Harry Van Zandt

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Co. F & HQ CO 1 BN 1951-1952; Purple Heart, 2 Bronze Stars (1 for Valor) (Deceased 2011)

Article:

Harry C. Van Zandt, 89, formerly of Clifton Park, NY passed away, Saturday, February 19, 2011, at the Eddy Memorial Geriatric Center, Troy, NY.

Harry was born on August 20, 1921 in Plainfield, NJ, the youngest of six sons born to Clarence P. & Henrietta Romberg Van Zandt.  Upon graduating from Plainfield High School he entered Rutgers University.  At the end of his junior year, his R.O.T.C. Infantry group was called to active duty and he was sent to Ft. McClellan, MS for basic training.  He married Neva W. Woodhull on January 1, 1944.  He received his commission at Ft. Benning, GA and was assigned to the 259th Regiment of the 65th Infantry Division.  The 65th was shipped to the European Theater of Operations and served in two campaigns.  During this service, he earned the Combat Infantry Badge and two Bronze Star medals.  He then served occupation duty in Linz & Salzburg, Austria.  Upon returning home, he completed his degree at Rutgers.  Being a member of the inactive reserves, he was called back into active duty at the end of 1950 while living in Altadena, CA.  After a refresher course at Ft. Ord, CA he was flown to Japan, then by boat to Korea where he served with the Puerto Rican 65th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division and served as a platoon leader and Company CO.  During his Korean service he received the Purple Heart Medal, a second Combat Infantry Badge and two more Bronze Stars including a “V” for valor.  He left the Army with the rank of Captain.

After Korea, he worked in sales in the ceramic tile industry in Texas and Connecticut, relocating to Clifton Park in 1968.  Harry retired from American Olean Tile Co. of Lansdale, PA.  He was a member of V.F.W. Post 1498 in Clifton Park.

In addition to his parents and brothers, Harry was predeceased by his wife, Eva Woodhull Van Zandt, who died on April 1, 1996. Survivors include his children, Jeffrey Van Zandt and his wife, Bonnie, of Plainville, CT and Erik Van Zandt and his wife, Susan, of Clifton Park, NY; four grandchildren, Peter Van Zandt and his wife, Laura, Amy Van Zandt and her husband, Robert Cewe, Adam Van Zandt and Roland Van Zandt; four great-grandchildren Jennifer and William Van Zandt and Benjamin and Emily Cewe. He is also survived by several nieces and nephews.

The family will be receiving relatives at the Gordon C. Emerick Funeral Home, 1550 Route 9, Clifton Park, NY on Thursday, February 24, 2011 from 10-11am prior to the funeral service at 11:00 a.m. Burial with full military honors will follow in the Gerald B. H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery, Schuylerville, NY. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Clifton Park-Half Moon Memorial V.F.W. Post 1498, P.O. Box 4480, Clifton Park, NY 12065.

65th INFANTRY REGIMENT ASSIGNMENTS:

Platoon Leader Co. F                                       – 16 Feb 1951 to 1 May 1951
Company Commander Co. F                               –  1 May 1951 to 2 Sep 1951
Company Commander Headquarters Co., 1st Bn.   –  2 Sep 1951 to 31 Jan 1952  


VAN ZANDT AWARDED OAK LEAF CLUSTER

1st Lt. Harry C. Van Zandt, 647 E. Mendocino, Altadena, has recently been awarded the first Oak Leaf Cluster to his Bronze Star with “V” (for valor) device for heroism in Korean action.

He has been a member of Company F of the Third Infantry Division’s 65th Regiment.  The Oak Leaf Cluster is presented in lieu of a duplicate award of the Bronze Star.

The citation accompanying the decoration declares:

“On June 4, 1951, near Song-jong, Korea, Company F had the mission of crossing the Hant’an River to reinforce Companies E and G which had established a bridgehead on the far side of the river and were imperiled by a vicious counterattack launched by a superior enemy force.

“Despite intense enemy machine gun and mortar fire on the river crossing site, Lt. Van Zandt, displaying aggressive leadership, succeeded in moving his company across the swollen and swift flowing river.

“Upon reaching the far side Lt. Van Zandt quickly organized his unit and led it against the enemy and held the position, thus permitting an orderly withdrawal of Companies E and G.  This allowed the units to reorganize and counterattack the following day, securing the objective.

“Lt. Van Zandt’s heroism and determination reflect great credit upon himself and the military service.”

Newspaper article clipping – unknown newspaper, unknown date


RESPONSE BY HARRY VAN ZANDT

In the September 2008 issue, we published an article about the under-representation of awards in the 65thInfantry Regiment.  Below is a response written by Harry Van Zandt, who served as Company Commander in the 65th‘s Company “F” and Headquarters Co., 1st Battalion, from Feb. 1951-Jan. 1952.  He received a Bronze Star for Valor. 

     It is often said that medals are earned not so much by the valor of the individual but by the writing ability of the author describing the action.  Of course, it also depends on the zeal with which the personnel of the unit pursue these awards.  The other factor involved is the review

process by personnel far-removed from the action.  Perhaps it is in this process that prejudice becomes a factor.

     An example of what happens:

     The personnel of one rifle company in the 65th Regiment received eight Silver Star Medals.  Six of these were awarded to Continental officers of the company.  Only two were awarded to Puerto Rican enlisted men and one of these two was cited posthumously.

     The 65th – all Puerto Rican enlisted men with about half of their officers “continentals” - arrived on the Pusan Perimeter determined to show the world their fighting ability.  The people of their island were proud of the regiment and followed their exploits very closely.  Yes, there were some, such as Gen. Almond, who considered them “colored troops” and thus not to be trusted.  Others, such as Gen. Ridgeway, who specifically requested the regiment be sent to Korea to fill out the severely understrength 3d Division, knew that this full-strength regiment was one of the few left in our 1950 infantry forces that was trained and combat-ready.  The Puerto Ricans immediately proved that Ridgeway’s appraisal was correct.

     To suggest that any man in the 65th would have preferred that the outfit be desegregated is ridiculous!  Ask any of the many hundreds of young Spanish-speaking replacements who went to Korea with minimal basic training, fully expecting to serve with their brethren from the island but instead found themselves assigned to other (English-speaking) units.  They can tell you about prejudice!

     Prejudice is a quality within the individual, and it became apparent that some of the replacement Continental officers were pre-biased in their opinions of Puerto Ricans.  This bias influenced their leadership ability and the performance of the men in their unit.  The answer to this might be to school more Puerto Ricans for commissions and eliminate Continental officers from the regiment.  Is it possible to recruit good, officer-quality men from the island’s population?  I can only answer this by citing Capt. Tomas Guffain, 1st Lt. Luis Rodriguez, 1st Lt. Antonio Rodriguez-Baliñas and 1st Lt. Angel Escribano Aponte with whom I served in Co. “F” from February to September, 1951.  They were all outstanding officers with extremely fine leadership qualities and held the complete respect of the men under their command.

     I am proud to have served with the 65th‘s soldiers.  In retrospect, I feel fortunate to have had this experience in Korea rather than a repetition of my WWII service.  I will always appreciate the way I was accepted by and treated by these men who had already seen so much action.  They were real soldiers, doing their best to ease this civilian into a nasty situation that existed in Korea in 1951.  I especially appreciate the platoon sergeants who did their best to see that I was able to survive the transition, and many thanks to Capt. Tomas Guffain for his “mucho simpatico” treatment of the “green” continental.