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Finding Private McBride

More than 8,000 U.S. soldiers did not come home at the end of the Korean War in July 1953. Among those was Pvt. Robert McBride, a young man who had family ties to Pike County. Pvt. McBride was born sometime between 1929 and 1932 and may have lived in Allegheny County, Penn. He was a member of Company C, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. He was taken prisoner on Nov. 28, 1950, while fighting in North Korea. He died as a prisoner of war in December. There is hope many of those known to have died there, including McBride, may be brought back home thanks to efforts by the Department of Defense and modern forensic medical technology. Since 1996, North Korea has allowed several joint recovery operations in which DOD delegations worked to recover and repatriate the remains of missing U.S. servicemen. Some can be identified by dog tags or other articles that were on their records or by matching their DNA to that of family members still living. The DOD launched an outreach program on the home front to locate as many of those families as possible to obtain reference samples for DNA technology. DNA obtained from families of missing soldiers is used to help identify remains. The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command is one of the offices in the DOD charged with recovering missing service members. The JPAC Central Identification Laboratory is the world’s largest skeletal forensic lab and is home to the largest concentration of forensic anthropologists in the world. DNA is sometimes the only way officials can identify remains. The DOD has engaged the services of accredited genealogists like Therese Fisher to help find family members of missing servicemen and women. The military contacts them about possible collection of DNA. ”In some cases DNA is used as a tool. Sometimes it is the only tool,” said Fisher, who lives in Texas. She is trying to locate McBride’s family members. With the passage of over 55 years, it is often difficult to locate next of kin. Because mitochondrial DNA comes from the maternal side of the family, DNA samples are needed from the mother, siblings or other relatives of the mother. Fisher’s search led to to Pike County. McBride enlisted in the Army while his mother was living in Pittsburgh, Penn., but he was probably born in Pike, Fisher said. He had an older brother named Richard McBride who was born here. It is possible McBride may have falsified his age to join the army in 1946. He was a member of the 24th Infantry that was a part of the initial but disastrous offensive action into North Korea in late November 1950. His mother was Minnie Lucy Benton of Meansville, daughter of George Benton and Annie Peoples. Minnie had several sisters whose children and possibly grandchildren would match the mitochondrial DNA. Minnie’s sister Magnolia Benton married Stoney White and they had two children before they died of tuberculosis in 1928. They were married in Pike in 1921, so their children were quite young when their parents died. Another sister Savannah married John Dennis in 1922. John may have died in 1936. Fisher does not know what happened to Savannah after that. ”What I do know is they had at least one child, Sallie, who was born in Pike. Minnie’s brother Albert married Ada Josey and I believe Minnie’s sister Mary L. Benton married John T. Josey,” Fisher said. John and Mary Josey may have moved to Thomaston in 1930. There was another sister, Pearl, for whom she has not been able to find a marriage. Albert’s children would not be DNA eligible, although they may be able to help Fisher locate their cousins who are. George Benton, Minnie’s father, married a second time in 1915 to Emma Slaughter. Any children they may have had would not match DNA for the missing soldier. Finding Pvt. McBride’s family members could be key in helping identify his remains when they are found. Fisher said the Army would collect family members’ DNA using a mouth swab and send it to a lab for processing. The results are sent to JPAC’s lab in Hawaii for comparison with remains recovered or yet to come. For military personnel involved in the recovery effort it is more than a mission, Fisher said. They are helping return their fallen comrades to the country for which they died. Anyone who has information about McBride’s family may call Fisher at 800-813-1049 and leave a message or call the Army at 800-892-2490.

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