Just weeks shy of 70 years missing in action, the remains of Korean War veteran Pfc. Roger Lee Woods will return home to Goshen, Ohio, this week.
Woods disappeared July 29, 1950, in a battle near Kochange Republic of Korea just a few weeks past his 18th birthday. On Dec. 31, 1953, the Army issued a “presumptive finding of death” because he had not been heard from following the battle. He was also promoted to private first class.
His remains will be flown into the Cincinnati airport today, July 9, with a processional via 275 through Miami Township to Goshen where he will be taken to Evans Funeral Home about noon.
Historical and military groups have encouraged everyone to line the streets with flags to welcome him home. Woods will be buried Thursday, July 11, at about 11:30 a.m. in the Goshen Cemetery. The route will be from Evans Funeral Home turning right on new 28, right on Goshen Road, right onto new 28 and left into Goshen Cemetery. Everyone is encouraged to line the streets as Woods is taken to his final resting place. He will be buried with full military honors near his parents and siblings.
Although Woods will be buried in Ohio, he spent some of his childhood in Georgetown and Corinth, said his niece, Stevie Rose, 69, who was instrumental in bringing her uncle’s remains home.
“He knew the Wilhoits and John Marbury Sr. well,” she said. “From what I can tell he had fond memories of his time in and near Georgetown. I thought there may be someone in Georgetown who remembers him or the family and would want to know what happened to him.”
When Woods left for the war, Rose was unborn but her uncle was clearly enamored. One of his letters home was almost entirely about his baby niece and his sister, her mom, and another letter prominently mentioned his young niece. Because of his interest, Rose felt a bond with the uncle she never met. She remembers the sadness that enveloped her family when Woods was declared missing and then deceased.
“My grandfather suffered dearly,” she said in an interview with WCPO-TV in Cincinnati. “All the boys — I call them boys, my dad’s brothers — they couldn’t hardly talk about it.”
About two decades ago, Rose began searching for information about her uncle. She found unanswered letters her grandmother had written seeking information, property records, notifications from the Army, photographs and other memorabilia, but little that revealed the location of her uncle.
In 2011 the Korean War Project, a group that works to identify and repatriate the remains of soldiers killed on the Korean Peninsula, reached out to Rose. At first, there wasn’t much progress, but for eight years Rose stayed in contact and continued to pursue information. Then, in 2018, the Korean War Project alerted Rose that a grave of an “unknown” soldier was being exhumed for DNA, and may be that of her uncle.
“The Korean War Project is great,” Rose said. “I can tell you with certainty my uncle’s remains would not be coming home if it were not for them.”
Based upon historical records, the 565th Quartermaster Graves Registration Company recovered a set of remains from an isolated grave near Kochange Town, South Korea. The remains were originally designated as Unknown X-274 Miryang and later X-274 Tanggok. The remains were removed from a single grave on Oct. 29, 1950, according to a tag located with the remains.
On April 20, 1955, the remains were determined to be unidentifiable and transferred to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu and interred with the marker, “Unknown.”
Last year, the Korean War Project located the remains, and Woods was identified with DNA.
“I am overwhelmed,” Rose said. She said the pain she witnessed her family experience will finally be eased with her uncle’s return.
“I think they’ll all be at peace because I honestly believe that they know he’s coming home,” she told WCPO. “I’m that kind of believer. I believe Uncle Roger knows he’s coming home now, and he’s going to be at peace by his father.”
Mike Scogin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.