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Korean War Hero: Missing But Not Forgotten

On July 17, 1951, SFC Milton Wesley Bailey was patrolling with his unit near the 38th Parallel in Korea. While on this reconnaissance mission, Bailey’s unit came under heavy enemy fire on an exposed ridgeline. Bailey was the Rear Guard on this mission and shouted for his team to retreat while he provided cover. When the squad regrouped, Bailey was missing. He died heroically that day, and 73 years later, his sacrifice has not been forgotten. Efforts are underway advocating for Bailey to receive a posthumous Medal of Honor, and hope remains for his one-day recovery and return home.

Milton Wesley Bailey

Milton W. Bailey was born in 1931 and grew up in Milford, Pike County, Pennsylvania. He was the only child of his fiercely devoted mother, Beatrice Bailey. He grew up performing in school plays, playing basketball, and running track for the Milford high school team. Bailey lived with his mother and grandmother at 308 High Street in a home acquired with a pension provided for the Civil War service of his great-grandfather.

Back in 1896, a representative of the Afro-American Emancipation League came to Milford, seeking out widows of Civil War veterans who had served in the United States Colored Troops (USCT). He hoped to make them aware of their right to receive pension benefits. Bailey’s great-grandfather, Abraham Davis, was a veteran but had already passed away. His widow, Sarah Davis, applied for the pension. In 1906, she was awarded nearly $650 in back benefits and a pension of $8 per month. Bailey was the fourth generation to live in a home that was a physical reminder of dedicated military service and sacrifice throughout his family lineage.

Milton W. Bailey with his mother Beatrice Bailey

Following high school graduation, Bailey got a job in Wilkes-Barre, returning often to visit his mother. In May 1950, at age 19, Milton enlisted in the US Army. Just one month later, on June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea. The US officially entered the Korean War two days later, on June 27, 1950.

After completing training at Fort Knox in Kentucky and Fort Lawton in Washington, the 5’8”, 133 lb. Bailey shipped out for Korea. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, Company G – America’s last Buffalo Soldier regiment to be integrated. His Civil War great-grandfather served in the first. Bailey wrote home to his mother and grandmother nearly daily, sharing his experiences in hand-written letters preserved in his Milford hometown. He was respected by his fellow soldiers and a natural leader.

On July 17, 1951, Bailey was on patrol near the 38th Parallel in Korea, in the vicinity of Komsang-Gol, North Korea. His fellow soldier, Curtis Morrow, was the Squad Leader. He was rear guard, charged with allowing his unit a safe retreat. Their mission was to leave the patrol base on Hill 477, make contact with the enemy at Hill 344, and return. It was a familiar mission and something they had repeated several times previously.

While traveling along a ridge, the squad became embroiled in an intense gun battle. Bailey yelled for his team to retreat, providing cover as they fled. While evacuating, Morrow – as written in a book dedicated to Bailey – glanced back and saw Bailey firing his carbine at the enemy and shouting at his men to move. When the unit regrouped back at their patrol base on Hill 477, they realized Bailey was missing. 

A return to the area where he was last seen yielded no signs of Bailey, and the Pike County hero – now nearly 73 years later – remains missing. That mountain ridge is located just over the DMZ, in an off-limits North Korean landscape.

Bailey’s mother, Beatrice, learned via telegram that her son was MIA. He was officially declared dead in 1953. Around that time, hostilities ceased, and opposing forces agreed to allow search and recovery operations in the DMZ for 45 days. While some remains were recovered, Bailey’s remains were not among them. In 1954, the United Nations Military Armistice Commission negotiated an agreement where opposing forces would conduct search and recovery operations in territory under their control and then exchange remains. At that time, North Korea turned over the remains of some 4000 UN deceased personnel. Bailey’s remains were not among them, and he was deemed nonrecoverable.

Pike County Dispatch: March 4, 1954

In 1954, an official memorial service was conducted at the Milford Methodist Church, where Bailey had attended services. A large flag adorned the front of the church, and many local community members came to honor Bailey’s memory.

Beatrice Bailey, now a Gold Star Mother, remained active in military matters. She was the president of her local chapter of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Affairs and was active in the American Legion’s auxiliary unit. She died in 1991 without ever seeing her son’s remains returned home.

A search for descendants and YDNA submissions led to a connection with Bailey’s paternal family lineage and successful mitochondrial submission in recent years. Others who are also hopeful for Bailey’s recovery and touched by his heroic service are working to have his valor recognized with a posthumous Medal of Honor. If successful, Bailey would join 146 other Americans who received Medals of Honor for valor in combat during the Korean War.

To learn more about Milton W. Bailey, see his Fold3® Memorial and explore additional Korean War records today on Fold3®


  1. Sharon E. Siegel says:

    Thank you, Jenny Ashcraft, for writing this beautiful accounting of our Milford, PA missing hero, Milton Wesley Bailey. We are working with Congressman Pat Ryan’s office to award what SFC Bailey is long overdue to have received. We are also working with the Army Casualty office and Milton’s paternal side of family on efforts to find and return this hero home.

    Your beautiful article will help bring attention to one who for too long seems to have been forgotten. We will never forget. Sharon and Stan Siegel, Port Jervis, NY

  2. Thanks so much for documenting this. It is important in our quest to bring Milton home. Gone but not forgotten, Sgt. Milton Welsey Bailey. The Pike County Historical Society is proud to preserve your memory through our exhibits.

  3. Bob Quinn says:

    Thanks for bringing this hero’s story to the forefront. He deserves to be honored for his actions brought home to RIP

  4. M G says:

    Why the assumption that he died? If multiple searches didn’t find his remains, couldn’t he have been captured?

    • DK says:

      Hello M G,
      If he was alone on an exposed ridge in enemy territory, it is logical for him to have been killed. If his remains were never recovered, then he most likely died in enemy hands.
      D K

  5. Becky says:

    My uncle Donald Robert Schramm was also killed in Korea and listed as MIA for a year before they brought him home. Although I was not born until 4 years after he was lost, I have always felt a connection to him and wish so much I could have known him. Milton deserves the medal of honor just as my uncle got. Future generations deserve to know him as the hero he was.

  6. Richard H Reed MD USA veteran says:

    He is dead only when we stop calling his name
    He still lives among us ! A true hero!

  7. Gail Cantrell says:

    Thank you for telling his story. He is a hero and certainly deserving of recognition and the medal.
    All gave some. Some gave all. RIP

  8. Randall Miller says:

    God blessed Milton on that long ago day as he battled to keep his fellow soldiers safe. The family will always have that pride in their young man who gave his all. I appreciated reading his life story.
    I am the child of father who also served in the Korean War and my husband served in the Army during the Viet Nam War. We honor Milton’s memory.
    Thank you for sharing.

  9. Janice Poates says:

    I am so sad that this young man died and is still missing. He was such a hero and deserves his medal. Thank you Bailey for your service.

  10. Karen Rowland says:

    My heart will shed tears until he is returned to us in spirit.

  11. SPO says:

    He is a Hero to every American.

  12. Donna says:

    What a sacrifice on the part of his mother, to lose her only son, her pride and joy. What a sacrifice on the part of the young hero, to give his life to save the men with him. They are both to be honored and appreciated. He deserves that medal, and his memory is a blessing. I don’t know his family, and I’m not from PA, but this story has blessed me today.

  13. Pat DeBolt says:

    Seek8ng information about my father’s military records. John F. Handlan, who served during tge Korean Conflict. I know that he was Stationed at Keesler Air Force Base but, l could find nothing about him.

  14. Dennis Pellon says:

    Touching story about a brave young African-American man who gave up his today for our tomorrow. He deserves special recognition, as does his late mother, who worked so hard in his memory.

  15. Ron Oliver says:

    Coming from a family that has served in nearly every US war and a gold star family member I am deeply moved by the service of this man and his great grandfather. Such courage and dedication to duty and sacrifice of love must never by forgotten and always honored. He gave his life for his squad and it seems the Medal of Honor is due. He has it in my heart!

  16. DANIEL J VAYDA says:

    Incredible story of a Family’s Heroism and trajic loss. The military has very little discrimination amongst its members..a lesson All Americans should be reminded of. Rest in Peace Sir.

  17. Florence Hendrick says:

    I am forever thankful for this amazing War Hero, and I’m also proud to honor Sgt. Milton Wesley Bailey, and his life. Just so sad to think that his body was never recovered, and the anguish that his family went through as they suffered the anguish of missing their precious loved one. Thank you Jenny Ashcraft, for sharing the story of a true Hero, and let us never forget that countless men and women paid the ultimate sacrifice for EVERY American, regardless of what political party they belong to. Let us never forget, that our beautiful country and the Freedom we enjoy, really isn’t free at all, and each of us must do what we can to preserve our free country….so that all these precious, and selfless lives didn’t die in vain. We must never forget about all the men and women who suffer today on some level as they also paid the price for this country we call the United States of America….Oh, Lord God if only we could cherish what we have and be UNITED! RIP, Sgt. Milton Wesley Bailey, and thank you Sir, for your sacrifice, bravery, and service for me, and my family.

  18. He most likely was captured by the enemy, tortured and then died under their control. The North Korean Army is known for their inhumanity towards prisoners of war. My hope is that the Secretary of the Army will take this opportunity to recognize a gallant soldier who fulfilled his duty to the end.