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Ben Lee Brown

Ben Lee Brown

Roseburg, Oregon

December 31, 1953

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
18 Army Cpl


 CPL Brown was 18 years old and in combat operations in South Korea when he was listed as Missing In Action on February 12, 1951. He was listed as presumed KIA on December 31, 1953. His name was inscribed on the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial. CPL Brown was awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Presidential Unit Citation, and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.

Ben Lee Brown

Escorting Home Cpl Ben brown, Click photo below:

May 12, 2015

From The Oregonian oregonlive.com 05/09/15:
Remains of soldier killed in 1951 to be buried in Roseburg
By Laura Gunderson
The Oregonian

Posted May. 9, 2015 at 7:47 PM 

PORTLAND — Ben Lee Brown was lost in just a week.
In 1951, just seven days after the 17-year-old was deployed, he ended up in one of the bloodiest battles of the Korean War.
Now after 60 years, the Oregon man has been found.
Brown's remains came home in 1993, when a treaty between the United States and North Korea returned 208 coffins to the U.S. Yet scientists soon learned there was more than one servicemember in each coffin, a discovery that led to a painstaking and decades-long process of isolating remains and matching them with the DNA of surviving family members.
"It has taken some time," said Shelia Cooper, a spokeswoman with the Defense POW/Missing Accounting Agency in Arlington, Virginia. "Technology back then was very slow. It's faster now, but it gets complicated when you have families whose siblings and mother and father have passed away."
Today, 7,852 Americans who fought the three-year war remain unaccounted for, she said. Her agency lists the three dozen soldiers from Oregon whose remains have not yet been found or matched.
Cpl. Brown's remains were positively matched last month with DNA from his brother and sister, who did not want to comment for this report. He will be buried Friday, May 15, in Roseburg National Cemetery in Southern Oregon.
Military records show Brown grew up in the small town of Fourmile along the Oregon Coast south of Bandon. He enlisted in the Army in mid-June 1950, likely not long after he'd graduated from high school. It was also a few weeks before North Korea invaded South Korea, the move that triggered President Harry Truman to take action in hopes of containing the spread of communism.
Brown began basic training in November at Ford Ord along the Pacific Ocean northeast of Monterey, California, and by Feb. 5, 1951, he was on his way to a war zone. He was listed as a light weapons infantryman and assigned to Company I, 3rd Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division.
Brown's unit, with a mission to support the South Korean troops, was positioned in a deep valley near the village of Hoengsong. As night fell on Feb. 11, 1951, four Chinese and two North Korean divisions launched a massive surprise attack, encircling the steep hillsides and blocking the only road out.
As South Korean forces collapsed, military reports described a battle in which American and U.N. forces were outnumbered 12 to 1 that quickly devolved from a "rain of mortar fire" to hand-to-hand combat as enemy forces swarmed.
Over the next three days, more than 2,000 U.S. and U.N. soldiers were killed. One account put the 38th Infantry Regiment's losses at 462 — 328 killed in action and 134 who died in captivity.
According to newspaper reports at the time, Marines who recaptured the area a month later erected a crudely painted sign, "Massacre Valley," after they'd passed the mile-long road littered with burned and bullet-torn trucks and hundreds of frozen bodies.
The battle was controversial not only for its human toll but for equipment lost, including 14 105-millmeter howitzers, 901 other crew-served weapons, 137 rocket launchers, 164 machine guns and 102 automatic rifles.
From Bandon Western World theworldlink.com 05/25/15:

Bandon soldier comes home from Korean War after 64 years

May 25, 2015 7:00 am • AMY MOSS STRONG The World(0) Comments

BANDON — He was just 17 years old and not even finished with high school.

His father signed a waiver for Ben Lee Brown to join the U.S. Army.

Ben Brown shipped off to the Korean War.

That was 1951. Army Cpl. Ben Brown never returned. He was first declared missing in action. Two years later, he was presumed dead.

His body was never recovered. Until now.

Military honors

Friday, May 15, Ben was buried with full military honors at the Roseburg National Cemetery. Ben's eldest sister, her daughter, and his youngest sister were present, as were his nephew Tom Brown, with his wife Donna and their son and daughter, Josh Brown and Tricia Hutton; his nieces Mary Strain and Peggy Staten; and his sister-in-law Ellen Brown, all Bandon residents.

But Ben's father, mother and six other siblings -- Bud, Floyd, Ted, Robert, Margaret and Ann -- didn't live to see the ceremony — an event they never expected to happen.

“He was the fourth son and taller and bigger than his brothers,” said Ben's youngest sister Nancy, a lifetime Bandon resident. “His brothers had gone off to war and he wanted to also — it was a patriotic thing to do. My dad signed the waiver. When he went missing, my dad took it tremendously hard, but it was what my brother had wanted.”

The service was held under cloudy skies and attended by more than 75 people, but only a few of them actually knew Ben. Members of the Roseburg VFW and the American Legion were present, as well as Vietnam veterans who are members of the Patriot Guard from the Roseburg area.

Family members were sheltered from the intermittent raindrops in a gazebo, where the somber ceremony ended with military personnel carefully removing the flag from the casket, folding it and giving it to Brown's eldest sister Ardelma, known as Del. After the service, a 21-gun salute ripped through the air, followed by taps, then Amazing Grace on the bagpipes. 

Tom, who still lives on Four Mile Road next to the property where his father's family grew up, brought 17 white roses and one red rose, signifying the 18th birthday his uncle Ben was not able to celebrate.

“I was a wreck on Friday,” said Nancy, ”but my family has been here in full support to get me through the hard times and I'm close to my nieces and nephews. They were very gracious to us over there. It brought up a lot of memories."

Donna Brown said she was proud to be able to attend.

“It's all about Ben and what he had to go through,” she said. “We need to honor him for that and they did a really nice job of honoring him.”

Tom served in Vietnam and his father Francis "Bud" served in World War II. Tom was surprised at how many people were at the service and touched by the lengths the military went to make it meaningful.

“I was surprised to see so many high-ranking officers,” Tom said. “And I do now feel a sense of closure and so does the rest of the family.”

Ready to serve

Though Nancy was only 8 years old when her big brother Ben went off to war, she knew he was eager to go.

“It's always been a high priority in our lives,” Nancy said.

Bud served in World War II. Floyd was stationed in Okinawa. Ben's brother-in-law Robert was serving on a naval ship.

“Stories of going off to war were prevalent in our family,” Nancy said. “When we heard about Ben missing in action, we'd listen to the radio every week as they listed names of soldiers who had been found or killed.”

Ben went to Fort Ord for basic training. In early 1951, he was assigned to Company I, 3rd Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, which was occupying positions in the vicinity of Hoengsong, South Korea, when their defensive line was attacked by Chinese forces. This attack forced the unit to withdraw south to a more defensible position. After the battle, Ben was reported missing in action.

The battle was considered one of the worst of the war. U.S. Marines went to the area later that cold winter and upon seeing the frozen bodies and massive destruction, named it “Massacre Valley.”

The Department of Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency (DPAA) has been on a continuous search for the 83,126 servicemen missing in wars since World War II. Some 7,852 of those are from the Korean War.

The Korean Armistice Agreement of July 1953 called for the repatriation of all casualties and prisoners of war. From August to November 1954 the U.S. received the remains of approximately 1,868 American servicemen in what is known as Operation Glory.

Since then, recovery of the dead has depended on the status of diplomatic relations with the U.S. and the mood of the North Korean government.

Part of DPAA's mission is to send the message to families that they are not alone.

The department recognizes that having someone significant to one's life ripped away without answers is devastating. Families are profoundly changed by the loss.

Missing in action

Ben grew up near a “wide spot in the road,” Nancy said. “He was a small-town boy in a big war.” The town of Four Mile no longer exists, and even in 1951 it was nothing more than a post office.

He attended high school in Langlois, but wasn't thrilled with his studies and convinced his father to sign the waiver to let him enlist before he began his senior year. 

Ben was remembered by Ellen Brown, who was married to his brother Ted, as a shy child who would come to their home and play marbles contentedly.

Cpl. Ben Lee Brown was initially listed as missing in action while fighting the North Koreans on Feb. 12, 1951. He was presumed dead on Dec. 31, 1953.

The family heard nothing more about him until 1992.

Between 1990 and 1994, North Korea turned over to the U.S. 208 boxes of human remains believed to contain more than 400 U.S. servicemen who fought during the war. North Korean documents, turned over with some of the boxes, indicated that some of the remains were recovered from the vicinity where POWs from Brown’s unit were believed to have died.

To identify Ben’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used circumstantial evidence, dental comparison, which matched his records, and two forms of forensic identification tools, to include mitochondrial DNA analysis, which matched his sister and brother, and Y-chromosome Short Tandem Repeat DNA, which matched his brother.

Ben was "accounted for" on April 10.

“They wanted DNA from my brother Robert, from me and from our brother Ted,” Nancy said. “His remains have been out of the country for 42 years, and it took them 22 years to identify them. It's been 64 years, he would be 82 now.

"We thought for sure he was gone, and that we'd never know for sure what happened to him."

But the family is grateful and relieved. They have a plot in the Denmark cemetery, a small area between Langlois and Port Orford on Highway 101 and they intend to put a gravestone honoring Ben there, next to his father, mother and some of his siblings.

“I never thought in my wildest dreams when we sent in our DNA that they would be able to identify his remains,” Nancy said. “Having the closure of finally knowing that his body did make it back to the states is absolutely miraculous. Even though the thought of what he went through is horrible, it does give us some closure.”

Ben was awarded, posthumously, the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the Korean Services Medal, and given the Republic of Korea War Service Medal and the Combat Infrantryman Badge.

Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Johnson, who was in charge of coordinating arrangements for Cpl. Brown, had a display box made that contained all those medals, along with a photo of the smiling young serviceman in uniform. Nancy Brown was given the box, a gesture that moved her to tears.

"I was a combat vet too," said Johnson, who was wounded during one of his five tours in Iraq. "He made a very hard decision at a very young age. The sacrifice you make is not because of the President or the military. Yes, you feel great pride in that, but it's more for the brotherhood. I just felt that bond with him.

"In my mind, what he'd say is that he is glad to have made that sacrifice for his fellow soldiers, and he did it with great honor."

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving the country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil or call 703-699-1169.

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