"I wanted to get into the battle up front that day. Jim stayed back. But a mortar round hit the tent where he was working and killed him on July 17, 10 days before the end of the war.
"We lost 53,000 soldiers in three years. Between 33,000 and 35,000 of them died in battle," DeCarlo said. "A little over 100,000 got Purple Hearts.
"This was the first military challenge to the spread of Communism. It worked. They wanted the whole Korean peninsula. They didn't get it."
In February 1954, DeCarlo left Korea "and spent the next 36 days on the ocean. We went through the Panama Canal and dropped off allied troops we were bringing home to Colombia and Puerto Rico. I am sorry I missed getting onto another boat which went around the globe, near Greece and France."
DeCarlo says infantry troops play the critical role in any war.
"You can drop all the bombs in the world, but in the end, it is the infantry that has to go in."
He says war was different during the 1950s.
"If Vietnam happened in the '50s, and not during the '60s and '70s, we would have won that war. We really saw the horrors of war, starting in Vietnam."
The Korean War also had other permanent impacts on DeCarlo.
"I don't enjoy fireworks very much. One night in Korea, 1,200 rounds of ammunition landed in an area the size of a football field in just two hours.
"I got knocked out that night, too. I was in a trench. A round landed outside my trench. It knocked me over. But I did not have a scratch on me. If I had been three feet closer, it probably would have hit me on the head," DeCarlo remembers.
"This was no place for a normal guy. Single young soldiers make the best soldiers. They think they are never going to die."
DeCarlo remembers one MASH doctor who told him, "We treat as many people going into shock as people who get wounded."
In addition to receiving a Purple Heart, DeCarlo also earned a Combat Infantryman's Badge, awarded to soldiers constantly under fire for 30 days or more.
Things might be even worse today, DeCarlo said, "for the poor guys in the Middle East, who are constantly under fire in towns and villages. They all deserve the Combat Infantry Badge."
DeCarlo got married to his wife, Nancy, on Dec. 11, 1954, not long after returning home.
The next year, he enrolled in a two-year college program in Steubenville, Ohio, which helped him get into the finance business.
Over the years, DeCarlo lived in Weirton, Cleveland and Baltimore, before moving to St. Albans in June 1977.
After he returned to civilian life, DeCarlo got a job with Beneficial Finance and worked in the finance industry for 40 years. After he retired, he worked for the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee for three legislative sessions. He also became executive director of the West Virginia Consumer Finance Association, a group of finance companies, and lobbied for it for 10 years.
Last November, the state Department of Veterans Assistance named DeCarlo as the newest member of the West Virginia Veterans Council, after being appointed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
DeCarlo also serves as president of the Korean War Veterans Association's Mountaineer Chapter, which has 30 active members today.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.