USAG Daegu honors World War II airmen killed in action during Namhae Memorial Ceremony

Photo Credit: U.S. Army
Photo Credit: U.S. Army

USAG Daegu honors World War II airmen killed in action during Namhae Memorial Ceremony

by Ki Chun So and Keith Smith
USAG Daegu

NAMHAE, South Korea— USAG Daegu Deputy to the Garrison Commander Raymond S. Myers and Command Sgt. Maj. Jonathon J. Blue joined Korean Veterans and local dignitaries for the Namhae memorial ceremony on Nov. 5—honoring the memory of 11 fallen U.S. Airmen. The solemn ceremony marked the 76th anniversary since 1945.

On Aug. 7, 1945, during the colonization of Korea by the Japanese and just 8 days before the end of the war in the Pacific, a U.S. Army Air Corps B-24 'Liberator' bomber from the 868th Bombardment Squadron departed from Okinawa to conduct an armored search from Hwa-do Island near Jeju up the southeastern coast of Korea to Busan and back to Okinawa. The plane never returned. Instead, the bomber, piloted by Lt. Edward Mills Jr. crashed into the side of Mangwoon mountain, a 3000-foot peak on Namhae Island.

Kim, Duk-hyung, who was working as a civil servant for the Namhae County government at the time, joined Japanese and Korean laborers in climbing the mountain to strip the site of usable parts, but upon discovering that no one intended to inter the men, Kim took it upon himself to bury them, gathering as much identifying material as possible before stacking a mound of rocks atop the grave and topping it with a pine cross.

The next day, when the Japanese police heard about the burial, Kim was arrested, confined and tortured. Fortunately, the war ended shortly thereafter on Aug. 15 and he awoke to an unlocked cell and an abandoned jailhouse.

In time, he informed the U.S. of the burial location and helped to repatriate their remains, bringing closure to family members who might otherwise never have known the fate of their loved ones.

As a tribute to their sacrifice, Mr. Kim raised enough funds by 1956 to erect a 12-foot granite monument atop Mangwoon Mountain, and by 1989, he had established a memorial hall in Namhae City. Kim held the ceremony each year from 1945 until his death in 2010 when his eldest son, Mr. Kim, Jong-ki, took over. He has continued to honor the tradition, stating "My father always told us the reason he continued this memorial. He emphasized the U.S. Soldiers' sacrifices which helped our country to be liberated from Japanese rule and protected our country from North Korea during the Korean War."

The crew are recorded in wartime records as: Edward Mills Jr., pilot; Steve Wales, nose gun; Nick Simonich, co-pilot; Joe Orenbuch, navigator; Ron Johnson, bombardier; Walter Hoover, gun; Jim Murray, engineer; Henry Ruppert, radar operator; Warren Tittsworth, top gun; John Regnault, radio operator; Tom Burnworth, tail gun.


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