By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN The Korean War broke out in June 1950, and Paul Paradis of Winsted enlisted in July 1950.
He was 17 years old when he “conned” his mother into giving him permission to join the Army.
“I grew up during the second world war, and I guess it was the patriotism we had back then,” Paradis said.
His two older brothers had already enlisted. Gene was in the Army, and Jim was in the Navy, and Paradis wanted to join, too.
It was only five years after the end of World War II.
“I don’t think anybody wanted to hear the word war,” Paradis said. “So they used other terms like police action or United Nations conflict, but let me tell you it was a full-fledged war.”
The Korean War was fought between North Korea and South Korea. China and the Soviet Union helped on the side of North Korea and the United States, and other UN countries helped on the side of South Korea.
It was called the forgotten war because it only lasted three years. US casualties totaled 54,246, and there were 8,196 missing in action.
“Our objective was to keep the people of South Korea free and to reestablish the 38th parallel, which is still there today,” Paradis said.
Arriving in Inchan Harbor, Korea January 1951, it was around 30 to 40 degrees below zero.
Paradis learned immediately that the US Army was not as prepared to fight in Korea as he would have liked.
First of all, the clothes the Army had provided were not warm enough. Within a few days, Paradis was suffering from serious frostbite a condition that has resulted in health problems today, including surgery.
His current hearing difficulties are also the result of not having any kind of protection for his ears during machine gun fire.
He recalled putting cigarettes in his ears to try and block out the noise from gun fire.
“One time, I was down in a bunker with four 50 caliber machine guns and no ear protection and we fired over 2,000 rounds. I don’t think I was able to hear for three days after.”
Paradis also commented on the Army’s equipment being in need of repairs and not always having the supplies needed to fix them.
When their Jeeps broke down, parts had to be requisitioned and took time to arrive, and their 50-caliber machine guns didn’t have any head space or timing gauges, which meant they did not work properly, according to Paradis.
Even ammunition was rationed out.
It was a war that had a lot of surprises for Paradis.
“The first firefight I really got into, we went into a village to make sure it was clear of enemy. There, hanging from a tree, was a young woman hanging by her heels,” Paradis said.
The woman had been tortured and killed, along with her newborn baby.
“I was an 18-year-old boy,” Paradis said. “It is hard to recover from something like that. But I saw much more horrible things than that.”
Paradis was a line soldier, which is the same as a combat soldier, Paradis said.
“One guy asked me if I was in any major battles, and I told him, ‘every time I was getting shot at,’” Paradis said.
“I never kept track of how many battles, but I would say six days out of seven I was being shot at,” Paradis said. “I was always out in the field and my chances of getting shot at were da*n good every day.”
“When I was told I was finally going to go home, I sat down and cried like a baby I was so happy to get out of there.”
Paradis said his year in Korea seemed like a lifetime.
“People really don’t understand. I won’t go to a war movie,” Paradis said. “I have a hard time getting through Memorial Day. I cannot tolerate the noise of fireworks. Even the color brings back everything.”
Paradis has been married to his wife, Mary, for 55 years.
They have four children. Pam is the oldest, She is married to Grady Metoyer and they live in Houston, TX.
Patty is married to Steve Garrison, and they live in Delano. Peggy is married to Jeff Rathkamp, and they live in Lester Prairie. Paul lives in Phoenix, AZ.
Paul and Mary also have eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.