Sixty years later, service will honor Korean War POW

Sixty years after his death in a miserable North Korean prisoner-of-war camp, Army Sgt. 1st Class Charles A. Roy will be remembered today at an Independence service.

His remains have been in American hands since 1954, but they weren’t identified until Nov. 7, officials said.

His granddaughter, April Crow of Blue Springs, was notified. A military escort, complete with honor guard, delivered the cremated remains Friday morning at Kansas City International Airport.

The 42-year-old Henderson, Ky., man was captured Nov. 5, 1950, in a wild night battle near the North Korean village of Pakchon when his Battery A, 61st Field Artillery Battalion was overrun by an overwhelming number of Chinese infantry.

The fight came as United Nations troops, having badly defeated the North Korean army, neared the border with newly communist China. The fight began soon after the first Chinese divisions made themselves known after crossing the frozen Yalu River. Before long, U.S. and U.N. forces were reeling back to the 38th Parallel, where the fighting largely was centered for the rest of the war.

Roy’s 155 mm guns were part of the 1st Cavalry Division and were in support of British and Australian troops, who managed to block the Chinese attack and keep withdrawal routes open. The battle occurred during bitter cold. Accounts mention artillery shells skipping across frozen rice paddies, exploding amid the massed Chinese.

Roy was listed as missing in action, but in August 1953, returning American prisoners of war reported that he had been one of an estimated 1,500 who did not survive internment at “Camp 5,” near the Chinese border. He died in April 1951 of starvation and disease.

In 1954, after a truce ended the fighting, the communist forces returned the remains of more than 3,000 U.S. servicemen. The science of the time did not allow identification of Roy’s remains, and he joined many “unknowns” interred at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

Nearly 8,000 U.S. dead from the Korean conflict remain unaccounted for, but two years ago the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command studied Roy’s case and decided he could be identified through radiograph records.

The memorial service will be 10 a.m. today at Speaks Suburban Chapel, 18020 E. 39th St. in Independence.