Yonkers’ Korean War Heroes: Army First Lieutenant Alfred Harry Ash

By Andrew Tobia

Alfred Harry Ash was born on September 18, 1918, the first child of recently married Alfred and Ethel Ash. His father was raised inYonkers and his mother was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to emigrants from England. Alfred was followed by: his sister, Edna (namFirst Lt. Ash During WWII ed for their paternal grandmother), in 1921; his brother, Kenneth (named for their uncle), in ’23; and his second brother, George, in ’24.

His father was also the oldest of four children — Alfred’s aunts and uncles were Kenneth, Clara and Harold. Over the years, his father worked in various professions. At 18, before marrying Edna and while still living with his parents on New Main Street, the elder Alfred worked as a store clerk. In August 1918, at the age of 21, he was drafted into the Army, leaving his newly-wed and pregnant wife for a brief stint in World War I (it ended three months later). At 23, back in the States, he was a wage laborer at a factor. By 1930, living on Warburton Avenue, he was a letter carrier with the USPS — Ethel’s sister Alice lived with them at this time, as well.

By 1940, the Ashes had moved to Woodworth Avenue. At only 42 years old, elder Alfred was no longer working — presumably due to a workplace accident or disability that prevented him from doing so — but all of his children worked to help maintain the household (while still attending school). Younger Alfred, now 21, made deliveries for a grocer; Edna, 19, was a domestic worker for a private household; Kenneth, 17, and George, 16, were “scouts” for a pest control company. Elder Alfred would pass away four years later, at only 46 years old.

Younger Alfred graduated from Saunders Trades School in the summer of 1941 and married his high school sweetheart, Ann Josephine Hesch — daughter of “Mr. and Mrs. Edward Hesch,” who lived on Ramsey Avenue — on December 14 of that year, seven days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Six months later, he joined the Army Air Force (before the Air Force became its own branch of the Armed Forces). A long and varied, yet successful, career followed.

After basic training — likely at Fort Dix, New Jersey — Private First Class Alfred Harry Ash served with the Advanced Air Depot of the Ninth Air Force Service Command, first in England and then in France, raising through the ranks for four years. His conduct was so excellent that it caught the attention of his superiors and, in 1945, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, transferred to the Infantry and stationed at Fontainbleu, France, just south of Paris.

At the end of World War II, Ash spent some time at home with his wife and two-year-old son, Dennis, before being transferred to Korea for Occupation Duty (the Korean Peninsula was a colony of Japan from 1910 until the end of World War II). His wife and son joined him there, living in Korea for about 13 months. He was promoted to First Lieutenant during this time, in February 1947.

In July of 1948, the Ashes returned home to the States. Now serving with the 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division (one of the oldest and most decorated active duty infantry regiments in the US Army), Ash was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington. Ann and Dennis returned home to Yonkers to stay with Ann’s parents.

Upon the outbreak of the Korean War on June 25th, 1950, Ash was rushed from the West Coast to Korea in order to aid the UN and South Korean defenses, collapsing in the face of North Korea’s massive initial attack. The ship on which Ash was transported made the US-to-Korea trip in record-breaking time — it took only 10 days, from July 17 to 27, 1950. After a brief time at anchor awaiting the rest of the convoy, Ash and the 9th disembarked, making landfall in South Korea in the last days of July or first days of August.

Defense preparations were so hectic, and his time in Korea so ultimately short, that Ash only had time to write one letter to his wife — dated August 5, 1950, he wrote her that he expected to be moved to Outpost duty the next day.

It is unclear which unit Ash was a part of while serving in Korea. Two sources list him as having been transferred to the 20th Infantry Regiment, 6th Infantry Division — one of those sources goes so far as to specify that he was serving as Regimental Food Service Supervisor for the 20th. Others, however, list him has having remained with the 9th.

What  is clear is that, likely in command of a platoon — a unit consisting of anywhere from 25 to 65 men — Ash was sent to the tiny farming village of Yongsan-ri. It is located on the east bank of the Naktong River, precisely where the tributary Nam River joins it, which was part of the Pusan Perimeter. During the First Battle of Naktong Bulge, Ash and his men were ambushed by a large force of North Korean soldiers and took heavy losses. Ash was reported Missing in Action (MIA) on August 12, 1950.

Sometime between then and early 1952, Ash’s remains were recovered and his status was changed from MIA to Killed in Action (KIA) on August 12, 1950. This makes Ash, so far as our research has been able to uncover, the first Yonkers man killed during the Korean War — sources we used which listed either Army Corporal Gerardo Romano Mandia (see this space in  Yonkers Rising on May 24, 2013) or Army Corporal William Francis “Hooks” Callahan (this space, May 17, 2013) as the first Yonkers man killed were obviously inaccurate.

Ash’s remains returned to the United States, along with those of 149 other brave soldiers, on May 8, 1952 aboard the ship South Bend Victory. He was interred, with full military honors, at Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, D.C., on June 2, 1952. In attendance were his mother, wife and now five-year-old son, all still living in Yonkers; his sister Edna, who had married into the Forshaw family of Norfolk, Virginia; his brother Kenneth, who remained in Yonkers; and his brother George, who had moved to Miami, Florida.

Ash is the recipient of the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Korean Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army of Occupation Medal (with Japan Clasp), World War II Victory Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Korean Presidential Unit Citation, Republic of Korea War Service Medal and Purple Heart.

 

Yonkers’ Korean War Heroes Army: Corporal Gerardo Romano Mandia

By Andrew Tobia

Gerardo Romano Mandia was born in Yonkers on Wednesday, September 19, 1928 to Maria and Carmine Mandia. He was the first of three children: he was followed in 1929 by a sister, Carmela, and in 1932 by another sister, Vicenzina.Mandia

Mandia’s mother was a native of Colombia, South America; his father, of Brooklyn. She was from Cali (officially Santiago de Cali), located in southwest Colombia, the third largest city in the country. Not long after his birth, Mandia was brought to Cali by his mother — one or both of his sisters may have been born by then and joined them. His father seems to have remained in the US, maintaining a residence at 1268 Prospect Pl. in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Maria and her children returned to the US aboard a ship named the Santa Maria in 1932. It sailed from Valparaiso, Chile, on Friday, October 28 and the Mandias boarded during a stopover in Buenaventura, Colombia, on Sunday, November 6. They arrived at New York Harbor eight days later.

Maria brought her children back to Cali less than three years later, in February, 1935 — Mandia was six years old. He spent the remainder of his childhood in Cali, not returning to the US again until he was 19. He travelled with three others — 54-year-old Hortencia Gonzalez and 53-year-old Judith Montenegro, both naturalized citizens, and 19-year-old Lucy Gonzalez, born in Yonkers — aboard a ship called the Colombia, departing from Buenaventura on Tuesday, May 18, 1948, and arriving at Jacksonville, Florida, a few days later.

All four travelers listed their destination address at 204 Main St. in Yonkers, the home of Macario Gonzalez. Gonzalez was the husband of Hortencia and father of Lucy—Mandia lived with them upon his 1948 return to the US and listed him as his notification of death contact with the Army when he enlisted on Tuesday, July 26, 1949.

I know neither where Corporal Gerardo Romano Mandia underwent basic training nor when he was promoted from Private First Class to Corporal. I do know that he was sent “overseas” in December of 1949 — his sisters, Carmela and Vicenzina, visited Yonkers in early 1950, but he was already gone. He was sent to Japan, where he joined the 25th Infantry Division, nicknamed Tropic Thunder, which was still doing occupation duty in Japan at the time. He was a rifleman assigned to the light infantry C Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division.

Shortly after North Korea attacked South Korean across the 38th parallel on Sunday, June 25, 1950, Tropic Thunder was ordered to Korea. They moved their entire headquarters there from Japan between July 5 and 18. They arrived in time to help stall the North’s initial advance — for which Tropic Thunder was awarded a Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation — and, in the process, helped establish the Pusan Perimeter.

The division found itself protecting the southwest border of the Pusan Perimeter. Mandia and C Company in particular found themselves in Haman County, likely in the small town of Malsan-ri (notable for its ancient burial grounds), about 40 miles west of Pusan and roughly 15 north of the Korea Straight. They were there in early September of 1950 during renewed attacks by North Korea which would become known as the Second Battle of Naktong Bulge (though Haman was too far south to be officially considered part of the battle), part of the Battle of Pusan Perimeter.

On Saturday, September 2, 1950 Mandia was Killed in Action while helping to repel that attack. He was 21, just 17 days shy of his 22nd birthday. Depending on the actual date of death of Army Corporal William Francis Callahan (sometime between September 1 and 14, 1950 — see this space in last week’s XXXXX Yonkers Rising for more), Mandia may be the very first man from Yonkers to lose his life during the Korean War.

Mandia’s remains were recovered and returned to the U.S. about nine or 10 months later. He was laid to rest on Wednesday, July 25, 1951 in Long Island National Cemetery, Section L Site 24556. He was survived by his parents and sisters: to this day, he is survived by at least one niece, Ms. Linda Garrido — as of press time, attempts to contact her have failed.

Mandia is the recipient of the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Korean Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army of Occupation Medal (with Japan Clasp), United Nations Service Medal, two Korean Presidential Unit Citations, Republic of Korea War Service Medal and Purple Heart.

Mandia is among the last of Yonkers’ Korean War Heroes for whom we’ve been able to locate an acceptable amount of information. For men we haven’t profiled yet, we have been able to uncover virtually no information. We would like to do them justice, to honor them properly, so we’re reaching out to you for help — if you knew or are related to one of the following men, or you know somebody who did or was, please contact the Mayor’s Office at 914-377-6300 or Yonkers Rising at 914-965-4000:

Alfred E. Ash

Silvio V. Blasetti

Joseph L. Campbell

Stephen Chupak

Raymond R. Eufimia

W. Jay Gannon

Theodore W. Johnsbury

Thaddeus S. Kozlowski

Robert C. Loranger

Edwin K. Love

William P. McMillan

Michael J. Medon, Jr.

Eric Oppenheimer

Robert J. Paulson

Alvin Reifeiss

William R. Russell

John J. Sherman

John G. Spodnik

Walter E. Sutton

Andreas C. Thiel

Andrew Zambo

or the following men, who are not listed on the Yonkers monument and may or may not be from Yonkers:

Louis D. Altieri

Richard E. Chianese

Charles Joseph Franks

Robert Cushman Hopping

Charles A. Peugeot, Jr.

V. Slack, Jr.