Fifty years later, soldier returns home

The body of a Marine who was killed in the Korean War will return to Hannibal.
Friday, July 2, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:05 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

HANNIBAL — It took more than half a century, but a soldier killed during the Korean War is finally coming home to Missouri.

Hannibal native Sgt. 1st Class Carl Brewington was killed Dec. 2, 1950, during a battle at the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. Brewington’s son, Bob Brewington of Smithfield, N.C., recently was notified that after three years of lab tests, his father’s remains have been positively identified.

“This is a big surprise,’’ Bob Brewington told the Hannibal Courier-Post.

In July, soldiers will escort the remains to Missouri. Brewington will be buried in Gravois Mills, overlooking the Lake of the Ozarks, where the family has a plot. A ceremony will be July 22.

Bob Brewington was 13 when the family received a telegram in mid-January 1951 informing them of Carl Brewington’s death.

“I still have the original telegram,’’ he said.

Mary Reynolds of Hannibal, Carl Brewington’s niece, recalled how difficult the news was for her mother, Brewington’s sister.

“She took it hard,’’ Reynolds said, recalling that the family was originally told the soldier was missing. “I asked her what it meant, and she told me that he could still be alive and come back to us someday — but it didn’t turn out that way.’’

Bob Brewington recalled his father being “a big guy and pretty easy going. He was full of fun and had a good sense of humor.’’

The Chosin Reservoir Battle of the Korean War is considered to be among the fiercest battles in U.S. history. The area is bitter cold, a reservoir of water near the China border, surrounded by rugged mountainous terrain with few dirt roads.

A Chinese force launched a massive surprise attack at night against a convoy of U.S. troops. An estimated 25,000 Chinese and 3,000 Americans were killed.

“Dad’s outfit was in the rear guard and his death occurred prior to the attack on the convoy,’’ Bob Brewington said. “I would like to find someone who knew him and was with him when the attack occurred. From his skeleton, Army officials know he died of a severe blow to his head.’’

Bob Brewington, who spent 23 years in the Marines, wasn’t sure if he’d ever see his father’s remains. He had a headstone made in his father’s memory and placed it on the family plot in Gravois Mills.

“The thought that he would ever be found never entered my mind,’’ he said.

The grave site was initially discovered by farmers in 1979. An American crew began excavating the site in September 2001 and found the remains of seven people. The next month, they found five more remains. All were flown to the U.S. Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii.

In May, a civilian repatriation officer from Washington and a casualty officer from Fort Bragg, N.C., arrived at Bob Brewington’s home with a 138-page report documenting everything the Army had learned and what it had recovered.

So far, Bob Brewington said, only his father and Billy Grady Donahoe have been identified. Their dog tags were found in the grave. Dental records and evidence of a broken leg suffered two years earlier helped authorities confirm Carl Brewington’s remains.

Brewington is the second person from Hannibal whose remains have been discovered in North Korea and returned. Hallie Clark Jr., who was killed on Nov. 27, 1950, was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in July 2000.

More than 8,000 U.S. troops remain missing from the Korean War, including more than 1,000 from the Chosin campaign.

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