My story will, I hope, remind people that there was a war in Korean that cost almost 37,000 American lives, and it should not be forgotten!
I enlisted in the Army in 1948 and was ordered to Ft. Dix, N.J. for basic training. Of course, the many kindred spirits that I met, some of whom I could rightly call friends, became a new experience for me, a 19-year-old who never ventured farther than 45 miles from home.
Of the many officers who were involved in our training, one stood out. Lt. Lee Hartell was competent, fair and eternally cheerful.
Upon the completion of our basic training, the day came when we boarded a troop train that would take us to our next assignment, the Signal School at Camp Gordon, Ga. A few of our officers were there to see us off, including Lt. Hartell. As our train began to move, a chorus of troops, as one, called out “Goodbye, Lieutenant.” He, in turn, waved to us, cheerful as ever, until we lost sight of each other.
Upon my graduation from radio school, I took part in Operation Swarmer and pondered my future. My discharge date was scheduled for Aug. 31, 1950. However, the Korean War erupted, and my enlistment was extended for a year. Eventually, I served in Korea, including the Chosin Reservoir Campaign.
When I received my honorable discharge, the war was still raging, and I would keep my eyes glued to my TV and the newspapers to keep me apprised.
One day, I passed a rack of 25 cent paperbacks, and one title caught my eye, Korea’s Heroes; the Medal of Honor Story. I leafed through it and was both startled and saddened to read of the exploits of Lt. Lee Hartell who served as a forward observer in an artillery unit. In one action, he performed heroically near the village of Kobansan-ni where he called artillery fire down on the enemy until he was mortally wounded but still gave his final order for the guns to continue firing.
For conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty, Lt. Lee Hartell would be awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously.
I feel privileged and honored for these many years to have known an American hero, and I thank a benevolent God for allowing our paths to cross.