Korean War Hero's Body Is Home After 73 Years

'We always believed that he would never be found,' Luther Story's niece says
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 29, 2023 12:38 PM CDT
Medal of Honor Recipient's Body Is Home After 73 Years
Judy Wade, niece of Luther Story, shows a memory scrapbook of Luther Story, that her mother put together, Thursday, May 18, 2023, in Americus, Georgia.   (Hyosub Shin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Soldiers of the 9th Infantry Regiment made a desperate retreat as North Korean troops closed in around them. A wounded, 18-year-old Army Pfc. Luther Herschel Story feared his injuries would slow down his company, so he stayed behind to cover their withdrawal. Story’s actions in the Korean War on Sept. 1, 1950, would ensure he was remembered. He was awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military honor, which is now displayed alongside his portrait at the National Infantry Museum, an hour’s drive from his hometown of Americus, Georgia. But Story was never seen alive again, and his resting place long remained a mystery.

"In my family, we always believed that he would never be found," says Judy Wade, Story’s niece and closest surviving relative. That changed in April when the US military revealed lab tests had matched DNA from Wade and her late mother to bones of an unidentified American soldier recovered from Korea in October 1950. The remains belonged to Story, a case agent told Wade over the phone. After nearly 73 years, he was coming home. A Memorial Day burial with military honors was scheduled Monday at the Andersonville National Cemetery. A police escort with flashing lights escorted Story's casket through the streets of nearby Americus on Wednesday after it arrived in Georgia.

"I don’t have to worry about him anymore," says Wade, who was born four years after her uncle went missing overseas. "I'm just glad he’s home." Among those celebrating Story’s return was former President Jimmy Carter. When Story was a young boy, according to Wade, his family lived and worked in Plains on land owned by Carter's father, James Earl Carter Sr. Among those celebrating Story’s return was former President Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter, 98, has been under hospice care at his home in Plains since February. Jill Stuckey, superintendent of the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park, says she shared the news about Story with Carter as soon as she heard it. "Oh, there was a big smile on his face," Stuckey says. "He was very excited to know that a hero was coming home."

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“Realizing that his wounds would hamper his comrades, he refused to retire to the next position but remained to cover the company’s withdrawal,” Story's award citation said. "When last seen he was firing every weapon available and fighting off another hostile assault." In 1951, his father received Story's Medal of Honor at a Pentagon ceremony. Story was also posthumously promoted to corporal. According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, more than 7,500 Americans who served in the Korean War remain missing or their remains have not been identified. That's roughly 20% of the nearly 37,000 US service members who died in the war.

(More Korean War stories.)

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