HIST Korea 2

Decorated Korean War veteran John Chavez, of East Highland, proudly wears his beret that he had from his time in combat.

Last week, we learned about the extraordinary life of Highland Korean War veteran John Chavez and what life was like as a paratrooper.

From his time at war, Chavez experienced the loss of friends and other combat tragedies.

Chavez also achieved great accomplishments as a paratrooper, during the Korean conflict. As such, he was decorated and has received many accolades.

Initially, Chavez received his training in Ft. Ord, Calif.

“From there they shipped me to Seattle, Wash.,” said Chavez. “After I was in Seattle, they sent me to Yokahama, Japan.”

By train, Chavez was then off to join the 11th Airborne.

“In the Airborne, they train you to be everything,” said Chavez. “You learn how to handle a machine gun.

“If an officer gets shot, as a corporal, you learn how to take over command [of a unit]. If you’re a PFC or a corporal, you can take over command.”

Like the men and women of the armed forces today, Chavez saw and experienced the unimaginable.

Chavez was engaged in hand-to-hand combat, as he sought to gain an upper hand on the North Korean military.

“We had to get the enemy,” said “There are things that I can tell you, but I can’t tell you. The things that happened in Korea were not that good.”

A rule in combat was to not take any prisoners.

“We were guerilla fighting,” said Chavez.

Chavez recalls flying out of Kimpo Air Base across the China Sea.

“We flew up north,” said Chavez. “We were below radar. We were escorted by jet fighters.”

According to Chavez, C-119 aircraft were used to drop troops, cargo and vehicles.

“They had the backdoors open,” said Chavez. “Three-quarter-ton trucks just slid off the back, with parachutes. They only lost one gun.”

The straps failed and the artillery piece fell to its destruction.

By listening to his recollections, it seemed that every moment was tense, having to deal with many unknowns in the combat zone.

“One of our missions was to jump between a canal and high-tension wires,” said Chavez.

“We only had seconds. If you were one or two seconds late, you get hung up on the high-tension wires, or you would end up in the canal.”

When jumping from an aircraft, 20-year-old Chavez would be carrying 300 pounds of gear and ammunition.

Next week, we will learn more about Korean War veteran John Chavez, of East Highland, and his experiences as a paratrooper.

If you know anything about the history of Highland, I would be interested in hearing from you. You can reach me at (909) 816-0318.

Clarification

While Chavez was pictured wearing a “WWII ⎯ Korea Veteran” hat, he joined the Army in 1948, missing combat in war but served as part of the United States’ occupying forces following the close of World War II.

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