Pike County Times
The Pike County Times, PO Box 843, Zebulon, Georgia 30295. You can donate through PayPal at the link on the bottom of the page. Becky Watts: Phone # 770-468-7583 editor(@)pikecountytimes.com
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Mayor Bobby Blalock, Frankie Flanders, and Suping Feng

Eugene was buried with a picture of Susan and pictures of his crew who are still on the mountain in India. Photo courtesy of Merrill Roan.

World War II Veterans Flag.
BREAKING NEWS: Bringing 1st Lt. Robert Eugene Oxford Home
A Celebration of A Hero from Two Cultures
By Editor Becky Watts

CONCORD - It took 73 long years, but the Concord community was finally able to honor a hometown hero, 1st Lt. Robert Eugene Oxford. Eugene and the entire crew of the B-24J Liberator named "Hot as Hell" flew their final flight on The Hump on January 25, 1944. When their plane didn’t arrive, they were declared in Missing in Action and then Killed in Action with no word of what happened to them for 63 years. Eugene was engaged to be married, and most of his immediate family passed away without knowing what had happened to him.

A memorial service for Eugene and his crew mates was held on Sunday June 11, 2017 in Zebulon, and he was finally laid to rest in his beloved Concord at Magnolia Cemetery. Many in his family never thought that the day would ever come that America would bring him home, but it happened. The Oxford Family celebrated his life and mourned a man that they only knew from a picture or stories from others.

The family also asked that the remaining members of “Hot as Hell” and others lost who are missing in action be brought home to their loved ones. 73 years was a hard burden for their family to bear.

It Takes a Good Neighbor to Be a Good Neighbor

The day of the funeral began with a trip to Concord to scout out where I was going to set up my camera to film and take pictures of funeral procession as it came through in a couple of hours. I was in awe of the tremendous amount of yellow ribbons and flags that I had seen already in Zebulon. But even that did not prepare me for the sight that waited in Concord.

Hand-painted and lettered signs, yellow ribbons, and flags both large and small decorated the roadside all of the way to Concord. I saw a home in Hatchettville with people decorating for the parade and pulled in to get a photo. Scottie and Tina Hatchett stopped preparing long enough for me to take a picture of them with their son Jackson and to talk for a few minutes. [Note from the Editor: Hatchettville is where a lot of Hatchett live in the Concord area.]

Actually, all of Hatchettville seemed to be getting ready for the return of 1st Lt. Robert Eugene Oxford. Jimmy and Billy Hatchett even joined us riding in a golf cart with American Flags on it. They were preparing for the homecoming as well. He said that the Oxfords are related to many in Pike County and that Jimmy had known the Oxford family.

“They were good people,” he said as he told me that Oxfords had been his neighbors since they moved there in 1950. “It takes a good neighbor to be a good neighbor,” he said. From the number of bows and flags that I saw along the way, I believed him! The excitement for a hometown hero was real even before the funeral began.

By Thursday of this week, Moody-Daniel Funeral Home had given out more than 700 yellow ribbons and flags. A volunteer from the community made the ribbons that adorned the fence posts and road signs in Zebulon and Concord. The visit to Magnolia Cemetery showed freshly painted fences lined with American flags. Even Mayor John Strickland worked with the staff at Magnolia Farms to get ready for the return of Concord’s hometown hero by painting fences at the horse farm. As I rode back to Zebulon, I thought I was ready too. But the day was full of surprises even though I had some prior knowledge of what was to come.


Scottie, Tina, and Jackson Hatchett

Jimmy and Billy Hatchett

Photo courtesy of the Crepe Myrtle Garden Club. They worked with flowers and put up many ribbons and flags.

Members of the Patriot Guard stand at the briefing held before the service; these riders escort 1st Lt. Oxford, his family, and the process to the graveside after the funeral

Members of the Patriot Guard Holding their flags as Chinese visitors enter to show their respects

Members of the Patriot Guard stood for an hour before the service in the line outside of the auditorium

Flowers in red, white, and blue as well as Chinese

A member of the Chinese community interviews with a local television station

Captain Tim Schriver walked with the family through this entire Repatriation Process; he is much loved by the Oxford Family
Thank You for Coming

China has not always been a communist country, and her people remember and value freedom as much as we Americans sometimes take our freedom for granted. The Chinese people remember that America helped their country during WWII when their relatives were being killed by the Japanese. The Chinese community came from near and far to show honor and respect to 1st Lt. Robert Eugene Oxford and his family during the Saturday night visitation and Sunday during the funeral.

What began with a small talk at a real estate closing in April turned into an amazing show of respect at Lt. Oxford’s funeral. Frankie Flanders mentioned to a close Chinese friend that Pike County had a hometown hero who had been identified and was finally coming home to Concord after 70 years after dying during a mission that carried supplies to China by flying the Hump across Burma. Frankie began sending updates to his friend like “Bringing 1st Lt. Robert Eugene Oxford Home – Part I and Part II” and other updates about this homecoming as I posted them on Pike County Times.

Bringing 1st Lt. Robert Eugene Oxford Home – Part I
Bringing 1st Lt. Robert Eugene Oxford Home – Part Part II

During a conversation the week of the funeral, she lamented to Frankie that she liked the articles and was sorry that she had missed the funeral. When Frankie explained that she had not missed the funeral, she asked permission to attend and bring ten friends. This conversation led Frankie to reach out to me because I had written the articles.

At that time, Frankie and I did not know each other, and the conversation occurred while I was riding with Walter and Susan Smith in the Oxford funeral procession from Atlanta to Zebulon on Thursday. The family said that they would be honored for Frankie's close friend and anyone who wanted to attend with her to come to the funeral.

I was also asked and gave permission to have my articles translated and reprinted on the Atlanta Chinese Life website, a Chinese news outlet in the Atlanta area. Information from the first article was translated and uploaded as a call to action on June 9, 2017. The introduction read as follows (translated by my computer): "His name is American soldier Robert Eugene, Georgia. For the Chinese anti-Japanese, he gave his precious life. In 1944 he left Kunming, disappeared in the "hump route" ... today (June 9, 2017) he finally went home. For this moment, he waited for 73 years ... this old beautiful funeral, the Chinese people should go!"

The writer told others about the funeral and said, “I feel as a Chinese, we should go.” Credit was given at the bottom of each of three articles to Becky Watts and Pike County Times. Before long, calls to attend the funeral and send donations to Clayton Kuhles at www.MIARecoveries.org went out by Twitter, WeChat and Weixin which are networking apps for the Chinese community. “Eugene's story | the old funeral, the Chinese people should go!” was viewed and shared many times in the Chinese community.

Here are links to "Eugene's story | the old funeral, the Chinese people should go!" by Qing Ye, courtesy of Atlanta Chinese Life Network. You will need to open with a translator program to read them unless you can read Chinese.

Eugene's story | the old funeral, the Chinese people should go! : Part 1
Eugene's story | the old funeral, the Chinese people should go! : Part 2
Eugene's story | the old funeral, the Chinese people should go! : Part 3

It started out small because the Chinese community did not want to draw attention to themselves, but as word went out through social media, many wanted to show their respect and honor to an American airman who had died helping their country remain free during WWII. By Saturday night, some had come to the funeral home to pay their respects to 1st Lt. Oxford and the number who wanted to attend the funeral had grown to 40. No problem. The auditorium contains seating for 700. By Sunday morning—the day of the funeral--the number of those attending had grown to 150.

By the time that the funeral began, there were over 250 Chinese in attendance from the greater Atlanta area, and some flew into Atlanta from Philadelphia and New York to attend the funeral. Not one of these visitors to our community knew Eugene personally, but they came to show their respect and honor to a man who had given his life not only for our freedom, but for theirs.

“Thank you for coming” was a common greeting between strangers at the funeral and at the graveside. Many shook hands and even hugged as they met. Photos were taken with flags and new friends and even Patriot Guard members to remember this moment in history. A few from the media were there for this momentous occasion, but most had declined to attend and missed out on a unique opportunity. I have been told repeatedly that the Chinese are very private and do not often come out as a group like what happened here in Zebulon on Sunday. The story of an airman who had waited 73 years to come home was an opportunity to honor this soldier who fought for both countries brought two cultures together that day.


The auditorium was probably close to 3/4 capacity with many Chinese who joined with our community to pay their repects. In this photo, Tim Daniel
from Moody-Daniel Funeral Home is seating everyone in the audience after the family has entered and is seated.

Photo courtesy of Arielle Watts.

Photo courtesy of Arielle Watts.
Honoring a Man That They Have Never Met

Mayor Bobby Blalock from the City of Zebulon, Mayor John Strickland from Concord, Rev. Bob McCombs, Rev. Bill Barber, and Rev. Jeff Overton all spoke about Eugene and honored his sacrifice. Keith Johnson sang “Go rest High” and “God Bless the USA” in Eugene’s honor. Hope, service, purpose and honor were topics that Rev. Bob McCombs, Rev. Bill Barber, and Rev. Jeff Overton all spoke about during the service and at the graveside.

However, Rev. Overton took it one step farther and wondered how many days the family and loved ones held out hope that Eugene would come home. He said that God knew where Eugene was even when his loved ones did not, but Rev. Overton emphasized that the loved ones need this time and that Eugene was due this honor for his service. He said that he feels the same way about the seven crew members who remain on the mountainside even today.

Rev Overton said that their families and loved ones need this honor and this time of closure that the Oxford family is being given through this funeral. “I pray that we are a nation that will do everything possible to bring their loved ones home. God has allowed us to know where their loved ones are,” he said. “It is our responsibility and privilege to bring them home.”

The trip to the graveside was a long process. There were so many vehicles in the procession that that there were still cars in Zebulon when the Patriot Guard Riders traveled under the huge flag provided by the Pike County Fire Department and the procession slowed to make the turns to go into Magnolia Cemetery. All along the way, groups of people had gathered by the road to show respect for this airman who died for our country and was finally coming back home to rest. Many were surprised to see so many Chinese in attendance at the funeral and traveling to the graveside and asked why and how this happened.

Some of our customs for honoring our service members were unknown to some standing at the graveside. The flyover of four Boeing/Stearman Primary Trainers that were used to train pilots and the Army Air Corps and Navy during WWII performed the Missing Man Formation in honor of 1st Lt. Oxford. These planes were flown by Lead Pilot: Jim Ratliff from Conyers Georgia, a veteran of the US Air Force who flew C130’s in Vietnam; #2 Pilot: Carroll Kent from Newborn, Georgia; #3 Pilot: John Laughter from Conyers, a Navy veteran who flew Navy F8’s in Vietnam, and #4 Pilot: Vic Syracuse from Locust Grove, Georgia, also a veteran of the Air Force. This formation is a way to show respect to this soldier who was missing in battle.

Two AT11's then flew overhead at the funeral. These were used to train navigators and bombardiers during WWII. Lt. Oxford trained in them. #214 was flown by John Hess from Fayetteville, Georgia and #474 was flown by Mark Hubbard from Locust Grove, Georgia. There are only about thirty AT-11s known in the US with only eleven of these being flyable or potentially flyable. Only about four fly regularly and seven are with museums. Frankie Flanders said that he explained the significance of these planes to a Chinese visitor by saying that the sound of these planes would have had significance to those living in China during WWII because that sound would have been the sound of help coming from the Americans. This became even more significant by a historical gift to the family at the Strickland Building that directly related to those who flew into China.

Click here to view the end of the 21 gun salute and Taps presented by the Georgia Army National Guard Funeral Honors Team.

Click here to view a flyover from the funeral. These are Boeing/Stearman Primary Trainers that were used to train pilots for the Army Air Corps and Navy during WWII.

Click here to view a flyover by AT11's that were used to train navigators and bombardiers during WWII. 1st Lt. Oxford trained in them. This sound would have been familiar to the Chinese and told them that Americans were bringing needed supplies and materials into their country.

The intermingling of cultures at the funeral, graveside and gathering at the Strickland Building after the event was a reminder of a part of history that might not know but left a mark on the Chinese community as well as here in the United States and our own community here in Pike County.


Photo courtesy of Arielle Watts.

Missing Man Formation

Missing Man Formation
AT11's Flying Overhead

Showing respect to those who have passed on
What I Learned at a Funeral

I know a little bit of history from World War II, but that didn’t prepare me for what I learned at the funeral. And I am still learning history after the funeral is over! Stories were recounted as people talked to each other at the graveside and at the Strickland Building.

Merrill Roan told how one woman cried as she told her how thankful she was for the Americans helping to hold off the Japanese troops. “If it wasn’t for your uncle, none of us would be here,” she told Merrill.

Dennis Scott left a message on my Facebook to describe an experience that he had as a member of the Patriot Guard: “I asked one of the Chinese visitors if they had a hard time finding the location. I was just making small talk and trying to be cordial. We talked for a moment. He asked many questions about the Patriot Guard. Then he said something that floored me. "These may have been YOUR American heroes but they were our heroes also"..... "without them, many of us would not be alive to pay our respects today..." "Our country must never forget the price they paid for us...."

This story has been recounted to me many times in different ways from various people who attended the funeral. It was truly humbling to know that a sacrifice from so long ago was as appreciated as that of 1st Lt. Oxford and all of those who flew the Hump. They endangered their lives to ensure that the Chinese people could have supplies to fight the Japanese. One person told me that many in the Chinese community thought that they did not say thank you enough for the Americans helping their country in WWII.

Nancy Du attended the funeral by traveling from Suwanee. She posted the following on my Facebook page after the funeral: “Through social media, we learned about 1st Lt. Robert Eugene Oxford's story. Oxford's U.S. Army plane "Hot as Hell" embarked on a supply mission from China to India on Jan. 25, 1944, but the plane and its eight passengers never landed. He was declared dead in 1946. 73 years later, Mr. Oxford is coming home. To pay tribute to Lt. Oxford, to show our appreciation and to honor the WWII hero, more than 200 of our Chinese Americans in Georgia attended the funeral service.” She ended by saying that she was so impressed with the people of Pike County.

Many gifts were given to the family of 1st Lt. Robert Eugene Oxford during the gathering time at the Strickland Building. A book of memories including 1st Lt. Robert Eugene Oxford’s story in both English and Chinese and a Chinese flag were given to the family in honor of the unity that is shown by both communities in support of 1st Lt. Oxford and bringing home his fellow crew members from India. The family and many from the Chinese community stood together in honor of the unity of our countries during that time in WWII. A photo was taken in front of the Chinese flag to remember the unity of this day.

A book published by Jian Zhang Publishing entitled, “The Flying Tigers,” was given to the family of Lt. Oxford. It chronicles how Americans helped China fight the Japanese in WWII. I have since found out that the Museum of Aviation at Warner Robins Air Force Base has a section that is dedicated to The Flying Tigers. A museum located in Kunming that tells the story of cooperation between the United States and China during WWII : www.gokunming.com/en/blog/item/3054/around_town_flying_tigers_museum.

Many fierce battles took place here between the Japanese who were invading from Burma and the Chinese Nationalist and Communist forces along with the help of American fighter plane squadrons known as the Flying Tigers. You can read more about the Flying Tigers by clicking here: http://www.usshawkbill.com/tigers/

A small flag was given to the family as well. It had a red and blue flag with a sun on it and was sewn onto the backs of the flights suits of those who flew into China in case of a crash. The writing explained that the person wearing the flag was an American who was helping China and encouraged the Chinese people to help get the pilot to safety. Anyone who was found helping the enemy faced certain death from the Japanese.

I was even asked to go to Moody-Daniel Funeral Home after the gathering at the Strickland Building so a Chinese visitor could see Susan Brown’s tea pot and the read the accompanying letters in person that were part of my article, Bringing 1st Lt. Robert Eugene Oxford Home - Part II.

Two groups of people united for the common cause of honoring 1st Lt. Robert Eugene Oxford on Sunday afternoon, but the job is not done because there are still seven crew members who deserve to come home as well as others who died in this contested region of the world. Chinese and Americans are still united in thought today that those who are missing in action deserve to come home. And they need to be brought home quickly before more of their families die as was the case with 1st Lt. Oxford’s family and fiancé.

I spoke with Clayton Kuhles from MIA Recoveries today, and he advised that MIA Recoveries has received approximately $12,000 in donations since last week and more donations are arriving every hour. These donations are entirely 100% from ethnic Chinese -- some from here in the US and many from China. The Chinese community is serious about bringing home our lost airman and crews from this contested section of the world.

Your donations can help too. Donations can be made to www.MIARecoveries.org to continue the work of finding and bringing home our servicemen who are missing and killed in action.


Unity between Chinese and American citizens in honoring 1st Lt. Oxford and bringing home the remaining crew members who are still lost

Presentation of 1st Lt. Oxford's Memory Album

Thank you to the family from the Chinese community

Courtesy of Frank Liu

Courtesy of Frank Liu

Courtesy of Frank Liu

Courtesy of Frank Liu

Courtesy of Atlanta Chinese Life

Courtesy of Merrill Roan

Courtesy of Frank Liu

Clayton Kuhles discovered this crash site in 2006. The family did not find out about the discovery until 2007. At that time, Eugene’s brother Fred and his fiancé from so many years ago were still alive. Both have died in the time that it has taken to bring their loved one home. The same can be said for families of the seven crew members who remain on a mountainside in India waiting to come home. It’s time to bring them home and bring them home without any further delay.

The family extends its thanks to all who had a part in honoring their Uncle Eugene, 1st Lt. Robert Eugene Oxford, and the crew members of "Hot as Hell", including Moody-Daniel Funeral Home, the Georgia Army National Guard Funeral Honors Team, American Legion Pike Post 197, the Pike County Sheriff's Office, the Georgia State Patrol and Henry, Clayton, and Spalding County Sheriff's Offices for traffic support during the ride from Atlanta, Delta Airlines for the respect and honor shown to Uncle Eugene, Zebulon Police Department, the Pike County Fire Department, 1st Lt. Daniel Norman who accompanied Uncle Eugene to Georgia, Boy Scout Troop 37, Virgil Brown, Dave Moffett, Mathew Westbrook, Concord Baptist Church, The Pike County Board of Education for the use of the auditorium for this historical event and the city of Concord for the use of the Strickland Building, and the Crapemyrtle Garden Club.

The family is grateful to Captain Tim Schriver for walking with them through every step of the Repatriation process. Merrill advised that Captain Schriver and I are honorary Oxfords now.

The family extends their thanks to the Chinese community for honoring their Uncle Eugene as he was finally returned to Concord, Georgia.

And the family extends a special thank you to Clayton Kuhles and MIA Recoveries for finding this crash site in 2006 and documenting it so that their Uncle Eugene could finally come home. However, the job isn’t finished. Donations can be made to www.MIARecoveries.org.

Please hash tag your photos and videos with #1stltroberteugeneoxford

We remember and honor the entire crew of “Hot As Hell” and mourn their loss for their families:
Pilot 1st Lt. William A. Swanson, O-728935 (MIA / KIA) Proctor, VT
Co-Pilot F/O Sheldon L. Chambers, T-000291 (MIA / KIA) Altoona, PA
Navigator 1st Lt. Irwin G. "Zipper" Zaetz, O-791661 (MIA / KIA) Burlington, VT
Bombardier 1st Lt. Robert E. Oxford, O-663308 (MIA / KIA, BR) Concord, GA
Engineer SSgt Charles D. Ginn, 15084114 (MIA / KIA) Crete, IL
Radio SSgt Harry B. Queen, 11021096 (MIA / KIA) Onset, MA
Gunner Sgt James A. Hinson, 14188472 (MIA / KIA) Greensboro, NC
and Gunner Sgt Alfred H. Gerrans, Jr., 34315848 (MIA / KIA) Kinston, NC.

Click here to read this story from a Chinese perspective. The article is entitled, "Chinese Community Pays Its Respects to a Long-Lost Hero" By Guest Columnist Al Zhang and Courtesy of Atlanta Chinese Life.

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Courtesy of Frank Liu

Courtesy of Frank Liu

Courtesy of Frank Liu

Courtesy of Frank Liu

Courtesy of Frank Liu

Courtesy of Frank Liu

Courtesy of Frank Liu