–Contributed by: Rose Barrett & Doug Cahow
Sergeant Melvin (Mickey) Bauerfield (SN 2739345) was born and raised on the family farm 3 miles east of Clear Lake, Wisconsin. As a small boy he learned to appreciate country living which included having the thrill to roam through pastures, search for field mice in the hayfields, climb over machinery and bales of hay, romp through the deep snow drifts in wintertime and a thousand other memorable events which helped to form his love of freedom.
As a young boy he attended grade and high school in nearby Clear Lake. It was there in the local classrooms Melvin learned about strife. He treasured the life he was enjoying and in many ways couldn’t understand why everyone did not have the same feeling of freedom. He had read and heard endless stories of WWI and WWII and how millions of people had been oppressed and died. Those, and countless other stories, lingered in the back of his mind and helped mold his character.
When he was 17 years old, he and his family moved to St. Paul, Minnesota. Within a short time, he joined the Merchant Marine where he served for one year. However, he wanted to do something else with his life so he dropped out of the Merchant Marine and began pursing other interests.
Soon he met a lovely girl named Jean Peterson of St. Paul, Minnesota and within a short time, they were married. Life seemed to be good for Melvin. He had a good job working for the Milwaukee Railroad; aside from getting started in life with a new home, etc. he was happy! But he felt a need to serve his country, too; his wife’s brothers belonged to the Army National Guard and Melvin saw an opportunity to be with them and serve his country at the same time so in 1950 he joined the Army National Guard. Of course history reminds us that on June 25th, 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea and eventually American troops were sent to rescue that tiny emerging nation from Communism.
In October, 1951 Sergeant Bauerfield’s Minnesota National Guard unit was activated and sent to Korea. Melvin left behind a pregnant wife. The war had been raging there for more than year. Peace talks were being arranged…but there were many disagreements between the two sides before fighting could be stopped. One of the major obstacles was the “Truce Line.” Originally it had been the 38th Parallel…but the Communists didn’t want to adhere to that line of latitude and many other disputes, too! It was into this morass that Melvin and the Minnesota National Guard were thrust. By October of 1951, the Communists had been pushed back into North Korea and skirmishes between the opposing sides raged every day with thousands of troops being killed or wounded as the dispute raged on.
As our story continues, it was on a Sunday morning on October 21, 1951; Sergeant Bauerfield and his unit had been in Korea for only a few days. The Minnesota soldiers were just getting used to be in a combat area. Then a tragic life changing event happened to Half-track Commander Bauerfield. He and his companions were moving along a highway; there was always the threat of snipers or other unknown assailants just waiting for an opportunity to kill any American soldiers. Little did the good Sergeant suspect an event would happen to him and change the way of his family’s life for evermore.
Because in an instant, on that early Sunday morning, there was a shattering blast from a roadside mine. Sergeant Bauerfield’s half-track was hurled into the air with a thunderous roar; debris was hurled in all directions; the men inside were tossed about like dust in the air. There were cries of help from some of the soldiers and the ghostly of grip death fell upon Melvin. In an instant, that only he could envision, Melvin’s spirit was torn from his body. There was a following stillness…and only his, shattered body remained as testimony to the ravages of war…he was Killed in Action (KIA).
Ironically, Melvin died never knowing how his wife’s pregnancy ended. Because when his unit got back to their base, a letter addressed to Sergeant Bauerfield declared him to be a father. A son, the good Sergeant never had a chance to see, was born, Michael Brihn a few days earlier on October 15, 1951. Yes war creates countless tragedies and this is a story of just one of those tragedies. Melvin fought and died for values he hoped his family could enjoy…and on October 15, 1951 a new chapter (birth of a son) was added to his life only to be cut short and changed by a tragic land mine explosion 6,000 miles from home.
Sergeant Bauerfield was returned to America and today he sleeps in Fort Snelling National Cemetery, Minnesota. His family has never forgotten him. The pain of his loss will remain forever. His mother grieved the rest of her natural life over the loss of her beloved son. Every Friday for years she took donuts to the nearby Fort Snelling Veterans’ Hospital and shared them with veterans. This was her way of showing she cared for the survivors of war’s tragedies. Of course in the corner of heart lurked a memory of the love she held for her precious son. Words can’t describe the painful ache that stayed with her for the rest of her natural life.
Sergeant Bauerfield may be visited at Fort Snelling Cemetery. His grave is # 9421, block 9, Section C.