Hugh Joyner Jr.

Hugh Joyner, Jr. served his country as a U.S. Marine during the Korean War. Joyner is one of a dwindling number of Korean War veterans alive to recall that fateful conflict, which still lingers today.

Historians call the Korean Conflict _ which itself is a term that should be recast in the history books — "America's Forgotten War."

That war, waged on the bitterly frozen battlefields of a hostile enemy 4,000 miles away, cost a total of 36,914 American lives. Hundreds more may have languished in Soviet and Chinese prisons long after the guns went silent.

For Hugh Joyner Jr. of Nesbit, the Korean War has never gone away and it's not forgotten. Even when Joyner got on with his life after that chapter in U.S. history had closed.

"All of these years I just tried to forget about it," said Joyner, a Collierville, Tenn. native who spread out memorabilia from the war on his kitchen table, including medals and photographs. "As you get older, then you start talking about it."

The father of three began sharing bits and pieces of his wartime experience with his daughter Myra.

As chronicled in his hometown newspaper in a now faded 1950 article, "Private First Class Hugh Joyner Jr., one of the Marine heroes who successfully withstood a Korean Community counterattack in Seoul, the South Korean capital."

News dispatches told how effectively Joyner combatted enemy forces by blasting the lead tank of the enemy.

Joyner, a Purple Heart recipient and one of 12 children, enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1947. His brother Raymond also served in the war with the U.S. Army.

"We tried to get into the Army but the Army wouldn't take us," Joyner said with a laugh of his high school buddies.

The rigorous training at Parris Island was a hint of how rough war can be on a young Marine.

To Joyner, joining up was one big grand adventure. The thought of being killed or maimed during his hitch never occurred to him.

"I had never been that far from home before," Joyner said, adding several of his buddies went AWOL. "They were wild. That kind of (behavior) wasn't for me."

Joyner said as a young Marine he didn't fully comprehend the political implications at the time.

"It was North against South Korea," Joyner said. "When it started up north, it was 30 degrees below zero. I got frostbite. They were attacking South Korea. I was among young men who went over to fight in Korea. We were just 18, 19, 20 years old."

"We landed at Inchon," said Joyner, of the west Korean port which was crucial to an Allied victory.

Following the landing, the American-led U.N. force was able to break North Korean supply lines and push inland to recapture Seoul, the South Korean capital that had fallen to the Communists in June.

Joyner recalls the battle to recapture Seoul.

"The weather was just about as worse as the fighting," Joyner said, adding he would suffer a severe case of frostbite. "Now, when it gets cold weather, my toes will get cold."

His wartime wounds would earn him a Purple Heart.

"I was shot in the thigh," added Joyner. I had surgery in Japan. They sent me back to Millington. My brother, sister and mother came to see me. I woke up and my older brother Raymond was leaning over me and kissed me. He was in uniform, so they let him come in to see me. I was so surprised."

Joyner's talents as an expert marksman, honed in the countryside around Collierville, paid off. His military prowess kept him alive.

"I was a bazooka man," Joyner recalled. "In our training you had to qualify with all the weapons. I was also a an expert pistol man."

But Joyner would provide the key tactical maneuver that would allow Allies entry into the capital city.

"My first shot knocked the tank off its track and turned it over," Joyner said, his eyes widening as he recounted the pivotal battle. "The South Koreans were right there with us. The Green Berets fought alongside us."

The war would rage on for three more years, ending in a bloody stalemate that officially ceased open warfare but not lingering hostilities. An armistice was signed in July 1953.

For thousands of American GI's, now in their 80s and 90s, the Korean War has never ended.

"They said it was a forgotten war but I haven't forgotten about it," Joyner said. "I ended up with post traumatic stress. Just like Vietnam, when some Korean servicemen came home, they were spit upon. They were looked down on."

Still today, 65 years later, the war has also not ended for millions of Koreans, both North and South.

The current stalemate with the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un concerns Joyner.

"If he (Jong-Un) hadn't shut up his mouth, the United States would have wiped him off the map," Joyner said. "Everybody has the hope that peace will come about. There are a lot of people in North Korea that don't have the rights that we have. I credit God with blessing us. Back then, I never gave God a thought. In my later years, I have made my peace with the Lord. Sometimes it takes a long time to wake up."

Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at rlong@desototimestribune.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.

(1) comment

letsworktogether

Great article.

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