Saturday, January 13, 2018

Life Magazine: The Louis Repko Cover

Louis Repko lives in Lorain, Ohio, just west of Cleveland on the banks of Lake Erie.  At the age of 85, Lou still gets out and about, though it’s not clear if he’s still making annual RV trips to Florida.  We do know that recently, on Veterans Day 2017, Lou was present and accounted for at the unveiling of a Korean War memorial mural in nearby Amherst, Ohio.  The image, painted by artist Mike Sekletar, is based on the Carl Mydans photo that originally appeared on the cover of Life Magazine’s July 31, 1950 edition. 

A young Lou Repko.

The original photo shows Private Lou Repko, then age 18, behind the wheel of a jeep in Korea, during the early days of the war.  With him are other members of the U.S. 34th Infantry Regiment’s ill-fated headquarters company. Their unit was destroyed when it bore the brunt of a North Korean attack on the 34th’s position above the Kapch’on River just north of Taejon during the pre-dawn hours of July 20, 1950. 

Lacking any documentation of the photo’s date, we know it was before the 20th, because Ken Edwards of Illinois, seated directly behind Lou, was killed on that day. Also in the jeep are Niles Cobles (center, missing in action July 20), and their sergeant, seated to Lou’s right (identity and status unknown).  The identity of the soldier behind the sergeant is unknown. Mr. Repko shipped out of Japan to Korea on July 2 along with Philip Hughes and 2,000 other members of the 34th Regiment. Like Philip, Lou was one of the 184 men of the 34th still standing on September 1, when the unit was disbanded and the survivors folded into other units. Whereas Philip Hughes met his fate in the shadow of Hill 300 on September 12, 1950, Lou survived and made it back home to Ohio. All of us wish him well.

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