For vets of 'forgotten war,' visit to Korean Memorial was a day worth remembering -
Published Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at 12:00 am / Updated at 12:22 pm
For vets of 'forgotten war,' visit to Korean Memorial was a day worth remembering

Photos: More from Tuesday's Honor Flight


WASHINGTON — They remember it all — the pounding of the artillery bombardments, the exploding mortars and ultimately the hand-to-hand combat with waves of enemy soldiers.

Then there were the outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever, the bitter cold that froze feet into hardened blocks, and the cat-sized rats that roamed the barracks in search of care package cookies.

It's been described as the country's “forgotten war,” but the memories came flooding back Tuesday for the Nebraskans who fought on the Korean Peninsula 60 years ago.

A bright, crisp fall day greeted the 135 Honor Flight veterans as they arrived at the Korean War Veterans Memorial, which stands as testament to their sacrifices and those of so many others. Another planeload of Korean War veterans from Iowa will arrive today.

The site's central tableau is a squad of stainless-steel soldiers armed with M-1 rifles and carbines, carrying bulky walkie-talkies with extended antennas.

Spread out on patrol among the greenery that evokes a rice paddy, their helmets look like overturned pots on their heads.

Johnny Austin, 83, of Lincoln choked up as he gazed into the faces of the lifelike statues.
“I lost a lot of good friends there — and so did everybody else,” Austin said. “Tears come to my eyes for all the guys who couldn't make it.”

He can tell you exactly how long he was in Korea: 16 months, 10 days, 2 hours and 10 minutes.
“I didn't have no watch or I'd have looked at my second hand,” he joked.

Accompanying the veterans were 22 guardians, including Carolyn Manhart.

Her parents were children in Korea when the war broke out and both later moved to the United States, where they met and started a family.

Manhart was standing behind the wheelchair of Myron Schiefelbein, 90, of Lincoln, who worked on a 10-ton wrecker during the war, pulling disabled tanks and other vehicles out of the way after they'd been blasted by the enemy.

“Without veterans like Myron, I wouldn't be here, wouldn't be living in this country, wouldn't even be alive,” Manhart said.

Members of the Nebraska congressional delegation met the veterans at the memorial.

Bill and Evonne Williams have helped organize and raise funds for Honor Flights over the years that have brought more than 1,500 World War II veterans from Nebraska and western Iowa to Washington to visit the memorials in their honor.

Williams said Tuesday that he's been to 50 or more funerals for past participants. About one out of three was dressed in an Honor Flight shirt in the casket.

Tuesday's flight was for those who followed in the footsteps of those World War II veterans, the guys who went off to war in Korea but didn't enjoy the same big celebrations that they had watched their big brothers receive.

Williams noted that this group was heavy on combat veterans, which was reflected in the number of medals among them: one Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, 16 Purple Hearts and seven Bronze Stars.

One of those Purple Hearts belongs to Robert Wallman of Friend, Neb., who arrived in Korea in July 1951 as a private in the infantry.

He celebrated his 20th birthday there on Sept. 29.

On the afternoon of Oct. 4, his unit was taking some nameless hill when a mortar shell blew his right leg to kingdom come.

In a bit of gallows humor, the medic told him he had a “stateside wound,” meaning he'd be headed home.

“I'm just glad to be alive,” he said Tuesday.

After a long hospital stay in Kentucky, he went on to sell cars for 30 years in Lincoln, while he and his wife raised seven kids.

His great-grandson recently joined the Marines and asked for his advice.

“Keep your head lower than your ass and you'll be all right,” the old soldier told him.

Besides the Korean War Veterans Memorial, Tuesday's group also visited Arlington National Cemetery to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns, walked past the iconic Vietnam Wall and stopped by several other service-related memorials. Those on the trip talked of how Korean veterans were overlooked in many ways over the years.

Wallman said that lack of recognition persists today and pointed out that raising the money for the trip was not easy.

“It was a war nobody wanted,” Wallman said.

As a teenager, he watched the World War II veterans return to massive parades, but he said there was no ticker tape for him and his comrades.

“We never had a parade. The Korean veterans never did have a parade,” he said. “I think we deserve this Honor Flight.”

Correction: Johnny Austin was misidentified in a previous version of this story.

Contact the writer: Joseph Morton    |  

Joe is The World-Herald's Washington, D.C., bureau, covering national political developments that matter most to Midlanders.

Primary battle between Battiato, Morrissey may be only race
UNMC appoints new dean for the college of dentistry
Jeff Corwin hopes to build connection with nature at Nebraska Science Festival
Metro transit recommends streetcar, rapid-transit bus line for Omaha
6-mile stretch of Highway 75 is the road not taken
After decades looking in, Republican Dan Frei seeks chance to take action
Cause of Omaha power outage along Regency Parkway unclear
Ben Sasse, Shane Osborn try to pin label of D.C. insider on each other
Curious about government salaries? Look no further
Easter Sunday temperatures climb into 80s in Omaha area
Omaha police investigate two nonfatal shootings
City Council to vote on adding Bluffs pedestrian safety lights
Sole big donor to Beau McCoy says he expects nothing in return
Convicted killer Nikko Jenkins might await his sentence in prison
Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
Midlands runners ready for Boston Marathon
Families from area shelters treated to meal at Old Chicago
Firefighters battle brush fire near Fontenelle Forest
Sioux City riverboat casino prepares to close, still hoping to be saved
Omaha high schoolers to help canvass for Heartland 2050
Mizzou alumni aim to attract veterinary students to Henry Doorly Zoo
Grant ensures that Sioux City can start building children's museum
Party looks to 'nudge' women into public office in Iowa
For birthday, Brownell-Talbot student opts to give, not get
Two taken to hospital after fire at Benson home
< >
Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
A World War II veteran from Omaha will return this week to Europe to commemorate a tragedy in the run-up to D-Day.
Dickson’s Week in Review, April 13-19
On Twitter some guy tweeted that the spring game isn’t taken as seriously as a regular-season contest. What was your first clue? When the head coach entered waving a cat aloft?
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
The main speaker at today's Ivy Day celebration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a college president who grew up roping calves and earned her Ph.D. at the prestigious Oxford University in England.
Breaking Brad: Stuck in a claw machine? You get no Easter candy
I know of one kid in Lincoln who will be receiving a lump of coal from the Easter Bunny, just as soon as he's extricated from that bowling alley claw machine.
Breaking Brad: Mountain lion season's over, but the bunny's fair game!
Thursday was the last day of a Nebraska Legislature session. Before leaving town, legislators passed a bill to hold a lottery to hunt the Easter Bunny.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Meridian Med Spa
50% Off Botox®, Botox® Bridal Party, Fillers and Peels
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »