IN?MEMORY… Remembering area war veterans

Medals and Awards:

  • Korean Service Medal with one battlestar
  • UN Service Medal, Korea
  • China Service Medal
  • National Defense Medal
  • Korean Presidential Medal

Richard C. Case, who served his country and his family with equal dedication, died May 19, 2004. He was born Nov. 21, 1930. This Monday, at the American Legion Post 62 in Dunkirk, his widow Iona will celebrate her 90th birthday.

The Dunkirk-Fredonia area is full of veterans like Case, who when their country needed them, dropped what they were doing and enlisted. These honorable veterans could be your relatives – uncles, sisters, grandfathers, brothers, mothers, aunts – or they could be the people sitting at the next table over in your favorite breakfast diner, or the people in line behind you at the grocery store. Those people could have stormed the beaches of Normandy, jumped out of an airplane during the Battle of the Bulge, or protected an aircraft carrier from a kamikaze pilot. All three of these military feats were performed by people in our area. It is interesting to know that there are veterans here in our town who were in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 when Japan attacked. We have neighbors and friends here who were part of the Battan Death March. Later, they were involved in the island fighting at Iwo Jima, Tarawa, Okinawa and the Guadalcanal. Men from Dunkirk and Fredonia and the surrounding towns landed on Normandy. Marines from our area climbed onto Omaha Beach. After the two atomic bombs were dropped in Japan, we still had Dunkirk and Fredonia military men walking the streets of Tokyo and Berlin, keeping order. Hollywood shows war stories that sell tickets. I tell war stories the way they happened. I started telling the stories of our local heroes a few years ago, and not one week has gone by that I haven’t had a story to tell.

I have written over 150 accounts of local veterans. I know that there are so many more out there that still deserve to be told. Many veterans from WWII are leaving us; most of them are in their 80s or 90s. They came from the greatest generation, noble men who considered themselves lucky to come home alive and to have a chance to grow old with their loved ones. So many of our heroes from the World Wars are already at rest in our cemeteries.

I am a veteran myself. I saw combat, but remained quiet about my experiences until that fateful day, 9/11. The War on Terror somehow broke the silence, and made it alright for veterans to talk about their experiences. The forgotten wars of Korea and Vietnam were starting to be remembered. Although it was often painful, veterans opened up about what happened overseas, and for many, there came a kind of relief in sharing those stories.

Case is a hero whose story deserves to be told. He kept all of the terrible things he saw and had to do to himself for decades. It has been years since the last shot of the Korean War was fired, but memories of that time are still fresh in the minds of the surviving veterans who lived them. Until his death in 2004, Case lived with them too. But since he fought in one of our nation’s “Forgotten Wars,” he went through life without talking about his time spent in the service. No one asked him what it was like to be in the Navy. No one asked him what he saw. And now that Case is gone, we will never get the chance to ask those questions. All we have is a collection of a few old photos and snippets of the recollections he did share. I wanted to put together Case’s story the best I could from these few clues.

Case enlisted in the Navy and soon after shipped out to help fight the Korean War. He was a Seaman (SN) USM1, a gunner and served aboard the USS Purdy (DD-734). In the early morning hours of Sept. 15, 1950, the USS Purdy, Destroyer hull number 734, participated in the Battle of Inchon, code name “Chromite,” an amphibious invasion led by General Douglas MacArthur from his flagship. The battle lasted until Sept. 19. It was later named a decisive victory and a strategic reversal in favor of the allied forces. The battle involved over 75,000 troops and 261 Navy vessels. It led to the recapture of South Korea’s capitol, Seoul, two weeks later.

Case married his wife, Princess Iona (Davidson) on Sept. 15, 1951. They had six children together: Ethel, Laura, Richard Jr., Einar (Skip), Stephen and Brian.

Mayor Anthony J. Dolce received an email from a family member of Case about the possibility of someone doing a story on a local Korean War veteran. This led to Dolce’s secretary, Carol Oliveria, forwarding that email to me. She said there was another local veteran who deserved to be honored. But the story of Case, as I said, is still incomplete. It is my honor to share what I know of Case’s story of service to his country. I only wish I could be in Dunkirk on April 13 to thank his wife for her husband’s bravery and loyalty. I know how hard it is to be a veteran of a forgotten war. But Richard Case, you are not forgotten, nor is your proud history spent in service of the United States military.

A tribute to Richard Case and his family:

When we lost our hero,

O Lord of the earth and sea, we dedicated our father to Thee.

Hear from Heaven our family’s prayer, for this sailor’s work for country is done;

he sailed to heavenly gates.

In life we loved him dearly, and in death we do the same.

He left us peaceful memories throughout the seas of life.

He loved forever, guiding us in the stillness of the night.

Though we cannot see him, he is always on our side.

In loving memory of Richard C. Case, Nov. 21 1930 – May 19, 2004