Friday, October 6, 2017

PFC Charles M. "Chuckie" Skero

PFC Charles Michael “Chuckie” Skero was one of the first American troops sent to Korea upon the outbreak of war there in 1950.  He served with Philip Hughes as part of B Company of the 34th Infantry Regiment. He participated in the battles at P’yongt’aek (Jul 6) and Ch’onan (Jul 7-8).  His company of about 140 men was at the forefront of the U.S. Army’s defensive perimeter north of Taejon when North Korean forces assaulted the position with tanks and overwhelming infantry during the pre-dawn hours of July 20.

Ralph Atherton, quoted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette on June 25, 2000, was taken prisoner alongside Skero.  Atherton managed to survive the imprisonment that claimed so many others.  From Atherton's testimony, we learned that Skero, who stood 5-foot-7 and weighed 140 pounds, manned a machine gun to repel the North Koreans. When his position was overrun, he was shot five times in the back, then taken prisoner. Skero was one of about 32 men lost by the company in that action.

According to an article published February 28, 1993 by Associated Press journalist George Esper, Skero’s name was included on a list of 125 Korean War soldiers who were reportedly interrogated by Soviet intelligence officials based in North Korea.

Chuckie Skero was from Standard Shaft, Pennsylvania, a tightly-knit coal mining community of Catholic Poles and Slavs.  His hair was nearly white; everyone called him “Towhead.” A high school drop-out at 16, Chuckie’s mother signed for him to join the Army in 1946.  He was billeted with the occupation forces in Japan.  He enjoyed it enough to re-enlist in 1948. He sent his parents a photo of him and his Army buddies.  On the back he wrote “How do you like the shoeshine?”

After his capture, the Army provided scant news of his whereabouts.  Skero's family was notified by telegram on September 2, 1950, that he was missing in action.  After the cease-fire in 1953, released prisoners of war shared their knowledge.  Chuckie’s health declined over about 10 months of captivity in An-Dong, North Korea.  His weight fell to about 80 pounds.  He died of malnutrition on June 22, 1951. Fellow prisoner Christopher McAndrews recalled carrying Chuckie’s remains out of the prison compound at dusk.  Skero was buried in a shallow grave on a North Korean hillside.   

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