Hawaii commemoration honors POW/MIA sacrifices
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser September 16, 2023
Between World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Gulf War and other recent conflicts more than 80, 000 Americans remain missing.
On Friday dozens of veterans, military officials and the families of missing military personnel gathered at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl to commemorate National Prisoner of War and Missing in Action Recognition Day.
The Oahu-based Defense POW /MIA Accounting Agency is responsible for tracking down the remains of those missing. Between World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Gulf War and other recent conflicts more than 80, 000 Americans remain missing.
Of the 161 missing military personnel whose home of record is Hawaii only eight have been accounted for.
Fern Winbush, deputy director of the DPAA said that families of MIAs “do not have the gift of knowing exactly where their loved ones are. These families await answers, and it is because of them that the men and women of the Defense POW /MIA Accounting Agency remain committed, focused and determined.”
Winbush said that this year the agency has accounted for 123 service members missing from World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. DPAA works in countries and territories around the globe where Americans have fought.
Winbush highlighted how the United States and in particular Vietnam—who were bitter enemies for years after North Vietnam defeated the American-backed South—have worked together. Since the U.S. and Vietnam normalized relations the remains of 733 missing U.S. military personnel in the country have been recovered and returned.
Allen Hoe, a prominent Honolulu lawyer and veterans advocate, spoke during the ceremony to share his own experience. During the the Vietnam War Hoe was assigned to an elite Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol unit operating regularly behind enemy lines.
“With my skills as a medic and a Native Hawaiian warrior I did not want to miss out on combat experience, if you will, a crude teenage mentality, “ said Hoe.
In May 1968 Hoe’s unit was helping provide security for a small base used by Army Green Berets when a massive North Vietnamese military force attacked, inflicting heavy casualties. After the battle 17 American service members were unaccounted for.
In 1971 during a search of the battleground the military was able to find five of them. A sixth, Army Spec. Julius Long, returned alive during Operation Homecoming in 1973 after having been captured and held prisoner in North Vietnam for five years.
Over the years Hoe became close with the families of his missing comrades. Years after the war as the U.S. and Vietnam normalized relations a U.S. search team conducted eight investigations at the vicinity of the battle and interviewed former North Vietnamese military veterans who had fought there in hopes of finding missing Americans. Meanwhile Hoe’s two sons followed in his footsteps in joining the Army.
His son Nainoa Hoe commissioned as an infantry officer. When 1st Lt. Nainoa Hoe got orders to deploy to Iraq, he asked his father if he could have the battle flag that Allen Hoe’s unit had flown in Vietnam, which he had kept, to honor the men his father served with.
“Nainoa never met my buddies who were MIA, but he never forgot their names, “ said Allen Hoe.
Nainoa Hoe was killed by a sniper during the Battle of Mosul in January 2005. In March 2006, investigators again searched the battleground in Vietnam and this time found the remains of Allen Hoe’s platoon leader and another soldier.
“Every family deserves the right to bury their kin, “ said Hoe. “The children of the missing in action, many of which grew up only knowing their fathers through pictures, still strive for answers today. On this day, we honor their fathers.”
Bernarr Kumashiro, who attended the ceremony, is the younger cousin of Pfc. Masura Kumashiro of Honolulu. The younger Kuma shiro went missing while fighting in the Korean War as a member of the Oahu-based 25th Infantry Division where he and his fellow soldiers were defending Hills 717 and 682 in North Korea.
On September 8, 1951, Masura Kumashiro was declared Missing in Action. In December 31, 1953—after the armistice agreement that brought fighting between North and South Korea to stop—his status was changed to “presumed Killed in Action Remains Not Recovered.”
“I’m happy and pleased to see this many people, “ he said of the ceremony. He said he had never attended, but was deeply moved and intends to return next year.
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