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posted: 3/25/2010 12:01 AM

Korean War vet from Palatine is finally home

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  • Jim Arendt, the golf pro at Naperville Country Club, with a photo of his brother, Stanley.

       Jim Arendt, the golf pro at Naperville Country Club, with a photo of his brother, Stanley.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 

Stanley Paul Arendt figured he'd be home by Thanksgiving, Christmas at the latest.

It was 1950, and Arendt was a 22-year-old American infantryman in Korea. He had already survived almost impossible odds in combat, including one battle that killed all but 5 or 6 men in a company of 50.

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But things were looking up, he wrote on Oct. 30 to his parents in Palatine.

"He didn't think the war could go on much longer because the North Korean forces had taken such a beating by the Americans," said Jim Arendt of Naperville, who was only 3 when his older brother left for Korea. The letter was postmarked Nov. 4.

What Stanley Arendt didn't know was he was about to get caught up in the Battle of Unsan, which gave the Americans one of their most devastating losses of the war.

His remains are now back with his family, and at 10 a.m. Monday, March 29, Stanley Paul Arendt will be laid to rest in St. Michael the Archangel Cemetery in Palatine.

Arendt, who was a corporal with Company L, 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, was sent with nine or 10 other soldiers to defend a command post near Unsan.

On Nov. 1, two Chinese Command Divisions attacked the 3rd Battalion, which became overwhelmed. On Nov. 2, Arendt and 10 other soldiers were captured by the Chinese.

The Americans and one South Korean were held in a farmhouse as POWs. Then, on Nov. 16, a North Korean unit came back.

"They took 9 of them out of the farmhouse, including my brother, stood them up and shot them," Jim Arendt said.

The bodies were buried about where they fell, seven in a single grave.

Around 2004, a farmer found bones in the field, and an Army recovery unit got permission from the North Korean government to check it out.

They found leg bones and about 30 teeth, enough to positively identify Stanley Arendt. It took nearly five years - there were no dog tags, only a couple of plastic toothbrushes and plastic buttons.

In November 2009 the researchers called Jim Arendt's sister, Dorothy Stewart, in Arizona. She called her brother in Naperville. "Are you sitting down?" she began.

Years ago, the family had given up any hope of finding out what happened to Stanley. He and Dorothy had literally grown up inside the Inverness Golf Club, where their father Stanley was the pro, golf manager and greens superintendent, and their mother, Frances, ran the kitchen. The family lived in a little building off to the side of the clubhouse.

Stanley went to St. James Catholic School and then Palatine High School before being drafted. He spent his enlistment in Japan and then re-upped, knowing full well he was headed for Korea.

"It made my father and mother very sad," Jim Arendt said.

"I remember the last night I saw him. I was 3 years old and my mom and dad and him were coming into the bedroom trying to wake me up to say goodbye because he was going overseas.

"My brother said something to the effect, 'Let him sleep, I'll see him again.' I can picture that like it was yesterday."

Jim Arendt made attempts over the years to find out what happened to his brother, but he never made much headway. What he learned from the Army research team left him in disbelief.

When the North Korean unit shot most of the Americans that day, one witness survived. Pfc. Joseph P. Doherty fell down as the first shots were fired and played dead. He later was rescued by U.S. forces. Jim Arendt hasn't been able to track him down to see if he's still alive.

That account gave the researchers enough information so that when the farmer found the bones, they had a pretty good idea whom they would find.

Stanley Arendt's ashes will be buried alongside his mother and father in Palatine. His service will be simple, says Jim Arendt: a military honor guard, a clergyman and taps.

"I have no idea who is going to show up," he says.

Jim Arendt thinks about all the families who still don't know. There were more than 350 missing in action from Unsan alone.

"It's not really closure, but at least you know," he said. "It is a sad ending, but at least there is an ending."

• Correspondent Marty Mia of Palatine contributed to this report.

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