PORT ANGELES — He grew up in Sudan, a small town in Texas just south of the state’s panhandle, a town marked by its grain elevators and a population that hovered around 1,330 when he left, and is less than 1,000 now. By newspaper accounts he enjoyed football and boxing in his youth, and in his late teens he joined the U.S. Army.
A year-and-a-half after joining — on Sept. 8, 1950, then Marvin D. Actkinson, then a private, arrived in Korea as a cook. Eighty-five days later, he was declared missing in action.
According to military sources, Actkinson — a member of Company B, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division — was reported missing in action on Dec. 2, 1950, after his unit was attacked by enemy forces as they attempted to withdraw near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. Following the battle, his remains could not be recovered. He was officially presumed dead on Dec. 31, 1953.
Nearly seven decades later — on July 27, 2018, following the summit between then-U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un in June 2018 — North Korean officials turned over 55 boxes that purported to contain the remains of American service members killed during the Korean War.
Those remains arrived at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii on Aug. 1, 2018, and were subsequently sent into the DPAA laboratory for identification. Three years later, the remains were positively identified.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced in December that the 18-year-old Actkinson, promoted to Corporal following the war, was “accounted for Oct. 1, 2021.”
Today, Actkinson’s sister Linda Featheringill — a Port Angeles resident — will join veteran advocates and groups to honor the soldier’s efforts with a Purple Heart ceremony. Hosted by the Michael Trebert Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the event is scheduled for 5 p.m. in the Memorial Hall at the Northwest Veterans Resource Center, 216. S. Francis St., Port Angeles. Masks are required at attend.
The public ceremony will be streaming-live on NWVRC’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/nwvrc.
The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration awarded in the name of the President to those wounded or killed while serving, on or after April 5, 1917, with the U.S. military. The Purple Heart is the oldest military award still given to U.S. military members.
First Sgt. Kent Keller, a Sequim resident, was appointed as the Casualty Assistance Officer for Featheringill. At today’s ceremony he will present to Actkinson’s sister the Purple Heart the soldier was never able to receive in person, as well as a United States of America War Office document.
Keller, who works at Joint Force Headquarters (JFHQ) for the Washington National Guard, said he received this assignment after getting a call from a staffer at Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Casualty Assistance Center about repatriated remains.
“It took me a while,” Keller said. “This is like, (remains) repatriated from three-quarters of a century ago.”
A division of the U.S. Army’s Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, Ky., is involved in identification and repatriating duties.
“They are constantly looking for these soldiers,” Keller said.
“I was there in person with her and her daughter (as) we briefed the family on how he was identified,” he said.
“I think they for a long time accepted that he’s gone. This is kind of a way of connecting the dots. It connects Actkinson to the modern-day military (who) never gave up in trying to bring him home.
“A lot of this is the benefit for the family and for many Korean War veterans, and those of Vietnam … a connection to the people they left behind.”
Actkinson will be buried in Colorado City, Texas, on Feb. 12, Keller said.
According to honorstates.org, Actkinson was the son of Linard Raymond Actkinson and Sallye Elizabeth Jeffery of Brownfield, Terry County, Texas. He graduated from Sudan Hornet High School in 1950 and was living in Mineral Wells, Texas, when he entered the service.
The Battle of Chosin Reservoir, the website notes, was a decisive battle in the Korean War, a brutal 17-day battle in freezing weather over rough terrain that saw 30,000 United Nations troops encircled and attacked by approximately 120,000 Chinese troops. In the end, more than 17,000 U.N. forces were killed or wounded or missing in action, or died of wounds; Chinese forces suffered three times that number.
Actkinson’s name is recorded on the American Battle Monuments Commission’s Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, along with the others who are still missing from the Korean War. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
According to the American Battle Monuments Commission, Actkinson was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal, in addition to the Purple Heart.
Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].