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"The weather conditions were at best deplorable." (Video Interview, 41:05)

   James T. Markalunas
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James Markalunas [2007]
War: Korean War, 1950-1953
Branch: Marine Corps
Unit: VMR-152 (Marine Transport Squadron), 1st Marine Air Wing (MAW); VMFN-513 (Night Fighter Squadron), Marine Air Group 12 (MAG)
Service Location: El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, California; K1, K3, K18, and K8, Korea
Rank: Sergeant
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While in high school in Aspen, Colorado, James Markalunas worked in a power plant and later studied engineering. After he enlisted in late 1950, the Marines assigned him to a transport squadron to maintain radios, based on his background. In Korea, he was based in Pusan. The planes he worked on provided air cover for the 1st Marine Division and ground support, as well as making interdiction runs and dropping night-time flares. (The latter missions were the only time he got into the air.) Markalunas found the weather in Korea to be another kind of enemy, as the extreme conditions played havoc with his equipment.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (6 clips)
»Video interview of James Markalunas 
Download: video (63 min.)
»Memoir: In Uncle Sam's Service
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»Korean War
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (6 items)
As a 12-year-old in 1942 Aspen, Colorado, following Army trainees through town. (02:49) In 1950, he was eligible for the draft; aware of the early events of the Korean War; enlisted in the Marine Reserves, was called to active duty; terrified in his first days at boot camp; learning to keep his head down. (04:25) In high school in Aspen, he worked at a power plant on relief shifts; was still working there in 1950, taking courses in radio technology, learning electrical and engineering work; this background directed him into radio work in a transport squadron; shipping out to Korea on a WWII vintage ship. (05:48)
Squadron's mission was interdiction of troop movements and ground support for 1st Marine Division and night cover for some Air Force units, plus air support; he was doing radio maintenance; went up a few times with flare planes to help drop the flares; got airsick on first flight. (03:39) Though they were transitioning from prop planes to jets, the "sweetheart" plane was the Corsair, a "great workhorse;" radios were still unreliable tube-based technology; servicing aircraft in the winter; snow removal not factored in; weather was at best "deplorable." (05:24) On guard duty on Christmas Eve; attended midnight Mass; sit-down dinner; reads the impressive menu of what was served that day. (02:36)

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  October 26, 2011
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