Guess awarded Purple Heart, posthumously

By Bob Robinson
STAR STAFF

   Cpl. Ray Milton Guess of Elizabethton was a 22-year-old corporal in the U.S. Army when he died in a Prisoner of War camp on Feb. 28, 1951. He enlisted in the Army at age 17.
   Saturday, he was honored, posthumously, with the Purple Heart, Korean War and Prisoner of War medals. Cpl. Guess' sister, Betty Keaton of Elizabethton, "proudly" accepted the medals on behalf of Cpl. Guess, whose remains have never been recovered. A grave marker was also placed for Cpl. Guess during the ceremony.
   Cpl. Guess, member of the 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, was taken prisoner on Dec. 1, 1950 while fighting the enemy near Kunu-ri, North Korea. He was captured less than four months after going overseas and joining a front line company of the 2nd Infantry Division.
   A day earlier (Nov. 30, 1950), along the road south of Kunu-ri, the U.S. Army suffered the most battle deaths in a single day. The 2nd Infantry Division sustained 7,094 casualties and 16,575 wounded.
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   The Second United States Infantry Division in Korea, 1950-1951
, authored by Lt. Clark C. Munroe and published by THE BATTERY PRESS, Nashville, described the battlefield:
   The road, which had a gravel surface, was two-way except for various steep mountain passes. The area was dotted with an abundance of low grade coal mines.
   The valleys were generally short with steep walls rising on either side. South of Kunu-ri, there is a ridge line in the shape of a horseshoe, with the closed portion of the ridge crossing the road approximately 20 miles south of Kunu-ri.
   It was from these ridges and heights that the attacking enemy struck down elements of the division moving south on the icy roads from Kunu-ri.
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   Ms. Keaton, who was 10 years old at the time Cpl. Guess died, fondly remembers the two of them playing on the Arney Farm.
   "Ray played the piano and picked the guitar. He was also a good cook and would make homemade ice cream for his seven brothers and sisters, four of whom are still living.
   "He also made me a tire swing and tied it to a tall tree. I couldn't wait to get home from school each day and use the tire swing," Ms. Keaton said.
   Ralph Yelton of Kingsport, Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Chapter 244, served with Cpl. Guess in the 2nd Infantry Division.
   Yelton, who holds Disabled American Veteran and Purple Heart medals; Tom McCloud of Elizabethton, one of seven Carter Countians in POW Camps during the Korean War; JoAnn Whitehead of Elizabethton, whose father, Joe McKeehan, was a Korean War casualty; and Cong. Bill Jenkins participated in ceremonies at the Veterans Administration cemetery, Mountain Home, Johnson City, on Saturday.
   In addition to Cpl. Guess, other Carter Countians who died in the Korean War were Bernie Britton, in a POW camp; and Medon Bitzer, son of the comptroller at North American Rayon Corporation, whose plane was shot down.
   Other Carter Countians in POW camps during the Korean War were William Bailey, a resident of Portland, Ore.; Joe Ramsey of Nevada; Dennis Trivette, a non-Tennessee resident; and the late Billy Ray Pierce of Stoney Creek.