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Local veteran pens second book about service in Korea

July 8, 2012
By BILL ACKERBAUER , The Leader Herald

JOHNSTOWN - Harris R. Stearns, a retired city firefighter and decorated Korean War veteran, has published a second book based on his service.

The semi-fictional memoir, published this earlier this year via Vantage Press, is titled "Memories from the Forgotten War." It expands on narrative from his first book, "A Tale from the Forgotten War," which he published in 1993.

The Korean War may be be "forgotten" in the shadow of more storied conflicts such as the world wars before it, but Stearns remembers Korea vividly. He saw fellow soldiers killed in action, and he survived injury, capture and interrogation.

Article Photos

Harris R. Stearns is shown in uniform in the late 1940s.

"I'll never forget them things," he said. "Such is war ... such a waste, on both sides."

Some reports at the time suggested the American troops had lost their edge after years of occupation duty in Japan, or that they hadn't been properly trained.

"We wasn't soft from occupation duty," he said. "We wasn't ill-trained. Some of the guys were World War II veterans - don't tell me they were ill-trained."

Stearns' book says the poor condition of tanks and other equipment made the GIs' mission difficult in Korea.

"The equipment was shot," he said. "It was worn out from World War II, and they expect us to fight a war with it?"

Stearns, 82, grew up on a farm in Rockwood. He entered the Army in 1948 and served for six years, including 11 months in Korea during the war. He then spent three years with the National Guard based in Gloversville. Later, Stearns went on to serve in the Johnstown Fire Department, retiring in 1986 as an assistant chief. He later worked for a security company.

"It seems like I've worn a uniform all my life," said Stearns, who was a tank gunner in Korea and received numerous decorations for his service.

"But I don't want to toot my own horn," he said. "I just wanted to tell about it like it happened."

Stearns believes he is one of only two men from his unit still living, and "Memories from the Forgotten War" will be his last book.

"This story is dedicated to the men of the 8069 Tank Company Provisional, especially to those who didn't survive," Stearns writes in an author's note in the book. "This story is based on fact, but much of it is fiction. Those who were there will know which parts are which."

Both of Stearns' books are available online via and Barnes & Noble.



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