Family lacks closure 60 years after soldier went missing in Korea

May 29, 2010|By DAN DEARTH
  • A photo of Korean War casualty Roy C. DeLauter is seen with a telegram notifiying his family of an inquiry into his status. His name is being added to a plaque honoring 14 other Smithsburg veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War II, Korea or Vietnam.
Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

SMITHSBURG -- Jane Kline hasn't had closure for 60 years.

It was December 1950 that her brother, Cpl. Roy C. DeLauter, was listed as missing in action while serving with the 7th Infantry Division during the Korean War.

Kline, 79, said the Army officially declared her brother dead in 1953, but the family has never seen his remains.

"I still don't have closure," Kline said. "I guess I probably never will."

On Sunday, the Town of Smithsburg will honor DeLauter's memory by adding his name to a plaque with 14 other Smithsburg veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War II, Korea or Vietnam. The ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. in Veterans Park.

Kline said she and her sister, Margaret Carr, had a difficult time trying to get their brother recognized. Local veterans organizations and private donors contributed $1,650 to have DeLauter's name engraved on the plaque with those of Smithsburg's other war dead.


She said the ceremony Sunday will be the closest thing to a real burial, even though her family placed a marker to memorialize Roy DeLauter in their parent's burial plot at Cedar Lawn Cemetery.

Roy DeLauter is believed to have died during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, which was fought shortly after Chinese forces entered the war.

The vastly outnumbered American and United Nations troops were surrounded until they broke through the Chinese lines. Estimates show that about 2,900 Americans and 35,000 Chinese were killed.

Kline said she was told after the war by a soldier who served with DeLauter that her brother was wounded during the battle and captured. The enemy threw DeLauter and other wounded soldiers on a truck, she said, then intentionally blew it up to kill those on board.

"I guess that's why they never found his dog tags," Kline said.

The quest to gain recognition for Roy DeLauter began two or three years ago, Kline said, when Carr asked the Smithsburg Historical Society why his name wasn't included on the original plaque at Veterans Park. The inquiry eventually made its way to Smithsburg Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers, who helped get the ball rolling.

"I asked (Kline) to get me the information and the proof that he did serve in that war," Myers said. "I then contacted the park commission chair to get it done."

Myers said she encouraged Kline to seek donations from veterans groups, social clubs and private benefactors to raise money for the project.

AMVETS Post 14 in Cascade was one of the organizations that donated.

Post Commander Dennis Wenthe said he believed DeLauter's memory should have been celebrated long ago.

"A lot of times, the veterans don't get the credit they deserve," Wenthe said. "It's nice to honor someone who gave his life for our freedom."

DeLauter's daughter, Sharlene DeLauter, was 3 years old when her father died.

"He sent us little outfits," she said. "He sent birthday cards and Christmas cards. As far as memories, I have very few."

Sharlene DeLauter said she kept the cards and still has a recording of her father singing Christmas carols with some of his Army buddies.

She said she heard several stories of her father's fate, including one that told of him being killed on the first day of the battle. Sharlene DeLauter often wonders whether her father, who was posthumously promoted to sergeant, is buried in the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.

"I didn't think I minded growing up without a father as a young child, but as I got older, it became more difficult," Sharlene DeLauter said. "I was wondering what he was like ... You wish for some closure. I think it's a proud thing what he did and what lots of other Americans did. For as young as he was, it was pretty outstanding."

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