It’s not ‘Forgotten’

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Special to the Citizen

After Rudy Weddle returned from overseas combat in Korea and tried to join his local VFW post in Roanoke, Va., he was turned away.

“They wouldn’t let me join,” he said. “They said I hadn’t been in a war, that it was a ‘police action.’ It wasn’t a police action. Even though nobody attacked us, we were in a war.”

It’s called the “Forgotten War,” although those like Weddle, now 81, remember it.

July 27 marked the 61st anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War and the 58th anniversary of the day the fighting stopped with the signing of the armistice agreement.

Korea had been ruled by the Japanese from 1910 until the end of World War II in 1945.

Following Japan’s surrender, America and its allies divided the Korean peninsula along the 38th parallel, with U.S. troops occupying the southern part of the country and Soviet troops occupying the north.

In 1948, the north established a Communist government and the 38th parallel became a political border, dividing Korea into two factious nations, with border skirmishes and raids intensifying even as reunification talks ensued.

Open warfare began June 25, 1950, when North Korean troops invaded South Korea.

The United Nations and the United States sided with South Korea, and the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China sided with North Korea.

President Harry S. Truman announced to the country the United States would “counter unprovoked aggression” and “vigorously support the effort of the U.N. Security Council to terminate this serious breach of peace.”

After three years of fighting, all parties involved signed an armistice agreement July 27, 1953, enacting a cease-fire, which continues today.

The war has never been declared over.

Although it’s called the “Forgotten War,” for those veterans like 81-year-old Weddle who were there and the families of the 36,576 American military personnel who died in the conflict, it’s not forgotten.

After graduating from high school, Weddle joined the Army in 1948. Those were the best two years of his young life.

In the signal corps, he had the enviable job of traveling around the country — including trips to Hawaii and Puerto Rico — demonstrating communications equipment on college campuses.

Twenty days before he got out and started his five-year term as an inactive reservist, fighting broke out in Korea. He got out in July 1950 and was called back into active duty in September.

“By Dec. 1, I was in Korea,” he said.

When he arrived, the buzz was that they would all be home by Christmas.

“I was a gung-ho young man then,” Weddle said. “You don’t think anything’s going to happen to you. But the Chinese came. About a week before Christmas, about 100,000 of them came across the Yalu River.”

Weddle was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division signal corps, providing communication. But he still had to carry a gun.

“We were overrun by the Chinese,” he said. “Our radios didn’t operate well because of the mountains and we had to lay land lines. I was 21.”

Although he had been around guns all his life — hunting, sharpshooting and earning an expert rating in basic training — shooting deer or squirrels or even a target doesn’t compare with actual combat.

On July 15, 1951, he found himself face-to-face with an enemy and his gun.

“The Chinese had gone on a spree and we were sent to repel them back,” he said. “It was a bad fight and we had gotten surrounded two or three times, but we always broke through.

“One night I was with the 65th regiment,” he said. “I was in the mountains and one of the lines had been broken, so we followed the line toward division headquarters. We followed a dirt road, another fellow and myself, and we patched the break.

“It was just becoming daylight and there was a shack or a house right beside the line. Being nosy, I wanted to see if there was anyone in there. I opened the door and heard a noise. I turned and a foot away from me a soldier with a gun shot me,” he said.

“It went through my arm — two inches from my heart. I had an M-2 carbine, a small rifle with a 30-round clip, and when he shot me I had it on automatic and pulled the trigger and shot him (with a line of bullets) that went up from his belly to his face — about 15 times,” he said.

Someone took Weddle back to the division, but because of the heavy fighting, he couldn’t get to a M.A.S.H. unit for another two days. By then his wounded arm was infected.

Eventually he was sent to Japan where he was hospitalized for three months before being discharged.

“That was the end of my service,” Weddle said.

He was awarded a Purple Heart and was named Patriot of the Year 2009-10 by the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Aaron Weaver Chapter 776.

About 10 or so years ago, he went to Washington D.C. to visit the Korean War Memorial.

“When I moved here in 1995, it was the first time I ever experienced Korean War veterans being recognized,” Weddle said. “It’s nice to be acknowledged as soldiers that fought for our country, because that’s what it was about.”