06-01-05, 09:01 AM
The Forgotten War remembered in Bandera <br />
By Jessica Hawley - Lifestyles Editor <br />
Lying face down in the snow, surrounded by heavy artillery fire and an open wound that left him paralyzed, Private...
06-08-05, 06:10 AM
Fremont man, at 71, awarded the Purple Heart
Korean War veteran gets medal 50 years after being hit in the shoulder with shrapnel, then returning to battle
By Ben Aguirre Jr., STAFF WRITER
Inside Bay Area
FREMONT — Enemy gunfire surrounded Marine infantryman Alford Paraz and his comrades as Chinese forces attacked their base, Combat Outpost Vegas in northern Korea, during a March 26, 1953, battle in the Korean War.
"I saw the napalm go off, and I knew they were coming in the trenches," said the 71-year-old Paraz, a 15-year Fremont resident who recently received his Purple Heart for being wounded in combat.
He grabbed his Barrington automatic rifle, took his place on the main line of resistance and fended off enemy troops as Navy medic James "Doc" Ferris dragged injured soldiers to safety.
At one point, Paraz helped Ferris carry one wounded man, and that's when Ferris noticed Paraz was bleeding.
"I lifted up his shirt, and he had shrapnel in his shoulder," Ferris, 77, said in a phone interview from his family's car dealership in New Philadelphia, Ohio. "It wasn't just a scratch — it hit him pretty good."
Paraz, who was nicknamed "Toto" because of his small stature, remembered being hit but didn't think the injury was serious. He refused to go to the aid station and told Ferris, "They need me out there," he said.
Ferris then removed the metal pieces from Paraz's shoulder and patched him up.
"We were being hit so hard, we needed as many men as we could get," Ferris said. "He's a good soldier — he fought his heart out. He was a very valiant, get-up-and-go Marine."
When the gunfire ceased days later, Paraz and Ferris were two of only seven survivors of the 265 members of Howe Company who fought in the battle, they said.
They've reunited in recent years, and in October, Ferris wrote a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs recommending Paraz for the Purple Heart.
In his letter, Ferris detailed the incidents of March 26, 1953, and urged the government to recognize Paraz.
A copy of the letter also was forwarded to Democratic U.S. Rep. Pete Stark's office in Fremont, and late last month Paraz received his Purple Heart.
"All right!" Ferris exclaimed.
Meanwhile, Paraz, who left the Marines in 1962 and has been working for Kragen Auto Parts in Irvington for the last 15 years, said it feels good to be acknowledged but said he's not special.
"I'm no hero, man," Paraz said with a laugh.
06-16-05, 09:09 AM
We lost 33,000 soldiers, then Korea faded away
The forgotten war got lost between WW II, Vietnam
Published June 16, 2005
WASHINGTON -- The time has come once again to remember "the Forgotten War."
But will we?
Next week is the 55th anniversary of the start of the Korean War -- when North Korean troops and tanks suddenly poured across the 38th Parallel into South Korea and in a few weeks nearly drove U.S. forces into the sea.
Three years of bitter fighting followed, at a cost of more than 33,000 American lives, until a truce was signed and South Korea saved.
Yet, except for some celebrations on the 50th anniversary, and a since deteriorated monument on the National Mall here, the conflict remains mostly a blip on the national memory.
Filmmakers are still producing new movies about World War II and Vietnam. Of Korea, we can point to, what? "Pork Chop Hill," "The Bridges at Toko-Ri" and "M*A*S*H," which was made 35 years ago.
There have been a few books written on Korea in recent years, and they all seem to have been written by Parade magazine columnist James Brady. His "The Coldest War" was a history; "The Marines of Autumn," a novel about his extraordinary company commander, later Sen. John Chafee, an unsung hero of World War II and Korea. Though optioned as a movie, it was never made.
Familiar to most now as a chronicler of celebrities, fashionistas and the moneyed set, Brady volunteered for the Marines in 1951 and served in Korea as a combat platoon leader.
A new book
Now he's out with another book, "The Scariest Place in the World," which is about his return two years ago to the scenes of Korean combat a half-century after the war.
"I was sending up a shout of defiance at age and illness," said Brady, now 76 and largely recovered from a stroke. "It was to essay one last adventure, turning back calendars in search of a lost youth, a 23-year-old kid lieutenant, on the crest of the North Korean hills one last time."
The return didn't quite turn out as expected.
I was interested in the book for a compelling personal reason. I served as a draftee soldier in Korea in the mid-1960s and, like a few of my comrades, yearned instead to be in Vietnam. If I was going to have to give up two years of my life to be a soldier, I thought it should be where there was some fighting going on and I might accomplish something.
My request for a transfer was turned down. Later, it dawned on me I would have made a mistake. Vietnam proved a colossal disaster. Keeping the North Koreans out of South Korea allowed the latter to achieve extraordinary prosperity and even democracy.
I asked Brady if he felt the same.
"Was the war worth fighting?" he said. "Yes, for all the large political and economic reasons. Was it worth fighting for me? Yeah. Because I went from being a fairly routine kid out of Brooklyn to becoming an officer in the Marines and in combat there and doing a pretty good job. I made friendships that have sustained me for 50 years afterward, so I gained a great deal."
Can he explain why it's so forgotten?
"It got lost between the great historical event of the 20th Century, which was World War II, and Vietnam, which was a much more political and bitter event in this country," he said. "I wouldn't mind if it was forgotten, if we had learned a few lessons from it."
Returning to Korea, Brady found that most older South Koreans are still very grateful to the U.S. for having saved them from the North. Many younger Koreans, however, now view America as an enemy, he said.
"I met an American Army colonel there who had been stabbed by three young university types just walking on the streets of Seoul," he said. "There's a lot of anti-American feeling. One story widely circulating among younger people while I was there was that America had begun the Korean War by attacking North Korea."
A major goal of Brady's return was to revisit the summit of Hill 749, a long-forgotten elevation that he and his Marines struggled with the enemy over for month after bloody month.
It took some doing to make arrangements, and for a 70-plus-year-old stroke victim to ascend the forbidding height. I should have thought it might have a profound effect on him, to stand there again on that windy height where he and his friends had fought -- and some died.
But the result was different, and even more profound.
"I don't know what I expected to find, but, whatever I expected, I didn't find it," he said. "The barbed wire had rusted away. The trenches had disappeared over the years. But it wasn't the physical changes in the hilltop. It was the absence of men. There were no Marines up there. It wasn't the place I remembered. It was a different place."
Our greatest threat
Brady is deeply bothered by another aspect of modern-day Korea that undercuts my notions of a successful American venture. With its growing nuclear potential, North Korea probably poses the biggest threat to American lives and security today. Even with conventional weapons, it could launch a disastrous attack on South Korea that the U.S. would be powerless to stop.
"This country doesn't seem to have a clue how to handle the North Koreans," he said. "It's a tiny little country, totally impoverished, and yet it has an army two and a half times the size of our own."
The struggle in Korea differs from Vietnam in another way.
"It isn't over," Brady said.