One of the last surviving Korean War veterans and Medal of Honor recipient who lived in South Haven after returning from the war has passed away.
Marine Reserve Cpl. Duane Edgar Dewey died earlier this week in St. Augustine, Florida, aged 89, according to the Marine Corps Times. His funeral is scheduled for October 22 in South Haven. He will be buried in Florida.
Dewey is one of three South Haven military veterans to have received the highest military honor for bravery in combat – the Medal of Honor. The other two are Vietnam War veteran James McCloughan and Civil War veteran William Wilcox.
Dewey received his Medal of Honor in 1953 from President Dwight Eisenhower after nearly losing his life in 1952 after jumping on a grenade to save other Marines during the Korean War. Eisenhower referred to Dewey as having a “body of steel” when awarding the medal to Dewey.
Dewey, who was serving as a Marine Corporal, was engaged in combat near Panmunjom, Korea, in April 1952 when an enemy grenade landed near his position. Even though he had already been wounded in the enemy attack the night before, Dewey shouted a warning to the other Marines around him, then smothered the grenade with his body, absorbing the full impact of the blast to save his friends.
Born in Grand Rapids, Dewey grew up in Muskegon and came to South Haven at the age of 17. Two years later, after marrying his wife, Bertha (Bierhalter), he enlisted in the Marines.
In 1953, after recovering from his life-threatening injuries, he returned to South Haven where he and Bertha raised two children, Dwight “Ike” and Arlene. In 1973, Dewey and his wife moved to Irons near Baldwin, where the couple had owned a hunting lodge. Several years ago they moved to Florida full time.
Although he lived in Irons after his retirement and later in Florida, Dewey insisted on returning to South Haven for special ceremonies hosted by the American Legion Post 49.
“We have a photo of him and the other two Medal of Honor recipients hanging in our main hallway,” said Jason Turner, Post Commander. A memorial honoring Dewey can also be found in front of City Hall, along with other memorials honoring South Haven military veterans who died in the line of duty during World War II, the Korean War and the War. from Vietnam.
Yet even for winning the highest military honor, Dewey remained a humble person when he attended honorary functions hosted by the American Legion Post in South Haven.
Warrant Officer Tom Breen spoke to Dewey several times during his visits. “He never mentioned it,” Breen said, referring to Dewey as the Medal of Honor recipient. “If you didn’t know he had received it, you wouldn’t know.”
South Haven Vietnam veteran Glenn Higgs, who has known Dewey well over the years, agreed.
“I spent a lot of time with him in the North, hunting and fishing,” said Higgs, whose parents knew Dewey and his wife, Bertha, and their two children, while living in South Haven.
“He worked at Everett Piano Co. and drove a school bus (for schools in South Haven),” Higgs recalls. As a school bus driver, Dewey often had rural roads. “He always wanted roads with the country boys. He was very popular, ”Higgs recalls.
Although Higgs’ parents knew Dewey and his family well, Higgs did not know Dewey well until he served as a Marine in the Vietnam War. Higgs had been in the US Marines for less than three months in 1968 before being seriously injured.
“There were 21 of us who were going to be reinforcements north of Da Nang. When we got there, I stepped on a mine, “Higgs said in an interview in 2018.” When we were ashore after the explosion that triggered another. Out of 21 people, 11 were injured and two died. I was lucky.
When he returned home after recovering from his injuries, Higgs had lost the use of both legs and had to be fitted with prosthetics that he still uses to this day.
“We’ve talked a lot,” Higgs said of Dewey visiting him after he returned to South Haven. “We told each other stories of war. He was good at helping my morale. He was right there for me. I was heartbroken when Arlene told me he was dead.
Arlene Broome has fond memories of her childhood in South Haven. In fact, after her parents sold their house to move to Irons, she then bought it after it was bought and sold to several different people over time.
The house has a special meaning for her.
“When my dad came back from Korea, he and my mom rented an apartment with my dad who worked in Everett,” said Arlene.
It was while working at Everett that Dewey received notification that he was to receive Eisenhower’s Medal of Honor.
“A lot of veterans worked at Everett. They were excited when they found out, ”Arlene said. “They got together and created the ‘Dewey Fund’. They raised enough money to buy land, build the house and have it furnished. There were even canned goods in the cupboards. When my father came back from Washington DC to receive the medal, there was a big parade in town. The parade brought my parents to their new home.
Arlene recalled that growing up her father was “gruff and harsh with me and my brother.” As she grew older, she came to appreciate her education.
“My father has always been a hard worker. He instilled discipline and hard work in my brother and me.
She never knew much about the importance of her father being one of the few military veterans in the United States to win the Medal of Honor.
“He never mentioned his medal,” said Arlene. “When I was young, I knew he had a medal in a box in his top drawer. I only realized what it was when I was in high school in history class and the teacher talked about the Korean War … I learned more about the meaning of the medal at the school than my father.
During his adult years, however, his father shared some of his war experiences with his offspring.
“With more books written about the Korean War and more information available on the Internet, my dad would be talking about it more at home,” Arlene said. “But until I was in high school, I never understood the importance of what he did and the fact that there were only a few who received the Medal of Honor.”