War hero’s remains, identified 73 years later, return home to Americus

Published: May. 29, 2023 at 10:35 AM EDT
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AMERICUS, Ga. (WTVM) - A combat hero and Medal of Honor recipient from Sumter County finally returned home this week, 73 years after dying in the Korean War. He is being interred in nearby Andersonville GA this Memorial Day.

We went to Americus to talk to the mayor and the niece of Army Corporal Luther Story, whose remains were finally identified.

Opening up a box to show us “the soil from where he was buried in South Korea,” the war hero’s niece said the people in that country called it sacred ground, where they put he and other unknown American soldiers, all while a family in West Georgia got a telegram their son was killed in action.

“They (the people of South Korea) are free now because of people like my uncle,” CPL Story’s niece Judy Wade said.

Those remains went unidentified more than 7 decades - until DNA helped them finally account for Army Corporal Luther Story, who died at age 19 during the Korea War in 1950. The discovery was shocking for his niece Judy Wade in Americus, the city where Corporal Story lived.

“I never dreamed he would come home. I always thought he was a total loss,” she said. “I’m proud of him for what he did but it is sad I didn’t know him.”

Wade was born 4 years after he died, but she heard plenty of stories from her grandparents and has a scrapbook with pictures and memories of Luther Story, who sent a postcard the day before being killed.

“Expressing his concern about being in the military...and that he had to shoot an enemy soldier,” Americus Mayor Lee Kinnamon said, about that final postcard.

Americus’ mayor also found out his mom attended the same high school as Story, who he calls the city’s most courageous citizen after hearing eyewitness accounts of what the young soldier did with grenades to save lives, saying it sounds “like some kind of super hero in a movie.”

There’s a memorial for all combat veterans at the Sumter County courthouse that includes a picture of CPL Story and a description of what he did, killing 100 North Koreans while wounded, using every weapon available to the end.

“He sacrificed his life so that others could live,” Mayor Kinnamon said.

Story was posthumously awarded him the Medal of Honor a year after his death. And family hopes his story being retold will stir patriotism.

“I believe he’s not just mine, I believe he’s everybody’s. He belongs to the people of the United States,” Wade added.

“His returning here after 73 years is a remarkable event for us in this community. This is also for Buena Vista, where Luther was born and for Plains where he briefly attended school,” Mayor Kinnamon told us.

And it’s a long time coming for this son of a poor farming family. His remains will be taken, this Memorial Day, from Americus, 12 miles down the road to his final resting place.

“The National Park Service at Andersonville is anticipating a crowd of about 1,000,” Mayor Kinnamon said.

Wade told us, “I hope it makes people feel proud of their country as well as my uncle.”

Corporal Story’s Medal of Honor is on display at the National Infantry Museum. WTVM will have full coverage of his interment in Andersonville on Memorial Day 2023.