Coming home
April 25, 2013 11:04 AM   Subscribe

After 63 years, Lt. Col. Don Carlos Faith, Jr. has come home.

Faith was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery last week by members of the U.S. Army's Old Guard. The last time anyone saw Faith was at the Chosin Reservoir in 1950, site of one of the most brutal battles of the Korean War.

Faith was born in 1918, in Washington, Indiana. He hoped to attend West Point, but was denied entry when he failed his physical exam. He attended Georgetown University instead, and after his graduation in June 1941 tried again to enlist. This time, he was accepted, and entered Officer Candidate School. Following America's entry into World War II, Faith was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, where he served as an aide to Brig. Gen. Matthew Ridgway. During the war, Faith made every combat jump with the Division, received two Bronze Stars, and was promoted to lieutenant colonel.

After the war, Faith was reassigned to the 7th Infantry Division. When war broke out on the Korean peninsula in the summer of 1950, the 7th was sent to repel the North Korean advance. Faith was given command of 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry. After Gen. Douglas MacArthur's successful operation at Inchon and the near-destruction of the North Korean People's army, the war appeared to be nearing its end by late fall of 1950. The arrival of the Chinese People's Volunteer Army in October, however, changed the equation.

In response, MacArthur put his Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Ned Almond, in charge of X Corps and tasked him with severing the Chinese supply lines. Almond, believing the Chinese forces to be relatively small, stretched his forces out over a 400-mile front. When the Chinese attacked at Chosin on November 27, many of the Americans found themselves fighting in some of the most inhospitable terrain in Korea. To make matters worse, the weather was so cold that blood supplies froze, vehicles wouldn't start, and weapons were rendered useless. Almond, still convinced that the Americans held the advantage, told his troops, "The enemy who is delaying you for the moment is nothing more than remnants of Chinese divisions fleeing north. We're still attacking and we're going all the way to the Yalu. Don't let a bunch of Chinese laundry-men stop you."

However, the Americans soon found themselves surrounded by the Chinese forces. With no reinforcements, dwindling ammunition, and men freezing to death in their foxholes, Faith's commander Col. Allan MacLean attempted to move the 1/32 and the 1/31 (known as Task Force MacLean) south to meet up with other UN forces. MacLean was killed during the withdrawal, and Faith took command of the unit, now known as Task Force Faith.

After repelling several heavy assaults by the Chinese, Faith attempted a breakout on Dec. 1. During the retreat, the unit was mistakenly bombed with napalm by American jets. Faith's men then ran into a Chinese roadblock. Wounded by a grenade, Faith nonetheless directed the assault on the roadblock, firing his pistol and throwing grenades until the obstruction was destroyed. The task force continued south until it reached another roadblock. Chinese forces attacked again, and Faith was killed. His body was abandoned when the remnants of the convoy left their trucks and fled on foot. Of the approximately 3,000 members of Task Force Faith, only 385 were still able to fight.

In 1951, President Truman awarded the Medal of Honor to Don Faith. In 2004, Faith's remains were recovered by a Joint Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command (JPAC) field recovery team. In 2012, these remains were positively identified through DNA testing as those of Faith. At his funeral last week, a flag was presented to his daughter, Barbara "Bobbie" Broyles, who last saw her father when she was four years old.
posted by Rangeboy (10 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
The work of JPAC, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, is difficult and important and very fraught. They venture into places that are still a focus of international tension, like Korea, or into areas still very wild, like New Guinea:

They bring closure to families many years after a service member was lost, often to children or grandchildren. Neat science, and pretty humane, from what I have heard.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:13 AM on April 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

This is a great post.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:15 AM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well done Rangeboy. This is quite the story. Thanks for posting.
posted by kinnakeet at 11:17 AM on April 25, 2013

My department has a strong forensic anthropology bent to it; many of our grad students have internships there and go on to work there post-PhD. Here's an article and photographs from some students from my department who were working in Vietnam on behalf of JPAC a few years back.
posted by ChuraChura at 11:22 AM on April 25, 2013

Great post.
posted by daHIFI at 11:28 AM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Great post. Glad he made it home finally.
posted by arcticseal at 11:57 AM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

For decades, Faith’s remains lay in an unmarked mass grave in North Korea alongside members of what became known as Task Force Faith, following one of the grimmest episodes in American military history. His remains, located by a joint U.S.-North Korean team in 2004, were identified last year through DNA testing.

It seems the US MIA teams have been in North Korea as recently as 2012:

"Beginning in 1996, North Korean and U.S. military teams conducted 33 joint recovery missions looking for remains inside North Korea. More than 225 sets of remains were located, and brought out of the reclusive country. But all that changed in 2005 when then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld suspended the work, saying that due to rising nuclear tensions at the time, he felt the safety of the U.S. teams could not be guaranteed."
posted by three blind mice at 12:24 PM on April 25, 2013

Tom Hanks really needs to do a series on this war.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:31 PM on April 25, 2013

I'm a broadcast journalist for the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), and I filmed the graveside ceremony that took place. Additionally, I interviewed Mrs. Broyles about her experience... If you have any questions, memail me. I'll also be keeping an eye on this thread today.
posted by SeanMac at 2:56 AM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

The 7th Infantry Division, to which LTC Faith was assigned, was just reactivated at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. When I got to Ft. Lewis, I was assigned to the Division before it was reactivated and I had a hand in setting up the Division headquarters. As such, I had to help create a memorial area for all of 7th ID's Medal of Honor recipients from World War II and Korea. I saw this post and remembered his name from the many Medal of Honor recipients from that war. Great post, Rangeboy.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 12:10 PM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

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