In Memory of
U.S. Army Corporal Lemmon, South Dakota
Perkins County

December 3, 1926 –March 31, 1951
Died as a POW in Korea

William “Bill” David Bywater was born in Lemmon, South Dakota on December 3, 1926, to William W. and Elva Grace (Galland) Bywater. At the time of his birth, his father was working as a mechanic and his mother was a housewife. He had two younger siblings, Boyd and Russell. He attended school in Lemmon, where he graduated in 1944. During this time, he was active in school affairs, in the Boy Scouts, and was in youth work for his church. After serving in WW II, he went on to attend Nettleton College and the University of South Dakota on the G.I. Bill.

William David Bywater enlisted in the Army in December 1944, on his 18th birthday. He received basic training at Ft. McClellan, Alabama. He served a tour of duty on Okinawa in the Pacific theater during World War II. After being honorably discharged on December 8, 1946, he was obligated to remain in the inactive reserves. He also was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

On October 2, 1950, William Bywater was recalled to active duty as a Corporal in the U.S. Army. The Korean War was going, and he reported to Ft. Lewis, Washington, for a very brief training period. He was then sent to Korea. Corporal Bywater’s ship landed at Inchon, Korea. He was assigned to the Army’s 2nd Division, 9th Infantry, Company K.

This was just after the time that Chinese forces had pushed the UN forces back into South Korea. Corporal Bywater and his unit were moving northward, toward the town of Hoengsong, South Korea. On February 11-12, 1951, a large Chinese counterattack overran his position and he was taken prisoner. On February 12, his parents received a telegram that their son was missing in action. Twenty months later, the Army sent his family the following letter by Bill, dated five days after his capture and found near the place he was last known to be:

I am rewriting a letter I wrote on the 9th (February 1951). I received your letters Jan. 26. I also received the Testament and fingernail set you sent me and wish to thank you very much. The text of this letter will be considerably different. Having told you about losing my machine gun in an attack in my letter of the 9th, I will repeat myself. Had only one casualty, the medic with my squad, who was hit three times. Second platoon lost a man and there were several minor casualties. I had wished Dad and Boyd both very happy birthdays. Sunday night we were hit hard and I narrowly escaped. Monday morning I got shot through the leg and was left behind and was discovered by the Chinese. One took my watch and ring. They left me lying. Later Monday I managed to hobble to this Gook hut where I have been visited by numerous Chinese. Several children and two women refugees moved in on the third day. The Chinese instructed them to feed me. Moses Garneau of White River S.D. was hid out but joined me the second night and was with me when the Chinese came. They have since taken him away and left me here to rest and take care of myself. I don’t know how long I will be here but almost every day a different Chinese comes and searches me. They have taken all of the valuables except my Testament, billfold and pictures. I think my chances of staying alive are good but only God knows when I will get back to civilization. I have just joined the family group this morning and they have been picking fleas. So far I have not been bothered with them but I surely am filthy. Hard to tell when this will be mailed but everything can and does happen. The Lord has been by my side in my hour of need. Please do not worry. I’ll be okay. Love to all, Billy.

With that letter was another note from Bill that the Army had recovered, dated a month after his capture, addressed to “Any American Soldier”:

The bearer of this note will guide you to the small side alley and house where three of us were kept prisoners of war by the North Koreans who have all left this area. Two of us have been wounded and our glasses have been taken away. We are afraid to try escaping to our lines without a guide so will try this note. Please come. Cpl. Wm D. Bywater, Co K. 9th Infantry.

According to the Army, Corporal Bywater was killed as a captive of the North Koreans on March 31, 1951, several weeks after the second note was written. His family, however, did not know for almost two years if he was alive or not. His body was later recovered by the Army and returned to the United States in February of 1953, escorted to Lemmon by his brother, Navy Seaman Boyd Bywater. He was first buried with military honors at the Lemmon Cemetery. His remains were later moved to the Black Hills National Cemetery in the 1970s. During his time of service, Corporal Bywater was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean War Service Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.

His brother, Boyd, had these closing words: “Over 50 years have passed since I took that lonely 5 day train ride across the United States, from the Submarine Base, in New London, Conn. to the Port of Oakland, Calif., to be the Military Escort of Bill’s remains back to Lemmon in 1953. There are still a lot of things that I wish I could find out about how he was killed: did he die of wounds; was he shot as a prisoner; shot trying to escape by the Chinese, or the North Koreans?”


This entry was respectfully submitted by April G. Goodson, 9th Grade, Spearfish High School, Spearfish, South Dakota, on July 14, 2004. Information for this entry was submitted by the Bywater family. Memorial stone photo by Mrs. Hansen. Profile approved by Boyd Bywater.