Duane Tate is a vibrant and youthful-sounding man who recently celebrated his 84th birthday. He is also a Korean War veteran, having served in the Navy from 1951 to 1955, and he will be one of 16 vets from Washington County taking part in the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight on May 14.
Tate was living in Shawano and a recent high school graduate at the time he was drafted in 1951. He traveled with other draftees to meet with the Draft Board in Green Bay and, since he was “the youngest one of the bunch” he was sent home and the Draft Board told him they would call him in a month.
During that month-long period, Tate decided, “I don’t want to be in the Army, so I enlisted in the Navy.”
“I got out of boot camp at Great Lakes. I was shipped to Japan and was on a destroyer, DD790, the USS Shelton,” Tate recollected.
“And then we were on to Korea doing shore bombarding. As we were going up, on the third day, we incurred three direct hits on our ship. We had 18 men wounded.” (Editors note: The USS Shelton received eight battle stars for service in the Korean War and eight for service in Vietnam.)
Tate escaped injury because he was on a gun mount that was protected by armor. “They put a hole in the bow from the ship’s quarters so we kind of limped out of there, got us patched, and then we went back to Japan,” he said.
After being in dry dock for repairs, Tate says they returned to the United States and he began to work as a deck hand.
Not feeling fulfilled, he said, “I wondered what else I could do, so I started working in sick bay and was sent to corpsman’s school in San Diego.”
“While I was there,” said Tate almost blushing, “one of my friends was dating a lieutenant nurse and she got discharged and began working at a civil hospital – St. Mary’s in San Diego. It turns out this same nurse just so happened to have a friend who was a nurse from Wisconsin and they just kind of put us together and,” Tate chuckles boyishly, “that’s my wife!”
“After I got out of corpsman school, I was stationed at the Naval Hospital in San Diego,” Tate continued.
“I worked in Admission and Receiving and on the emergency ward. I was there for a year and after that I was shipped out on an AKA landing vessel that they used in World War II. That was after the Korean Conflict was over and we were on kind of a good will tour to Japan, China, and the Philippines. Shortly after that I came back to San Diego and was discharged.”
Tate said that a lot of people look at the time Korean War servicemen and women served as “negative,” but says “I really didn’t mind it. I did what I could do and it was good.”
“And actually,” Tate said, “if I hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have met my wife.”
The Honor Flight is not something new to Tate. His late brother, who served in WWII, took part in an Honor Flight. “We went up and greeted him when he got off the flight and I always thought that was such a neat thing to see,” he said.
While Tate’s wife Marilyn is quite obviously the high point of his service career, he also proudly stated, “I have seven sons.” His son, Jeffery, who lives in Neosho, will be accompanying Tate on the Honor Flight.
Tate says he has been to Washington, D.C. a number of times, but each time it was before the Korean War Memorial was built, so he has not yet had the opportunity to see it. “I’m real honored to be able to have this flight to Washington,” Tate humbly concluded.