Iowa History Daily: October 2 - An Ottumwa Korean War Hero

Iowa History Daily: On October 2, 1926, the City of Ottumwa welcomed newborn Thomas Donald Odenbaugh. A veteran of World War II and the Korean War, Odenbaugh died while serving in a helicopter crash on September 29, 1950.

After a childhood along the Des Moines River in Wapello County’s seat, Odenbaugh graduated from Ottumwa High School as a 17 year-old. After spending the fall of 1943 studying Mechanical Engineering at Iowa State in Ames, Odenbaugh sought his parents’ permission to enlist in the Marines. Waiting to enlist in the Naval Air Corps, Odenbaugh stayed enrolled at Iowa State until entering the service in late 1944.

Odenbaugh served from 1944 to 1948 seeing World War II through the end before entering the reserves and reentering Iowa State to continue his studies. Called back up to active duty as Cold War tensions drew the United States to the Korean Peninsula, he arrived in country with an assignment to report to VMO-6 Marine Observation Squadron. During late September 1950, Odenbaugh hopped on a HO3S-1 Sikorsky Helicopter at Kimpo Air Base to serve as an aerial observer. As the aircraft worked to reconnoiter the area just north of Seoul, enemy fire struck the chopper.

Heavy fire prevented rescuers from arriving for several days, and reports from locals suggested Odenbaugh may have been taken prisoner. No evidence of his body, or imprisonment were ever found. Just 1 of 8,000 POW-MIA never returned or accounted for following the Korean War, Odenbaugh finds remembrance at Iowa State’s Gold Star Hall in the Memorial Hall in Ames. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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