Korean War Veterans Help Create and Maintain Special Exhibition in Ocala
It is history that you will never get out of a book.
Ralph Mueller and Richard “Ritchie” Fucci volunteer one day a week to share their military experiences of the Korean War with visitors to the Marion County Veterans Exhibit and Education Center, an extension of the Ocala / Marion County Veterans Memorial Park in the north. -est of Ocala.
Air Force veteran Mueller and Army veteran Fucci served in the early 1950s.
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Mueller recounts his experiences maintaining aircraft for reconnaissance flights during the tense years of the Cold War. Fucci served on an M-36 tank destroyer crew in the freezing cold during the Korean War.
They answer visitors’ questions for four hours on Fridays at the center and can be found in the Korean War Room or in the reception area of the center.
Everything about the special center
The center, which opened a year ago, offers insight into the artifacts and personal stories of those who have served.
The center opened with a layout run by volunteer advocate Adam Sines, according to a Star-Banner report.
The center currently has exhibition halls dedicated to WWI, WWII, Korean War and Vietnam War.
Exhibits planned or under development will cover the Desert Storm, September 11, and the Global War on Terror, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Additional exhibits include uniforms donated by each branch of the armed services and artifacts such as a personal flotation device from the WWII Liberty ship, US Ocala.
Bill Ehrhart serves as education supervisor and the centre’s volunteers include Judy Rainey and Marine Corps veterans Dave Bice and Carlos Gonzalez.
A special mission for Dorothy Antonelli
Center volunteer Dorothy Antonelli of Dunnellon outfitted parts of the Korean War room. The Korean War has a personal meaning for her: Antonelli’s uncle, the sergeant of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division. Peter Albert Patete, then 20, was considered missing in action in North Korea on November 26, 1950. He is the recipient of the Purple Heart.
Patete is listed as killed in action and remains missing, according to the Defense Accounting Agency POW / MIA (dpaa.mil).
“Our family said little about him, but he was my grandmother’s only child,” said Antonelli.
Antonelli, 67, from Brooklyn, New York, said she was moved when she went to the unveiling of a Korean War memorial in Manhattan in 1993 and that a letter was read aloud during the ceremony. The letter, by chance, was written by his uncle, Peter Patete.
Patete, a booming professional boxer, wrote in one of his letters that he wanted to come home on Christmas 1950.
Antonelli began a “quest” to find out what happened to a family member and joined support groups including the Korean War and Cold War Prisoner of War Families / MIA Coalition.
His research eventually took him to South Korea in May 2019, to “see what he saw and walk the streets of Seoul where he fought,” Antonelli said.
Patete was involved in the struggle to take back Seoul and she wanted to see the city now that it “has risen from the ashes,” she said.
Antonelli said that even after going to South Korea, his uncle’s fate remains unknown.
“We saw in the archives that my uncle was killed in action and that he was a prisoner of war who was never evacuated. I guess we’ll never know for sure, ”said Antonelli.
The Korean War Room reflects the personal involvement of volunteers.
“Much effort and love has gone into this hall for those who have served and it is to honor their sacrifice. American soldiers have stood side by side with South Korean soldiers to stop the spread of Communism.” , said Antonelli.
What could you find in the special room?
A group of Korean War photos and prints titled “Heartbreak Ridge” and “Breakthrough” and GI’s drawings in battlefield conditions were donated and laid out in the room, Antonelli said.
Sines placed a Korean War-era rifle, mess kit and other items in the room, according to Antonelli.
A portrait of Patete is in the room along with those of several other Korean War veterans.
A handmade table model of Korean War POW Camp No.3 on the Yalu River is being restored in the center. The model was made and signed by Douglas Robinson, a former prisoner of war, according to information from the centre’s education supervisor, Bill Ehrhart.
Mueller, 88, from Brooklyn, New York, joined the service in 1953 and worked as an aircraft maintenance mechanic. He also flew as an engineer on B-47 bomber reconnaissance flights from a former RAF air base in Upper Heyford, England.
Fucci, 88, also from Brooklyn, joined the military at 18 in 1951 and served as an oil tanker on the eight-man crew of an M-36 tank destroyer.
Fucci served in the war around the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) and remembered the times he got out through a trap door at the bottom of the tank and had to dig in hard frozen earth.
“My legs were never right again,” he said.
Antoinette Fucci, Ritchie Fucci’s wife of 65 years, lost her brother, Joseph A. Balbi, during the Korean War. Balbi, an army corporal, was taken as a prisoner of war in 1952. His remains were returned in 1959.
A portrait of Purple Heart recipient Balbi is on display in the Korean War Room.
The Marion County Veterans Education and Exhibition Center is located at 2528 E. Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala. It is open Wednesday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. For more information, call 671-8422.