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Hero returns after 49 years
Missing Korean War veteran's remains laid to rest in Eagar

James Goodwin
The Independent
Navajo County Arizona
posted Friday, July 2,1999

EAGAR----- If it is possible to be dead and alive at the same time, Cpl. Charles Warren Tillman was.
For decades after the battle that began Nov. 25, 1950 the Korean War soldier was neven heard from and very little was heard about him.
With a presumption but no comfirmation of death, only recently has his story been given an ending and the mind of his sole remaining sibling been put at peace.
Tillman was laid to rest Saturday under partly cloudy skies at Eagar City Cemetery, having recived his due funeral and military servies in the country for which he made the ultimate sacrifice.
Present and honoring Tillman were the Select Honor Gaurd of Ft. Huachucca, Arizona, and members of the Whiteriver's American Legion Post, Showlow's Vetrans of Foreign War and Springerville's American Legion Post Color Guard, Some of whom returned from the Korean War.
While most of Tillman's fellow soldiers in Korea did return --- wether wounded or, with luck, intact--to loved ones they had left in the states or those they would eventually meet, Tillman remained.
Also remaining for a mother, four brothers and Leona King, one of two surviving sisters --was the distress of suspecting Tillman's fate with out the comfort of confirmation.
"it was difficult," said Leona King, now 89 years old and an Eagar resident. "You just need to try to put yourself in that situation."
A handsome young man with blonde hair parted on his left, Tillman stood at 5 feet 10.5 inches and wieghed 156 pounds. He had blue eyes and an unwavering devotion to his mother, Mamie.
Monthly throughout his time in the service, Tillman sent her an allotment. He also would write her as circumstances permitted.
Tillman, likewise, was a dutiful American.
He spent a total of five years, four months and 11 days in military service not only at home and in the Korean War, but also in World War II.
By the age of 18 he had joined the U.S Army, Later landing on the beaches of Normandy. For awhile in World War II, Tillman was listed as missing in action for the first time. He was found, and later he returned stateside.
However, his second time in action, in Korea, it was not to be.
On July 19, 1950, at the age of 25, Tillman left Ft. Lewis, Washington bound for the war between North Korea and South Korea. Twenty-four days earlier, on June 25, at 4 a.m., 70,000 North Korean troops with Russian T-34 tanks crossed the 38th parallel that partially formed the boundary between the two countries.
President Harry Truman applealed to the United Nations to take action against the attack. Tillman, as part of the U.S. Army's 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infatry Divison, was deployed in response.
Four days after Tillman left the states, on June 29, North Korea's forces, the Korean People's Army, captured the South Korean capital of Seoul. By September, it had pressed further, to the southern area surounding the city of Taegu.
It wasn't until from mid-September to the month's end that U.S. forces, under the comand of Gen. Douglas MacArthur were able to retake Seoul and cross the 38th parallel.
The North Korean forces were being pushed back. Within the first fewdays of October. U.N. forces were about 25 miles into North Korea. And they continued north with little resistance. That is, until the unexpected early October entry of China into the war. The Chinese and North Koreans sent U.N. forces in retreat.
During this period Tillman was wounded, only to return again on Oct. 13 to active duty.
"He was a very courageous young man to have been injured in battle, patched up and then sent back to the front lines," said Todd Bosen, speaking at Tillman's funeral on Saturday.
But, as circumstances would have it, what happend 44 days later would be felt for years in the hearts and minds, wonderment and prayers of Tillman's family back home.
On Nov. 25, Tillman's unit fought what became known as the Battle of the Chongchon River, said histroian Lt. Col. Dan Baughman, of the U.S. Department of Defense.
Perched atop a west side hill running parallel to the Chongchon RIver, the unit attacked enemy postions nearby, attempting to move across the military line of resistance.
That night, Chinese forces launched an all-out frontal attack along the entire regimental front.
Night fights were common, Baughman said, because the Chinese were affraid of daytime U.S. air power. The United States then didn't bomb at night because it had " no night bombing percision avalibility at the time," Bacughman said.
"Most of these battles occured in the dark, and people are fumbling and stumbling...," he said.
The battle would last six days in diffrent locations, but Tillman--- it was belived-- didn't see the end of the second one. When his unit withdrew from it's original position, Tillman was not accounted for. He and 11 others were reported as missing in action.

"We've talked to a number of witnesses," Baughman said. "They said it was pretty disorganized on the hill,"
Tillman's family was told "First of all, my mother was notified that he was missing in action," King said.
King later wrote to her brothers commanding officer, asking for more information. His reply was that they had to presume Tillman dead.
"Knowing what can happen when a person is taken as a prisoner of war, I felt it would have been preferable he being killed rather then he having that kind of experience," King said.
But no body, the family couldn't be sure. "We didn't know she said. "We weren't able to have anykind of service,"
Forty-eight years later, in AUgust 1998, a 71 year old North Korean woman from Ongneum Rhee would begin to end the questions surrounding Tillman's death.
The woman, Pak Ok Neu, A farmer, told the joint U.S.Army/Korean People's Army recovery team looking for Americans killed in and missing in action that in late 1950 she learned an American soldier fell off a step hill and was buried at the base.
The soldier's grave reportedly was in a garden plot there and was marked by a large, flat rock still in place. The North Korean woman said that as far as she knew, the body was never exhumed and, unless floods in 1995 and in 1996 washed it away, it remained undisturbed.
True the woman's recollection, the remains of a soldier were found--- with a mess kit, spoon, military buttons and other american military artifacts--- at the base of the hill on which it is belived Tillman fought.
The body was exhumed and taken to the U.S. Army's Central Identification Laboratory, in Hawaii. There, Tillman's identity--- and his fate--- were determined. Indeed, it appeared he was killed Nov. 26, 1950.

He would never learn that the war in which he died would end with an armistice signed July 27, 1953
And not until May 22 this year would King--- who by then was Tillman's only surving family member--- learn what had happened to her brother.
She recived a call that day, learning that Tillman's remains were identified with dental records at the Hawaii Laboratory.
"Since it had to be, it's been a comfort knowing what's happend, and we could bring it to a closer,"King said Monday. "I'm greatful that now this can be laid to rest."
My thanks again to Greg T and James G. of the Navajo County edition of the Independent, For allowing me to retype this article to let people see there are some missing soldiers still comming home to finally rest in American soil.
Please do not copie or reprint any of this page with out the authorization of the listed names above. To contact them call (520)537-5721 or write to PO BOX 1570 Showlow, Arizona 85901

Copyright :White Mountian Independent 1999