(Orange, Texas)

Local News

September 16, 2013

War hero returns home 60 years after death

ORANGE — A soldier who died decades ago as a POW has finally come home.

Sgt. Clement Thibodeaux Jr., a native of Church Point, La. and one time resident of Orange, died in a prisoner of war (POW) camp in 1951, only a short time after his 18th birthday on Dec. 1, 1950. He served in the United States Army in the Korean War as a member of Company L, 3rd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division.

Thibodeaux’s sister, Irona “Tibby” Mazzola, a long-time resident of Orange, and his only surviving brother, Raynold Thibodeaux of Nederland, have finally gained some closure to the mystery surrounding their brother’s death as his remains have been missing for more than 60 years.

According to information provided by the family, Thibodeaux was identified after his brother, the late Wilson Thibodeaux Sr. of Baton Rouge, spent a half-century attempting to recover his remains. Clement Thibodeaux was identified by DNA comparisons with Wilson Thibodeaux.

Wilson died before his brother’s body was recovered, but his son, Wilson Jr., continued the mission to not only locate his Uncle Clement’s body but to recover it and bring him back home to the United States.

“It’s bittersweet,” Irona Mazzola said with tears in her eyes. “It has brought back a lot of good memories.”

Mazzola, 88, comes from a family with nine children. Four of the boys served in the United States military. All are now deceased except for her and her 92-year-old brother, Raynold.

Mazzola said their father signed paperwork giving permission for her brother, Clement, to join the Army when he was only 17-years-old. He died shortly after his 18th birthday.

According to information provided by Lt. Col. Melinda Morgan, a spokesperson for the Department of Defense, the prisoner of war camp where Thibodeaux reportedly died was called “Death Valley” by surviving POWs. Thibodeaux and other members of the 25th Infantry Divison were taken prisoner by Chinese troops on Nov. 28, 1950, after U.S. soldiers engaged the Chinese north of the Ch’ongch’on River in North Korea.

Thibodeaux was initially listed as missing in action. Soldiers returning from the Korean War in 1953 informed U.S. Army officials that Thibodeaux had died in 1951, reportedly of starvation and pneumonia.

“I’m not trying to bring attention to the family or to take anything away from those other boys who died in Korea,” Mazzola added. “He’s the hero. They all were.”

In 2005, a joint effort between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea received information on a possible burial site. The team excavated an area in Unsan County in North Korea, and found the remains of several individuals which were then returned to the United States of America for identification.

Thibodeaux’s remains were identified through a process which matched mitochondrial DNA from his brother Wilson Thibodeaux Sr. prior to his own death and the family was informed in 2012 of the match.

Thibodeaux’s remains were flown to New Orleans. A funeral service was held on Saturday, Sept. 7, in Church Point, La. Several veterans organizations and representatives of area law enforcement agencies and fire departments participated in the funeral procession while the route was lined by hundreds of residents who came out to pay respects to the returning hero, according to Mazzola.

Text Only
Local News
  • BC High School Yearbook.JPG Rising above...

    Bridge City High School yearbook students Bree Newsom, editor and Gabriel Alvarez, assistant editor, traveled to Texas A & M University in College Station to attend the Balfour Communications Workshop July 18 - July 21.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Instructor recognized LSC-O instructor receives international recognition

    An instructor at LSC-O has receive international recognition for her work as an instructor in information technology.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • New Trustee Welcome to the Board

    Nathaniel Colbert, standing at left, was officially sworn in earlier this week as the newest member of the West Orange-Cove Consolidated Independent School District’s Board of Trustees.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sabine River 1 Have you seen the Sabine?

    There is more to the Sabine River than meets the eye, if one only looks.

    July 27, 2014 6 Photos

  • T-Byrd Tracy Byrd schedules Labor Day weekend event

    Country music star Tracy Byrd is hitting the stage once again this summer.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Texas A&M launches new Family Nurse Practitioner program

    The Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing has announced plans for a Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner (M.S.N.-FNP) graduate program.

    July 26, 2014

  • VIDEO: Hibbett Sporting Goods to open in Pinehurst

    Hibbett Sporting Goods, Inc., the national sporting goods retailer based in Birmingham, Alabama, announced the execution of a lease for a new store in the city of Pinehurst.

    July 26, 2014

  • Shop Talk BC officials begin budget talks

    City officials are already working towards a balanced budget in this Orange County community.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hello, Mr. Cosby Cosby opens Lutcher's 35th season in style

    The Lutcher Theater for the Performing Arts 35th season kicked off in fine fashion with two sold-out performances on Thursday and Friday nights by the legendary Bill Cosby. The capacity crowd laughed from start to finish as Cosby spoke about marriage, bodily functions, age, his hotel and the papermill. The Lutcher’s 35th season continues with the next production being Lyle Lovett and His Large Band on Tuesday, Sept. 9. Visit for more information.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Update: New information release on Bridge City shooting

    July 25, 2014

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide