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Long Lost Veteran Remembered in Central

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Written by Robert L. Raborn


Above: Alton Waldrop

    Attorney Robert L. (Bob) Raborn of Central recalls that day 59 years ago on March 3, 1952, when his friend Alton Waldrop of the Baker, Central, North Baton Rouge area was killed in action next to a small island in the Yellow Sea between Korea and China.  Alton  had been a shipmate of Raborn on the USS LST 692  and transferred to the USS LST 561 only 2 days before his death.  Waldrop’s body, along with 11 other men in the boat, was never recovered. 
    A recently published book written by Jim Staley of Woodacre, California, entitled “Come In, Swanee Leader” details the loss of Alton and the other men that day.  A copy of that book will be donated to the Central Branch Library in memory of Alton.
    “We hope this book will help in some small way to remember one of our loved ones who has fallen in death in a foreign land fighting to preserve our freedoms.  When the body of a fallen warrior is never recovered, there is no grave site for the family or  community to visit.  This book will in a very small way fill a void in our remembrances of Alton Waldrop who gave his life for all of us” said Raborn. 
    Cliff Waldrop, Alton’s younger brother and Bob Raborn, met in Baton Rouge this past week with representatives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense out of Washington, D.C. who presented a day-long program detailing Department activities and efforts to account for our nation’s missing heroes.  Cliff Waldrop gave a DNA sample for use by the government in the event any thing is ever discovered related to Alton’s disappearance
    Raborn describes the events leading up to Alton’s death as follows: “The LST 692 was one of 5 vessels in “LST Division 12” commanded by Lt. Cdr. Tommie Brooks.  On February 1, 1952, LST 692 with Cmdr Brooks and his staff aboard,  left  Sasebo, Japan, for a group of islands in the Yellow Sea about 50  miles west  of Inchon, South Korea.  Our anchor position was several hundred yards off of Tae-yonp-young-do Island ( we called it “Apple Pie”). We monitored enemy movements between islands, intercepted and destroyed hostile sampans and other small craft.  There was much gunfire, and since we were in an area under the British Navy’s jurisdiction, their vessels were shooting flare shells all night long.  The entire crew was constantly deprived of sleep and relaxation.  The tides were 25-30 feet in that area, and clashes took place constantly as each side would fight to take advantage of the low tides to easily cross between islands to engage the enemy.
    Dead bodies floated by us day after day, I took pictures of some of them who had been shot, bound, and tortured.  Our LST was ordered not to bring any bodies aboard—just let them float on by.  Most bodies were tied up, and full of gunshot with bullet wounds in front, back, head, and legs.  Today, 59 years later, I still have many, many moments of anxiety when I think of those days. 
   Frequent reconnaissance excursions to nearby islands were made by Cmdr. Brooks and a small group of his choosing—he usually took along a Korean interpreter, some British officers, occasionally American and Canadian army personnel, and several “volunteers” as desired by Cmdr. Brooks. 
    The LST 692 remained on station for 30 days.  On March 1, 1951, the USS LST 561 arrived at “Apple Pie” to relieve the LST 692, and Cmdr. Brooks and his staff transferred from the LST 692 to the LST 561. Alton Waldrop was a member of Cmdr Brook's staff so he had to move to the LST 561.  I said good bye to him that day as he transferred with his sea bag over his shoulder.  The LST 692 immediately left the area to return to Sasebo, Japan.  Two days later Alton was presumed dead when the small boat in which he and 11 other men were riding disappeared.  Only some scattered debris was found.  In addition to LCDR Brooks and Alton Waldrop, five other US Navy personnel, one Korean army officer, two US Army officers, and two British Royal Marines who were also in the small boat were lost.  No bodies were ever recovered.  I was devastated at the loss of my friend, Alton, as well as the others, and can not get it out of my mind even to this day.”
Above: USS LST 692 in Korea, 1952

 

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