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Remains of Korean War casualty come home

U.S. Army Corporal Clifford Johnson, who died in the Korean War. Photo contributed

VALATIE—On April 23, 2021, the United States Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced that it had identified the remains of an American soldier who had been listed as missing in action during the Korean War. The soldier was Corporal Clifford Johnson, 20 years old, of Valatie.

On May 18, the soldier’s casket will be flown from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency identification facility in Honolulu, Hawaii and will arrive at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut, where it will be received by a hearse from the Bond Funeral Home of Valatie. Accompanying the hearse on its trip from the airport to Valatie will be an Army escort and possibly other official vehicles. The Patriot Guard Riders Motorcycle Club will also escort. The Ichabod Crane Central School will display a welcome home banner and the Columbia County Blue Star Mothers will urge the citizens of Valatie to turn out.

Columbia County Veterans Service Director Gary Flaherty said that the burial will be on Thursday, May 20 at the Gerald B. H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery in Schuylerville. He said that in the hours before the burial, veteran’s groups will make presentations at the Bond Funeral Home.

Clifford Johnson came from a large extended lineage of Johnson families in Valatie. They lived on River Street. Like many in Valatie, he worked in one of the textile mills along the Kinderhook Creek. And like many Johnsons, in war or peacetime, he enlisted for military service.

During WWII his family was the first in Columbia County to receive a telegram informing them of the death of a family member. Clifford’s older brother, Nathan, was killed at the Kasserine Pass in North Africa in 1943. Then a cousin, Clarence Johnson, was killed in France in 1944. Village Historian Dominick Lizzi, who has written a detailed history of Valatie, says that during WWII, 14 telegrams were received by Valatie families announcing the deaths of their sons and brothers, proportionally the largest toll in the country. Clifford Johnson’s younger brother, Norman, was drafted when he was 25 and was awarded two Purple Hearts for wounds he received in Vietnam.

According to the national Purple Heart Hall of Honor, Corporal Clifford Johnson died in the battle of the Chosen Reservoir. “[He] and troops from the 7th Army Division were engaged in an all-out clash with enemy troops. In the end there were heavy casualties on both sides. Threatened with being encircled and cut off by Chinese troops, the 7th Division was forced to evacuate and regroup. Corporal Johnson was declared Missing in Action after this battle on December 6, 1950 and declared Presumptively Dead on December 31, 1953.

“This has great significance for the village of Valatie and its people,” said Mr. Lizzi. “It is a bittersweet moment.”

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