It took over seventy years for Luther Story to make his journey to the other side of the world and to return home. For most of those years, he was lost to his family and his hometown. Thanks to the untiring efforts of a small agency in the Defense Department he came home on Memorial Day 2023. Two world leaders who wanted to ensure that we did not forget him noted his valor and sacrifice.
Andersonville National Cemetery was the site for the funeral of Corporal Luther H. Story. The eighteen-year-old lived most of his life in Southwest Georgia before enlisting in the U.S. Army when he was a sixteen-year-old student at Americus High School. The Army sent him to the Pacific after basic training, stationing him in Guam. He likely enjoyed living on that remote island territory with it’s idyllic beaches. His life took an abrupt turn when the North Korean Army flooded across the 38th Parallel in June 1950 and Luther’s unit was sent to the fighting. South Korean and it’s U.S. military partners were overwhelmed by the superior forces that moved south and east towards Korea’s second largest city, Busan. By the time Luther made it to Korea, a thin line called the Busan perimeter held back the communists from the strategic city. American General Walton Walker understood how precarious the situation was when he ordered his forces to hold the line at all costs.
Private First Class Story was sent to a key location along the Busan perimeter near the Nakdong River. On September 1, 1950, waves of North Koreans attacked the fragile line. Luther used grenades and machine guns to push back the attacks. When his unit’s Commander ordered his company to drop back, Luther stayed on using every weapon available to hold back the attacks. The words in his official Medal of Honor Citation described what happened next, “Story noticed the approach of an enemy truck loaded with troops and towing an ammunition trailer. Alerting his comrades to take cover, he fearlessly stood in the middle of the road, throwing grenades into the truck. Out of grenades, he crawled to his squad, gathered up additional grenades, and again attacked the vehicle. During the withdrawal, the company was attacked by such superior numbers that it was forced to deploy in a rice field. Pfc. Story was wounded in this action, but, disregarding his wounds, rallied the men about him and repelled the attack. Realizing that his wounds would hamper his comrades, he refused to retire to the next position but remained to cover the company’s withdrawal. When last seen he was firing every weapon available and fighting off another hostile assault.”
Thanks to Luther and many other American and South Korean troops, the line held. They gave General Douglas MacArthur enough time to organize an attack 200 miles away at the coastal city of Incheon just west of Seoul. The massive amphibious landing caused the North Korean advance to collapse and turned the tide of the war. In the confusion of the battle, Luther’s body was not identified and believed to be lost. The Army informed his family that they presumed him dead. In 1951, General Omar Bradley presented Mark Story (Luther’s father) the Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroism. The Army also promoted him to Corporal.
The Story family was unaware Luther’s body was interred at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. After 70+ years there, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) removed Luther’s remains along with hundreds others for identification. The DPAA is an agency in the Defense Department that uses scientific methods to return lost service members to their families for burial. The DPAA called Judy Wade on April 14, 2023, to tell her that her uncle’s remains were identified. Judy’s mother was Gwendolyn Story Chambliss, the older sister of Luther.
Luther’s service to the nation continued. Judy and her husband Jody traveled to Washington, DC, to attend events associated with the state visit of South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol. The two Presidents issued a joint statement praising the heroic sacrifices made by Luther Story.
On Memorial Day (Monday, May 29, 2023) Corporal Luther Story was buried at Andersonville National Cemetery. Approximately 1,000 attended the funeral. Judy spoke about her uncle telling the crowd, “…share his story so others can feel the same thing that I do, proud that he is home. And I can feel your love, all of you, for him.” The Army’s senior representative at the funeral was Major General Thomas Carden, Adjutant General of the Georgia National Guard. General Carden stated, “Corporal Story left us a legacy that we must honor and uphold if we hope to remain the most free and prosperous nation on earth. Today is a physical demonstration that America never forgets it heroes.” The Army Honor Guard presented Ms. Wade with the folded American flag, the Purple Heart, and the Medal of Honor. Captain Changgyu Lee of the South Korean Navy and Naval Attaché from the South Korean Embassy represented his nation at the funeral. An Army Honor Guard escorted the body and presented the twenty-one-gun salute following the playing of taps.
Luther Story’s brief life was impactful. Even seven decades after his death, he’s touched the lives of patriots and world leaders. As he was laid to rest at Andersonville National Cemetery, he can inspire this and future generations to serve others through sacrifice.
In February 2022, Stephen and Jean Winget-Dumas came to Andersonville National Historic Site to complete a very personal journey. Having visited Andersonville previously in search of her ancestor. Jean’s family had preserved over two dozen letters from David Long during his time as a Union soldier. Having read these letters many times, Jean relished how David Long was a “philosopher, thinker, and his letters are filled with insight. When discussing how these letters will help visitors understand another perspective from a soldier who ended up at Andersonville, Jean said that “to see who we are now, we need to see who our family were.” “We need to understand where we’ve been.”
The park will need to have the letters professionally conserved and scanned to enable visitors to read David Long’s perspectives on life in the army during the Civil War.