Roland G. Busch, Korean POW

Ken Steinhoff Trinity Lutheran School 1st Grade Scrapbook 1953I was looking at a copy of my first grade scrapbook when the entry for September 22, 1953, caused me to scratch my head. The last sentence said, “Mother and [I] went to the parade for Roland Bushe POW. They took so long in getting ready that I went to sleep in the car.”

It took a little while to track the story down because the Korean prisoner of war was actually Lt. Roland G. Busch.

You can read the whole Missourian story here (some of the microfilm didn’t copy cleanly). In part, it said, “An estimated 3,000 persons gave Roland G. Busch, Jr., a hero’s welcome Tuesday night as the young Navy flyer returned home after 16 months in a Communist prisoner of war camp in Korea. Busch, three times decorated, presumed dead, and newly promoted to lieutenant junior grade, told a crowd in Courthouse Park he just wanted to see some State College Indian football games.

The photo caption said that Lt. Busch was greeted by Mayor Manning P. Greer and the flyer’s family: his mother; Mrs. R.G. Busch, his sisters, Mrs. Gene Olson and Miss Della Lee Busch; his brother, Elwin, and his father, R.G. Busch.The family stopped in Columbia to visit the veteran’s youngest sister, Miss Jacqueline  Busch, a student at University of Missouri.

Pilot dies in crash

A February 18, 1961, Missourian article added details about the flyer’s Korean saga, but also carried the sad news that he had been killed in a plane crash off the coast of California. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. R.G. Busch, 309 South Spanish, were told that his plane collided with the water and neither it nor his body were recovered.

Subject of wartime mystery

“During the Korean Wat, Lt. Busch was the object of one of wartime’s mysteries that was not cleared up until he was finally released from a P.O.W. camp.

“His parents, on May 28, 1952, were notified by the Navy he had lost his life the previous day when his plane crashed into a Korean mountainside. Yet they talked with him only a few days before in a Tokyo hospital and he said he would not be going back into combat because of burns suffered when an anti-aircraft incendiary burst in his plane’s cockpit. It subsequently developed that Lt. Busch had been dismissed from the Tokyo Hospital and returned to his carrier, The Valley Forge, but not on combat flight duty. The ship was to have returned to the States in just a few days on rotation and he was to have come back.

“But in the meantime, his shipboard roommate, now Lt. Cmdr. H..E. Sterrett, Jr., who married one of Lt. Busch’s sisters, was shot down. Lt. Busch asked for flight assignment to join search parties. It was while he was on this mission that his plane was shot down.

“He remained a prisoner of war for 17 months.”

 Here’s my “sailer hat”

Ken Steinhoff Trinity Lutheran School 1st Grade Scrapbook 1953Since it was mentioned above, I guess I should include a photo of me sporting my “sailer hat.”

Side note: Mother has been out in Austin visiting her Granddaughter Kim’s family. She called me from the airport in Austin. “I was sitting here waiting for my flight to be called when a man walked up and asked if I was Mrs. Steinhoff. When I said I was, he said he recognized my photo from the blog.”

She didn’t get his name. They should quit hanging photos of the Most Wanted on post office walls. I think we can do better publishing them here.



10 Replies to “Roland G. Busch, Korean POW”

  1. Ken,
    Enjoyed this story with so many fascinating interlocking connections. Roland G.Busch—what a hero for his sacrifice–17 months in a Korean POW b/c of his insistence on reassignment so he could look for a missing friend!
    Lonnie Brockmire was in my Trinity class, and I have vague memories about his father being a Korean MIA. I don’t know if they ever resolved his case.
    Mrs. Kelpe probably deserves her own memory blog. I remember winning a small carousel as a reading award. I let XXXXXX play with it, and after that, it rotated with a decided limp. Mrs. Kelpe intervened and said you just shouldn’t let some people play with your things. I won’t say his name, but his initials were DB.
    So you kept a journal in 1st grade?? I’m assuming you handwrote it and then later typed it? You were a true “man of letters” at a very early age. When I read your post about handwriting, I remember thinking what a great dad you had to work with you on letter writing and penmanship, etc in the evenings.
    I think that’s a sweet tribute to your powers of communication that someone would recognize your mother and feel compelled to speak to her in a far away state. Hmmm . . .it’s also a reminder to me that you never know when you’re going to run into someone you know or who has connection to you, so you should always be . . . ? well, mindful, I suppose.

    1. I’m waiting to write my memories of Mrs. Kelpe until I find some pictures I know I have of her. She was the first grade teacher every kid should have.

      Actually, Dad and Mother kept the journal for me. Dad was working out of town at the time, so he must have taken notes of what I told him when he called and typed them up later. Mother probably held on to all my papers and such. Dad had great handwriting, but his typewriter didn’t have a spellchecker yet. Still, I appreciate all the hard work they did to preserve those memories. That’s one of the advantages of being a first child.

      And, yes, Mother is becoming quite the celebrity. I expect it won’t be long before she’s shadowed by paparazzi hordes.

  2. His brother Elwin was killed in action in Vietnam. He had an 18 year career in the Air Force, then was killed on June 9, 1967 only three days into his tour in Vietnam. From his panel on the wall:

    CAPT – O3 – Air Force – Reserve
    Length of service 18 years
    His tour began on Jun 6, 1967
    Casualty was on Jun 9, 1967
    Hostile, died while missing, FIXED WING – PILOT
    Body was recovered

    Panel 21E – Line 77

  3. This is the first time that I read this article about my father, Roland Busch, and my Uncle Elwin. My father died when I was two years old. He had three daughters and has 9 grandchildren. There are so many interesting facts to the Busch family. One of many is that the pastor who had a funeral service for my father married my mother and father a year later. My grandparents went through to many tragedies. My Uncle Ed (Sterrett) passed away approximately ten years ago. I cherish my memories and stories that he would share. I have my father’s pilots hat (?) and purple hearts. Interestingly my son is a pilot, which is something I rarely discussed when they were growing up, so it must be in the blood. My Aunt Della, Roland’s sister, commented on how much he resembles my father. It is rather eerie in seeing the resemblance. My father was never found for back then the catapults had not been perfected which created his demise. I could on and then have a book. Thank you for caring enough to think about my father. Linda (Busch) Drozdowicz

    1. I’m glad you found the post. After I read your father’s history, I wish I could have stayed awake for his parade. I guess that was a little much for a first grader.

    2. Hi Linda! My name is Jalyn and Elwin Busch was my father. My sister Ellene and I would love to connect with you : ) I have been given your father’s flight helmet and want to offer it to your family. Please contact me at or 303-332-6225

      1. I noticed that you posted twice. You first comment didn’t show up because new folks have to be approved before their message goes public. Sorry for the delay.

        There’s another quirk that you might run into with some browsers. If you’ve already read a story, new comments might not show up unless you clear your cache. On a PC, that’s usually CTRL-F5.

        I hope you connect with the family.

  4. Thank you again for sharing your story and attending the parade in my father’s honor! I forwarded your article to my sisters. My father’s three sisters are still doing well.

  5. Dear Jalyn, The positives that come from the Internet! You attended my wedding in 1981. I would love to connect. Fondly, Cousin Linda

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