'I'm on fire, I'm on fire' - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

'I'm on fire, I'm on fire'

Family members of missing military servicemen get status updates on government efforts to recover those lost

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Posted: Monday, May 20, 2013 12:00 am

SPOKANE - Hayden resident Don Bradway's father was on a night intruder mission when his Corsair fighter-bomber went down in the midst of the Korean War.

"He was in North Korea and he was making a bombing run on a truck convoy," Don Bradway said Saturday. "He was in an area that was known to be completely enemy territory."

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Judson Jack Bradway, a pilot from El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in southern California, had been in Korea for months before his plane went down on Sept. 20, 1951. He was 29.

A U.S. Navy flare-plane flying at 10,000 feet lit up the target. Jack Bradway came in low and hit the convoy with a napalm canister. The Corsair carried .50-caliber machine guns, bombs and napalm.

"His job was interdiction - get in and stop them from bringing supplies and personnel south toward our people," Don Bradway said.

Shortly afterward, the men on the flare plane observed what looked like sparks coming from his Corsair.

"The crew on the Navy plane said he reported, 'I'm on fire, I'm on fire,'" Don Bradway said. That was the last radio transmission from him.

"And then almost immediately afterward they saw it impact and explode," Bradway said.

Jack Bradway never really had a chance to get out of the plane. Back in California, Don Bradway was 3 years old and his sister would be born days later.

Don Bradway, now 64, was one of the 122 Inland Northwest family members of missing-in-action servicemen from past wars abroad who met Saturday at the Red Lion Hotel at the Park in downtown Spokane with specialists from the U.S. Department of Defense.

Officials from the department's Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office shared information about what's being done worldwide to resolve cases of missing loved ones.

"We have some family members who have traveled from as far away as Boise who have come out to get the information about what the government is doing," said Sgt. 1st Class Shelia Sledge, a spokeswoman for the department.

Throughout the year, many family members travel to Washington, D.C., to review case files. Many can't make the trip, so this program brings the information to them.

Families learn about forensic identification work being done at the Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii, including mitochondrial DNA, one of the high-technology tools being used.

Specialists collect DNA samples from family members in attendance, and the samples are added to the family reference database.

Don Bradway said the military knows where his father's plane went down but his remains haven't been recovered.

"The U.S. government has been very, very good about communicating with the families," he said. "The U.S. military is doing everything they can to find our missing people, be they alive or dead."

Through high school, Don Bradway held on to the hope his father was still alive, and might be a prisoner of war.

Later, when he was in college, he was told by one of his father's squadron mates that his dad definitely died in the crash.

Don Bradway recalled the Marine airman saying, "'He was flying very low, because that's what we did.'"

The area was hilly and enemy troops had strung heavy-duty cables from hilltop to hilltop. Jack Bradway also could have taken ground fire. Because of his low elevation he wouldn't have had time to eject from the plane. The Chinese and North Koreans would have swarmed on the plane as soon as it crashed to gather any possible intelligence.

"It was disconcerting, but I needed to hear that from (the squadron mate) so that I didn't have this hope," Don Bradway said.

His father would have been pulled from the plane and buried by villagers nearby the crash, he said.

Forensic experts for the U.S. military have told Don Bradway that the soil conditions likely would have preserved his father's bones.

North Korean villagers, who usually stay in a location for generations, would likely remember the crash and burial site. Stories of the incident would have been passed down.

Don Bradway said, "We might be able to find his remains. It would just be bone, but the bones would be better preserved than if they were in a different type of soil."

Sledge said that, combined, there are more than 83,000 American servicemen missing in action from the Korean and Vietnam wars, the Cold War and World War II.

The department does about six to eight of the regional events each year, and it's been several years since one was conducted in Spokane.

The department has done monthly updates since 1995, reaching more than 14,000 family members in face-to-face meetings.

Don Bradway said he knows that if U.S. military officials ever receive cooperation from the North Korean government an effort will be made to recover his father's remains.

"I just pray that it will be in my lifetime," he said. "Given the circumstances in North Korea right now, they may never get in there."

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Judson Jack Bradway, a pilot from El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in southern California, had been in Korea for months before his plane went down on Sept. 20, 1951. He was 29.

A U.S. Navy flare-plane flying at 10,000 feet lit up the target. Jack Bradway came in low and hit the convoy with a napalm canister. The Corsair carried .50-caliber machine guns, bombs and napalm.

"His job was interdiction - get in and stop them from bringing supplies and personnel south toward our people," Don Bradway said.

Shortly afterward, the men on the flare plane observed what looked like sparks coming from his Corsair.

"The crew on the Navy plane said he reported, 'I'm on fire, I'm on fire,'" Don Bradway said. That was the last radio transmission from him.

"And then almost immediately afterward they saw it impact and explode," Bradway said.

Jack Bradway never really had a chance to get out of the plane. Back in California, Don Bradway was 3 years old and his sister would be born days later.

Don Bradway, now 64, was one of the 122 Inland Northwest family members of missing-in-action servicemen from past wars abroad who met Saturday at the Red Lion Hotel at the Park in downtown Spokane with specialists from the U.S. Department of Defense.

Officials from the department's Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office shared information about what's being done worldwide to resolve cases of missing loved ones.

"We have some family members who have traveled from as far away as Boise who have come out to get the information about what the government is doing," said Sgt. 1st Class Shelia Sledge, a spokeswoman for the department.

Throughout the year, many family members travel to Washington, D.C., to review case files. Many can't make the trip, so this program brings the information to them.

Families learn about forensic identification work being done at the Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii, including mitochondrial DNA, one of the high-technology tools being used.

Specialists collect DNA samples from family members in attendance, and the samples are added to the family reference database.

Don Bradway said the military knows where his father's plane went down but his remains haven't been recovered.

"The U.S. government has been very, very good about communicating with the families," he said. "The U.S. military is doing everything they can to find our missing people, be they alive or dead."

Through high school, Don Bradway held on to the hope his father was still alive, and might be a prisoner of war.

Later, when he was in college, he was told by one of his father's squadron mates that his dad definitely died in the crash.

Don Bradway recalled the Marine airman saying, "'He was flying very low, because that's what we did.'"

The area was hilly and enemy troops had strung heavy-duty cables from hilltop to hilltop. Jack Bradway also could have taken ground fire. Because of his low elevation he wouldn't have had time to eject from the plane. The Chinese and North Koreans would have swarmed on the plane as soon as it crashed to gather any possible intelligence.

"It was disconcerting, but I needed to hear that from (the squadron mate) so that I didn't have this hope," Don Bradway said.

His father would have been pulled from the plane and buried by villagers nearby the crash, he said.

Forensic experts for the U.S. military have told Don Bradway that the soil conditions likely would have preserved his father's bones.

North Korean villagers, who usually stay in a location for generations, would likely remember the crash and burial site. Stories of the incident would have been passed down.

Don Bradway said, "We might be able to find his remains. It would just be bone, but the bones would be better preserved than if they were in a different type of soil."

Sledge said that, combined, there are more than 83,000 American servicemen missing in action from the Korean and Vietnam wars, the Cold War and World War II.

The department does about six to eight of the regional events each year, and it's been several years since one was conducted in Spokane.

The department has done monthly updates since 1995, reaching more than 14,000 family members in face-to-face meetings.

Don Bradway said he knows that if U.S. military officials ever receive cooperation from the North Korean government an effort will be made to recover his father's remains.

"I just pray that it will be in my lifetime," he said. "Given the circumstances in North Korea right now, they may never get in there."

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2 comments:

  • lyric21 posted at 10:17 pm on Mon, May 20, 2013.

    lyric21 Posts: 172

    A reminder of the horrible price our servicemen and their families pay for our freedom. God bless your family, your dad was a hero.

     
  • Catching_Fire posted at 7:43 am on Mon, May 20, 2013.

    Catching_Fire Posts: 14

    Don, Thanks for sharing your story. I am sorry for your loss at such an early age of your life.

     
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