2-Remains of Korean soldier Chester Williams returned, laid to rest
The family of Korean War veteran and Army Sgt. Chester L. Williams as well as local Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) supporters received some closure when Williams’ remains arrived in Meadville in late September — more than 60 years since his passing.
A funeral with full military honors was observed at Robert W. Waid Funeral Home on Sept. 30 for the local war hero who went missing in action in North Korea on Dec. 6, 1950, and died of exposure in a prison camp later that month at the age of 32.
A police-escorted public motorcycle processional escorted Williams’ remains along Interstate 79 to the funeral home.
“It’s out of respect,” said Richard Rogers of the Guardian Vets Motorcycle Club.
Williams was buried in Greendale Cemetery, Meadville, assisted by an honor guard of pallbearers from the Veterans of the Vietnam War Post 52.
“We welcome this family who suffered for 62 years,” said Jerry Coward, vice commander of the Veterans of the Vietnam War Post 52, who spoke in Williams’ honor at the 15th annual Ride for Freedom memorial vigil on Sept. 22. “There’s no reason to not account for every man and woman who goes off to war.”
Among the family members in attendance were Williams’ nephew, Clifford, one of the only remaining relatives who knew him, and great-niece Melody Bush. The family was overwhelmed with the news of their ancestor coming home.
“The little ones have tears in their eyes,” said Bush. “They’re going to learn everything about him to keep his memory alive for generations.”
Williams, a Conneaut Lake native, was part of the 31st Regimental Combat Team known as Task Force Faith that was fighting in North Korea, according to Maj. Carie Parker, spokeswoman for the Department of Defense POW/MIA Personnel Office.
The unit was reportedly advancing along the eastern banks of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea in late November 1950 when it came under attack.
Task Force Faith began a fighting withdrawal to positions near Hagaru-ri, south of the reservoir, but Williams went missing during the withdrawal. In 1953, returning Americans who had been held as prisoners of war reported Williams had been captured by Chinese forces and died as a result of exposure to the elements, Parker said.
Between 1991 and 1994, North Korea gave the U.S. 208 boxes believed to contain the remains of 200 to 400 U.S. service members. North Korean documents turned over with some of the boxes indicated that some of the human remains were recovered from the area where Williams was last scene, according to Parker.
In the identification of the remains, scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory reportedly used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, such as radiograph, dental records and mitochondrial DNA, which matched Williams’ nephew and grand-nephew.
The Department of Defense POW/MIA Personnel Office stated that with modern technology, identifications continue to be made from remains previously turned over by North Korean officials.