War stories from an honored veteran

April 07, 2003 11:00 pm

By GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER

Displaying a machine gun just like the one he held while his leg was riddled with bullets, a decorated Korean War veteran will share stories about his combat time with the public Thursday night.

Originally from St. Louis, Lee Dauster, 74, now lives in the Phoenix Lake area of Sonora. He served for five years with the U.S. Marine Corps, earning two Purple Hearts and a Silver Star. He lived in San Jose for 35 years after the Korean War, working as an insurance broker. Dauster retired and moved to Tuolumne County in 2000 with his wife, Marie, to be closer to his wife's daughter, Diana Davis. Davis lives near Columbia.

From October 1950 to April 1951, Dauster was among those to battle North Korea. But his war service ended April 24, on the second night of the Chinese Counteroffensive, when four bullets tore through his left leg. Doctors had to amputate, leaving only the top two-thirds of his thigh. Thursday night, Dauster will tell his war story.

"I killed a lot of men. I don't say that with pride. It hurts." he said.

That pain prevented Dauster from discussing the war for 20 years after leaving Korea.

But Dauster said he speaks about it now to "give people an idea how terrible war really is."

Mike Jones, past president of 49er Rotary Club, asked Dauster to give the talk after hearing him speak at a recent Rotary meeting.

"We were very moved at how well he's able to paint a very real picture of the fire fight he was in where he lost his leg," Jones said. "His command of the English language and the way he expressed his life experiences, we thought it would be something our community would like to hear. The real life experiences of a real American hero."

Dauster said he hopes other Korean War veterans will attend and join the Korean War Veterans Association, of which he is the present commander. Dauster also belongs to the 49er Rotary Club, the Mother Lode Gun Club, American Legion and Disabled American Veterans.