Estimates of American soldiers who died in the Korean War and were never recovered range from 5,300 to 7,500.
They include two from Wilkes County – Pfc. Jackie B. Bynum of North Wilkesboro and Pfc. Gwyn R. Hunt of Ronda.
Both were light weapons infantrymen in the Army. Bynum was in Co. I, 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. Hunt was in Co. K, 3rd Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division.
Bynum was 20 when killed in the fighting on Dec. 19, 1950, in North Korea. His remains weren’t recovered and he is listed as missing in action. He was awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge and service medals posthumously. Bynum is memorialized at Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial and at the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington.
His older sister, Hyla Bynum Cundiff of Greensboro, said Sunday that she communicated with officials to try to recover his remains over the years. They were the youngest of 12 children of William P. and Belva Watkins Bynum of Fairplains.
Hunt was captured in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, a key engagement in the Korean War, on Dec. 1, 1950. Hunt, 38, died while being a prisoner of war on March 31, 1951. He was awarded the Prisoner of War and Purple Heart medals posthumously.
Hunt was the son of John and Cora Hunt of Roaring River. The inscription of the stone with his name in the Poplar Spring Baptist Church Cemetery that also bears the names of his parents says, “He gave his life in Korea in service of his country.”
The bodies of other soldiers from Wilkes who died in World Wars I and II were never brought home. Brief stories of just a few follow.
Lloyd Sheets of Reddies River enlisted in the Navy and was a petty officer third class on the USS Monssen when the ship was sunk in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal on Nov. 13, 1942. Sheets’ body was never recovered and he was memorialized at Tablets of the Missing at Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines. He was one of 13 children of Mack Connie and Queenie Dancy Sheets.
2nd Lt. Archie B. Tomlinson of North Wilkesboro was the pilot of a bomber in the 98th Bomber Group, Heavy, 415th Bomber Squadron that failed to make it home from a bombing mission in North Africa in March 1944. He was declared dead and was memorialized at Tablets of the Missing at North Africa American Cemetery, Carthage, Tunisia.
In the fighting in Europe in 1944, Pozy Roten of Reddies River was promoted from private to sergeant on July 18 and to staff sergeant on Aug. 17. He was a squad leader in Co. I, 330th Infantry Regiment, 83rd Infantry Division when he died in fighting near the Moselle River on Oct. 21. Roten was buried in Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium.
Capt. Robert W. Finley of North Wilkesboro is also buried in the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery. Finley, an intelligence officer, was killed in action on March 7, 1945. Finley was scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 36 (now 336) here when he enlisted in March 1942. He graduated from Davidson College, where he was in Army ROTC. He was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart posthumously.
Pfc. Dayton Clyde Royall of Thurmond was married and was a student at N.C. State University when he enlisted on Feb. 13, 1943. Royall was deployed to Europe with the 405th Infantry and died in battle on April 15, 1945. He was buried in the Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Netherlands.
Pvt. L.V. Hooper of Wilkes died of wounds received on Omaha Beach in the D-Day Invasion on June 6, 1944. He was in the 1st Infantry Division. Hooper is buried at the Normandy American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, France.
Pfc. Earl C. Souther of Hunting Creek community was in the 14th Armored Division, 68th Infantry Battalion when he was killed in action on March 20, 1945. Souther is buried in the Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, France.
Wilkes County’s first loss in WWI was Pvt. Edgar Parsons, killed by an exploding shell on March 1, 1918, and buried in France. Parsons grew up with six siblings in the Ashe County community of Obids, and later moved with his family to Wilkes.
Corp. Jean Kendall of Elkville was in the 3rd Division, 7th Infantry Regiment when he was killed in action in France in WWI on June 21, 1918. Kendall is buried in the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, Belleau, France.
Pfc. Dillard S. Pearson of Moravian Falls was in the 1st Division, 3rd Machine Gun Battalion when he was killed in action in France in WWI on July 18, 1918. Pearson was buried in the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in Fere-en-Tardenois, France.
Pvt. Rowan Saunders of Wilkesboro was in the 30th Division, 119th Infantry Regiment when he was killed in action on Oct. 17, 1918. He is buried in the Somme American Cemetery, Bony, France.