A Family’s Tribute To A Marine

Seventy years ago, the United State entered the Korean War.  Families can be rightly proud of the service and sacrifice made by their loved ones.  Connie Gutting of Kahoka provided The Media with the story of her father, Arnold Brunk, a United States Marine.  We thank Arnold and all veterans for their service.

Arnold Brunk, of Kahoka, enlisted in the United States Marine Corps following his graduation from high school in Burlington, Iowa, in 1949, at the age of 18.  

At the time, he was dating Jean Walker, a Burlington High School junior. Arnold left for boot camp in San Diego, and Walker promised to write.

During boot camp, Brunk became a bugler in the Drum and Bugle Corps, and was selected to play the bugle at the premier of the movie, “Sands of Iwo Jima”, starring John Wayne.  He got to see John Wayne in person.

After Drum and Bugle school, Arnold called Jean and asked her to marry him.  At 17, she had to get permission from her parents.  Arnold won the money to purchase an engagement ring rolling dice, and sent the ring to Jean’s mother to put on Jean’s finger.  After graduation, Jean took a train to California, and they were married July 12, 1950.

Nineteen days later, Arnold received his orders–he was heading to Korea.  Jean returned to Iowa, and Arnold was assigned to a 60mm mortar platoon, in Baker Company, First Battalion, Seventh Marine Division.

They shipped out in early September, 1950, and landed in Kobe, Japan on September 15.  After a short leave, they took a troop ship to Inchon, landing ashore under fire. They drove the North Koreans all the way to Seoul, and the North Korean supply lines were cut. September 26 was a military victory.

After a few days, they boarded another ship and landed at Wonson.  From there, the Marines marched and fought their way 200 miles to the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. The terrain was rugged, and the temperatures frigid, plummeting to minus 40 degrees. The First Marine Division was strung out over nearly 80 miles, and Brunk ended up at Yudam-Ni, near the Yalu River.

At Thankgiving, large packages of Thanksgiving dinner were parachuted in.  It was supposed to be a hot meal, but froze to their plates.

Days later, “We heard clanging and banging, horns and whistles blowing, bells ringing.  It was the Chinese.  They came by the hundreds and thousands,” recounted Brunk to his family.  There we so many they looked like ands coming over the hills.  They were everywhere.  In front of us, behind us, around us.  Some of the Chinese had very little clothing, most of them were wearing sneakers on their feet.  No winter coats. They wore what looked like thick quilted pajamas.”

On that day, November 27, 1950, Brunk was wounded in his right shoulder.

He told his family, “When I got shot, I thought it blew my arm off.  I saw my arm rise up in the air like a live animal and shake.  I had no control over it.”

The Marines began a fighting retreat, breaking out of the Chinese that surrounded them.  Brunk was carried on a stretcher strapped to a bulldozer, and was eventually flown to a hospital ship, then sent to the Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan, and eventually on to Honolulu.

In the meantime, Brunk’s parents received a telegram, terrifying for any family.  It read: Regret to inform you that your son, Private First Class Arnold Brunk USMC has been wounded in action 27 November 1950 in the Korean Area in performance of his duty and service to his country.  I realize your great anxiety bu nature of wounds not reported and delay in receipt of details must be expected.  You will be promptly furnished additional information received.

Weeks later, they received a scratchy letter from Arnold, using his left hand, telling them he was doing okay.

Brunk continued to serve until 1953, and was medically retired.

Arnold and Jean returned to Burlington, and moved to Kahoka in 1959. They bought a farm near Revere in 1960, and moved back to Kahoka in 1988.  They had five children.  Jean passed away in 2008.

Their surviving children are Jeffrey Brunk, Connie Gutting, Shawn Brunk and Kathy Smith.