Bernard Katz

U.S. Army Korean War Vet­eran – Friendly Val­ley Res­i­dent

The Signal - - SCV VETERANS - By Bill Reynolds Sig­nal Di­rec­tor of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs

I first met Bernie Katz at our Amer­i­can Le­gion Hall in Ne­whall right af­ter our Memo­rial Day Cer­e­mony ear­lier this year, and, af­ter a brief chat, I knew he was a Vet­eran that I must in­ter­view.

When I ar­rived at his home days ago, I felt sad for him as he was deal­ing with sev­eral med­i­cal is­sues and he was breath­ing via an oxy­gen tank.

Never-the-less, we had a won­der­ful con­ver­sa­tion as you’ll see be­low.

Mir­a­cle Mile Con­nec­tion

Bernard Katz was born Aug. 24, 1932 in Brook­lyn, New York, where he lived un­til he was 15 years old.

They lived in the Bronx for another year. Bernie’s mother, how­ever, passed away while he was in high school so his fa­ther, a paint­ing con­trac­tor, moved the fam­ily to Boyle Heights, Cal­i­for­nia, where Bernie grad­u­ated from Los An­ge­les High School in June 1950.

Af­ter high school, Bernie worked at his fa­ther’s news­stand on Wil­shire Boule­vard in the Mir­a­cle Mile district for a while and one of his reg­u­lar cus­tomers was the in­fa­mous mob­ster, Mickey Co­hen.

Katz Army Fam­ily

On June 25, 1950, North Korea sent its tanks and 75,000 troops storm­ing across the 38th Par­al­lel into South Korea send­ing South Korean troops in full re­treat.

Two days later, Pres­i­dent Harry Tru­man or­dered Amer­i­can troops into com­bat and the fol­low­ing month the Korean War was on.

Bernie had just grad­u­ated from high school and he was firmly mo­ti­vated to join the U.S. Army at a mere 18 years of age.

With his fa­ther’s sup­port, Bernie en­tered the Army at Fort Ord, Cal­i­for­nia, on Nov. 16, 1950. There he took Ba­sic and Ad­vanced In­fantry Train­ing. Bernie’s fa­ther, Isador Katz was a WWI in­fantry sol­dier and Bernie’s older brother Leon served in WWII.

It wasn’t long be­fore Bernie and his fel­low troops passed un­der the Golden Gate Bridge like so many oth­ers be­fore them on their way into com­bat.

As he passed un­der that bridge and look­ing up, Bernie thought to him­self, “Will I make it back alive?”

Ri­fle­man to Ar­tillery­man

Car­ry­ing his duf­fle bag and trusty M1 Garand Ri­fle, Pri­vate Bernard Katz ar­rived in South Korea in Jan­uary 1951, and, man was it frigid. His im­me­di­ate con­cern was get­ting frost bite.

De­spite be­ing an in­fantry ri­fle­man, and since ar­tillery sol­diers were in high de­mand, Bernie was as­signed to a 105 How­itzer and Rocket Launcher unit with the 2nd Field Ar­tillery Bat­tery.

Hav­ing no ar­tillery train­ing what­so­ever, it was on-the-job-train­ing (OJT). Bernie be­came a shell loader and was promptly nick­named “Kitty Kat.”

In time, he learned all as­pects of load­ing, fir­ing and re­lo­cat­ing 105s and rocket launch­ers.

“In the com­bat zone, ev­ery­one had to learn each other’s job,” Bernie said.

Fire and Smoke

Bernie re­called that they were con­stantly mov­ing their guns to al­ways po­si­tion them­selves close be­hind their in­fantry troop­ers at the front line, and there were times they had to pull back due to fierce com­bat up front. Of­ten, Bernie’s ar­tillery teams were fir­ing fast and fu­ri­ous as en­emy ar­tillery shells blasted in caus­ing much dam­age, in­juries and chaos.

Once they had to re­treat so fast that sev­eral 105 How­itzers were aban­doned. It was bru­tal with fel­low sol­diers wounded and dy­ing and fires and smoke ev­ery­where, Bernie said. Dur­ing one such melee, Bernie caught shrap­nel in his left leg earn­ing him a Pur­ple Heart. Smoke in­hala­tion was a ma­jor haz­ard and their bat­tle field con­di­tions were mea­ger; very lit­tle gear, no ear plugs, no flak jack­ets, and liv­ing on C-Ra­tions.

The For­got­ten War

By May 1951, the com­mu­nists were pushed back to the 38th par­al­lel. That bat­tle line re­mained in that vicin­ity un­til the war ended July 27, 1953, af- ter two years of bru­tal com­bat and ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Af­ter 36,516 U.S. troops were killed in ac­tion, 4,579 miss­ing in ac­tion and 103,284 wounded in ac­tion, the Korean War, known as “The For­got­ten War,” fi­nally ended.

Con­sid­er­ing what’s hap­pen­ing now, Pres­i­dent Harry Tru­man per­haps should have un­leashed Gen­eral Dou­glas MacArthur to end things right then and there.

Bernie served 14 months in Korea and then re­turned to his fa­ther’s home fol­low­ing his Hon­or­able Dis­charge Jan. 31, 1953.

100% Dis­abil­ity

Bernie was 21 years old when he ar­rived home. He soon be­came a truck driver land­ing sev­eral jobs de­liv­er­ing mer­chan­dise through­out South­ern Cal­i­for­nia for the next 20 years.

How­ever, he had de­vel­oped lung and hear­ing prob­lems from his com­bat ser­vice which led Bernie to quit work­ing.

Bernie sought med­i­cal ser­vices from the Vet­er­ans Ad­min­is­tra­tion and pri­vate doc­tors, but ul­ti­mately he lost one lung, which is why he ceased work­ing.

The VA, how­ever, de­ter­mined that he was 100 per­cent dis­abled so he be­gan re­ceiv­ing full ben­e­fits.

Bernie first met Phyl­lis Adams at a Sy­n­a­gogue Youth Or­ga­ni­za­tion and a friend ar­ranged their first date with three other couples to a movie theater.

When I asked Bernie of the movie they saw, he said, “I don’t re­mem­ber but it sure had to be bet­ter than what we have now.”

Ne­whall’s Se­nior Cen­ter

Phyl­lis was at­trac­tive with a great out­go­ing per­son­al­ity and they were con­stantly go­ing out danc­ing, din­ners out and to the movies with sev­eral other couples.

Things were go­ing great, which led Bernie to pro­pose. A year later they were mar­ried on Oct. 24, 1954. Bernie and Phyl­lis had a won­der­ful son and a lov­ing daugh­ter. Trag­i­cally, how­ever, Phyl­lis be­came ill with com­pli­ca­tions from di­a­betes and at age 61 she passed away Feb. 5, 1995.

A heart­bro­ken Bernie soon moved to Ca­mar­illo to live with a friend un­til his daugh­ter wanted him closer to her so in 2003. As a re­sult, Bernie moved to Val­ley Oaks Vil­lage in Ne­whall for sev­eral years.

Soon, Bernie be­gan vis­it­ing our Santa Clarita Val­ley Se­nior Cen­ter in Ne­whall which lit­er­ally changed and bright­ened his life for it was there that he met Dorothy Gates. They just hap­pened to sit at the same ta­ble one evening and they hit it off beau­ti­fully and be­gan see­ing each other.

Later on, Bernie ca­su­ally men­tioned mar­riage and she thought that was a good idea so they tied the knot April 8, 2006 at Val­ley Oaks Vil­lage.

A year later, Bernie and Dorothy moved to Friendly Val­ley where they live to this day.

They thor­oughly en­joy vis­it­ing with their six grand­chil­dren and four great grand­chil­dren as of­ten as pos­si­ble.

WII Bowl­ing

Bernie has been re­tired many years now but he stays very ac­tive with the Se­nior Cen­ter as their Vet­er­ans Club Chair­per­son and he’s their Bowl­ing WII Coach.

Be­sides hav­ing Dorothy at his side, the se­nior cen­ter is his pas­sion in life.

Bernie also en­joys Santa Clarita’s myr­iad Vet­eran cer­e­monies and our In­de­pen­dence Day Pa­rade.

And hey, if you’d like to say hello to Dorothy, she’s a part time re­cep­tion­ist at City Hall.

Bernie’s mil­i­tary awards are Pur­ple Heart, Bronze Star w/Unit Ci­ta­tion, Korean Ser­vice Medal, Na­tional De­fense Medal, Good Con­duct Medal, and United Na­tions Rib­bon.

Bernard Katz re­mains very proud of his mil­i­tary ser­vice and at age 85 he’s as tough as ever.

Cour­tesy pho­tos

(Top left) Bernard Katz armed and danger­ous in Korea. (Top right) Katz in Korea, 1952. (Above left) Katz headed home from Korea. (Above) Katz bro­ken down in Korea, 1952. (Be­low left) Bernard and Dorothy’s wed­ding, April 2006.

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