Sunday, May 27, 2001

Tristate's 'Private Ryan' honored in national ceremony

By Jenny Callison
Enquirer Contributor

Fred Ryan of Westwood will be honored today during the National Memorial Day concert in Washington.
(Yuli Wu photo)
| ZOOM |
        CHEVIOT — Americans today will hear a Tristate version of Saving Private Ryan. This isn't World War II fiction. It's the story of a Tristate teen who managed to survive a Korean War massacre on a sliver of land known as Hill 303 on Aug. 17, 1950.

        Fred Ryan, now 69, of Westwood will be one of four veterans honored today during the National Memorial Day Concert in Washington, D.C. The program will air locally at 8 p.m. Sunday on WCET-Channel 48 and on WPTD-Channel 16 in Dayton.

        Actor Charles Durning will read Mr. Ryan's account of how his infantry unit was captured and attacked by North Korean soldiers. Mr. Ryan's platoon was charged with protecting a key position overlooking a road linking Seoul to Pusan. Their assignment was to lob mortars over a dot on the map known as Hill 303.

        A surprise attack by about 300 North Koreans resulted in the platoon's capture. That's when the shooting started.

        “They stood us up and machine-gunned us from 30 to 40 feet away,” Mr. Ryan said. “It blew out my whole side, although I didn't realize it then.”

        He reached for several of his buddies, only to have them die in his arms. Only five soldiers of the platoon's 42 members survived the attack, which happened less than two months after the Korean War started.

        Mr. Ryan was rescued by a sergeant and taken to a Japanese military hospital.

        Because of wartime confusion, Mr. Ryan had a difficult time making it home. After enduring problematic medical treatment, malaria and a series of orders that almost sent him back into battle, the injured soldier finally returned to Dayton, Ky.

        One of the first things he did upon his return: marry ing his sweetheart, Dolores. They settled in Cincinnati's West Side and started a family.

        Until recently, the details surrounding the capture and ambush of Mr. Ryan's unit were largely unknown. Due to the efforts of several re tired Army officers, however, the remaining survivors of the massacre on Hill 303 were contacted. In 1999 and again last year, they flew to Korea where a memorial was placed at the ambush site.

        During today's program, Mr. Ryan and another Hill 303 survivor, Roy Manring of New Albany, Ind., will finally hear their stories told to the nation. Mr. Ryan will be there.

        “I'll be sitting right there in front, with all the dignitaries. And Dolores will be right behind me,“ he said.

        Erich Kunzel, Cincinnati Pops conductor, will direct the National Symphony Orchestra at the ceremony from the U.S. Capitol.

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