The remains of a man that has not been in Ross County since he left there around 70 years ago to fight for his country are coming home to be buried in the Bainbridge Cemetery.
Robert Lee Bray attended Twin Rural High School near Bourneville into the ninth grade then enlisted in the U.S. Army on Nov. 11, 1948 at the age of 17 before shipping out for training just days later, according to Michelle Curren Cornell, historian Indo-Pacific Directorate Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
PFC Robert Lee Bray was reported as missing in action on Thursday, July 20, 1950 in the defense of Taejon, in the Republic of Korea. He was 18 years old. He continued to be listed as missing in action until Dec. 31, 1953. At that time the adjutant general issued Bray a presumptive finding of death and issued him a backdated promotion to the grade of corporal effective May 1, 1953. The adjutant general wrote a letter to Bray’s mother notifying her of those actions on Dec. 31, 1953, according to Cornell.
Bray was born Nov. 6, 1931, in Ross County, the son of the late James Bray and Linda Dale (Hamlin) Ford.
Until recently, Bray was an unidentified casualty of the battle. In August of 2018, the U.S. Department of Defense approved a plan to disinter all 652 Korean War Unknowns from the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Bray was recently identified by the Department of Defense. The Department of the Army will repatriate Bray with full military honors. He will be laid to rest in the Bainbridge Cemetery on his 88th birthday, Nov. 6, 2019.
A visitation will be held that day from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for those who wish to pay respects to Bray at the Smith-Moore-Ebright Funeral Home, Bainbridge. A brief funeral service will be held at the funeral home at 1 p.m, officiated by an Army chaplain. Following the service, Bray’s remains will be transported to the Bainbridge Cemetery where full military honors will be accorded by the United States Army.
Bray’s remains will arrive at John Glenn International Airport on Monday, Nov. 4. The United States Army will be present to present honors. Following honors, Bray will be conveyed by motor escort to the Bainbridge funeral home, with assistance from several law enforcement agencies and the Patriot Guard Riders.
The following comes from information provided by the U.S. Department of Defense:
During the Korean War, Bray served as a private first class in Charlie Company (CCo), 1st Battalion (Bn), 34th Infantry Regiment (INF), 24th Infantry Division (ID). On July 20, 1950, the U.S. Army reported him as missing in action (MIA) during the defense of Taejon, Republic of Korea.
In 1949, the army transferred him into the 34th INF, which was stationed in Japan, occupying Kyushu – the southernmost and third largest in the Japanese chain of home islands.
Sometime thereafter, Regiment command ordered the 3rd Bn to secure a gap and reinforce the 1st Bn, but this mission was unsuccessful and led to a fighting withdrawal to the 3rd Bn’s former position. According to KPA records, the enemy claimed to hold the airfield by 4 a.m. on July 20, 1950. After their success, the KPA advance in this region halted as they waited for other elements of the KPA attack on Taejon to fall into place. All of Bray’s personal records indicate that the U.S. Army reported him MIA on July 20, 1950. In fact, in a July 21, 1951 review that continued his MIA status, the Office of the Adjutant General noted that Bray “was last seen defending the town of Taejon, Korea, at 7 a.m. on July 20, 1950, while the town was being attacked by enemy tanks and infantry.”
Soldiers such as Bray fought for as long as possible at every position, holding the enemy at bay and contributing to the American mission in Korea in several ways. First, they provided time to evacuate R.O.K. refugees fleeing the KPA, and second, they gave UN forces time to gather strength and build an army capable of achieving victory in South Korea.
The Smith-Moore-Ebright Funeral Home in Bainbridge provided the information for this story.
See page 2 inside for Bray’s full obituary.