Saturday, July 3rd, 2010
Remembering 'The Forgotten War'
By Margie Wuebker
Area Korean War veterans pose for a photograph following a recent proclamation c. . .
ROSSBURG - Cousins Jim Faller and Gene Hoening pulled on military fatigues and prepared to march in a recent holiday parade as a means of drawing attention to the Korean War.
The veterans consider it their mission to educate people about "The Forgotten War." The Korean War, sandwiched between World War II and the Vietnam War, began June 25, 1950, and ended three years and 32 days later.
Faller displayed a signed proclamation from Fort Recovery Mayor Roger Broerman declaring June 25 - the 60th anniversary of the war's beginning - as Korean War Veterans Recognition Day.
"This is a beginning," Faller said. "It's taken a lot of years. The South Koreans are grateful for what we did and now it appears the home folks are, too."
Six decades have passed but the memories remain as clear as if everything took place yesterday, they said.
"I arrived there in the middle of the night and everything was black as the ace of spades," Faller said. "Somehow we managed to get a tent pitched."
Assigned to a U.S. Army artillery unit, he awakened the following morning to discover the compound was ringed with a low wall fashioned of stone and logs. Enemy soldiers could be seen in the distance.
"I told the officers we needed a higher wall or mortars would rain down on us, our big guns and the ammo dump," Faller said. "We started piling up sandbags but the enemy hit us the following night."
The Fort Recovery native heard the telltale thud of an incoming mortar and rushed to take cover. The impact knocked off his helmet and shrapnel peppered his face.
"The commanding officer came out later but he didn't inquire if I was OK," Faller said. "He asked whether I wanted a Purple Heart. My injury was insignificant compared to what other men faced and I didn't want to worry my mother needlessly because she would have received the paperwork."
Hoening, a U.S. Marine combat engineer, spent much of his time near the front line building bunkers, roads and bridges.
"We were targets for the communists," he said. "They put up warning signs along the roads like 'You are now under observation as an enemy.' We certainly didn't lollygag along that part of the road; we got the hell out of there."
There were plenty of times Hoening feared being sent home in a flag-draped coffin. He credits fellow soldiers and prayers from loved ones back home with ensuring that never happened.
Hoening remembers the bitterly cold winter temperatures when the mercury plummeted to -25 degrees.
"It was so cold you could see your breath," he said. "The water inside our canteens froze. We had a little oil stove and were allotted so much fuel each day. When it ran out, we switched to wood. Nothing really chased away the cold but at least we thawed out the canteens."
The soldiers also endured blazing heat during the summer and pouring rain in the spring.
The cousins served in the same general area - a relatively flat area in the midst of mountains known as "The Punchbowl" - but they never saw each other. They were merely two of the more than 6.8 million Americans stationed there during the war.
Hoening, who was 20 at the time of his enlistment, returned to his job at Avco New Idea in Coldwater upon discharge. After being laid off a short time later, he joined the Army and later the Air Force, eventually completing two tours of duty in Vietnam.
Faller, who was drafted in his early 20s, returned to farming and had no desire to head to war in another foreign country.
"We came home without fanfare and picked up the lives we had left behind," Hoening said as his cousin nodded in agreement. "A lot of folks forgot about the sacrifices made and the lives lost. We did not and neither did our comrades."
Facts of the Korean War:
• Beginning: The early hours of June 25, 1950, when North Korean troops crossed the 38th parallel intending to seize the southern half of the peninsula for Communist forces.
• End: July 27, 1953 with the signing of an armistice by United Nations, United States, Chinese and North Korean officials. South Korean officials refused to sign the document and the country remains a separate entity from its northern neighbor.
• Distinction: The war featured some of the most intense fighting ever experienced by American soldiers and some of the worst conditions, according to www.military.com. It is considered by many as the one of the first episodes of the Cold War.
• Deaths: 36,940 American soldiers were killed in action including 1,774 from Ohio. The majority of the deaths occurred in the first year. This is a significantly higher figure per year than the 58,000 American casualties spread over the 10-year Vietnam War.
• Other casualties: Some 92,100 soldiers were wounded while nearly 8,000 are listed as missing in action.
• American involvement: More than 6.8 million Americans served on active-duty status to save South Korea from enslavement and preserve peace for its people. To show their appreciation, the South Koreans have erected a large stone wall in Seoul honoring the names of all American servicemen who gave their lives in the interest of freedom.