“Imagine” (October, 2018)
Imagine, you’re 18 years old and a proud American. World War II has been over for five years and you are not sure what you want to do for the rest of your life, so you take a chance, sign up for active Army duty to see the world and make up your mind.
First stop . . . Japan! Wow, what an experience!
Days later, you learn that North Korea has invaded South Korea and your upcoming assignment is in Pusan to push back the North Koreans. Fresh off the boat, you immediately hit the battlefields and wind up in Hadong where bodies are dropping everywhere. Your commander tells you to surrender and you drop your weapon. It is July 27, 1950.
Almost immediately, your government lists you as MIA, “Missing in Action” . . . along with 46 others who were also known to be captured yet labeled MIA. But, you assume that your country knows you are a POW and will be coming to get you very soon.
Your captors line you up and start marching you North. The line is as far North as you can see. Fear rushes in.
Months later you are finally in Pyongyang. American Forces were approaching. Three of you are bound together at the East Gate Ferry site along the Taedong River in Pyongyang. The guards beat you up and toss you into the river. You all drown.
Days later, your Comrades recovered your 3 remains and buried them on the west side of the courtyard of the Provincial Government Building. On October 24, 1950, George Gibbs disinterred the bodies and found your ration card in the jacket pocket of one of the remains. The remains were moved to the Military Cemetery in Pyongyang and buried on plot A, Row 1, Grave 9. A report was filed that you died as a POW, but your family was never told, and you remained just “Missing in Action.”
According to enemy documents that our government claims . . . to this day . . . to be confidential, your name appeared in those documents during the war. Prior to your death, you were photographed by the enemy and you were identified by the “Office of Special Investigation” from those photos as an obvious POW, but your family was never told, and you remained “Missing in Action.”
After the war, remains were shipped from North Korea to South Korea and N-17030 was among them. It appears to be the same remains that had your ration card in the shirt pocket. But as of 1955, your remains were reburied as an unknown in the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii, grave number 333 and you remained “Missing in Action”.
With a budget of $140 million a year, DPAA has been sitting on this compelling information while their laboratory was just 9 miles from your remains . . . for the last 63 years.
In reality, James Elbert Beller, we hope that our government will soon open your file; give your case the attention it so deserves; disinter these remains; identify you; return you to your family . . . and no longer refer to you as just “Missing in Action”!!!
John Zimmerlee is an accomplished researcher on the Korean War POW/MIA issue. He is founder and executive director of the Korean War POW/MIA Network. John's father, Capt. John Zimmerlee, Jr., is missing-in-action.