BOURNE, Mass. — Army First Lt. Thomas Redgate knew all about war when he was deployed to Korea in August 1950.
Then 24, Redgate, who was born in Medford, had enlisted about seven years earlier, when he was less than a month shy of his 17th birthday, to serve our country in 1943 during World War II, according to his obituary.
He was known affectionately as “Red” by his friends, and with a love of aviation, the young man who “is liked by everyone,” as noted in a school yearbook, had ambitions to fly in the Air Corps, according to U.S. military memorabilia. He served as an airplane and engine mechanic in World War II.
After returning home from that war, and studying business administration for two years at Boston College, Redgate reenlisted in the U.S. Army in the fall of 1948. Less than two years later, he found himself on the battlefield in Korea as a forward observer, part of Able Battery, 48th Field Artillery Battalion, 7th Infantry Division.
His unit was on the eastern side of the Chosin Reservoir when they were attacked by Chinese and North Korean forces on Nov. 27, 1950.
He was listed as unaccounted for on Dec. 11, 1950. He was presumed dead on Dec. 31, 1953.
The brave Massachusetts soldier is among tens of thousands of U.S. military who went missing during conflicts across the globe and were never found to be brought home to their loved ones.
For nearly seven decades, Redgate’s family members knew the pain of having him lost to the war--until recently.
On April 16, 2020, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency reported a finding of a DNA match to Redgate’s remains that had been turned over to the United States from North Korea in 2018. Redgate was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received in action.
Burial was delayed due to the pandemic.
On Friday, a funeral Mass was held for Redgate in St. Ignatius of Loyola Church, 28 Commonwealth Ave., Chestnut Hill. He is now buried in the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne.
He was laid to rest on the same day the United States commemorated POW/MIA Recognition Day.
For Redgate’s surviving family, which includes his sister-in-law, Ellen O’Hearn Redgate, and 10 nieces and nephews, the burial gives the family closure, and the “recognition their parents were unable to provide,” according to his obituary.
Had he lived, Army First Lt. Thomas Justin Redgate of Massachusetts would have been 95 years old today.
For decades, he has been memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Thousands of U.S. military families still await word and closure about their loved ones who went missing in action or were prisoners of war.
Since the Revolutionary War, more than a half-million U.S. service members have, at one point in time, been held as prisoners of war, according to Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen H. Hicks.
Currently, nearly 82,000 service members remain unaccounted for, from conflicts dating back to World War II, she said. More than 72,000 of those were lost during World War II, nearly 8,000 from the Korean War, and around 1,600 remain unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.
The department remains committed to bringing all of them home, Hicks said.
“Working closely with partner nations, the Department of Defense is firmly committed to the fullest possible accounting for those U.S. personnel who remain missing,” Hicks said in a statement. “We owe nothing less to the families who continue to wait for answers about the losses of their loved ones.”
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