LIMA — The remains of soldier who died in 1951 in Korea while being held as a prisoner of war during the Korean War will be returned to Lima this week.
Private First Class William Junior Winchester will posthumously receive a hero’s welcome from family members he never knew.
Winchester, 20, was a member of Company D, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, at the time of his death at the hands of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces.
Winchester was among the last of the Buffalo Soldiers, a nickname given to African-American service members in the segregated Army that paid tribute to black members of the 10th Calvary Regiment of the U.S. Army that dates back to 1866. He was captured by enemy forces near Unsan, North Korea, in November 1950 and was held as a prisoner of war. The whereabouts of his remains remained unknown for decades.
According to the U.S. Defense Department’s POW/MIA Accounting Agency, North Korea unilaterally turned over remains from prisoner of war camps to the United States in 1954 during a mission known as Operation Glory. None of the remains could be identified as Winchester, and he was declared non-recoverable.
The remains were subsequently buried as an unknown in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. On June 11, 2018, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency disinterred X-13442 Operation Glory and accessioned the remains to the laboratory.
Scientists used dental, anthropological and chest radiograph comparison analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence, to determine the remains were those of William Winchester. The family has been waiting since September of last year to bring their relative home.
James Winchester never knew his grandfather. Neither did his father, also named James, who was the only child of William Manchester and Millie Ann Cowan. But the younger Winchester — one of six grandchildren of the Korean War veteran — has heard a few stories about his grandfather.
“I know he played sports growing up in Alabama, and that he was played the guitar and sang in church. As one of the stories go, before he left home to go to war he sang to the family. The song he prophetically sang was titled something like ‘I Ain’t Coming Back This Way No More,’” James Winchester recalled.
Millie Ann Cowan moved from Alabama to Lima after her husband was captured “and the rest of my family all grew up in Lima,” said James.
“It’s been a long journey” for William Winchester to finally be reunited with his family, his grandson said.
Winchester’s remains will arrive in Dayton Tuesday on a commercial airliner and will be escorted from the airport to Lima by the Patriot Guard motorcycle group, an organization whose members attend the funerals of members of the U.S. military and first responders at the invitation of a decedent’s family, along with other motorcycle groups and representatives of first responders and law enforcement agencies.
At the Allen County line, the progression will swell with the addition of representatives from the local American Legion post, the Lima Fire Department and other agencies, James Winchester said.
Coleman Clark of Jones-Clark Funeral Home in Lima said the business was afforded a unique opportunity and honor Winchester when selected to handle the funeral arrangements for the American hero.
Clark said the Army presented Winchester’s family with a photograph of the skeletal remains and a book “with all the details” that led to the Lima man’s remains being returned to his hometown for proper interment.
A celebration of life will be held at noon Thursday at the Eleventh Street Missionary Baptist Church, 108 E. 11th St., Lima. Winchester’s remains will be interred in their final resting place in Memorial Park Cemetery following the ceremonies.