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Harry "ASS" Truman - Chris Sarno Memoir

Sarno attended his first Marine reunion in Boston in 1989, and he enjoyed it. Two years later, with his children nearing and already in adulthood, he began to openly talk and write about his Korean War experiences. His two Navy sons, Gary and Chris J., typed their father’s tales so he could send formal submissions worthy of publication to various military magazines. In the course of typing them, they were surprised to read about the extent of their father’s wartime antics. "My entire family was not all that interested in my prior life as a combat Marine as a youth," Sarno explained. "They thought I was making a lot of it up because I was always just Dad to them," he said. "I was stunned."

His children weren’t to know that their Dad’s watery eyes were the result of a mild case of rheumatism, diagnosed by the family physician as being caused by the prolonged periods of time that he had slept on bare ground in Korea. Nor did they understand that, deep within the recesses of their Dad’s mind, were memories of, "that ungodly fear of dying sensation"; of "dehumanizing the enemy as if he wasn’t important in order to be a survivor"; of the "horror of killing the enemy"; and, of "the stench of death."

Like so many other Korean War veterans, Sarno had never talked about the Korean War because nobody had ever asked him about it. "We came home to polite silence," he said of his return to the States after war. "There was no war talk. It was over. We were at peace, so we just went out and got a job and did it. I put Korea way back in my memory bank. It was not until the board members of the First Marine Division Association started a drive for all combat veterans to leave memoirs to our families that I started to really think about Korea. By reliving the war through my graphic accounts of it, I took one step forward and decided to publish my written tales." Sarno’s war stories have appeared in various military magazines throughout the USA since 1994.

Heretofore, he had never talked about the war in general, let alone about killing the enemy specifically. "I wrote about what I had seen in Korea," he said, "and what I wrote was the truth." When the United States pulled out its last occupation troops in Korea in 1949, it left a door wide open for North Korea and China to walk in and take over South Korea. Sarno said that, at first, the United States entered the war not to defend South Korea, but rather, to prove the United Nations. "Harry Ass Truman was no friend of mine," he said. "He tied the hands of the American fighting man in Korea—Army, Marine or whatever. Everything that we did was under the United Nations. Every time we drew up an American flag, we were ordered to take it down and put up a UN flag, whether we liked it or not. The politicians and MacArthur certainly read it for what it was worth. They knew that the UN was going to get the greater share of glory from expelling the communists out of South Korea. It did prove the UN for what It was worth, but it took our hides to do it."

Sarno said that Truman set into motion a trend that still exists in military circles today. "Go to war, and let’s talk," is the order of the day. "Vietnam was the stepchild of his appeasement to Britain and those ‘collaborating French," he said. "I believe that when you are in a shooting war, WIN it. Then sit down to parley…as the conqueror. I despise Harry-Ass-Truman for subjecting those of us in Korea to static and positional warfare for two long, bloody, murderous years. We came home to a silent America who whispered, ‘We lost.’ We won that damned war. The emergence of South Korea as a free economic power house proved MacArthur right, not Harry-Ass-Truman. Truman did a great job of making us insignificant. But not General Mac. He applauded his troops to the high heavens."


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