City man joined Marines to take his brother’s place
YOUNGSTOWN — When his brother was sent home with frostbite from the Korean War, John Fromel didn’t think twice about taking his place.
“I said, ‘The hell with it. It’s my turn now,'” Fromel, 90, of Youngstown, said. “There were only two brothers and four sisters. He couldn’t go back, so I signed up to go.”
It was April 1951 and like his brother, Metro, Fromel joined the Marine Corps.
“My parents were immigrants (from Austria), and we felt the same way: It was my duty to serve my country,” Fromel said. “I couldn’t do anything different.”
After a year at Camp Pendleton in California with about half of it being trained in artillery repair, Fromel got orders to get shipped to Korea with I Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.
“When I got there, I said, ‘Where are the repairs?'” he said. “I was told by my sergeant, ‘There aren’t any. You’re in the infantry.'”
Fromel said he was given a Browning Automatic Rifle.
“We were experienced in BAR, but it wasn’t what I signed up for,” he said. “I said, ‘I’m not that familiar with a BAR’ and the sergeant said, ‘That’s why you’re here — to learn.'”
It was about three months later, Fromel said, that he was informed he was being promoted to corporal “and we don’t have corporals as BAR guys.”
He was moved to the rocket section, where he fired 3.5-inch rocket launchers.
“We’d go shoot the bunkers before the infantry assigned to take the hill came in,” Fromel said.
Two months before his year was up in Korea, Fromel was made a supply sergeant and finished his time there doing that.
Upon returning to the United States, he reported to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, spending a year as an artillery sergeant.
When Fromel returned to Youngstown in 1954, he attended Youngstown College for a year before friends told him the city police department was hiring patrolmen. He joined the force in 1956 and worked there for about 21 years, including the last 13 as a detective.
“It was a great experience being with the police department,” he said.
Fromel then joined the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office as chief deputy and stayed there for about five or six years before taking a job as an auditor for the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles. He retired in 1992.
Looking back on his time in the Marines, Fromel said, “I’m proud of our country, and I’m 100 percent proud to have served. The United States of America is the best country in the world. I had no hesitations when we got that telegram about my brother in the hospital. I had to take care of a couple of things and then went down and volunteered.”
SERVICE BRANCH: Marine Corps
MILITARY HONORS: U.N. Service Medal, National Defense Ribbon, Korean Service Medal with three campaign stars
OCCUPATION: Retired Youngstown police officer, Mahoning County sheriff’s chief deputy and auditor for Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles
FAMILY: Wife, Arneatha; two sons, John R. and Robert W.; and six grandchildren