Remains of local man killed in Korean War return home

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More than 60 years after his death, Army Sgt. Joseph A. Bowen is coming home.

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Army Sgt. Joseph A. Bowen was killed in Korea on Nov. 30, 1950, but his body remained wasn't recovered until 2011.  SPECIAL
SPECIAL
Army Sgt. Joseph A. Bowen was killed in Korea on Nov. 30, 1950, but his body remained wasn't recovered until 2011.

Bowen was killed in action Nov. 30, 1950, but his body remained hidden in the frozen turf around North Korea’s Chosin Reservoir until the end of last year. Last month, his sister Margie Smoak-Gosnell received a phone call she never expected.

“We like to have fainted,” Smoak-Gosnell said when an Army casualty assistance officer told her Bowen had been uncovered in a ditch with about nine other bodies. A DNA sample given 11 years ago proved the match.

The past month has been dedicated to preparing the funeral Bowen never received. It’s a bittersweet time, said Bowen’s sister Ann Ford, the only other surviving family member.

“It just kind of came out of the blue,” she said.

Bowen, who went by “Hank” with friends and “Angus” with family, grew up with his three sisters in the working-class village around King Mill. He filled his time after school swimming in the placid waters of the canal, bowling and picking guitar with his friends. He was the second child and only son, but sibling rivalry was limited.

“Like all kids, we fought amongst ourselves, but he wasn’t much of a fighter,” Ford said. “If he’d lived long enough, he’d a been a lover.”

His sisters aren’t sure what compelled him to enlist in 1947, but by that time World War II was over and there weren’t any other fights on the horizon. Bowen trained as a medic at what was then called Camp Gordon, but it was an easy 9-to-5 job that allowed him to commute from home.

In the summer of 1950, hostilities broke out on the Korean peninsula. Bowen, by then a 19-year-old sergeant, was among the first American troops to be shipped overseas. By November, soldiers and Marines stationed along the Chosin Reservoir were beating a retreat in sub-zero temperatures with Chinese troops in pursuit.

Ford later read officers’ accounts of that retreat, which were typical of the situation that ultimately killed her brother. It seemed every Chinese soldier killed was replaced by two or three more. U.S. ammunition and supplies were running low.

“All they could do was withdraw,” said Ford, but the retreat was impeded by rough, mountainous terrain and cold weather that frequently turned lethal.

Back in Augusta, the flow of letters from Bowen had stopped. His parents suspected the worst but held out hope until they received a telegram in January 1951 that confirmed his death.

“It’s your worst nightmare. … My mother later said she cried all her tears when her son died,” said Ford, who was living with her parents when they were notified.

Smoak-Gosnell was married and living in Bamberg, S.C. She remembers it was a cold day, so she was surprised when a young relative pulled up on a motorcycle. She didn’t have a telephone in the house, so she guessed it was urgent news.

“I just looked at him and said, ‘Angus is dead, isn’t he?’ ” Smoak-Gosnell said.

The death was tragic, but not having a body to bury was almost worse. It robbed the family of the closure they needed and gave Bowen’s parents a seed of hope they would cling to until their deaths. H.T. Bowen would sometimes comment that his son could walk onto the porch at any time, Ford said.

A tombstone beside his parents’ graves, some grainy photos and a box of letters were all they had to remember their brother by. Years passed. In 2000, the sisters gave blood for a DNA test, but they didn’t hear results until the phone call in December. The body was among several recovered in cooperation with North Korean officials.

Bowen’s remains will arrive today in Columbia from Hawaii. Visitation is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday at Poteet Funeral Home, 3465 Peach Orchard Road, with a service at 11 a.m. Saturday at Hephzibah Baptist Church, 2527 Georgia Highway 88.

For his sisters, who still get teary-eyed talking about the brother they lost more than 60 years ago, it’s a joy to know he will be at peace in his native soil.

“For what time he had, he really enjoyed his life,” Ford said.

Comments (14) Add comment
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BamaMan
2677
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BamaMan 01/04/12 - 02:16 pm
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VERY handsome man. Thankful

VERY handsome man. Thankful for his service, thankful his sisters can finally put him to rest.

my.voice
5159
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my.voice 01/04/12 - 03:34 pm
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Thank you, SIR, for your

Thank you, SIR, for your ultimate sacrifice for my freedom. May we never forget what you gave in order for some of us to have the right to act like idiots. Thank you for bleeding on foreign soil so I have the freedom to stay home in a warm comfy home while your corpse laid in a cold, frozen land.

You are one of my heroes.

Lkn4Ans
245
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Lkn4Ans 01/04/12 - 03:44 pm
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Welcome home Sgt. Bowen. My

Welcome home Sgt. Bowen. My condolences to your ever-faithful sisters, Miss Smoak-Gosnell and Miss Ford, as they lay you to rest.

wildman
1217
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wildman 01/04/12 - 03:52 pm
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Thanks be to God!

Thanks be to God!

scorehouse
196
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scorehouse 01/04/12 - 06:37 pm
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may god eternally bless your
Unpublished

may god eternally bless your soul.

Riverman1
93270
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Riverman1 01/04/12 - 08:16 pm
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I hope there's a huge crowd

I hope there's a huge crowd at his funeral Saturday in Hephzibah.

scorehouse
196
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scorehouse 01/04/12 - 08:48 pm
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i think fort gordon should
Unpublished

i think fort gordon should step up and give him a full military burial! if they are not already?

juantez
254
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juantez 01/04/12 - 09:42 pm
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Welcome Home. We will never
Unpublished

Welcome Home. We will never forget.

Anon-a-mouse
20
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Anon-a-mouse 01/05/12 - 06:37 am
0
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All gave some and some gave

All gave some and some gave all. Welcome home Sergeant Bowen and rest in peace knowing your country loves you and appreciates your sacrifice. Thanks to your family for sharing your story and for being faithful to your memory.

augustadog
96
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augustadog 01/05/12 - 07:16 am
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He died 3 days before I was

He died 3 days before I was born and I am 61. Thank God he is coming home to rest in peace. There are no greater men than those in uniform.

joebowles
104
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joebowles 01/05/12 - 08:29 am
0
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Some people want politicians

Some people want politicians and atheletes to be looked at as heroes. They should all look at Sgt. Bowen!!!!! He is a real HEROE.

Riverman1
93270
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Riverman1 01/05/12 - 09:45 am
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I don't think this story has

I don't think this story has attracted enough interest. It is amazing his body was found after all these years in North Korea and we were able to get it returned. We should have a funeral worthy of a hero for him. I hope everyone shows up for his funeral and donates flowers. It's the least we can do for this man.

Cynical old woman
1111
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Cynical old woman 01/05/12 - 12:45 pm
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0
Thank you, Sir, for your

Thank you, Sir, for your ultimate sacrifice.

michaela78
0
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michaela78 01/05/12 - 01:27 pm
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I must admit, at times like

I must admit, at times like these I am so proud to be an Army wife knowing that MY husband and his team have the privilege of providing the honorable military escort home (and burial) for this long lost soldier after all these years!!! Prayers to the family that they can be at peace now knowing he is no longer lost, but home where he belongs.
Welcome Home Hero and thank you for paying the ultimate sacrifice, you will never be forgotten Sgt. Bowen. Rest In Peace now!

To all those that support our military, do not be sad for all these Heroes get the biggest wings in heaven!!!

philga4223
0
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philga4223 01/05/12 - 05:44 pm
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Just want to say Thank you,

Just want to say Thank you, because of your bravely, I am free man.
I am a Korean. Thank you again.

Riverman1
93270
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Riverman1 01/07/12 - 12:01 am
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There should be every public

There should be every public official in the CSRA at the funeral today and thousands of others. This is a tremendous opportunity for us to pay service to our forgotten soldier from right here in the CSRA. I hope the Chronicle has more on this important event.

astheworldturns
30
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astheworldturns 09/21/12 - 08:58 am
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HERO

Welcome home SGT Bowen...Thank you for your service for us to be free...You are a true hero!

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