British pilot burried in DPRK

UPDATE:  Michael posts much more, including pictures, here.  Despite locating the ri and seeing pictures of the grave I have been unable to find it on Google Earth.  Let me know if you have better luck.

ORIGINAL POST: Michael Rank uncovered an interesting story about a British pilot shot down during the Korean War who is now buried near Pyongyang’s Sunan Airport. According to the article:

There can be no lonelier grave anywhere on Earth. Amid fields close to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, lie the remains of Flight Lieutenant Desmond Hinton, a British fighter pilot who flew for the United States Air Force as a member of United Nations forces in the Korean War.

Hinton is officially listed as missing in action (MIA), but his brother David, himself a retired Royal Air Force pilot, traced records of how and where Desmond died and managed to visit his grave in highly secretive North Korea.

David discovered in RAF archives a graphic report of how his brother died on January 2, 1952.

F/Lt [Flight Lieutenant] DFW Hinton had been ordered to undertake an interdiction and reconnaissance mission in the area of Sunan-Pyongyang with three other aircraft from his unit … After making a bomb run on railroad tracks just north of Sunan, he called the other members of his flight saying he was hit and on fire.

The aircraft was then seen to crash into the ground and explode on impact. The remaining three aircraft flew over the wreckage of F/Lt Hinton’s aircraft for 15 minutes, but returned to their home base after seeing no evidence that F/Lt Hinton was alive. Sadly, F/Lt Hinton is still reported as missing.

From this account, David had a good idea of where his brother had gone down in his F84e Thunderjet, over the Sunan area of Pyongyang which is now the location of the city’s airport.

He managed to buy a US military map of North Korea, and contacted the Foreign Office in London in the hope that the recently opened British Embassy in Pyongyang would be willing to ask the North Koreans if they could provide any further evidence concerning his brother’s fate. The British ambassador David Slinn and his colleague Jim Warren were only too happy to help, and found the North Koreans surprisingly cooperative.

It turned out that despite the North Korean government’s reputation of being deeply xenophobic, the remains of Desmond Hinton, who was fighting for the hated “Yankee imperialists”, had been given a decent burial close to where his body fell to ground.

David was therefore determined to pay his respects to his brother at his grave and in 2004 embarked on a remarkable journey to North Korea, taking the train from Beijing to Pyongyang.

The grave consists simply of a mound of earth surrounded by a white picket fence, without any inscription. It lies close to a narrow footpath on a hillside 200 meters from the road, near the village of Kuso-ri and 2.5 kilometers east of Pyongyang airport.

David was told that not long before his visit, his brother’s remains had been moved about 50 meters to a more accessible location.

He was introduced at the grave to two witnesses to Desmond’s crash, a Mr Ri and Mr Han, local villagers who were only 13-years old at the time but appeared to have perfect recollections of the event. “They told how the aircraft passed directly over their houses at very low level and they were at the crashed aircraft within minutes,” David said.

He asked his hosts if they could dig up a piece of Desmond’s clothing, and was deeply moved when he was presented with part of his flying suit.

He would have loved to have been given Desmond’s identity disc too, but was told this had been taken by Chinese troops who were fighting with the North Koreans against the US and other forces.

David gave a short speech at the grave, thanking Colonel Kwak and the ambassador for making his visit possible, while the head of the village promised to tend the grave and paint the fence regularly.

As a former RAF officer, David was also anxious to fix the position of the grave. “I went to the memorial to the Great Leader Kim Il-sung near the village in sight of the grave and took a compass bearing. The grave bears 160 degrees, 500 meters from the obelisk,” he noted in his diary.

Read the full story in the Asia Times:
Finally, laid to rest in Pyongyang
Asia Times
Michael Rank
8/14/2009

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2 Responses to “British pilot burried in DPRK”

  1. Great story–and smart diplomacy by the Norks.

  2. […] Rank I posted last year about a British Korean War pilot who is buried in North Korea. This got me interested in MIAs (missing in action) in the Korean War more generally, particularly […]