Albert Meringolo
Albert Meringolo
Albert Meringolo

Albert Meringolo

Not Forgotten

 

Memories burn bright for veteran of historic Korean battles

By Mary Kay Gominger

He doesn't have old photographs hanging on the walls in his room or worn and tattered letters on display. There are no fading newspaper clippings or unit plaques to commemorate the times and places he served during his time with the Marine Corps that started in 1948 and spanned 23 years. He has nothing but his memories, some DD214s that verify his service to country and a few scrapbooks put together by fellow Marines and given to him years later at a reunion. But he remembers. And its about this time every year that resident Albert Meringolo's mind drifts back to another time and another place, September 15, 1950, to be exact. He remembers being on a ship just off the shore of Inchon, Korea, waiting his turn as he and his fellow comrades with the 5th Marine Regiment plunged into the waters with weapons drawn and stormed the beaches. There was no time to worry, no time to think. Only follow orders. And that's what he did. “All we thought of was what had to be done,” Albert said recalling that day. “There were Army units that needed to be relieved. Time was of the essence. As we fought our way inland, the North Koreans retreated. After we took the beaches, we made our way inland, ultimately to Seoul, clearing house to house along the way. It was slow going but we made it.”

Albert was there in Seoul when the American flag was raised and General MacArthur ceremoniously handed the city back over to the South Koreans.

The Battle of Inchon was just a warm up of what was to come, the 'tip of the iceberg' so to speak for those Marines, and Albert, as a few months later they found themselves in the thick of things again, this time the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.

“Yes, I'm a member of the Chosin Few,” Albert acknowledges, but only when asked.

“It was cold,” he recalls. “Thirty below. We had parkas…gloves…but that was the extent of our cold weather gear back then.

“We were ambushed, totally surrounded and outnumbered. There was only one way out…straight down, 78 miles,” Albert recalled.

“That's how we found out that the Chinese had joined the North Koreans in the war. There we were… surrounded and outnumbered by 100,000, at the top of the mountain, in subzero temperatures, with only one way out… 78 miles down a narrow one way road. There was a feeling among us though, as we looked around at each other, we knew we would make it out. They may have had us in numbers but we were confident in our tactical skills and that would make the difference.”

Albert made it down that road but spent the next seven months in hospitals recovering from gangrene and other complications from severe frostbite on his hands and feet. Upon release he continued his career with the Marine Corps, serving in a variety of duties stateside and doing a tour in Hawaii and as Marine Security with the American Embassy in Liberia. He retired from the Marine Corps in 1970 having achieved the rank of Sergeant Major and his ties with Corps and the men of 'the Chosin Few' have remained strong throughout the years

“We've always kept in touch and get together every two years” Albert said. “We served together a long time ago but the experiences we had and our medical issues now, as a result of the frostbite, makes our bond stronger. We keep up with how everyone is doing.”

Albert has lived at the AFRH for 18 months. He has family in the area and had passed by the grounds many times in his visits to his family. One day, he stopped and inquired and made the decision to join his fellow veterans.

“I always had it on my mind that I would find a veteran's home someday,” he said.

Albert enjoys exercising and reading and his goal is to start volunteering. He plans to start training next month to be a volunteer in the AFRH library.