By Stan Welch
A family with ties to the Pelzer area is preparing to welcome a long lost relative home this week, only to lay him to his final rest more than sixty years after he died in North Korea.
Private First Class John Russell Bowers, who was serving with the 2nd Infantry Division in 1951, when the North Korean Army, bolstered by a massive Red Chinese presence, swept across the battle lines, overwhelming American forces. After Feb. 14, 1951 Bowers was listed as MIA, or missing in action.
According to official reports by the Defense Department, and based on information provided by Chinese officials, Bowers apparently died in May of 1951 in a prison camp near Pyokdong. While time and circumstances make certainty impossible, it seems likely that Bowers died during an air raid on the camp.
Three months ago, the family was notified that his remains had been identified by DNA analysis among the remains of 387 prisoners of war uncovered near the old prison site.
Bowers’ nephew, Neal Collins, who serves as a state Representative from Pickens’ District Five , said that 208 boxes of remains were discovered near the camp more than ten years ago, but DNA identification has only recently allowed for actual identification of the remains.
Collins was visiting a Pacific war memorial in Hawaii when he learned that Bowers’ remains had been identified.
Many of Bowers’ surviving relatives live in the Upstate area. Both Bowers’ parents have died, but three sisters and a brother still survive. Two of the sisters, Jerrell Dean Campbell and Christine Steinbrueck live in Pelzer.
Bowers’ remains will arrive in the upstate this Thursday on a 1:05 p.m. Delta Flight at the Greenville Spartanburg Regional Airport.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Gray Mortuary in West Pelzer. A traditional funeral, with full military honors, will be held at Gray’s Chapel Saturday, with interment at Greenville Memorial Gardens afterward.
Pfc. John Bowers’ name is among those listed as missing in action on a memorial wall at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. Bowers’ nephew Neal Collins, who serves as a State Representative from Pickens’ District Five was visiting the Pacific war memorial in December when he learned that his uncle’s remains had been identified. Collins viewed his uncle’s name on the memorial wall and said that he is glad they will be able to put an “R”, for recovered on the memorial. (Courtesy photo)Views name on Pacific war memorial