HE NEVER CAME HOME: Family hopes DNA testing can resolve fate of missing Ringgold County soldier
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One Ringgold County soldier’s family is still waiting for him to return from war–the Korean War.
Private First Class Jack Eugene Marshall was officially listed by the US Army as “Declared Dead While Missing” after the Battle of Chosin Reservoir on December 2, 1950.
The Battle of Chosin Reservoir, also known as the Chosin Reservoir Campaign, was a decisive battle in the Korean War. On November 27, 1950, the Chinese Army surprised UN Forces at the Chosin Reservoir area. A brutal 17-day battle in freezing weather and rough terrain soon followed. Between November 27 and December 13 1950, 30,000 United Nations troops were encircled and attacked by approximately 120,000 Chinese troops.
The cold weather was accompanied by frozen ground, resulting in frostbite casualties, icy roads and weapon malfunctions. In the end, over 17,000 UN forces were killed or wounded or missing in action or died of their wounds. The Chinese suffered three times that amount.
Marshall was assigned to Able Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment of the 7th Infantry Division. He was reported missing on December 2, 1950 and the army issued a presumptive finding of death on December 31, 1953.
Marshall was born on July 19, 1929 in Landsford, North Dakota to Mona and Eugene Klimple and was given the name of Jack Eugene Klimple. His father died in a tractor accident when he was about one year old and he and his mother Mona then moved to Lotts Creek Township in Ringgold County near Caledonia.
Mona married Gernie Marshall in 1933 in Grant City, MO and Gernie adopted Jack and he officially changed his last name to Marshall.
The family was poor. They lived in a two room shack north of Ringgold Cemetery. The Marshalls eventually worked their way out of poverty and soon rented a nearby farm. Then, they moved to the Sutter Creek area of California for three years where Gernie and Mona worked and saved money. In 1940 the family moved back to Ringgold County and bought a farm one mile east of the old shack they had previously lived in. It is the present day residence of Jim and Cathy Coulson.
Jack attended Country School #6 in Lotts Creek and worked for Alvin Tull of Tingley as a farm laborer before going into the army on April 5, 1949. He had a half brother, Melvin Marshall, who died in a hunting accident in 1953.
He spent time at Fort Riley, KS and departed for Korea from Seattle, WA, arriving in Korea in January, 1950.
His adopted father, Gernie, died in Mount Ayr in 1965 and his mother, Mona, died in Clarinda in 2003, never knowing if her son’s remains had every been recovered.
Hope for return
Jack’s sister, Janie Koch of Sergent Bluff, is diligently working to try and find the brother she never met, being born one year after he was declared dead.
She is getting a major assist in the effort from The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), whose mission is to provide the fullest possible accounting for our missing personnel to their families and the nation. More than 82,000 Americans remain missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War. For those service members killed in action, the DPAA community is charged with locating, recovering and identifying their remains.
Operation Glory was the code name for an Operations Plan which involved the effort to transfer the remains of United Nations Command casualties from North Korea at the end of the Korean War. The Korean Armistice Agreement of July 1953 called for the repatriation of all casualties and prisoners of war, and through September and October 1954 the Graves Registration Service Command received the remains of approximately 4,000 casualties.
Of the 1,868 American remains, 848 unidentified remains were buried as “unknowns” at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.
Koch is hoping one of these remains are of her brother and that DNA testing will make these hopes come true and Marshall can be returned to Ringgold County.
Koch believes Jack is in the group. DNA from his father and mother have been given to the agency along with photos and any other possible identifying information. The agency is carefully working it’s way through the remains. Last year DPAA identified 203 missing service members, the highest number to date.
While the DNA of many of these long-buried bodies has degraded over time, newer types of tests are allowing the agency to make identifications that would have been impossible just a few years ago.
The agency plans to disinter and try to identify the more than 500 Korean War “unknowns” buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.
The agency has family samples for about 90% of Korean and Vietnam War MIAs, but only 6% of MIAs from World War II.
Jack Marshall never married–or did he? The family received a photograph from Jack while he was in Japan. It was a picture of a Korean woman with the words, “My Wife” written on the back. No further information accompanied the photo.
Koch says since no name was attached to the photo they have not found any way to track down the mystery woman.
To be honored
On Tuesday, September 3, as part of American Legion Post 172 in Mount Ayr’s 100th anniversary celebration, Bob and Janet Moore will honor Marshall with a special tribute. Koch said she will be in attendance and bring Marshall’s medals along to be displayed.
Marshall was awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge, Korean Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, Republic of Korea War Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Distinguished Unit Citation and the Good Conduct Medal.
So, Koch waits. She said that DPAA is very good about keeping families updated on their work. They hold meetings each year where families can attend and get the latest news on their progress. She remains hopeful she gets the news that her brother’s remains have been identified.
American Legion Post 172 in Mount Ayr will have a 100 year anniversary September 3 at 6 p.m.
An evening is planned to honor the men and women who have made there ultimate sacrifice to serve their country.
The post officially had its charter signed September 3, 1919. John Mills was the organizer and was the first Commander of the Legion. Officially the post was named Ringgold Post 0172. Members of the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) joined to keep up membership in the organization. The post had many locations, starting uptown and moving to the present location on July 4, 1978.
The Boy Scouts, Randy Johnson 5th District Commander from Deep River, and other guests will work with the Legion to make this all possible.
There will be a free will donation meal for all with cake and homemade ice-cream.