70 years after going MIA, remains of a Korean War soldier come home to Massachusetts

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BOURNE, Mass. – The official U.S. Army photograph of 1st Lt. Thomas Redgate shows a smiling 24-year-old, a service cap crowning his head, a tan tie and shirt underneath his dress uniform. He was a Massachusetts boy gone off to fight in Korea.

He never came home during that war, but his remains finally were flown to Boston on Tuesday — more than seven decades later — fulfilling a wish that his mother held on to until the day she died in 1970. Her son will be interred Friday in the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne.

And Redgate's name will, finally, be removed from a memorial there dedicated to members of the military who were declared missing in action.

Redgate first enlisted as a private in the Enlisted Reserve Corps and was called to active duty in April 1944. He was an airplane and engine mechanic until his honorable discharge in November 1945.

Redgate reenlisted in 1948. He was a member of Battery A, 48th Field Artillery Battalion, 7th Infantry Division. His unit was on the eastern side of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea when they were attacked by Chinese and North Korean forces on Nov. 27, 1950.

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U.S. military leaders were confident that troops would reach China’s border, retaking the whole Korean peninsula by Christmas. But the Battle at Chosin Reservoir turned the tide of the war in North Korea’s favor. Chinese troops outnumbered and surrounded U.S. forces at Chosin. Fighting in frigid temperatures, in mountainous terrain, with even their retreats blocked, U.S. troops were nearly annihilated, according to the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Korea website.

The Battle of Chosin left 1,029 U.S. troops dead, 4,582 wounded and 4,894 missing, according to the website.

Redgate was pronounced missing on Dec. 11, 1950. The Army declared him presumptively dead in 1953.

It wasn’t until April 16, 2020 — almost 70 years after he went missing in action — that his remains were identified by analysts with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) in Hawaii.

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Korean War soldiers' remains returned to the US

Redgate's remains were included in the 55 boxes of remains that North Korea returned to the U.S. in 2018 after a summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. There have been no further reclamation efforts on the part of North Korea.

The remains of thousands of U.S. troops still lay scattered throughout North Korea. According to the DPAA, 7,555 US troops are still unaccounted for, 5,729 of which are Army troops.

A hero's welcome

Redgate’s casketed remains came home to Boston on Tuesday, with some extended family members on hand for the arrival at Boston Logan International Airport.

Peter Bloniarz, Redgate’s oldest nephew and the family member recognized by Army protocol as the lead family representative, called it an honor to welcome his uncle home.

“For us, it’s a privilege to be able to do something our parents couldn’t do,” he said. “Imagine losing your youngest son. It was a black hole for the family.”

A memorial stone for Army Veteran Lt. Thomas Redgate catches the morning sun in a memorial area at the National Cemetery in Bourne, Massachusetts, for vets whose remains were never recovered. Redgate's remains were released from North Korea in 2020 and later identified by the Defense Department.
A memorial stone for Army Veteran Lt. Thomas Redgate catches the morning sun in a memorial area at the National Cemetery in Bourne, Massachusetts, for vets whose remains were never recovered. Redgate's remains were released from North Korea in 2020 and later identified by the Defense Department.

A seven-member Army Military Funeral Honors team was at Logan airport to carry out a dignified transfer.

"Being in casualty operations, it's the honor of my life to assist families of the fallen," said team member Sgt. Jeffrey Hyde.

The team placed the casket in a hearse and, accompanied by a motorcade, Redgate's remains were taken for one final ride through his old neighborhoods.

The remains of U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant Thomas Justin Redgate, who fought and died in the Korean War, were identified last year and returned to Massachusetts this week. He will be buried Friday at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne.
The remains of U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant Thomas Justin Redgate, who fought and died in the Korean War, were identified last year and returned to Massachusetts this week. He will be buried Friday at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne.

Among the stops on the tour through Boston, the motorcade stopped at a family home in Boston's Charlestown neighborhood and a home in Brighton where Redgate had grown up.

Andrew Redgate said in a phone call that people were at each location, paying their respects and waving flags.

“There must have been 400 people in front of the house,” Andrew Redgate said.

They included firefighters, police officers, military personnel, Korean War veterans, families and toddlers. Traffic was blocked off.

“It couldn’t have been more touching,” Andrew Redgate said.

'A significant loss'

Peter Bloniarz doesn’t remember his uncle, but he remembers his mother keeping a photo of him on her bureau.

“It was a significant loss for her,” he said.

His grandmother never gave up hope that Redgate’s remains would eventually be returned.

“She held out hope until the day she died,” Bloniarz said.

Fifty-one years after her death in 1970, her wishes have finally been granted.

Interment will be in the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne at 2:30 p.m. ET Friday.

Redgate's name is currently recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Now that he has been accounted for, a rosette will be placed next to his name.

His name will also be removed from the MIA Memorial at the Bourne cemetery.

Follow reporter Denise Coffey on Twitter: @DeniseCoffeyCCT.

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This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: MIA Korean War soldier's remains identified, returned to Massachusetts

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