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Korean War hero returned to family
ARNEWS ^ | Gregory Frye

Posted on 11/02/2006 8:50:35 PM PST by SandRat

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (Army News Service, Nov. 2, 2006) – After more than 50 years of waiting, hoping and praying, the family of a Korean War hero can rest easier knowing their Soldier is finally home.

The remains of Pfc. Francis Crater Jr. were buried in the family plot in Akron, Ohio, Oct. 21 – nearly 56 years after his death.

Crater’s great nephew, a current Soldier, was one of more than 250 people who attended the funeral.

“He was part of our family and meant a lot to us,” said Staff Sgt. Bob Jenkins, motor sergeant, 106th Transportation Battalion, Fort Campbell. “As I grew up, I always knew about my Uncle Shorty.”

Shorty was Crater’s nickname. Standing at 5 feet, 3 inches, the Ohio native was the youngest of three children.

Glenn Crater, Francis’ older brother and Jenkins’ grandfather, is the only immediate family member alive to see his brother’s remains brought home.

“It profoundly affected me because it meant so much to my grandfather,” Jenkins said. “I had to give the eulogy and kept choking up because I would look at my grandfather and see him crying. It really meant a lot to him.”

The experience has been very emotional for Glenn Crater, who thought they would never hear anything about the fate of his younger brother and was shocked when he heard the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command found him.

Fate of a hero

“I’d like the world to know there was a Francis Crater,” Glenn said. “He was a good kid, never got into trouble … an average young guy growing up. When he was 18, his friend decided to join the Army, and Francis joined, too.”

“There were a lot of people lost over there the same time my brother was,” Glenn said.

Francis was killed in Korea as he fought the enemy off his fellow Soldiers, hopping back and forth between machine gun nests.

Charles Rachac, who now lives in Michigan, was one of only three people from the unit to survive the battle at Chosin Reservoir. They held their ground for five days until the enemy finally prevailed.

“Crater was my assistant on the machine gun,” he said. “He was a small guy but had a giant stature.”

Rachac recalls the last meal he had with Francis; the temperature was 40 below freezing, and their food was so frozen they could barely eat. “The last supper,” he called it.

“He died with a lot of heroes up there,” Rachac said. “I was fortunate enough to come back, and I don’t know why. I’ve been living with this burden for a lot of years. I think everybody up there was wounded one way or another, mentally or physically.”

Rachac jokes about how everyone used to “razz” Francis about his name.

“I never had a chance to say goodbye to him,” he said. “He’ll always be forever young; I’ll always remember him as a 20 year old.”

Francis was killed Nov. 28, 1950. The next day his mother, Beatrice, received a telegram stating her son was missing in action but presumed dead.

“She always hoped he would come back, knocking at the door,” Jenkins said of his great grandmother. “She went to her grave thinking that.”

Until now, Crater’s family was never sure what happened to him.

“We weren’t sure if he was injured or killed,” Jenkins said, “but these remains reveal that he was shot through the back of the head.”

Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command

Now, thanks to teams from JPAC, 88 percent of Francis’ skeletal remains are finally where they ought to be. JPAC is a Hawaii-based military organization dedicated to finding fallen Soldiers.

“It’s an important mission to our country,” said Troy Kitch, deputy public affairs director for JPAC. “It’s a valuable and honorable mission we’re proud to be a part of.”

“In the 1970s,” Kitch said, “the mission was born out of the Vietnam War. People wanted to see their loved ones brought home.”

Since then, the mission has evolved into JPAC. Investigation teams and recovery teams travel the world, covering all of the nation’s wars in the past century.

“People deserve to come home and be buried with full honors,” Kitch said.

JPAC has about 1,100 boxes of remains, 40 percent of which are from North Korea.

“When we have remains come in,” Kitch said, “we analyze as much as possible. If we can’t figure out who it is, it goes back on the shelf until we get more evidence.”

Kitch stresses the importance of being absolutely positive about a given identity before contacting family members.

JPAC needs mitochondrial evidence from living family members in order to identify many of the remains.

Rhachac encouraged Glenn Crater to send a blood sample to JPAC, which had actually found Francis’ remains in 2000. Glenn’s blood sample helped JPAC positively identify Francis’ remains.

Pride and gratitude

Years after Francis’ death, his family continued to keep his memory alive. Even Jenkins, who never met his great uncle, knew all about the family hero. At 9, he drew an award-winning picture of a Soldier standing behind a barbed-wire fence. Below he wrote: “this is my Uncle Shorty, and I hope he comes home one day.”

Now that Jenkins is grown and in the Army himself, he appreciates what has been done for his Uncle Shorty.

“It was a shock,” Jenkins said. “A lot of times people only find a tooth or bone fragment, but to hear they had found 88 percent of his skeletal remains – that was something special.”

Jenkins admitted there were a lot of things his family didn’t know about Francis’ military accomplishments until recently. No one knew, for instance, that he had been a part of three campaigns in Korea until seeing the three campaign medals on the uniform provided by the Army for the service.

“I’m glad these people have the conviction to exhaust every resource at their expense to set this right,” Jenkins said. “These guys gave their lives to serve their country, and so their country should do everything in its power to get them back.”

It seems to Jenkins that the Army is doing just that.

Glenn Crater was pleased with the service and everything the Army did to honor his brother.

“The Army really went all out after they found him to give him a proper burial,” Glenn said. “We had the honor guard from Fort Knox, and a motorcycle group – they were lined up, holding their flags to welcome him home.”

“I hope that if I’m ever in that situation,” Jenkins said, “that I’ll have the same courage my uncle did. I know I’ll be thinking about it. It meant a lot to me.”

Francis Crater Jr. is buried next to his mother in Greenlawn Memorial Park in Akron, Ohio.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; US: Kentucky; US: Ohio
KEYWORDS: hero; home; korean; war

1 posted on 11/02/2006 8:50:37 PM PST by SandRat
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To: SandRat

My Dad's nickname was "shorty" as well. Frozen to his toolmaker forman's job in WWII, I always figured the war would have ended sooner if had been allowed to fight. Looks like there was another "shorty," a true hero. Thanks, Avery

2 posted on 11/02/2006 9:01:00 PM PST by Ace's Dad ("There are more important things: Friendship, Bravery...")
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To: SandRat
What kind of people would sacrifice their own for an ideal that could bring the great rewards of individual freedom to the oppressed people of this World?

May God bless; and the people of the World thank... America.

Thank you Shorty.
3 posted on 11/02/2006 9:02:06 PM PST by the final gentleman
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To: SandRat

Pfc. Francis Crater Jr., photographed not long before fighting in the battle that claimed his life in North Korea on Nov. 28, 1950.
4 posted on 11/02/2006 9:37:56 PM PST by ruination
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