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Soldier Killed In Korean War Buried In Saratoga National Cemetery

Army Cpl. Clifford S. Johnson's casket is carried at Saratoga National Cemetery
Lucas Willard
Army Cpl. Clifford S. Johnson's casket is carried at Saratoga National Cemetery

Services were held Thursday for Army Corporal Clifford S. Johnson, killed at age 20 in the Korean War. The soldier from Valatie, New York was first reported missing in North Korea on December 6th, 1950.

A photo of Cpl. Clifford S. Johnson dated 1950
Credit Photo provided to WAMC by U.S. Department of Defense
A photo of Cpl. Clifford S. Johnson dated 1950

Johnson’s remains, along with those of several other soldiers, were returned to the U.S. after then-President Donald’s Trump’s meeting with North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un in 2018. 

Johnson came from a military family. Nine siblings in all, his brother Nate was the first soldier from Valatie killed during World War II.

Johnson’s remains were identified using DNA analysis, with samples compared with his surviving siblings.

Norman is the youngest of the Johnson siblings, one of seven brothers and two sisters. Eight of them served in the military.

“And when I was in Vietnam I often thought of my brother.”

Norman said it was his brother Clifford who taught him how to swim.

“Threw me in and said swim and that was it.”

“He’s the baby of the family.”

“I’m the baby…85-year-old baby,” said Norman.

That second voice is Clifford Johnson’s surviving niece, Sharon Tomaszewski. She says it was Clifford’s sister, Glorianna, who served as an army nurse, who began trying to find out what happened to him after he was reported missing.

“My Aunt Glorianna, who has passed away, asked me if I would be a part of all this in case everybody was gone and they ever found Clifford, you know? And so I said ‘sure.’ And so I was one of the ones notified when he was found, you know, when he was sent back,” said Tomaszewski.

To assist in identifying Johnson’s remains, the Defense Department compared his DNA with samples provided by his brother Norman and surviving sister, Clara Sanzo – the only one of Johnson’s siblings who did not serve in the military. Johnson’s remains were accounted for in April 2020.

Sanzo also took part in the effort to find her brother Clifford started by her sister Glorianna. 

“She worked in Washington so she knew the right people and it all started then. Then I took over,” said Sanzo.

“I think she really kind of lived in Washington for the purpose, really, because she wanted to pursue all of this, you know?” said Tomaszewski.

Today, the family is saddened and happy to have one of their own returned after more than 70 years.

“It’s a great day for my brother. He’s a hero for me,” said Norman Johnson.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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