Donald C. Trent – Sergeant, United States Army


Donald C. Trent
Raleigh, West Virginia
Born 1930
Sergeant, U.S. Army
Service Number 15272715
Died while Prisoner of War
Died March 31, 1951 in Korea

Sergeant Trent was a member of Company F, 2nd Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division.

He was seriously wounded by the enemy in South Korea on September 1, 1950 and returned to duty on September 23, 1950.

He was taken Prisoner of War while fighting the enemy near Kunu-ri, North Korea on November 27, 1950 and died while a prisoner on March 31, 1951. His remains were not recovered.

Sergeant Trent was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Prisoner of War Medal, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.

NEWS RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense

Soldiers Missing in Action from the Korean War are Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of three U.S. servicemen, missing in action from the Korean War, have been identified and will be returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

They are Sergeant Donald C. Trent, of Crab Orchard, West Virginia; Corporal Robert K. Imrie, of Randolph, Massachusetts; and Corporal Samuel Wirrick of Lancaster, Pennsylvania; all U.S.  Army. Imrie will be buried Monday at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.; and Trent and Wirrick will be buried at Arlington in October.

Representatives from the Army met with the next-of-kin of these men in their hometowns to explain the recovery and identification process and to coordinate interment with military honors on behalf of the Secretary of the Army.

In late November 1950, these soldiers were members of the 2nd Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, then operating south of the Chongchon River in North Korea.Their regiment’s positions came under heavy attack by Chinese forces and the 2nd Battalion was forced to withdraw to positions near the town of Kujang.On Nov. 27, Imrie was killed in action, and Trent and Wirrick were reported missing.

In 2000, a joint U.S.-Democratic People’s Republic of Korea-Korean People’s Army team, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), excavated a mass burial believed to contain the remains of U.S. soldiers who died near Kujang.The team found human remains, Wirrick’s identification tag and other material evidence associated with U.S. Army infantry equipment.

Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA and dental comparisons in the identification of the remains.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO Web site at or call (703) 699-1420.

Harriet Willis Mae Trent Duran walked to school every day with two brothers at one side, two brothers at the other, guarding the family’s youngest child and only daughter.

At age 9, Duran lost her oldest brother and protector to the Korean War, but it took 57 years for her to learn his fate and be able to lay his body to rest.

The remains of U.S. Army Sergeant Donald C. Trent of Crab Orchard were identified in July. The remains will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery following an October 9, 2007, ceremony.

Trent was a member of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, Company F, Helvey said. He attended Woodrow Wilson High School, but left school early to join the Army. His was among the first American units sent to defend South Korea when North Korean communist forces invaded in 1950.

Records compiled after a November 26, 1950, battle along the Ch’ongch’on River near the eventual province of Kujang listed Trent as missing in action, and he was later believed to have been a prisoner of war, dying in enemy hands, said Grant Helvey, founder of the Raleigh County Veterans Memorial Association. Helvey said. While listed as MIA, Trent was promoted to Sergeant.

His remains and those of five others were uncovered in November 2000. Using dental records and DNA samples from relatives, a forensics team positively identified some of the remains as Trent.

Helvey noted Trent had not been a prisoner of war as originally reported in 1950. The team’s report has concluded Trent was killed in action on or about November 27, 1950, and buried by the enemy in a mass grave following the battle.

“I can move on,” Duran said. “All I care about is that my brother is honored for serving his country.”

Duran said all four of her brothers — Donald, the late Ronald M. “Bub” Trent, the late Michael Grover Trent and current Maine resident Reginald D. Trent — all watched over her with a careful eye as they were growing up in Crab Orchard. Don was particularly watchful and proud.

Duran said Don wanted a little sister so badly after getting three brothers. When their mother, the late Myrtle Mae Trent, was pregnant with her fifth child, he let his wishes be known.

“He said, ‘Mom, go and bring a little girl home. I want a sister,’” Duran said. “Don ran all the way to school telling everyone he had a baby sister.”

No one at school seemed to believe Don, so he told them, “You just wait,” and told them to watch their family’s clothes line, Duran said. He proudly hung up the little pink baby clothes for everyone to see.

“He was so proud of me. He loved me,” she said. “He finally got a sister.”

Each morning, the five Trent children walked to school with “the baby sister” in the middle.

“They guarded me as if I were something special,” she said.

Their father, the late Willis Clarence Trent, was a coal miner, and like most other coal camp families, they did not have much.

“Your choices were college, the coal mines and the military,” Duran said. “There weren’t many Crab Orchard parents who could afford college. They certainly couldn’t afford it even if you wanted to go.”

One night, a teenage Don went to visit a neighbor and told her not to tell his mother he visited. He was supposed to be on a date. His mother’s brother, Willard Farley, had served in the U.S. Navy, eventually reaching a high rank and having a prosperous career. The Trent children always revered their uncle. Duran would later learn of her brother’s visit.

“He said, ‘I want to make my uncle proud. He served so long. I want to show him how proud we are,’” Duran said.

Don was a quiet, “nice kid,” but he was not the best student and not enthusiastic about school, Duran said. One day in 1949, he left for school at Woodrow and never returned home.

“Mom had dinner on the table, and there was that empty spot,” she said. “Later, it was dark and we were all scared. Mom talked to all the neighbors and their kids, called his friends.”

Duran said her worried mother called Woodrow’s principal and asked him to go over the day’s attendance log to see if Don was in class that day. He was not.

“Then the phone rang. It was Don,” she said. “Dad said, ‘Where in the hell are you?’

“Don said, ‘Dad, I’m in Fort Knox, Kentucky. I’m a soldier now. I’m in the Army.’”

Although Don was underage, he told Army officials he was 18 years old, and they took him at his word, Duran said. Don threatened to go away again if his parents had him sent home, Willis and Myrtle Trent decided that if being in the Army was what he wanted, they would let him stay.

“I think about the last time I saw Don,” Duran said. “On his first furlough, he came home. He was at the Prince train station, talking with Mom, Dad and his girlfriend. He just looked so handsome, so young.

“He said, ‘Now, Willy Mae, you be a good little girl, listen to Mom and Dad, and you’ll grow up to be a beautiful woman.’ That was the last time I saw him.”

In 1950, rumblings of war in Korea emerged, and the Trents worried Don would be sent there to fight, Duran said. Their parents later received word Don was being transferred to Fort Lewis, Wash., and then to Korea. He arrived in Korea in July.

If it was one sight the Trents learned they should dread, it was that of a taxi, Duran said. Generally, a cab driver would deliver bad news during wartime. In their small town, where “everyone knew everyone,” neighbors and children were told to immediately fetch Willis and Myrtle Trent if they saw a taxi coming up the dirt road to the Trent home and they weren’t there.

The Trents saw a taxi arrive September 2, 1950.

“The neighbors all saw it and gathered around,” Duran said. “My parents almost collapsed. We were told Don was seriously wounded in action and he was in a hospital in Japan.”

But just 20 days later, the family received a letter from Washington stating Don had recovered and was sent back to Korea.

But on November 27, 1950, the family heard a knock on their door — something they didn’t expect at night.

“I came to the door with Dad because I was curious,” Duran said. “There was a taxi driver standing there. We knew that something — something — had happened to Don.”

“Dad read the letter to all the kids. It said, ‘Private Donald Trent has been declared Missing In Action November 27, 1950.’ There was just a lot of screaming and crying. My brothers didn’t know what to do.”

Willis and Myrtle Trent always worked to make Christmas a special day for their children. Christmas in 1950 — when Duran was 9, and her three other brothers were 13, 10 and 11 — was not the joyous occasion it had been.

“Our happiness became sheer hell because we didn’t know where he was,” she said.

“Mom just sat and stared at the window. She stared like Don was going to come back through the door.

“It was the saddest Christmas ever in our lives. We tiptoed around. We tried to stay out of the way, be quiet and not upset Mom and Dad.”

Through the years, the Trent family wrote to hospitals, believing Don was possibly seriously wounded or unconscious. After three years, Don was officially declared dead. Duran was 12 years old.

“There was no trace of him. We didn’t know where he was,” she said.

“That was it. There was nothing we could do about it.”

The Trents never gave up hope that Don would be brought back to American soil. However, one attempt by one of the younger Trent boys to go to Korea and find his brother was actually thwarted by his parents.

“Bub,” the second-oldest, enlisted in the Navy in 1952 and eventually served on nuclear submarines. One of his missions took him to the Korean coastline, and he was determined to go into Korea and find Don.

“My parents threw a fit. They didn’t want to lose another son in Korea,” she said.

Duran said her parents contacted then-Congressman Robert C. Byrd, who intervened on their behalf. Bub’s commander told him he was staying on board the submarine and did not allow him to undertake shore duty. Bub, not knowing his parents were ultimately responsible, was angry and did not understand why his commander did that. The Trents later admitted they had a hand.

The two youngest Trent boys also eventually enlisted in the military. Duran said she even wanted to enlist herself, but was told, at the time, it was just not appropriate for a woman to do this.

Duran married her husband Bob in 1968 and they eventually moved to Sparks, Nevada. She lost her father in 1973, Bub in 1986, her mother in 1992 and Grover in 1993. Only she and brother Reginald remain.

In recent years, Duran has stayed in touch with friends she met online who offered her support. Last November, she told online friends she “just got a feeling” that Don would be found.

“Then I got a phone call,” she said. “I thought that maybe God was trying to tell me something.

“He said, ‘You got your wish. Now, I expect a lot from you.’

“Anytime I see a service person, I stand and cry. … It’s a miracle that we even found him. For that alone, I am so grateful that we found him.”

Duran was especially grateful that Don was found during her lifetime. She recently heard the Trace Adkins song, “Arlington,” and it brought her mind to her brother’s coming burial.

“That song was just perfect. I sat and cried,” she said. “I sing with him. It’s just a beautiful song.”

Helvey said Sergeant Trent’s remains are now in a Hawaii morgue and the U.S. Army will bring them to a Washington airport. A wake at Murphy Funeral Home in Arlington, Virginia, is scheduled for October 8, 2007, and a service is scheduled for October 9, 2007, at Arlington National Chapel. That will be followed by burial with full military honors.

“I’ve studied wars and the history of wars. I’m quite familiar with the reasons and causes, but the prices — they were paid for with American lives,” Helvey said.

“I also feel joy for the family. There are only two people remaining, and for all these years, they haven’t found their brother. Their parents died while he was still missing in Korea and thinking he died in a prisoner of war camp.

About 9,000 Korean War and 1,800 Vietnam War soldiers still remain MIA, Helvey noted. Every family who loses a loved in the military makes a huge sacrifice, but families like the Trents lived for 57 years without being able to lay their son and brother to rest.

“With Donald Trent being returned to his family, in a larger sense, he is being returned to us all. All of us should care about those who are missing in action. It is all of us who should care about those who are killed in war. For Donald Trent to be returned, that is an incredible gift.”

DATE OF BIRTH: 09/21/1930
DATE OF DEATH: 11/27/1950

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