OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Every Airman has a different experience during their tour in the Republic of Korea. Many see the assignment as a hardship and others find the opportunity to make great memories.
However you see the assignment, there is a strong military history that is part of a long standing heritage of Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines. Some are more directly connected to that heritage than they ever thought.
Many members of my family have served in the military through the years, and some have even served in the Republic of Korea and fought in the Korean War. I knew my granddaddy, Rutherford Kimbrough, completed a tour in Korea with the Army during his time, but I had no idea how much of my family had fought and died alongside the South Koreans.
I found myself checking out the artwork and memorabilia in the main atrium of the 51st Fighter Wing Headquarters building, and I noticed a list of pilot’s names that were KIA/MIA during the Korean War and one kind of stood out from the rest – 2nd Lt. William R. Kimbro – a pilot from the 25th Fighter Interceptor Squadron pilot from Chattanooga, Tennessee, was one of the Airmen who was killed during the conflict.
Seeing that my the majority of my family is from that area of Tennessee, I messaged my mom just to see if we were related to him at all, even though the spelling was different. It turns out he is my grandaddy’s cousin, and they were both serving in the conflict in different branches.
I began to dig deeper to find out as much information as I could about my relative.
The 51st Fighter Wing and 7th Air Force Historians and the 25th Fighter Squadron were able to track down the details on exactly what happened to 2nd Lt. Kimbro from the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing. We eventually tracked down that he had been hit by anti-aircraft fire over Sinuiju Airfield, North Korea, on Dec. 12, 1950 and was considered missing in action after his F-80C Shooting Star spun in with no egress or parachute observed.
I couldn’t believe that one of my relatives was not only a fellow Airman, but one who served with the wing I’m assigned to in Korea. I could not wait to share the details with my family back home, especially my mom. Since learning about 2nd. Lt. Kimbro, I started to have a new outlook on my assignment to Osan.
I take great pride in knowing that members of my family helped protect the 51 million people that we still protect today. I’m extremely honored to be a part of my family’s legacy, and I can’t wait to learn even more about their service.