missing medal veteran

Palestine resident Frank Yzabal earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic efforts during a battle fought in the Korean War in September of 1950. Sgt. Yzabal was supposed to be presented with the medal by General Douglas MacArthur himself, but never received it after the general was fired.

From his birth in California to the three years spent with his devout Christian grandmother in Mexico and a few supernatural meetings along the way, Palestine resident Frank Yzabal feels strongly that every step he has taken led him to be a soldier.

“While taking food to my father and brother one day, an angel came to me and walked with me on the path,” Yzabal said. “He told me that he would always be with me and said that my grandmother would have a very important message for me.

“I didn’t think much about it until 18 months later when my grandmother called the family and told them that I was going to be in the military and would be a brave, fighting soldier.”

Yzabal joined the U.S. Army in 1944 and again in 1950, when he was called up to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Ord, Calif. He ended up with the 5th Infantry combat team attached to the 24th Infantry Division in Korea.

“In August of 1950, we battled day and night in the Taiga Division,” Yzabal said. “We fought constantly for a month to stop the main drive of the Communist Army’s many divisions.”

Like any soldier in wartime, Yzabal faced his share of close calls, and in each instance felt a higher power guiding him to safety.

“We had been fighting the regular North Korean Army and, hitting them hard, forced them to retreat to Waedwan,” he recalled. “We followed them there and were ambushed on the way.”

Riding in the front truck of a convoy, Yzabal heard three voices coming to his mind, telling him to get out of the truck.

“I started to resist the voices and they just got louder,” he said. “I moved from the truck, and about a quarter mile later the truck I had been in ran into an anti-tank mine and blew up.”

Before he could explain what happened, Yzabal’s company had been ambushed and were under heavy crossfire, being hit from all directions. When trying to take cover in a trench, the young sergeant was hit by heavy mortar.

“I was blown about 10 foot and saw my body lying down — it was my spirit flying to heaven,” he said. “When I got to heaven, I met my loved ones there who asked me what had happened. Then they told me to get in line and talk to Saint Peter about what to do next.

“Saint Peter told me that there had been and error and I needed to go back,” he explained. “When I woke up, the medics told me I was not breathing and had no pulse, so they had moved to help other soldiers.”

On Sept. 18, 1950 — just a short time later — Yzabal and his division came up against a major communist offensive involving many Russian tanks and infantry soldiers.

“They hit me really close that day,” he said. “I got angry, went to the cannons and started firing and loading. The first projectile I shot blew the treks out of the first tank.

“As they were getting closer, I prayed and asked God to show me where the weak spot was on those enemy tanks,” he added. “I got the message and destroyed five of those six tanks before my commander stopped me and told me the Air Force was coming to help.”

Those actions earned Yzabal the Congressional Medal of Honor, an award he never received due to the firing of General Douglas MacArthur.

“General MacArthur had received a first-hand report from a captain that was at the battle where the tanks were destroyed,” he said. “In February of 1952, I was told to get ready to go home. The general wanted to ask me some questions and pin on my medals personally.

“But when we got to Seattle, Wash., MacArthur was called away by the president and fired,” Yzabal added. “So I never got my medal.”

Yzabal’s good friends Barney Serbus and 369th State District Judge Bascom W. Bentley III are trying to help Yzabal get his well-deserved medal, but due to some very thick red tape are not able to access General MacArthur’s records.

“There are not many people who can access a five-star general’s records,” Serbus said. “The only way to do it to go straight to the top, to President Bush.”

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Sgt. Yzabal earned four purple hearts, three silver stars and six gold battle stars for his heroism during the Korean War. He was told he has earned more medals than the famous Audey Murphy.

Yzabal is one of a few soldiers that went from Pusan, South Korea to the northeastern corner of North Korea, which borders China, Manchuria and Russia during his time in the service.

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Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at mrainwater@palestineherald.com

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