by Priscilla Rall
Frederick County’s Lost in the
Forgotten War (Part 1)
The Korean conflict is often called the “Forgotten War.” More than 36,000 men lost their lives in Korea, 27 from Frederick County. Seven thousand men are still missing, their remains in unmarked graves, many in North Korea where they died in POW camps.
PFC Harvey E. Luby
The first Frederick County native lost in Korea was PFC Harvey E. Luby. Born in 1930, he was one of the seven children born to John and Fanny Luby of East 5th Street in Frederick. After graduating from Lincoln High School in 1948, he joined the Army. Harvey wrote his sister, Elizabeth, on June 22 that he had left Seattle in May and had arrived safely in Korea. PFC Luby served in the all-black 24th Regiment I Co., part of the 25th Division. The 24th was one of the first units to arrive in Korea. It was still a segregated unit, despite the proven ability of African-Americans to fight, amply demonstrated in WWII.
After landing at Pusan on July 12, this green regiment was put on the line almost immediately. By July 20, the 24th was at Yechon, where it was soon attacked by an overwhelming number of North Korean soldiers. In the opening month of the war, with little training, few working weapons, and dubious leadership, many Americans from many units retreated in disarray, including the 24th. With the U.S. forces retreating time and time again, the brass looked for a scapegoat for the Army’s poor performance. The 24th with its African-American troops was the natural choice of a prejudiced Army, and the only unit identified as leaving the field of battle. The masses of white soldiers “bugging out” were ignored. The Medal of Honor, awarded to the African-American, PFC William Thompson with the 24th, was conveniently overlooked.
On July 22, the 25th took up the position southwest of Yechon, where the NKPA soon dislodged them. But the 3rd Battalion 24th courageously held its position in central South Korea until July 30, when it finally fell back. This courageous stand cost PFC Luby his life on July 26, 1950, one of the 23 soldiers in the 24th lost that day. PFC Luby was buried in Fairview Cemetery in Frederick.
Sgt. Charles W. Barton, Jr.
Sgt. Charles W. Barton, Jr. of Hagerstown was the son of Charles Barton, Sr. and had five brothers and three sisters. He attended St. Mary’s High School in Hagerstown before enlisting in September 1948 and serving in Japan. By January 1950, Charles had been promoted from PFC to corporal in E/2/7 Cavalry. But when the Korean War began in June, Sgt. Barton’s 7th Cavalry was sent into combat in Korea. The enemy crossed the Naktong River on August 9, and the 7th Cavalry was ordered to push the enemy back across the Naktong, which they did. But the enemy crossed the river once again and were again met by the troopers of the 7th Cavalry. It was on the enemy’s third effort on August 14, that Sgt. Barton lost his life.
The Barton family endured hard times. In 1940, Charles Sr. was working with the WPA. He had only a sixth-grade education, and his wife had left school after the fifth grade. One of their sons, William, had died in 1934, only four months old. Now they had lost their eldest son, Charles Jr. His parents were notified by telegram on August 22, 1950, that their son was MIA. They received no further news from the government until a registered letter arrived in January 1954, informing them that Sgt. Barton Jr. had been declared dead. His body has not yet been recovered. Charles Sr. died one year later, in 1955, only 44 years old. One can imagine that his death was from a broken heart.
PFC Charles Clark Roberts
One Frederick County family lost two sons in two wars. PFC Charles Clark Roberts was born in Frederick in December 1932 to Forrest and Grace Roberts. His older brother, Sgt. Clarence Roberts, had survived Pearl Harbor and Guadalcanal but was killed in 1945 in the Philippines. Charles left school to work on a farm in Walkersville before enlisting in the Army in February 1950. Pvt. Roberts was assigned to B/1/29, attached to the 24th Division. In the last letter received by his father that was written on June 28, Pvt. Roberts wrote he would soon be shipping out to Korea from Okinawa. The 29th landed at Pusan on July 23. Not only had they not had the promised 16 weeks of training in Japan, but after docking, the 29th entrained to Chinju. They were sent immediately into combat with none of their weapons zeroed in, and their machine guns still covered in cosmoline. Before bedding down in and around a schoolhouse, the soldiers were greeted by a mess. Sgt. Meeks and a good, hot meal. The next morning, the area was searched for any enemy forces, but none were found. The following day, July 26, the 29th loaded into trucks, and the convoy drove towards the front, passing the withdrawing 24th Division. Then, without warning, the convoy was ambushed and cut in half. B and C Companies were hardest hit and forced to retreat. They fell back to the small town of Hadong, where the fighting went on throughout the night. PFC Roberts was one of the 91 percent of B Co. that was lost during this action. It was the deadliest firefight of the entire war, and his body was not able to be recovered. PFC Roberts was only 17 years old and had been in Korea for just four days. He left behind his parents, who had now lost two sons in service to our country.
PFC Charles Austin Brandenburg Jr.
The South Koreans and the Americans were being pushed into the southeastern corner of Korea, in an area bound by the Netcong River. The battle at the city of Taegu was part of a huge enemy offensive, meant to drive the Americans into the sea. PFC Charles Austin Brandenburg, Jr., called “Autie” by his family and friends, hailed from Frederick. Just 18 years old, a machine gunner with G Co. in the 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, he had come to Korea on July 18, 1950. Only four days later, the 1st Cavalry and the 25th Division were deployed in relief of the 24th Division. By July 29, the 1st Cavalry was forced to retreat. The huge enemy offense launched on September 1 hit the entire 1st Cavalry. PFC Brandenburg’s 8th Cavalry was ordered to take a mountaintop near Taegu. The ill-planned mission, setting out on a wet and foggy day, had no chance of success. PFC Brandenburg’s D Co. and E Co. were decimated, incurring 50 percent casualties. PFC Brandenburg was killed in this battle on September 3, 1950. His loss was mourned by his parents, Charles Sr. and Helen Baker Brandenburg and six siblings. His mother, Helen, lived to be 104, dying in 2017, almost 67 years to the day that she lost her son in the Korean War. PFC Brandenburg was buried in the Harmony Church of the Brethren Cemetery in Myersville.
Cpl. Norman R. Thompson and PFC George W. Boyce
The UN forces were stretched thin as they tried to cover the entire front along the Pusan Perimeter. Cpl. Norman R. Thompson and PFC George W. Boyce were with G Company, 9th Regiment, trying to hold the line along the Naktong River. Cpl. Noman Rudolph Thompson was born in Ijamsville in 1924. PFC Boyce was born in 1931 in Garrett County to James and Bessie Bernard Boyce. His father began working in the coal mines as a blacksmith, but, by 1940, he was working as a miner for the Johnstown Coal and Coke Co. in Vindex. Bessie died in 1944 when George was 13. Times were hard, especially with four brothers and four sisters in the Boyce family. It was not surprising that George, or “Skip” as his family called him, enlisted in the Army in 1948 when he was just 17. G Co. had seen fierce fighting in August. The enemy attacked all along the Naktong Bulge on September 1, and the 9th was hit hard, losing 144 men, including PFC George Boyce and Cpl. Norman Thompson.
If you are a veteran or know a veteran who is willing to tell his or her story, contact the Frederick County Veterans History Project at firstname.lastname@example.org.