ANGOLA, Ind. (AP) — The remains of a northeastern Indiana soldier who the Army says died in a North Korean prisoner of war camp in 1951 will soon return home.
The Army recently told the family of Cpl. Leland Ford Smith that his remains had been identified from excavations in North Korea. Smith’s remains are to arrive at the Indianapolis International Airport on Saturday, with a graveside service planned for Monday near his hometown of Angola, The Herald Republican reported.
Louella Root said her brother followed his desire to enter the military, with their father’s blessing.
“He hitchhiked to Fort Wayne when he was 17 and enlisted in the Army,” she said.
Smith was soon sent into the Korean War as an infantryman. Army records show he was wounded in 1950 before being captured later that year.
Smith was among 22 men that were led on foot into China for three or four days, “where the surviving members recall being marched through the streets and seeing both Chinese and Russian officers,” according an Army report provided to the family. “There were brief interrogations, but as near as we can determine, Corporal Smith’s group had been picked, possibly at random, to give local Chinese officials a look at captured American soldiers.”
The POWs were later moved to a prisoner camp in North Korea.
“Although not singled out for abuse during their stay at Antung, these men were plainly exhausted and several succumbed to past wounds or disease,” the report said. Other POWs told Army officials that Smith died from malnutrition in February 1951.
After being notified by the Army in 1954 of Smith’s death, his family erected a gravestone in his honor at West Jamestown Cemetery.