Marine detachment at the funeral. "My Marine Corps colonel sent a full funeral detail,” she recalled. "He did it out of respect for our family.”

Today we pay tribute to MSgt Cates, his brother, and all those who served, sacrificed, and died in WWII and Korea. We also honor GySgt Judy Cates for her dedicated service to country and Corps and for honoring the sacrifices of her father and uncle.

Freedom isn't free.

 

November 2020 Report

 

Sunny Lee, who ensured Utah remembered the Korean War, dies at 67

 

Published: August 13
Updated: August 13, 2020

Sunny Lee, who from her home in Springdale worked with the South Korean government to celebrate American soldiers who fought in what’s been called The Forgotten War, died Friday at Dixie Regional Medical Center. She was 67.

Her husband, John Lee, said his wife had a meeting in her home Aug. 4 with a representative of the South Korean government to talk about some of her many projects related to Korean War veterans. Later that night, John Lee said, Sunny Lee collapsed in their kitchen.

Doctors determined she suffered a brain hemorrhage. She was removed from life support on Friday.

In the 21 years Lee lived in Utah, the state’s Korean War veterans received more recognition than they had in any of the other decades since the battles ended in 1953. Working through the South Korean Consulate in San Francisco, which would become Lee’s primary contact with her birth country’s leaders, Lee persuaded the South Korean government to contribute $40,000 to a Korean War memorial in Cedar City at a time when organizers were having trouble fundraising. The memorial was dedicated in 2008.

The next year, Lee organized a delegation of 150 Cedar City residents, including veterans, who visited Gapyeong, South Korea, to see the battlefield where the 213th Armored Field Artillery Battalion of the Utah National Guard fought. Later in 2009, the Cedar City and Gapyeong signed pacts becoming sister cities.

The travel to South Korea continued. She persuaded that country’s government to finance trips for American veterans, their spouses, children and grandchildren to visit the country and see what it has become in the decades since the war.

"Without America,” Lee told The Salt Lake Tribune in 2015, "Korea wouldn’t be what country it is.”

Later in 2015, "CBS Sunday Morning” followed Lee to South Korea on a trip for children of American soldiers declared missing in action during the war and whose remains had not yet been recovered. The children — now senior citizens — saw battlefields and memorials and were celebrated with traditional dances, music and meals.

Jorja Reyburn, of Boise, Idaho, and her brother were on the trip. Their father, Army 1st Lt. James Elliott, went missing in Korea in 1950 and has never been found. Reyburn said the 2015 visit and another one she took to South Korea a few years later would not have been possible without Lee’s work.

"It’s probably the most closure that we’ll ever have,” Reyburn said in a phone interview Thursday. "And to be able to stand along the banks of the river where our dad was last seen was extremely emotional for us.”

Lee had an older sister born the same year as Reyburn. Lee’s sister died during the war, Reyburn said, when she contracted the flu and no medicine was available.

Reyburn said she and and Lee struck up a relationship, kept in touch called each other sisters.

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Louise Allen of Salt Lake City weeps for her husband Donald Allen, a WWII, Korean and Vietnam veteran who served for 27 years in the armed forces, after accepting the medal meant for her husband. Allen passed away in September 2013. One hundred eighty-one Korean War veterans were presented with a medal from the government of The Republic of Korea and recognized for their service, Sept. 10, 2014 in the Utah Capitol rotunda.

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Louise Allen of Salt Lake City weeps for her husband Donald Allen, a WWII, Korean and Vietnam veteran who served for 27 years in the armed forces, after accepting the medal meant for her husband. Allen passed away in September 2013. One hundred eighty-one Korean War veterans were presented with a medal from the government of The Republic of Korea and recognized for their service, Sept. 10, 2014 in the Utah Capitol rotunda.

Commemorations continued in Utah, too. Lee was among the Korean immigrants in the state who worked with their old government to present veterans with what’s called the Ambassador For Peace Medal.

The medals have been presented to veterans — often posthumously — at the Utah Capitol, nursing homes and on the state’s Native American reservations in ceremonies that have included South Korean diplomats in their country’s traditional dress. John Cole, a Roy resident who served with First Marine Division during the war and received an Ambassador For Peace Medal in a 2014 ceremony, said for many Korean War veterans, the medals were the first recognition of their service.

Cole on Thursday said the help of Lee and other Korean immigrants in Utah "has been incalculable because they looked at it as a way to say thank you to the Korean War veterans in this state for helping save their country.”

"It’s like if you are in a burning car,” Lee explained to CBS, "Somebody came to save your life, so to feel that they are your hero to pay back for the rest of your life. I feel like that.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sunny Lee works with the South Korean government to bring the families of MIA Korean War veterans to South Korea where they are honored for their family member's service. Lee was photographed at her Springdale home on Tuesday, May 19, 2020.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sunny Lee works with the South Korean government to bring the families of MIA Korean War veterans to South Korea where they are honored for their family member's service. Lee was photographed at her Springdale home on Tuesday, May 19, 2020.

Lee was born Jan. 2, 1953, in Seoul as the second of three children to Sung Chun and Young Hyun Lee. Her birth was about six months before a July 1953 armistice ended the Korean War. One of her early memories was drinking powdered milk that came from the United States.

She married John Lee on Aug. 18, 1976. His sister had married a U.S. soldier. The same year Sunny and John Lee married, they followed John’s sister and immigrated to the United States.

John Lee started a Santa Ana, Calif., company that automated industrial sewing machines. Sunny Lee kept the finances while the couple also reared a son, William Lee, who now lives in Los Angeles, and a daughter, Sarah Lee, who resides in Germany.

Besides her husband and children, Sunny Lee’s survivors include her mother, who now lives in Orange County, Calif.

Sunny and John Lee were able to retire early. They moved to Springdale — a town they discovered during a road trip — in 1999. They built a home with views of the redrock walls of Zion Canyon, the entry to Zion National Park.

Sunny Lee began looking for volunteer opportunities. She donated some of her time to work helping staff and visitors in the national park. Then she heard about Cedar City’s efforts to erect the Korean War memorial.

Sunny Lee worked with the South Korean government to bring the families of MIA Korean War veterans to South Korea where they are honored for their family member's service. Lee was photographed at her Springdale home on Tuesday, May 19, 2020.

In 2017, Lee was suffering from pain in her stomach that was eventually diagnosed as cancer there. Even while undergoing treatment, she pursued an ambitious project.

She set out to track down the families of the approximately 8,150 U.S. service personnel declared missing in action in Korea to offer them a chance to visit that country or find another way to recognize their service member. She started with the families of 40 personnel who were from Utah.

She did what research she could from home and received some help from the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. When she could find families, the conversations didn’t always go as she hoped.

"They thought I was a tour guide trying to make money out of this,” Lee told The Tribune earlier this year.

It’s not clear how many families Lee found. Sarah Lee on Thursday said she doesn’t know who will take over her mother’s work.

"She never looked at this as her project,” Sarah Lee said. "She always looked at herself as the master supporter but never the one reason why this was happening.”

That humility remained after death. Sarah Lee said, in accordance with her mother’s wishes, Sunny Lee was cremated Tuesday; there are no plans for a memorial service.

Lee kept a binder for every family she assisted, complete with photos of the service member, his military record, photos of their spouses, children and grandchildren.

"They never had a closure,” Lee said, "and they are the true forgotten Korean War families.”

 

 

October Report

 

Marine Accounted For From Korean War (Ellis, H.)

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that Marine Pfc. Henry E. Ellis, 22, killed during the Korean War, was accounted for Sept. 29, 2020.

On the evening of November 27, 1950, a huge Chinese force launched an attack against the U.S. and United Nations (UN) troops stationed in the Chosin Reservoir area in north-east North Korea.  The resulting seventeen-day conflict became known as the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.  After a fierce defense, U.S. and UN forces attempted to withdraw south from the Chosin Reservoir to the port of Hungnam; however, the only route of retreat was a seventy-eight-mile roadway that the Chinese had roadblocked extensively.  On November 29, a convoy of tanks, jeeps, and trucks, known as Task Force Drysdale, was organized to push north from Koto-ri, a town between Hungnam and Chosin Reservoir, to clear the road for the withdrawing men.  As they pushed north, the convoy faced heavy fire from the Chinese positioned on the high ground surrounding the road.  Part of the convoy became trapped when the Chinese blew bridges to the south and north, while disabled vehicles and blocked tanks also blocked the road to the north.  The trapped members of the task force put up a makeshift defense, but were eventually forced to surrender to the Chinese.  Only the tanks and infantry that had been north of the bridge when it was blown managed to reach the Chosin Reservoir area, while the men and tanks south of the disabled vehicles were able to withdraw back to Kunu-ri.

Private First Class Henry Edward Ellis, who joined the U.S. Marine Corps from Virginia, was a member of Headquarters Company, 1st Service Battalion, 1st Marine Division. He was a member of Task Force Drysdale, and he was killed in action during the advance from Koto-ri to the Chosin Reservoir.

 

 

September 2020

U.S., South Korea Repatriate Remains of 147 Korean Soldiers

Navy Adm. Philip S. Davidson spoke during a June 23 repatriation ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, in which the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency turned over the remains of 147 South Korean service members who died in the Korean War in the largest repatriation of South Korean soldiers.

The effort to return the remains is a part of the DPAA Korean War Identification Project, and it includes remains unilaterally turned over by North Korea from 1990 to 1994 and in 2018. It is the largest transfer of remains between the two countries since the 2018 repatriation ceremony, when DPAA returned 64 remains to South Korea.

"We are here today because of the unprecedented coordination and the close friendship between our two nations," the admiral said. The DPAA's mission and sacred endeavor of accounting for our nation’s missing heroes continues with remarkable success, he added.

The remains were analyzed by scientists and staff from the DPAA laboratory and the South Korea's Ministry of National Defense Agency for KIA Recovery and Identification during a joint forensic review conducted in the days prior to the ceremony. Working cooperatively and thoroughly, they concluded that the 147 individual remains are of South Korean origin, and seven of the remains have been individually identified and are pending final testing once they are returned to South Korea. 

 

"Our missing and unaccounted-for service members are entitled to one certainty: They will never be forgotten," Davidson said." We owe these honored dead and their families a profound debt of gratitude."

The admiral said he hopes for more repatriation ceremonies for both nations to bring a sense of relief to families and to allow grateful nations to render proper honors to our fallen heroes. "We shall never forget them," he said.

President Moon Jae-in will welcome the remains home in an official ceremony today in South Korea's capital of Seoul that coincides with the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War in 1950.

 

During the Korean War, South Koreans and Americans fought side by side to defend the values embodied in the established rules-based international order, which was then in its infancy, Davidson said.

"For more than six decades, our ironclad alliance has been the linchpin of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific — certainly one of the most successful of its kind in modern history," he said.

South Korea, formally known as the Republic of Korea, and U.S. service members on the Korean Peninsula and across the region continue to carry on the mission to which these individuals dedicated their last breath, he added.

"Together, our two nations will continue to honor their legacy through our unwavering strength, our resolve and our dedication to preserving peace on the peninsula and throughout the Indo-Pacific region," Davidson said.

Park Jae-min, South Korea's vice defense minister, noted that this year marks the 67th anniversary of the Mutual Defense Treaty, which formed the South Korea-United States alliance in 1953. 

"It has been seven decades since the Republic of Korea and the United States have fought hand-in-hand as allies," he said. "The fact that we can now put a name to the 147 remains returning to their loved ones is truly overwhelming."

The two countries will continue their mutual cooperation to pursue the fulfillment of a sacred duty to remember the sacrifices of the fallen warriors and to bring every last one home, Park said.

Both officials signed an acknowledgement letter to officially document the transfer and repatriation of remains from the United States to South Korea. The box carrying the soldiers' remains was boarded onto a South Korean armed forces aircraft bound for Seoul.

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