Sergeant E-6 (non-commissioned officer), Korean War
Weapons company - 81 mm mortars, 60 mm mortars, M-79 grenade launcher, M-79 rocket, M60 machine gun, 50-caliber machine gun, hand grenades
Medals, awards - Korean medal, Good conduct, Expert M1 rifle
Stanley Napierala, U.S. Marine
Married - Florence (Koroski) in Baltimore. Md.
Stanley Napierala was born at home on May 21, 1929, in Cheektowaga. Son of a railroad car inspector, the family lived in their extremely large Carland Avenue home. Stanley's father John and mother Lottie (Jankowiak) raised the large family of sisters Helen, Clara and Dorothy and brothers Henry, Fred, Eddie and Stanley knowing times were going to be tough putting food on the table for a family of 10.
The 30s were one of the toughests eras to live in Stanley recalled, being fortunate to be raised in a family whose father had a good job that paid for the work a great wage. Stanley recalls that his father's job had taken its toll on dad. The railroad was known for the way it operated, being on time and always pushing safety issues as their No. 1 priority. Most of the inspector's duties revolved around train safety, track conditions, brakes, springs. Along with the day-to-day duties of safe equipment came passenger safety along with making sure people are safe getting off or on the train.
This all was fine for the paying passengers, but the 30s also brought the non-paying passengers. These were people who were down on their luck looking for day work in most cases at the next city down the track. Trains were required to slow down when entering and leaving bigger towns or cities. This is where the non-payers tried to board.
Hopping on an empty box car really didn't change the trains efficiency, but for Stanley's father whose job was to stop these people by forcing them off the train at times was a big deal. Always feeling sorry for those, it was many times he just turned his head the other way.
As a child during the 30s was also unique. Being a railroad inspector meant living next to the railroad. In those days it was common after a train came through to see people who were down and out going house to house after an evening's dinner to find food from the families who were better off. Growing up and walking near the tracks, one would always see fires and people hanging out around the fires to keep warm, for some they were labeled hobos or bums.
School time took stanley to St. Joseph's in Sloan. Here, Stanley excelled in baseball and football, When not in school, one would find Stan at the Cayuga Creek. It was a place to get away and enjoy the water.
It was common, just like the hobos, to start a campfire and sit and exchange stories. If some were hungry, it was easy to go to the local cornfield and carry back a dozen or so to cook over the open fire.
At times it wasn't hard to pick the good corn from the cow corn. In both cases the food was good. At times the local super stores, like Loblaws, would go to the creek and dump the day old bread and if lucky, one could find a can of fruit that was thrown away simply because it had a dent or two in it. An easy way to make some money for a movie would be collecting cans or getting a few hundred pounds of newspapers.
Stanley's first job came when he landed work at a local florist. Here duties included planting the original seeds to making flower arrangements.
The busiest seasons came at Easter, Christmas and Mother's Day. Stanley on pay day was given $4. Not a bad job and at 10 cents per hour, paid pretty well. Extra work was avaliable by pulling weeds, lawn care and if one wanted to take care of cemetery sites.
Getting older landed Stanley at a local garage where the duties were simply to pump gas, check oil, and clean the windshield. Work here was great and it wasn't long before Stan had enough to purchase his first car - a 1932 Chevy sedan two-door standard or a 1932 Pierce Arrow, which had a lot of whistles and bells. Each car cost $20.
His father urged Stan to get the Pierce Arrow. That evening, Stanley was showing off his new 1932 Chevy to his friends. The car was fast, but Stan recalled it was embarrassing when after he turned it off it needed to be cranked before it would start again. He kept the car for more than a year and then sold it for $20. Times were great. Stan had a car, gas was 11 cents a gallon and the world was at peace.
As time passed, Stanley noticed more and more of his friends either were in the military or moved. He realized it was time for him to start thinking about his obligation to himself and the country. One night sitting on his porch, he noticed the neighbor pulled in his driveway and when getting out of the car was wearing a set of Marine Corp dress blues. Seeing his neighbor all decked out in his blues led Stanley to the Marine Corps recruiters desk the next day. The papers were all signed and it was now off to Parris Island, S.C.
Stanley watched the Buffalo skyline vanish as the New York Central Train left the Queen City. Half his mind was seeing his neighbor all decked out in his dress blues and the other half was thinking what the next eight weeks would bring in order for him to gain the rights to wear the uniform.
With boot camp completed, Stanley was amazed as the drill instructor yelled out that he was assigned to Macon, Ga. It was almost unheard of that a Marine not directly go to Camp Lejeune for Infantry Training Regiment.
At Macon, Stanley was assigned to a U.S. Naval ordinance unit as an armed guard. The first night on guard duty brought back memories of only eight weeks prior he was walking along Cayuga Creek. Now he was guarding one of America's largest armories with orders to shoot to kill if not given the correct password. While at Macon, his duties were to get ready for shipment ammunition and weapons to be sent to various military units as needed to be combat ready. There, it was common to see full train carloads of 60 mm machine guns.
Being a Marine and not in combat upset Stanley. His next move was to put in for a transfer for the Korean Theater.
After Camp Pendleton training, he headed to San Diego to board a transport by the General M.C. Meigs. While boarding the Meigs, one could loudly hear the Marine Corp hymm being sung. The next stop was Inchon.
Unloading was a problem with the unchartered Inchon waters. Tree stumps caused havoc. Finally the entire ship was unloaded and was stationed. He received the ranks as a Gunner Private First Class then to loader on the 81mm, which granted the rank of corporal.
Later he was assigned to 3rd and 5th Marines. Winters in Korea recorded daily temps at -40. Hot meals were far and between as the heat was nonexistent. Each Marine depended on his fellow Marine to survive.
The Korean War ended with no celebration on either side. The north went back to what the north did best and the south picked up and started as if it were day one again. The troops came home to no crowds thanking them for their service. Some Americans were actually upset when the Korean veteran who held a job before he left wanted it back. Veteran organizations wanted nothing to do with men who came back from a war that ended with no official winner. The military boot camps stopped talking about Korea and went back to tell the new recruits about the World War II battles that were won.
Stan sailed into the waters of California and his ship tied near Oakland. Here the Marine Corps would decide if Stan's service was still needed. With the country now at peace with the world, it decided to let him back into the civilian world. The long trip home landed Stan a job at the Ford Stamping Plant and he enjoyed doing some siding and roofing jobs.
Applying at New York City landed him a job with Amtrak as an engineer, a job that not only fascinated him, but had family ties. Pulling a trainload of 150 cars and at times going 80 mph made this job a dream come true.
Stanley Napierala is a local hero. He went into one of America's two proxy and unwanted wars. The wars were both given the names the forgotten wars. In Korea and Vietnam, young Americans saw the country was in a jam and felt it was their duty to enlist and serve. They signed up the same way the World War II men did. They went to boot camps the way the World War II men did. They left their wives, loved ones and families the same way the World War II men did, and they fought, bled and even died exactly the way the World War II men did.
Yet we as a country, because there were no trophies, no victory celebrations, no exciting news to report, did not talk about it.
Doing stories on Korean veterans are difficult. I feel their pain and, without actually being in Korea, know some of the things they had seen and done.
Doing these stories are difficult because many Korean veterans still feel we as a country really don't care what they had done. We still have these heroes with us.
To our local hero Stanley Napierala, I first want to say thank you for your service. Being in a forgotten war, I know your feelings and want you and your fellow veterans to know that there are a lot of us out here who want to hear your stories so we can understand and learn from them. It's sad that you had to go so long before we could thank you. Vietnam veterans have been blessed because a few years back the country finally welcomed us home. It took 40 years, but for some of us, we can now feel like we are back.
For you, it's been 60 years. Stan is now recovering from an accident at our County Home.
Stan Napierala, thank you for your service. You are our hero of the week.