Hawaii teen who died in the Korean War is identified
By WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: December 9, 2019
HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — Wilfred K. Hussey Jr., the football-playing son of a University of Hawaii football-playing father, volunteered for the Army in July 1949 a month after graduating from Hilo High School, “to learn something about other parts of the country and the world,” his brother, Clifford, said.
His life and service to the United States would be brief and final. He shipped off for Japan and then the Korean War and was reported missing in action on Dec. 12, 1950, in the vicinity of the Chosin Reservoir — never to be seen again.
The Defense Department recently announced — 69 years later — that a portion of the 19-year-old corporal’s remains was identified from North Korea’s turnover of 55 boxes of presumed American remains following a summit in June 2018 between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The return of Hussey’s remains came under circumstances that were a bit unexpected, but a return the family is thankful for nevertheless.
“What was hard to take was that basically, all they were able to display was a bone. We were expecting at least a skeletal frame, but all that was there was a bone,” said Clifford Hussey, now 81. “He was also in a mass grave with other soldiers, some of which were the Chinese enemy and the North Koreans — and there were even some civilians in the same burial site.”
But Clifford Hussey, who now lives in Reno, Nev., also said that “it’s a relief that he’s been identified. We would have liked to have more of his remains, but we have him and we feel it’s important for him to be buried on the Big Island.”
DNA testing at an accounting agency lab at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam has shown that the 55 sets turned over by North Korea represent as many as 150 individuals, the organization said.
According to the agency’s website, at least 38 identifications have been made, Hussey’s among them. To identify Hussey, scientists used circumstantial and material evidence and DNA analysis.
The soldier had the same name as his father. Both were active in sports. According to a 1951 Hawaii Tribune- Herald story, Hussey Sr. “was a star lineman on the University of Hawaii football teams in 1927 and 1928 and later coach of the Waiakea Pirates … football team.”
The elder Hussey also was a police inspector with the Hilo Police Department.
Clifford Hussey said his older brother loved sports, particularly baseball, and was on his father’s Waiakea Pirates football team. At the time, Clifford Hussey and another brother, Roy, both younger, served as water boys on the team.
“My parents had discussed it with him,” Clifford Hussey said of his brother’s decision to join the Army. “I know they were talking about it — whether it was a good thing for him to go or not.” The war in Korea would commence less than a year later.
The Hilo teen participated in the Inchon landing and then was reported missing as his unit, the 31st Infantry Regiment, battled Chinese forces in brutal subzero temperatures near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea.
“Nobody was able to really give a clear track of what happened to him,” Clifford Hussey said.
The uncertainty about what happened to Hussey Jr. came with constant reminders on Veterans Day, Memorial Day and on his birthday, Sept. 13, the brother said.
A funeral service was held years ago on the Big Island after Hussey was declared dead, but Clifford Hussey plans to inter his brother’s remains at the Hawaii Veterans Cemetery in Hilo — possibly next spring or summer.
“There’s a strong Korean veterans group in Hilo, and they have a new Korean War memorial there just dedicated last summer,” he said.
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