Fred Plushanski - Grand Marshal 2021
The John Basilone Parade Committee is proud to announce that the Grand Marshal for the 2021 Parade is Fred Plushanski.

He was a Corporal in the Marine Corps during the Korean War.

Fred was born in 1929. He spent his early days working on the family farm in Glen Gardner, milking cows and doing the other things that one does on a farm.

At Hampton High School he was captain of the soccer team. That team would go on to win the championship.
After high school, in 1948, Fred enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Four of his brothers had served in World War II and Fred wanted to carry on with the family tradition of serving their country.
Fred on the far left with
his 4 brothers and dad.
In the Marines he was assigned to an anti-tank outfit. His job was to fire a bazooka, which is a shoulder held gun that fires a shell which is capable of inflicting enough damage to knock a tank out of commission.

The explosion from the shell would destroy the tank treads and hopefully set the tank on fire.
Using a bazooka was a dangerous task for several reasons. One, of course, was that it was war where an enemy was trying to kill you. To add to that, the bazooka was supposed to get to within 50 feet of a tank to ensure an accurate shot.

Another danger was that when fired the bazooka generates a flash that gives away the position of the shooter. Fred would fire his bazooka twice in the war. Once along with another soldier at one enemy tank during fierce combat. Another time he fired the bazooka at a building that needed to be neutralized. This improvised use of a bazooka proved successful as the shell smashed through the building killing several enemy soldiers.
Fred would enter the Korean War at a critical time. It was September 1950 and the North Koreans had taken over most of Korea. The American and South Korean forces only controlled the south eastern corner of South Korea where they were making a last stand.

To turn the tide in the battle the U.S. landed additional troops. But not at the expected location near the battle, but more north at the western city of Inchon. It was a dangerous gamble as that site was considered difficult for a troop landing. But the surprise location caught the North Koreans off guard.

Fred Plushanski would participate in that landing. He said the landing was done with minimal casualties. But he went on to say that tough fighting was ahead of them for they soon would be engaged in a battle to recapture the South Korean city of Seoul. That was a difficult battle, but the U.S. would eventually take back control of the city.
The landing at Inchon
During the war Fred was fortunate to work under Marine Corp legend Lewis Chesty Puller. There is no Marine that is more admired than him. He would earn five Navy Crosses in his long career in the Marine Corp.

Chesty was a true leader of men who cared deeply for every soldier no matter what the rank. Unlike many other officers of high rank, during battle he commanded close to the dangerous front lines reasoning that his men would be more inspired if he showed no fear.

Ironically during World War II Chesty Puller was the commander of John Basilone at Guadalcanal. It was Chesty who recommended Basilone for the Medal of Honor.
Lewis Chesty Puller
Chesty made sure to visit as many of the troops as he could especially when they were preparing for an upcoming battle.

One of his special touches on these visits was to bring a shot of whiskey to his men. Fred Plushanski recalled that Chesty Puller gave him a shot of Canadian Club Whiskey. It was the first drink of alcohol that Fred had in his life. Chesty said to Fred drink this and if you get hit it will not hurt as much. Fred downed the shot. It had quite a kick to it.
Fred often had the assignment of being a runner for Chesty Puller.

Runners are used to deliver messages to commanders when a field telephone or radio cannot be used or is unavailable. At times the trip could be as long as ten miles.

Fred once had an enemy bullet graze his coat as he traveled through the forest to deliver an important message.
Chesty Puller was known to have contempt for his superiors as they usually remained far away from the fighting and were often clueless. Fred observed two examples of this firsthand.

The first was with General Douglas MacArthur. Chesty Puller detested the pompous General. One day MacArthur arrived at the camp with a group of heavily armed jeeps and guards to meet with Chesty who, by contrast, only carried a pistol for protection. Chesty walked halfway to MacArthur and stopped. The two officers then stared at each other from afar. Chesty would not move any further. He wanted MacArthur to walk halfway to meet him. After a standoff, MacArthur finally walked to meet Chesty.
Chesty Puller with General MacArthur
The second time Fred witnessed Chesty challenging a superior was the time he sent a package to President Harry Truman.

As the fighting went on, President Truman tried to downplay the war calling it a police action. But those doing the fighting knew better. It was a full-scale war with all the tragedies, deprivations, and horror that goes with it. Puller had seen enough of his men being killed and wounded. He also had had it with the freezing conditions they all had to endure. Fred Plushanski observed Chesty Puller pack a foot locker box with Purple Hearts, the medal awarded to men who are injured or killed in battle. Puller mailed the full box to President Truman with a message. Here is a token from your police action.
There are so many stories about Lewis Chesty Puller - things that he said and did.

Such that even his biographers write about him with caution, opening asking, could all this be true?

Thus, this author was sure to ask Fred:

Was Chesty Puller really all that he was said to be?

A competent, brave, charismatic leader, who was dedicated to his men. Fred confirmed that Chesty Puller was indeed all that. A great Marine.
Fred Plushanski had quite an experience during the Korean War. Due to the extreme cold, frostbite took its toll on his hands, feet, and face causing some permanent issues that he would carry with him all his life. He is still deaf in his right ear from when a shell went off just over his head. Even a piece of shrapnel remained in his leg for several years after the war. Once he spent five weeks in intensive care due to lingering war injuries.

For decades Fred did not speak or even think about the war. However, his grandson Brian developed an interest in his Grandfather's Korean War history. Thus, Fred started to share his recollections with him. As a result, many of his memories, which he was glad to share, came back to him.
On Sunday, September 19th please come out to honor Fred Plushanski when he will be the Grand Marshal of the 2021 John Basilone Memorial Parade.
Korean War Memorial in Washington D.C.