HAZEL DELL -- As Veterans Day approaches, Korean War veteran Marshall Taggart is continuing his personal mission to ensure that people remember what is often known as the “Forgotten War.”
As part of this mission, the 88-year-old Hazel Dell resident also wants to make sure people know the gratitude that the South Korean people showed him and other veterans when they visited this nation in 2013 during the 60th anniversary of the armistice that brought an end to Korean War combat.
Taggart said he was in the Army from 1951 to 1953 and deployed to Korea with the 160th Infantry Regiment of 40th Division. Taggart said he served as an infantry soldier and in vehicle maintenance, including in the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge.
While working in maintenance, Taggart said he sometimes changed 20 tires a day on vehicles returning from the front lines. Taggart said he once stepped away from a truck to go get fresh water to drink and narrowly missed being hit by a mortar road that blew this vehicle to pieces.
“There was nothing left of it. The truck rolled down the side of the mountain,” Taggart said.
Taggart’s service in the Korean War coincided with some of the infamous winter weather of that place and time. Taggart said temperatures dipped to 25 degrees below zero while he was in the field in 1952. He said guard duty was particularly difficult in this weather.
“Two hours seemed like eight hours when you were out in that cold. You just had to keep moving,” Taggart said. He added that frigid weather did sometimes have the benefit of helping deter enemy forces from attacking.
Despite the harsh climate, USO entertainers still turned out to help keep up the morale of U.S. troops in the field. Taggart recalled seeing USO legend Bob Hope perform there. Taggart also shared a photo of himself with country western singer Carolina Cotton in Korea. The veteran said he joined her on stage to sing “Good Ole Mountain Dew.”
Taggart said he was in Korea on July 27, 1953, when the armistice brought an end to combat. Taggart said it was a big relief when “they stopped shooting at each other” in a war in which he had lost friends from his regiment.
As peacetime began, Taggart said he and other soldiers from his regiment helped construct a high school building in Gapyeong, South Korea. When he returned to the United States, Taggart said he did not see any cheering crowds like those that welcomed home service members from World War II.
Taggart, a retired grain elevator operator who still sells products for Nu Tech Seed, said he has stayed active over the years with veterans groups associated with the 40th Infantry Division, known as “The Fire Ball.” Taggart said he enjoys visiting and sharing memories with these fellow veterans.
In 2013, Taggart and other Korean War veterans from the 160th Infantry Regiment of the 40th Infantry Division were selected to represent the regiment at ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary dedication of the high school that its soldiers built. His trip was chronicled by Illinois Farmer Today and the Marshall Advocate.
Taggart and his fellow veterans also took part in other ceremonies marking the end of the Korean War, including a thank-you banquet at the Grand Ambassador Seoul hotel, and they received medals from the South Korean government.
The Hazel Dell veteran, who has traveled in Europe and Asia, said he was humbled by the gratitude shown by all the Koreans that he met during his trip there in 2013.
“They treated us like kings when we were over there. You could not have asked for better treatment,” Taggart said.