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A Korean War vet's lifetime of service
With a medal from the South Korean president hanging proudly around his neck, Harold Borror’s memories of the Battle of Chosin Reservoir and his service in the Korean War move him from joy to tears in a matter of seconds.
Borror, 87, of Dover, recalled these moments, and more from his 60 years of community service, while sitting in the chapel of his second home — The Salvation Army of York at 50 E. King St.
Born in Bedford County in 1928, Borror attended high school in Everett, before moving on to work in a Hanover shoe factory. After a short stint in a spinning mill, Borror enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 18.
Upon completion of basic training at Fort Dix in New Jersey, Borror took a train to Seattle and was shipped off to Japan in November 1948.
Borror was placed in the 1st Calvary Division and trained in heavy weaponry. He was then transferred to the medics unit by virtue of his last name being near the top of a roster.
While in Japan, Borror insisted on additional medical schooling and received “vigorous” training in leadership skills, graduating from the program as a surgical technician. Borror’s extensive training would save his and countless other lives during his time on the Korean Peninsula.
“The Chosin Few”: After North Korea attacked South Korea in June 1950, Borror was moved to Mount Fuji in Japan to rejoin the field medics unit.
Borror then made an amphibious landing at Incheon, South Korea, with U.S. Marines, helping to break off the North Korean army’s supply lines. After some battles in the area, Borror boarded a boat that would make landfall in Wonsan, North Korea.
“I don’t remember the dates well, but I had my 21st birthday there, and we had Thanksgiving there,” Borror said.
Along with 15,000 troops from the 1st Marine Division and British Royal Marine Commandos, Borror moved north into the Chosin Reservoir one night. Soon after reaching the reservoir, the troops realized they were surrounded by 120,000 Chinese soldiers, he said.
The Chinese army was spread throughout the mountains and had been there for some time, setting up roadblocks all around the Allied forces, Borror said.
“They blocked all our roads, in front of us and behind us. They tried to separate the infantry from the headquarters. They put up roadblocks on our medical company,” Borror said.
The entire medical company was lost after being ambushed by Chinese troops, he said.
After regrouping, Borror and his comrades moved up to try to break through the Chinese army’s lines, but they were ambushed from above, he said.
With no working vehicles and no idea where to go, he said his two years of extensive leadership training kicked in. He rounded up a group of seven men and led them into the woods, picking up more stragglers along the way.
Chinese troops located the men in the woods and began dropping mortars on the group. Borror said he told his men to spread out until they reached Allied tanks on the road below. Though he was wounded by mortar shrapnel, earning him a Purple Heart, all of the men survived this part of the battle.
The Battle of Chosin Reservior lasted almost four weeks, from Nov. 27, 1950, until Allied troops were evacuated to South Korea on Dec. 24.
Allied forces fought through roadblock after roadblock in minus-30 degree weather, Borror said, with many of the troops succumbing to frostbite during the battle. Borror said he had to wear gloves while doing medical work and was forced to thaw frozen morphine shots in his mouth in order to administer them to wounded soldiers.
Once military engineers could build a new road to evacuate troops and equipment, he and his comrades spent two days working their way down the mountainside, with North Korean refugees following them.
“I understand it’s never been done before or after, but we really didn’t have the heart to leave them — women, children, little babies,” Borror said. “So with all of our difficulties, we brought 100,000 refugees out and got them on our ships.”
Salvation Army Officer: Borror returned home from Korea in July 1951 a much different man than the one who had left for Asia three years earlier.
“I had a difficult time when I got home,” he said. “You don’t know what happens to you. You have no idea what happens.”
After years bouncing around Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York as a factory foreman, Borror said he still “couldn’t’ get out of the unrest” that he felt.
A group of cadets training to become officers in the Salvation Army visited him in Corning, New York, and it was during this time that “the Lord started to deal with me consciously,” he said.
“Definitely, at that time, I knew the Lord wanted me to go into full-time service with the Salvation Army,” Borror said.
He said he and his wife, Elverna, gave up everything they had when joining, burning any bridges that might make their former lives easy to return to.
Borror became a soldier in The Salvation Army on Easter Sunday 1956, beginning 60 years of service and volunteering with the organization.
“I would never, never, never have had the experiences I’ve had in the Salvation Army,” he said. “I’ve had so many opportunities, so many open doors.”
After spending 12 years working with the local Salvation Army, Borror spent 25 years providing drug-and-alcohol counseling to addicts and prisoners with the organization’s Adult Rehabilitation Center.
He retired as a major with organization in 1994, but not before meeting Prince Charles of Wales and the legendary Nelson Rockefeller.
“It was a very exciting life,” Borror said. “I could have stayed in industry, but I could have never had that experience.”
The charitable, altruistic spirit of The Salvation Army certainly hasn’t left Borror. He still attends church every Sunday and helps the organization however possible, including mentoring people who are having troubles and reaching out to his friends and neighbors at the Providence Place Retirement Center in Dover.
“A lot of people think of The Salvation Army only for its social service,” Borror said. “And that is a part of it. But hopefully that’s not the key, because we like our Christian service to convict us that we need to do social work, not vice versa. We need to reach out and help people and do for people what we can.”