- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 2, 2002

A U.S. Marine missing since 1953 was laid to rest at long last yesterday in Arlington National Cemetery.
About three dozen people attended services for radar operator Sgt. James "Red" Harrell, who was 21 when his plane disappeared while returning to its base at Kunsan, South Korea, on May 30, 1953.
Sgt. Harrell's niece, Jimmie McClung, eulogized the uncle she was named after as "a man who believed in God and country and chose to join the Marines at a time when his country needed him."
She was presented with an American flag, her uncle's dog tags and the belated thanks of a grateful nation.
Mrs. McClung, a 2-year-old girl when Sgt. Harrell disappeared nearly half a century ago, joked about the difficulties she endured going through life with a man's name. But she turned serious to describe the bond she felt it created between her and the uncle she never knew.
"I think my uncle would have thought that was quite humorous," she said, "and I also think we would have been quite close."
She said she and her husband had spent years making inquiries into her uncle's disappearance, to no avail.
"Now our search is over," she said, breaking into tears at the pulpit.
Charles Harrell, Sgt. Harrell's nephew, came to honor a promise he made to his father, who died in 1986 not knowing the fate of his brother.
"One of the last things he asked me to do was attend the service if they ever found his brother," Mr. Harrell said.
Sgt. Harrell's remains were found last summer on a beach just miles from the base in Kunsan. The pilot of the plane, Capt. James B. Brown, is still missing.
After the service, the flag-draped casket containing Sgt. Harrell's remains was escorted to the grave site by an honor guard of Marines, who fired a 21-gun salute in a steady rain.
As a lone bugler played taps, the rain lessened. And as the honor guard strode in formation from the grave site, the sun came out.
At least one former Marine could be seen dabbing his eyes.
Three members of Sgt. Harrell's squadron, the Marine All Weather Fighter Squadron 513, nicknamed the "Flying Nightmares," attended the service.
At a reception afterward, Mrs. McClung shared yellowed photographs Sgt. Harrell had sent home decades ago. His squadron mates identified themselves and the other young men that appeared in the photos, stopping with each picture to tell a story.
Squadron member Ron Harbison balanced himself with his cane as he lifted a foot, muddied from standing at the graveside of his friend, to demonstrate the crouch required to fit in the radar operator's seat.
"You've changed," Harold Ruddy said, teasing his bespectacled, white-haired squadron mate, Ron Stout.
Mr. Stout recalled the night Sgt. Harrell was lost.
They were flying separately in 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, he said.
Returning from a mission deep in North Korea, he recalled a final radio conversation he had with Sgt. Harrell.
"We passed through their sector and had to identify ourselves," he said. "We talked to them on the radio, and Red said they had been relieved and would fall in behind us."
But Sgt. Harrell's plane never returned.
"By any reckoning they were only two minutes behind us," said Mr. Stout, who traveled from Burien, Wash., to attend the service,
Mr. Harbison came from Saxonburg, Pa., and Mr. Ruddy from Long Branch, N.J.
"As soon as I heard about this, I said, 'I'm coming down,'" Mr. Harbison said. To this day, he said, they all still wonder what happened to Sgt. Harrell's plane.
"I'm not saying I think about it every day, but over 49 years, I have thought about it," he said. "It's something you do because you don't know."
"It's truly stressful not to recover a friend's body," Mr. Stout added.
Mike Mankin drove 18 hours with his wife, Ileana, after reading about the service in a Marine newsletter. A former Marine himself, he said he was compelled to come and support Sgt. Harrell's family.
"It's because we don't forget our own," he said.


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