11th Airborne Paratrooper – Melvin Garten

Col. Melvin Garten

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Media’s self-importance never dies

An Associated Press photographer died. He was the fellow who took the picture of a fully armed paramilitary immigration enforcement officer taking a screaming child of six by force who was hiding with an adult in a closet, as the Clinton administration had no compunction about separating a Legal Immigrant from his family on American soil.

The Associated Press ran a 749-word obituary on the photographer, Alan Diaz. It was an interesting story — AP hired him after he took the SWAT team-crying kid photo.

But the story was a bit much, and a reminder of the media’s overblown sense of importance. The word iconic appeared four times.

Which brings me to a story I read about Melvin Garten, a real hero. His death brought no AP obituary because he never got a byline:

Toby Harnden, the Times of London reporter who has covered war with the troops and United States politics with equanimity, tweeted on May 6, 2015: “Trumpeter, food blogger, actress, golfer get New York Times obits today, but this man has his death notice paid for by family.”

The man whose family had to pay for his obituary was Melvin Garten, the most decorated and forgotten soldier at the time of his death.

Heroes are born and made. 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 with the 11th Airborne Division.  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 and Ruth Garten

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.

As would war. 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 awarded him the Distinguished Service Cross.

The citation reads: “Captain Garten distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces near Surang-ni, Korea, on 30 October 1952. On that date, observing that assault elements of Companies F and G were pinned down by withering fire on a dominant hill feature, Captain Garten voluntarily proceeded alone up the rugged slope and, reaching the besieged troops, found that key personnel had been wounded and the unit was without command. Dominating the critical situation through sheer force of his heroic example, he rallied approximately eight men, assigned four light machine guns, distributed grenades and, employing the principle of fire and maneuver, stormed enemy trenches and bunkers with such tenacity that the foe was completely routed and the objective secured. Quickly readying defensive positions against imminent counterattack he directed and coordinated a holding action until reinforcements arrived. His inspirational leadership, unflinching courage under fire and valorous actions reflect the highest credit upon himself and are in keeping with the cherished traditions of the military service.”

Pork Chop Hill

Having served at Luzon and Pork Chop Hill, Captain Garten came home and the family moved around. Ruth took care of her men.

“I never even bought my own clothes,” Melvin told Mike Francis of the Oregonian a few months before her death. “I never went shopping. It was not a part of my life. As an Army wife, she took care of those things.”

Their sons were in their teens when the Vietnam War erupted. Melvin earned his Combat Infantry Badge for the third time — perfect attendance as those men with that distinction of serving in those three wars called their service. The Army put him in command of the 2nd Battalion, 327th 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.

Ruth went alone, shielding her sons from the news, as they were in college. She wanted to see how he was. Melvin was in horrible condition. His head wound was more serious than their sons realized. For nearly a year, he worked to recover from the explosion. Melvin wanted to stay on active duty as a one-legged paratrooper. She supported his decision. They had to appear before a medical board. Ruth told the Oregonian, “When I got there, they wanted to know only one thing. ‘Was he as difficult a man before was wounded as he is now?’ one board member asked. ‘No difference,’ I answered. And he passed.”

His assignment was as post commander of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, home of the Airborne and Special Operational Forces, a nod to his sterling and exemplary service under fire.

Gen. Eichelberger (C) w/ Gen. Swing (R) planning the raid of Los Banos

Melvin retired 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. And by few, I mean I do not know of another.

But his retirement in Florida began three wonderful decades for them. In 2000, Ruth and Melvin moved to Oregon to live near their son,  Allan. Doctors diagnosed her as having Parkinson’s. Mike Francis interviewed Melvin and their sons 11 months before her death. Melvin said, “All these things she put up with. All the things she did for the family. She kept our lives going for 70 years. ”

Following her death on January 9, 2013, the family buried her in Arlington, where all our military heroes belong. He joined her there following his death on May 2, 2015.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

Para-Toast.

‘I count only four parachutes. Where’s Mr. Simms?’

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Richard Bettinson – Pelly, CAN; RC Air Force/RAF, WWII, ETO

John Carberg – New London, CT; USMC

Robert Daughtery – Clinton, IN; US Army, WWII, PTO, 3rd Signal Battalion

Paul Fournier – Cleveland, OH; US Navy, WWII

John Graziano – Elkridge, MD; US Air Force, Captain, 87th Flying Training Squadron, KIA

Hank Kriha – Oshkosh, WI; US Army, WWII, PTO, 32nd Red Arrow Division

George McClary – Pueblo, CO; US Coast Guard, WWII, USS El Paso

James Ruff – Summitt, NJ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, SSgt., 11th Airborne Division

Harold Sullivan – Morriston, FL; US Army, WWII, ETO / Korea, Purple Heart

John Yordan – Detroit, MI; US Army

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on November 19, 2018, in First-hand Accounts, Korean War, Uncategorized, Vietnam, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 149 Comments.

  1. Thanks for your like of my post, “English Bible Translation History;” you are very kind.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounded like a great guy and what a hero! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on History Present and commented:
    GP Cox posted this story about a true hero, Melvin Garten. Another of the many important stories he posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for this. Re-blogging and sharing on Facebook, and Twitter. This man (and his family) should be remembered.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A great man and a remarkable woman. Some parallels with my father – both born the same year, both volunteers, both wounded multiple times (dad also in the head and leg). Also dad intended rejoining to go to Korea, but being married by then he was talked out of it, otherwise I believe he would have made a career out of the army and may have ended up in Vietnam as this man did. A wonderful story and a fitting tribute to an outstanding couple.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Happy Thanksgiving to you and all of your family! 🙂
    I am thankful for you and your blog!
    🦃 Turkey-HUGS!!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Those “8 times” must include a number of back and forths over the same subject. I simply can not imagine 8 separate times I would have had to reply. But, what-ever. Im going to assume that you could have found dozens of examples over the past 18 years, including George W’s era, where the so-called elitist “Fake News” treated a similar subject in a way to allow you to make the same point. After all, you then did go on to mention Obama throwing out immigrants, but not Trump, who has made it a pillar of his administration. So, Im just commenting on what I am reading. If what I am saying sounds “political” to you, maybe because what I am reading sounds political to me. But this kind of exchange was protected by both our services in the military. So, thanks to us for our service….

    Like

  8. A lovely tribute, amazing couple, it is good that you tell these stories and they will be available thanks to your blog for a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. An extraordinary story, GP.
    On a happier note, wishing you and yours a wonder-filled Thanksgiving. Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A honorable man, and a wonderful family. We never should forget all the fathers and sons served to save our lives. Michael

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Inspirational story, not only of a soldier and his heroism, but of marriage, family, faith and dedication. Nice,

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Great example of a man who served his country with determination and self-sacrifice. Thank you for the story, and Happy Thanksgiving!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. So sad. What is prioritized in the news today can be stunningly shallow. Everything seems to be me, me, me. People forget that the “me” they are today are thanks to the heroes of yesterday.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Love the Para-toast!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I can’t believe such a person didn’t automatically get a full obituary. What an incredible story. I like the para-toast joke.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Amazing story. Thank you for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. What a great hero who deserved much greater recognition than he seems to have got. I’m surprised that there isn’t a statue near his birthplace or perhaps some military base named after him. Unless those kind of things are done, “hero” becomes a much over-used word. I’m sure that today’s youngsters believe that a hero is somebody who delivers pizza in the rain.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Wow! Quite a story. It reads like another Audie Murphy. But I think you kind of lessened the impact by giving us a story from the Clinton era. That is now some, what, 18 or so years ago? Are we supposed to think of Crooked Hillary? If you wanted a story about immigrant children ripped from their parents on American soil, you could have given us a right-up-to-date story that is occurring almost every day during the Trump administration, where the kids by the hundreds get thrown into prison-like pens and end up never seeing their parents again. You could still take your dig at the media. Just saying….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Have you checked into how many Obama did? I am not discussing politics of today, but the achievements of that wonderful generation we are about to lose forever.

      Like

    • Why would you mention either Clinton or Obama if all you are doing is celebrating the wonderful generation? Neither Clinton or Obama are part of that generation. What exactly are you getting at? Just asking….

      Like

      • Every time you come here, you try to argue and make the article in question a political debate and now you ask why I mentioned it? I believe in letting people have their say, but I am not going to repeatedly debate you.

        Like

        • I read all of your posts, and I think I only replied once before. Maybe you didnt realize what you were doing, but its not me making a political debate. I asked about the politics you inserted that had nothing to do with the great biography. As I said, Just asking. But if you cant answer, why not just admit it, the way some one from that greater generation might do. Just saying….

          Like

          • I apologize. I just went back and looked at all your comments and yes, you have been argumentative, but not political. I presently have 8 comments from you, if we are going to be accurate. The Clinton era comment was used to show why the journalist was considered famous and therefore entitled to a large – free obituary from one of the most influential newspapers in the country, but a man who was wounded for this country 5 times in 3 wars was forgotten.

            Like

  18. This is an amazing story. Then again, all of the stories you post are amazing. Thank you for sharing… again. I enjoy the part where it said that the marriage would not last.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Thank you for sharing this great man and his wife’s story

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Great story of war and marriage. In these days of false celebrities it really is refreshing to read about a genuine hero.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. It’s an extraordinary story of two extraordinary people. It’s also a good reminder of how many “hidden heroes and heroines” are all around us today. I’ve heard very good things about the book American Wife, written by Taya Kyle, the widow of Navy Seal Chris Kyle. I’ve heard her interviewed on the radio, and it was eye-opening, to say the least.

    Liked by 3 people

  22. What a wonderful, important blog-tribute, GP! Thank you for honoring Melvin and Ruth Garten! Their story/journey brings tears of sadness and tears of joy!

    These are the stories we need to hear! These are the people that we need to look up to, emulate, and be grateful for! 🙂
    (((HUGS)))

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Beautiful tribute to Melvin and Ruth, GP. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Again, you remind us that the soldiers don’t serve and suffer alone. The impact is hard to capture and the stories are rarely told.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Spot-on comments about the EneMedia, GP!
    Great story about Melvin Garten! Thank you for posting this!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Great story, but the underpinning issue is the unsung standing, makes my blood boil.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. A very touching true story about a hero and his patient wife

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I see two great heroes in your post: Melvin Garten AND his wife. Too often the wives of the ones we celebrate as war heroes are forgotten . This account is an exception. Well done, GP!

    Liked by 3 people

  29. Wow, that is quite a biography. What a life.

    Like

  30. Nice blog

    Like

  31. Sets the record straight, I’d say. And Stan Lee didn’t invent him

    Like

  32. Excellent post. He was an amazing man. I’m impressed with how you keep coming up with these awesome stories in your blog. Where do you get your stories?

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Thank you for remembering real heroes!

    Liked by 1 person

  34. A moving tribute to a brave man who had a distinguished career. If the press overlooked him, that was their loss. He will be remembered by his family, his comrades, and now us too.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Reblogged this on Rosalinda R Morgan and commented:
    A great tribute to a great war hero!

    Like

  36. What a wonderful tribute to a great war hero and his wife who supported him! This is the kind of story that should appear in the newspapers instead of those useless celebrities who would never take arms to defend our country.

    Liked by 2 people

  37. Awesome story GP! *shakes head about media.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. What a great story, GP. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

    Liked by 2 people

  39. This man was the example of heroism. Many veteran heroes are birthed in wartime, and come home, acclimate and die without notice. Thank you for sharing this story with us.

    Liked by 3 people

  40. GP Cox : I wish to say yours is one of the best blog . I thank you very much. Ciao.

    Liked by 3 people

  41. This brought tears to my eyes. Ruth was as much the focus of the story as her husband.

    Liked by 1 person

  42. For some heroes there simply are no adjectives or descriptors strong enough to exemplify them. And yet this hero would have considered himself as one doing his duty.

    What sickens me today is the revolting sycophantic adulation of pro sports players, liberal politicians and celebrities by young and old alike who clearly do not understand humility, sacrifice, bravery and many other aspects of character.

    Thanks so much for this post. (sorry for the rant…)

    Liked by 5 people

  43. I shared this post on Facebook and am hoping I don’t get a lot of comments on the attacks on the media. While I agree with them, they are irrelevant to the main story, the story of a true hero when the word is too loosely used these days.

    Liked by 1 person

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