Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice


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Those Who Died That Others Might Be Free

 

Purple HeartAir MedalHerb Korenko

 

Date and Place of Birth: 1917 East Lansdowne, Pennsylvania
Date and Place of Death: May 29, 1943 St Nazaire, France
Baseball Experience: College
Position: Infield
Rank: Second Lieutenant
Military Unit:
366th Bomb Squadron, 305th Bomb Group, USAAF
Area Served: European Theater of Operations

 

Herb Korenko was an outstanding baseball and football player in high school and college who was looking forward to getting home from Europe for a life of deserved peace.

 

Herb Korenko at Muhlenberg CollegeHerb KorenkoHerbert P "Herb" Korenko was born in East Lansdowne, Pennsylvania in 1917. He graduated from Lansdowne High School in 1935 having excelled in baseball in football. He attended Muhlenberg College after high school where he played the infield on the baseball team and was a center with the football squad.

 

Korenko graduated in 1939 receiving the bachelor of philosophy degree. He went to work as a credit manager with the Household Finance Company and joined the Pennsylvania National Guard.

 

In January 1942, Korenko transferred from the National Guard to the USAAF and was commissioned a second lieutenant after completing the Bombardier Training Program in August.

 

On February 17, 1943, he was assigned to the 366th Bomb Squadron, 305th Bomb Group, stationed at Chelveston, England. The Muhlenberg College Alumni Magazine received a letter from Korenko as he made the crossing over the Atlantic:

 

At present I am headed overseas in a flying fortress into the theater of combat where they play for keeps. I am very anxious and glad to be playing a vital part to bring this war to a quicker end with us on top so that I and millions of others can return to a life of deserved peace.

 

Where I am going or by what route is something I can't disclose, but you can rest assured I'll be in the thick of it blowing up plenty with our supper ships.

 

Give my regards to all Muhlenberg men whom I pity for not being able to accompany me on this exciting experience.

 

The Muhlenberg College Alumni Magazine received another letter from Korenko dated April 12, 1943:

 

Somewhere in England

 

A brief word to let you know where I am and what I'm doing.

 

Since arriving over here a great deal has happened. Aside from my exciting work on raids in our great "Forts," I've had time to see much of England. They're not much different in this country, except war and its effects are closer to home. I'm really having the time of my life mixed with a bit of dangerous adventure.

 

We have a big job to do, and to date it's being done well. When it's over and won, I'll be back to tell you about it. You haven't lived until you've flown a bomber into combat.

 

Boeing B-17 Flying FortressOn May 29, 1943, just seven weeks after writing Muhlenberg College, Second Lieutenant Korenko's Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was brought down by German anti-aircraft fire at St. Nazaire, France. It was the crew's 24th mission - one away from completing their tour of duty - and only one crew member survived. Korenko's parents were notified he was missing in action in early June and on July 30 his death was confirmed.

 

Herb Korenko is buried at the Brittany American Cemetery in St. James, France. On November 21, 1943, the USAAF posthumously awarded Second Lieutenant Korenko the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and presented it to his father.

 

 

 

Thanks to Diane Koch, Special Collections Librarian, Muhlenberg College Trexler Library for help with this biography. Excerpts taken from The Ultimate Sacrifice - Greater Lansdowne Civic Association.


Added August 14, 2006

Copyright © 2008 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.