63 years later: Columbus supports MIA ceremony

Staff Sgt. Sherring Goodwin, Columbus Air Force Base Honor guardsman, presents the folded American flag to Joe Partridge, brother of the late Capt. Frederick Partridge, Aug. 10 at the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Cemetery. Full honors were presented by the Honor Guardsmen for Partridge to include a flag folding, firing party, color team and a bugle player who finished the ceremony with the playing of Taps. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kaleb Snay)

Staff Sgt. Sherring Goodwin, Columbus Air Force Base Honor guardsman, presents the folded American flag to Joe Partridge, brother of the late Capt. Frederick Partridge, Aug. 10 at the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Cemetery. Full honors were presented by the Honor Guardsmen for Partridge to include a flag folding, firing party, color team and a bugle player who finished the ceremony with the playing of Taps. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kaleb Snay)

The number three aircraft initiates its pull up to begin the Missing Man formation flight tribute to Capt. Fredrick Partridge Aug 10 at the end of his memorial service at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Cemetery. The four-ship of T-38C Talons from Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, performed the aerial salute to Partridge exactly 63 years after his disappearance during the Korean War. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Daniel Lile)

The number three aircraft initiates its pull up to begin the Missing Man formation flight tribute to Capt. Fredrick Partridge Aug 10 at the end of his memorial service at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Cemetery. The four-ship of T-38C Talons from Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, performed the aerial salute to Partridge exactly 63 years after his disappearance during the Korean War. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Daniel Lile)

Senior Airman Justin Keller, Columbus Air Force Base Honor guardsman, plays Taps for a Missing in Action ceremony for Capt. Frederick Partridge Aug. 10 at the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Cemetery. A native of Sumner, Mississippi, Partridge served in both World War II and in Korea in his eight years of service until he was shot down the morning of Aug. 10, 1952. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Lauren Woods)

Senior Airman Justin Keller, Columbus Air Force Base Honor guardsman, plays Taps for a Missing in Action ceremony for Capt. Frederick Partridge Aug. 10 at the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Cemetery. A native of Sumner, Mississippi, Partridge served in both World War II and in Korea in his eight years of service until he was shot down the morning of Aug. 10, 1952. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Lauren Woods)

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Twenty honor guardsmen from Columbus Air Force Base and four T-38 Talons supported a missing in action ceremony Aug. 10 for a Mississippi Airman, exactly 63 years after his aircraft crashed.

A native of Sumner, Capt. Frederick Partridge served in both World War II and the Korean War during his eight years of service, until the morning of Aug. 10, 1952.

Partridge was the leader of a flight of two F-51 Mustangs from the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, which departed Kimpo Air Base, South Korea, to perform a reconnaissance mission over North Korea during the Korean War. After an altercation with the enemy, puffs of smoke were observed coming from the engine of his F-51. He was notified of the emergency and subsequently informed his wingman he would attempt to reach friendly territory before bailing out.

Soon after, he then reported the plane was losing altitude rapidly. His wingman lost sight of him momentarily during a maneuver to draw enemy ground fire away from the damaged F-51. While attempting to re-establish visual contact with the plane, the wingman discovered Partridge's F-51 had crashed and the wreckage was burning in an anti-tank ditch. A low-level aerial search amid intense enemy ground fire revealed no trace of Partridge or of a parachute in the vicinity of the wreckage site.

"Thank you to everyone who came to pay your respects to Captain Frederick Partridge," said Pastor Marcus Lawson, a guest speaker for the ceremony. "(Partridge's brother) came in my office about a year ago and said, 'I have an issue, my brother was shot down in Korea and he's never been memorialized, and I'd like to make it happen.'"

On behalf of Partridge's friends and family, Lawson spoke highly of Partridge's accomplishments and said he was a hero because of his actions.

"You know we use that word hero a lot," Lawson said. "Let me tell you what a hero is. A hero is somebody that signs the bottom of the blank check and says, 'I will go to the ends of the earth and I will die for my country because I believe in the red, white and blue, and I believe in freedom.'"

Lawson continued the ceremony by speaking of Partridge's early life and the freedom Partridge fought for during his time in service.

"Let me just remind you this morning that freedom is not free. It is paid for by the ultimate sacrifice, the kind of sacrifice that Captain Partridge made," Lawson said. "What we have witnessed today is the honoring of a true American hero."

Full honors for Partridge were presented by the honor guardsmen during the ceremony, to include a flag folding, firing party, color team and a bugle player, who finished the ceremony with the playing of Taps. After the song concluded, T-38s flew a missing man formation overhead as a last tribute to Partridge.

When Partridge went MIA, he left behind a wife and three children. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross with one bronze oak leaf cluster; the Air Medal with four bronze and one silver oak leaf cluster; and the Purple Heart for his service.