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West Mifflin man's story will be included in Korean War documentary

| Thursday, March 20, 2014, 1:01 a.m.
Courtesy American Heroes Channel
West Mifflin native Bob Harbula is profiled for an episode of 'Against the Odds,' focusing on his service among a company of Marines during one of the bloodiest battles of the Korean War. It will air on March 31 at 10 p.m. on American Heroes Channel.
Courtesy American Heroes Channel
West Mifflin native Bob Harbula was an usher at the Washington premiere of the movie 'The Sands of Iwo Jima.' He volunteered for active duty after watching that movie twice and would serve among a company of Marines during one of the bloodiest battles of the Korean War. His story is part of a March 31 documentary at 10 p.m. on American Heroes Channel.

A West Mifflin soldier's story is part of an upcoming documentary on the Korean War.

At Tuesday's borough council meeting, Mayor Chris Kelly said Cpl. Bob Harbula's experiences in the battle of the Chosin Reservoir will be part of a March 31 episode of “Against All Odds” on the new American Heroes Channel.

Kelly reported on the borough's veterans observances past and present, including plans for this year's “Soldier Salutes.” That includes banners that go up along borough streets in time for Memorial Day and remain up through Veterans Day.

The borough observes both, with a Memorial Day event scheduled for May 31 at Mitchell Paige Park along Commonwealth Avenue near the old borough police station.

Harbula had been part of a Marine unit assigned to security for what now is known as Camp David, a retreat that was used at the time by President Harry S. Truman.

He was an usher at the Washington premiere for the John Wayne movie “The Sands of Iwo Jima.” Seeing it twice inspired him to volunteer for active duty.

He became part of a force of 15,000 Marines known as George Company, or “Bloody George.”

The network describes this “understrength, undermanned, Marine rifle company, hastily called to serve their country in 1950.”

Those Marines faced an enemy 10 times their company's size and fought for weeks on end in subfreezing temperatures.

“The Chinese instructions were to annihilate us,” Harbula, 83, said in a 2010 interview. “Well, the Marines don't like getting annihilated. We're against that. They say they teach you how to kill in the Marine Corps. That's not really true. They teach you how to stay alive.”

Still, Harbula said, “I don't consider myself a hero. Heroes are the ones who died.”

Kelly recalled Harbula's role as keynote speaker at the 2012 Veterans Day observance at West Mifflin Area High School.

Kelly referred to another chronicler of Harbula's story. Author Patrick K. O'Donnell included the West Mifflin native in his book, “Give Me Tomorrow: The Korean War's Greatest Untold Story - The Epic Stand of the Marines of George Company.”

It took five years to collect the stories that wound up in “Give Me Tomorrow,” many from veterans who didn't know the entire story.

“Bob is a remarkable guy,” O'Donnell said in a 2010 interview. “He knows what he's talking about. He's read every single book out there.”

American Heroes Channel, formerly known as the Military Channel, is part of the Discovery Communications stable of networks and can be seen in 62 million homes.

“Against The Odds” is described by the network as a showcase of “awe-inspiring stories of bravery, solidarity and strength on the battlefield.” It is a six-part series narrated by actor Rob Lowe that airs Mondays at 10 p.m.

Locally AHC can be seen on channel 106 on Comcast systems in West Mifflin as well as communities like North Versailles Township, McKeesport and Irwin, and on Channel 112 in such communities as Clairton and Duquesne.

It is on channel 125 on FiOS in such communities as West Mifflin, North Versailles and Irwin, channel 287 on DirecTV systems in the Pittsburgh region and channel 195 on DISH systems regionally.

In addition to annual events, the borough honors Harbula and other West Mifflin veterans at the www.troopbanners.com/WestMifflin/website.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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