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Echoes of World War II and Korean War still resound with veteran

By Brian Albrecht • Apr 7, 2019 at 7:00 PM

BROOKLYN, Ohio — The echoes of two wars still ring in Bill Marzola’s ears.

That’s the price he’s paid for serving in Army artillery units in Europe during World War II, and later in the Korean War.

Back then, there wasn’t any high-tech ear protection like they have now for artillery crews. Not even ear plugs.

“Nobody thought about anything like that,” Marzola recently said. “You’re there, and you just have to do what you have to do.”

Now, at age 95, it’s time for hearing aids.

The hearing loss is something Marzola matter-of-factly accepts, much the same as when he got drafted in 1943 on the day of his commencement at East Technical High School.

Marzola wasn’t nervous about going to war. “No, as a young kid, you don’t even think about those kind of things. At least I didn’t, anyway,” he said.

“When you’re young, you think you’re invincible.”

Orlando “Bill” Marzola, who grew up as one of six children of Italian parents living on Orange Avenue, wound up in the 670th Field Artillery Battalion.

The unit landed in Europe in early 1945, and paced the Allied offensive into Belgium and Germany.

“Being in artillery, you’re fortunate that you’re not right up there where all the battle is going on,” Marzola said. “You can’t even see what’s going on from the position you’re in.”

Life became a series of setting up the 155mm howitzers, digging your foxholes and firing infantry support barrages, then moving forward to the next position.

Occasionally you got a break. Marzola recalled getting a leave to Paris where he visited the museums and the Folies Bergere cabaret music hall.

After Germany surrendered, Marzola said his unit was a week away from shipping out to fight the war in the Pacific when Japan capitulated.

Back in Cleveland, he joined the inactive Army Reserves.

“I figured we were going to be at war with Russia within five years, and I had a pretty good rating (sergeant). I didn’t want to start from the bottom up again,” he said.

But when the Army reached out and selected him for a war against the North Koreans and Chinese in 1950, Marzola was less than thrilled. He’d just gotten married the previous year.

He soon discovered that the Korean War was much different than World War II.

In Europe, “you had the feeling you wanted to win,” Marzola said.

But “when we were in Korea, I got so damn mad, because we were going up to 38th parallel and then you had to stop, and then they’d push you back a little bit, back and forth,” he said.

“What the hell’s going on here? We’re losing people both ways. Going and coming,” he added. “It just don’t make sense. That disheartened me quite a bit.”

Marzola was serving with another artillery unit, this time with bigger guns – the 155mm Gun M1, nicknamed the “Long Tom,” capable of hitting targets 13-16 miles distant.

“Heck, the gun weighed 16 tons. The tractor [that pulled the gun], 16 tons. That’s where I learned to respect the Marines, because they would never leave until you got out,”Marzola said.

“If the weather was bad, the mud and stuff, you didn’t know how long it was going to take you to get out with that kind of weight, and they always stayed until you got out,” he added. “The Army, you wake up in the morning and they’re gone.”

When asked what kept him going through the frustration and sacrifice of his second war, Marzola said, “I don’t know, to tell you the truth. You have to make up your mind. You don’t have no choice.”

The day came when he was sent home to his wife, Dolores (who died in 2017), and they raised six children.

Marzola became an electrician specializing in high-voltage-cable splicing.

There were no welcome-home parties or parades for veterans of what became known as “the forgotten war” in Korea.

That didn’t bother Marzola. “No, no. I just was glad to get home. That’s all I cared about,” he said.

In looking back on his two wars, the veteran said it was generally a good experience.

And he learned something. It changed him, in a way.

“I think, you know, it hardens you to life,” he said. “When you got back to civilian life, things weren’t as bad as they could have been if you hadn’t had that experience.”

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