Gudmund Johnson Jr. lived in Red Wing until the age of 17 when he joined the U.S. Army. He was deployed to Korea in 1950. In November 1950, Johnson was listed as a prisoner of war. Now, after being missing in action for nearly 70 years, Johnson is coming home.
According to the U.S. Army’s website, the Republic of Korea and United Nations troops fought to hold their position southwest of Unsan, North Korea, in October 1950 during the Korean War. U.S. troops were ordered to provide support. Johnson and his 3rd Battalion were part of those sent to support.
“After days of hard fighting,” the U.S. Army reports on its website, “including hand-to-hand combat, the regiment's ranks were decimated, and its ammunition was running low, its communications lost.”
While U.N. and some U.S. troops were able to withdraw from the fight with the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army, the 3rd Battalion was unable to retreat due to a surprise attack, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
A rescue mission was planned and was going to be attempted by the 5th Cavalry Regiment. However, the cavalry lost 350 soldiers, according to the Accounting Agency, and was ultimately ordered back.
Capt. Norman Allen, who according to the U.S. Army led the rescue mission, is quoted saying, “The poor devils in their 3rd Battalion remained in the trap. We were told they would have to get out themselves any way they could."
The Chinese forces captured 200 to 300 men fighting with the Republic of Korea. One of those was Johnson.
According to information provided by the Army to Johnson's family, he was captured by on Nov. 28, 1950. He and 22 others were then held temporarily in Sinuiju, a North Korean city on the Chinese border. Johnson was then moved to Camp No. 5 in Pyoktong, which is about 60 miles North of Sinuiju. Johnson died there July 31, 1951.
Years after Johnson’s death, family members provided DNA samples in the hopes that the Accounting Agency might someday be able to identify Johnson’s remains.
Daniel Hutchson, who was in utero at the time that his uncle left for the Army, was one those who gave a DNA sample. He was also the person contacted with the news that his uncle had been identified in late August.
“I started crying because I’d been praying for years that we could somehow find him or get his body back,” Hutchson told the Republican Eagle.
Though Hutchson never met his uncle, he has been interested in learning about him and his time in the Korean War.
“It seemed like I would have always liked to have met him,” Hutchson explained.
Even as Hutchson and his family have received information about Johnson, Hutchson still has a question that he hopes will be answered by the Army soon: How long has his uncle’s remains been in Hawaii? How did they get there?
Hutchson was informed that the Army is planning to fly Johnson’s remains to Red Wing in November for a burial. Johnson’s family, including his only living sister, Gladys, plan to gather the burial service at St. John’s Cemetery where Johnson finally will be laid to rest in the family plot.