Korean War veterans with Manning ties recall service
November 11, 2013
Four Korean War veterans with strong Manning ties recently met with The Daily Times Herald outside that community’s Veterans of Foreign Wars facility. Pictured (from left) are Robert Wegner, Orland Fara, Dan Peters and Russell Mohr.
U.S. Deaths/Casualties in the Korean War
U.S. Wounded in Action: 103,284
Source: Department of Defense, CNN Library
Vietnam War veteran Ron Langel of Templeton is a fierce advocate for the men and women who served in the Korean War. Like those of his own generation, Langel says, the contributions of Korean War veterans are often overlooked - if not overwhelmed by World War II.
Often, Langel said, when Americans would return from service in Korea, they'd encounter some variety of the following: "You didn't kick their butt. There was no decisive victory. You didn't qualify."
But the war, which cost nearly 40,000 American lives, played a pivotal role in the Cold War - and carried the ever-ready prospects escalating into a nuclear exchange. South Korea, a thriving U.S. ally, exists only because of those U.S, contributions, say military experts and veterans.
With no treaty, the Korean War technically has not ended. North Korea, the United Nations and the Chinese People's Volunteers signed an armistice on July 27, 1953. South Korea didn't sign, but fighting stopped within hours. A demilitarized zone of about 2 miles still separates the peninsula.
Langel this year ran point on a campaign to raise money for a monument honoring all Korean War veterans in the State of Iowa Veterans Cemetery 1 mile north of Van Meter. Boyce Monumental Sales of Carroll fashioned the memorial for the 60th anniversary of the 1953 armistice. On Sept. 14, Langel organized an open house and related activities in Van Meter to commemorate the service of those in Korea and the introduction of the monument.
Additionally, Langel gathered four Korean War veterans with Manning ties - Dan Peters, Orland Fara, Robert Wegner and Russell Mohr - for a meeting with The Daily Times Herald about their experiences.
Peters, 82, a member of the Manning High School Class of 1949 (which sent 17 of its 19 boys to military service) served a year in Korea in a rifle company from February 1953 to March 1954 - "which is what most people did if they were close to the front lines," Peters said.
For parts of his service, Peters lived in bunkers along the trench lines.
"It was a situation of trench warfare which reflects back to World War I," Peters said. "There was constant artillery. We'd shoot at them, and they'd shoot at us."
Peters said many Americans don't appreciate the enormity of the Korean War.
"Korea was a significant event, and very few people recognize just what a war that was - when it comes to wars," Peters said.
President Harry Truman confirmed that he had considered using atomic weapons in the war. With the United States, through the United Nations, backing South Korea, and the Soviet Union and China in North Korea's corner, the war was the first between nuclear powers.
Earlier this year, Peters returned to South Korea with his brother, Dave Peters of Plano, Texas, for 10 days.
"It's one heckuva modern country," Dan Peters said. "They are a very industrious, innovative country. A lot has changed in 60 years."
Peters went on to Iowa State University and earned a degree in forest management. He had a career with the U.S. Forest Service in Colorado before retiring in Manning.
Orland Fara, a native of Akron who has been in Manning since 1966 and owned the Manning Agricultural Center (now owned by West Central Cooperative), served on a searchlight team.
"You could read a newspaper 28 miles away," he said.
Fara said he appreciates Langel's work to honor Korean War veterans.
"It's very gratifying to me, because when I got out of the Army in the Korea War, they (many people back home) didn't even think I was worth talking to," he said.
Fara said he thinks more members of Congress should have children in the military, serving in active conflicts.
"If they had their own kids over there, they would think of things a little different," Fara said.
Robert Wegner, 85, a longtime farmer and mail carrier who graduated in the Manning Class of 1947, served in Korea for a little over a year. He operated heavy weapons.
"Back in those days, they didn't have earplugs," Wegner said.
Wegner said the impact of America's role in the war is indisputable.
"If we wouldn't have gone there, South Korea would be North Korea now," he said.
Russell Mohr, 82, who went to high school in both Manning and Gray, enlisted in the Navy on June 1, 1949. The Navy recalled him for service in 1952 as a gunner's mate aboard the USS Graffias ("a floating grocery store') that operated out of Japan and replenished the U.S. fleet off the coast of Korea.
"I'm proud to have been part of it," Mohr said.
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