Category Archives: Korean War Deaths – Caldwell County

Caldwell County lost two men in the Korean Conflict – these are their stories


By Todd Blomerth
George was the son of Joe and Anatolia (Urbanski) Zaleski. George was born on February 21, 1932 in the Polonia Community, north of Lockhart. He was the fourth of five children. The others were Lillian, Jim, George, and Johnnie.
The Polonia community was settled by Polish immigrants in the 1880s. At one time the small community boasted two schools, Sacred Heart Catholic Church (razed in 1939), the Levandowski cotton gin, a blacksmith shop, and a general store. The Polonia area did not have electricity until 1948, when the Rural Electric Administration, at the urging of Lyndon Johnson, brought power lines into the area.
The family spoke Polish in the home as the boys were growing up. School attendance was not seen as a major priority – the family was farming, and putting food on the table was of paramount importance. George attended school only through the sixth grade at a rural school in Polonia north of Lockhart. That school would be consolidated with Lockhart in 1949. The boys’ diversions usually involved swimming in the nearby creek.
George en
George enlisted in the U.S. Army, and after Infantry Basic Training he also completed Airborne training at Ft. Benning, Georgia. Eventually he was assigned to the 27th Infantry Regiment (“The Wolfhounds”) of the 25th Infantry Division. The 25th Infantry Division had been in Korea since 1950. This was (and is) a proud unit. Its lightning bolt imposed over a taro leaf shoulder patch reflects its Hawaiian heritage. Before World War II, it was known as the Hawaiian Division and its home was Oahu’s Schofield Barracks. It saw action at Guadalcanal, the Philippines and elsewhere during the Pacific Campaign. It was hurriedly deployed to the Korean Peninsula, and helped defend the Pusan perimeter, then fought along the Iron Triangle in 1951. Subsequently its main duties were defending the many defensive line’s fortifications along the UN’s Main Line of Resistance.
On July 8, 1951, truce talks began at Kaesong. The process was glacial, and the North Koreans periodically walked away from the table. The front was stabilized, but vicious fighting continued. United Nations forces were compelled to go on the offense to de-stabilize huge build ups of People’s Republic of China (PRC, or communist Chinese) and North Korean weaponry and personnel, and to compel the communists to return to the negotiating table. Personal histories later found indicated that the communists eventually became desperate and dispirited. As the grind of outpost warfare went on, one NKPA general’s captured correspondence showed his frustration with the UN’s willingness and ability to keep providing men and weaponry to the South.
The USSR’s Joseph Stalin’s death on March 2, 1953 proved a game changer for the Korean and Chinese communists (NKPA and PRC). The ensuing power struggle and change of focus meant that the USSR would no longer continue to supply the NKPA and Chinese with weaponry and supplies. On April 26, 1953 the stalled armistice negotiations resumed. Despite this, heavy fighting flared along the Main Line of Resistance (MLR), as the NKPA and PRC tried to improve their positions. The last major attacks by the communists were mostly aimed at ROK positions, as the South Korean strongman Sygman Rhee’s continued voicing of his opposition to a divided Korean peninsula.
The 25th Infantry Division was tasked with defending the South Korean capital of Seoul when the last communist attempt at breaking the UN line north of Seoul began in May, 1953. It front was on the extreme left of the UN front, near Munsan-ni. Very strong attacks were directed against the South Korean capital, but were turned back.
PFC Zaleski was killed north of Seoul on May 14, 1953. On June 8, 1953 the warring parties reached an agreement on repatriation of prisoners of war. On July 19, 1953, a truce agreement was reached and was signed on July 27, 1953. With losses in the millions, the North Koreans lost 1500 square miles of territory.

The Final Truce Line – July 1953 (map by Ernie Holden)

George is buried next to his mother and father in the Polonia Cemetery. George was twenty-one years old.

(Polonia schoolhouse photo appeared in Caldwell County Genealogical Society’s Plum Creek Almanac Vol. 32, No. 2, Fall 2014)


By Todd Blomerth
James Ray Janca was born in Luling, Texas on October 3, 1931. His father was John Joseph (J.J.) Janca, and his mother was Margaret August (Nied) Janca. He was the third child of the couple. Joseph Edward and Dorothy Margaret were his older siblings. His younger brother was John David (Bubba). J.J. and Margaret were of Moravian and German heritage.
The family lived on the Lockhart Road and later at 321 Walnut Street in Luling. J.J. owned and operated Luling Battery and Electric Company, an auto parts store, for many years. Margaret was active in the Texas Home Demonstration Association. James Ray was to have graduated from Luling High School in 1950. The Aquila has his junior year picture, but there is no senior picture for the Class of 1950. After high school, James Ray enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. After boot camp and advanced training he was assigned to the 1st Marine Division.
In March of 1951, PFC Janca joined up with Company H, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division as a machine gunner. The 1st Division had been fighting in Korea since shortly after the invasion by the North Koreans in August of 1950.
After the United Nations force pushed the North Koreans almost out of their country in the autumn of 1950, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) communist troops, which had been in hiding in North Korea, struck back with a vengeance. The First Marine Division conducted a fighting retreat from the Chosin Reservoir during the misery of the peninsula’s sub-zero winter. Without a doubt it was one of the most seasoned units on the peninsula.
By April of 1951 the US and its allies had been pushed back down in South Korea. After undermining attempts at a negotiated peace, General Douglas MacArthur (who commanded from Tokyo and never spent a night in Korea) was relieved of command by President Truman. General Matthew Ridgway was placed in overall command. His instructions were to stabilize the front lines and stop what had been dubbed an “accordion war.” Chinese and North Korean troops made further advances into the south, but logistically were in trouble and had been badly blooded in trying to recover the initiative and push the United Nations forces out of the Korean peninsula. Their losses were horrific. But their willingness to serve up lives meant that the predominantly US led United Nations troops (which included British, Canadian, Australian, Philippine, Turkish, Republic of Korea, and several other countries’ troops) also took many casualties. The UN established a defensive line roughly along the 38th Parallel, or “Line Kansas.” Then Ridgway initiated Operation “Piledriver” in an attempt to push the communists out of the “Iron Triangle,” just north of the UN main line of resistance in the center of the peninsula, and move north some twelve miles to “Line Wyoming.” The communist Chinese and North Koreans had built up substantial strength here, and had decent rail and road lines into the area. An anticipated strike by the communists would rely on this area’s resources and had to be hit hard. Line Wyoming would afford better defensive positions, and put the UN in a better position to force a truce. Meanwhile to the west, communist forces launched an all-out “Spring Offensive,” pushing the UN forces back toward the South Korean capital of Seoul, which the UN had just liberated in March. The enemy drove south almost twenty miles, until on May 21, 1951, the UN counterattacked and drove the communists back to the 38th Parallel.
The 1st Marine Division continued to attack northward into the Iron Triangle. The Division’s Historical Diary for June 13, 1951 (declassified) reads:
1st Marines: On 13 June, the Regiment attacked on the right in zone to seize and secure Division Objective DOG…. After a heavy artillery preparation, the 3rd Battalion jumped off for Division Objective DOG at 0800K. Regimental Objective 1 was secured without enemy opposition, at 0814K. Following an air strike the Battalion continued the attack on Objective 2, Hill 787. Heavy small arms, and automatic weapons fire was received as the troops assaulted ridge-line 700.Hill 787 was taken by hand to hand fighting at 1055K, and the enemy withdrew toward DT1229-B…. Heavy mortar and 76mm artillery fire was received during the Regiment’s attack throughout the day.
Somewhere in this fighting, near the southern edge of an area dubbed “The Punchbowl,” James Ray Janca was killed, probably by artillery fire.
American forces captured the North Korean capital of Pyongyang on June 14th, but were pushed back three days later. The destruction of many of the strongest communist defenses in the Iron Triangle, and the air interdiction of communist supply lines finally forced the beginning of truce talks on July 10, 1951. For the next two years, fighting would continue along the 38th Parallel.
When news of his death hit Luling, flags were lowered to half-staff. James was brought home and is buried in the Luling Cemetery. On July 29, 1951, a groundbreaking took place on West Houston Street for Luling’s first low-income housing project. The thirty residences were officially designated “James Ray Janca Homes” in his memory. The dedication was sponsored by the Benton McCarley Post 177, American Legion. In attendance were city and county officials, the project’s manager and architect and Ms. Joyce Rutledge, the first Luling Housing Authority executive director.
On October 17, 1951 J.J. applied for a military headstone for his son’s grave. It now rests over his grave. PFC James Ray Janca was nineteen years old.

Acknowledgement: The author owes much to Paul I Gulick’s monograph “How Company, Third Battalion, First Marine Division” revised 2008, for his exhaustive compilation of daily reports and oral histories that gives a vivid understanding of How Company’s daily dance with death on the Korean Peninsula.
(Historical aside: 1951 was a period of segregation, sadly. The same day that James Ray Janca’s name was memorialized on thirty low-income residences, the Latin American units, ten total, were dedicated to an Hispanic soldier from Luling, Gilbert Gutierrez, killed in World War II. The African-American housing units were named in honor of Willie Lovell Wade, a black sailor who went down with the aircraft carrier Wasp in 1942.)