Korean Conflict

The Korean War (1950–1953) included a number of SI grads who fought and at least two who were killed in this police action. 1st Lt. Roger Kelly ’43, a member of a pioneer San Francisco family, graduated from West Point in 1949. As part of the 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, he died in the Pusan Korea Hospital on Sept. 28, 1950 after falling ill five days earlier. A few months later, 1st Lt. Joseph L. “Frenchy” Dalmon ’46, died while piloting an F-80C Lockheed Shooting Star fighter interceptor with the 8th Fighter Bomber Squadron, 49th Fighter Bomb Group. On Jan. 21, 1951, while on a combat mission 20 miles southeast of Sinuiju, North Korea, he encountered 12 MiGs and was shot down. As his remains were never recovered, he was listed as MIA and presumed dead on Dec. 23, 1953.

The war came home to Ignatians in other ways. Sgt. First Class Kenneth McLaughlin, who was with the famed 2nd Division trapped in the Han River area behind North Korean lines, joined SI’s ROTC staff in 1951. During the fighting, he was critically wounded and evacuated to the states, and after his recovery, the Army assigned him to SI.21

A number of teachers fought in Korea, including Michael Hemovich, the football coach, who was called up from Army Reserves to serve in the conflict. He was replaced by Robert (Sarge) MacKenzie ’31, a veteran coach at SI and Pacific Coast Scout for the Cleveland Browns.22

Dr. Barrett Weber ’42, who served in World War II along with many of his classmates, also served in Korea, assigned to an infantry clearing station with the 25th Infantry Division as a physician, caring for the sick and wounded and shipping them out to MASH units in the rear. “At first we were quartered in the City Hall at Masan. The floors were covered with litters of wounded men. In the battle for Masan, lasting several weeks, our platoon treated about 5,000 casualties, of whom 1,100 died. Working day and night in the heat of the summer, we were all inexperienced in the ways of war and learned the hard way. The Army was totally ill equipped. For the first few weeks there were no antibiotics, no anti-malaria pills, and we were naïve about food and water handling. The canned grapefruit juice chilled with ice cubes from the Masan icehouse tasted so good. Shortly everyone was violently ill with dysentery. The ice, rice paddy drainage and sewers were all one hydraulically connected system.”

Later, Weber drove behind enemy lines to help retrieve 80 American POWs who had been spotted by a reconnaissance patrol. Then, just as the war was about to end, the Chinese broke through in force and ended up in back of Weber’s unit, which began “a painful extraction from those frozen mountains…. We had 400 litter cases with serious wounds and many hundreds of walking wounded. There was one road west that was still safe. We told the walking wounded to take off and hike out of there. The remaining infantry were setting up a rear guard holding action. I was faced with a difficult decision. We didn’t have the transportation to evacuate the litter cases. Just as the moment came to decide — stay with them and be captured or take off with the platoon — miraculously 20 empty trucks arrived to evacuate the wounded. It was close.”