An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : Media : News : News Article View
NEWS | Sept. 30, 2021

New York National Guard Funeral Honors Korean War MIA

By Sgt. Andrew Valenza New York National Guard

SCHUYLERVILLE, N.Y. -- Maj. Gen. Michel Natali, the assistant adjutant general of New York, joined New York Army National Guard Soldiers Sept. 20 to salute a Korean War Soldier whose remains were laid to rest 71 years after he fell in combat.

An Army National Guard Military Forces Honor Guard provided funeral honors and a firing party for the interment of Army Cpl. Walter Smead at the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery in Schuylerville.

Smead, who grew up in Hadley, went missing in December 1950 near Hagaru-ri, North Korea, during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.

He served in Alpha Battery of the 57th Field Artillery Battalion, part of the Army's 7th Infantry Division.

His remains were among those handed over to the United States by the North Korean government in 2018.

Walter Smead had already served during World War II with the 10th Mountain Division in Italy. The Smead family has had military connections in every generation, said cousin Stuart Smead, a retired Army lieutenant colonel.

"The Smead family has fought in almost every war," Stuart Smead said.

During the last month of 1950, Smead's battalion occupied the east side of the Chosin Reservoir, securing the flanks of the advancing 7th and 5th Marine Corps Regiments and the main supply route before attacking north toward the Manchurian border.

From Nov. 27 to Dec. 13, 1950, some 30,000 troops were attacked by 120,000 Chinese forces. Smead was reported missing in action Dec. 6 and, in 1953, presumed dead.

Smead's remains were confirmed March 16, 2021, by the Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. So far, 76 Soldiers have been identified from the 55 boxes of remains turned over to the United States.

During funeral honors, Honor Guard Soldiers folded the flag from the casket and presented it to Smead's oldest living relative, his younger brother, Douglas, 85.

"It was great that we were able to bring some closure back to the Smead family," Natali said, "particularly after 71 years. Such a large turnout really means something to the Smead family and their descendants that Cpl. Smead's service stood for something."

Douglas Smead's niece, Bonnie Wolff, expressed thanks for the military honors and turnout of the community.

"It's really important for Walter to be home. It gives the family closure," Wolff said.

After an initial defensive fight, Smead battled with the remnants of the 31st Regimental Combat Team, known as Task Force Faith, for its commander, Lt. Col. Don Faith, the commander of the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment. Faith led the force after the original commander was killed in action.

The task force fought off the Chinese 80th and 81st divisions before breaking out from its defensive positions Dec. 1. Smead was reported missing during that evacuation.

Of the 31st Regimental Combat's 1,777 Soldiers, 1,392 were declared missing in action, unrecovered killed or prisoners of war.

A detachment of Korean War veterans joined the military forces honor guard in rendering final honors, with remarks from Paul O'Keefe, commander of the Korean War Veterans Association, Adirondack Chapter 60, and New York State chaplain for the veterans association.

O'Keefe brought together veterans associations to pay their final respects.

"I called every commander of our 24 state chapters and told them about our fallen brother … who was reported MIA," O'Keefe said. "I condensed all their messages to offer our sincere condolences to every member of Cpl. Smead's family and friends."

In addition to the Army National Guard and Korean War veterans, dozens of fellow veterans, including the department commanders for the New York State Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion, and Patriot Guard Riders escorted Smead's remains to the national cemetery.

"The fact that there's such a large presence here today from Smead's hometown and across the region means that our community hasn't forgotten him," Natali said.

"The service today was impressive," O'Keefe said. "This man sacrificed his life for the freedom we all enjoy. He deserves every minute of every kind of appreciation that's given to him. He was a very special man."

The funeral gave proper respect and closure to the memory of Cpl. Smead, Stuart Smead said.

"My family has been waiting for this day for decades," he said.

The turnout and final honors after 71 years left an impression on the Smead family, Wolff said.

"This is better than I was hoping, all the people who have come out," she said.

"I'm very proud to be a part of this," O'Keefe said. "Coming down in the procession, the whole road, tractors, cars, trailers pulled over for us. People waved, some blew their horns. It was incredible; he deserved it. He was a true hero. A young kid that never had a chance to be a father or get married and have a life. He died too young, for our freedom.

"Rest in peace now, our brother, here on these hallowed grounds," he said.

CONNECT WITH USINDOPACOM

ENGAGE & CONNECT MORE WITH PACOM

                                                 

IN THE USINDOPACOM NEWS
U.S. Indo-Pacific Commander leads U.S. Interagency Delegation to Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea’s Deputy Prime Minister John Rosso (left) meets with Adm. Samuel J. Paparo, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (right), in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea on July 15, 2024. Paparo reiterated U.S. commitment to the country through new and sustained initiatives in a whole-of-government approach, leading a interagency delegation that included Dr. Mira Rapp-Hooper, special assistant to the president and National Security Council senior director for East Asia and Oceania; Daniel Krittenbrink, Department of State assistant secretary for the bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs; Michael Schiffer, U.S. Agency for International Development assistant administrator of the bureau for Asia; and Anka Lee, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, joined by U.S. Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and the Republic of Vanuatu Ann Marie Yastishock, to highlight the strategic partnership between the U.S. and Papua New Guinea based on shared history and values. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon M. Smith)
July 16, 2024 - PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea — Adm. Samuel J. Paparo, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, led an interagency delegation to Papua New Guinea from July 14-16, 2024, where he met with senior military and government...

Readout of Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III's Meeting with Singapore Minister for Defense Ng Eng Hen
July 15, 2024 - Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder provided the following readout:Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III met today with Singapore Minister of Defense Ng Eng Hen at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C...

Chief of Naval Operations, Master Chief Pettry Officer of Navy Attend Largest Maritime Exercise in the World, Emphasize Interoperability with Allies and Partners
PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy James Honea tour the Royal New Zealand Navy Ship HMNZS Aotearoa (A-11) during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2024, July 11. Twenty-nine nations, 40 surface ships, three submarines, 14 national land forces, more than 150 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC in and around the Hawaiian Islands, June 27 to Aug. 1, 2024. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity while fostering and sustaining cooperative relationships among participants critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2024 is the 29th exercise in the series that began in 1971. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Michael Zingaro/Released)
July 12, 2024 - Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Lisa Franchetti and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) James Honea traveled to Hawaii, July 10-12, 2024, to meet with Sailors and visit Allies and partners participating in Rim...

USCGC Frederick Hatch completes patrol period, strengthens regional security and community ties
The USCGC Frederick Hatch crew deliver supplies to Agrihan in the Northern Mariana Islands on June 19, 2024, while on patrol in the Western Pacific Ocean. The Frederick Hatch crew completed a highly operational patrol period from May 21 to July 1, 2024, demonstrating exceptional versatility and collaboration in maritime security and community engagement across the Pacific region. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)
July 11, 2024 - The USCGC Frederick Hatch crew completed a highly operational patrol period from May 21 to July 1, 2024, demonstrating exceptional versatility and collaboration in maritime security and community engagement across the Pacific...

Remarks for Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Ely Ratner 2024 CSIS South China Sea Conference
July 11, 2024 - Remarks for Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Ely Ratner 2024 CSIS South China Sea Conference...