Sherry Bumm grew up knowing very little about her uncle. He died five years before she was born.
Her mother, Lillian Grace Piper — his older sister — died when she was young, and through the years, Bumm, of Magnolia, lost touch with that side of her family. The only photos she ever saw of her Uncle Walter were from when he was a child.
“I just knew that he had been in the Korean War and died in the war,” she said. “What I didn’t know was that he was a prisoner of war and died as a prisoner of war.”
Army Pvt. First Class Walter Piper died on June 18, 1951, of wounds received during the Battle of Hoengsong about four months earlier, according to Korean War Project Remembrance. His remains were not recovered until 1990 and not identified until April.
On June 17, he will be buried with full military honors at the Gloucester County Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Williamstown. A visitation will be held at the Farnelli Funeral Home, 504 N. Main St., Williamstown, at 9:30 a.m. followed by a service at 11, according to his obituary.
Piper was born in Philadelphia in 1930 to Charles and Alice Piper. He and his siblings, all now deceased, eventually moved to New Jersey, and he graduated from Glassboro High School in 1949.
Bumm said her parents grew up together in South Philadelphia, and moved to New Jersey around the same time.
“The two families were intertwined for a long time,” she said.
Piper enlisted in Philadelphia and became a member of Headquarters Company, Third Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, Second Infantry Division. He was taken a prisoner of war in South Korea on Feb. 13, 1951.
During the Battle of Hoengsong, the Chinese army inflicted heavy casualties on U.N. troops and captured hundreds or soldiers.
Piper’s remains were returned to a military forensics lab in Hawaii in 1990. It wasn’t until 1996 that a DNA sample was obtained from his older brother Charles, who died in 2001. Piper’s remains were positively identified in April.
Bumm received a call Wednesday from a group that had been searching for Piper’s living relatives. Bumm said she is still notifying her family about the burial plans.
“This was all in motion before me,” she said. “Everybody has done everything to make sure this is going to be a special burial.”
Piper was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Prisoner of War Medal, the Korean Service Medal, the U.N. Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation, and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal. His name is inscribed on the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
“To have him sitting in a warehouse someplace is kind of sad,” Bumm said.
She said it is “very respectful” to have her uncle returned and buried with full honors.
“It is nice to know my family will be part of it,” she said. “He was my uncle.”