The Lost Saber of James Charles Hughes (KIA, Korea, 1951)
Decades ago, someone gave my grandfather a saber, or maybe he found it left behind in one of his many rental properties. The sword was made by N S Mayer Inc probably in the WWII era. My grandfather had it hanging in his den for many years. At some point, he gave it to my cousin. This past weekend, my cousin asked me to take it and find the descendants to return the sword to their family.
It didn’t take long to find out about war hero, Hughes, who was tragically KIA in Korea and was described as, “SNA Class of 1949, Lieutenant Junior Grade Hughes was the pilot of a F4U-4 Corsair fighter with Fighter Squadron 821 aboard the carrier USS PRINCETON (CV-37). On August 9, 1951 at CU 520395, his aircraft was hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire, crashed and exploded. His remains were not recovered. His name is inscribed on the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial.”
I began to explore his family through the help of genealogy and then was able to find the obituary of his brother. From there, I got a name of his niece, and it wasn’t but a few minutes more before I found her number through her Orleans Parish voter registration. I can imagine it was a weird call to get. But, when I asked if she had an uncle who was shot down in Korea, it started clicking. She drew a breath when she heard the tale of the sword.
She let me know that Lieutenant Hughes’ widow is still alive and in her 90’s. This week, she will receive this saber and it will be home, once and for all. Their family has elected his nephew, a retired West Point Lieutenant Colonel, to hand off the sword to her. As an antiques dealer and as a genealogist, it is these duties that I treat as the most sacred and pleasurable. In my eyes it’s jut a saber, but to them I know it will mean much much more.