Twain Harte man Garland Hunt is humble when asked about his role aboard a landing ship in the Navy, but has much to say about “The Forgotten War.”
The 82-year-old rattled off the number of American casualties and missing persons counted during the three-year Korean War as he sat in front of the Tuolumne County Veteran’s Museum in Sonora.
His red Toyota Tacoma was parked nearby on Washington Street, sporting a window decal with those same numbers.
Dead: 54,246. Wounded: 103,284. Missing in action: 8,177.
The veteran crossed his legs, rested his aviator sunglasses on his thigh and lifted his gray hood up over his Korean War baseball camp as he talked about the war that was officially characterized a “police action.”
The Oklahoma native boarded the U.S.S. Sumner County landing ship in 1951 at age 20, thankful that he would be able to sleep in a warm bed and eat three hot meals per day for the next four years.
He knew he wouldn’t have such luxuries if he was drafted into the Army.
Fortunately for Hunt, his draft notice arrived in the mail the day after the Navy pulled him off its waiting list of volunteers.
Although he knew nothing about military weapons, Hunt was assigned the role of maintaining them as the “gunner’s mate.”
His LST, formally known as a Landing Ship, Tank, traveled up and down coasts, transporting troops and supplies.
“The wars could not have been won in the Pacific or in Germany if it hadn’t been for LST’s,” he said of the ships. “That was the only way they could get troops, tanks and equipment on the beach.”
Hunt felt the amphibious force was a safer option than combat, but realized the ship was not invulnerable.
He said his LST was often followed by Russian submarines, and others were sunk.
“It was all dangerous,” he said. “If you came under attack, there was no safe place.”
In 1952, Hunt was in San Francisco on “liberty” — a short, authorized absence — and met the woman he would be married to for 50 years.
He said meeting his wife, Jannette, was one of the best things to come out of his service.
After being discharged from the Navy, the couple traveled to his home state of Oklahoma.
Amid a sluggish job market and having been out of work due to his service, Hunt managed to land a job as a clerk for the Santa Fe Railroad for about two years.
He and his wife relocated to San Francisco, where he spent another two years working for Western Pacific Railroad before entering the insurance business in Southern California.
He and his wife settled in the Oceanside area for about 50 years and traveled to vacation destinations such as Bermuda and Tahiti at his employer’s expense.
They raised their four children in Southern California before his wife died of heart failure 12 years ago.
Hunt moved to Twain Harte about three years ago to be closer to a friend and said he has only met a few Korean War veterans in the area.
“There’s not many of us left,” he said.
Hunt spends some of his time visiting downtown Sonora and local flea markets but overall lives a quiet life in the Sierra foothills.
“I’m not that interesting,” he said. “I just tried to survive.”
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