TOLEDO, Ohio — On Nov. 29, 1950, an artillery shell blasted a Marine unit near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea, killing Cpl. Harold W. Reed two days shy of his 24th birthday.
For 63 years, the Marine’s remains were buried with several hundred unidentified Korean War veterans.
Today, Corporal Reed is coming home.
“It’s a blessing. I promised to bring him home before I died,” said 81-year-old Billy Power of Toledo. The day after graduating from Waite High School, Mr. Power married Harold’s sister Millicent.
Harold’s mother, Mildred Reed of Toledo, who died in 1975, knew in her heart of hearts that one day, some day her son would be laid to rest near her. That will happen on Saturday.
After receiving the soul-shattering news — on the day after Christmas in 1950 — that her son had been killed and buried in North Korea, Mrs. Reed purchased a plot in Ottawa Hills Memorial Park for her, her children, and Millicent’s spouse, Billy. “Now there is a place for Harold when he comes home,” Mrs. Reed told her family at the time.
Harold’s death was a wound that never healed. “Aunt Millie would go into her bedroom on Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Eve. You could hear her crying,” said Billy’s nephew Timothy Power of Toledo.
“Unfortunately, neither Harold’s mom nor his sister lived to see this day, but it will happen, and Harold will be buried next to his mother and sister,” Billy Power said. “I know up in heaven they are jumping for joy that Harold is coming home.”
Corporal Reed’s remains were buried in 1954, after removal from a shallow grave near a creek in North Korea, with several hundred unidentified Korean War veterans in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific — commonly known as the Punch Bowl — in Honolulu.
Mr. Power spent several years trying to keep his promise to bring Harold home.
Recently, the call came. Positive identification had been made. It was not DNA from licked glue on a letter home that linked remains to the corporal from Toledo, but rather a chest X-ray.
In the flag-draped casket that is to arrive at a Detroit airport today, a Marine uniform will drape the corporal’s remains. Medals will be pinned on the uniform, including the Purple Heart.
Mr. Power leans forward in his chair. Look at his face. You can feel it, see it. The sheer terror of the death trap. Clutching a photo of Corporal Reed, he tells the war story as though he was there.
At the Chosin Reservoir, where fate was carved in ice, the troops were frantic to bug out as Chinese swarmed mountainsides on that day in November, 1950.
Corporal Reed’s unit was assigned to protect a main supply line and later shifted to Fox Hill, where the enemy furiously bombarded the area.
Weather was the enemy as well at the Chosin Reservoir. Troops shook snow from parkas. They gathered their gear and their courage. Prayers were said through frozen lips.
As the Chinese attacked, Marines died. “Three shots to the head. Two in the chest.”
“The Marines grabbed a shovel and a pick off the Jeep. ‘Hurry, hurry, hurry. They’re coming.’ The Marines frantically scratched through ice to dig a trench. They would not leave behind a dead Marine above ground.” Mr. Power said. “That day 29 were killed, and the Marines took time to bury as many as they could. Running out of time, they strapped dead and wounded on a Jeep.”
The family was told Corporal Reed had a battlefield burial. “That means they dig a hole and take off on a run,” Mr. Power said. They know 300,000 Chinese are coming, and they want to kill us.
It’s called a flame of fraternity when eagles take a stand. But Mr. Power, an Army veteran who fought in Korea from 1952-53, said war buddies are only temporarily united. “Families are forever.”
Talk turns back to the satisfaction of knowing the corporal is coming home. “Harold would be as happy as can be,” Mr. Power said.
Nephew Timothy is delighted as well. “Five years ago, Uncle Billy asked if I would take over the work to bring Harold home. I went into my room, took The Bible in my hands, and fell on my knees. ‘Lord, is it possible you can let them find Harold soon?’ ” Timothy wanted his Uncle Billy to be here when that call came.
It has been more than six decades since Corporal Reed was killed. Who, relatives wonder, will remember? Who will come to pay their respects to the fallen hero?
Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday in the Newcomer Funeral Home, 4150 W. Laskey Rd.
Burial, with full military honors, will be at noon Saturday at Ottawa Hills Memorial Park, 4210 W. Central Ave., Toledo.
“Harold’s mother and my Millicent so wanted this. For these two ladies, it was my obligation for their wishes to come true,” Mr. Power said.