The Korean War began June 25, 1950 in response to North Korea’s launch of a full-scale invasion across the 38th Parallel into South Korea. My father, William Harry Schwarz of Baltimore MD, had just graduated on June 10th from Virginia Polytechnic Institute with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. He married my mother (Jane Frances Imbach) on June 17th.
On August 14, 1950, Dad was called to active duty as a 2nd Lieutenant and assigned to the 376th Engineer Construction Battalion, 2nd Army, Ft. Meade MD.
State Army Reserve Unit is Called Up
The Baltimore Sun – July 25, 1950
The 376th Engineer Construction Battalion Reserve, Maryland’s first army unit to be called to the colors, will report for active duty on August 14, the Military District headquarters announced yesterday. The 376th Reserve Battalion, consisting of Negro enlisted men and white officers, returned to Baltimore last night from Fort Belvoir VA where it had gone only the day before to begin two-week summer maneuvers.
First Maryland Reserve Unit Leaves Tomorrow for Service
The Baltimore Sun – August 24, 1950
Flags will fly and music will set the tempo for marching feet tomorrow when the first Maryland reserve unit, called to active duty since the outbreak of the Korean War, leaves Baltimore for training. The unit is the 376th Engineer Construction Battalion, made up of Negroes commanded by white officers and led by Lieut. Col. I.H. Ferdinand Hahn, of Pikesville. . . . Colonel Hahn said the mission of the battalion will be to build roads, airstrips, and installations of a more permanent nature.
Citizens Soldiers Off for Training
The Baltimore Sun – August 26, 1950
Martial music filled the downtown area yesterday as Baltimore’s first citizen soldiers to depart for active duty since the Korean crisis made their farewell salute. They were members of the 376th Engineer Construction Battalion Army Organized Reserve Corps who entrained at Camden Station for an undisclosed training station.
. . . The engineers’ battalion marched from the armory at Calvert and Lombard streets through the downtown section as thousands of office workers and others crowded the sidewalk along the line of march.
Construction Battalion Arrives in Korea
The 376th Engineer Construction Battalion debarked on February 11, 1951 from USNS A.W. Greely and assigned to 8th United States Army Korea (EUSAK)
Battalion assigned to repair Main Supply Route near Pusan, South Korea
On May 28, 1951, the 376th Engineer Construction Battalion was assigned the job of supervising the repair and maintenance of the Main Supply Route in the Kyongsang-Bukto Province.
My father was promoted to grade 1st Lieutenant and provided the following Letter of Introduction by the United Nations Civil Assistance Command (in English and Korean) to the Gun Soos and Myon Chiefs:
“At the last Gun Soos’ meeting, you were informed by your Governors and the various Bureau Chiefs that one of the most important jobs to perform at this time is the maintenance of the Main Supply Routes (MSR). You will be expected to cooperate in every way with Lieutenant Schwarz in the performance of his duty.”
Work of Platoon described in recommendation of Commendation Ribbon for Lt. Schwarz
Lt. Schwarz was Commander of 2nd Platoon, Company A, 376th Engineer Construction Battalion. The Recommendation on October 25, 1951 notes:
The Platoon had the mission of road maintenance and bridge construction on the Green Diamond Main Supply Route between Pusan and Taegu, Korea. Located in an isolated position along their road responsibility, the platoon was constantly subject to guerrilla attack. Due to the shortage of engineer troops, the platoon maintained several times the mileage of road normally assigned to an engineer platoon. Material and labor was in extremely short supply.
Lt. Schwarz welded his unit into an efficient construction team. By personal example and leadership, he inspired confidence and esprit de corps in his troops. The delinquency rate for the platoon became the lowest in the battalion.
Making use of local materials and unskilled indigenous labor, Lt. Schwarz demonstrated unusual engineering ability, and produced highly creditable results. On two occasions the quality of bridges built by Lt. Schwarz in the Pusan area were the subject of letters of commendation to his company. In one case a bridge was built in record time, without interrupting traffic, by means of a temporary structure above the new bridge.
376th Engineer Construction Battalion becomes part of 434th Engineer Construction Battalion (November 19, 1951)
Lt. Schwarz was named Platoon Leader, 2nd Platoon, Company B, 434th Engineer Construction Battalion.
Letter from Lt. Schwarz to parents further describes Platoon’s work (February 10, 1952)
Whenever an asphalt job comes along, it’s dumped into my lap. Funny what a little experience means. My asphalt experience is rather slim, except when compared with other officers in the outfit. Consequently, whenever an asphalt job comes along, it automatically falls to me. I’m supposed to know all about it. Just one big bluff – typically Army.
The latest asphalt job is interesting in that it’s a departure from the ordinary – and we are using some new equipment. The job: putting an asphalt deck on a bridge. It’s an I beam bridge with timbers placed to hold the asphalt. The new equipment is a hot-mix plant. Throw in aggregate and asphalt, and out comes a lovely mix. We haul in trucks and spread partially by hand. So far, we’ve been trying to work the kinks out of the plant.
434th Engineer Construction Battalion awarded Meritorious Unit Commendation
Brigadier General Henry K. Kellogg presented the award April 27, 1952 “for outstanding performance of duty in support of combat operations in Korea.”
Lt. Schwarz discharged; War comes to an end
On July 8, 1952, Lt. Schwarz was released from active duty and given honorable discharge. He was awarded the Korean Service Medal with four Bronze Stars (denoting participation in that number of military campaigns), the United Nations Service Medal, and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.
On July 27, 1953, the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed; all fighting stopped twelve hours later.
Hon. Corrine Brown names the 376th Engineer Construction Battalion among twelve Negro military units deserving of special acknowledgement
In the US House of Representatives, December 15, 2000
“6.8 million Americans served in our military on active duty during the Korean War era; 1.8 million of them in the theater of operations. Nearly 37,000 Americans died; more than 92,000 were wounded. The fates of as many as 8,000 more men have never been accounted for. But thanks to their service and their sacrifices, Korea stands today a free nation, with people proud of their freedom and grateful to the men and women from the United States who came to stand and fight with them in their hour of crisis.
“Among the 1.8 million men and women who fought in the Korean War there were more than 100,000 African Americans. Black personnel made up 13% of the total military strength in Korea. Americans of African descent have always served our nation with distinction; from Crispus Attucks at Bunker Hill, to the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War, to the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. But before 1948, they fought, when they were allowed to fight, in segregated units – denied the opportunity to show their abilities in an integrated setting.
“However, after President Truman’s 1948 executive order and the armed forces compliance forced by the requirements of war, African American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines were quick to show they were every bit the equal of any soldier in combat, anywhere.”
Lt. William Harry Schwarz
November 30, 1926 – December 19, 2010