Ten months after enlisting, Ybarra tragically died in combat. He was a machine gunner with the 2nd Infantry Division. The job of a machine gunner was a daunting one. A machine gunner would be tasked with carrying the biggest, heaviest gun. They also are tasked with providing cover fire for their fellow infantrymen on the battlefield. Ybarra was guarding a roadblock with his unit when they fell under heavy enemy fire. While fighting, Ybarra’s machine gun was knocked out of his hands. Left without a weapon Ybarra chose to continue fighting. He found an assault rifle on the ground and provided necessary cover fire for the unit to fall back to a more favorable position. This was the last time anyone saw Michael Ybarra.3
Ybarra was awarded a silver star for this heroic action. His family was notified that Michael was on the missing soldiers list, and many thought he had become a prisoner of war. It was later deemed that Ybarra was killed in action. Ybarra’s remains have still never been found. Tragically, Ybarra is not the only soldier from the Korean War to still be missing. In other wars many of the opposing countries have done a great deal of help finding the remains of soldiers to bring back to their families. North Korea has done nothing to help grieving families lay their family members to rest.
This has not allowed Ybarra’s name to be forgotten to history. Many people in the Quad City Area have fought to keep Michael Ybarra’s spirit alive. In 1990, Ybarra’s family was able to hold a memorial and give him a plot of land at the Rock Island Arsenal.4 The VFW in East Moline has been named after Michael Ybarra, and a massive mural has been painted of him at the VFW.5 Michael Ybarra was an army squad leader who tragically gave his life to save others in his unit. He is a true hero, whose name still lives on today.
3 National Archives Veterans’ Service Records