Soldiers Not Forgotten
By Rob Potter
NARROWSBURG July 25, 2000 The year 2000 marks the 50th anniversary of what many people call the forgotten war or, as others might refer to it, the Korean Conflict.
But the Korean War, which is perhaps best known to Americans as the setting of the classic television series M*A*S*H, was all too real for thousands of people. Especially to those soldiers who were wounded in battles and to the families left behind when so many of those men never returned home from the fighting.
Many in the hamlet of Narrowsburg remember the Korean War. And they recall the two young men who were killed in Korea five decades ago.
Private First Class William Meyer and PFC Christian Wieland were those two men. Wieland was killed on August 13, 1950 and Meyer was fatally wounded on November 6, 1951.
This is the first Sullivan County boy killed in the current war, read a portion of a story about Wielands death in the September 7, 1950 edition of the Delaware Valley News-White Lake Times. Soldiers from Callicoon and Roscoe have been reported wounded.
A little over a year later, the News-Times also reported Meyers death. It noted that Meyer was the first draftee from the county to be killed in the war.
Meyer, who was only 23 when he died, and Wieland, only 20 years old at his death, lived literally a stones throw away from each other. Near the intersection of Erie Avenue and Main Street, close to what was known back then as Irish Hill Road, Meyer grew up in the building where his parents ran the local tavern (what is now called the Village Pub). Only about 250 feet away, Wieland and his family lived in a small, gray, two-story house.
It was just amazing for a town this small to lose two boys in the war, said Narrowsburg resident Milton Bud Stranahan. And that they were neighbors. They were both nice boys, quiet and unassuming.
The fact that two of those killed in action during the war were from the same small village of about 300 residents was not lost on others as well.
Among them was Ed Sullivan, who wrote a column entitled Little Old New York in the New York Daily News before going on to host his famous television variety show. In the December 20, 1951 issue of the Daily News, Sullivan wrote about Meyer and Wieland. He pondered what the two might have been doing had they not been in Korea perhaps deer hunting or taking their dates to the local movie house.
Also included in Sullivans column was a letter Meyer had written to his parents on November 5, 1951.
Im O.K., so please dont worry, read a portion of Meyers correspondence. I received your package with the News-Times telling about bringing Chris Wielands body home. Boy, I still cant help thinking of that poor kid and reflecting that one ounce of his blood is worth more than all of Korea.
Sadly, the next night Meyer was shot and killed while leading a cavalry squad up Heartbreak Ridge.
Residents of Narrowsburg soon learned of how Meyer died in the battle when the News-Times printed a letter Meyers parents had received from Sgt. Cliff Wise. In the letter, Wise detailed how Meyer pushed him out of the way of a bullet.
Being a man with two children, I am extremely grateful to the man who gave his life so that I might return, Wise wrote. You have my deepest sympathy. You can also be proud that your son gave his life above and beyond the call of duty.
Charles Wieland was only about 12 years old when his brother was killed in Korea. Unlike the Meyer family, he and his family never learned the exact details of Christian Wielands death.
They sent a telegram to Callicoon and then telephoned the information to the Narrowsburg train station, Charles Wieland recalled last week. Don Tobin, who worked at the station, then came down to the house with the news. It was nice that he walked down to give us the news in person.
Wieland also recalled how his older brother made a surprise visit home only a few months earlier. He remembers Christian standing in the hallway, all decked out in full uniform.
When he was killed, all our forces had was the toe of Korea, he said. Our boys were just holding them off.
Three years after Christian Wieland was killed, the Korean War ended. A few years after that, the Vietnam War was brought home to American living rooms via television news and pushed the Korean War further back into the nations collective memory.
But those in Narrowsburg will never forget the war or the two young neighbors who died in Korea.
I guess it is kind of a forgotten war, Charles Wieland said. Whether it is called a war or police action, it was a worthwhile thing to do as far as we were all concerned.