he day after he graduated high school in 1948, Paul Farkas reported for duty with the US Navy. After a sweltering hot summer boot camp at Great Lakes, IL, he trained extensively in Millington, TN to be an aviation mechanic. From there, Airman Farkas arrived in Norfolk, VA and boarded the USS Coral Sea (CV-43), one of the largest and most advanced aircraft carriers of its day. For the next three years (or as Paul remembers it more accurately: “thirty-seven and a half months”), the young “Airdale” from Beaver County would serve with the Navy’s 6th Fleet, making several cruises throughout the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. In one daring Cold War adventure, the Coral Sea ventured into the Black Sea despite the Soviet’s warning that if they did they’d never return home under their own power.
Paul’s naval career spanned the WW II reconstruction era, the Korean Conflict, and the beginnings of the Cold War, yet his experiences were enough to sour his intentions of becoming a “career man.” He left active duty in 1952 as a Second Class Petty Officer Aviation Machinist Mate, spending another two years in the naval reserves. For the next 33 years he would work as a machinist in the specialty steel industry.
StoryCorps is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind. Since 2003, it has collected and archived more than 50,000 interviews from more than 80,000 participants.
To promote the sharing of stories among friends, loved ones, and family members, StoryCorps promotes a National Day of Listening held each year on the day after Thanksgiving.
In 2012, the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative was a participating partner with StoryCorps, promoting our own local day of listening at the Heinz History Center in downtown Pittsburgh. On November 24 we met with three local families and recorded their conversations: Adam and Aaron Nye talked with their grandfather Felix Cistolo about his WWII service in Europe; Michelle Winowich-Zmijanac talked with her parents Bill (WWII Army medic) and Jackie Winowich (French Red Cross volunteer), who met in France during WWII; and Kevin Farkas talked with his father, Paul, who served aboard the USS Coral Sea during the Korean War.
As part of Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh’s celebration of National Day of Listening 2012, co-founder Kevin Farkas (47) talks with his father Paul Farkas (82) about their military service in the US Navy. This recording was made on November 23, 2012 at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
2013: Year of the Korean War Veteran
The Department of Defense 60th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration Committee, authorized in the 2011 Defense Authorization Bill, is dedicated to thanking and honoring all the Veterans of the Korean War, their families and especially those who lost loved ones in that war. Through 2013, the Committee will honor the service and sacrifice of Korean War Veterans, commemorate the key events of the war, and educate Americans of all ages about the historical significance of the Korean War.
“The Korean War was the first test of the United Nations’ resolve to stand against tyranny in all its forms. Twenty nations banded together with the United States and South Korea in a remarkable display of solidarity to turn back naked aggression and stem the tide of communism. The Armistice signed in 1953 that remains in effect today reminds us that we must remain vigilant against the forces of tyranny and oppression.
The Korean War also saw the advent of aeronautical, medical and societal change: Helicopters were introduced to transport casualties to field hospital. Jets became the new “standard” for aircraft; leading-edge radio technology allowed better coordination of troop movements. Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (MASH) units placed experienced medical personnel closer to the front, improving a wounded Soldier’s chance for survival. Perhaps the most lasting impact of the Korean War was the social change that was manifested to American society. In 1948, President Harry S. Truman had signed Executive Order 9981, implementing the full integration of America’s Armed Services. Thus, America went to war in Korea for the first time in her history with a military that reflected her diversity.
The selfless sacrifices of the Veterans who fought in Korea to ensure the freedom and prosperity we enjoy today must always be remembered. The Veterans who shivered in the trenches, tracked through knee-deep mud, flew combat missions over rugged mountainous terrain, and stood watch over hostile seas set aside their own comfort, safety and aspirations to answer the call to arms at a time when our nation was still exhausted from the horrors of World War II. These patriots halted the tide of communism that threatened to sweep over the Korean peninsula. Today the Republic of Korea stands as a modern, prosperous, vibrant democracy because of their courage and selfless sacrifice. (from Army Live: The Official Blog of the United States Army)