Korea vets renew MASH unit bond

By Jimmy Flint

Staff Writer

jflint@advertiser-tribune.com

A Korean War veteran who lives in Siam has found a lifelong friend in a fellow veteran who operated on him during the war 63 years ago.

Gerald Manning, a Siam resident and Korean War veteran, said he was wounded during battle June 6, 1953.

“I was on night patrol duty near Old Badly,” he said. “We were on patrol in a single file line.”

Manning, a Purple Heart recipient for being wounded during battle, said he was injured by two hand grenades.

“I was a machine gunner. The guy that had my tripod, they never found him,” he said. “A guy behind me had my ammo, but I had to crawl back to my ammo. To this day, I don’t know how I reloaded it.”

Manning said he and two or three other soldiers lay on the ground all night and waited for help.

“A support group that was supposed to come get us never found us,” he said. “I was carried back the next day.”

Jim Noller, a Tiffin resident who was an anesthesiologist in the 43rd MASH unit, treated Manning June 7, 1953.

“We were near the 38th Parallel,” he said. “We were within three miles of the front lines at all times.”

Manning said his left leg, left arm and head were injured when he was hit with shrapnel from the grenades.

He said for many years he tried to find out what MASH unit treated him.

“I wrote and I called and I always wanted to figure out what unit I went through,” he said.

In November, Jim Spaun, who served during the Vietnam War, said he was at his grandson’s cross country meet when he met Manning.

“I was at Walsh Park in Fremont,” he said. “I was looking for a place to sit when I saw a man with a Korean War veteran hat.”

Spaun said he thanked Manning for his service and he said when he learned when Manning served, he told him about his friend Noller, who was a medic at the same time.

“I told (Spaun), I think that guy operated on me,” Manning said.

Spaun got Manning’s number and passed the information on to Noller.

Manning’s wife, Rebecca Manning, said Noller called her husband before they even left the cross country meet.

Noller said he had a photo album of pictures of some of the surgeries and operations he was a part of.

“When we met, I knew he was the one who operated on me,” Gerald Manning said.

Rebecca Manning said she couldn’t believe after 62 years, the two men were reunited.

“It was like long-lost buddies,” she said. “It’s been a great friendship since then.”

Noller said the two friends visited the Korean War Memorial in Tiffin Sept. 4 and spent time together yesterday at the Patriot Day Salute Celebration.

Gerald Manning recalled not believing it was really happening when the Sept. 11 attacks happened.

“It was unbelievable that it happened to this country,” he said.

Noller, Manning and Spaun compared it to when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” Noller said.

Noller said he thought the Patriot Day Salute Celebration was great for the community.

“It’s a real plus for Tiffin,” he said.

Spaun said it was a positive for police and fire.

“They’re the ones who fought the war back here at home,” he said.

Rebecca Manning agreed.

“It’s nice to honor them,” she said. “It’s a different world now. They are on the front lines every day.”

Spaun said he was happy to have helped bring together the two friends.

“Next to getting married, having kids and having grandkids,” he said. “This is the greatest thing that ever happened to (Noller).”