Friday, December 22, 2017

Corporal Luis P. Torres

When Corporal Luis Patlan Torres and his 23rd Infantry Regiment arrived at the Port of Pusan on August 5, 1950, they were given instructions to be ready to move to the front with an hour’s notice. They had just spent the previous couple of weeks steaming across the Pacific direct to Pusan from Bremerton, Washington. There would be no time for sightseeing. But granted, Pusan at the time had little in the way of tourist attractions.

Torres, from Eagle Pass, Texas, would recognize his 20th birthday on August 25.  The next day, his regiment was deployed near the village of Changnyeong, in the Naktong River valley.  Now part of the Pusan Perimeter, the newly-arrived 23rd attempted install a defensive line. They were so few in number that a squad of 20-25 men had to cover a segment as long as seven football fields. On top of this, they were ordered to hold the line at all costs.

After midnight on September 1, about 15 to 20 thousand North Koreans crossed the Naktong opposite the 23rd’s thin defensive line. The regiment’s outposts were systematically overrun, as evidenced by a flurry of radio messages for help swamping the battalion switchboard. The flow of these signals decreased and finally stopped before daybreak.

The best evidence of Torres’ fate came from an American prisoner of war who after the cease-fire suggested that Cpl. Torres was captured and executed. His remains were exhumed in December 20, 1950, from a shallow grave near Changnyeong. At the time, the identity of these remains was unknown when they were interred at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

Fast forward to May 16, 2016, when the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency laboratory disinterred the remains to attempt definitive identification. By using Next Generation Sequencing techniques with mitochondrial DNA analysis, a positive genetic match was achieved on December 15, 2016 with samples provided by Torres’ brother, sister, and nephew.

Luis P. Torres was finally laid to rest on January 13, 2017 at the Fort Sam Houston Cemetery in Texas.

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