Skip to comments.Korean War hero returned to family
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.
Craters 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 Craters 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 brothers 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
Id 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 dont know why. Ive 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. Hell always be forever young; Ill 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, Craters family was never sure what happened to him.
We werent 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.
Its an important mission to our country, said Troy Kitch, deputy public affairs director for JPAC. Its a valuable and honorable mission were 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 nations 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 cant 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. Glenns 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 didnt 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.
Im 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 Im ever in that situation, Jenkins said, that Ill have the same courage my uncle did. I know Ill 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.
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