Skip to comments.Alabama man killed in Korean War finally coming back home [Daddy will be home for Christmas]
Posted on 12/23/2009 8:47:40 AM PST by Bodleian_Girl
After 59 years, Army Master Sgt. Silas W. Wilson is coming home tonight, and the fact he will be in a flag-draped casket does not diminish the feeling of anticipation and closure in the heart of a daughter who never knew him.
"When I was a child, from the time I had any memory at all, I knew what had happened," Marie Wilson Cleghorn said Tuesday night. "And for 59 years, I've prayed every day that my daddy would come home one way or another.
"It's 22 years too late for my mother to be this happy, and it's eight years too late for my brother -- they're both gone. But for 59 years, I've waited for my daddy and now he's going to be home for Christmas."
Cleghorn's father, a Cullman County native, died in North Korea on Nov. 16, 1950. His family was told he was in Unsan province, where his unit -- the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division -- was involved in one of the major battles of the Korean War. They also were told he was one of seven U.S. soldiers and a South Korean soldier who were executed by Chinese troops and buried in a shallow grave.
In 2004, according to a Defense Department statement, an excavation team removed remains from a grave near the North Korean town of Chonsung-Ni.
"After forensic anthropological and odontological examination and mitochondrial DNA testing, scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command's Central Identification Laboratory identified the remains of seven soldiers of the 8th Cavalry Regiment including Master Sgt. Wilson," the statement says.
Cleghorn, who lives in the Winston County town of Arley, got the word about two weeks ago, while on her job as an all-purpose clerk at the Bessemer Post Office.
"I sat there and then I started to cry, and then I was happy," Cleghorn said. "It was like there was this emptiness that I couldn't fill up, and now it's got its cover. The part of me that felt like it wasn't there is at home now. It's just a peaceful sensation."
Silas Wilson grew up in north Alabama. His first name was like his father's, but family and close friends called him by his middle name, Wafray. In the military, his buddies called him Willie.
His formal education stopped at the sixth grade, but he had the knack for making do that came from his rural raising. During the Depression, he and a brother-in-law made extra money by trapping rabbits and squirrels and selling the meat.
In 1938, Wilson married a girl named Lena Grace Nixon, having proposed to her by grabbing the right big toe that she habitually kept elevated.
More than a cook?
The couple had a son, Phillip, now deceased, who was born after Wilson returned home from serving in Europe during World War II. During that war, and the one in Korea, being a cook was Wilson's military occupational specialty, Cleghorn said. But cooking was not the only thing he did in Europe. He brought back clues: a slew of medals, and an ability to speak Russian.
"He wouldn't ever talk to Mama about it," Cleghorn said. "He said he had had to do things he didn't want anybody repeating."
In the heady homecoming days after World War II, Wilson thought he was done with the Army. But after war broke out on the Korean peninsula in June 1950, he decided to re-enlist. He was in Korea when his daughter was born on Sept. 4, 1950. More than two months later, he was in the north, running a field kitchen amid a furious battle, and got swept up in an attack by Chinese forces.
Wilson was wounded, his daughter said, and among a number of soldiers who were taken prisoner, then shot in the head.
Back home, the family eventually would learn details from someone who survived the execution by pretending to be dead, a former private named Joseph Doherty.
"They stood 'em up by a ditch and shot 'em, shoved 'em off in the ditch," Cleghorn said. Doherty "said he talked to Daddy for a little while and they talked to the other guy that made it back, and then Daddy got quiet and they figured that's when he died . . . .
"He said when they shot Daddy, he just looked at 'em (his executioners) and smiled."
Wilson's funeral will be at 2 p.m. Sunday at Friendship Baptist Church in the Winston County community of Upshaw. He will be buried in the adjoining cemetery that also holds the graves of his parents, his son and his wife, who never dated after losing him.
When people would ask Lena Wilson why she did not look for another spouse, Cleghorn said her mother had a standard reply: "I'm already married. I have a husband."
God bless this soldiers family, who remained faithful, and God bless our troops and their families this Christmas.
What a heart-warming story. How sad that it took this long for him to be found.
Welcome home, Soldier.
If anyone would like to leave condolences on this thread, I will print them out and send to Mrs. Cleghorne. My niece went to high school with her kids.
Welcome home soldier. God bless you, your family and all our fighting men and women.
A hero proved in liberating strife.
Welcome home, Master Sergeant.
“He said when they shot Daddy, he just looked at ‘em (his executioners) and smiled.”
Condolences to the family of this obviously brave soldier.
We thank him for his service and mourn with you.
A blessing this Christmas for Marie Cleghorn.
A man’s man. What a hero!
Interesting to learn he trapped rabbit and squirrel during the depression for extra money. Self sufficient and quite capable.
Thanks for the great story!
Welcome Home MSgt Wilson. Thank you for your service.
Wow. What a story.
Thanks for posting this - I’m glad his daughter can put this to rest, and that he can now rest in peace and be curied next to his mother and father.
Give Her my condolences and May God Bless her always.
God Bless this brave man and his family. I’m glad his mortal remains are being brought back to Alabama.
Thats a very touching story. Thanks for posting this :)
Thats a very touching story. Thanks for posting this :)