Tonight’s Akron Aeros game will be preceded by an unusual event: A flag ceremony conducted by Korean War veterans.
They’ll be recognizing the 60th anniversary of the cease-fire, which occurs Saturday.
The end of the war has gained attention throughout the summer, with veterans leading community parades and other events.
Carl Thornton, 80, of Barberton, will be at Canal Park for the Aeros’ opening ceremony.
He’ll carry a rifle with members of the Korean War Veterans Association Chapter 138.
“It seems like it was yesterday,” said Thornton, a part-time Norton police officer for 26 years and B.F. Goodrich retiree.
Thornton was wounded with shrapnel in his arm in November 1950, but five weeks later engaged in several hours of horrifying battle on Hill 469 in North Korea.
Thornton’s forward observer unit was pinned on the hill in bitterly cold temperatures of about 20 below zero as Chinese troops fired on them.
“We had regular fatigues on and a light field jacket,” he said. “We didn’t have gloves, or long underwear or ear flaps on our hats.”
As enemy fire pounded at them, the men clumped together to stay warm, he said.
“I didn’t think we would make it off that hill,” said Thornton.
“Scared? Believe me, I was scared,” he said.
A bugler with his unit had recently captured a Chinese bugle and knew the notes to the Chinese retreat call.
He was ordered to play the song, which he did.
The Chinese pulled back, and the U.S. troops took the hill.
To this day, Thornton still has problems with toes that were frostbitten more than six decades ago.
Jim Webb, 81, of Cuyahoga Falls, served in Korea from January 1953 until September 1954, well past the cease-fire.
Webb, retired from Mid-American Leasing, was drafted into the Army in 1952 and was part of the 3rd Infantry Division.
“I was a rifleman,” said Webb. “We were out there on patrols every night, searching for the enemy and the enemy was out there searching for us. And whoever sees the other one first, usually wins.”
A week before the cease-fire was signed, he was transferred to a military police unit, where he remained for more than a year.
“A lot of people think the war ended,” said Webb. “But they didn’t sign an armistice, what they signed was a cease-fire.”
Thornton said he, too, feels the war really never ended and fighting could begin again.
As a memory, he has a bugle recording of the Chinese retreat.
“I got goose bumps on my arm right now,” he said as he played the call that he said saved his life.
“I’m glad I did what I did,” said Thornton, who is part of VFW Post 3383’s Honor Guard burial team.
“I would go back today if they called me.”
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or email@example.com.