LA PORTE CITY – “It was a little scary.”
That is what Marvin Yarrington said in a 2011 interview with the Grout Museum on how he earned the Bronze Star Medal for Valor during his service in the Korean War.
After being drafted into the Army in 1951 and quickly marrying his wife JoAnn, the 20-year-old reported to Des Moines before being sent to Fort Sill, Okla.
There, he battled homesickness while completing the 16-week disciplinary and training program, which included basic and fire direction preparation.
After the intense exercises and bivouacking experiences, including a nearly 11-mile hike with full field packs after spending the night in the rain, Yarrington joked that the hardest part was staying awake for classes.
He was sent to Seattle to ship out. After stopping at Anchorage, Alaska, the ship sailed around the Aleutian Islands on its way to Japan and hit a storm.
“The bow would come out of the water and slam back down like it was on a sidewalk. I thought, ‘we’re not going to make it,’” Yarrington recalled. “The propellers would come out of the water, and the ship would just shake.”
The storm lasted for nearly three days and caused severe sea sickness for Yarrington’s companions. Yarrington made it his mission to help the others and bring food to those below deck who were too ill to leave their bunks.
When the ship arrived in Tokyo, troops then boarded a train to Osaka, then to Incheon, South Korea, before being trucked to their outfit.
“There was nothing left in Incheon at the time, I escaped that battle,” Yarrington said solemnly. “It was just riddled; people were living in makeshift cardboard houses.”
Their first night in their base camp provided little sleep. During the middle of the night, somebody suddenly shouted and fired a gun right outside Yarrington’s tent, “it scared me to death,” he recalled.
When morning came, he was finally able to survey his surroundings, including guns and ammunition bunkers surrounded by tripwires with flares and fast-running clear streams “like in Colorado.”
Yarrington was immediately thrown into collecting rocks from a nearby river to build gun stands and roads and pulling night guard shifts.
“You can imagine everything standing there because you don’t know where the enemy’s at or what’s going on. At every ripple in the water running over the rocks, you wonder if they’re sneaking up the creek. You’re always on your toes.”
Other missions provided support for various units in dangerous situations. Yarrington was assigned to a support group for the 1st infantry and was ordered to discharge illumination shells to help in their escape.
Yarrington and the others had to approach the front line, keeping out of range of the howitzer cannons. Harsh ice and snow made it difficult to move men and artillery pieces, so Yarrington and his group cut down pine and cedar trees to position as a base to give the tanks traction.
They were rewarded for their quick thinking, and Yarrington earned a Bronze star.
Later Yarrington worked on Howitzers as a lanyard preparing projectiles, then loading ammo, advancing to sergeant. He was promoted to chief of section overseeing the weapon’s ammo, men, maintenance and inspections.
He left the Army as a staff sergeant, anxious to return home to see his wife and daughter, born while he was still in Japan.
Back stateside, he was stationed at Fort Custer, Michigan and Fort Carson in Colorado, before being officially discharged.
He began farming with his father-in-law before working for a construction company for 25 years. Their family expanded with another daughter and son.
His youngest daughter lives with him in La Porte City. After his wife’s death, Yarrington keeps busy with involvement in the American Legion.
To this day, he values his service. “I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, but I would not want to do it again. It was a privilege to serve my country.”