North Hudson man’s NFL dreams crushed by KoreaMost will agree it gets pretty cold around these parts in the dead of winter. But for North Hudson’s August Levine “Pudge” Camarata it’s nowhere near the coldest experience he ever had.
By: Jon Echternacht, Hudson Star-Observer
Most will agree it gets pretty cold around these parts in the dead of winter. But for North Hudson’s August Levine “Pudge” Camarata it’s nowhere near the coldest experience he ever had.
That honor belongs to his days in combat as commander of a U.S. Marine platoon during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War.
“It was cold,” Said Camarata, 89, said while reflecting on the experience during a conversation last week.
“We had to stop and change socks regularly. Your feet would sweat and when you stopped moving they could freeze. You kept a pair of socks next to your body to change into when the pair you were wearing got wet.”
Camarata was a combat veteran of World War II. He was platoon leader of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 29th Marines, 6th Marine Division that saw action on Okinawa.
Given his druthers, however, Camarata said he preferred the warmer weather of the war in the Pacific to the bitter cold in Korea. One of those infamous cold weather skirmishes Camarata was involved in was the battle of the Chosin Reservoir in November and December of 1950 when. Marine Corps history marked temperatures in the minus 35 degree range during the conflict.
He was awarded a silver star for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity as a platoon leader in action against enemy Japanese forces on Okinawa,” according to a letter from the Secretary of the Navy that hangs on his wall.
It is displayed alongside a similar letter from the Secretary of the Navy acknowledging another silver star for, “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity as commanding officer of Company G, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division in action against enemy aggressor forces in Korea.
The citation goes on to say that 1st Lt. Camarata led an assault over a narrow ridge and up a steep slope in the face of “devastating enemy small-arms and hand-grenade fire, exposing himself to heavy hostile fire and led his men in a vicious bayonet assault.”
The Silver Star is the third highest award given for valor in the face of the enemy. Ironically the first medal was recognized action on 11 June 1945 and the second for endeavors on 11 June 1951.
He also was wounded in World War II when a bullet ricocheted off his M-1 rifle and hit his arm.
The Korean War interrupted another career Camarata had going at the time. He signed a contract in 1947 to play for the Detroit Lions. “I played for about a year and one-half before I was called back into the Marines,” he said.
The Cedar Falls, Iowa, native was a star at Iowa State Teachers College in Cedar Falls, now known as the University of Northern Iowa. He has since been named to the institution’s hall of fame.
A clipping from his college days reported the 185-pound halfback rushed for 1,109 yards in nine games while at UNI.
Camarata and a group of his fellow UNI football teammates traveled to Des Moines and signed up for Marine Officers Candidate School in 1943, he said. He graduated from OCS (Officer’s Candidate School) on Aug. 15, 1944.
The Detroit Lions listed “LaVerne” Camarata, a back from Iowa State as the 12 round pick in the 1947 draft or 96th player taken overall. A copy of his player contract with the Lions hanging on his wall shows A.L. Camarata signed a National Football League standard player contract in 1947 for $5,000.
He said he was disappointed but had to heed the call of duty as a Marine reserve officer.
Camarata continued in the reserves after he was discharged from active duty in Korea. He served seven years active duty and 13 years in the reserves and retired as a lieutenant colonel and commander of the Marine Corps Reserve in Waterloo, Iowa.
In 1985, Camarata and his wife, Leslee, moved to Hudson. They relocated to Superior but returned to North Hudson in 1992.