Korean War general’s son likely died in Russian gulag

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Sept. 17 (UPI) — The only son of Gen. James A. Van Fleet, who commanded the U.S. Army during the Korean War, may have died in Russia after being captured during the conflict, according to a family member.

Joe McChristian Jr., president of the Van Fleet Foundation, said Wednesday he has knowledge that his uncle, U.S. Air Force Capt. James A. Van Fleet Jr., a B-26 bomber pilot during the 1950-53 war, was taken to the Soviet Union, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

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The United States listed Van Fleet Jr. as missing in action or killed during the war.

The captain went missing while on a bombing mission in Sunchon, in present-day North Korea, on April 4, 1952. His aircraft was likely gunned down by anti-aircraft artillery. In South Korea, the Van Fleets are recognized as war heroes.

McChristian said Wednesday that Van Fleet Jr. may have survived the crash and been taken as a prisoner of war. The U.S. pilot was detained in the North for six months before being handed over to the Chinese military.

The capture of Gen. Van Fleet’s son was a cause for celebration in Beijing at the time. The Chinese military displayed the pilot’s dog tag before he was transferred to the Soviets, according to the report.

McChristian said his father, who served as an assistant chief of staff for U.S. military intelligence, confirmed this information with the Soviets. In the early ’90s, a former official with Moscow’s People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs, NKVD, confirmed Van Fleet Jr. had been incarcerated in Russia.

Speaking at a seminar organized by the South Korean consulate in Los Angeles on Wednesday, McChristian said his uncle likely died in a camp in Siberia.

South Korea is observing the 70th anniversary of the Korean War this year and recognizing the nations that took part in the war under the United Nations Command.

South Korean news service News 1 reported Thursday Seoul’s ministry of veterans affairs will hold a ceremony on Friday to recognize Philippine veterans. During the war, 112 Philippine troops died, 299 people were wounded, 16 went missing and 41 troops were taken prisoner, according to Seoul.