Wednesday, 09 October 2013 11:26

The U.S. Military presented Henry Porter’s sister Burdetta Ellis with a folded American flag. photo by Ben Boehl

Henry Porter died in Korean War in 1951

by Ben Boehl

Burdetta Ellis remembers when her brother, Cpl. Henry McKinley “Tenny” Porter, went missing in the Korean War.
    “There was no body and no dog tags,” Ellis recalled.
    “Over there, it was cold and raw weather,” Porter’s niece, Shirley Neal said. “There were bad conditions and the body was unrecoverable.”
    Porter served in the Korean War as a soldier in the U.S. Army. While a witness statement from an Army officer attests to his death on the battlefield, Porter’s remains were never recovered and he did not have an official burial.
    He was reported missing at the age of 21.
    Porter was one of 10 children; his youngest sister Burdetta Ellis is the only sibling left today.
    Because Porter’s mother and brothers were upset about his death, she said, the family did not want to talk about his passing, so he was never honored.
    “We could never approach my mother about it, [so the circumstances] did not allow him to have a memorial. I could not live with that anymore,” Ellis said. “He should be treated like the rest of the family.”
    Many of the grandchildren of Mary Lue Copeland Porter would visit their grandmother’s house and would see the picture of her fallen son above the piano. Ellis said the grandchildren would ask who was in the picture, but they would be given only a name and not a story.
    That lack of resolution led Ellis and the Porter family to finally give Henry Porter a memorial service over 60 years later.
    It was held Saturday at the Cove Point Apartments and included medals and military honors. Ellis was presented with an American flag and the “Taps” was played in remembrance of Henry Porter.
    Capt. David Babcock of the Fort Meade Casualty Assistance Center said that the story of Henry Porter was one of many unresolved cases from the Korean War.
    “There were over 54,000 deaths in that conflict, and over 7,900 troops’ bodies were never found,” Babcock said.
    Kenny Brown, a nephew of Porter, is the Porter family’s genealogist. After making contact with the military, Brown was able to put the pieces together about his uncle’s time before his death.
    Henry Porter was born on June 14, 1929. He grew up on Sycamore Avenue in Edgemere and graduated from Bragg Elementary and High School in 1947.
    Brown said that Porter was the first person in his family to attend college in the late 1940s. When he was a freshman at Morgan State, Porter was told by an Army recruiter that he could get a free college education if he joined the military.
    Brown added that Porter decided to join to help his parents with the financial stress of paying for college.
    Brown also found out that Porter had been injured a few months before his death.
    On Sept. 17, 1950, Porter was shot on the right side of his body and wounded in his leg, arm, back and foot. He was sent back out to battle on Oct. 5, but Brown does not believe his uncle was completely healed.
    Porter fought at the Battle of Chongchon River and was captured on Nov. 15. According to military records obtained by Brown, Capt. William Shadish witnessed Porter’s death on January 11, 1951.
    “It is very painful to talk about war, but I think it is important. We need to know about our family, and he should get what he deserves,” Brown said. “Those medals and that flag belong to him.”
    Ellis remembers how the death of her brother took a toll on her mother and the rest of the family.
    “Our troops were not properly prepared. They were not prepared for the coldest winter in Korea in over 100 years. Tenny died of starvation, exposure and pneumonia.”
    A wide range of members of the Porter family contributed to the event. Gloria Porter was master of ceremonies, Mildred Lloyd gave the prayer, Renee Lee sang two solos, Rosemary Lee read a poem “The Uncle I Never Knew” and 10 nieces of the Porter family, calling themselves the Song Birds, sang the song “We Have Come This Far by Faith.”
    What’s more, Ellis was able to find her brother’s girlfriend from his high school days. Near the end of Saturday’s remembrance, Lois Ross-Henry, now 82, recalled her time with Porter.
    “I never thought he would be gone so fast. Life is so short,” she said.