The Korean War began on June 25, 1950 when 75,000 troops from the Soviet-backed North Korean Army flooded into American-backed South Korea. The war raged on for the next three years and saw more than 50,000 Americans killed and over 100,000 wounded. By the time an armistice was declared in 1953, establishing a demilitarized zone along the 38th parallel, over 5 million people had been killed including half a million Korean civilians.
In the US, the war never garnered the attention that was given to World War II and Vietnam so small towns across the country had veterans involved in the fighting that few people were ever aware of.
Veteran’s Program Director for Subligna Baptist Church, Odell Anderson and former State Representative, Barbara Reece, organized the first official tribute to Chattooga County’s Korean War Veterans. Georgia Veterans Services Commissioner Mike Roby, Assistant Commissioner George Canavaggio and Chauncey Fowler, Director of the Lafayette Field Office, were on hand at the reception to recognize the 22 Korean War veterans in attendance and present each with a book about the war and a Recognition Certificate.
Mrs. Anderson recognized the late Pfc. J.C. Hatcher (1932-2010) Chattooga’s only POW during the Korean War. Hatcher served his country from 1949-1954 with 33 months in a North Korean Prisoner of War camp. Private Hatcher was captured on November 2, 1950 and was held until his release on August 12, 1953 after the signing of the Armistice. For nearly three years, Hatcher was kept in unspeakable conditions while his family back in Mountain View had no idea if he was alive or dead. Hatcher received two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, and several other well-deserved medals.
“On the occasion of this Tribute to Chattooga County’s Korean War Veterans, we pause to honor those brave Americans who served during that conflict so long ago. We honor you. In the summer of 1950, when the North Korean People’s Army invaded South Korean, the United States of America called its sons to war. You answered the call. You answered and you fought. You fought on behalf of the South Korean people. You fought until the North Korean People’s Army was forced back north of the 38th Parallel. You fought until South Korea was free. You fought….and we remember. We remember those who gave their lives. We remember those who were held in captivity. We remember those who were declared missing, some who even remain missing today. We remember that South Korea is a free nation today because of the sacrifices made by you and your comrades in arms. You have passed the greatest test of American citizenship–you put your life to risk to protect and defend freedom and liberty. On behalf of the Georgia Department of Veteran Service, I thank you for your military service to this great nation,” Commissioner Roby said.
Korean War Veterans in attendance included:
PFC Eugene Bruce, HM2 Oliver Morehead, 1st Sgt Raymond Burchett, Seaman 1st Class Howard “Marlan” Pettyjohn, Senior Chief Buddy Fowler, Corporal Sewell Cash, Sgt Wilburn Harold Smith, Corporal Charles Patterson, Navy Corpsman Lester Griffitt, Master Sgt. Otto Willie, Corporal Billy Brown, Spec 1st Class Rayburn Mitchell, Private William Elsberry, Pfc Boyce Dooley, Staff Sgt Winford Busby, Corp Leonard Smith, Corporal Frank Bowers, Sgt Bo Bohanon, Private James Lewis, Sgt Benjamin Blalock, Corp William Parker, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Sanford Deberry
Mrs. Odell Anderson has served as a veteran’s liaison for U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson and is the Veterans Program Director for Subligna Baptist Church. Mrs. Odell was born and raised in Subligna as one of 12 children with eight brothers. Her father served in World War 1, her older brother served in World War II, two other brothers served in Korea and one served in the Cuban Missile crisis, and one served in Vietnam. She shared a story from her childhood, “I remember Mama saying I just pray the boys come home from the War. She would listen for names on the radio,” Mrs. Anderson said. “One day the mailman came down to the house with a big brown envelope that said, ‘Defense Department Washington, D.C.’,” she recalls the excitement her mother had. Of course she wasn’t sure if it was good or bad news, but it was news. Inside the envelope she was presented with a picture of her two sons who had come together in Korea. “The Defense Department sent her the photo telling her the boys were okay and together and they wanted her to have the beautiful picture of them together.” One of Mrs. Odell’s brother from the photo, Corporal Wilburn Harold Smith was in attendance at the tribute. The other brother in the photo Robert Wayne Smith passed away in 1994.
“More than 75,000 Georgia men and women served during the Korean War. 740 were killed in action, and another 1,040 were wounded. 97 were held as prisoners of war and 174 remain unaccounted for to this day,” said Commissioner Roby.