Bidding farewell to an American hero

I’m indebted to Don Surber for bringing us the life story of the late Col. Melvin Garten.  Here’s an excerpt.

Melvin Garten was born May 20, 1921 in New York City, where he became another smart Jewish boy attending City College of New York. Japan’s sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, greatly altered his immediate plans. Upon graduation from CCNY, he joined the Army and became a paratrooper. He then married his girlfriend, Ruth Engelman of the Bronx, in November 1942. She was a war bride. Everyone said the marriage wouldn’t last, and they were right because the marriage ended on January 9, 2013 — the day she died.

Melvin went off to the Pacific Theater of the war, where he participated in what can only be described as an audacious airborne raid of Los Banos in 1945, rescuing more than 2,000 U.S. and Allied civilians from a Japanese prison camp. He was a highly decorated soldier, earning the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, a Presidential Unit Citation and the Purple Heart with three Oak Leak Clusters for his wounds in battle. He was tough and handsome and courageous.

. . .

At dawn on Sunday, June 25, 1950, with the permission of Stalin, the North Koreans crossed the 38th parallel behind artillery fire. Melvin was back in combat. Captain Garten proved his mettle again as commander of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. President Eisenhower would award him the Distinguished Service Cross.

. . .

Their sons were in their teens when the Vietnam War erupted. Melvin would earn his Combat Infantry Badge for the third time — perfect attendance as those men of that distinction of serving in those three wars called their service. The Army put him in command of the 2nd Battalion, 237th Infantry in 1968 and he reinvigorated the unit, calling it the No Slack battalion. Just as he almost completed the turnaround, his jeep ran over a Vietcong mine, sending shrapnel to his leg and to his head. Another war, another Purple Heart, only this time it cost him his leg. The military sent him to Walter Reed to recuperate.

. . .

He would retire as the most decorated man in the Army at the time with the Distinguished Service Cross, four Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars, five Purple Hearts, two Legion of Merits, two Joint Service Commendations, a Combat Infantry Badge for each of three wars, and a Master Parachutist Badge with two combat jump stars. Melvin paid dearly for those awards, but so did Ruth. She was one of the few women to receive five telegrams over the years informing her that her husband was wounded in combat.

There’s more at the link.

Here’s Colonel Garten talking about his participation in the raid on Los Banos in 1945.

Colonel Garten died on May 2nd, and was buried yesterday alongside his late wife in Arlington National Cemetery.  May he rest in peace.  We are diminished by the loss of such men.


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