June 10, 2009

A Korean War soldier, missing for almost 60 years, is coming home

When the Chinese army surged into Korea shortly before the winter of 1950 in a bid to salvage the communist regime, the first American military unit to feel the brunt of its attack hunkered down in the mountains and fought back with legendary fierceness.
Caught in the hail of bullets and bombs, a Plainville soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Lincoln Clifford May, lay among the mounds of the dead.
Declared missing in action after the Nov. 2, 1950 battle that wiped out most of his unit, May’s remains lay somewhere in Unsan, North Korea for the next 43 years.
But in 1993, the North Koreans handed over 208 boxes of bones from U.S. soldiers who perished in that bleak landscape.
Using DNA provided by May’s two nephews, Glenn and Cliff Block of Bristol, some of the bones have been identified after all these years by military experts as belonging to the long-dead soldier.
On June 26, May will be buried in a Plainville cemetery where many of the people the 22-year-old once knew are also interred.
“My uncle’s finally coming home,” said Cliff Block, a Bristol city councilor who was named for his uncle several months before the Plainville soldier vanished.
Glenn Block said that when he got a phone call months ago informing him that his uncle’s body had been found, “I cried like a baby in my office.”
Though Glenn Block has only the dimmest recollection of his uncle, he remembered his grandmother, Clara May, kept a framed photograph of her youngest son in his uniform on a table beside her rocking chair until her own death in 1990.
Cliff Block recalled that as a youngster, he would point to the picture and tell his grandmother, “That’s me before I died.”
Cliff Block said the long saga of his uncle’s return makes for “a great story,” but also a sad one because aside “everyone else is dead” for whom it would bring some peace except for he and his brother.
Glenn Block, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, said he wants a full military funeral for his uncle.
Chief Warrant Officer 2nd Class Peter Coppola, who is assisting the family for the Connecticut National Guard, said that funerals for soldiers whose remains are recovered decades after their deaths are “a rare event” and will be done right.
“This is kind of a chance to make it right,” said Glenn Block.
May arrived in Korea in August 1950 with U.S. forces who made a desperate stand to prevent the entire peninsula from being overrun by communist forces.
He was wounded near Pusan by a grenade the following month, Cliff Block said, but recovered enough to join his unit pushing north toward the Chinese border.
According to an old newspaper clipping, May carried shrapnel in his back as he headed out, sending a letter to his mother insisting he was no longer in danger.
The day before his death, the clipping said, May wrote to his fiancĂ©e in New Britain, whom he had planned to marry in October 1950, to say he was going out on “a big push.”
That was the last time anyone at home heard from him.
May, called “Cliff” by friends and family, enlisted in the Army in 1948. He became a military police officer and served in Georgia, New Jersey and Massachusetts before getting shipped out to Korea.
After his death, the Army sent the family his possessions -- a cap, an MP armband and tiny jackknife. They also sent two medals, a fraction of what he earned. Coppola said he’s working on getting the rest.
Glenn Block said he hopes is uncle’s story will make people think about the sacrifices that the military can require.”We’re talking people here who gave all. It’s that simple,” he said.
The remains of more than 8,000 Korea War soldiers have not yet been recovered, according to the Department of Defense’s office for prisoners of war and missing personnel
The O’Brien Funeral Home in Bristol is handling the arrangements. A wake is planned but hasn’t been finalized. The funeral is scheduled for Friday, June 26 at Plainville’s West Cemetery.
For details of the battle at Unsan, where May perished, please see this PDF of a military report on it.

And to find out how the military identified May's remains, see this PDF report.

Here is a news clipping from the Plainville News sometime after the Department of Defense proclaimed May as killed in action.

1928 - Lincoln Clifford May born in Plainville
1948 - May joined the Army
1950 - May died in Korea
1993 - Unidentified remains returned by North Korea
2003 - May’s remaining relatives provided DNA samples
2008 - Military identified May’s remains
2009 - Burial planned in Plainville

Korean War Remembrance Day
The city’s Korean War veterans are marking the 59th anniversary of the start of the war with a ceremony on Memorial Boulevard at 11 a.m., Thursday, June 25.
The ceremony will feature Bristol veteran Frank Parker talking about his experiences in combat during the Korean War in 1950 and 1951,
A luncheon follows at the American Legion hall on Hooker Court. Korean War veterans are invited to attend.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com


Cliff Block said...

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Bet Ward is in his glories - another Photo op.

Anonymous said...

that is amazing and touching.

Embarrassed for you said...

A soilder is finally coming home.
A tribute to Korean War vets.

...and 8:21's gotta go for his usual cheap shot...what a sleaze!

Anonymous said...

Sleaze going after another sleaze I guess.

Anonymous said...

Only one sleaze here 1:18, that'd be you.

Anonymous said...

doubt mayor ward will be front and center if its in Plv and also based on his treatment of Cliffy Block on the council, I don't think he should wait around for a golden invite.

skunk said...

hey 8:21, are you going to show up and pay your respects or just sit back with your head in your butt, slamming people who you "think" will be there?

Anonymous said...

Mayor will invite himself - thinks everyone wants him there. Talk about a real blowhard.

Embarrassed for you said...

7:39, Someone who would twist the return of a long lost soilder into a cheap shot at the mayor is about as big of a blowhard as one can be. You really are pathetic.

Daphne Anthony said...

Very Happy he's finally home

Wish I could be there with my family, Judy, Jerry, Bindy, Billy, Lynn, and all my cousins up there.

Love Daphne Mae Anthony in Miami

Daphne Mae Anthony said...

So Glad he's finally home

Happy for My Family Judy, Jerry, Bindy, Bill, Lynn, and all my cousins. WISH I COULD BE THERE

Love From Daphne Mae Anthony in Miami