74 years ago, Germans were lobbing bombs at Marcy Korda; last week, at the state Legion baseball tourney in Pelican, the Army nurse veteran was honored to fire the first shot
Lobbing in the first pitch of the first American Legion state baseball tournament ever hosted in Pelican Rapids was World War II Army nurse Marcy Korda.
It was a big day for the extended Korda family, with children and grandchildren in the grandstands for the August 3 occasion.
Memories were made–including a less pleasant one. As daughter Renee Korda was preparing to leave the parking lot at the ballpark, a foul ball off a Springfield, Minnesota, bat hurtled through the air–crashing into the windshield of their rental car. It scared the dickens out of all five in the car, which included a pair of Marcy’s preschool great-grandchildren; daughter Renee; and Renee’s daughter and son-in-law. Visiting the Pelican area from Washington D.C, the shattered window pane meant arrangements with the Fargo rental office, and associated hassles.
There was more bad news from above; as a steady rain began lobbing drops on the Pelican ballpark, sidelining the state tourney for nearly five hours.
From a historical perspective, there was perhaps a bright side.
Instead of a baseball, it could have been a German Stukka dive bomber, lobbing a shell on an Army M.A.S.H. medical unit in Italy, late January, 1944.
Marcy, Marcella Schlemma Korda, was there.
So was her future husband, Henry Korda.
They met as medical colleagues in the 95th Army Evacuation Hospital. Henry proposed to her on Christmas Eve, 1944.
The young married couple came to Pelican Rapids post-war in 1946. Dr. Korda was Pelican’s family doctor for about four decades.
Forgive the morbid thought, but considering all the action young Marcy and Henry saw, between them–from North Africa to Italy to France–there may well have been no Mr. and Mrs. Korda. No Korda kids (all five graduating from Pelican high school); no Korda grandkids; no great grandchildren.
No Korda tossing the first pitch at the 2018 state American Legion Tournament.
No baseball-battered windshield in the Chauncey Martin Field parking lot. No Marcy Korda involved in the Pelican American Legion and Veteran of Foreign War Posts.
Marcy survived more than one near-fatal close call during her tour of duty.
Today, at age 97, she is almost certainly one of very few World War II U.S. Army combat nurses alive today in Minnesota–or the nation, for that matter.
“We were one of three hospital ships set to go to the bay of Salerno, where the invasion of Italy was in progress (early 1944). The Germans dropped bombs even though our ships were clearly marked as hospitals,” said Marcy, in a news account published about ten years ago in the Pelican Rapids Press.
Her ship was hit–killing nearly every British doctor and nurse on board. She and her fellow Americans were further from the explosion, so they survived.
At Anzio Beach, the greatest amphibious landing in history–until D-Day in France, nearly a year later–the hospital was bombed.
The bright side: With the medical center nearly demolished, the Kordas and others in the medical unit got some much-needed R and R–rest and relaxation.
Henry was the officer in charge of the nurses. Marcy was spokesperson for the nurses. They organized a softball game–coed style. “That’s how we met,” recalled Marcy. And that was her early training for tossing the ball out in Pelican Rapids last week–74 years later.
“I never really played softball before the Army,” said Marcy. Growing up in Iowa, she played some tennis and basketball in high school. “That was the first–and only–time I ever played baseball.”
Her son Mike, practiced with Marcy–very briefly–before the Aug. 3 game. Marcy speculated that it was the first ball she’s hurled since the Second World War.
“She threw me a couple curve balls earlier today,” laughed Mike, himself a 1966 Pelican graduate, and Vietnam-era Navy veteran.
The big moment arrived, as the Stephen Argyle and Springfield teams prepared for the opening game, 10 a.m. August 3.
Marcy gripped the ball; and with an underhand softball -style wind-up; the baseball lofted through the air, landing in the mitt of the young Springfield catcher.
A fresh-faced, ball-playing kid who will never experience the terrible trauma and tragedy of a world at war.