Body of Lt. Col. Don Faith, a key figure in the Chosin campaign, is found in North Korea and brought home after 63 years
- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.
I always read the Pentagon casualty notices and MIA notices. This one jumped out at me yesterday, as it would to anyone familiar with the history of the Chosin Reservoir campaign.
Lt. Col. Don Faith, Jr. was the unfortunate leader of one of the biggest disasters in American military history, taking over command of the Army regiment on the east side of Chosin after the commander of the 31st Infantry Regiment was killed and the other two battalion commanders were badly wounded. The regiment, badly outnumbered and hampered by inept general officers, suffered a 90 percent casualty rate. Its colors now are displayed in Beijing, I am told.
However, the sacrifice of the Army regiment bought much-needed time for the Marine division consolidating on the west side of the reservoir.
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that a serviceman, who was unaccounted-for from the Korean War, has been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Army Lt. Col. Don C. Faith Jr. of Washington, Ind., will be buried April 17, in Arlington National Cemetery. Faith was a veteran of World War II and went on to serve in the Korean War. In late 1950, Faith’s 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, which was attached to the 31st Regimental Combat Team (RCT), was advancing along the eastern side of the Chosin Reservoir, in North Korea. From Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, 1950, the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces (CPVF) encircled and attempted to overrun the U.S. position. During this series of attacks, Faith’s commander went missing, and Faith assumed command of the 31st RCT. As the battle continued, the 31st RCT, which came to be known as “Task Force Faith,” was forced to withdraw south along Route 5 to a more defensible position. During the withdrawal, Faith continuously rallied his troops, and personally led an assault on a CPVF position.
Records compiled after the battle of the Chosin Reservoir, to include eyewitness reports from survivors of the battle, indicated that Faith was seriously injured by shrapnel on Dec. 1, 1950, and subsequently died from those injuries on Dec. 2, 1950. His body was not recovered by U.S. forces at that time. Faith was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor — the United States’ highest military honor — for personal acts of exceptional valor during the battle.
In 2004, a joint U.S. and Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea (D.P.R.K) team surveyed the area where Faith was last seen. His remains were located and returned to the U.S. for identification.
To identify Faith’s remains, scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) used circumstantial evidence, compiled by DPMO and JPAC researchers, and forensic identification tools, such as dental comparison. They also used mitochondrial DNA — which matched Faith’s brother.