Charles “Chuck” Marietta of College Station served in a naval fighter/bomber squadron during the Korean war. Because of the recent negotiations with North Korea and the return of the remains of Americans lost in Korea, he is hopeful that one of the bodies recovered will be a squadron member he served with.
Life for Chuck began in Houston on December 12, 1931. As recalled by Chuck, “My mother was from Venezuela, entering America through Ellis Island. My parents ended up in Houston at the time of my birth but we all moved to Venezuela in 1945 and remained there until 1949. I wanted to attend the Naval Academy, so I attended a prep school in New York called Riverdale Country School for Boys. I graduated in 1951 and tried to obtain an appointment to the Naval Academy but was told to try later.”
“Before later could happen, I received my notice from the Selective Service Board. I decided to volunteer for the Navy in Houston, where my parents then lived. In August 1951, I was on a train to San Diego for boot camp. By now, the Korean War was in full bloom. When I finished boot camp, I qualified to be an airplane mechanic. I told my Chief Petty Officer I wanted to fly. I was sent to join Squadron VA 702 at North Island.”
“When I checked in, I learned that almost all of the Squadron were reservists that were from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. We were shipped to Korea where our squadron was on an aircraft carrier, the USS Kearsarge, off the coast of Korea. We were close enough to land that we could hear the artillery bombardment and we could see the muzzle flashes at night.”
“I remember one incident where a helicopter attempted an emergency landing on the deck of our carrier, but in doing so, its rotor blades hit the deck. In all, twelve members of the ships crew would be killed. I made two tours in Korea with our squadron which was a tightknit group. We have remained that way over the years holding five reunions with the first being held in 2000. We found we are still a tightknit group it is just that our group is a lot smaller now.”
“I stayed in the Navy for four years and started college after my discharge. I started at the University of Houston but transferred to A&M where I was in the Corps in Squadron 22, becoming part of the Class of ’60. Being a veteran and needing to work because the GI Bill didn’t cover all my expenses, I left the Corps to work at the wind tunnel that was being built.”
“After A&M I started to work for Shell pipeline and eventually purchased a real estate and insurance business in Rosenburg where I remained for the next forty years. After my first wife died, I re-married and we have returned to Aggieland.”
“I attended the dedication for the Texas Korean War Veterans Memorial which is located on the State Capitol grounds in Austin. What I didn’t know until then is more than 289,000 Texans fought in Korea over the three year period of the war and more than 1,700 Texans were killed or missing in action. Also, of the 8,182 service personnel still listed as missing in action, four hundred of them are Texans.”
“One of the members of our squadron that was lost in North Korea was Lt. Donald H. Hagee. I am hopeful that one of the bodies that has been recovered and returned will be his. If it is, I guess our squadron will hold one more reunion for his funeral and burial.”
If you know a World War II, Korean, or Vietnam War veteran whose story should be told, please contact the Brazos Valley Veterans Memorial at www.bvvm.org or Bill Youngkin at 979-776-1325. If you want to have a Veterans name added to the Memorial Wall on Veterans Day, you need to do so before August 15, 2018.