FREMONT

Wayne Gordanier's favorite war story is about the night he saw peace break out over Korea.

The 77-year-old retired forklift mechanic was a sailor aboard the USS Philippine Sea when the armistice ending the Korean War took effect.

Gunfire lit up the early night evening sky over North Korea as usual on July 27, 1953, but at midnight, Gordanier said, "Everything went black. For me that was quite an experience."

Gordanier was among more than 30 Fremont veterans at the annual Fremont Senior Center lunch Monday honoring their service.

Many of the guests of honor belong to veterans' groups, but several said they rarely get a chance to see fellow veterans and trade stories, other than during the lunch.

Gordanier was a skinny kid from Kansas who enlisted in the Navy as a 20-year-old in 1951 to steer clear of combat.

Like a couple of other Navy veterans Monday he didn't hide the fact that he wanted no part of the Army. "(They'll) will make you fight on the ground," he said.

Elizabeth Turner, 86, remained stateside during her time in the Navy, but that didn't keep her from facing some hostilities.

As one of just four women in her unit being trained to repair naval aircraft during World War II, Turner found herself on the receiving end of a tirade from a military instructor who had no problem speaking like a sailor.

"Nobody had ever talked to me like that before, and I wouldn't put up with it," said Turner who took up the matter with senior officers.


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"I said, 'I'm mad enough to get out of sight right now. You can have my uniform right now if you want it,'"

The instructor apologized, and Turner went back to class, she said.

John Durbin, 78, came to Monday's lunch wearing his Air Force jacket for the first time since being discharged on June 1, 1971.

During his 22 years in the service, he specialized in radio communications, which was a fancy way of saying Morse code. Until the mid-1960s, when voice communications superseded the dots and dashes, Durbin would accompany nine-man teams to Vietnam and other nations providing communications support for U.S. airlifts.

One beep equals an "E," and two beeps equal an "I," said Durbin, who hasn't forgotten a dot or a dash.

He grew up in Kentucky, but ended up in Fremont so his wife could be closer to her sisters and he could ride his motorcycle year-round.

When they arrived in 1976, Fremont had three shooting ranges for Durbin, who medaled in an Air Force pistol-shooting competition, to maintain his skills.

With the ranges long closed, however, Durbin said he decided to practice in his backyard a few years ago while nearby work crews were busy widening Washington Boulevard.

He set up a piece of wood for a target, and, "every time they started jack-hammering, I'd shoot, he said.

Fremont reporter Matthew Artz can be reached at 510-353-7002 or martz@bayareanewsgroup.com. Read his blog posts at www.ibabuzz.com/tricitybeat.