Korean War radar operator saw more than blips

2013-12-08T22:30:00Z 2013-12-09T14:09:13Z Korean War radar operator saw more than blipsTimes Staff
December 08, 2013 10:30 pm  • 

Eugene Hanyzewski Sr. had a mountaintop experience in the Korean War. Literally.

The radar installation where he was stationed was atop a relatively flat mountain. It offered good views not just by radar, for air traffic control, but visually as well.

Hanyzewski, 87, of Highland, was already an old hand when he went to that radar installation in Korea. He had already used the new technology in World War II.

Hanyzewski enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943 to serve during World War II.

"My mother signed for me because I was only 17," he said.

By the Korean War, the U.S. Air Force had been established.

"The Korean War started in July of 1950, and Harry Truman activated my squadron," Hanyzewski said.

Hanyzewski was in an early warning squadron, where he supervised an eight-man crew, working six hours at a time.

"We scanned up to 120 miles into North Korea," Hanyzewski said, "and any enemy planes coming down, we would track them."

"The North Koreans didn't have much of an air force, so there wasn't too much activity there," he said.

One time, the activity wasn't on the radar screen but in the valley below. He saw "lines and lines of trucks coming down, bringing the (enemy) troops down. It was just an endless ... like in Chicago over here on I-94, truck after truck. We had a bird's-eye view of that because we seen the whole North Korean coast."

That was when the Americans had to pull back.

Getting to the mountaintop from the compound 6 miles to the south wasn't easy.

"I don't know who built the road, but it was quite an adventure to get up there," he said.

The harsh winters, with temperatures as low as 30 below zero, made it worse.

"Sometimes we'd have to shovel our way from the barracks to the mess hall," he said.

When he returned home, "It was like nothing had ever happened. I just picked up my life and went on from there."

Last year, Honor Flight Chicago sent Hanyzewski to Washington, D.C., to see the World War II Memorial. The Korean War Memorial was also on the itinerary.

"When we came back to the airport in Chicago, there were 1,500 people thanking me, and I got tears in my eyes because I had never been welcomed at home from the two wars I was in," Hanyzewski said. "So that gave me some closure."

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