In 2001, while writing for the Korea Times as a feature writer, I had the opportunity and the the honor to meet a group of Korean War veterans who came to Korea to visit the Chipyong-ni battlefield near Wonju and Hoengseong.
One of the veterans I met was Oscar Cortez, who was captured by the Chinese at Hoengseong on February 12, 1951 and spent the remainder of the war in a POW camp.
When I started to write War Remains in 2009, I remembered that meeting I had with Oscar and the article I wrote about his experiences during the war (which is an essay in Waking Up in the Land of the Morning Calm, 2011). Based on that article, and a few others I wrote, became the basis for the story of Bobby Washkowiak.
In 2012, while doing some research on the Korean War, Doug Mayes happened across my book and read it. It turned out that he was searching for information about the Battle of Hoengseong because his Uncle Jimmy fought in the battle and like Oscar, was also captured by the enemy. Like a number of readers who have come across my book while searching for information about the battle and the search for MIAs, Doug’s uncle was also listed as missing in action (his family was contacted for a DNA sample and hopefully his uncle will soon be coming home.
Today, Doug sent me a message telling me that he had just gotten off the phone with with a Korean War veteran who had been with his uncle on the march to the camp:
Jeff, I just got off the phone with a Korean War POW who was with my uncle when he died. The chain of events which led me to this man was started by your book and research. Thank you so much, Doug
Not the kind of closure that Doug and his family wants, but it was an honor to have helped them fill in some of the blanks.
Until They Are Home
— JPAC Motto