By Helmut Schmidt
Forum News Service
GARY, Minn. — After more than six decades, Sgt. Arnold Andring is finally coming home.
The Gary man, who fought in the Korean War and died as a prisoner of war, will be laid to rest with full military honors in April next to his mother and father in St. Michael’s Cemetery in Mahnomen.
Andring’s remains — found amid 208 boxes holding the commingled remains of more than 400 soldiers — were turned over by the North Koreans between 1991 and 1994.
His remains, stored at the Central Identification Laboratory-Hawaii, were recently identified by experts using DNA testing.
For Andring’s family, the news kindled a mix of long-buried sadness and relief.
“It’s the end. It’s a closure. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” said Lucille Gish, one of Andring’s five surviving siblings.
“I firmly believe it was a miracle. God was looking out for us. We’re lucky,” the 82-year-old Mahnomen woman said. “There are many boys who haven’t been found out there yet.”
“I just mostly blubbered” on the phone, Len Andring of Moorhead said of his initial talk on Jan. 22 with military officials.
Len Andring said the family always wondered if it was possible to find his brother’s remains, but no one gave up hope.
“The Army has been great in keeping in touch,” the 86-year-old said. “To go this far to honor their promise of bringing everyone hom…” he said, his voice trailing off.
A FARMER TO THE CORE
Arnold Andring was born Oct.
20, 1926, to Raymond and Gertrude Andring on the family farm between Gary and Mahnomen.
As Len pages through the faded black and white pictures in a worn, taped-up photo album that chronicles Arnold’s life, he pauses to describe them.
There’s a photo of Arnold with his mother, shortly after he was born, Arnold on a pony that their father bought for the kids and Arnold at age 18 in Army basic training.
“He wanted to be a farmer. That’s all he wanted to do. He didn’t like school,” Len said.
Arnold wouldn’t go to school unless Len was with him. So Len started first grade early at the age of 5. And they walked over plowed fields to get there.
“He didn’t make good friends very fast, but he wasn’t a loner,” Len said. “He never was in trouble.”
Rick Gish began delving into the life of his uncle Arnold in July 2011. Gish did the bulk of the background work that covers his uncle’s return to the Army, the battle in which he was captured, and how he died.
Arnold was drafted into the Army in 1945, Rick Gish said.
He was sent to Germany in 1946 to be part of the occupation and extended his service to three years. He was promoted to corporal. And he married a German woman, Hannah Anneliese “Ann” Schroeder in August 1948.
In November 1948, he was discharged from active service, then signed up for three years of Army Reserve duty.
KOREAN WAR CALL-UP
The Korean War began on June 25, 1950, when North Korean troops poured across the 38th parallel into South Korea.
Arnold was called back to active duty in the Army in September 1950. He left for duty the day his parents celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary, Rick Gish said.
He entered Korea on Nov. 27, 1950 and joined L Company of the 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division in early December, Gish said.
Arnold wrote many letters home, of which the family saved five. He wrote often of being hungry and of yearning for cookies, candy bars and cigarettes.
The winter of 1950-51 was brutal and cold in Korea. Arnold’s letters tell of frostbite on some of his toes, one of which turned blue. But he wrote that commanders said the troops couldn’t go on sick call simply for frostbite — unless gangrene had set in.
Arnold worried he had pneumonia, and described hard coughing fits that took his breath away, Gish said.
Arnold and L Company were directed to move up and support the 2nd Division’s Recon Company to protect a main supply route during the battle for Wonju, Chipyong-ni and Chaum-ni in South Korea on Feb. 13-14, 1951.
L Company was west of Chaum-ni and was surrounded on three sides, then overrun by soldiers from the 116th Division of the 39th Chinese Army on the morning of Feb. 14.
That day, L Company had 55 men killed, 34 taken prisoner (11 of whom survived to the end of the war) and seven missing in action. Second Recon had 31 killed, 11 taken prisoner (three of whom survived the war) and two missing in action, according to military records.
Arnold and others taken prisoner were marched to the Suan “Bean” camp between late March and early April 1951, Gish learned. Conditions at the camp were terrible, and the prisoners were treated cruelly. There was no warm clothing or bedding. The food was horrendous, with most men losing 50 to 100 pounds. Dysentery, pneumonia, beriberi and other diseases were common, with no medical care.
POWs died at a rate of five to 10 men a day. It was there where Arnold died sometime in April 1951. His death was reported by Patrick Quinn, who served in L Company, 38th Regiment of the 2nd Infantry Division, Gish said.
LOSS DEVASTATED MOTHER
Gish chokes up when he talks of the grief and deep depression that dogged his mother after she learned her eldest son died.
He said his parents set up a table in the corner or their house with pictures and memorabilia of Arnold. It was a small shrine to his memory.
“Mom … she never got over it, until the day she died,” Gish said.
In December 1953, after the Army confirmed a Chinese report that Arnold died in the prison camp, his family held a funeral mass at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Mahnomen, Gish said.
Arnold, who was a corporal when captured, was promoted to sergeant after his death was confirmed.
Arnold’s wife left Minnesota and later remarried. She died in 2012, Rick Gish said.
Richard Andring, who was eight years younger than Arnold, is 80 now and retired. He lives across the road from the old family farm.
“He was always busy. Every time I wanted to play, he had to do something else,” Richard said of his older brother, his voice tinged with sadness.
Arnold’s return home will “definitely” bring a sense of closure to the family, Richard said.
Two of Arnold’s other siblings, Claire Cook of White Bear Lake and Beverly Amsden of St. Paul, also survive.
Arnold is eligible for full military honors at his burial, said retired Maj. Chris Van Hofwegen, who is Minnesota’s military funeral honors coordinator.
Van Hofwegen said Arnold’s remains will be flown to Fargo’s Hector International Airport.
The plane will be met by a National Guard team from Moorhead that will present honors to the remains and escort them to a waiting hearse.
If the family wishes, members of the team will provide sentry duty at the visitation for Arnold. One sentry would be stationed on either side of the casket or urn, Van Hofwegen said.
At the funeral, which is planned for 10:30 a.m. on April 25 at St. Michael’s Church in Mahnomen, the team will provide pallbearers if the family wishes. At the gravesite, there will be a rifle party, a bugler, and the military team will fold the U.S. flag and present it to a family member, Van Hofwegen said.
“The service that they (the deceased serviceman or woman) provided, needs to be honored. These guys sacrificed their lives for those back home,” Van Hofwegen said..
Of the 7,855 U.S. servicemen killed in the Korean War whose bodies have not been recovered, 5,300 were lost in North Korea, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency reports.
More than 5 million soldiers and civilians died before the Korean War ended in July 1953 with the signing of an armistice.