Final long-awaited journey home

By Randy Rucker - Contributing columnist|PDT

(Left) John Fairchild holding photos and medals of his brothers and (Right)Photo of Ray Fairchild, soldier whose body is finally returning home.

(Left) John Fairchild holding photos and medals of his brothers and (Right)Photo of Ray Fairchild, soldier whose body is finally returning home.

Submitted Photo

The Korean War lasted only three years from 1950 to 1953, but for some, it never ended. Such, is the case for John Fairchild and his family, upon learning that a beloved son and brother had died in a foxhole somewhere inside the southern border of North Korea in November of that year. The Korean Southern Border is often called the 38th parallel.

It has been said that Korea was no good place to fight a war. Perhaps the 20 below zero weather many young soldiers faced in their assault on this Northern Korea Peninsula, proved this point.

It was in June of 1950 that a communist North Korea invaded South Korea supported by China. The United States of America came to the aid of South Korea to evict them from the country.

The older Ray Fairchild with brother John and another sister were born in a two-room house in Salyersville Kentucky(At that time it was known as Big Bill Branch). John and Hallie Fairchild were the parents. Son John and Ray’s sister, now deceased, was Bonnie Cantrell.

Private First Class Ray Fairchild would have been one of the first American marine units to cross the 38th parallel into North Korea. A part of the Dog Company of the first marine corps, they were in fierce conflict with Korean and Chinese forces.

As the battle raged they were supported by another very familiar unit, Charlie Company, which also became well-known during the Vietnam War.

It was Chinese troops who had the marines cornered under heavy mortar and small gunfire at a location now known as Hill 1240. This was on November 27 of 1950 and raged through the early morning of the twenty-eighth.

The US Marine Corps reported to the Fairchild family that as a result of this extended battle, he had been reported as killed in action on November 27, 1950.

On February 1, 1951, the United States Marines signed a death certificate for Ray. Five months later, Mrs. Fairchild, mother of Ray wrote to the US Quartermaster. She wished to know where he was buried and whether the Fairchild family would be receiving him home for appropriate burial. That letter may have not been answered with any satisfying information.

Despite the finality of Private Fairchild’s death, and the inaccessible reach of the remains of he and other American soldiers, the United States War Department did not lose hope that MIA or KIA Americans may one day return to American soil.

Now it is known, that following PFC Fairchild’s death, his comrades took him to a North Korean village of Yudam-n, where he was buried in a temporary grave of the 1st Marine Division.

After much negotiation, the US military department in February of 1954, received remains of an unidentified soldier, X-13474 (military identification) from Yudam-ni. The soldier Ray Fairchild was retrieved by North Koreans. Those being returned from Korea, first went through a military identification center located in Kokura, Japan.

The procedure was named, “Operation Glory,” whereby 2,944 American soldiers were being returned, many unidentifiable. Twenty-three sets of these remains were thought to have come from the First Marine temporary burial site in Yudam-ni. That, of course, included X-13474.

As a result, the remains of many American soldiers killed and unidentified from Korea, were eventually brought for interment at the National Memorial Cemetary of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii.

John Fairchild, the last immediate survivor of the family and brother of Ray Fairchild, has interesting stories of his own. John retired from the Local Union 577 (Plumbers and Pipefitters Union).

He was successful in his hobbies. For many years he built and raced motorcycles. As a harness racehorse owner, his horses were very successful at Ohio’s Scioto Downs. Photos of winning high Sire Stake races adorn his walls.

Approximately 5 years ago, John was contacted by the U.S. Military Department that they would like some saliva sample to conduct a DNA investigation with some of the remains. That being done, recently, he was contacted that his brother’s remains would be returned for internment by the family.

A representative of the military who dropped by his home with this information said, “I don’t know your politics, but you have your current President to thank as he is the one who brought interest in returning lost American soldiers from the Korean War.

A military service will be conducted at Magoffin County Funeral Home in Salyersville, Kentucky on November 23rd, 2019. The service time will be 1:00 p.m. This will be a public service and friends may visit from 10 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. Burial will follow in the Fairchild Family Cemetary on Mashfork Road in Salyersville.

A mother’s prayer answered! After 69 years, a local man, Ray P. Fairchild is coming home! His mother, family and living brother got their wish.

My thanks also go to a nephew Drew Rucker of Wheelersburg and owner of Shorty’s Barbershop, who introduced me to this wonderful story and an opportunity to meet with John Fairchild.

(Left) John Fairchild holding photos and medals of his brothers and (Right)Photo of Ray Fairchild, soldier whose body is finally returning home. John Fairchild holding photos and medals of his brothers and (Right)Photo of Ray Fairchild, soldier whose body is finally returning home. Submitted Photo

By Randy Rucker

Contributing columnist|PDT