Pelham resident Morty Proper joins Marines at 17, fights in Korea as sharpshooter


Pelham veteran Morty Proper spoke to Girl Scout Troop 1664 when they visited him on Veterans Day.

PELHAM — Pelham resident Morty Proper, a veteran of the Korean War, decided to join the Marines when he was 17 years old.

He got advice from experienced Marines from World War II. “They encouraged me to fight,” Mr. Proper said. He fought in the Korean War in 1951 against North Korea, protecting South Korea.

Mr. Proper went to boot camp on Paris Island, which is located in South Carolina.  Mr. Proper said, “I had a hard time adjusting to being yelled at by the drill instructor.”

He was given a rifle, discovered he was an excellent shot and became a sniper. He could hit his target eight football fields away. When he fought in Korea, there was no flat land, just mountains and some streams. “And we also had to eat out of a can for a year,” he said. “But we could cook it.”

During the war, the Russians and Chinese had a computer in their airplanes that could see where the Americans were. The airplanes kept dropping bombs, so Mr. Proper knew he and his fellow Marines had to leave the foxhole. He told two of his friends, and they ran for cover. But one of his friends, Woody, got hit in his chest and back pretty badly.  Mr. Proper stopped running to help Woody and took him to the corpsman, which is a medic. The enemy dropped another bomb that hit the ground and exploded into tiny sharp metal pieces flying everywhere. Mr. Proper didn’t even notice that he got hit himself as he was helping Woody to the corpsman.

“That’s how I lost my hearing,” he explained. He got hit all over his face and the back of his head.

Mr. Proper finally came home from Korea in 1953 at the age of 20. He retired at 21 years from being a Marine and worked in his father’s construction company. He’s married to Barbara and live on Marquand Place (which is my street).