After more than 65 years, The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) has announced that the remains of Corbin native and former Army Corporal Billie Joe Hash will finally return to his hometown.
Hash was a member of the Army’s Headquarters Battery, 57th Field Artillery Battalion, 7th Infantry Division during the Korean War of the early 1950s.
In November to December 1950, Hash and his division were part of the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, a fierce 17-day battle that saw 30,000 U.S., Republic of Korea (ROK), and British surprise attacked by more than 100,000 Chinese soldiers in the harsh North Korean winter where temperatures regularly fell to 25 degrees below zero.
The Battle of Chosin Reservoir saw over 1,000 American soldiers die and another nearly 5,000 go missing. Billie Joe Hash was one of those soldiers.
Hash was reported missing in action Dec. 6, 1950. He was presumed dead on December 31, 1953. He was just 18 years old at the time.
A year after the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed on July 27, 1953, the American Government began Operation Glory, an effort to repatriate fallen American soldiers in the Korean War.
From September to October 1954, the United States Graves Registration Service Command received the remains of approximately 4,000 soldiers, including 500 isolated burials from the Chosin battlefield.
1,868 of the 4,000 sets returned to the US were determined to be the remains of American soldiers, while 848 were unidentified remains and were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. In that same time span, US forces recovered and returned approximately 14,000 sets of remains to North Korea and China.
According to the DPAA, from 1951-1956, the Army Graves Registrations teams searched the battlefields in the ROK.
Today, the Department of Defense (DoD) investigates losses in South Korea with the assistance of U.S. forces in Korea and the ROK government.
From 1990-1994, North Korea exhumed and returned 208 boxes of remains. However, DoD scientists estimate that as many as 400 individuals could be represented in these 208 boxes.
From 1996-2005, U.S. officials conducted 33 joint field activities where they recovered more than 220 sets of remains, which were sent to the DPAA in Hawaii for identification purposes. Then on May 25, 2005, the U.S. suspended those joint field activities.
However, in 2018 the U.S. received 55 more boxes of remains from North Korea following a meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. Those remains were also sent to the DPAA for identification purposes in August of that year.
According to the DPAA, Hash’s remains were accounted for on May 27, 2020.
Hash is the second local veteran in the last year to have his remains discovered and brought back home to Corbin. U.S. Navy Motor Machinist’s Mate First Class Ulis C. Steely’s remains were brought home and buried last year after being discovered in 2015.
According to the DoD, more than 7,800 Americans still remain unaccounted for from the Korean War.
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