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Locating Korean War Veterans

by Kathleen W. Hinckley, CGRS
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Tracking Down Recent Veterans
Friendships created in the military, especially during wartime, are similar to family bonds. The search for a military buddy, therefore, can be just as important as seeking the whereabouts of a brother or sister. Learn how to track down servicemen and women.

When Veteran's Day arrives, I usually think about my Dad and WWII; or I remember some of my high school classmates who died in Vietnam. But this year I am remembering Uncle Danny and his knuckle sandwiches.

Daniel McKillip (1930-1968) was a Korean War veteran, and one of my favorite uncles. He used to give me knuckle sandwiches on the top of my head when I was about 8 or 10 years old. I did not enjoy this greeting because he used his left hand, which had been paralyzed in a curled position from a wound suffered during the war. He didn't realize the strength he had in those unrelenting knuckles!

Uncle Danny and nearly five million other men and women served in the Korean War between 1950 and 1953. Approximately 54,000 were killed in action, and 8,177 are still missing in action. Since the majority of Korean War veterans are still living, the focus of this article will not be the traditional genealogical topic of obtaining military records, but rather how a Korean War veteran can locate a buddy from the war.

Locating Military Buddies

The quest to find military buddies is rapidly becoming a favorite pastime of veterans. Friendships created in the military, especially during wartime, are similar to family bonds. The search for a military buddy, therefore, can be just as important as seeking the whereabouts of a brother or sister.

Finding a military buddy can be frustrating and perhaps impossible if you do not have enough personal identifiers. Persons with common surnames, for example, can be difficult to locate unless you have other information such as an exact birth date, home residence prior to the war, or perhaps names of parents or siblings.

Assuming you have the full name of your military buddy, and the correct spelling of the surname, you can do the following:

  • Check telephone listings, particularly if you are looking for an unusual given name or surname. Telephone Directories on the Web provides links to telephone white pages in the U.S., as well as nearly fifty foreign countries. If the resulting list is reasonable in length, write letters, or telephone each person. Remember, too, that results will vary among the online telephone directories because they are created from different databases.
  • Search, and register, with the free Korean War Veterans Registry. Below is an example of a query (used with permission):

    Name: James W. Waites
    Address: 509 Knox Street City: Tallahassee
    State: AL
    Zip: 36078
    Country: USA
    Phone: 334-283-4230
    E-mail: lynn@tallassee.wm.slb.com
    Dates of Service: 1950 - 1956
    Units: 179th Company I 45th INF.
    News: I am writing on behalf of my father who is trying to locate anyone who fought in the Korean War within his Company. Please feel free to e-mail me and let me know.

  • Military reunion associations can assist you in locating someone from a particular outfit. The National VETS Archives maintains a list of more than 12,300 reunion organizations — see if yours is in the list.
  • Go to the web site http://home.hawaii.rr.com/chosin/ for information on individuals who participated in the battle of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea during November-December 1950. Historians have termed Chosin the most savage battle of modern warfare. The Chosin Few Digest and The Chosin Few Digest/Magazine Editions are published six times per year and include veteran's queries.
  • Veterans organizations such as the American Legion or Disabled American Veterans may be able to assist in your search. A complete list of U.S. military associations has been compiled by Ben N. Myer, U.S. Army Retired and available on the Internet at http://vets.com/inside/assc.htm. It includes U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps.
  • Visit the Korean War Project web page for information on Tiger survivors, Hispanics in Korea, Hawaiians in Korea, and Blacks in Korea.

  • A list of Korean War Veterans organizations is on the Internet at http://www.tcsaz.com/koreanwar/organizations.html. Check out their web site for more information about each of the following organizations:

    • 2nd Engineer Special Brigade
    • 2nd Infantry Division, Korean War Veterans Alliance, Inc.
    • 2nd (Indianhead) Division Association
    • 21st RCT Assoc., 24 Inf. Division
    • 24th Infantry Division Association
    • 224th Infantry Regiment Reunions
    • 300th Armored Field Artillery Battalion Reunion
    • 304 Signal Operation Bn. 8th Army Signal
    • 5th Regimental Combat Team Association
    • 5th US Calvary Association
    • 50th AAA AW Bn. (SP) X-Corps
    • 50th AAA AW Bn. (SP) Korean Vets
    • 501st ASA Korea 1950-60
    • 51st Signal Battalion
    • 516th Signal Company - Austria - '49-'55
    • 70th Tank Bn Association
    • 712th Transportation Railway Operating Battalion
    • 8229th Army Unit (Signal Corps)
    • Assoc nationale des anciens Des forces francaises de I''ONU et du regiment de corne (French battalion)
    • B Company, 15th Reg., 3rd Inf. Div.
    • British Korean Veterans Association
    • Colonel Alice Gritsavage Chapter, KWVA
    • Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Korean War Battles
    • Det 1, 3rd Air Rescue Seoul Korea
    • F-2-5 Korea 1950-1953
    • Corporal Clair Goodblood Chapter, KWVA
    • Korea Seabee Veterans
    • Korea Veterans Association (Canada)
    • Korean War Veterans Association
    • Korean War Veterans National Museum and Library
    • Lone Star Chapter KWVA
    • The Mosquito Association, Inc. (6147th TacConGp)
    • The Rakkasans, 187th Abn TCT Association
    • Second (Indianhead) Division Association
    • South Carolina Korean War Veterans Memorial Fund
    • United #54 Korea Veterans Association of Canada
    • Korean War Veterans Association of Western Pennsylvania, Inc.
    • Unit 68 KVA Canada
    • Korean War was also a European War
    • VQ Association
    • William R. Charett MOH Chapter KWVA

  • Your military buddy may be deceased, as much as you would like to think otherwise. The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is an excellent source to determine if there may be anyone that fits the profile of the person you are trying to locate. Keep in mind that the SSDI does not list all deaths; only those for whom a social security death benefit was paid.
  • The SSDI is also useful in locating death data on the parents (assuming you know their names) of the buddy you are researching. The technique of stepping backward one generation to locate a living person is often successful. The process works as follows: You do not know the whereabouts of your military buddy since the war ended in 1953, but you do know that your buddy's father was named Alfred McBride and lived in Biloxi, Mississippi. The SSDI lists a man named Alfred McBride, born 1900 (old enough to be father of your buddy), and died in 1982 in Biloxi, Mississippi. The odds are good that this Alfred is the father of your war buddy. You obtain a newspaper obituary of Alfred which confirms your speculation. The obituary names all the surviving children (including your buddy) and their places of residence. You now have 1982 data to use in your search, plus information on siblings.

  • If you know where your buddy resided after the war, odds are good that he filed his discharge papers and/or service record at the local county courthouse. These records are open to the public and will give you information about your buddy to help locate him such as his date of birth, or a "permanent" address that may be a relative. If you obtain his exact date of birth from the discharge papers, you can return to the SSDI and see if you find a match. You can also hire a private investigator who accesses non-public databases and can search for an individual, using the name and date of birth.

Genealogists are diligent in their military research, particularly the Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, and WWII. But have you also documented your family's participation in the Korean War? Have you interviewed the Korean War veteran in your family? Uncle Danny died in 1968 when I was only twenty years old, bringing silence to his memoirs.

That does not have to be the case in your family. Seize the opportunity now to understand and document your family's participation in what became known as "The Forgotten War. " One year from now will be the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Korean War. The news media will remember the Korean War for a few months, but you, as a genealogist, can be certain that the Korean War veteran in your family is NOT forgotten — ever.


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