Wednesday, October 29, 2003


Two Marines reunited after 51 years
AP Photo



Associated Press Writer

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Bogie Bogdanovich always felt bad about waving Brad Cate toward the front line during a furious firefight in Korea.

Cate stepped on a land mine and suffered horrific wounds.

So when the two old Marines finally met face-to-face for the first time in 51 years on Tuesday, it was understandable that Bogdanovich was overcome with emotion.

''This is one of the happiest moments in my life,'' Bogdanovich, 74, of Montesano, Wash., said as he embraced his 72-year-old comrade.

''I recognize you immediately,'' said Cate, of Colorado Springs, Colo.

The two Korean War veterans hugged as everyone in the packed lobby of a downtown hotel erupted into applause.

The two had so much of catch up on they scarcely knew where to begin. But the first order of business was sharing what each remembered about Oct. 25, 1951, when their small combat patrol went behind enemy lines up Hill 1052 in North Korea. Bogdanovich, a corporal, was section leader.

Cate, who volunteered for the Marines after high school in Scottsbluff, Neb., remembered it was about 10 a.m. when the patrol met enemy troops.

Pinned down and with men falling around him, Bogdanovich looked back and spotted Cate, who had been with the unit about three weeks. Thinking Cate had a bazooka, Bogdanovich motioned for him to move forward.

Cate did, and stepped almost immediately on a land mine.

''He took two steps and he went up in the air, butt over tea kettle,'' Bogdanovich said.

When Bogdanovich reached Cate, one foot was nearly blown off and his intestines were hanging outside his body.

''I felt that I had just ordered him to his death,'' Bogdanovich recalled.

A corpsman patched Cate up. Then Bogdanovich slung Cate onto his back and ran 1,800 yards back to an evacuation area. Along the way Bogdanovich was struck by shrapnel in the legs, stumbled to the ground, and got back to his feet.

Here the two men's memories diverge. Bogdanovich recalled putting Cate into a helicopter. Cate thought he was put into a ground ambulance.

''Things are pretty hazy,'' Cate said with a smile.

In any event, ''that was the last time I saw him,'' Bogdanovich said.

After dropping Cate off, Bogdanovich went into a bunker and said a rosary for the wounded man. Then he was treated at a field hospital for a few days for his shrapnel wounds and returned to combat as soon as he could. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his efforts.

Cate was hospitalized for two months with leg and internal injuries, and then had a long recovery. But he says now he was lucky.

''Ninety-five percent of the people who step on a land mine lost an arm or a leg or an eye or a hand, or were killed,'' Cate said. ''I was one of those 5 percent.''

Bogdanovich finished his tour of duty and returned home to Washington on Christmas Eve 1951.

He tracked down Cate and the two men corresponded for several years. But when some letters were returned as undelivered, Bogdanovich assumed Cate had died.

Meanwhile, Bogdanovich, whose real first name is Marion, played football at Western Washington University and embarked on a teaching career. He eventually retired as an elementary school principal.

Earlier this year, a friend of Bogdanovich decided to learn if Cate was still alive. She was able to locate him through the Marine Corps League.

The two first talked on the telephone a month and a half ago, and arranged the reunion during the Marine Corps League convention in Spokane this week.

Cate returned to the Marine Corps after graduating from college, and eventually retired with the rank of major. He won the Silver Star for an earlier battle while in Korea.

Both men married, and have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Each celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary this year.

But neither knows if there were any other survivors of their combat patrol.

Bogdanovich is looking forward to one development from the reunion. He said he cried for the first time in his life when he talked to Cate earlier this year, and has found himself crying since.

''I hope it dries up soon,'' he said.

AP-WS-08-05-03 2003EDT