Vesta—Pfc Elvern Kletscher, son of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Kletscher, was wounded in action on Heart Break Ridge in Korea on February 24th. He was engaged in mortar firing at the time. A burst of enemy schrapnel (sic) struck him in the face. He spent a few days in the hospital and was released, but has not returned to active duty. Elvern entered service on February 15, 1952 and has been on front line duty in Korea since November 7th.
The above short article about my father published in a rural Minnesota newspaper in the early winter of 1953. I can only imagine how my grandparents received the news about their son, wounded in action in Korea.
In a letter written to them just days after his February 26, not February 24, war injury, my dad mentioned nothing about the incident. Rather, he wrote of snow, called Korea a “hell hole” and advised his family not to worry. But how could they not worry, realizing that their son was in the thick of battle as a frontline infantryman with the US Army? According to an earlier newspaper article, he was training with the 24th infantry, the first American division to fight in Korea, from Pusan to the Yalu River in 19 months of combat.
My dad shared only a few stories about his time in Korea. He talked about the events leading up to his shrapnel wound. Ordered to take out a sniper who, for days, had been picking off fellow platoon soldiers, Dad hunkered inside a trench. A bullet struck his trench. Dad studied the angle of the bullet, angled his rifle up and shot. He heard a “ka-pook,” understanding that he had hit his intended target.
Two days later, when 12 men were sent to retrieve the sniper’s body, Dad stood guard to assure the enemy was not circling behind. Suddenly, 10 small mortars lobbed toward them, one landing near him. Had it gone off, my father would have died. Instead, shrapnel struck his face. “I knew the blood was running,” he said in a 2000 interview with a Minnesota TV station at the time he was awarded a long overdue Purple Heart. He was shaking and scared, but couldn’t leave his post.
Eventually, my dad would make it safely back to rural Minnesota, resume his life as a farmer, marry my mom and raise a family of six children. But he was a changed man, scarred by war, dealing with PTSD (unknown back then) and other issues resulting from his time on the frontline in Korea.
Today, Veterans Day, I honor my father (who died in 2003) and all others who have served and continue to serve our country, whether they have been in direct combat, served in support capacities or otherwise. I appreciate their efforts to secure our democracy, our freedom.
TELL ME: Who would you like to honor today? Or, if you’ve served, please share your thoughts on this important day.
© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
I would like to honor my uncle, Walter Ziegler from Sheridan Township in Minnesota, who was awarded a Bronze Star as an infantryman in the Italian Campaign; and my father, Charles Ziegler, who supervised work details of German POWs in Europe.
My wife is British, and they take Armistice Day very seriously in Britain. I would like to honor her paternal grandfather, Henry Daniel Isaacs, who was gassed twice on the Western Front in WW1, and two of her uncles who died in WW2 serving in the RAF Bomber Command.
Charles, thank you for taking the time to reply and honor those loved ones who served. The specifics of your comment remind us of the challenges these men faced. And how deserving they are of our respect, honor and gratitude.
Our son was in the Marines for a short time, but had a medical issue. Many uncles (from Belview) served in WW2. Ooo-Rah for all of them.
Brad, thank you for recognizing your son and his service today and also that of your uncles from Belview.
That was a most interesting reflection on your father. He was indeed a real hero. I served in the U.S. Army in West Germany from 1960 to 1963 and fortunately did not see combat. We enjoy your posts and follow them with great interest. Do you post on Facebook too? I am active on Facebook and have not seen your name or the Minnesota Prairie Roots title anywhere?
We lived in Marshall, Minnesota from 1969 until 1973 when we moved to Vermont. When we lived there we visited a number of small towns such as Wood Lake, and my wife’s uncle and aunt lived in Echo, Minnesota.
Allen, thank you for your time serving with the US Army in West Germany.
And thank you for following Minnesota Prairie Roots. I’m not on Facebook, although I’ve been told many times that I should be. I’ve intentionally chosen to stay off FB, even if it would benefit my blog. Wise or unwise, I don’t know. But I’d rather focus my time and efforts on writing and not have the distraction of FB.
Today, I honor my father who served in the Navy in WWII – aboard a minesweeper somewhere in the Pacific. By the time he was drafted, he was already married and had two kids. Before he shipped out, he and my mom devised a code for their correspondence – depending on to whom he addressed letters home, my mom could see what area of the world he was in. I love that story. My dad didn’t talk about the war much at all once he came back. It wasn’t until after my mom died and my dad was 90 that he said much of anything to me about it. I was grateful for those conversations late in his life. He had come to the conclusion that it was ridiculous to send our young people off to die in a war started by those who would never see the front lines in person.
Thank you for sharing your dad’s story. The code part of this is so intriguing. And, based on a letter my dad wrote to his parents (and which I reread yesterday), he felt the same as your dad about sending young people off to die in war. He was deeply worried that his younger brother would be sent to war. He made similar comments about how those who start a war never see the front lines in person. I think our dads would have enjoyed conversations as they would have understood each other. Your father, too, faced much danger aboard a minesweeper.
Lovely tribute, Audrey. ❤
Thank you, Penny. It’s good to hear from you.