On Dec. 1, 1950, during a fierce battle with Chinese forces near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea, U.S. Army Maj. Harvey H. Storms was shot several times. His body was not recovered, and for nearly 70 years, his disappearance and presumed death remained a mystery to his family and to the U.S. government alike.
About a year ago, North Korea turned over 55 boxes containing remains of soldiers from the U.S., South Korea and China, and the U.S. was able to identify two bones as belonging to Maj. Storms.
Storms’ eldest son, Sam, got a phone call last month that brought him “tears of joy,” he said Friday.
“He said, ‘I’ve got good news for you. We found your daddy,’ ” Sam, now 78, said of the recent call. “I said, ‘You’re kidding.’ We kept hoping. It’s a very joyous feeling that I had. It’s been a long journey.”
The family of the 1939 Texas A&M graduate and track team member came together on the university’s campus Friday afternoon. Joined by their younger brothers, Ernie and Robert, Sam and his brother Billy sat before about 40 family members and media representatives and reflected on their father’s life and legacy, and on the discovery that second-oldest son Billy described as the ending of a book and a story.
Maj. Storms, who also served in the Army during World War II, served with the 31st Infantry Regiment in the Korean War. He would be awarded Purple Heart and Silver Star awards for his service, among others.
The family worked with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) to identify Storms. Robert Storms said that the 55 boxes contained remains of about 250 soldiers, including 170 Americans. He said isotopic analysis and mitochondrial DNA testing were used to identify the remains and match them.
Robert’s wife, Suzanne Storms, said Friday that the DPAA formal announcement of the identification of remains gave hope to other families on similar quests to ascertain the fates of loved ones.
Billy reflected that the finding of his father’s remains means something different to his older brother Sam than it does to him or his two younger brothers, since Sam was old enough to remember their father more vividly.
Sam was 9 when his father was killed. He said Friday that the last time he saw his father was on a train platform in Tokyo, just before Sam, his brothers and their mother, Helen, flew back to the U.S.
“I thought it wouldn’t be the last, on that train station when he turned around and looked at me. He was going off to war, and we were coming home,” Sam said.
Sam described his father as “relationally oriented” and said that love of family and of people was a trait passed on to the rest of his family. Sam Storms relayed a story of his mother traveling in the 1950s with a friend to visit an Italian village where his father had spent time during his World War II service. Maj. Storms had gotten close to one family in particular, Sam said.
“She wrote them a letter to say when they would be there,” Sam said Friday. “And when they arrived, the whole town lined the streets. It had been almost 10 years since they’d laid eyes on Daddy, but Mama said they couldn’t thank him enough because had helped to liberate them from Mussolini. That’s the kind of guy he was.”
“He was a real true servant,” Sam added. “He related to people and wanted to help people.”
Kathryn Greenwade, vice president of The Association of Former Students, served as emcee for the forum. Following the remembrance, Scot Walker, an assistant vice president for The Association, presented the family with yearbooks from the school years during which Storms attended A&M.
The sons said that they have been moved by the outpouring of support from members of the Aggie family throughout the world, citing messages, calls and Facebook comments of “here” from people affiliated with Texas A&M on posts about their father’s story.
Two of Maj. Storms’ grandchildren — Jim and Michael — graduated from A&M in 1994 and 1998, respectively. Michael, whose middle name is Harvey, said that it was clear to him growing up that his grandfather’s example had a profound impact on his father, Robert.
“A&M was ... there was never another option for me as far as going to college,” Michael said. “I never applied anywhere else, and I can honestly say that had something to do with it, me having his name.”
Billy and his brothers also shared reflections about their mother, who died about 10 years after her husband. They described her as stoic and direct, and as someone who thought of herself as “the richest woman in the world” because of the life she lived.
Robert, now 68, said that though he and his brothers grew up without a father, community support and their mother’s example helped them succeed.
“I never felt angry or bitter about my circumstances,” Robert said. “I always felt very grateful for the heritage God gave us, and I think that says a lot about the heritage that we got from my dad and my mother.”
The family plans to bury Storms’ remains next year in Arlington National Cemetery. They also will have a memorial service in Pflugerville on Nov. 2.