Long considered MIA, soldier’s remains will return for burialBy Emily Beckett Published 5:50pm Tuesday, May 28, 2013
United States Army Master Sgt. Olen Berry Williams of Clanton will finally receive the memorial service and burial with full military honors he never had after perishing in the Korean War in the 1950s.
After 63 years of bearing the Missing in Action (MIA) classification next to his name, Williams is accounted for and will receive a proper memorial and burial in June from surviving family members who contributed to his long-awaited identification.
The U.S. military identified Williams’ remains in April with biographical information and DNA samples from his niece Dot Justiss and her daughter Tammy Richardson, both of Wetumpka.
Justiss and Richardson provided information and DNA samples for matching to Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command (JPAC), which conducts global search, recovery and laboratory operations to identify unaccounted-for Americans from past conflicts in order to support the U.S. Department of Defense’s personnel accounting efforts, according to its website.
Justiss said the Williams family has an annual reunion and dedicated their reunion three years ago to Olen Williams, a family member they always kept in mind and in their hearts despite his unknown whereabouts.
“We dedicated the family reunion to Olen, and everybody brought information on him,” said Justiss, whose mother was Williams’ sister. “Even though he wasn’t here, we always remembered him at the family reunion every year.”
Justiss, 68, said her last memory of Williams is from a family dinner at her grandparents’ house. She was 6 years old, and he was about to leave for war.
“We visited before he left,” Justiss said. “I remember getting the letter saying he was MIA, and momma cried.”
Born on March 20, 1913, in Autauga County, Williams was declared Missing in Action on Dec. 12, 1950, during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea.
Since he did not return as a prisoner of war, and his remains were not recovered at the end of the war, Williams was declared Killed in Action (KIA) on Dec. 31, 1953.
He was the son of Louis B. and Elizabeth Williams of Chilton County.
Other surviving relatives include Earl Taylor of Clanton, and Amy Taylor Meredith and Sharon Orrender of Louisville, Ky.
Williams and 2,504 of the 3,288 U.S. Army soldiers attacked were listed as MIA.
Williams’ unidentified remains were found on the eastern side of the Chosin Reservoir and sent back to the U.S. by the Chinese government on Sept. 15, 1954.
His remains, along with those of other unidentified servicemen, were buried at the National Military Cemetery in Hawaii.
In 2012, Williams’ case was reopened, and on April 2 of this year, a positive match was made in identifying his remains.
Williams’ remains are expected to arrive at the Birmingham–Shuttlesworth International Airport on June 6 and will be transported to Chilton County following a family ceremony.
Williams’ visitation will be Sunday, June 9, from 1–2 p.m. with the service at 2 p.m. at Martin Funeral Home in Clanton.
Williams’ interment will follow at Evergreen Cemetery in Verbena.