William H. Wilner (1951/06/01)

Wilner survived the Tiger's March, but in the end the Tiger prevailed.

William Harmon Wilner was born in 1931 to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wilner. In 1932 Charles moved his wife, son William and daughter Nora to Watsonville, California where he found employment with the Watsonville Laundry and Dry Cleaning Company. William attended local elementary schools and later enrolled in Watsonville High School. His mother died in 1946 while he was still a high school student. Wilner remained in school for the next two years before dropping out.

William enlisted in the US Army on August 7, 1948. After completing basic and advanced training, he was assigned to Company I, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division serving in Japan. In July 1950 when South Korea was invaded, his unit was rushed to Korea to hold the perimeter line protecting Pusan. William's battalion was located near Chochiwon, South Korea, and during the fighting on July 11, 1950, the North Koreans captured him.

Wilner and the other prisoners were moved from one location to another until October 31, 1950, when they began the infamous Tiger Death March. The march, named for a brutal North Korean major whom the prisoners called the "Tiger" was one in which prisoners were forced to march 108 miles through the mountainous regions of Korea with no heat, food or medical attention. Some of the prisoners were sent to a camp at Hanjang-ni, while William and others continued on to another camp at An-Dong.

During the winter of 1950-51, over 300 of the prisoners died of malnutrition and dysentery and were buried in mass graves in the prison camps near the Yalu River. Included among them was Corporal William Harmon Wilner who died on June 1, 1951. His body was never recovered.

(ABMC; NARAK; US POWs in Korea - Johnson's List: Readers Digest Magazine - by Malcolm McConnell, http://www.lordhenry.com/johnson.htm, [16 September 2008]; WRP August 28, 1950 1:8)

Creator: Nelson, Robert L.
Source: Remembering our own: the Santa Cruz County military roll of honor 1861-2010. Santa Cruz, CA: The Museum of Art & History, c2010.
Date: Undated
Type: OBIT
Coverage: 1950s
Rights: Reproduced by permission of Robert L. Nelson and The Museum of Art & History.
Identifier: RO-WILNER

Citation

Nelson, Robert L. “William H. Wilner (1951/06/01).” Remembering our own: the Santa Cruz County military roll of honor 1861-2010. Santa Cruz, CA: The Museum of Art & History, c2010. SCPL Local History. https://history.santacruzpl.org/omeka/items/show/4786. Accessed 2 Mar. 2024.