CSMR help Korean War Vets tell their story
It was billed as one last gathering for veterans of the California National Guard’s 40th Infantry Division who deployed in support of the conflict sometimes described as the “forgotten war.”
“Oh, yeah,” said a reflective Rudy Kollar, 85, of Washington state, as he slowly looked over table-top exhibits of Soldier weapons, equipment and uniforms at the Joint Forces Training Base Los Alamitos. “Something like this starts bringing back the memories. Some of it sad.” Kollar, who served in the 140th Tank Battalion, was among those attending a tear-touched memorial service and family tour at the JFTB on Aug. 30, 2013. It was the third of four straight days of commemoration events in Orange County sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee in partnership with the Cal Guard and veterans groups.
During the Korean War from 1950-53, the 40th ID participated in major battles, including Heartbreak Ridge and Punchbowl, and led a pioneering community outreach effort to build a school for young people in Gapyeong, South Korea, not far from the front lines in 1952.
The memorial service, which included current and former 40th ID commanders, the division band and representatives from South Korea’s Consulate General in Los Angeles, took place in the JFTB’s main aviation hanger where the CSMR had set up the memorabilia displays. Several reps were also on hand from Gapyeong High School as were local Korean Americans.
“It was wonderfully positive,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Tom Murphy, a member of the CSMR’s Recruitment Task Force – South, about reactions to the displays. “Everything here was chosen to evoke memories.”
The displays featured authentic period weaponry like the trusty M1 carbine and the capable M1A1 Thompson submachine gun as well as various helmets, pieces of mess gear and snappy-looking “Eisenhower” dress jackets. They also included Russian-made or Chinese-refined firearms and various types of uniforms used by the North Korean communists who fought against the 40th ID and other American and United Nations forces.
“They’re beautiful weapons,” said Sgt. Adam Morris somewhat in awe as he and other young 40thID Soldiers handled the various guns. “Just as functional as anything we have now.”
Murphy, a former Army helicopter pilot, provided virtually all of the materials from his extensive personal collection of war memorabilia, including a 1950s-era flight suit he wore for the occasion.
Sgt. Ronald Macwillie of the CSMR’s Center for Military History provided assistance with the displays. “It’s been enjoyable and a lot of fun putting it on,” said Macwilllie as he worked his way around the tables. “It has stirred quite a bit of interest. We had a lot of questions about the stuff. There are enough bad (war) memories to last a lifetime so hopefully this will bring good memories.”
In addition to the CSMR displays, other types of mementos and photo exhibits, courtesy of the 40th ID Korean War Veterans Association, were presented at the hanger and the other event locales. Those exhibits included a souvenir edition of “The Fire Ball,” the 40th ID’s regular newspaper produced by its public and troop information offices at the time.