KIA soldier’s remains to return to Hogansville after 69 years

Published 5:46 pm Friday, October 18, 2019

He’s coming home. 

In November 1950, Sgt. Billy Joe Maxwell, of Hogansville, was serving in the North Korean war when his company was overrun by Chinese troops, according to Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. 

According to the agency, he was declared killed in action shortly after, but his remains could not be found. 

Last year, North Korea turned over 55 boxes of remains to the United States. 

Maxwell’s remains were discovered through forensic testing, and now he will return to his home of Hogansville on Nov. 7. 

“Everybody is so relieved and excited at the same time,” said Maxwell’s nephew, Jimmy Maxwell. 

“My dad [Charles] would talk about him all the time … he had hopes for him to come home one day.”

Jimmy said that his father would be beside himself if he was here today to learn his brother would be coming home to finally be laid to rest.  

“This gives our family closure,” Jimmy said. “We are so grateful for the military and humbled by the fact that he will hopefully be the first of many to come home.” 

In 2001, Hogansville native Ray Coleman wrote multiple articles for The West Georgia Beacon about prisoners of war and members of the military who were killed in action or missing in action. 

“I wanted to write some stories about the veterans and others to honor them,” Coleman said. “This included Billy Joe.” 

During that time, Coleman interviewed Maxwell’s two brothers Charles and Pete Maxwell and sister Marie Bishop.

Since then, both Charles and Maria have passed away. 

The Department of Defense DNA Registry in Rockville, Maryland, was collecting DNA samples to help identify thousands of MIA’s at that time. 

In the article, Coleman wrote, “Charles Maxwell, who lives at 217 Johnson St. with his wife, Lib, said he also thinks the family will cooperate in the DNA collection effort. 

Other surviving family members include another brother, Jerry Maxwell of Manchester, and another sister living in Newnan. Certain nieces and nephews of Billy Joe Maxwell also are eligible DNA donors.”

Billy Joe’s parents, James Noble and Eula Mae Maxwell, died in 1954 and 1985, respectively, without knowing what happened to their son.

“From what I was told, his mother and father never gave up hope that he would come home,” Coleman said. 

“His mother especially, talked about him as though she was just waiting for him to come home. His family hoped that sooner or later he would just come home.” 

According to Coleman, the family placed a marker for Sgt. Maxwell in a cemetery in Carrollton, where his parents are buried. Billy Joe was born in Fulton County, near Gateway City, in 1931, which would have made him approximately 80-years-old today. 

He grew up with two sisters, Maria and Betty, and three brothers, Charlie, Pete and Jerry. 

All three brothers submitted their DNA, in hopes one day to locate Maxwell’s remains. 

According to a historical report of Sgt. Maxwell from the Defense POW, MIA Accounting Agency, Sgt. Maxwell enlisted in the United States (U.S.) Army Nov. 16, 1949. During the Korean War, he served in Heavy Mortar Company, 3rd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment (INF), 7th Infantry Division (ID). 

The U.S. Army declared Maxwell MIA on Nov. 30, 1950. After the fighting withdrawal from the Chosin Reservoir, U.S. forces never returned to the area and personnel could not search for Sgt. Maxwell’s person or remains. 

Without any further information about his whereabouts, the U.S. Army issued him a presumptive finding of death on Dec 31, 1953, and declared his remains ‘nonrecoverable’ in 1956, according to a historical report of Sgt. Maxwell from the Defense POW, MIA Accounting Agency. 

“I hope Hogansville gives him a suitable homecoming because he deserves it,” Coleman said. 

Maxwell’s remains will arrive at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta on Thursday, Nov. 7, on a flight arriving from Hawaii. 

A military honor guard will be present as the casket is removed from the plane and loaded into the hearse with family members being allowed at the gate to witness the ceremony.

“My son will escort his remains to Hogansville,” Jimmy said. 

Maxwell’s great-nephew, who has been serving in the U.S. Navy, will serve as a military escort from Hawaii to the funeral home in Hogansville for Sgt. Maxwell’s remains.

“Our family is ready for that day,” Jimmy said.