The people of Valatie will welcome a hometown hero when the remains of Army Cpl. Clifford Stanley Johnson are flown back to the United States for burial May 19 at a military cemetery in Schuylerville.
Johnson fought in the early days of the Korean War in Headquarters Battery, 57th Field Artillery Battalion, 7th Infantry Division. He was 20 years old. He was reported missing in action on Dec. 6, 1950, when his unit was attacked by enemy forces.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, an office that investigates missing-in-action cases and conducts recovery operations, announced Johnson’s remains were confirmed earlier this month, 70 years after he had been reported missing.
Columbia County Veterans Services Agency Executive Director Gary Flaherty said his office is planning a way to honor Johnson. He said after discussions with Johnson’s family members are completed to everyone’s satisfaction, he would talk more about what a tribute will look like.
The remains of almost 82,000 Americans are still missing, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. The agency reports that the numbers of missing soldiers from conflicts as 73,515 from World War II. This, according to the agency, is an approximate number due to limited or conflicting data.
Johnson’s unit came under attack from Chinese communist forces at Hagaru-ri, in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK, which today is called North Korea, near the Chosin Reservoir. Johnson was never reported to be a prisoner of war and he was not identified among remains returned to U.S. custody immediately after the war, according to the agency.
The residents of Valatie and the other communities in Columbia County will celebrate the return of a hero when Johnson’s remains reach American soil. They should also be concerned with knowing what really happened to Johnson and why it took seven decades for North Korea to accede to U.S. officials’ demands and return him to us.
Clifford Stanley Johnson’s heroic sacrifice in Korea is unquestionable. True closure for his family can be achieved by answers to questions that have accumulated for more than three generations.