I imagine that when Corporal James R. Bair (1931-1952) learned he would be sent to Korea, he had no idea how long that deployment would last. Unfortunately, his service there was cut short and he returned home far sooner than anyone expected.
James Bair was born in 1931, the youngest son of Raymond Bair (1898-1993) and Cora Wendling (1902-1999). Raymond grew up on the Sugarcreek Township farm of his father John Bair (1868-1939). Ray listed his employment as a miller when he registered for the draft at the beginning of World War One. Ray did not see service and, within a few years of war’s end, he married Cora in 1922. The couple, by 1940, was raising five children in Dover Township and Ray was the miller in a local grocery/feed store in Dover.
Glenn Bair (1925-2012), one of James’s elder brothers, served during World War Two while James was attending school in Dover. James seemed to focus more on academics than athletics, serving as a member of the Dover High School’s newspaper and journalism club during his tenure there. He did, however, take part in some athletic activities as a member of the intramural sports club. After graduating from Dover High School, James was employed with Edward Richards Landscaping Company.
The Korean War was already well under way when James was drafted at the end of October 1951. Upon bring drafted James was shipped to Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky for sixteen weeks of basic and advanced training. Prior to being shipped overseas to Japan in the spring of 1952, he was able to return home for a month-long visit with his family. After spending some time in Japan, and upon arriving in Korea in June 1952, James was assigned to Company F of the 5th Regimental Combat Team (RCT). The 5th RCT in Korea was composed of the 5th Infantry Regiment, 555th Field Artillery Battalion, the 72nd Engineer Company, and other supporting units.
The 5th RCT had been on active combat duty in Korea since July 1950 when it was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division. Later that summer, the unit was reassigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, and eventually to the 24th Infantry Division where it remained until January 1952. The RCT was heavily engaged during the Battle for the Pusan Perimeter in the fall of 1950. By the time that James joined the unit in the summer of 1952, the 5th RCT was officially a separate unit assigned to the U.S. Army’s IX Corps.
When James Bair joined the 5th RCT, the unit was positioned on the northern edge of the bowl-shaped Haean Basin, an area known as the “Punchbowl.” The area had been fought over since the beginning of the Korean War, including the Battles of Bloody Ridge and Heartbreak Ridge. The summer of 1952 found soldiers of the 5th RCT performing regular combat patrols and reconnaissance along the northern edge of the “Punchbowl.” James found himself on just such a patrol on June 22, 1952 when his unit came under enemy fire. James had been in Korea for less than 22 days when he was fatally wounded. He was evacuated to Japan where he died on August 29, 1952.
Over 1.7 million American service personnel served in the Korean War, often referred to as the “Forgotten War,” and over 33,000 lost their lives in combat. Corporal James Bair had only just arrived in Korea when his name was added to that somber list. Corporal James Bair rests with his family members in Dover Burial Park.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2021.