A U.S. Army ambulance driver from Reeds, who disappeared during the battle at the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea in the frigid winter of 1950, is coming home later this month to be buried with his family.
The U.S. Department of Defense announced Monday that remains of Sgt. Loyd A. Alumbaugh, who was 21 when he went missing, had been identified by DNA in one of 55 boxes of human remains turned over by North Korea in 2018.
“We always knew that that’s probably where he was and what happened,” said Connie Hoover, a niece of Alumbaugh and the former Jasper County assessor. “Then for the DNA to actually prove, yes, this is him and he was there and lost his life that day fighting for our country, it’s a little emotional for me because I’ve heard of Uncle Loyd from the time I was born. I wish my dad was here to know that he’s coming back home.”
Hoover said the family is planning a private service Friday, June 25, at a cemetery in Reeds to bury him with other members of the family.
The Department of Defense said Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency lab used mitochondrial DNA analysis to confirm Alumbaugh’s remains.
“On July 27, 2018, North Korea turned over 55 boxes, purported to contain the remains of American service members killed during the Korean War,” the Defense Department said in a written release. “The remains arrived at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii on Aug. 1, 2018.”
The Defense Department said Alumbaugh’s unit, the 7th Medical Battalion, 7th Infantry Division, was fighting around the Chosin Reservoir when Alumbaugh was reported missing in action on Nov. 28, 1950.
“Alumbaugh’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, along with the others who are still missing from the Korean War,” the department said. “A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.”
The Alumbaugh family had long hoped to bring Loyd Alumbaugh home some day.
In 2003, Loyd Alumbaugh’s sister, Mary Meyer, and his brother, Jim Alumbaugh, gave blood to the U.S. Army to give them something to use to identify his remains if they were ever recovered.
In an article in The Carthage Press dated Nov. 6, 2003, Meyer said she was hopeful that they could still bring her brother home.
“I think they’re getting closer now, I really do,” Meyer said in the article. “If they find 18 (soldiers) a month from now they’ll probably find my brother.”
Meyer died in 2016.
Hoover said she was relieved when the Defense Department called to say he’d been found.
“The whole family has heard of him and waited for this news,” Hoover said. “It’s kind of bittersweet. Dad passed away in 2011, but I wish he had lived to see that he made it back.”
Hoover said Loyd Alumbaugh was one of six siblings who grew up in Reeds.
Their mother, Opal Alumbaugh, died soon after the sixth child was born. Their father, Raymond Alumbaugh, operated a gas station in Reeds and was killed in an accident about a decade after Loyd Alumbaugh was reported missing.
Hoover said the family talked about Loyd Alumbaugh often.
“Mainly what I remember was just he was well liked and he was a good brother,” Hoover said.
An October 1993 article in The Carthage Press described what happened to Alumbaugh as presented to a group of veterans of the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir who gathered in Carthage for a reunion.
The Battle of the Chosin Reservoir lasted from Nov. 27 to Dec. 13, 1950, and took place when hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers surprised the U.S., South Korean and United Nations forces as they pushed into North Korea and approached the Yalu River, which formed the border between China and North Korea.
The battle took place in mountainous territory and in temperatures as low as minus 36.
Alumbaugh was killed at the start of the battle when his unit was ambushed.
The article said C.J. Eike, a spokesman for the “Chosin Few,” as they called themselves, said Alumbaugh’s medical company traveled by truck convoy to the eastern shore of the Chosin Reservoir in winter snow and temperatures well below zero up narrow mountain roads.
Eike said the convoy reached the reservoir just as the Communist Chinese army closed all roads in and out of the area.
“He explained that the company was ambushed by a full Chinese regiment ‘with great force,’” the article said. “He quoted one of the survivors of the action in that area as stating; ‘I was told the enemy had been systematically walking down the convoy shooting anyone they found alive. One man reported he had acted dead to avoid being shot.’ It was during that episode that Sgt. Alumbaugh died.”
Army records say Alumbaugh was last seen alive on Nov. 28, 1950.
During a 1993 ceremony, Alumbaugh’s family was presented the military honors and decorations he earned, including the Navy Presidential Unit Citation, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation, the U.S. Combat Medical Badge, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Medal, the Korean Service Medal with three bronze stars, the U.S. World War II Occupation Medal, the U.N. Korean Service Medal and the Republic of Korea Service Medal.