Robert George “Bobby” Schoening, a Blaine native and Korean War vet, will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on June 19. Almost 60 years after he was declared missing in action, the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) of Alexandria, Virginia, finally identified his remains last December through DNA collected almost 10 years ago from Schoening’s brother Bill in Salem, Oregon, and sister Mary “Emma” Schoening Spiegel of Seattle.
“It was nice to finally know after all these years,” said Emma Schoening, who grew up on her parents Gus and Susan Schoening’s small dairy farm on Sweet Road, four miles east of Blaine. “It wasn’t called that then,” she said, “and in fact it wasn’t called anything. The road didn’t have a name.”
Schoening was a corporal in Company C, 65th Combat Engineer Battalion, 25th Infantry Division, when it was over-run by 180,000 Chinese troops on the night of November 25, 1950.
Two days later his family was notified that he was missing in action. Three years later they were notified that the Army “presumed that Bobby was dead. My parents got the same $10,000 settlement as if he were killed in action, which we now know he was.”
Three of Gus and Susan Schoening’s sons served in the armed forces. Otis, the oldest, survived Pearl Harbor, and John spent a career in naval aviation. Bobby enlisted in the U.S. Army in January of 1949, “just a few months shy of his 18th birthday,” said Emma.
He and Glenn Collver, who now lives in Birch Bay, tried the Navy recruiter in Bellingham but were turned down because of their age, so they went with the Army. Collver served in Alaska but Schoening, a car nut with some mechanical aptitude, went into an Army combat engineer battalion after basic training and then on to Korea.
He was shot once but since the bullet hit no bone he returned to action after recuperating in a hospital in Japan. On November 24, United Nations forces started an offensive to push the North Koreans back but on the next day an overwhelming number of Chinese troops responded and changed the course of the war in much the same way that North Vietnamese actions during the Tet Offensive would change that war 18 years later.
Schoening’s unit was over-run two days later and he was killed along with thousands of other UN troops, most of them Americans. His remains, now just a few bones, were found along with those of two others from Company C according to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command. Their lab on Oahu is the largest forensic anthropology laboratory in the world. The site between Unsan and Yongbyon where Cpl. Schoening and the remains of the others were found was referred to by the army as a “staged burial ground,” meaning that their remains were moved there from somewhere else.
“Every time I read about the ones killed in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Bobby’s older brother Bill was quoted at the time as saying, “it brings back how devastated our family was. My sister Katherine always thought he was taken prisoner, but now we know he was killed outright. At least he didn’t suffer.”