SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii — On a sunny Friday afternoon, retired Private 2nd Class Warren H. Schuster stepped foot on Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, returning to the 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division after more than 71 years.
“Oh, it’s emotional…” said Schuster. “It’s just nice to be back and think about all the things that happened.”
In early 1951, at the young age of 20, Schuster volunteered for service and quickly found himself on Schofield Barracks, attached to the 3rd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, preparing to deploy to Korea in the midst of some of the heaviest fighting of the war.
By September of that year, he was part of Item (I) Company who, along with Love (L) Company, attempted to secure and hold two hills in the vicinity of Tangwon-ni, Korea, and subsequently engaged in one of the deadliest battles of the Korean War.
The two companies struggled with the brutal terrain and a malfunctioning radio that severed communication between them and their forward observers. This left Schuster and his fellow Soldiers blind to what was to come, a sizable assault by elements of the Chinese forces. After several days of returning fire and holding the perimeter the U.S. Soldiers, now low on ammunition, decided to fight their way back to safety.
The two U.S. Army companies experienced heavy losses, 46 killed, 130 wounded and 36 missing. Schuster sustained a severe head injury from enemy artillery shrapnel. Following the battle, I and L Companies were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism.
In October of 2014, Schuster published a paper "A Soldier’s Story: My Last Battle,"recounting his experience during the attack. After writing and speaking about his experience, the next step was a long-awaited tour with the support of his three daughters and their family.
“When you have someone that has gone through what he went through, it’s huge.” said LeeAnn Libby, one of Schuster’s daughters who accompanied him to Hawaii. “He’s talked about wanting to come back since I was in middle school. It’s been a part of all of us growing up and we're so happy to have him here.”
During his visit to 2-35 on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, he was able to tour the unit’s headquarters and hall of heroes, where Schuster and his family sat and watched as the memorial video played.
“I recognized two of them.” Schuster said, to the photos of those who lost their lives in the Korean War.
Afterwards, Schuster was able to meet and talk with some of the current Soldiers from the unit and learn what equipment they use today. The Soldiers brought out and demonstrated multiple weapon systems and were able to discuss and compare them to what Schuster used in 1951.
“It was a huge honor to meet someone that fought in the Korean War,” said Spc. Derek Hernandez, a Soldier with 2-35. “I feel like it’s not talked about a lot, and it’s a big point of pride and legacy for the Cacti Battalion.”
Through the hard memories, Schuster is still able to recall why he takes such pride in his service.
“I enjoyed the service time and comradery with the troops. That bond only exists in the military,” he said. “I’ve got your back, always. That’s what makes the difference.”