Duty, Honor, Country

Published 7:24 am Wednesday, May 29, 2013

MURFREESBORO – The military plaque that makes up Army Private First Class William H. Hollingsworth’s gravestone in Riverside Cemetery has weathered with time, its surface slowly turning into a bronze patina.

The bravery and courage shown by Hollingsworth during the Korean War has stayed buried for years.

But that all changed when Edward Rainey of Murfreesboro happened upon the grave in Riverside Cemetery.

“I saw it purely by accident,” he said.

As a Korean veteran who served on the USS Iowa during the war, Rainey felt an instant connection with Hollingsworth.

From what he could read on the plaque, Hollingsworth served in the 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division during Korea. Hollingsworth was just 21 years old at the time of his death on July 22, 1950.

There was also another fact Rainey had knowledge of as a member of the Murfreesboro War Veterans Memorial Committee. He knew Hollingsworth’s name was not on the War Veterans Memorial monument that stands in front of the Town Hall on Broad Street.

“My only motive was to see his name get placed on the memorial,” he said.

Asking around town, he found out the solider grew up in the Pinetops community just outside of Murfreesboro across the border in Northampton County. His grandparents were Cephus and Eva Futrell and his mother, Elsie F. Hollingsworth Beasley; all are buried beside the young soldier.

For his own curiosity, Rainey dug into what he could find out about Hollingsworth’s service.

Rainey turned to the Internet and browsed the 35th Infantry Regiment Association’s Web site.

He found Hollingsworth was first listed as MIA (Missing in Action) and then KIA (Killed in Action). His military occupation specialty was 4745-Light Weapons Infantryman.

PFC Hollingsworth was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Korean War Service Medal.

Between July 10 and 15, 1950, the 25th Division arrived at Pusan, Korea from Japan. The troops were ordered there in response to an unprovoked attack on Republic of South Korea (ROK) by the North Korean “People’s Army” that occurred nearly a month before. The Division’s commands were to bolster ROK defenses of the central mountain corridors.

After days of fighting off and on with the enemy, American troops and ROK sought to protect the town of Sangju from being taken over by the North Koreans.

Recent heavy rains had swollen a nearby stream behind where the ROK and F Company of the 35th Regiment were positioned. The flooding was so severe that torrents of water were rolling large boulders along the channel.

On July 22, the North Koreans attacked. While the ROK troops resisted briefly, they eventually withdrew from around F Company without telling them of their intentions.

Rainey estimated approximately 160 Americans were left to fight more than 30,000 North Koreans. This precipitated an unorganized withdrawal.

The swollen stream prevented those with F Company from crossing the south side to where the 2nd Battalion was located. Many soldiers who tried to cross the stream either drowned or were carried by the current back to the same banks they were trying to flee.

Platoon tanks located on the south side were able to hold off the enemy to allow those that survived to escape. At the end of the battle six men were killed, 10 were wounded and 21 were missing from F Company.

From what he gathered, Rainey surmises Hollingsworth was among the first Americans killed in the Korean War—the official start of which is listed as June 25, 1950.

For two years Rainey held onto Hollingsworth’s name to be placed on the War Veterans Memorial. He said he believed that five names had to be collected before more could be added. During that time Rainey explored other options, including having Hollingsworth’s name added to Conway’s Veterans Memorial Park.

However on Tuesday, Rainey received approval for Hollingsworth to be added onto the Murfreesboro monument. The engraving will be scheduled in the future.

“I feel it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Rainey said Hollingsworth’s story makes him think of the other men who lost their lives while in the service of their country and have not been recognized for their sacrifice.

He added it’s a comfort for him to know Hollingsworth will be acknowledged.

“If anybody earned a spot on there, he did,” he said. “Murfreesboro should proud to have a son that served the way he did.”