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Soldier will return to Foxboro for final rest

Two sisters searched for the brother they never met, and now, the Korean War soldier is coming home.

Rochon Photo.jpg
Francis "Sonny" Rochon

Army Cpl. Francis “Sonny” Rochon is coming home almost 70 years to the day after landing in Pusan, South Korea with the 23rd Infantry Regiment.

Nearly 70 years after his death during the war, his sisters are looking forward to at long last putting him to rest in Foxboro. Rochon’s remains were recently identified by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, ending a search that has taken 20 years.

Marian Klein said she never knew the brother she lost at war.

“I was just an infant,” she said. “What I knew about him was what my dad and grandma said about him.”

Growing up, Klein said her father believed that her brother had been taken prisoner, and she too believed he was still alive. But as she grew older, she came to the realization that he was probably killed in the war.


1st Battalion overrun

According to DPAA records, the 23rd Infantry Regiment landed at Pusan, South Korea, on Aug. 5, 1950, and within one hour its 1st Battalion was dispatched to the front lines to reinforce the American and Republic of Korea (ROK) elements defending Pusan Harbor.

The 1st Battalion, including 21-year-old Rochon, established positions on high ground above the Naktong River, which was so shallow at the time that weary American survivors from earlier conflicts began fording the river and walking behind American lines.

Soon, however, the North Korean People’s Army began assembling ground forces near the river to ford it themselves and launch an offensive designed to push American forces back to the sea.

At dusk on Aug. 31, the North Korean army began the offensive along a 15-mile front, with the 1st Battalion taking the brunt of the assault.

By early morning on Sept. 1, Companies A, B, and C of the 1st Battalion were completely overrun, with many men from each of the units killed in action or taken prisoner amid the heavy fighting.

Rochon, who was born in Bayfield and grew up in Superior, joined the U.S. Army at age 18 and was a member of Company C, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. He went missing in action on Sept. 1, 1950, when his unit's position along the Naktong River near Changyong, Korea was overrun. He was never reported as a prisoner of war and his remains were never accounted for following the ceasefire.

The U.S. Army declared Rochon dead on Dec. 31, 1953 and his remains unrecoverable on Jan. 16, 1956.

However, his remains had been recovered in January 1951 when the American Graves Registration Service Group consolidated the remains from 12 smaller military cemeteries at a newly established United Nations Military Cemetery in Tanggok, South Korea. One set of remains had come from the area where Rochon was last seen but could not be identified. In 1956, they were transported to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu and buried as unknowns.


New hope

Then 20 years ago, while living in Arkansas, Klein said she read an article that gave her hope, and she reached out to a retired sergeant who helped her bring her brother home.

“I discovered there was no DNA on file,” Klein said. “It upset me that there was no DNA on file.”

Unfortunately, Klein and her sisters couldn’t provide the DNA needed to match Rochon’s remains.

Rochon was her father’s son from his first marriage, and she and her sisters were children from his second marriage, she said. So she and her sisters worked with their cousins to get the DNA necessary to make the familial match.

DPAA historians and analysts were able to determine that others buried in the same original grave as Rochon, lost during the same battle, were also seeking to be identified, so the remains were disinterred and sent to the DPAA Laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor in November 2018.

DPAA scientists used anthropologic analysis, circumstantial evidence and mitochondrial DNA to identify Rochon’s remains.

Patricia Winter, Klein’s older sister, wasn’t home when the call came in to notify the family so Klein got the call about three weeks ago.

Winter, who was about 1½ when her brother went off to war, said it was their cousins who grew up with him that knew him best, but she is looking forward to putting him to rest.


The family is tentatively planning a funeral for July 25, but arrangements haven’t been made yet.

With the pandemic, Winter said she is still waiting to find out when her brother will be flown home before they make his funeral arrangements.

“This has given us so much closure, so much hope for other families,” Klein said. “We don’t want other families to lose hope.”

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