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First Korean War dead arrive in Los Angeles

First Korean War dead arrive in Los Angeles

March 27, 1951: A coffin for one of the first four Los Angeles County men to die in the Korean War comes home. 

This photo accompanied an article in the March 28, 1951, Los Angeles Times reporting:

It was as if the engineer were delicately handling a precious cargo – cargo more precious than his huge Mallet engine usually drew through the mountain passes of the great San Joaquin Valley.

William Brannock, drawing the Southern Pacific’s Owl from San Francisco, brought home to Los Angeles the first four of the county’s soldiers who died in the mud and muck of Korea.

Brannock knew that the men’s loved ones awaited and depended upon him – a grizzled railroader – to tenderly deliver their mortal remains so their beloved and their comrades-in-arms could pay them appropriate honor. So instead of rolling his long train to the very end of the terminal at Union Station yesterday, he leveled his throttle and slowly eased the funeral train to a stop.

Flanking the doors of the baggage car that bore the flag-draped bodies was a 10-man detail of Army men from Company C, 701st Military Police Battalion from Ft. MacArthur, headed by Sgt. George Pitts.

Train No. 58 steamed to a stop. Sgt. Pitts saluted. The sergeant’s men stood erect, immobile. Workmen acted.

Los Angeles’ soldiers had finally reached home.

There was Cpl. Carlos R. Salazar, who made the supreme sacrifice. He left his wife Emily and his infant daughter Ramona Elinda.

Pvt. 1st Class Thomas J. Leavey had gaily written his younger brother in Compton before he transferred from a military police battalion in Japan in order he could be with his pal, Dan Carnes, in a bazooka outfit. It was his last letter and his last reunion with Carnes, his old Compton school chum. Both Carnes and Leavey were killed in action as a bazooka team.

Then came Master Sgt. David W. Foster, a veteran of 11 years in the Army and the father of three children.

Next was Pvt. Conrad R. Daniels, only a youngster.

It was their final trip to their homes. Salazar, an East Los Angeles boy; Leavey, an athlete in the Compton schools; Foster, a man who had fought through numerous campaigns in Europe during World War II; and then Daniels – all heroes, the first of Southern California’s men who died in action to return to their homes from the battle fronts.

All the railroad men on hand bared their heads, traces of tears glistening in their eyes.

The soldiers’ caskets were loaded aboard baggage trucks, hitched to a power unit and guided to waiting hearses from four mortuaries.

At the side of one, a close relative waited, tears streaming from his eyes. This was his eldest. The grey-haired man was John J. Leavey, who stands ready to sacrifice his two remaining sons if the country needs them. One already wears the uniform of the U.S. Air Force. …

Each of the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division’s men – Salazar, Foster, Daniels and Leavey – were escorted on the train by soldiers of equal or higher rank.  …

Private funeral services will be held for the men at various times, beginning Friday.

However, the citizens of Los Angeles County will have an opportunity to pay their respects to them at Patriotic Hall Thursday between 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. during which time the bodies will lie in state in the hall’s rotunda. …

March 29, 1951: Marching past caskets of first Los Angeles war dead returned from Korean War are from left: Rabbi Samuel Chomsky, Dr. Frederick Smith, Msgr. Alden J. Bell and County Supervisor Leonard Roach. Caskets were at Patriotic Hall. Credit: Harmon D. Toy/Los Angeles Times.

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