Edward Shultz

Hamden's Edward Shultz Still Remembers 'The Forgotten War' By Alaine Griffin, agriffin@courant.com | Hartford Courant

It's been 60 years since Edward Shultz left the battlefields of Korea and came home without fanfare to a country that knew little about "The Forgotten War."

But time hasn't erased the memories of what the former Marine witnessed in a war that claimed the lives of millions of people.

"It was one of the most barbaric wars," Shultz, 81, of Hamden, said.

Shultz enlisted in the Marines after graduating from high school. He learned quickly how to fight back against all-night enemy artillery, repeatedly driving defenders off hills he and his comrades were ordered to recover even as Chinese and North Korean soldiers played funeral marches and other haunting music over loudspeakers in an attempt to break the soldiers' spirits.

"They had a huge speaker system and they would play this crazy music and tell us that our wives and girlfriends were with other people while we were away," Shultz said. Sometimes, the music was followed by an attack.

"They would come up the hill in the middle of the night and we would just obliterate them. Then they would go out and get their people that were hit and we would never see any of them the next morning," Shultz said.

Other times, he said, nothing followed the music and the blaring of bugles throughout the night.

"They were kind of playing with our minds, I guess," Shultz said.

These days, Shultz said he still tosses and turns in his sleep. Sometimes, his wife tells him, he lets out a scream.

Shultz doesn't like to elaborate on the nightmares. After the war, Shultz went on to college and worked for years in quality control at a New Haven paper manufacturing company. He settled in Hamden with his wife, Patricia, and they raised six children.

When he's not spending time with his 14 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, Shultz works with local veterans groups and raises money for Fisher House, an organization that provides soldiers' families housing near military hospitals. Since the war, Shultz and other local Korean War veterans have bonded with Koreans in the area who have their own war stories of survival.

"They call it "The Forgotten War" but it has not been forgotten by the people of South Korea and by those who went there," Shultz said.

One survival story always gets him, Shultz said. It's about a man who fled to South Korea with his family during the brutal winter months. Shultz said the man was forced to leave his elderly mother behind at a church before fleeing through the cold and ice with the rest of his family.

"All of the bridges had been blown. There was no way to escape," Shultz said. "So he got this long rope and tied it around the waists of everybody in his family, put straw in their shoes and dragged them across the ice from North Korea to South Korea."

"Every time I hear that story," Shultz said, choking up, "I think of what they went through."

Shultz learned about this brave man and struck up friendships with his descendants through his work as president of the Korean War Veterans Association of Greater New Haven which comes together for events with the Korean community and other veterans groups to honor those who fought in the war and to educate children about its history and legacy.

Bruce Cha, a local dentist and one of the descendants who has participated in the programs, said attending the events is a way for him to show his appreciation for American soldiers.

Cha, 57, was born after the war. His family members were Christian refugees who struggled through incredible hardships to escape the communist regime. Without the help of Marines like Shultz, Cha said he would not be free today. He said his family still commemorates the day in late September when, with the help of the Marines, the capital city of Seoul was recaptured from North Korean forces in 1950.

"I wouldn't be here," Cha said, if the battle had gone in North Korea's favor. "I would probably be locked up over there. I will always feel grateful for the Korean War veterans who fought for our freedom and our safe passage to the south."

Shultz said such stories of survival as well as the soldiers' stories should be shared with future generations.

"These are stories kids should hear so they know what people before them went through so they can be where they are today."

Copyright © 2018, CT Now