The day after Thanksgiving, Nov. 26, 1951, Marvin Aronow from Bronx, N.Y. was drafted. He wound up in Korea as a member of I-Company, 31st Regiment, 7th Infantry Division.
“It wasn’t my idea to get drafted. When I got put in the Army I told them, ‘My teeth were bad.’ They said, ‘Here’s a rifle. You don’t have to bite the enemy with your teeth.’ Then I said, ‘I’ve got bad eyes.’ They replied, ‘We’re gonna put you up real close to the enemy.’
Aronow wound up in a weapons platoon on the front line. He had no idea where he was in Korea or what exactly was going on.
“The weapons platoon didn’t go out on patrols like the rest of the company. It was about the safest place you could be up front on the line,” the 82-year-old former infantryman recalled. “I became a .60 mm mortar-man. I was the guy who fired the weapon.
“Things were too quiet and so some of our officers decided to take the hill we were on away from the enemy. They knew we were coming because our advance started with bombardment the night before,” he said.
“Our mission was to not only capture Hill 598 from the gooks, but take a prisoner, too. It didn’t work out that way. It was a slaughter. We were a bunch of untrained kids.
“We eventually took the hill, but the enemy pushed us off it later. We tried once more and retook the hill. Then they took it away from us again.
“The enemy held the high ground and they were throwing grenades down on us when we advanced the first time. The next thing I knew I got blown up. I was lying flat on the ground in shock. I looked down and could see my pants were torn, but I didn’t start to bleed immediately. My buddy, Dale Summerset who was right beside me, was wounded at the same time. We creeped and crawled out of the line of fire. We made our way to an aide station near the front line.
“We got put on a truck with a bunch of bodies. I wound up on a hospital train filthy dirty and bloody. I was lying in a bunk and felt uncomfortable. I called one of the female nurses over after I pulled a couple of grenades out of my jacket.
“‘What am I gonna do with these?’ I said to her. She looked at the grenades and was about to stop the train. I explained to her the grenades were perfectly safe. They took them away from me and disposed of them.
“From the train I was sent to a hospital in Japan where they operated on my legs to removed shrapnel. They gave me a spinal and wheeled me into the operating room. The doctor said to me, ‘Do you want to watch?’ ‘Okay,’ I replied.
“They adjusted the mirror and lights so I could see them sewing me up. It didn’t hurt,” Aronow said. “After the operation they wheeled me into the recovery room. The nurse there said, ‘We’ll give you something to eat once you can wiggle your toes.’ They told me, ‘Under no circumstances are you to raise your head.’
“I fell asleep. When I woke up I tried wiggling my toes. I panicked and lifted my head to see if my legs were gone or what. It was like someone was beating on my head with a garbage can lid. I let out a scream and they came running.”
Aronow spent the next two months in the hospital in Nara, Japan recovering from his wounds. Then he was returned to his old outfit that was in a holding position off the front lines.
“While I was in the hospital I kept up a correspondence with a couple of my buddies who had survived the first hill attack and were still in my unit,” he said. “I learned our lieutenant, who was the last soldier up the hill and the first one down during the attack where I was wounded, had been court martiled after some of our people had been killed during the attack. He got 17 years in Leavenworth for dereliction of duty I believe.”
“It was just before Christmas of 1952 when I returned to my outfit. We were told to enjoy ourselves because come New Year’s you’re gonna be back up on the front line'” he said. “I knew almost no one in our unit when I got back. The guys in our unit were young kids who were excited about the prospect of going up front.
“They made me a mortar-man again. I figured I was in a safe position. Then the company commander decided to send two squads of 20 guys out to capture another enemy soldier. At the last minute it was decided two of those on the team would be from the mortar squad. I was selected to go and bring my mortar tube with me.
“It was a moonlit night when we headed out to capture an enemy soldier. The kid along side of me had a couple of white phosphorous grenades hanging from his jacket that were banging together and making noise,” Aronow recalled. “No sergeant had check him or anyone else out before we left.
“I said to him, ‘You going out like that?’ He said, ‘Yea.’ I told him, ‘Stay away from me. I don’t want you drawing fire.'”
“We set our squad up along the frozen river bank in front of us. The second squad proceeded to cross the river while we covered them. Half way across the river the enemy opened up on them with everything they had.
“We laid down a base of fire and most of our guys scrambled back to where we were. Our radio man called in artillery fire and someone said, ‘Let’s get the hell out of here.’
“Guys were getting wounded. We could see the enemy moving toward us. They were trying to encircle us. At one point I left my mortar and helped carry a wounded guy who was lying on the ground.
“He handed me his grenades and told me, ‘Take these grenades. I don’t know how to use them.’ These were the kinds of guys we were going to win this war with?
“When we got back to our unit the company commander wanted to see me. He called me into his bunker. This was the guy who had sent us on this suicide mission,” Aronow said. “I walked up to him with my carbine that still had the bayonet fixed on he top. I stuck he bayonet in the ground and informed my company commander, ‘I’m not going out on anymore patrols! He didn’t say boo even though I could have been court-martialed.”
Aronow held a bullet clip in his hand from his .30 caliber carbine while sitting at his dining room table. A hole from an enemy bullet had pierced the banana-shaped clip. It was a souvenir of that Korean patrol 60 years earlier.
With a smile he noted, “Nine months from the day I set foot in Korea I was rotated back home . I got discharged from the Army in 1953. I married my wife, Mona, on Valentine’s Day 1954. We’ve been married 59 years.”
He went in the furniture business after the war. At one point he owned a lodge in Connecticut. In 1999 he took early retirement and he and Mona moved to south Punta Gorda, Fla. The Aronows have three children: Alan, Ilisa and Michael and seven grandchildren.
Name: Marvin Joseph Aronow
D.O.B: 12 March 1931
Hometown: Bronx, NY
Currently: Punta Gorda, Fla.
Entered Service: 26 Nov. 1951
Discharged: 25 Aug. 1953
Unit: I Company, 31st Regiment, 7th Infantry
Commendations: Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge, Korean Service Medal w/3 Bronze Campaign Stars, United Nations Service Medal, Overseas Bar
Battles/Campaigns: Korean War
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 and is republished with permission.
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