By Jack Pritchard
On Wednesday, April 25, 2012 Private Richard Erwin Clapp was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. Private Clapp was like so many young Americans who knew nothing about the people of South Korea, but choose any way to enlist in the Army and fight for their freedom. We are periodically reminded of the nobility of mankind when 19 year olds like Richard Clapp step forward, placing the welfare of an unknown people above their own personal safety. I have often heard Korean ambassadors to the United States thank veterans for their sacrifices, saying “the Korea of today would not have been possible without the sacrifices you made at such a young age for a people you did not know.” On Wednesday, that message of thanks became personal for the family and friends of Richard Clapp. On Sept. 2, 1950, Richard and C Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment came under fire near Yulchon, South Korea. Richard was killed in action. The Army was unable to identify his remains at the time, and he was buried as “Unknown” in a military cemetery on the Korean Peninsula and later moved to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. In 2011, because of advances in technology, his remains were exhumed and identified. Richard came to our attention because he is a relative of our former colleague, Nicole Finnemann – now serving her country as a Foreign Service Officer in Mexico City.
The Korean War is not a footnote in history books. There were almost 34,000 Americans killed in the war, another 104,000 wounded. But the number that haunts many of our fellow citizens is the more than 8,000 that are still listed as missing. Both my father and father-in-law fought in the Korean War, not long after having fought in World War II. My wife and I are thankful our fathers came home. We are also thankful that there are many good people involved in establishing a Korean War National Museum in New York City where the valor and sacrifices of heroes like Richard Clapp can be appropriately remembered. With your help the museum will be open to the public in 2015. For more information on the museum and ways you can honor those who sacrificed during the Korean War please visit the Korean War National Museum website at www.kwnm.org.
Jack Pritchard is the President of the Korea Economic Institute. The photo is one he took in Seoul in November 2011. The views expressed here are his own.