Korean War hero returns to Superior
A soldier is coming home nearly 68 years after he lost his life in a battle some historians refer to as the most savage in modern warfare: the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea.
Sgt. 1st Class R. Lloyd Ketchum, 38, was a member of Medical Detachment, 57th Field Artillery Battalion, 31st Regimental Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, when he was reported missing in action Dec. 6, 1950.
Soon after, it was determined he had been killed in action, said Sgt. Jeremy Walworth, the casualty assistance officer working with the family to repatriate Ketchum in Superior.
Ketchum was identified in April by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Office.
"It's a miracle," said Mary Jo Edge, Ketchum's daughter. Because it is an emotional time for her, she deferred all questions to Walworth.
"She is overjoyed," Walworth said of Edge, who was about 1 year old when she lost her father. "She thought she would go her whole life and never be reunited with her father."
Walworth said Edge contributed to the identification of her father when she saw a commercial urging families of missing service members to submit DNA. She contacted her aunt and uncle in Texas, and they submitted blood samples that led to the identification.
Ketchum, a veteran of the Army Air Corps during World War II, married Sgt. Dorothy Pelletier on Nov. 8, 1947, while both served with Army medical attachments in Georgia. After some time in civilian life, he joined the U.S. Army in October 1949.
By late November 1950, Ketchem was among 15,000 allied troops deployed to the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea for a battle Gen. Douglas MacArthur believed would end the five-month war.
On the morning of Nov. 25, 1950, the division moved through the Funchilin Pass, Koto Village, Hagaru Village and north along the eastern shore of the Chosin (Changjin) Reservoir. High winds blew and the temperature was 25 degrees below zero, according to a declassified case study of the battle.
Two days later, reports estimated that 400-600 enemy were in a nearby village.
However, the 15,000 allied troops made up of the U.S. First Marine Division, U.S. Army 7th Infantry Division and elements of the British Royal Marines and South Korean soldiers faced 10 divisions — estimated at 120,000 troops — of Chinese communist forces ordered to annihilate them.
That evening, the Army division got the first report the 5th and 7th Marine regiments near Yudam had been attacked by a strong Chinese communist forces. Later that night, enemy patrols initiated probing attacks against the perimeter of the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry before launching a coordinated attack shortly after midnight, launching a 13-day battle in the rugged, brutally-cold terrain.
An estimated 1,100 Army casualties were flown out of Hagaru from Dec. 1-6.
Ketchum was found near Hagaru during an excavation for the remains of fallen soldiers in 2001, Walworth said.
In 1952, 14 months after his death, Sgt. Ketchum was honored for "extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy." His widow, Dorothy Ketchum, was presented with his Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second-highest military honor.
Authorized by President Harry S. Truman, the medal accompanied a citation describing his heroism and courage as he moved fearlessly under direct enemy fire, wounded in the chest and left arm, and continued to treat and evacuate the wounded.
"Sgt. Ketchum was last seen with his arm in a sling, and despite his painful wounds, administering a syrette of morphine to a wounded comrade," the citation stated. "Sgt. Ketchum's unflinching courage under fire, inspirational actions and consummate devotion to duty, reflect lasting glory on himself and are in keeping with noble traditions of the military service."
Walworth said five other service members in his unit were recovered in 2001 and taken to Hawaii for possible identification. Ketchum's name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing in Honolulu, along with others who are missing from the Korean War. Now that he's been accounted for, a rosette will be placed next to his name.
Walworth said Ketchum will be flown to Minneapolis on Sunday afternoon and should arrive in Superior at the Blatnik Bridge around 4 p.m., escorted by the Patriot Guard, as he's taken to Downs-LeSage Funeral Home, 1304 Hammond Ave.
Services begin for Ketchum at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Cathedral of Christ the King Catholic Church, 1111 Belknap St., with a Mass of Christian burial celebrated by the Rev. Andrew Ricci at 11 a.m. Burial with full military honors will follow at Calvary Cemetery.