Friday, July 4, 2014


Inasmuch as today is the Fourth of July, I though that it would be fitting to tell the story of a member of the military who lost their life in the service of our country.  In this blog I have featured men and women who have served all the way back to the Revolutionary War, but up until now I have never featured anyone who lost their life during the Korean War.  So this week, I will tell you the story of the mysterious death of Martin L. Drach.

Readers of the Chicago Daily Tribune of September 7, 1955 saw this startling article:

It Was Murder Says Mother.

Mrs. Roma R. Judt, 2852 W. Belle Plaine av., awaited complete details from the air force yesterday about the fatal shooting of her son, Martin L. Drach, 22, by a Korean guard in Seoul Sunday.

"This is plain murder," Mrs. Judt said.

Drach's fiancee, Patricia Kulick, 18, of 2232 Milwaukee av., concurred.  She said she and Drach, an airman first class, had planned to be married this winter.

Reports His Death.

An air force telegram reported only that Drach was shot to death Sunday by a Korean guard, and said that additional details would be sent by letter.  The telegram, from Maj. Gen. R.J. Reeves, director of military personnel headquarters of the air force read:

"It is with deep regret that I officially inform you of the death of Airman 1/C Martin L. Drach. He died in Korea Sept. 4, 1955, as the result of a gunshot wound inflicted by a Korean guard."

Mrs. Judt said her son may have been the victim of one of the many demonstrations in Seoul protesting the presence of communist truce inspectors.  His last letter mentioned "filth and lack of sanitation" in Seoul, she added.

Want All Facts.

"We want all the facts, a complete probe," Mrs. Judt said.  "If he had been killed in war, all right; but to be shot when there is no war, that's murder.  They must find out the truth."

Miss Kulick, secretary for a Loop real estate firm, said that she and Drach, who had been friends since childhood, became engaged just before he left for Korea.

Drach joined the air force in Chicago Feb 2, 1953.  He had been an assistant manager of a dry cleaning firm.  He was transferred to Korea last February, and was promoted to airman first class Aug 1.  He attended Roosevelt High School.

Martin Drach's mother reading the telegram announcing his murder in Korea

Combat in Korea ended in July of 1953, so Drach was not killed in combat.  It is no wonder that Mrs. Judt said that her son was murdered. Let's look into the life and mysterious death of Martin Drach and see what we can "dig up."

Martin Lester Drach was born May 2, 1933 in Michael Reese Hospital, Chicago to Lester G. Drach (1905-1941), an unemployed clothing salesman and Roma Ruth, nee Martin (1905-1998).  Martin L. Drach was their first and only child.  

1933 was the depths of the Great Depression and times were tough all over.  When their son was born, the Drachs were living at 3844 N. Sheffield in Chicago:

3844 N. Sheffield, Chicago

By the 1940 US Census, Lester and Roma Drach were divorced. Roma (now calling herself "Drake") had a job as a legal stenographer and was living by herself at 745 W. Garfield Boulevard in Chicago.

745 W. Garfield Boulevard, Chicago

Six year old Martin L. "Drake" was living with Roma's mother Tillie and her new husband Albert F. Strand at 2854 Belle Plaine Avenue in Chicago.  

2854 W. Belle Plaine, Chicago

Lester does not seem to have participated in the 1940 US Census, either as "Drach" or as "Drake."   It was reported, however, that Lester Drach died February 21, 1941 in Chicago at the age of 36.  

The next time we encounter Martin Drach is in the Chicago Daily Tribune of May 12, 1952 in an article entitled "Shot by Deputy":


Ray Slapinski, 17, of 3551 Elston av., was in serious condition in Manor hospital yesterday with a bullet wound in his neck.  He was shot earlier in a scuffle with Deputy Sheriff Edward Mack, 64, of 3911 N. Christiana av.  Mack was arrested on a charge of assault with intent to commit murder.

Mack told police he returned home late at night, parked his car in Irving Park rd. around the corner of his house, and called police after getting in an argument with five or six boys in another car.  He said the boys then knocked him down and that he drew his revolver and fired what he thought was a warning shot in the air.

Arrested on assault and disorderly conduct charges were George Peckham, 18, of 3807 N. Albany av.; Robert Hagerstedt, 18, of 3828 N. Francisco av., Roy Walford, 18, of 3705 N. Spaulding av., and Martin Drach of 2852 Belle Plaine av.  Russell Rossman, 18, of 3732 N. Troy st. and Warren Jacobsen, 18, of 4117 N. Albany av. were charged with disorderly conduct.  All are scheduled to appear in Boys' Court today.

Mack had been guarding a prisoner in County hospital.  He had been assigned to the sheriff's police for six years before becoming a deputy about three months ago.

We know from the writeup about his death that Martin Drach had joined the Air Force in Chicago on February 2, 1953.  We do not know if his enlistment in the Air Force was connected in any way with his arrest but if so, he would not be the first young man who had been given the choice of the military or jail.

On September 8, 1953, Martin's mother Roma, remarried.  He new husband was Otto J. Judt (1913-1981) of Chicago.

On March 28, 1955 Martin Drach departed for Tokyo, Japan en route to his final destination of Seoul, Korea where he would meet his untimely death.

On September 8, 1955 the Chicago Daily Tribune published the following article:


Martin L. Drach, 22, was shot to death by a Korean while he and other airmen were talking with Koreans at the fence guarding Kimpo air force base, west of Seoul, his mother, Mrs. Roma  R. Judt, 2852 W. Belle Plaine av., was informed yesterday.  The death occurred Sunday.

Maj. Gen. R.J. Reeves, director of air force personnel, Washington, in a letter, stated that the subject of the conversation was unknown, but that an investigation was being conducted.

Drach, who left for Korea last March, was a radar operator at the jet base control tower.  Drach was to have been married this winter to Miss Patricia Kulick, 18, of 2232 Milwaukee av.

The next (and final) story about the death of Martin L. Drach appeared in the Chicago Daily Tribune of September 21, 1955:


Funeral services for Airman 1st Class Martin L. Drach, 22, slain by a Korean guard on Kimpo air force base outside Seoul September 4, will be held Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in the chapel at 3100 Irving Park rd.  his body will arrive today with a military escort.

Drach's mother, Mrs. Roma R. Judt, 2852 Belle Plaine av., disclosed yesterday that her son's squadron commander, Capt. Joseph Wright, wrote that Drach was shot to death while attending a squadron picnic inside the base perimeter fence.

Capt. Wright said a disturbance arose, "inciting" a Korean national outside the fence to summon a Republic of Korea guard who shot Drach "for reasons unknown."  capt. Wright praised Drach's character and ability and said he lived up to the standards of the air force "in all respects."  A complete investigation is being conducted.

Here is the death notice for Martin Drach from the Chicago Daily Tribune of September 22, 1955:

Martin L. Drach is buried in the Irving Park Cemetery in Chicago under a tombstone provided by his mother (not a military issue tombstone):

If there actually was an investigation, the results of it were not released to the public because there is no further mention of Martin L. Drach, his life or his death in the Chicago Tribune except for this small item on the Obituary page of the Tribune on September 4, 1956:

Similar notices were run in September of each year, with the final one appearing in September of 1965:

Roma and Otto Judt retired to Florida where Otto died on December 3, 1981 and where Roma Drach Judt died on July 9, 1998 a the age of  92.

What about Martin Drach's fiancee Patricia Kulick?  She married Frank M. Wilson on March 11, 1957 in Chicago, and there her trail goes cold.

There was nothing further published about the investigation into the death of Martin Drach.  There is probably some report buried in the bowels of the Pentagon but nothing more was released to the public. Whatever the "official" explanation about the death of Martin Drach, I'm sure it was not a sufficient explanation for Roma Judt.  It reminds me of a song written before the United States entered World War I called "I Didn't Raise My Boy to be a Soldier."  Here is a portion of the lyrics:

Ten million soldiers to the war have gone,
Who may never return again.
Ten million mothers' hearts must break,
For the ones who died in vain.
Head bowed down in sorrow in her lonely years,
I heard a mother murmur thro' her tears:

I didn’t raise my boy to be a soldier,
I brought him up to be my pride and joy,
Who dares to put a musket on his shoulder,
To shoot some other mother’s darling boy?
Let nations arbitrate their future troubles,
It’s time to lay the sword and gun away,
There’d be no war today,
If mothers all would say,
I didn’t raise my boy to be a soldier.

Airman 1st Class Martin L. Drach - May he rest in peace.

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