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Thread: Last to die: final KIAs of the Korean War

  1. #1
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    Default Last to die: final KIAs of the Korean War

    Last to die: final KIAs of the Korean War: the following American servicemen
    have the dubious distinction of being the last killed as a result of hostile
    action in Korea on or near July 27, 1953. They deserve to be remembered on this
    50th anniversary of the war's end - Korean War
    It is every warrior's nightmare. Knowing a war's end is near and he could be the
    last to lose his life in a conflict that is virtually over. But someone has to
    be that unlucky person, and the Korean War was no exception.

    On the war's last day, July 27, 1953, 30 Americans died in Korea--25 from combat
    action and five accidentally.

    The men hailed from a variety of Army units. The 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 40th and 45th
    divisions, as well as the 5th and 187th regiments all lost men in the last 24
    hours. Both the 3rd and 45th divisions suffered at least seven killed. Each one
    of their regiments counted casualties.

    To honor all their memories, here are brief profiles of the men of each service
    who made the ultimate sacrifice in the war's final hours. Until now, they have
    never been publicly recognized. VFW magazine is privileged to do so. (If you
    have additional information on these men, please forward it to the magazine.)

    Harold Smith: Marine

    Pfc. Harold B. Smith of B Co., 1st Bn., 7th Marines, 1st Marine Div., took his
    last breath aboard the hospital ship Haven, then anchored in Inchon Harbor, at 9:05
    a.m. on July 28. The day before--just 16 minutes prior to the cease-fire taking
    effect at 10 p.m.--Smith had tripped a land mine.

    Coming in from patrol on the western front somewhere between the main line of
    resistance and Outpost Berlin, he stepped on the deadly device, which sent
    shrapnel to his head and chest. "I was preparing to fire a white star cluster to
    signal the armistice when his body was brought in," recalled Oma Day. "He was
    transported by helicopter through the C Company aid station."

    The Oregon, Ill., native was 21 years old. Smith had just arrived in Korea that
    May, after a yearlong tour of duty in the Philippines.

    Another Marine, Pfc. Willie Hamilton of Starkville, Miss., had been killed
    instantly on the battlefield at 1 p.m. on July 26, the day before the armistice.
    He was a member of G Co., 3rd Bn., 1st Marines, 1st Marine Div.

    Smith's wounding at 9:44 p.m. on July 27 and subsequent death made him the last
    hostile American fatality of the Korean War. (Previously, it was believed to be
    Harold Cross.)

    Harold Cross: Soldier

    Sgt. 1st Class Harold R. Cross, Jr., of the 1st Pit., K Co., 3rd Bn., 5th
    Regimental Combat Team, was mortally wounded in combat on "Christmas Hill" (Hill
    1040) on July 27 at 8:40 p.m., only 80 minutes before the cease-fire took effect.

    "Cross was sitting in the door of the platoon command post bunker reporting
    incoming rounds when a heavy Chinese artillery shell hit a 16-inch beam above
    him, blasting him deep into the bunker," former platoon Sgt. John C. McCrimmon
    wrote. "Cross suffered horrible wounds, but never complained because of shock.

    "As he was being carried away on a stretcher, he asked, 'Am I going to make it.'
    From the battalion aid station he was taken by ambulance to the clearing station
    hospital where he later died."

    Fellow company member Ken Witmer remembered he "was only 75 yards from Cross
    when he was hit in that bunker. His funeral back home in Michigan paid him great
    honor." Indeed, his hometown of Detroit (Cross was born in Wayne) honored him in
    style. Cross' body lay in state in the lobby of Detroit's VA Memorial Building
    prior to being buried in the National Memorial Garden of Renown.

    John Rhoads: Air Force Pilot

    Capt. John K. Rhoads was piloting an RF-80A Lockheed Shooting Star photo-

    aircraft of the 45th Tactical Recon Squadron, 67th Tactical Recon Wing on July
    27. Suddenly, near Taechon Air Base, Communist anti-aircraft fire hit the plane,
    destroying its tail section. The aircraft quickly burst into flames and crashed.

    "His mission was to fly to the Yalu to shoot some oblique photos of any military
    buildup north of the river," remembered unit member E. DeWayne Hayes. "After
    being hit, he tried to get his plane to the sea to save the photos, but it

    Born in San Francisco, Rhoads was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and
    Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster for his valor.

    Though 16 Air Force crewmembers of an RB-50 were killed in action at 6:15 a.m.
    on July 29 when Russian-piloted MiG-15s shot down their plane over Vladivostok,
    this loss more properly belongs in the Cold War casualty column.

    Navy: Aviator, Corpsman and Sailor

    Naming the last member of the Navy killed in action in Korea is a bit more
    complicated because personnel served at sea, on land and in the air.
    Consequently, several profiles are offered here.

    Lt. William C. Blackford, Jr., was a pilot of an F4U-4 Corsair fighter with
    Fighter Squadron 152 stationed aboard the USS Princeton. On July 26, Blackford
    was flying a recon mission over Communist territory when anti-aircraft fire
    brought down his plane.

    A recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, he called Eureka, Calif., home
    where the recalled Reservist taught school. Blackford had been assigned to the
    same carrier in 1946.

    Also on July 26, Ensign Edwin N. Broyles, Jr., was KIA while piloting an F2H-2
    Banshee fighter with Fighter Squadron 22 based aboard the USS Lake Champlain. He
    was over Hoeryong Air Field, North Korea, when reported MIA. The Navy reservist
    and Yale graduate hailed from Baltimore.

    During the Korean War, 108 Navy corpsmen were killed in action while serving
    with Marines on the ground. Among the last was Hospitalman Billy Doyle Smith,
    killed in action on July 18, 1953. Born in St. Joseph, Mo., Smith was 20 when he

    The next day, Hospitalman Deane W. Noringseth of Sparta, Wis., was originally
    listed as MIA but quickly confirmed KIA. He had volunteered for duty on Outpost
    East Berlin--making him the only corpsman for his unit--after the Marines
    sustained extremely heavy casualties there.

    Though North Korean shore batteries hit 18 U.S. Navy ships causing 89 casualties
    after October 1952, (the USS Irwin counted five wounded as late as July 8, 1953),
    none seem to have had any KIA.

    The USS Lewis, however, lost seven men to enemy shore fire Oct. 21, 1952. Some
    81 shells straddled the destroyer escort while it was protecting South Korean
    minesweepers in Wonsan Harbor.

    Two 75mm shells hit the ship, the first piercing a boiler in the forward fire
    room. Six men--Richard Brower, James Crossman, Raymond Remers, George Schofield,
    David Schmidt and Floyd Sneed--were killed immediately.

    A seventh sailor from Marion, Ore., Boiler Tech. 3rd Class Arnold W. Karlin,
    died of burns at 12:42 a.m. "The men were scalded to death by high pressure
    steam from the unexploded shell, which hit the main steam line and then the
    boiler," remembered shipmate Ken Mathews.

    For the families of all the last to die, the war in Korea has especially
    poignant memories. Fifty years later, they must contend with the notion that
    their loved ones perished in a war largely forsaken by the American public.

    Nonetheless, all of these servicemen--like the other 36,568 Americans who gave
    their lives so South Korea could be free--did not die in vain. That nation today
    remains a bulwark of representative government and free enterprise in East Asia.
    For this alone, all Korean War vets have a right to be proud.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Mark Sman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003


    I had previously read that Harold Cross was the last KIA. I can't find the link now though.

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