Pa. man continues family quest to recover uncle's remains from Korean War
By Justin Strawser | The News-Item, Shamokin, Pa. | Published: January 19, 2014
Thomas Lucid remembers how he used to pray for the safe return of his Uncle Edward, who for more than three years was considered missing in action during the Korean War.
But a safe return was not to be.
Pfc. Edward Lucid was declared dead by the Army on New Year's Eve 1953, though he is believed to have been killed on Aug. 6, 1950, when his platoon was surrounded by communist forces.
The story, however, doesn't end there. Today, Thomas Lucid continues to sort through conflicting and inconclusive records that have left a burden on the family for more than 63 years - not about Edward's death, but about what happened to his body.
Despite records stating Edward's remains were identified and buried in Korea, the Army has never been able to locate his gravesite or produce his body. As such, he is one of some 84,000 service members, including nearly 8,000 from the Korean War, who are still "missing."
The effort to bring Edward home began with his mother, Mary - Thomas' grandmother - and Edward's seven siblings, mainly Francis and Kate Lucid. When Francis died in 2009, Kate carried on the mission.
Before his Aunt Kate died in 2012, Thomas Lucid, 69, of Cleveland Township, RD Elysburg, promised he would continue the search for Edward's remains.
Although Kate had provided Thomas with Edward's death records in 2004, it was her dying request that prompted him to take a closer look.
"I cannot, as a veteran in good conscience, leave a soldier behind," said Thomas Lucid, who was a specialist in the Army stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., from 1965 to 1967. "I promised to do all I can to bring this hero home."
'Display of courage'
Born Feb. 27, 1931, in Girardville to the late Edward and Mary Lucid, Edward and his family moved to New Brunswick, N.J., when he was 10.
Thomas Lucid, born 13 years later in 1944, recalls his uncle as a pleasant and wonderful young man who used to baby-sit him.
In 1947, at age 17, Edward Lucid enlisted in the Army. After basic training at Fort Dix, N.J., he was shipped to Japan for occupational duty, and he was in that country when the Korean War broke out. He was part of the Heavy Mortar Company, 34th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division.
On July 20, 1950, just a few weeks before his death, Lucid and his platoon were involved in a battle at Taejon, South Korea, where his heroic actions would earn him the Silver Star, though the award would be presented posthumously.
As a member of a road block, Lucid on two occasions moved his rocket launcher within 10 yards of enemy tanks and destroyed two of them by direct fire.
Lucid would advance without hesitation "to meet the enemy whenever possible, and his display of courage was an inspiration to other members of the road block team," reads the citation that accompanied the prestigious award. "The cool, calm display of courage and initiative exhibited by Pvt. Lucid is in keeping with the highest traditions of the Armed Forces and reflects great credit on himself and the military service."
(Various records refer to Lucid as both private and private first class, but at his death his rank was the latter.)
Details of this battle were included in Lucid's death report. A Pvt. George Phillips said he remembered Lucid being wounded on his left side by a hand grenade fragment, but that it was only a flesh wound.
When their position was overrun, Phillips said, "Lucid was pinned down in his foxhole and was unable to withdraw. Lucid's foxhole was overrun."
Lucid was also posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, earned by those injured or killed in war. Records don't specify if it was for the July 20 battle or the one that would take his life.
Mary Lucid received a letter from her son on Aug. 2, 1950. It isn't known when the letter was written, but it said he was "feeling fine, in good health and asked her not to worry," according to a newspaper story from that time.
He also wrote that Korea is a beautiful mountain country and, displaying a sense of humor, said he might consider opening a summer resort after the war.
"I'll be back as soon as God takes care of these people," he wrote.
Four days after Mary received the letter, her son would die in combat, but she wouldn't know that for years.
On Aug. 30, 1950, she received a letter saying Edward was considered missing in action since Aug. 6. On Dec. 31, 1953, she was notified by the Army that it had declared her son dead as of that date.
Battle at Naktong Bulge
Before Thomas Lucid was charged with the responsibility of finding his uncle's remains, he always assumed Edward was declared missing in action, then finally considered dead because the Army was not able to find his remains.
However, in September, Lucid read the 63-page "deceased personnel file" on his uncle, which includes dental records, notices to family, paperwork identifying his personal property and information from interviews about the last day of his uncle's life.
For Thomas, it was a startling discovery that his uncle was not missing, but killed in action, and that he was buried in Korea.
The problem is, where?
To that end, the file says 18 interviews were conducted two years after Lucid's death, but most were "fruitless." Information from 10 interviews is included in the death report.
His death occurred in what is known as the First Battle of Naktong Bulge during fighting between his unit and communist forces. The battle took place near the Naktong (today known as Nakdong) River, less than six miles west of Yeongsan-myeon, South Korea.
1st Lt. Frederick Abt said the platoon was attacked by the enemy at 11 a.m. Although initially ordered to hold, their position was overrun and they were granted permission to withdraw.
Abt said the platoon was divided in half in order to move out across rice paddies that were under small arms fire, which is the last time Abt said he saw Lucid.
Pfc. Manuel Tarango said he understood that Lucid "destroyed his bazooka for lack of ammunition prior to being killed by enemy machine gun fire."
While not an eyewitness, Eloy Ortiz, whose rank was not given in the report, said he was positive Lucid was killed when the platoon was trapped and surrounded. Lucid's rocket launcher had holes through it, he said.
Sgt. 1st Class John F. Adams, standing 10 feet away from Lucid, said Lucid was "hit in the chest by small arms fire," and Adams said he saw him fall.
'Misplaced in action'
By Aug. 23, 1950, the area where the battle occurred was retaken by United Nations forces, at which time Adams and Sgt. 1st Class Dwight Chandrey searched for bodies.
Through tags, wallets and papers, they were able to identify three deceased: Pfc. Joseph Harris, Pfc. Bill Buck and Pfc. Edward Lucid, Adams said.
However, in a separate interview, Chandrey told a different story.
"Our injured were accounted for, we identified our dead and Pvt. Lucid was one of two missing on the morning in question," he said. "I am not qualified to say he was or was not wounded or killed. However, we did not identify him among the dead at a later date (approximately two weeks later)."
Adams said a team took those bodies for burial on Aug. 24, 1950, to a position near Masan (now the Unified Changwon City), South Korea, approximately 18 miles south of Yeongsan-myeon.
The bodies were removed under the supervision of the 24th Division Graves Registration Section, 1st Lt. William A. Carpenter said in the report.
He said he couldn't distinctly remember Lucid's body among those he found, but he was "practically certain it was."
However, the location of Lucid's remains is not identified in the report.
The location of Harris and Buck's remains are not addressed in the report, either, because the documents specifically involve Lucid. But the Korean War Project's online database shows Buck's remains were never found. No additional information could be obtained for Harris.
Between Nov. 25 and Dec. 5, 1952, a search and recovery team was dispatched to the area of Changnyeong, the South Korean county in which the battle took place. The team's work included interviewing five local residents. But Lucid's body could not be found.
On Jan. 16, 1956, a board of officers convened and declared that his remains were unable to be recovered.
"In view of the completion of search and recovery activities in accessible territory, the inaccessibility of both the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and North Korea, and the inability to associate a remains in our custody at this time with the decedent, it is concluded his remains are nonrecoverable," the report said.
In a Home News Tribune story on July 27, 2004, Francis Lucid said the Pentagon's Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DMP) had provided him with a report.
In it, the DMP stated, "We do not know exactly how Pfc. Lucid was lost 6 August. His body has never been recovered. It is possible that he was captured and made a prisoner of war (POW), but we note that none of the 4,400 American POWs who survived their captivity, each of whom was exhaustively debriefed by U.S. Army investigators as to whom they had seen die or disappear while in captivity, have ever seen Pfc. Lucid in enemy hands." It's not clear when the report he cited in 2004 was issued.
Either way, Thomas Lucid offers this fresh interpretation on the Army's reports on his uncle:
"He wasn't missing in action," he said. "He was misplaced in action."
Reasons for doubt
Until her death in 1958, Mary Lucid held out hope her son had survived and was a prisoner of war.
In early 1951, she was visited by two young soldiers who told her they had witness Edward's death, and one of them said he held Edward in his arms while he died. But the soldiers declined to sign an affidavit to that effect.
In a 1953 interview with The Daily Home News of New Brunswick, N.J., Mary said of the soldier who said he held her son while he died, "He could have been wrong."
Mary Lucid sent a Daily Home News clipping and letter from Oct. 5, 1950, to the Department of the Army concerning a photograph the newspaper had published of POWs. She said one of the prisoners was Edward.
However, the Army told her, "identification of such pictures was a matter of opinion and uncertainty."
In 1952, Kay Watters, Edward's sister, received a letter from a Sgt. John Schenck, who said he carried a wounded Lucid to a hospital, where Lucid told Schenck to contact his mother somewhere in New Jersey.
But Schenck complicated matters by adding, "I want to make it clear that any information I reveal will put myself subject to court martial if the wrong people know of it."
And later, when he was interviewed by the Army, Schenck said he had no "pertinent facts or information" concerning Lucid's death.
A Japanese girl claiming to be Lucid's wife wrote to Watters about Lucid's death, and noted that Schenck could provide further information, Schenck wrote in his statement. But Schenck said he told Watters he had no definite knowledge of her brother's death and advised her to write to the Department of the Army for more information.
Thomas Lucid said no one from the family knows the name or whereabouts of Lucid's supposed wife, but the general belief is she had two children with Lucid, he said.
In 1954, a dentist provided Edward's dental records to the Army, and Mary Lucid informed them her son had his tonsils removed at age 7, but it did not help in solving the mystery. In 2001, Francis provided blood samples to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) laboratory in Hawaii, the Pentagon unit charged with finding and identifying missing U.S. military personnel recovered from overseas battlefields, to compare his DNA to DNA taken from new remains found in Korea. While the laboratory has identified bodies from the Korean War in this manner as recently as last month, this effort to identify Edward Lucid was also unsuccessful.
Graves records sought
As part of his efforts, Thomas Lucid has enlisted the help of Merry Helm, 24th Infantry Division Association historian; Lt. Col. Thomas Lyons, a family friend in the Air Force, and the Casualty Affairs Office from the Department of the Army.
He was also recently made aware that his cousin, Marilyn Griffiths, a niece of Edward, has been attempting to find out more on Edward's whereabouts.
In an Oct. 26 letter to Lyons, Thomas Lucid wrote, "There are no reports or interviews of anyone from the 24th Quartermaster Company Graves Registration Section (in his uncle's deceased file)," he said of the group under whose supervision the Army had said the bodies were removed in August 1950. "I expect the Department of the Army should produce the 24th QM Graves Registration Records, which should detail exactly where Edward was and is presently interred."
"As far as I'm concerned," Lucid said in a recent interview, "I don't have the reports stating this is what they did with his body. What did they do with these guys?"
If the records identifying where the remains are located were somehow destroyed, Lucid wants an official document stating as much.
'Until the day I die'
Ultimately, Thomas Lucid wants to bring his uncle home and have him buried at Arlington National Cemetery. A memorial headstone was already placed there on Feb. 13, 2003.
"Edward was a good boy. I'd hate to see his life erased like this," he said.
Should Thomas Lucid be unsuccessful, his son, Thomas III, of Warren, N.J., has already said he'll continue the search.
"I'll search until the day I die," Thomas Lucid said. "It won't end until this young man is on American soil."