- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2002

The remains of a U.S. Marine missing since the Korean War will be laid to rest today at Arlington National Cemetery.
Radar operator Sgt. James V. Harrell's plane disappeared while returning to base May 30, 1953, after escorting a convoy of B-29s on a bombing run in North Korea. His remains were found last summer on a beach just miles from the base in Kunsan, South Korea.
Among those planning to attend will be Sgt. Harrell's niece, Jimmie McClung, who lives in Austin, Texas. She was 2 when the uncle whose name she bears disappeared.
"He's always been a part of my life," she said.
She said Sgt. Harrell who was 21 when he was lost was described as a prankster, a religious and patriotic young man who joined the Marines out of high school.
"I'm greatly relieved because we're going to give him the honors he's due," said Sgt. Harrell's close friend and squadron mate Ron Stout, of Burien, Wash., who will be at today's ceremony. "It's an article of faith among Marines that you bring your dead home."
He remembers meeting Sgt. Harrell, or "Red," in the summer of 1952 at airborne intercept operator school at Cherry Point, N.C.
In April 1953 the two men were assigned to the Marine All Weather Fighter Squadron 513, nicknamed the "Flying Nightmares," based in Kunsan, South Korea.
They flew Douglas F3D-2 "Skynights," a "primitive" jet that was used to escort packs of about a dozen B-29s on nightly bombing missions into the north. The nightly grind took its toll on the men and the machines.
But Mr. Stout clearly remembers the night almost 49 years ago when his friend didn't return.
The men's planes were assigned to fly in advance of the convoy at the mouth of the Yalu River deep in North Korea. Sgt. Harrell's plane was piloted by Capt. James B. Brown.
"When we got to a point south of Seoul, we switched to the tower at Kunsan and they were still under the control of a tower farther north. When we parked the airplane and went into base they asked us what happened to Harrell and Brown. We said not too much could have happened to them because they were two minutes behind us."
The next day Mr. Stout and Sgt. Harrell received letters of promotion to staff sergeant.
The squadron could only conduct searches during the day, and then only for a few days. The Air Force took over the search.
"They were never able to find him," said Mr. Stout, who was 19 at the time.
He speculates it could have been an engine failure caused by the unique design of the F3D-2. The jets ran on gasoline that also served as an engine lubricant, he said. When the plane ran out of fuel, the engine could seize up and cause the plane to explode.
In Austin, Mrs. McClung had spent a lifetime quietly searching for her uncle.
Then in December, she received what she describes as a "bittersweet" call from her mother, Sgt. Harrell's sister, telling her the Marine Corps Casualty Office had used dental records to provide a positive match on remains found last summer on a beach bordering the Yellow Sea near Kunsan.
Mrs. McClung's mother, devastated by the loss of Sgt. Harrell, has chosen not to speak about it.
Mrs. McClung said she was told the discovery of her uncle's remains was made by a passer-by who saw something suspicious while walking along the beach.
She said South Korean police were called and then American authorities excavated around the discovery. The remains were taken to Honolulu, where they were positively identified. Dog tags and pieces of a flight jacket were also recovered.
Using the Internet, she found several of her uncle's squadron buddies, including Mr. Stout. Today they will meet, share stories and photographs, and hope the discovery of Sgt. Harrell keeps other families optimistic that their missing loved ones might be returned.
According to the Department of Defense, 88,000 U.S. service members are missing in action from all conflicts. The pilot of Sgt. Harrell's plane, Capt. Brown, remains one of them.


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