Nearly 73 years after he was reported missing during the Korean War, the remains of Medal of Honor recipient Cpl. Luther H. Story will soon return home to be laid to rest.
On May 29, Story will be interred at Andersonville National Cemetery in Georgia following a service in nearby Americus, where he grew up.
Story served with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division during the Korean War. While fighting against the Korean People’s Army near the towns of Pusan and Yeongsan in South Korea, the 19-year-old soldier was, by all accounts, utterly fearless.
After an enemy assault broke through the 9th Infantry Regiment’s lines, Story, along with his fellow soldiers, were at risk of being surrounded and cut off from allied forces. As a weapons squad leader, Story moved his soldiers to a position where they could engage their attackers as they advanced. Once there, he spotted a large group of enemy soldiers as they prepared to launch an attack on other elements of his company. Grabbing a machine gun from his wounded gunner, Story laid down a torrent of fire on the attacking force, killing or wounding an estimated 100 enemy soldiers.
Despite their efforts, Story’s unit was soon facing encirclement, and so the order came to withdraw. As they pulled back, Story saw an enemy truck carrying troops and towing an ammunition trailer making its way down a road.
What he did next is best summarized by his Medal of Honor citation, which states that after alerting his squad of the danger, “he fearlessly stood in the middle of the road, throwing grenades into the truck. Out of grenades, he crawled to his squad, gathered up additional grenades, and again attacked the vehicle.”
But Story’s heroism did not stop with his one-man stand in the middle of a road. As the company pulled back, they faced repeated attack from the much larger enemy force, and Story was wounded.
Knowing that he was too injured to keep up, his citation says, Story chose to remain behind in an attempt to slow the enemy’s advance.
The last his fellow soldiers saw of him, Story was alone firing any and every weapon available as he waged a one-man battle against the enemy force, all in a desperate attempt to slow their advance so his brothers in arms could make their escape.
After the battle, a search was launched to recover his body, but to no avail. In 1951, Story was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, which was presented to his father by Gen. Omar N. Bradley.
Then, 70 years later, he was found. As Army Times previously reported, Story’s remains were exhumed from Sangde-po, South Korea, along with 652 other unknown combatants, in June 2021. Dental and anthropological records were used by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency to identify Story among those buried at Sangde-po, and scientists with the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used DNA analysis to confirm the discovery.
According to an Army press release, more than 7,500 Americans who fought in the Korean War remain unaccounted for.
The Medal of Honor citation for Cpl. Luther H. Story can be read in its entirety below:
Pfc. Story distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action. A savage daylight attack by elements of three enemy divisions penetrated the thinly held lines of the 9th Infantry. Company A beat off several banzai attacks but was bypassed and in danger of being cut off and surrounded. Pfc. Story, a weapons squad leader, was heavily engaged in stopping the early attacks and had just moved his squad to a position overlooking the Naktong River when he observed a large group of the enemy crossing the river to attack Company A. Seizing a machine gun from his wounded gunner he placed deadly fire on the hostile column killing or wounding an estimated 100 enemy soldiers. Facing certain encirclement, the company commander ordered a withdrawal. During the move Pfc. Story noticed the approach of an enemy truck loaded with troops and towing an ammunition trailer. Alerting his comrades to take cover, he fearlessly stood in the middle of the road, throwing grenades into the truck. Out of grenades, he crawled to his squad, gathered up additional grenades, and again attacked the vehicle. During the withdrawal the company was attacked by such superior numbers that it was forced to deploy in a rice field. Pfc. Story was wounded in this action, but, disregarding his wounds, rallied the men about him and repelled the attack. Realizing that his wounds would hamper his comrades, he refused to retire to the next position but remained to cover the company’s withdrawal. When last seen he was firing every weapon available and fighting off another hostile assault. Pvt. Story’s extraordinary heroism, aggressive leadership, and supreme devotion to duty reflect the highest credit upon himself and were in keeping with the esteemed traditions of the military service.
James is the editor of Army Times and a Marine Corps veteran.