There were times when Ed Wroblewski had to feel there was someone watching over him as he served aboard the USS Floyd B. Parks in the Korean War.
Wroblewski’s view of combat came from ringside seats at a 5-inch gun mount on the destroyer's O1 deck.
In time, the Gary native became the gunnery crew’s eyes and ears. He listened in on the radio to U.S. pilots encountering MiGs north of the 38th Parallel as the destroyer steamed toward Wonsan Harbor.
He took coordinates from Marine spotters on where enemy fire was coming from, charted the position of U.S. planes (with an X) and “bogeys” (with an O) on a Plexiglas screen for a superior who could relay the information to the gun crew.
He was positioning the gun’s vertical movement on one of the first days the ship started taking rounds from communist batteries as it neared the harbor.
“I’m Catholic, and I had a rosary in my hand. And I kept following instructions ... and it broke. All the beads fell to the deck, which had holes in it. I told myself, ‘Hey, Ed, relax. Now the whole ship is blessed.’”
If he had any doubts about that, they were dispelled as the Parks drew closer to shore.
The channel narrowed, and on both sides of the ship enemy gun emplacements in the foothills began a barrage, sending watery geysers up from explosions in front, behind and to each side of the ship.
“It was extraordinary that … God … he was there and he saved us. For some reason we didn’t get hit," the Hobart resident recalled.
Wroblewski’s combat experiences came in late June 1951 as his one-year wedding anniversary was nearing.
Wroblewski, “angry, crying, mad at the world," went below decks to ask a duty officer if he could “give the North Koreans a gift from me and my bride.”
The officer replied, “Sure, grab those handles on the instrument panel, and when the light goes on, pull the trigger.” Wroblewski did as instructed, launching a fusillade into demolished Wonsan City. Then he turned to the officer, saluted, said, “Thank you, sir,” and left, feeling somewhat better on his anniversary.
Later, in another engagement, Wroblewski was told to find out why gun mount 41 wasn't firing. He was on his way back to report that water jackets weren't cooling the guns off properly when an officer pushed him around the corner of a bulkhead. At that moment, a shrapnel bomb exploded above them raining down metal shards.
Both men escaped unscathed.
“I should have picked some of that (the metal) up as a souvenir,” Wroblewski said. “They might have made a nice pair of cufflinks.”
The surface and airborne hazards were just part of the threat to the destroyer.
Late one dark night, when you couldn't tell the sea from the horizon, the crew took note of an approaching blip on a radar screen. When it advanced close enough for sailors to cast a spotlight on it, North Koreans in a sampan were dropping a mine over its side. A Parks gun battery erased that threat in an already heavily mined harbor.
Wroblewski finished his tour before the armistice was negotiated in 1953. He finally was reunited with his wife, Alma, to return to a job in the steel mills. The GI Bill gave him the opportunity to pursue commercial art, which spawned years of commuting into Chicago, working for such studios as Handelen-Pedersen as well as his own freelance shop. He retired in the early 1990s.
Serving in the war, Wroblewski says, helped him “appreciate what has transpired in the forming of this country.” He is glad to be part of a group of guys who helped preserve freedom for South Koreans.