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Cpl. Edwin C. Steigerwalt, Korean War soldier, no longer missing, is laid to rest

 

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Philadelphia Inquirer (PA)
September 17, 2005

Korean War soldier, no longer missing, is laid to rest
By Christine Schiavo, Inquirer Staff Writer

Most of the mourners never knew Cpl. Edwin C. Steigerwalt, whose funeral in Allentown yesterday came 55 years after his death in the Korean War. But like veteran Peter Chacho, they shed tears for the 22-year-old farmhand from Lehighton whose identity took a team of experts 12 years to discover.  "He was a brother," said Chacho, 71, of Whitehall, who fought in Korea two years after Steigerwalt went missing in 1950. "I came out of respect for the man."

About 100 veterans of various wars gathered under a warm sun at Cedar Hill Memorial Park, joining Steigerwalt's three sisters, nieces and nephews for a 25-minute service with full military honors.

Eight soldiers from an Army barracks in Carlisle carried Steigerwalt's casket to a gravesite not far from where his parents were buried. The casket contained his skeletal remains wrapped in an Army blanket, and a contemporary Army uniform on which were pinned a number of medals, including the Purple Heart.

"We're glad he's home," his sister Judith D. Kiser of Orefield said Thursday. "The family is whole again."

Steigerwalt's remains were among those returned in 208 boxes by the North Korean government in late 1993 and early 1994. It took more than a decade to identify him, though Steigerwalt's case posed no more than the usual problems for experts at the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii.

The remains were haphazardly collected and shipped with little or no information attached, leaving scientists at the accounting command unsure of even how many soldiers' remains were in the boxes.

"Almost every box was commingled in that it had parts from more than one individual," said Thomas Holland, scientific director at the accounting command. "What we ended up having to do was analyze each bone as if it were a separate case for all 208 boxes."

More than 8,000 soldiers remain missing from the Korean War. The accounting command identifies about two soldiers a week from that war as well as from World Wars I and II and the Vietnam War. Since 1994, the North Korean government had allowed staff from the accounting command to go to Korea and collect remains, but chilly relations between the United States and North Korea halted the trips in May.

Kiser and her two sisters, Sandra Simock and Nancy Spangler, received confirmation of their brother's death last month.

Army Chaplain Richard L. Pace said the funeral was one of mixed emotion - of sorrow for his loss and of comfort in knowing that he "has come home to rest." He said Steigerwalt died heroically in service to his country. The Army still does not know how Steigerwalt died. His remains, which are incomplete, show no apparent cause of death, Holland said. He was last seen on Nov. 30, 1950, during a battle near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea in which the Americans suffered many casualties.

For Korean War veterans, the mention of that battle brings chills. "He spent his time in hell over there at the Chosin," Chacho said. Kiser remembers little of the big brother who went to war when she was 7. "I can't remember a time when he wasn't happy and fooling with us kids," she said. "I never saw him mad or angry."

In the small Carbon County town where his father, Burdell, drove an ice-cream delivery truck, "Eddie" was big brother to four sisters and little brother to one. A brother, Richard, died in infancy. Kiser said Eddie dropped out of high school to work on farms in the area. His dream was to join the Army.

"I remember two officers coming to our front door and telling our parents their son was missing," Kiser said. "I remember standing there watching the faces of my parents, the look of disbelief and pain."

In 1953, the Army notified Steigerwalt's family that he was presumed dead. "We kept up hope," she said. "Even after they notified us, we still kept up hope."


www.abmc.gov information follows:

Edwin Clarence Steigerwalt
Carbon, Pennsylvania
Born 1931
CORPORAL, U.S. Army
Service Number 13280360
Missing in Action - Presumed Dead
Died November 30, 1950 in Korea

Corporal Steigerwalt was a member of the Heavy Mortar Company, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. He was listed as Missing in Action while fighting the enemy in North Korea on November 30, 1950. He was presumed dead on December 31, 1953. Corporal Steigerwalt was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman's Badge, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.

 

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