Army corporal, captured in Korean War, to be buried in hometown
PHILADELPHIA (Tribune News Service) — Bob Higgins is coming home.
After 63 years, the remains of the young Fishtown soldier, who was captured in a bloody battle at the height of the Korean War in 1951, will be returned here for proper ceremony and burial.
His remains will arrive at Philadelphia International Airport from Hawaii on Thursday. A military escort will accompany the coffin to St. Ephrem Catholic Church in Bensalem for the funeral on Saturday.
The escort will then accompany the coffin to Washington Crossing National Cemetery in Newtown, Bucks County, for burial with full military honors.
For Bob Higgins, it was a long journey home.
His parents died without knowing what had become of the cheerful, always optimistic young corporal, who went off to fight for his country and never returned.
His remains were identified by the Army Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Center in Fort Knox, Ky., last year after Bob's nephew, Fred Higgins, a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War, sent in a DNA sample.
Bob had been declared dead by the Army on Dec. 31, 1953.
The Army said Bob had been taken prisoner by the North Koreans on Feb. 13, 1951, and interned in a POW camp in North Korea. It was not known when he died or what caused his death. He was 20.
A member of the 2nd Infantry Division, 15th Field Artillery Battalion, C Battery, Bob was involved in one of the bloodiest battles of the war.
Known as the "Hoengsong Massacre," it resulted in 726 Americans killed, including 108 in the 15th Battalion, in the bitter-cold February of 1951.
Four Chinese and two North Korean divisions launched an attack on units of the Republic of Korea army, supported by the Americans, in a valley north of Hoengsong. But when the ROK troops bolted and ran, the American units were exposed.
Bob was always the considerate son. He would write to his worried parents regularly, saying he was fine. In one letter on Feb. 9, 1951, he told his mother that he was in "fairly high spirits." But it was only a few days later that the Hoengsong battle began.
The family knew he had been captured when a fellow POW wrote that he saw Bob and that he was "still in good health."
But that was it. After that, only silence.
"We didn't hear anything at all, nothing," his sister-in-law, Mary Higgins, told Fox 29 News in November.
Robert Higgins was born in Philadelphia to Louis Higgins and the former Edith Swink. He was raised in Fishtown, and enlisted in the Army at age 19.
His two older brothers had enlisted before him — Louis in the Marine Corps and Frederick in the Navy.
Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Ephrem Church, 5340 Hulmeville Road, Bensalem. Friends may call at 9:15 a.m.
©2015 the Philadelphia Daily News
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