The Korean Conflict has been called the “forgotten war.” From 1950 to 1953, the United States joined with South Korea and the United Nations to battle against China, the Soviet Union and North Korea for control of the Korean Peninsula. It was the bloodiest chapter in the Cold War. Almost 1.8 million U.S. soldiers served in Korea, and more than 36,000 died during the undeclared war.
A granite monument on the Brattleboro Common is dedicated to the people of the area who lost their lives while serving in the wars of the 1900s. Three names are carved into the monument to indicate lives lost during the Korean War. The soldiers were Frederick Giroux, James Lowe, and Ray Turcotte.
Private James Lowe was 18 years old when he was reported missing in July 1950. He had enlisted in the Army 10 months earlier and was in Korea only four days when his unit was sent to stop a North Korean incursion. During Lowe’s first battle, approximately 140 soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division were killed when North Koreans overran the American position. On July 25, 1950, James Lowe was reported as missing in action. Three years later, the Army reclassified his status as killed in action. Private Lowe was Windham County’s first Korean War casualty.
James Lowe was born in Brattleboro in 1931. He was one of eight children. In his early years, James went to school in Dummerston and Westminster West and was a student at Brattleboro High School for a short time. Before he joined the Army, he worked on the family farm. Private Lowe’s body was shipped home in December 1953, and he is buried in the Westminster West Village Cemetery.
Captain Frederick Giroux was a decorated World War II veteran when he was deployed to Korea. He joined the Army in 1938 and served in Europe. During World War II, Giroux received the Distinguished Service Medal for heroism while fighting his way through France. After his World War II service, Giroux married Marie Reinke, and they had two daughters.
In October 1950, Giroux landed in Korea and was captured in battle a month later. He was held in a prisoner of war camp for the remainder of his life. In August 1953, word came to Brattleboro that Captain Giroux had died while in captivity. His body was returned in June 1955, and he was buried in Morningside Cemetery. His family later found that Frederick Giroux, a 15-year Army veteran, had been held in a North Korean POW Camp for five months before dying of malnutrition and dysentery.
A 1955 editorial in the Reformer said, “His was the sacrifice that carried with it no quick death on the field of battle. His was the sacrifice that came at the end of a long period of imprisonment in a Red prison camp in Korea. No one knows, and none can imagine, the trials he endured. His was a quiet sacrifice, endured for his country and his ideals.”
Corporal Ray Turcotte enlisted in the Army when he was 17. He had attended Brattleboro’s Academy School and joined the military in 1949. In February of 1951, his father received a telegram informing him that his son had been killed in action after serving in Korea for seven months. Corporal Turcotte operated a Browning Automatic Rifle. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star Medal. When Turcotte’s unit was pinned down by heavy enemy fire and needed to retreat, Corporal Turcotte advanced on the enemy and delivered a steady stream of counter-fire while his comrades withdrew to protected positions. He continued this cover fire until he was mortally wounded. In 2001 former Academy School classmates petitioned the local town government to place Ray Turcotte’s name on the monument at the Town Common.
Historian Eric Foner has written that “History is what the present chooses to remember about the past.” On Memorial Day, it seems fitting to remember those who lost their lives during America’s “forgotten war.”
This week we also choose to remember a young man who came to Brattleboro as a student teacher back in the fall of 1953. He was from the UVM agricultural college and got a chance to practice his teaching skills in the agricultural program at Brattleboro High School during the 1953-54 school year. His name was Marshall Frizzell.
Marshall grew up on a family farm in Woodstock, Vermont and attended UVM on an Army ROTC scholarship. After college graduation in 1954, he served two years in Korea. Lieutenant Frizzell then went into the Reserves and returned to Brattleboro to become the BHS Ag teacher. For the next three years, he taught at BHS and also served as advisor to the Future Farmers of America Club. He and his wife were also involved with the local 4-H Club and coordinated youth activities with the Windham County Forester.
In 1961 Marshall Frizzell left teaching and returned to active duty as an Army helicopter pilot. In 1966 he was serving in the Vietnam War when his helicopter collided with another helicopter in a pick-up zone due to poor visibility during a dust storm. Captain Frizzell and two other soldiers died as a result of the collision.
When Frizzell was working in Brattleboro, one of the many hands-on projects completed by the FFA was the planting of a small stand of European Larch trees on the land that would become Living Memorial Park. The Larch trees still exist and can be found in the woods a little east of the Memorial Park ski jump.
In 1980, at the urging of Windham County Forester Gil Cameron, the Recreation and Parks Department acknowledged this tree stand as the Korean Memorial Larch Plantation. According to Cameron, the trees were planted by Marshall Frizzell and the FFA when Frizzell was student teaching at BHS in 1954.
Memorial Day is a day to remember and honor the people who have died while serving in the U.S. military. On this day, many people visit the graves of fallen loved ones. The local cemeteries are decorated with many American flags. It might also be a good day to take a walk in the Living Memorial Park woods and visit the Larch tree stand near the disc golf course.