The Remains of a Medal of Honor Winner Were Found in Georgia, After 73 Years

As North Korean forces moved in, members of the 9th Infantry Regiment fled in panic. Army Private First Class Luther Herschel Story, age 18, was injured and worried that he would slow down the rest of his company during a withdrawal.

The events of September 1, 1950, during the Korean War, ensured Story’s place in history books. A portrait of him and the Medal of Medal, the nation’s highest military medal, hang in the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Georgia, about an hour from his hometown of Americus.

But Story disappeared without a trace, and his last resting place was not known for a long time. “In my family, we always believed that he would never be found,” said Judy Wade, Story’s niece and closest living relative.

In April, however, the U.S. military reported that DNA tests had linked Wade and her late mother to the remains of an unnamed American soldier discovered in Korea in October 1950. A case agent confirmed to Wade over the phone that the remains were those of Story. He was finally going back to his childhood home after over 73 years.

The Remains of a Medal of Honor Winner Were Found in Georgia, After 73 Years (1)
The Remains of a Medal of Honor Winner Were Found in Georgia, After 73 Years (1)

On Monday, May 30th, a funeral with full military honors was set to take place in the Andersonville National Cemetery in commemoration of Memorial Day. On Wednesday, once Story’s body had finally arrived in Georgia, a police procession with flashing lights led the casket through the streets of nearby Americus.

Wade, whose uncle went missing in the military, was born four years after her uncle vanished. “I don’t have to worry about him anymore,” she added. As his wife put it, “I’m just glad he’s home.” Jimmy Carter was one of the many that welcomed back Story with open arms.

According to Wade, when Story was a young kid, his family lived and worked in Plains on land that belonged to Carter’s grandfather, James Earl Carter Sr. As of February, 98-year-old Jimmy Carter has been receiving hospice care at his Plains home.

According to Jimmy Carter National Historical Park superintendent Jill Stuckey, she informed Carter about the Story de@th as soon as she learned of it. “Oh, there was a big smile on his face,” Stuckey said. “He was very excited to know that a hero was coming home.”

Story was raised by his father, a sharecropper, in Sumter County, roughly 150 miles south of Atlanta. Young Story helped his parents and elder siblings pick cotton since he had a good sense of humor and enjoyed baseball. The job was strenuous, and the remuneration was low.

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Wade, whose mother Gwendolyn Story Chambliss was an older sister of Luther Story, said that his mother had discussed eating sweet potatoes three times a day. She often reminisced about the times when her fingers were bleeding from picking cotton from the bolls late at night.

Everyone in the household was obligated to contribute to the effort. When Story’s parents found greater employment opportunities in the county seat of Americus, the family made the decision to relocate. He enrolled in high school, but soon set his sights on joining the military in the years following World War II.

His mother gave her consent for him to join the Army and enlist in 1948. She wrote down July 20th, 1931 as his birth date. However, Wade said that she had since gotten a copy of her uncle’s birth certificate, which indicated that he was born in 1932, making him only 16 years old when he enlisted.

During Story’s second year, he decided to drop out. He went to Korea with Company A, 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment in the summer of 1950, right as the conflict was heating up. When Story’s regiment was reaching the Naktong River settlement of Agok on September 1, 1950, they were ambushed by three divisions of North Korean infantry.

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According to his citation for the Medal of Honor, Story took control of a machine gun and sh*t at enemy soldiers crossing the river, killing or wounded around 100 of them. Story rushed into a road and tossed grenades into an oncoming truck carrying North Korean troops and ammunition as his company commander ordered a retreat. He ignored his wounds and kept fighting.

“Realizing that his wounds would hamper his comrades, he refused to retire to the next position but remained to cover the company’s withdrawal,” Story’s award citation said. “When last seen he was firing every weapon available and fighting off another hostile assault.”

It was assumed that Story had passed away. If he had lived to the age indicated on his birth certificate, which Wade did get, he would have been 18 years old. His father was awarded Story’s Medal of Honor at a ceremony at the Pentagon back in 1951. After Story passed away, he was given the rank of corporal.

The U.S. military located a body in the area where Story was last seen fighting in Korea about a month after he vanished. The bones were interred at Hawaii’s National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific alongside those of other service personnel who have yet to be identified.

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