Robert George Schoening
Corporal, United States Army
Born May 24, 1930
Corporal, U.S. Army
Service Number 19353852
Missing in Action - Presumed Dead
Died November 27, 1950 in Korea
Corporal Schoening was a member of Company C, 65th Engineer Combat Battalion, 25th Infantry Division. He was seriously wounded by the enemy in South Korea on September 4, 1950 and returned to duty on September 27, 1950.
He was listed as Missing in Action while fighting the enemy in North Korea on November 27, 1950.
He was presumed dead on December 31, 1953.
Corporal Schoening was awarded the Purple Heart
with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service
Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Republic of Korea War
Robert Schoening was a skinny 17-year-old from a dairy farm in Blaine, Washington, when he lied about his age and joined the army. He went to Korea, where his company came under intense enemy attack, and Schoening was listed missing in action on November 27, 1950.
Nearly 60 years later, the U.S. Department of Defense announced last week that it had identified Schoening's remains. He will be buried in June at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C., with full military honors.
"It's a great honor to be buried at Arlington," said his brother, William Schoening, 76, of Salem, Oregon. He had learned in December that the government had identified his older brother, and was flooded with a mix of feelings: Gratitude that he was home, relief that he hadn't been imprisoned, sadness that he had suffered violently.
"I had tears in my eyes," he said.
Schoening's remains were one of 229 sets recovered from North Korea from 1996 to 2005, when it became too dangerous for American teams to continue working in the country.
Of those remains, 61 have been identified. In addition to Schoening's identity, the Defense Department also announced identities of four other soldiers last week. Since 1982, a total of 100 Korean War veteran remains have been identified.
"We are prepared to go back," said Larry Greer, spokesman for the department's POW/MIA office. "We have developed plans, but at the moment it is not national policy."
He said Schoening was identified through dental records and mitochondrial DNA, which is passed through the maternal bloodline. Investigators were able to match his DNA with that of his siblings.
William Schoening said his brother was inspired to enlist by their two older brothers, who had served in the navy. But when his brother went to a navy recruiter in Bellingham, he was rejected, because he wasn't yet 18. Schoening believes his brother then lied about his birthday to the army.
While on the front lines in Korea, Robert Schoening wrote his sister Minnie.
"Hi Sis, how's every little thing with you these days?" he said. He wrote about their sister's pregnancy, a gun shot to his leg, a friend who had been injured and sent home from the war.
"Why if that damn red bullet had hit a bone in my thigh, I'd be home too. But I just wasn't that lucky…" he wrote. "I'll write you when I can find some time. Your loving brother, Bob."
That was the last time his family heard from him. Twenty-three days later, his company -- Company C, 65th Combat Engineer Battalion, 25th Infantry Division -- was occupying a position near Hill 222, when the Chinese launched a brutal attack that included hand-to-hand combat, Schoening said.
A telegram later arrived at his parents' farm, saying their son -- a funny, easy-going, dark-haired teenager -- was missing in action. "It was very, very sad," Schoening said.
The identification comes too late for many of his seven siblings. But he and his two older sisters, who are 84 and 86 and living in retirement homes, are planning to attend his burial.
Note: He was killed with Corporal Samuel
Carson Harris, Jr., who has also been recovered and also will also
be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
19 June 2009:
Under blue skies and with military honors, Corporal Robert Schoening was buried at Arlington National Cemetery nearly 60 years after his front-line unit was overrun by Chinese troops in Korea and he was declared missing in action and presumed dead.
The second youngest of eight children, Schoening grew up on a Blaine, Washington, farm during the depression and joined the Army at age 17 after being rejected by the Navy. His family remembers him as a fearless teenager with a ready smile, a bit of a tease who often tinkered with his 1926 Model T.
"I felt eventually they would find Bobby, I just didn't know if it would be in my lifetime," his younger brother, William Schoening, 76, Salem, Oregon, said in an interview. "We now have our brother home."
In December, his family learned remains found in a burial site in North Korea were his. The U.S. military used DNA samples taken from his surviving brother and sisters to make the identification.
The fates of more than 8,000 U.S. soldiers who fought in the Korean War, including 134 from Washington state, remain unknown. More than 33,000 lost their lives in what is sometimes called the "forgotten war."
In a flag-draped, silver casket, Schoening was buried in a newer part of the cemetery filled with the dead from many conflicts, including Iraq and Afghanistan. An honor guard bore the coffin to the gravesite as the sound of gun volleys and bugles from some of the nearly 30 other funerals at Arlington every day faded among the hillsides dotted with graves.
"The nation is free and remains free because of the selfless service of these people," Army Chaplin Jason Nobles told the 50 or so people gathered at the graveside.
After a brief ceremony, seven gunners delivered three volleys and a bugler solemnly played "Taps." Katherine Fishbourne, 86, of Wenatchee, Schoening's eldest sister, wiped away a tear.
"A comrade in arms in life he honored the flag," Nobles said. "In death, the flag will honor him."
The flag was lifted off the casket and carefully folded. Six decades after Schoening died, Nobles handed the flag to the eldest sister "on behalf of a grateful nation" and saluted.
Schoening was 18 when he was killed near Hill 222 south of the Kuryong River and east of the "Camel's Head" in what is now North Korea. A member of Company C, 65th Combat Engineer Battalion, 25th Infantry Division, Schoening and his comrades were among the northernmost U.S. troops as 180,000 Chinese launched a surprise attack in late November of 1950.
Just weeks earlier, Schoening had received a flesh wound in his thigh. It just missed a bone. If it had hit the bone, he would have been shipped home. Instead, he was shipped back to the front.
The family was devastated when a telegram arrived informing them Schoening was missing in action.
"We were just numb," said Bill Schoening.
"We hadn't thought too much about his going," said Mary Emma Lind-Speidel, 84, Lynwood, Washington, the other surviving sister. "It was a police action or something."
Two other brothers had fought it World War II and survived, including one who was at Pearl Harbor.
Schoening's remains were discovered in August 2000 at site above the Kuryong River excavated by a joint U.S.-Democratic People's Republic of Korea team. While it took awhile, the military determined the remains were those of Schoening and four other soldiers.
Though their memories of Bobby Schoening had dimmed over the years, he remained a part of his brother and sisters lives especially at family gatherings.
"I used to dream he would walk in the door," said Fishbourne.
When the funeral was over, Bill Schoening, Katherine Fishbourne and Mary Emma Lind-Speidel, seemed reluctant to leave the gravesite. As a lone soldier stood watch over the casket, they lingered seemingly absorbed in their thoughts of long ago.
"I was very emotional when I first heard they had found him," said Lind-Speidel. "I am still emotional."
Bill Schoening may have been closest to his brother because they were closest in age.
"After all there years, we finally have closure," Bill Schoening said.
Posted: 6 April 2009 19 June 2009