CEDAR VALLEY VETERANS SERVED WITH
THE FORGOTTEN WAR KOREAN WAR 1950-1953 Thursday, July 27, 2017
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| THURSDAY, JULY 27, 2017
KOREAN WAR VETERANS
Contents Korean War Intro Timeline Fast facts Korean War statistics Robert Welter Paul Reuter Lorraine Griffie Allan Matke Grout Korean War exhibit 1950-1953 popular movies Leo Ogden Dearl Thomas Lyle Murty Robert Kunkle Anthony Arends William Russell John Kvidera Eugene Holmes Calvin Bouck Richard Meyer Norman Duquette Marvin Staker Vidal Mendez Marvin Leverington Marines at Chosin Sid Morris Elbert Simpson Jack Witmer Ken Lind Viola Rieck August Camarata Kaye Plumb Billboard hits from 1950-53 Elsie Russett Max McGrane Robert Wray Alfred Gloede Marvin Yarrington Joe Nelson Korean War book list Find videos about these featured Korean War veterans at www. wcfcourier.com
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PHOTO COURTESY WELTER FAMILY
In this October 1951 Look magazine photo, Robert “Bob” Welter of Cedar Falls, far right, and comrades Harry Knapinski, left, and Whip Meritt, fire off rockets in a battle during the Korean War.
THE FORGOTTEN WAR PAT KINNEY
oday is the 64th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended fighting in the Korean War from 1950-53. However, no peace treaty was ever signed. The combatants still face each other across the 38th parallel dividing North and South Korea— South Korean and U.S. forces on one side, North Korean forces on the other. The Korean War is known as “The Forgotten War.” Sandwiched between the victory of World War II and the turbulence and division that marked the Vietnam War, it is a conflict that, to many, was lost in the sands of time — even though it still has no formal end.
The fact that conflict is still unresolved has been made starkly clear to the United States and surrounding nations with current tensions over North Korea’s ongoing nuclear weapons program. Therefore, The Courier and the Grout Museum District felt it was entirely appropriate, timely and significant to remember the fighting that occurred on the Korean peninsula in 1950-53, in which thousands of Americans and their United Nations allies — and millions of Koreans — risked and sacrificed life and limb to preserve freedom in South Korea from the communist dictatorship of the North. The Grout district has launched a yearlong Korean War exhibit — “The Cold
War Ablaze: Iowans in the Korean War.” It opened July 15. That exhibit focuses on the mean and women who served in that conflict and what they endured — our neighbors, parents, grandparents brothers and sisters. In conjunction with that, the Courier is publishing today a special section profiling many local Korean War veterans, drawn from oral histories they provided the Grout as well as our own interviews. We invite you to page though the special section, visit the Grout exhibit sometime in the near future and remember our local heroes of “The Forgotten War.” May it henceforth never be forgotten. Our future may depend on it.
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KOREAN WAR TIMELINE June 25, 1950: 135,000 soldiers from the communist North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) cross the 38th parallel and invade Republic of Korea (ROK). The U.N. Security Council denounces North Korea’s actions and calls for a cessation of hostilities and withdrawal of the NKPA to the 38th parallel.
June 30, 1950: Truman orders ground troops into action.
May 10, 1948: The people of South Korea elect a national assembly, setting up the government of the Republic of Korea. The north refuses to take part.
Nov. 1947: The United Nations General Assembly approves elections to be held throughout Korea to choose a provisional government for the entire country. The Soviet Union opposes this.
July 5, 1950: For the first time since the end of World War II, U.S. troops go into battle, at Osan, 30 miles south of Seoul. The first American casualty of the Korean War dies here, Pvt. Kenneth Shadrick of West Virginia.
Sept. 9, 1948: North Korean Communists establish the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Nov. 27, 1951: Both sides agree the existing battle lines would be the final dividing line between North and South Korea if a truce is reached in 30 days.
Oct. 8, 1952: Truce talks are adjourned.
July 10, 1951: Truce talks begin at Kaesong.
June 26, 1950: U.S. President Harry S. Truman directs Gen. Douglas MacArthur to evacuate American dependents from Korea and to assist the ROK Army.
July 1950: In the first month of the war, U.S. soldiers kill significant numbers of Korean civilians under a bridge, near a village called No Gun Ri. It is unclear whether the soldiers were ordered to kill civilians or acted on their own.
June 23, 1951: Jacob Malik, a Soviet delegate to the United Nations, proposes a cease-fire.
1952 April 1952: Truce talks are deadlocked over voluntary repatriation.
July 27, 1953: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (north), Chinese People’s Volunteers and the U.N. sign an armistice agreement. The Republic of Korea refuses to sign. However, hostilities cease within 12 hours. Terms of the armistice include creation of the demilitarized zone, the DMZ. Each side is 2,200 yards from a center point. The DMZ is patrolled by both sides at all times.
April 26, 1953: Truce talks are resumed, and the Communists agree to voluntary repatriation.
Oct. 25, 1951: Truce talks are moved to Panmunjom.
War Memorial of Korea in Seoul, ROK.
In recent years 1990-1994: North Korea recovers the remains it claims to belong to 208 American servicemen.
2007-present: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency posts news releases online about recently accounted for service members’ remains. Sources: Department of Defense, Encyclopedia Britannica
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If the best minds in the world had set out “ to find us the worst possible location in the world to fight this damnable war, the unanimous choice would have been Korea.” Dean Acheson, former U.S. Secretary of State
STATISTICS U.S. DEATHS
Total in-theater U.S. wounded in action
OTHER CASUALTIES BY COUNTRY Numbers include killed and missing. South Korea
Source: Encyclopedia Britannica
Air shipments of whole blood from American Red Cross for Korean War casualties. It will be stored in Yokohoma, for shipment to Korea as needed. Korean War, 1950-53.
Invasion of Inchon Sept. 15, 1950.
FAST FACTS Under Japanese rule before and during World War II, Korea was divided into two parts after the Japanese surrender. The Soviet Union occupied the area north of the 38th parallel and the United States occupied the area south until 1948. Two new ideologically opposite countries were established in 1948: The Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). North Korea wants reunification under communist rule. The first war in which the United Nations played a role. When asked to send military aid to South Korea, 16 countries sent troops and 41 sent equipment or aid. China fought on the side of North Korea, and the Soviet Union sent them military equipment. The U.S. provided about 90 percent of the troops sent to aid South Korea. It was the first war with battles between jet aircraft. The U.S. spent around $67 billion on the war. Truce talks lasted two years and 17 days. The casualty toll had been reported as 54,246
U.S. Far East Air Forces Bomber Command bomb North Korean enemy supply centers. Over the course of the Korean War, B-29s flew 20,000 sorties. until June 2000, when the Pentagon acknowledged that a clerical error had included deaths outside the Korean War theater in the total. There are 7,747 American soldiers still unaccounted for from the Korean War as of June 2017. There has never been a peace treaty, so technically, the Korean War has never ended. Source: CNN
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Cedar Falls Marine was one of ‘Chosin Few’ in Korea I just wanted to get the hell out of there.” The Red Army would rapidly fill openings in the lines. “It was like stepping on an anthill there was so damn many Chinese,” Welter said. “Lot of times, you
CEDAR FALLS — Robert “Bob” Welter knew how cold hell could be. Hell was a place in Korea known as Chosin Reservoir. Welter, who passed away in 2015 at age 86, grew up in Waterloo and later farmed north of Cedar Falls. He was one of several local Marines who, encircled by Chinese Communist forces at Chosin in the winter of 1950-51 in bitter cold, fought their way to the Welter at 17 port of Hungnam and safety, along with a group of U.S. Army soldiers, British Royal Marines and a large number of refugees — along with their dead, wounded and equipment. The Marines had landed at Inchon and advanced to the Yalu River between North Korea and Communist China in late 1950, when hundreds of thousands of Chinese forces attacked, entering the war and driving the Americans back. Many units were overrun but the Marines made a stand at Chosin. Welter and his comrades had their rocket-launcher-towing truck blown out from under them when it hit a mine near the Yalu River at the Korean-Chinese border. Welter was the only one who survived. “I got blown out of a truck full of rocket ammunition, lit in the middle of a mine field and they rescued me,” Welter, now deceased, said in a 2010 Courier interview. “It blew me out through the top of the truck, through the rods that held the canvas,’ said Welter. “It didn’t explode any of the ammunition, but I landed in a mine field.” Welter’s voice was thick with emotion as he recalled lying in the field just hollering for help. “I had a good friend in another unit, we had just been talking
let them run through you, and shoot them on the way back.” Welter said soldiers and Marines would sleep with their weapons to keep them warm and Please see WELTER, Page 6
Honoring the veterans who served our country and defended freedom. COURIER FILE PHOTO
World War II and Korean War veteran Bob Welter recently received in the mail a envelope full of military service medals from the government after 60 years. Monday, July 25, 2011. and I went back to my unit and that’s when the truck went up.” His friend’s commanding officer told him not to go down because he couldn’t help. Some years later, when Welter was back in Iowa, he ran into that
buddy from the war. “He turned white as he said ‘I thought you were dead.’ I wasn’t. All I got was a little cut to my head,” Welter said. “I didn’t get any decoration. I didn’t want any medal anyhow.
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Navy cook Paul Reuter kept bellies full aboard USS Robinson
native had “seen too many movies where the army walked in mud and slept in rain.” A year after enlisting, or early 1952, Reuter boarded the ship which had previously served in World War II. Being young and a “newbie,” he immediately was selected to be a mess cook. “I tried to work at it and was active with it, doing what they
told me to do,” Reuter said. “I liked it, I enjoyed it.” After taking a leave, he was asked to be a cook and officially added to the commissary. Later that month, the ship was changing personnel around to prepare for the trip to Korea and Reuter was switched to the night shift as a baker. In an interview with the
Grout Museum in 2011, Reuter said he had to make nearly 100 loaves of bread each night during an eight-hour shift. The loaves were mixed by hand and made without the use of measuring utensils. Reuter said he often received compliments on his bread, but more excitement was stirred up when he began making pies. After being moved back to a regular day cook, he covered the night shift once while the night cook was gone. That night’s task was to make Dutch apple pies, so Reuter followed orders then headed to bed. The next morning, he awoke to satisfied smiles and compliments as the pies were quickly devoured. “People loved it,” Reuter said. Eventually, the war ended in 1950 and Reuter returned home without seeing any action, though he had no complaints there.
he was just 17. In his first stint, serving on the island of Guam, he guarded Japanese prisoners of war awaiting trial or execution for war crimes. He also served in China as non-combatants when Communist forces took over the country from the Nationalists. Serving in the Marines “just appealed to me, me and three of my buddies,” Welter said in a 2011 Courier interview. “We (had just) seen a Marines show (‘Battle Cry’). I guess that inspired us to join.” For Welter, the mystique of the Marines soon changed. “I remember the rude awakening I got in boot camp. Oh, they were so nice to us when we signed the papers but once we raised our hand and were sworn
in things changed in a hurry.” Welter was thankful for that “rude awakening” because that discipline kept him safe later in Korea when recalled to active duty in 1950. He was going to re-enlist after his Korea service, but met his wife Rita. That changed his mind, she said with a smile. They were married for more than 60 years and had four children and 13 grandchildren. In 2011, Welter finally received the medals he never sought — the result of efforts by friends and the Black Hawk County Veteran Affairs Commission. Earlier, in 2001, he received an honorary high school diploma from Cedar Falls High School with his graduating grandson, John.
It was his Korea experiences that earned Welter not only an envelope full of decorations, but a positive outlook on life. “I saw my duty and decided to do it. It made me a better man. I realized what life was all about because the (enemy Communist) Chinese had no respect for life,” said Welter. His wife and son David, a longtime Cedar Falls educator and coach, said his father struggled with post-traumatic stress for years, haunted by the memory of a comrade killed during the Inchon landing. “If Dad was taking a nap or sleeping, you never wanted to walk up try to rouse him because he came up from the chair right at you,” David said, as if resisting
GILBERTVILLE – Taking orders from others can often be a hard feat, especially in any military branch. However, Paul Reuter, a Navy veteran, never minded doing what he was told. Knowing there were higher powers sometimes comforted him during his time aboard the USS Robinson during the Korean War. As a cook, his responsibility was preparing daily meals and baking bread and pies. “I was never scared at sea, no matter how rough a storm was,” Reuter said. “I always thought there was somebody else in command, and I was just along for the ride.” Reuter had been “along for the ride” since he joined the naval reserves to avoid being drafted into the army after being called to complete a physical in Des Moines. The Gilbertville
Welter From 5
in firing condition in case the enemy overran them in the night. Similarly, despite subzero cold and wind chills approaching 100 below zero, they dare not completely zip up their sleeping bags, lest they be scooped up by the enemy and spirited off into the night. “Most of the time it was so damned cold you had to take a leak on the bolt of your rifle so it would function; thaw it out,” Welter said. “Then after a couple of rounds it would freeze up again.” Welter had joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1946 when
After completing his service, Reuter worked at an automobile company in La Porte City for a few years, Rath Packing Co. for 10 years, at John Deere until 1985 and at the Courier for about 12 years in maintenance. Also during that time, he had four children, two of whom still reside in Iowa. Now, Reuter is enjoying his retirement as a Waterloo resident and even meets with other Korean War veterans every Wednesday at the Grout Museum. He is also a member of the Gilbertville Legion and was a part of its executive committee for several years. To this day, he does not regret his decision to join the Navy. “I always felt so bad for those other guys in the Army and seeing the things they saw, even though some of them had really good experiences during their service,” Reuter said. “But I’m glad I was where I was.”
abduction by enemy troops. “I’d say the last five years, we worked with that through his doctors. But up to that point, Dad really never talked about much from the war. That was (like) so many of that generation. They just kept to themselves. And I’m so happy we got to hear that story. I’d say the last six, seven, eight years, he opened up more. That helped him, too, with the post-traumatic stress, being able to share some of that.” He also battled Parkinson’s disease for eight years. “He had a real hard end to his life,” David said. “But he took that on like the other things. He was strong.” “He never complained,” Rita said.
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Training ‘eye-opening’ for Lorraine Griffie in segregated South
“It was a rather jolting experience, my first experience with segregation. Getting off the train in a segregated waiting room, it was quite an experience. That was October 1952.”
Lorraine Griffie was ready to spread her wings. It was 1952, and she’d graduated the previous year from Waterloo’s East High School. “I was like a lot of young kids. I was anxious to get away from home,” she said. She had a friend in the Army who wrote to her with stories of adventures that became irresistible. Griffie decided that she, too, wanted a life of adventure. “I went to enlist, and I was under 21 so I had to have my parents’ permission,” she said. Her friend in the military and her recruiting offer assured Griffie’s protective parents that she’d be looked after and taken care of. “My dad told me he was reluctant to sign. He said, ‘I tell you, I wouldn’t have a job in the Army counting money, but if that’s what you want to do I’ll let you go.” It turned out to be not nearly as glamorous as she’d been told. “My friend was a lieutenant. I went in as a private. Her adventures and mine were very different,” Griffie said. She joined the Women’s Army Corps — WACS, as they were known —and was shipped off to Fort Lee, Va., for basic training. It was eye-opening. “Going to Fort Lee was my first experience going south and my first experience running into segregation. Taking the train out of Des Moines to Fort Lee, once we crossed the Mason-Dixon Line, the train stopped and all people of color had to get off the cars they were in and get in one car designated for people of color. Of course the accommodations were not the same.
COURIER FILE PHOTO
Lorraine Griffie with her Waterloo Neighborhood Coalition Good Neighbor Award in 2014. “It was a rather jolting experience, my first experience with segregation. Getting off the train in a segregated waiting room, it was quite an experience. That was October 1952.” In Iowa, Griffie had been largely sheltered from the harsh realities of the segregated South. On several occasions, her self-described naivete placed her in harm’s way. During an off-base outing with friends while training in Georgia, her group boarded a city bus for a day about town. “I got on the bus and took the first seat I saw available. All the girls went to the back of the bus,” and were frantically motioning to her to join them.
“I got off the bus and they told me. I hadn’t seen the sign. I came from the city (where) you get on the bus, you take the first seat that’s available.” Griffie wasn’t the only soldier in her barracks experiencing segregation for the first time. Her Army base in Georgia was integrated. Outside the gates, it was not. “We could not fraternize with white friends while in town in training. I can remember being very touched by my (white) bunk mate who cried when we weren’t able to be together,” Griffie said, choking back tears. “It was a long time before I realized what that meant to her.” Griffie finished her occupational
specialty training as a switchboard operator in 1953. “I learned to use every form of switchboard there was.” She was sent to several U.S. Army bases to work over several months, then volunteered to serve overseas. She took a short leave to Waterloo to visit her parents before she shipped out. “I came to tell my parents. It was a mistake. ... I thought my mother was going to have a stroke. The Korean conflict was going on, so she assumed that anywhere I went (overseas) that I would be in the mix of war. I had to call my (commanding officer) to see if they would take me off my overseas request. They reissued my orders.” Griffie served two years in the Army, and after discharge used her training to make a living. “I had very little trouble getting jobs. I moved back to Chicago where I was a switchboard operator at two companies, and was a receptionist and switchboard operator at a hotel and a publishing company.” Griffie returned to Waterloo and has been honored for her lifelong work in the community and her commitment to honoring African-American women veterans.
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Sumner veteran Allan Mattke helped rebuild post-war Korea “They knew I was coming home but they didn’t know when. I walked through the door and my mom was under the kitchen table waxing the floor. She about raised the table.”
SUMNER — The South Korea Allan Mattke saw in broadcasts of the 1988 Summer Olympic games looked nothing like the war-torn landscape he found in 1954. “I couldn’t believe the difference in the city of Seoul; it was built up and beautiful,” Mattke said. “But when I was over there it was bombed-out shells of buildings, burned out, just devastation.” Mattke, 83, of Sumner, served 14 months in South Korea as a member of U.S. Army forces working to rebuild the country after three years of fighting ended in 1953. “We were building roads, air strips, buildings,” Mattke recalled in an interview for the Grout Museum District. “We were trying to get the country back on its feet again, helping them get started again.” A graduate of Fredericksburg High School and Iowa State University, Mattke spent his childhood milking cows and helping on the family farm, staying active in the 4-H Club and winning a judging contest at the National Dairy Cattle Congress in Waterloo. His older brother served in the U.S. Marine Corps. Allan volunteered for the draft during his second year in college and was drafted by the Army in January 1954, six months after the Korean armistice. “He spent his time during the conflict in California,” he said. “I spent my time over there after the
Allan Mattke conflict.” Mattke had 16 weeks in basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., before attending engineer foreman school at Fort Belvoir, Va. He learned to operate heavy equipment and construction skills which helped guide his post-war career. An Iowa farmboy who’d barely left the state before the Army found himself on a flight to Seattle, a ship to Busan, Korea, and a train to Incheon where he was assigned to serve in the 439th Engineer Battalion. Mattke and a sergeant would inspect job sites and maintained a gas line before he was reassigned to an infantry division, elevated to a sergeant’s rank and sent out on
foot patrols near the demilitarized zone. “Sometimes we’d run day patrols in the hills outside our compounds,” he said. “Sometimes we’d run night patrols.” Part of Mattke’s job involved top secret information, something he took very seriously. “At that point in time top secret meant top secret,” he said. “Today I just marvel at what the press and media come out with telling you what’s what and who’s where.” Mattke left Korea on a tanker ship in December 1955, landing in San Francisco before heading back to Iowa. “They knew I was coming home but they didn’t know when,” he re-
called. “I walked through the door and my mom was under the kitchen table waxing the floor. She about raised the table.” Mattke taught high school shop classes for two years before buying a hardware store and later becoming a carpenter. He then taught carpentry at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge before returning to Sumner. He said he didn’t regret his military service, which helped him pay for college and “grow up.” But he was disappointed about never seeing Europe. “We all thought when we graduated from Fort Belvoir that we were going to get a European assignment,” he said. “I’ve never been to Europe. “Just before I came home from Korea they guaranteed us a European assignment if we would re-enlist for three more years,” he added. “At that point in time I said no.”
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Exhibit stirs vets’ memories Korean War display open at Grout PAT KINNEY
WATERLOO — Paul Reuter and Eddie Cahill had a little history with their coffee Wednesday morning, courtesy of the Grout Museum District. They got a sneak peek at the Grout’s year-long Korean War exhibit, which opened July 14. It was history they helped make. Both served in the U.S. Navy in Korea. They strolled into the exhibit area to check it out after attending one of the Grout’s weekly veterans coffee receptions. They liked what they saw in the exhibit called “The Cold War Ablaze: Iowans in the Korean War.” “It’s wonderful,” said Cahill, who served on the attack transport troop carrier USS Montrose. “When we came home it was a forgotten war. It really brings it to life.” He noted a mother and her young son who was curious about the war, strolled in to the exhibit area while there for another activity. He and Reuter walked up to give the young man some first-hand history . “He lit right up,” Cahill said, at meeting two real-life veterans of the war. “It’s super. We’re glad to see it,” said Reuter, who served on the destroyer USS Robinson. “It’s information for the general public, to realize what people went through. I went through it, was able to do my part for the country. And it brings back memories.” Reuter served on a committee of Korean War veterans who helped plan the exhibit. The exhibit is much like an earlier “Iowans in the Vietnam War” exhibit put on by the Grout
“It’s super. We’re glad to see it. It’s information for the general public, to realize what people went through. I went through it, was able to do my part for the country. And it brings back memories.” Paul Reuter in 2015-16. It includes some historic background on the circumstances leading up to the war, but mainly focuses on what the individual soldiers, sailors, Marines and Air Force personnel experienced. A stark reminder is a large floor map of Korea. “We’re hoping people can point out where they were serving,” said Erin Dawson, Grout exhibits curator. Visiting veterans can walk to the spot on the map where they served. “It is kind of interesting to get Korean veterans to come in here and ask them where they were,” said Christopher Shackelford, historical content and program developer. The Korea map is surrounded by a 1950-53 timeline of the war with a display of military dog tags for all 567 Iowans killed in the war, placed along the timeline at the time they fell. “This is everything you need to know about the Korean War (history) contained in one area, and the rest of it is the Iowa troop experience,” Dawson said, with items donated or loaned by Iowan veterans, in a “day-to-day life” display of what ground troops would carry. There also is an exhibit of artifacts of two Iowans killed during the war, donated by their families.
It also includes weaponry from the war, including rifles, machine guns, a mortar and a flamethrower, among other items, courtesy of Dwight Clark, a Vietnam veteran who deals in vintage military equipment and helped set it up. Period uniforms of different branches of service will be displayed. There’s also a re-created front of a “Higgins” boat landing craft, similar to what troops might have used during the 1950 amphibious landing at Inchon, a key event in the war. There’ s also a summary of major battles and a special display on the Chosin Reservoir campaign of late 1950, where many local Marines served, fighting their way through Chinese forces and bitter cold, with interview excerpts from those veterans. “We will also have a veterans PAT KINNEY, COURIER NEWS EDITOR theater where you can access Korean War veteans Paul Reuter, left, and Eddie Cahill look over excerpts from all our Korean vet artifacts in a Korean War exhibit at the Grout Museum, which opened interviews,” Dawson said. The July 14. interviews were compiled over several years as part of the oral history project of the Grout’s adjoining Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum. “We’re on the hunt for all the photographs of all 567 individuals from Iowa who were killed” in Korea, Shackelford said, for a “Faces of the Fallen” exhibit. The museum currently has 395 of them. Shackelford’s looking for additional photos and information on fallen veterans for biographies of each. People with photos, biographical information or who want to know more about the Korea exhibit in geneal may contact the Grout at 234-6357. “I’m glad to talk about it,” Reuter said — particularly for those who still can’t. “I didn’t go through any violent action. 325 W. 11th St., Waterloo, IA 50702 There weren’t any after effects. Phone: 319-234-6613 • Fax: 319-234-1401 A lot of them won’t talk about it to this day.” www.campbellsupplyco.com
To all who have served.
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Top 10 most popular movies 1951
1. “Rio Grande,” John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, director John Ford. 2. “Sunset Blvd.,” William Holden and Gloria Swanson, director Billy Wilder. 3. “Cinderella,” Disney animation 4. “Tea for Two,” Doris Day and Gordon MacRae, director David Butler. 5. “All About Eve,” Bette Davis, Anne Baxter and George Sanders, director Joseph L. Mankiewicz. 6. “Rashomon,” mystery directed by Akira Kurosawa 7. “The West Point Story,” James Cagney, Doris Day, director Roy Del Ruth. 8. “Harvey,” James Stewart, directed by Henry Koster. 9. “The Asphalt Jungle,” Sterling Hayden, director John Huston. 10. “In a Lonely Place,” Humphrey Bogart, director Nicholas Ray.
1.”A Street Car Named Desire,” Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, Kim Hunter, director Elia Kazan
1. “Singing in the Rain,” Gene Kelley, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, director Stanley Donen 2. “High Noon,” Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, director Fred Zinnemann
1. “The Moon is Blue,” William Holden, David Niven, director Otto Preminger 2. “Roman Holiday,” Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, director William Wyler 3. “Peter Pan,” animated
4. “Ikiru,” Takashi Shimura, director Akira Kurosawa
4. “Shane,” Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, director George Stevens
5. ”The Great Caruso,” Mario Lanza, Ann Blythe, director Richard Thorpe
5. “The Greatest Show on Earth,” James Stewart, Charlton Huston, Betty Hutton, director Cecile B. DeMille
5. “From Here to Eternity,” Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, director Fred Zinnemann
6. “Moonlight Bay,” Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, director Roy Del Ruth
6. “Viva Zapata,” Marlon Brandon, Anthony Quinn, director Elia Kazan
6. “The Wages of Fear,” Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, director George Clouzet
7. “Strangers on a Train,” Farley Granger, Robert Walker, Ruth Roman, director Alfred Hitchcock
7. “Don’t Bother To Knock,” Marilyn Monroe, Richard Widmark, director Roy Ward
7. “Stalag 17,” William Holden, Don Taylor, Otto Preminger, director Billy Wilder
8. “Starlift,” Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, director Roy Del Ruth.
8. “My Cousin Rachel,” Olivia de Havilland, Richard Burton, director Henry Koster
Marlon Brando 2. “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, director Robert Wise 3. “Alice in Wonderland” 4. “The African Queen,” Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, director John Huston
9. “Showboat,” Kathryn Grayson, Ava Gardner, Howard Keel, director George Sidney 10. “Thing From Another World,” Kennethy Toby, James Arness, director Christian Nyby Humphrey Bogart
3. “Quiet Man,” John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, director John Ford
9. “Clash By Night,” Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Ryan, director Fritz Lang 10. “Bend of the River,” James Stewart, Rock Hudson, director Anthony Mann
8. “War of the Worlds,” Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, director Byron Haskin 9. “Tokyo Story,” director Yasujiro Ozu 10. “By the Light of the Silvery Moon,” Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, director David Butler
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Leo Ogden among first to work on
GUIDED MISSILES PROGRAM AMIE STEFFENEICHER
CEDAR FALLS — Leo Ogden visited his older sister and her husband several times during his summers off from school whenever they were stationed stateside. He heard good things about the military from his brother-in-law, a “career Navy man.” “I just thought it would be a good thing to do, so I joined the (naval) reserves” at his Sioux City high school in 1949, Ogden said. Once the Korean War was declared, he joined up with the Navy, “because I knew if I didn’t, I’d get drafted.” He was inducted in Omaha and put on a train to San Diego, where he waited around until there were enough sailors to form a company before he began basic training. “I think it was supposed to be 12 weeks that we spent in boot camp, but because of the rush to try and get people out in the fleet they had reduced that to 10 weeks,” Ogden said. He doesn’t remember if he or his company were exactly itching to go to war. Mostly, they were exhausted. “They kept you pretty busy from 5 o’clock in the morning ’til 10 o’clock at night. By then, you were tired and wanted to sleep,” Ogden said. “I think most of the guys were enthusiastic about what they were doing.” After basic, Ogden was recommended for one of two specialty training schools: flight school or electronics. He chose the latter. “While I would have liked to learn to fly, I thought, ‘Well, go to electronics school and learn a trade,’” he said. “So that’s where I went.” The school was on Naval Station Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay, where Ogden learned the ins and outs of tube theory, wiring circuitry and repairing receivers and transmitters.
Leo Ogden After 15 months there, he was assigned to the communications station on Guam, where he was assigned to a receiver site and repaired and maintained single side band radios that communicated with Hawaii. “It was a matter of sitting at a work bench and testing if they had problems; if they did, you figure out what the problem was and repair it,” he said. Ogden was on Guam for about 17 months, and remembered spending a good bit of his free time swimming in the ocean, about a 2-mile walk to a place surrounded by a coral reef. “It was a gorgeous setting and the water was clear — just wonderful,” he said. Soon, Ogden heard the Navy was looking for volunteers who wanted to go to a new school they were developing on guided missiles. Ogden and a friend signed up and were selected to go to the newly opened base, Point Mugu, an air missile test center about 65 miles north of Los Angeles. Ogden spent five months studying
mathematics and learning about the guided missiles the Germans had developed in WWII. After his training, he joined up with the very first company, Guided Missile Test Group One, on Point Mugu. Ogden said the new company worked with Regulus 1 Cruise Missile, which the National Air and Space Museum said is the first operational Navy cruise missile, which could go up to 30,000 feet high and had a range of 500 miles. Periodically, the company would go to Edwards Air Force Base to work alongside civilian manufacturers of the Regulus. Ogden worked on autopilot and radio-controlled portions of the missiles. “We would launch some missiles from there, then the aircraft would fly them to their destination and bring them back and land them,” Ogden said. Because they were quite expensive, the missiles had landing gear so a pilot controlling them remotely could land them and the military could recover
them to use again. “We had one missile, I recall it was called ‘Old Number 17,’ I think it flew successfully 13 or 14 times, which was really quite amazing,” Ogden said. Ogden was around for the very first installation of a Regulus 1 onto an aircraft carrier, the USS Hancock. “We took three missiles with us and fired two of them while we were out there, showing off,” he said. Ogden doesn’t remember thinking he was on the cutting edge of anything, despite being in the first training class, in the first company and working with the very first Navy cruise missiles. “You were aware it was new and different, but I don’t know whether we were really aware that it would ever amount to anything,” Ogden said. He spent the last 15 months of his military duty at Naval Air Station Barbers Point on Oahu, Hawaii. His sister and brother-in-law were also stationed near there at the time, which he liked. “Everybody thinks, ‘Oh geez, I’d love to go to Hawaii,’ but there are aspects of it that aren’t any nicer than living in Cedar Falls,” Ogden said. “A lot of people think it’s all sun. Well, during the rainy season it rains and rains, just miserable.” After he returned home, Ogden got married, went to college for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, then worked with the Black Hawk County superintendent of schools for 32 years. He said he severed his relationship with the Navy because he could see the Vietnam War was ramping up. “I think when I joined the Navy I was very immature — I didn’t have much common sense,” Ogden said. “I think that’s the kind of thing the military does for people — it teaches them responsibility and discipline, and I think it did the same for me.”
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KOREAN WAR VETERANS
Appendicitis sidelined Korean War medic during Chosin battle ANDREW WIND
WATERLOO — Dearl Thomas had only been in Korea for weeks when his U.S. Army unit was sent to assist the Marines in the harsh winter battle of Chosin Reservoir. But the medic from Waterloo faced his own unexpected medical problem before the troops arrived. Initially, the soldiers were sent to another reservoir area in the mountains of North Korea. “This would have been November of 1950 and winter was coming on, and going up into the mountains it was getting cold,” Thomas said in an interview recorded by the Grout Museum District nearly four years ago. “We were up there four, five days and in the meantime the Marines had moved into another reservoir area they called the Chosin Reservoir.” They were soon ordered to join the Marines in fending off an offensive after the Chinese entered the war. “They pulled our unit down from out of the mountains, down to the sea, pointed us in a different direction and sent us up to where the Marines were at,” he recalled, via railroad coal cars. After arriving, the soldiers unloaded and “started walking down the road about 8 o’clock at night, said Thomas. He had been suffering from intestinal problems and was now dealing with severe cramps. “I passed the aid station, so I went in and told them the trouble I was having,” he said. “They laid me on a table and they check me and said ‘Yeah, you’ve got a swollen appendix.’ So they pulled me out, put me on a jeep and sent me back down to the coast to a hospital. Spent maybe a day there, then they put me on a plane and flew me
“I passed the aid station, so I went in and told them the trouble I was having. They laid me on a table and they check me and said ‘Yeah, you’ve got a swollen appendix.’” Dearl Thomas back to Japan.” His appendix wasn’t removed, though. “There was too many wounded coming back from the reservoir area,” said Thomas. “So, they just fed me antibiotics they had at the time and got it cleaned up and cleared up,” he said. “Gave me five days of R&R, rest and recuperation, and then sent me back.” By the time he returned, it was January 1951, and the Chinese had driven American forces from the Chosin Reservoir area. Thomas, now 85, spent three years in the Army and then returned to Waterloo, where he married and raised a family. He worked at Rath Packing Co. and Illinois Central Railroad before getting a job at John Deere, where he stayed for 27 years. He also worked in ministry for Cedar Valley Community Church for 25 years, including the last few years as the church’s pastor. He retired from that position in 2007. Thomas decided to join the military after the end of World War II. He followed a family tradition, with his father and four older brothers serving in the Navy. Two brothers were medics.
Dearl Thomas “I convinced a friend or he convinced me to join the service,” said Thomas, who dropped out of school to enlist in 1949. “I think the second day I was there I realized I had made a mistake. I had to stick it out, but I got used to it.” After basic training at Fort Riley, Kan., and medical training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, he was shipped to Hokkaido, Japan, with 700 troops and dependents as part of the occupation force. “I was stationed there until the Korean War broke out,” said Thomas, about six months. His troop ship landed at Incheon, South Korea, on the west coast of the Korean peninsula and southwest of Seoul. “The Marines headed toward Seoul, and the unit I was attached to — the battalion, the regiment —we headed towards Suwon,” he said, to the south. “There was an airfield there. Stayed in the airfield for two days and then they sent us up to the front,” said Thomas. “At a little village called Osan,” he recalled, they met the North Koreans in battle “and got them
off the hill. Then they loaded us on trucks and took us back down to Pusan (along the east coast), back aboard the ships.” As a medic, he was assigned to a company “and our job if they get hit is to patch them up and get them back if need be” for further medical care. Two from his company were wounded and two were killed. “It’s an experience, let me tell you,” Thomas said of that first time at the front. Two weeks later, his unit was sent up the coast to aid the Marines, and Thomas landed in the hospital with appendicitis. He returned to the front lines after being released. “You survive, you just did,” he said of spending the rest of that winter in a foxhole. “You didn’t sleep at night because you were too cold, but you survived.” Fear of being killed was a constant companion until he rotated out of Korea in July 1951. “You don’t ignore it, but it’s still in the back of your mind, but you don’t really dwell on it,” said Thomas.
THEY SERVED WITH HONOR
KOREAN WAR VETERANS
Thursday, July 27, 2017 | 13
Army vet Lyle Murty fired artillery in the
Iron Triangle JEFF REINITZ
WATERLOO – In war, one can’t slow down. Not even when it comes to taking casualties. Lyle Murty, who spent 13 months in combat with a U.S. Army artillery unit in Korea, recounted how his 105mm howitzer crew kept shooting after losing the battalion commander to incoming fire. “Nothing stopped. We just kept on going … People did their job. We got a fire mission. Everybody went to where they were supposed to be. You just did it,” Murty, now 87, told a Grout historian during a 2008 interview. “You knew there was a chance something could happen, but you never thought about it,” Murty said. He said he had thought about the possibility of losing a limb but never dwelled on death. Once, an enemy shell came close enough to hitting his gun pit that it blew off the camouflage netting. Another time, his howitzer’s recoil sliced open his thumb, and he had to be taken to a MASH hospital for treatment. Murty was born in Waterloo, the oldest of nine children, and grew up on a small farm near Montour. There was no electricity, and the family picked corn by hand, plowed with horses and sold wood on the side. He played basketball and baseball at Montour High School. After graduating in 1945, he worked different jobs for a few months before landing a spot at John Deere in Waterloo in that November. He married in January 1951 and was drafted into the Army a short
“As soon as the gun went off, you were right there to put another round in the chamber. People were tired, and we were receiving fire. It was kind of hairy.” Lyle Murty time later. Because his father had recently died, he was granted a brief deferment to help the family farm with planting. After basic training and artillery school, Murty was sent over the Pacific Ocean on ship for 17 days before landing in Japan, where he was issued a rifle. From there, it was another boat
to Korea and a train trip that took his unit to the mountains on the Korean peninsula’s east coast. There, he stayed in a large tent with a small heater that would go out every time the howitzer was fired. He still remembers his first time in combat. “The first time, it didn’t seem too bad, it seemed like it was kind of exciting. But about the second and third time, that was enough for me. I decided I wanted to go home,” Murty said. In the summer, they moved to central Korea in an area known as the Iron Triangle, which saw heavy fighting, and set up in an abandoned rice paddy. “We did a lot of shooting there,” Murty said. During one battle after the enemy lost a counterattack, Murty’s unit
fired for 36 hours straight, on average sending four to six rounds downrange every minute. “As soon as the gun went off, you were right there to put another round in the chamber,” he said. “People were tired, and we were receiving fire. It was kind of hairy.” After that, they spent to following 24 hours launching one round every three minutes. Other times, the crew fired white phosphorous rounds that kicked up smoke and marked targets for the Air Force. “That is one bad dude, because you not only have shrapnel, but you have got this white phosphorous, and if it settles on any part of your body, it burns right through. Those were wicked shells,” Murty said. Amid the fire missions, where were rumors of pending enemy breakthroughs. But those never came, and Murty never used his rifle. After his time was up, Murty said his colonel offered him a promotion if he stayed a little bit longer. But he turned it down, remembering how the battery officer had died two weeks after extending his tour in an effort of make captain. “I’ve see guys stay a little longer, and they went home alright. But it wasn’t the way they wanted to go home.” Back in the states, Murty returned to Deere but was laid off, and he eventually was hired by Waterloo Corrugated Box, where he worked for 38 years before retiring. He and his wife had two children, and Murty was active in the Boy Scouts for 50 years, eventually serving at the district level.
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KOREAN WAR VETERANS
Paratrooper Robert Kunkle injured while protecting wounded CHRISTINIA CRIPPES
CEDAR FALLS — Robert Kunkle was trying to protect the wounded when he got injured in battle. The U.S. Army paratrooper fired his automatic weapon to suppress enemy fire early in the Korean War. When he ran out of ammunition after several minutes, he had no choice but to continue bringing up the rear. That’s when Kunkle was hit. He didn’t hear what hit him. He doesn’t even know what it was. “You’re scared. Don’t ever let anybody tell you you’re not scared. Because you are. You just make up your mind. They asked me to do a job, and I’m going to do it. And that’s the way I’ve always been,” Kunkle recalled in an interview with Grout Museum staff. He continued, “I didn’t have enough time to think about it, because the people I was protecting were down there, and our lines stabilized, and it was just one of those things. I never heard what hit.” Kunkle’s memories are spotty of the immediate aftermath. He remembers the Bible in his left pocket that prevented shrapnel from killing him. He remembers asking God for a second chance. Kunkle remembers waking up during surgery inside a MASH, or mobile army surgical hospital, unit. After that, there’s nothing until he woke up in Japan. In all, he had 22 surgeries and most of them were at that MASH unit he barely recalls. “I had shrapnel all over my body, in my head, in my arms, my chest, all over, but I’m here,” Kunkle said. Kunkle, now 85, had been in the theater of operations for about a year before he was injured, and it took at least that long for his recovery from physical injures. The traumatic injuries were by far the worst he suffered during his service. But Kunkle also had to recover from other injuries before he ever reached the theater of operations. His father disapproved of his decision to join the U.S. Army at 18. Kunkle, a Waterloo native, hated communism and wanted to stop its spread, so he joined and went to jump schoop to train as
Robert Kunkle a paratrooper. He got injured on the fourth of five jumps. “My chute opened, and there was nothing but pine trees under me, so my chute caught on the top of one of those, about 35 feet high, and it ripped loose, and I fell 35 feet,” Kunkle said. It took some of his teeth out and broke one of his legs. He took about six weeks to recover, but didn’t hesitate to make his fifth and final jump to serve. But nothing prepared him for what would come in Korea. “You know, war is something. It’s unpredictable. You never know what’s going to happen, how many of your friends are going to die, what the outcomes will be, any of that,” Kunkle said. “You just get over there and do the job the best you can and hope you survive, and I was scared. Don’t think I wasn’t.”
Kunkle said the most difficult part of being in Korea was to keep his mind active — and away from the fears. He said he spent most of his time dreaming about home and family to keep his mind in a good place. Family was key to keeping him sane during the war, and he also credits his wife Marilyn, and their two children, with helping him get through what is now called post-traumatic stress. “It’s awful when you can’t trust anybody, and you have to overcome it. That takes one hell of a long time, and like I said, my wife is a big part of me being here. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here,” Kunkle said, but added he still has nightmares about the war. He added, “My family has been my number one thing, and it always will be.”
KOREAN WAR VETERANS
THEY SERVED WITH HONOR
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Faith strengthened WHILE SERVING IN ARMY Anthony Arends shares his story AMBER ROTTINGHAUS
OELWEIN – Most parents have a tendency to mix up their children. However, this was not the case when Anthony Arends was drafted into the Army in place of his older brother in 1952. It wasn’t until his return to the U.S. that the Little Rock native became aware of the switch when the draft personnel jokingly asked him if he was glad he’d gone in early. They explained that Arends’ parents had volunteered him instead. “I was upset, but I had this feeling inside that God had a plan for my life from day one. He kept me out of so many situations,” Arends said in a 2011 interview with the Grout Museum. “I just had a real interesting life and it was because God loves me.” After being drafted, Arends was sent to a camp in California for basic training. He couldn’t hit anything when attempting to qualify for the M1 rifle. He had trouble crawling under barbed wire — constantly asking where the end was and even crawling the wrong way. It was difficult getting used to the strict structure and schedule of military life, too. So he focused on getting involved with the United Service Organization, which is responsible for pro-
Anthony Arends viding live entertainment programs and services to the U.S. armed forces members and their families. He walked into the office and asked if they needed help. After learning about his experience in theater and singing, they accepted his offer. He began teaching dances to new performers and performing himself. The USO brought Arends great joy and opportunities as “entertainment was my field.” One night, he was introduced to Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, stars of “Singing in the Rain,” and joined them on
stage to perform a song from the movie. Arends was set to sail to Korea, but was sent to Fort Hood, Texas, for training with a tank battalion. There, a colonel asked Arends if he could type, and he said yes, immediately becoming the officer’s secretary. He received orders to Germany, but instead was sent to Indianapolis. He later returned to Texas and remained the colonel’s secretary for the remainder of his service. Arends matured and his faith in God strengthened while in service. After being discharged, he became a
pastor and served in small churches across the country. He began in Loyal, Okla., then Moana, La., before returning to Sioux Falls, where he grew up. He met and married his wife in 1963, and they have four daughters — Molly, Marie, Melissa and Maria. He calls them his M&M’s. Arends took a break from the ministry to work for JC Penney, a job, he said, “that was God building me up to know the many different things I’d have to do in his service.” Eventually, he returned to the ministry and preached in Rushmore where he was ordained as a Baptist minister in Presbyterian churches, but was asked to leave due to the religious differences. He then preached for nearly 15 years at a Baptist church in Sumner before finally settling in Oelwien. Arends now resides in Florida with his family. To this day, Arends values the experiences he had in the service and has kept his uniform — a 34inch jacket and 24-inch waist trousers. The clothes remind him of his friends calling him “Skinny” because he weighed 130 pounds. “Life has been a mixture of enough joy and enough bitterness and enough hatred that when I mix them all together, love came out the top,” Arends said. “My whole life has just been a joy, and I’ve lived it to the fullest and am going to keeping doing that as long as I can.”
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THEY SERVED WITH HONOR
KOREAN WAR VETERANS
William Russell spent year manning machine gun on front lines ANDREW WIND
TRAER — William Russell’s Korean War experience was spent on the front lines with a light machine gun squad. For a year, starting in April 1951, his U.S. Army squad would “be on the front lines four to five days and then we’d draw back and get a hot meal.” He was part of the 5th Regimental Combat Team attached to the 24th Infantry Division. There were four squads in the platoon. “At that time we had stopped the drive (of the North Koreans into the south) and we started pushing back, taking prisoners,” Russell recounted for a 2008 interview recorded by the Grout Museum District. “We started pushing, going north, and we got up to the (38th) parallel and I don’t remember how far we did go.” The 38th parallel divided the Korean peninsula after World War II and became the border between North and South Korea. “We were generally on the move each day,” he said, and would then set up tents, usually on a hilltop. Russell, who rose to the rank of sergeant first class, called it “spooky” to come under fire at night. “We had to set up lines and if we thought somebody was out there, we would have to go on patrols at night to see,” he said. “That part I didn’t like.” Eight or nine men would go out on the patrols. “You spaced yourselves out, you didn’t go side-by-side,” said Russell, as they looked for the enemy. “We would be gone three to four hours.” They encountered little resistance from the North Koreans who were taken prisoner, and he never suffered a battle wound while in the country. Russell, now 89, is a native of
“You spaced yourselves out, you didn’t go sideby-side. We would be gone three to four hours.” William Russell Fairfax, where his family farmed. They later moved near Buckingham, where Russell graduated from Geneseo country school. He was first drafted at the end of World War II, but was released from the commitment when the war ended. Russell won a six-month deferral when drafted again for the Korean War because he was working on his brother’s farm and needed to finish the harvest. In November 1951, he attended 16 weeks of basic training at Fort
Leonard Wood, Mo., and was shipped to Japan. Russell spent 21 months in the Army, including the year in Korea, and then returned to Iowa. He married in the fall of 1952 and the couple initially settled in Reinbeck. Russell worked for the Pioneer Seed Co. and, beginning the following spring, rented a farm near Eagle Center. The couple raised two daughters and a son and now live in Traer. Shortly after arriving in Japan he was sent to Pusan, South Korea. As the troops headed into the countryside, they saw few civilians in the small villages. Initially, though, his light machine gun squad received some help from the locals. “It was supposed to be nine of us,” he said. “There was just one other G.I. and myself. We adopted two Korean boys, South Korean boys.”
They helped the small team transport its 30-caliber machine gun. “One carried the tripod and the other one carried the gun,” he said. “In maybe a month, six weeks, there was more G.I.’s that came over” allowing them to fill all of the positions in the squad. “I was in Korea 12 months and I never slept in a building while I was there, never seen a building,” said Russell. “I had two trips in Japan. They called it five days R&R, rest and recuperation.” As a result, they faced a cold winter and a hot, rainy summer with little protection from the elements. “The best home I had over there was when we started pushing back,” he said. “We called it ‘Chinese bunkers.’” They dug into the side of a hill and put logs on top. “It was to keep you safe and they were dry and warm in the winter. It was like a hotel-motel here in the states.” Russell had plans once his enlistment was done, which helped him get through the difficulties of war. “I got engaged before I left and came home and I married her,” he said, a month after being discharged. “She was faithful about writing. Getting mail from home, that helped.” His comrades also played an essential role during the year in Korea. There was one squad member in particular whom Russell continued corresponding with for decades until he died. “He was from South Dakota, another farm kid,” said Russell. “He would give his life for me and I would for him. He was just like a brother. “I was fortunate to always have good people around me,” he added, “understanding people.”
THEY SERVED WITH HONOR
KOREAN WAR VETERANS
Thursday, July 27, 2017 | 17
John Kvidera serves in Germany as radio operator AMIE STEFFENEICHER
TRAER — Two of John Kvidera’s older brothers enlisted in the U.S. Navy in the 1940s, and Kvidera wanted to follow in their footsteps. Not so fast, said his father. The family was still reeling from the death of eldest son William, presumed dead when the USS Oklahoma was bombed at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and James — who enlisted in 1944 — was somewhere in the Pacific Ocean on a troop and personnel carrier. “I wanted to enlist,” Kvidera told the Courier. “But my dad didn’t want me to because (James) was there.” So Kvidera and his younger brothers, Charles and Ralph, waited, helping their parents farm in the meantime. But the boys were destined for the military anyway: Kvidera was the first to be drafted into the Army in 1950, followed by Charles in 1951. Deciding he didn’t want to await his fate any longer, Ralph enlisted in the Navy in 1952. By then, the Korean War was in full swing. Charles was shipped to Korea, while Ralph was on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. John Kvidera was sent in the other direction: To radio operator’s school in Wurzburg, Germany, where he learned to translate Morse code. Kvidera said he felt “lucky” to
John Kvidera have not gone to a war zone. “Instead of going to wherever they were taking guys to Korea, he called my name and said, ‘Do you want to go to Germany?’ That was a surprise. I said, ‘Sure,’” Kvidera recalled in a video interview for the Grout Museum. Once in Wurzburg, Kvidera was surprised to see several places still rebuilding from WWII-era bombing. He said he enjoyed his time there. “I liked it there,” he said. “They were nice to us, I thought anyway.” He and his fellow radio operator trainees stayed in concrete, twostory barracks once used by German
SS troops. They’d receive messages in code from different military bases around Germany, decode them, then give them to their commanders. “It would come in groups of five letters,” Kvidera said. “Then we’d have to decode it. Then it would make sense, tell us what the message was.” He used a special decoder to help figure out the messages, he said. Occasionally, they’d hear chatter from “Russians trying to break in” to the radio frequencies. Kvidera, who speaks Czech, would try diffusing the situation. “I’d get on the mic, tell them
something in Czech to keep quiet,” he said. “At that time, we weren’t very friendly with Russia. We were afraid we’d be in war with them.” Kvidera said he never felt his life was in danger in Wurzburg, and even was able to take vacations around Europe. “There were four of us who went to Paris, London,” Kvidera said, noting he went to several museums and Churchill Downs for horse races. Another friend of his from Minnesota couldn’t find anyone to accompany him on a trip to Norway, so Kvidera volunteered for that one. “That was really nice,” he said. “They were so nice to us — they saw we were Americans, they came to us and showed us around. It was really something. ... I wished I’d have stayed in contact with them.” After 17 months, Kvidera returned home and was discharged. He married and continued farming with his family. His brother Charles, who was in field artillery, was wounded in Korea. A cousin, Louie, was captured by the North Koreans and held as a prisoner of war for 33 months. For Kvidera, it was a very different experience. “I don’t know if (the military) changed me any, I just knew I had to do the job, but I just didn’t think about it any,” he said. “I tried not to miss home or anything like that.”
THEY SERVED WITH HONOR
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KOREAN WAR VETERANS
Eugene Holmes could ‘heat up’ Korea PAT KINNEY
CEDAR FALLS — Eugene Holmes knew how to turn on the heat in Korea. He operated a flamethrower. But what he remembers is the cold — especially his first meal in country, when two hot fried eggs froze to his mess kit before he could finish them. He served in Korea with the U.S. Marine Corps. It was his second hitch. He served from 1946-48 in security at the naval base at Coronado, Calif. He had returned to Waterloo, got a job at John Deere and had been married four months. But he was still in the Reserves, and Uncle Sam came calling again. It was 1950. It was fortuitous to some degree, because Deere and the United Auto Workers were embroiled in a strike at the time he was called to duty. He and a friend, Bob Mundt, headed to Des Moines to report for duty, accompanied by their wives. They thought they would have 30 to 60 days before shipping out. Their wives ended up returning home alone. “We were put into advanced combat training at Camp Pendleton,” in California, Holmes said. “We had infantry training. I was trained in demolition, sniping, all kind of training. On Jan. 27 (1951) we boarded a ship in San Francisco and headed for Korea. I was seasick the whole time. “I figure I got to Korea as a replacement for the guys at the Chosin,” Holmes said, referring to encircled Marines surrounded at Chosin Reservoir who fought their way through Chinese Communist forces to the coast and safety in bitter winter conditions. “Those were real men” he said of those Marines. Their ship took too much water and could not pull up to the docks. They went ashore in amphibious vehicles called “ducks.”
PAT KINNEY, COURIER NEWS EDITOR
Eugene Holmes It was after supper hour but the cook whipped up a meal for the incoming troops. “I got two fried eggs and went to the mess tent. Before I could get them completely eaten they froze to my mess kit. So it was a little bit chilly.” Holmes was assigned to the weapons company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment, 1st Marine Division. They were north of Pusan, in the southeast part of the peninsula, but didn’t stay there for long. After having been pushed back the unit was back on the move against enemy forces, advancing up the center of the peninsula to the 38th parallel. “The first night in the lines, I got stuck in the lines after
dark. We were keeping the enemy awake with mortars. It was keeping us awake, too,” he joked. When daylight came, he found it was a good thing troops had held their position through the night. “There was a drop-off 100 feet from our position,” he said. “Korea is mostly mountainous. “We moved north and we just kept moving,” Holmes said. “As a weapons company, we had heavy machine guns, mortars, flamethrowers. We were a support company to the line troops. If they got in trouble and needed heavy fire, we were available to support them. At night we’d set up roadblocks. That first goround, we were in the field 45 days.” One night he rode “shotgun”
on an ambulance up to the line to pick up wounded. He took a Garand M-1 rifle with him which he also kept with him when carrying a flamethrower. He was in charge of its maintenance and upkeep, but seldom had to use it because the enemy rarely dug in to pillbox positions. The worst of the service was “probably the cold,” he said. “I could not keep warm.” He took advice from a Chosin veteran who told him to lay his sleeping bag on top of his heavy parka. He also remembers taking a warm shower was a rare luxury. On one occasion though, he and comrades hiked to a shower tent only to find the heater was out. “The captain said, ‘We walked 2 miles to take a shower. Turn the water on,’” Holmes said. “We took a shower in mountain stream water. Didn’t take long for a shower.” And in summer, he said, “the monsoons were God-awful.” During the advance to the 38th parallel, the North Koreans opened up the floodgate on a reservoir and flooded the lowlands to impeded the Americans’ advance. He recalled the amphibious ducks they used to cross a river after that flood were swept downstream in the swift current and had to angle their way across to ford. U.N. planes blew out the floodgates so the enemy couldn’t close the gates and build up the water again to cause flooding. While mainly in reserve, Holmes said. “We took artillery fire. We took mortar fire, usually at night. Some of our contingent was killed not very far from where I was standing. We were on a hillside. It snowed 4 inches overnight and some guys were injured sliding down a mountain. They’d lose their footing and fall.” They were supported by tanks equipped with searchlights. “They would shine that searchlight against the clouds and the reflection would light up ahead of our lines. We could
see any kind of (enemy) movement ahead of our lines. But it got real scary when those lights went out.” The U.N. forces also delivered rocket attacks at night. “They moved in one night and fired. And we didn’t know they were there until they started. Got your attention.” They also received air support form Air Force North American P-51 Mustangs and Marine Vought F4U Corsairs, fighter planes. “They were known for close air support,” he said. “As we were advancing, they were tied up with a machine gun nest. And they called in air support. Two Corsairs came in below the mountaintops, down a valley. They fired on this position. They were close enough and low enough you could see the empty .50s (spent machine gun cartridges) falling out of the wings” as they fired on the nest with the wing-mounted machine guns. They also received artillery support from the battleship USS Iowa. Holmes imitated the whistling sound of its large battery shells hurtling overhead. One of the rewarding parts of his service was a teenage Korean boy his fellow Marines took in. He learned English and they used him as an interpreter. He also made a lot of money for his family selling bartered cigarettes. They had been separated for some time. When they reunited with his mother and siblings, “he loved up each one of those little siblings and he gave his mom a roll of Korean money two or three inches in diameter.” He was sent home in August 1951 when his deployment was up, taking another troop ship back to the states. This time, after his Korea experience, “I was not seasick coming home.” Reflecting on his service, Holmes said, “It’s a completely changed world” today. “For our kids and grandkids, it’s a scary thing. Really scary. And what’s going to happen with North Korea, you know?”
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Marine Calvin Bouck survives cold year in Korea ANDREW WIND
CEDAR FALLS — By his own admission, Calvin Bouck was a “greenhorn” when he arrived in Korea as part of a Waterloo U.S. Marine Reserve unit. “You’re a young person. You’re excited for a new adventure,” he said. “In fact, you don’t know what war is like until you get over there.” It didn’t take long after the Waterloo native’s February 1951 arrival in Korea to get the full picture. “I can very well remember my first day in combat,” he said in the 2009 interview recorded by the Grout Museum District. He recounted ducking artillery rounds and seeking cover in the shadow of tanks. “We were taking on mortar fire and things like that, especially to get across the river,” said Bouck, who is now 87 and lives in Cedar Falls. As they dug into the far bank of the river for the night, “I thought, ‘Golly, if every day is like this, I don’t know if I’m going to last.’” Bouck graduated from East High School in 1948 and worked at Chamberlain Manufacturing and then John Deere, where he remained until retiring. After a few years, though, he decided to enlist in the military. “I thought, well, I’m going to get drafted someday, and I want to go to the Marine Corps. I always looked up to the Marine Corps,” he said. “So I went out and I joined the Reserve unit and was happy with it. I really enjoyed it.” While going through basic training at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va., Chinese forces crossed the border into North Korea. “When we got back, we were activated and headed out,” said Bouck. He trained as a telephone line repairman in San Diego and then went by ship to Korea via Japan, a three-week journey. “It was so cold,” he said of the arrival in Korea, noting they didn’t initially have winter gear. “The cold alone is a war by itself. You don’t realize how cold it is.” The new troops immediately headed for the front lines, where they spent most of the next year. Bouck said he was “never in a building” in Korea. “You were out in the elements.”
Calvin Bouck He recalled spending winter nights in nothing but a sleeping bag. “If someone could start a fire without smoke (to avoid detection by the enemy), we’d all wait for that to huddle around that in the morning to get warm and have a cup of coffee.” Along with feeling the intense cold, Bouck saw extreme hunger among the civilians they encountered and witnessed a lot of death. He also had some close calls of his own. “I remember one time I said, ‘I’m going to go ahead and check the barbed wire (perimeter), see if it’s been cut.’ I had walked a few yards up there and I noticed the ground was loose in one part. I stopped right there. “It was a ‘shoe mine’ and I missed them all walking up there,” he said, referring to a type of land mine in a wooden box. “The one wasn’t quite buried, that’s how I noticed something
was wrong.” Bouck alerted “the people that take care of the mines” and within a day they were removed. Those experiences brought other questions to his mind: “What am I doing here? What have I done?” he said. Bouck laughed, recalling after a year of service in Korea when his name was called to board the ship home. “And I was ready, ready to go.” He returned to Waterloo and completed his four-year commitment in the Marine Corps Reserve. He got married in 1952, raising a son and daughter with his wife. “I guess the Lord was with me,” said Bouck, of the year in Korea. “You survive. You learn how to survive, how you can get along with nothing, practically.”
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Korean veteran Richard Meyer near
atomic bomb blasts KRISTIN GUESS
WATERLOO — Richard Meyer never stepped foot in Korea during the war, but he saw plenty of action within two miles of an atomic blast launched stateside by the U.S. military. Born April 29, 1932, on a farm north of Eldorado, Meyer grew up on a dairy farm and attended country school with eight grades in one school room, graduating in 1950. His great-grandparents came to the U.S. from Germany in 1876, settling north of Eldorado. Meyer was familiar with the military as his older brother worked on air fields and ran a bulldozer while serving in the Army Air Force in Germany at the end of World War II. Meyer was drafted into the U.S. Army in July 1953, after being deferred once when his mother had an operation. “So I knew it was coming up,” he said. He was sent to Fort Riley in Kansas and after two weeks he boarded a plane to Baltimore, Md., and was bused up to Aberdeen, Md., for ordnance training. He graduated basic training and attended school for anti-aircraft repair in New Jersey until the military announced anti-aircraft repair was obsolete because of a different process they were using. Meyer was stationed in the barracks at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey with famed writer Ira Levin, who was assigned to write propaganda for the Army. Some of Levin’s most notable works include novels “A Kiss Before Dying” in 1953, “Rosemary’s Baby” in 1967 and “The Stepford Wives” in 1972. “He was a nice fellow,” Richard said. “He was on (CNN’s) Larry King Live one night so I called in, got to talk to him,” he said. “He remembered ... Company Q.” Meyer was then sent to Fort Lewis in Seattle, where he later took a train to San Francisco to report to the 3623rd Ordnance Company, later changed to the 573rd company. There he cleaned weapons and supplied tanks and artillery to the California National Guard. Later, Meyer was assigned to serve — preparing trucks, batteries, tires and engines —at an atomic testing sight in Nevada, as a private first class. There he slept in a shack made out of wood and had an oil heater for the cold nights. “They set off 14 atomic bombs that year —
Richard Meyer 1955,” he said. Most bombs were blasted from 300-foot steel towers, but a few were detonated underground and one from a plane. Base Camp Mercury was a military-style encampment for civilian personnel involved in the testing program. Now known as Mercury, Nev., it is a closed city in Nye County in Nevada, about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Meyer was positioned near the camp in the southern outskirts of the testing grounds. “There was a gate there by Mercury where you crossed over into the atomic test sight. We went there to Mercury for movies and stuff like that,” Meyer said. The soldiers took Army trucks through Camp Mercury and up into the test site, a dry lake bed, with the steel towers for the bombs. “We parked our trucks around this tower to see what effects the atomic bomb would have on these trucks,” he said. Meyer’s company hunkered down in trenches “about 2 miles from the bomb tower. They set off the bomb and we were covered in dust, and after we stood up after the bomb was over, we would see what happened,” Meyer said. “We never found out how much radiation we really did get.” Meyer described the explosion as a bright white flash. “You had to cover your eyes, and a loud bang followed. ... You could see the shock wave com-
ing toward you ... and when it hits your building it just shook,” he said. “And one time they broke windows in Las Vegas ... and they could see the mushroom cloud in San Francisco, which is quite a ways away.” One of Meyer’s jobs after the blast, was to detect radiation with a Geiger counter, a handheld device built to detect radioactivity. The soldiers used these to test the tanks after the blast. Meyer recalled there was still radiation inside them. “The fallout really came across Iowa in some places. The cows were tested positive for the radiation, it went clear across the United States,” he said, including killing sheep located north of the test site in Nevada. About five years ago, Meyer discovered he had developed cancer in the lining of his bladder, which has since been removed. “They figured it came from that (radiation), I don’t know, maybe,” he said. He also recalls visiting another site in the Mohave Desert where an atomic bomb was launched. There, nothing remained of the large tower once holding the bomb. “The sand was like it was swept, just as smooth as can be, with a bunch of glass puddles where the sand had melted. They had a motel there, with the windows facing the bomb, and the door and the back wall was solid brick. It had blown out the back wall. “The first mile or two (outside the blast) there wasn’t any vegetation at all, about three miles out it was charred, burned vegetation,” he said. Before being discharged, Meyer was stationed at Camp Roberts in California. He was in San Francisco during the United Nation’s 10th anniversary event in 1955. Meyer remembers seeing President Dwight Eisenhower as well as several officials from different countries. After recovering from a ruptured appendix, Meyer was discharged in June 1955. He returned to Eldorado and began farming again. “I suppose the military discipline taught you how to live your life,” he said. “A lot of fellows found their home in the military, they reenlisted and it was like a family to them.” But not for Meyer, now 85 years old. His family was at home in Iowa where he married his girlfriend, Ramona Olson Meyer, in September 1955. They have four sons.
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shot down on recon mission JEFF REINITZ
CEDAR FALLS -- Norman Earl Duquette had everything planned out. As a U.S. Air Force pilot flying over North Korea in 1952, he would be rotated back to the states after 100 missions. With any luck, he could make it back to Iowa for the birth of his third child anticipated for early April. “I would have finished just about in time to get home. But it didn’t work out that way,” Duquette told a Grout Museum historian in a 2003 interview. On Duquette’s 87th mission, a reconnaissance job to photograph an airfield near the Chosin Reservoir north of enemy lines, a North Korean proximity flak round detonated near his RF-80A jet as he was descending toward his target through cloud cover on Jan. 26, 1952. Some of the shrapnel pierced the canopy and hit him in the head, and the plane started smoking. The aircraft, which was designed during the tail end of World War II, didn’t have auto ejection, so he tried the hand crank to open the cockpit. “I tried to get the canopy off, and it wouldn’t come. Apparently it jammed when I got hit,” he said. Next, he unbuckled and tried to open the cockpit with his shoulders, but that, too, failed. Finally, he pulled himself back into his seat as the plane spiraled toward Earth and was able to bring the jet under enough control to bring it down in a clearing. Duquette hadn’t re-buckled his harness, and he slammed forward and lost consciousness. “The first thought that occurred to me was that being dead is not
that uncomfortable,” said Duquette, who suffered two broken vertebrae in the collision. When he awoke, and climbed out of the cockpit, he dropped into 3 feet of snow. He was taken prisoner by a squad of North Korean soldiers and almost executed on the spot had it not been for an officer who stepped in and took him prisoner. After being marched through a village where residents cursed at him and threw rocks, he was whisked away to a facility in Hamhung, North Korea, and eventually transported to an interrogation center north of Pyongyang. He lived in an 8-foot-square room with seven to 12 prisoners of war. It was the coldest winter on record for Korea, and everyone’s breath condensed on the mud walls, Duquette said. “It was so cold that the mud walls on the inside, it was like the inside of a deep freeze with frost on the walls,” he said. He got callused hips from sleeping on the dirt floor, and recalled the smell of up to a dozen men packed into close quarters. They were fed sorghum grain with kelp seaweed. Maybe once a month they had rice, which was a treat, and there was an occasional potato. They were eventually taken 10 miles north to what Duquette and his fellow prisoners called the “slave camp” where they unloaded gasoline, rice and other supplies into and out of bunkers. For water, they had to drink from a rice paddy and soon developed dysentery. After another stint at the North Korean interrogation facility, they
Norman Duquette were taken some 200 miles to the north and handed over to the Chinese. There, Duquette was put through a system of solitary confinement and interrogation as the Chinese tried get them to sign confessions —sometimes at gunpoint — alleging they had been involved in germ warfare in Korea. The interrogators accused him of being a war criminal and told him he wouldn’t be returned to the states. After awhile, Duquette was housed with a group of 13 other “non-confessors” who were later rotated back to the interrogation program. The rotations didn’t stop when war ended in July 1953. Duquette recalled a last-ditch attempt to get him to confess to germ warfare in August 1953. When he again refused, he was told the war was over and he would be repatriated. He was returned to his solitary cell and scratched “The war is over” into the wood. He figured other non-confessors who were unaware of the developments were likely going through the same interrogations, and he felt it would keep their spirits up. “I thought the message might do them some good,” Duquette said. Duquette’s Korean service was actually his second time fighting in
a war. The Plattsburgh, N.Y., native, had signed up for the U.S. Navy immediately after graduating from high school in 1943 during World War II. He flew TBF torpedo bombers looking for enemy submarines in the Atlantic Ocean. In 50 missions, he was involved in one sub attack that lost two aircraft from his unit. After World War II, there were questions about the future of the Navy’s flight program as the U.S. Air Force was founded. “The Navy flight training program got pretty well bogged down. They didn’t know whether to finish off the people who were in flight training to get their wings or just what they were going to do,” said Duquette, who returned to civilian life in 1947. He had met his wife, a Traer native, while studying at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, and he returned to the East Coast to study engineering. Then a movie called about fighter pilots came out, and Air Force recruiters were in the lobby. They were offering a deal to allow married men into flight school. Duquette signed up, and he graduated from the program with Gus Grissom, who would later go on to become a NASA astronaut.
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Combat jobs kept Marvin Staker near
WATERLOO — Marvin Staker grew up in small towns in Iowa, farmed most of his life and had four children with his wife, Verona. Born in Dysart in October 1931, Staker graduated high school in Rhodes and began farming with his father. He enjoyed playing baseball and basketball through school, then worked in construction and for a factory before his marriage. Staker was about 11 when the first planes struck Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. His oldest brother served in the U.S. Navy during World War II on the island of Saipan. His other older brother served in the U.S. Army in Korea. Staker was drafted into U.S. Army toward the end of the Korean War in 1952. He served in Korea for 13 months, including time as a combat engineer near the 38th parallel line. “I had to go serve my country, wasn’t much else you could do,” he said in an interview with the Grout Museum. Staker was transported to basic training in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. He attended camouflage school, where he learned how to disguise clothing and items based on the colors of the land you’re hiding in. “Other than that ... I shot a rifle down there and learned how to clean my gun,” he said. When it was time to go to Korea,
Staker left with his troop to San Francisco. “That’s where I got on the ship. I was on the ship for 15 days. I know for the first two or three days I was sicker than a dog,” he said. Landing in Korea was beautiful, he recalled. “But when you got near the front line ... it wasn’t too pretty.” Dotted along the countryside were towns filled mainly with huts. Staker and the soldiers with him lived in tents about a mile from the front line. “There was probably about eight men in the tent, and we each had a bunk. “My first job was standing guard at an ammunition belt ... artillery rounds were coming in and it scared the heck out of me,” he recalled. He later began driving a Jeep for the lieutenant before receiving rank as sergeant, about two months in. “I got my rank fast, but I think you get ranked fast when you’re in the lines in combat,” he said. Every now and then, the soldiers would get word the enemy had crossed their front line. “They were coming our way, so we thought we better build a foxhole,” Marvin said, noting nothing ever ended up happening while he was there, but that he could see the Korean soldiers from the front lines. “We stayed at the bunkers (trenches with sandbags around) a lot like you see in the movies,” he said.
One of Staker’s main jobs was hunting for mine fields, typically in places with a lot of traffic. Detectors would signal for metal in the ground, and if it was a mine, it then had to be probed from the ground. “As far as I can remember, I know they took their bayonet and just sort of heaved them up,” he said. Through the years, many memories have faded for Staker, but a few will always remain. “One Sunday we went off swimming ... there was a body without a head on it. That stayed with me all these years. It didn’t take us long to get out of the water.” He also recalled being in Seoul for a day, but the only real memory that has stuck with him of Seoul is the foul smell from fish markets. Rest and recouperations, or “R&Rs,” were times allotted to soldiers to break from the hostile area and travel. Marvin was able to tour Tokyo and went to the base of Mount Fuji in Japan. His second “R&R” was in Osaka. “That was pretty, I really enjoyed that,” he said. The United States signed an armistice with Korea in 1953 — four months in to Staker’s deployment —ending the war. But Staker and many other soldiers remained in Korea. He then became an inspector for South Korean camps, “which just
Marvin Staker about every base had a Korean camp.” He enjoyed when his wife would send him crackers and Velveeta cheese, but stayed away from the local food. He said the climate was similar to Iowa, cold in the winter, hot in the summer. In 1954, Staker’s time in Korea was over, and he was stationed back in the U.S. to finish his two-year draft. He sailed for 15 days on a battleship converted to a transport ship into Seattle, then traveled to Fort Carson in Colorado, then to Fort Riley in Kansas, where he was a squad sergeant for two or three months until he was discharged. Staker was relieved his deployment was behind him. “It wasn’t a difficult adjustment, I was just happy to be out of Korea,” he said. “I don’t think there was any good part, but I’m glad I served.” The worst part, he said, was the risk of getting killed. “But probably a lot of them, I’m sure, had it a lot worse than me.” He described a friend of his who was killed the second day Staker arrived in Korea. “He was a machine gun operator. That was a scary point.” Staker returned to Traer to his wife and finished off his farming career, retiring in 1993. Staker, now 86, enjoys building birdhouses, woodworking and living in Iowa where all four of his children reside.
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Vidal Mendez wounded fighting on the front lines AMIE STEFFENEICHER
OELWEIN — Ask Vidal Mendez why he volunteered for the U.S. Army in 1951, and he’ll give you a popular answer from that time. “I wanted to see some action,” Mendez, of Oelwein, said. “I wanted to go overseas.” Up until that time, the only action Mendez — whose parents, Frank and Juana Rodriquez Mendez, were born in Mexico — had seen was picking corn, working in a warehouse in Kansas City and working in the hog kill room at Rath Packing Co. in Waterloo. But he would see plenty — maybe too much — action in the Korean War. Mendez, the oldest of five brothers, and his brother Joseph both signed up for military service. Joseph served in the Navy, while Vidal signed up for the Army. He was bused along with other recruits to Fort Riley, Kan., and assigned to Company K-87 with the 10th Mountain Division. Soon after, he found himself on the Marine Phoenix, a transport ship bound for Japan and then to Incheon, Korea, where his company went straight to the front lines. “I remember when I left Seattle (on the Marine Phoenix), the band played ‘So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You,’” Mendez said. “I’ll never forget that as long as I live.” The song — written by Woody Guthrie in the 1930s as a Dust Bowl ballad and popularized by The Weavers in 1951 —was an inauspicious choice of songs to send off troops headed to war. But Mendez didn’t fret. “I wasn’t scared,” he said. “I heard so much about combat, I wanted to see for myself.” He got to the front lines in March 1951 without knowing what to expect
“My mind was blank, really. In a way, I was scared. It’s sort of a funny feeling, and then you see people get killed, get wounded. Thank God I wasn’t one of them.” Vidal Mendez beyond his training as a rifleman. His first few times in combat were illuminating, and he finally felt fear. “My mind was blank, really,” Mendez said. “In a way, I was scared. It’s sort of a funny feeling, and then you see people get killed, get wounded. Thank God I wasn’t one of them.” The first time he saw a dead soldier, “that night I couldn’t sleep at all,” he said. By October, his company had lost their platoon leader, platoon sergeant and squad leader, Mendez said. He had also been trained as a medic in that time. “Nobody wanted to take over the company, so I was platoon leader
and medic both for about a day and a half,” he said. Then, Mendez was wounded. His company was on patrol between 7 and 9 p.m. on Oct. 18, 1951, when the Chinese began firing artillery over them. “The Chinese, they had that valley zeroed in,” Mendez said. “They started shelling us.” Mendez and six others were hit at the same time — Mendez in the left leg, knee and shoulder. He said he never heard the shell coming. “When I got hit, I felt real warm,” Mendez said. “Then I see the leg — blood on my arm and leg.” He discovered he could still walk,
so he wrapped his injuries with bandages and used his medic’s training to help the others who were injured until the helicopters and tanks came and brought them to aid stations. “The first day I was in the hospital, they asked me, ‘What do you want for breakfast?’ I said, ‘What do you mean, what do I want for breakfast?’ It’s the first time I’d seen milk” since landing in Korea, he said. After two weeks, he was released to return to his company, where he eventually made it back to the front lines. He said he had mixed feelings about going back. “I always wondered how many guys were left,” Mendez said. “I was surprised quite a few guys made it through.” An infection in his wounded leg sent him back to the hospital, and he was never sent back to the line. Instead, Mendez worked in an aid station, helping stabilize and clean fresh battlefield wounds. “We got this one kid — he was covered with shrapnel all over his face, all over his body,” Mendez said, noting the soldier’s bunker had received nearly a direct hit from a shell. His division was finally replaced in February 1952, and Mendez spent time as a medic in Japan before being discharged in November of that year. “I didn’t do nothing, really — I just ate and slept,” in Japan, he said. “It was really different. ... It was the first time I had slept in a bed.” Mendez and his wife, Shirley — who died last year — visited South Korea 15 years ago. Mendez said it was much cleaner and more modern than it was in the 1950s. He even located a foxhole he slept in about 25 yards from a bridge that was standing more than 60 years later. “I loved the Army,” Mendez said. “It made me grow up, made me think that I’m an American.”
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Surviving THE FRONT LINES
Marine Marvin Leverington tells his story TIM JAMISON
OELWEIN — A string of bad breaks landed Marvin Leverington in the U.S. Marines Corps on the front lines of the Korean War. A bit of good fortune brought him home safely. An Oelwein area farmboy who would later make a career in the construction industry working on projects including the UNI-Dome to the John Deere Engine Works, Leverington recounted his military experience for the Grout Museum District. It’s a story that started on the wrong foot when Leverington tried to join the U.S. Naval Construction Battalions, or Seabees. “They were drafting people but I wanted to get into the construction part, so I tried to enlist in the Navy,” Leverington said. “But when I took my credentials in they said they would not guarantee me to get into the Seabees. So I refused to go in and went back to the draft board.” A month later, in January 1952, he was drafted into the Marines, a rarity at the time for that branch of the armed forces. Leverington still wound up in builders’ school at Port Hueneme, Calif., where he learned construction skills and served in a position
Marvin Leverington where he didn’t expect an assignment in Korea. That changed when he arrived in Camp Pendleton and built a boxing ring at the request of a lieutenant. The officer was court-martialed; Leverington wound up on a ship to Korea. “I wasn’t supposed to build anything on government property, but I didn’t know the difference,” he said. “Because of that they sent me overseas.” Leverington arrived in Korea in October 1952 and was sent to the front lines 30 miles north of Seoul. “Everything was kind of stagnant
at the time, but everybody had to take their turn going between the lines and fire up at their lines,” he said. “It was kind of scary, just wondering when it was your turn to go out.” Leverington’s fortunes soon changed when he was given orders to leave the front lines and work in tent maintenance at a transit camp north of Incheon. “One night, shortly after I’d left there, the platoon that I (previously) was in was sent out and most of them never came home,” he said. “They had an ambush set up out there and just destroyed them.”
Leverington also managed to survive unscathed in what he called “one of my luckiest times” after wandering into a mine field. Things were much safer at the transit camp except for nightly flyovers by a North Vietnamese pilot they dubbed “Bed Check Charlie” who was heading to Incheon in an old biplane to drop a single bomb. U.S. jets were apparently too fast to catch the vintage plane, so a surplus World War II plane was secured and eventually brought Bed Check Charley down. When Leverington finally received his orders to come back to the states in November 1953 he wrote a batch of letters to his wife and asked the mailman to send one every day. His ploy to surprise his wife failed when she saw a news account that he was already in California. He came back to Iowa for more than a month on furlough before officially discharging from the service at Treasure Island in San Francisco. Leverington, now 89, still lives in Oelwein where he designed the Armed Forces Flag Memorial at Veterans Park. The memorial was completed in 2010. All three of his brothers also served in the military, including his older brother Kenneth, a decorated Marine who served in Okinawa during World War II and won a Silver Star for taking out an enemy cave with a flamethrower.
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Courier reporter, businessmen were among Marines at Chosin PAT KINNEY
Most of this article appeared in the Courier June 25, 2010, on the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War. CEDAR FALLS — World War II was not the only conflict fought by members of the “Greatest Generation.” Many of them were called to duty again to fight the Korean War. One such group of local veterans was a U.S. Marine Reserve contingent, based in Waterloo. Just five years after surviving sweltering Pacific island battles against the Japanese Empire, they were in Korea. Many found themselves surrounded by hundreds of thousands of Chinese Communist forces in bitter cold at Chosin Reservoir in late 1950. They fought their way out to the port of Hungnam and safety, rescuing thousands of Korean civilians. As bad as the Marines fared, the U.S. Army soldiers there got it worse, said longtime Waterloo-Cedar Falls businessman Chuck Dalton, who was a Marine lieutenant at Chosin and a World War II veteran of Okinawa. “They lost a lot of people. It was just complete disarray. The Chinese just chased the hell out of them and just kept killing,” Dalton, who died in 2013, said in a 2010 Courier interview. When the Chinese first hit U.S. soldiers east of the reservoir, “they were completely unprepared,” Dalton said. The Marines were west of the reservoir. “It was colder than hell, and some of the guys, because the lake-reservoir was frozen, some of them ran across for us and we actually went over and saved some of them, brought them back. “But it was quite an experience, believe me,” Dalton said “We were stopped cold. We took a share of them before we decided to advance to the rear.” Temperatures often were 20 to 25 degrees below zero. “That makes it very difficult, especially if you have someone shooting at you all the time,” Dalton said.
The Marines have a policy of taking all their casualties out, even the dead. “We had truckloads of dead we were trying to carry out,” he said. Casualties within Dalton’s unit itself may have been comparatively low. “We still had too many,” he said, shaking his head. Nothing beats a first-person account. And The Courier had two from the front in Korea on Dec. 19, 1950. Courier Staff Writer Bob Case, then a U.S. Marine Corps sergeant, and Marine 1st Lt. A.L. “Pudge” Camarata, a star halfback for Iowa State Teachers College, both World War II veterans, provided eyewitness accounts of the battle at Chosin. “This is the story of a withdrawal, the pathetic story of men, of death and of the cold,” Case wrote. Their truck convoy set off at 7 a.m. Dec. 6, 1950, but was slowed to a halt by enemy forces at 5 p.m. “Then the enemy struck. Fire hit us from the front and both sides. The rest of the night was like being in hell — hell frozen over twice! “We continued to catch small-arms fire throughout the night. A few mortar shells also hit — some too close for comfort. Most of the night we spent in the ditches alongside the road. It’s a harrowing experience, fighting to stay awake, waiting for the enemy to attack
in the dark.” Camarata, in a letter to his wife published in the paper, said his unit already had lost its battalion commander “and a lot of key men” during the initial Chinese attack Nov. 27, and were quickly surrounded. “We knew we were outnumbered about 40 to 1 and had a fight on our hands,” Camarata wrote. “But everybody was in good spirits and joking about it.” But the Chinese soon tried to push the Americans back. “They had so many men it didn’t seem like they would ever quit, and already we had them stacked like cord wood in front of our position,” Camarata wrote. “That started our adventure (a bad one) and we fought the next four days without sleep, food or water, trying to eat snow to quench our thirst. I didn’t know one could get so thirsty when it was so cold,” Camarata wrote. “But worst of all is the bitter cold,” Case wrote. “It works into your bones. Your hands and feet freeze. “Several times during the night I debated with myself as to whether I was shaking from fright or the cold,” he added. “The Chinese had us surrounded but they didn’t know that they had a tiger by the tail,” Camarata wrote. “We were fighting for our life, and we meant business.”
The four days of steady fighting left the Chinese “with about 50 or 60 dead for every one of ours,” Camarata wrote. “The hard part was that we had more than 1,000 wounded,” many of whom “froze to death because they were unable to keep warm.” The Marines received air support the next morning, Case wrote. “What a sight it is to watch the planes dive, drop bombs, rockets and let loose with machine gun fire.” Support was so close the planes “dropped their loads of death almost next to the road.” The Marines wiped out a group of 60 previously concealed fleeing Chinese who had been only 50 yards from the Americans during the night. “We opened up on them with every weapon we had and they dropped like ducks in a shooting gallery,” Case wrote. Camarata’s Marines broke up roadblocks for the troops following them. “The colonel is proud of our outfit and so are we,” Camarata wrote. “We really have a fine bunch of men with a lot of guts and spirit.” But the cold pervaded everything. Case wrote, “Never again will I complain of the heat during a typical Iowa summer.” Case worked for U.S. Rep. H.R. Gross for many years and became one of Iowa’s premier political reporters when he returned to The Courier in the mid-1970s. He died in 1984 of a heart attack at 59. “Pudge” Camarata, who led ISTC to a league championship in 1946, had been drafted by the NFL’s Detroit Lions before being called to Korea, where he earned a Silver Star for valor to match a Purple Heart he had earned during World War II. He served 22 1/2 years in the Marine Corps and Marine Reserve, retiring in 1961. He was president of Iowa Structures Inc. in Cedar Falls. He lived in Wisconsin many years after retirement and passed away in 2011. Chuck Dalton founded Dalton Plumbing, Heating and Cooling in Cedar Falls.
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THEY SERVED WITH HONOR
KOREAN WAR VETERANS
Sid Morris saw battle at bloody Pork Chop Hill PAT KINNEY
CEDAR FALLS — Before Sid Morris began his career in education, he received an education in geography. He learned about latitude and longitude. Especially latitude. And one latitude in particular. The 38th parallel. On the Korean peninsula. Morris served in the U.S. Army in the Korean War. And the career education administrator learned about job security and job turnover. And there was one job in Korea that didn’t offer much stability and had a high level of turnover. That job was the position of forward artillery observer. There was a high casualty rate in that position. Morris, originally from Taylor County, took basic training at Camp Chaffee, Ark., after a round of written testing. He was assigned to an artillery battery and a fire direction crew for 155mm and 105mm howitzers. It was 1952. “We learned how to fire and set up the guns. We got trained on the artillery pieces” for eight weeks. The second eight weeks he was trained in fire direction, learning how to plot coordinates for fire missions and which type of ordnance to use. After that training, he was immediately sent to Korea, in the Seventh Infantry Division. Armistice talks had already commenced and the war, for all intents and purposes, had settled into a stalemate. “The big struggle we had was, where was that demilitarized zone going to be? The last six to eight months of that war, it was a battle over a strip of territory — the positioning of the South and positioning of the North,” Morris said. “And the hills like Old Baldy, that was in that zone. And Pork Chop Hill. There were several
Korean War veteran Sid Morris shows off his medals.
MATTHEW PUTNEY PHOTOS, COURIER PHOTO EDITOR
Sid Morris, Korean War veteran, shows his medals off at his home in Cedar Falls. of them that we, the Seventh Infantry Division, covered. It was a battle over territory.” Neither were fighting for victory as much as position, to take the high ground. “That’s why that battle was pretty heavy. It was pretty bad,” Morris said. Pork Chop Hill, for example, got its name for the high casualties there. “It was bloody,” he said. “They were in our fire range. “We all operated from high points. We didn’t have the technology we had today. It was a battle for position.” He showed a photo he took on box camera, from a high point. “Look down in the valley. There’s all kinds or roads. That’s where the enemy was coming.” “I was young at that time. I was uneasy,” Morris said. “Not necessarily because I wasn’t
willing to fight. It was because I didn’t know what was coming. I never knew for sure where I was going to be.” He was fighting alongside United Nations forces of other countries. “In my division we had Canadians, we has Puerto Ricans, we had Turks. We had about seven different countries in our division who were fighting beside us.” There were occasions where Morris and his comrades were driven from their positions by advancing North Korean and Chinese Communist forces, only to regroup and retake them. Morris knows some of his comrades paid a high cost to serve in Korea, something that was felt throughout the unit. “Some people had difficulty with that. They’d lose a friend. We were always there to sup-
port one another.” They also saw refugees. “We ran into a lot of families that were trying to escape,” he said, both the fighting as well as the North. None were headed in the opposite direction. “When I went in, I was proud to go,” he said. He’s still proud of his military service. “You can tell by looking at a lot of my stuff that freedom is very important to me,” he said. “I took a lot of history and I knew very early on in life that freedom is not free — that there are lot of people who preceded me who defended our freedom in this country. It has always been very valuable to me. There are so many people that have given the freedom I have. And I’m determined to do everything I can to assure that our future generations enjoy that same freedom. “That’s the major thing I thought about in that war. Because I saw the other side,” Morris said. “I saw no freedom. And I saw what it does to society. And it really irritates me when our freedoms are not respected and honored. It will always be a driving force in my life. I’m afraid a lot of our young people really don’t understand the importance of freedom.” To those who would question our involvement in overseas
conflicts such as Korea, Morris said, “What is North Korea doing right now? They’re shooting long-range missiles. They can reach here. Do they have freedom? No. That’s why we do it. Would you rather do it there or do it here?” And he knows the South Korean government is grateful for his comrades’ sacrifice. As the former president of the Tallcorn Chapter of Iowa Korean War veterans, Morris helped organize many anniversary recognitions of the Korean conflict in cooperation with the Korean consulate in Chicago and Korean-owned industries like PMX Corp in Cedar Rapids. Among his awards is a medal from the South Korean government, containing a piece of barbed wire from the demilitarized zone along the 38th parallel, separating South Korea from North Korea, and, respectively, freedom from communist dictatorship. “I was on communication with them all the time” in setting up those observances, Morris said of South Korean officials. “They were very accommodating, helpful. They wanted people in this country to know that they really, really appreciated what the United States did for them. It’s just amazing. I don’t know of any other country that’s done that.”
KOREAN WAR VETERANS
THEY SERVED WITH HONOR
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Elbert Simpson introduced to the horrors of war at
‘BLOODY RIVER’ KARRIS GOLDEN
For the Courier
WATERLOO — Elbert Simpson was introduced to the horrors of war soon after arriving in Korea. His outfit was the 378th Engineer Battalion (Combat), U.S. Army, stationed about 10 miles from the front. One of their first missions was to build a bridge across what had been dubbed “Bloody River.” “It was called that because the men who’d been killed, they was coming down the river,” Simpson recalled in a 2011 interview. “You can get used to anything if you try.” Simpson was born in 1930 in Holmes County, Miss. He started shining shoes at age 10, picking up the lifelong nickname “Slim the Shoeshine Artist.” As a teenager, he joined older brothers in Waterloo, finding work at Rath Packing Co. In 1951, his mother called to inform him the Army had sent a draft notice. He reported in Mississippi and was eventually sent to Fort Belvoir, Va., where he completed basic training. He was sent to Illinois and Wisconsin for further training before boarding a ship bound for Okinawa, Japan. It was a rough journey, and many of the men on the ship were sick eight days, Simpson said. In Okinawa, his outfit boarded a plane for Seoul, Korea. Men in his unit could volunteer to go to the front; he demurred. “I ain’t going to volunteer to die,” he said. “I ain’t going to volunteer to kill a man; I don’t think I could do that.” Instead, Simpson’s job was to ensure troops could continue their advance through Korea’s rough, hilly terrain. It was winter 1951 when he arrived in the country. Men of the 378th cleared ground and constructed buildings for military personnel. On the first day, an officer asked if anyone wanted a job as
Elbert Simpson a “truck driver.” Simpson eagerly volunteered. “They fooled all of us guys,” he recalled with a laugh. “Truck-driving” was actually hauling rocks and sand with a wheelbarrow. “We built roads through mountains. … We cut down trees this wide,” Simpson explained, spreading his long arms into a broad semicircle. In those pre-chainsaw days, tree-cutting was grueling work that employed two-man crosscut saws. Simpson was considered a strong, valued worker. “I could pick up 300 pounds though I didn’t weigh more than 165 pounds,” he said. “I’d pick up 100 pounds with this arm, 100 pounds with (the other) and 100 pounds with my mouth!” Days were long and the work was demanding. They awoke before dawn and were forced to shower in ice-cold water. They then crowded into large, open trucks, ascending mountains on narrow, treacherous roads. They subsisted on K-rations, water and plenty of hot coffee, quitting work well after the sun went down.
“The way I saw it, you know you in there; you ain’t going nowhere,” he said. “If the man tells you to do something, you do it.” The Korean War was the last conflict that segregated units of U.S. armed forces based on race. “Colored” soldiers were treated differently in various ways, from jobs they were assigned to equipment they were issued. For example, when Simpson took his turn on night watch, his rifle wasn’t loaded. He never encountered an enemy soldier. If that had occurred, Simpson had been trained to raise the alert and use his rifle’s bayonet to defend himself. “I told the guys, when we go out, we ain’t got no bullets. We going to have to fight, so we fight; we was sent here to fight,” he explained. Thus Simpson believed he survived largely due to the bravado of youth. “I wasn’t scared of nothing when I was young,” he said. “When you’re out there with a bunch of guys, you might be thinking you’re going to die, but oh, no. I wasn’t thinking about dying; I was thinking about living.”
At one point, battle lines had shifted while the unit was working. This caused the workers to retreat, leaving trucks and other equipment as many as 15 miles behind enemy lines. In the confusion, Simpson was forgotten. Simpson hid and waited. Without food and armed with only a canteen, he used the water to rinse his mouth out and stay alert. He reminded himself to focus on survival. “The light created by guns … going off from the shooting from each side … made it so bright it was like daylight,” he said. After three days, his unit was able to return for the trucks. “I was so grateful to see them, I ran out waving,” he said. “I told them, ‘I ain’t going back up there no more!” At home, Simpson’s mother had been notified he had died. It took another three weeks before the truth reached her. Simpson recalled that his time in Korea taught him how to “treat people right,” a concept he believed he hadn’t grasped in the years prior. “The Army taught me what to do and what to say to live,” he said. “(In the) Army, each man gave you the same break. If you learn how to do the job, you’ve got the job.” With that understanding, he returned to Waterloo in fall 1953. He credited the Army with strengthening his work ethic, which led to a job at John Deere. In his spare time, “Slim the Shoeshine Artist” continued that decades-old occupation into his 80s from a metal chair beneath a shade tree. “I took my money I earned shining shoes and gave it to help others,” said Simpson, who died in 2015. “Before I went in (the army), I didn’t treat people right. You treat a man like you want to be treated; that’s what Mama taught us.”
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THEY SERVED WITH HONOR
KOREAN WAR VETERANS
Jack Witmer ‘dug in’ to rocky terrain for protection KARRIS GOLDEN
For the Courier
LA PORTE CITY — Korea is sometimes referred to as the “forgotten war,” because of its proximity to World War II. For Korean War veteran John “Jack” Witmer, 89, significant portions of his experiences there also are forgotten, thanks to time, cardiovascular disease and perhaps even the U.S. military. In 2010, Witmer was interviewed by Jane Meyer of the Grout Museum in Waterloo. The goal was to record the experiences of Witmer and other area veterans. In Witmer’s case, the interview captured the experiences the former U.S. Army Infantry machine gunner could still piece together. At that time, Witmer recalled combat experiences as well as his work training military officers in biological and chemical warfare detection and prevention. A massive stroke took some sharpness from some previous memories. Witmer can’t remember large chunks of time from nearly two years spent in Korea. Some details are distinct and vivid while others are fuzzy or even completely lost. Meanwhile, a few key incidents from that time suggest military officials may have restricted portions of Witmer’s service record. Witmer spent most of his childhood on his family’s farm 12 miles north of town. His days consisted of school, chores and tending livestock. He also helped his father and grandfather farm 240 acres, using horse-drawn equipment. The Witmers moved to Waterloo in 1945. Witmer went on to finish high school in Denver, where he also made tractor engine parts at his father’s machine shop. After graduation, Witmer worked at Rath Packing Co. He was drafted in 1952, reported to Des Moines and was sent to Camp Crowder, Mo., for basic training. He went on to Camp Roberts, Calif., before shipping out with the 5th Regimental Combat Team and Infantry, U.S. Army, Incheon, Korea. At some point, Wtimer was identified as a candidate for special training. When his unit arrived in Okinawa, Japan, in late 1952, the regiment continued on to the front in Korea. However, Witmer stayed on in Okinawa to complete a course in biological and chemical warfare detection and prevention. He would use this training throughout the rest of his service.
Jack Witmer “I never got over an E-2 rank, but here I was training all these officers about biological and chemical warfare,” he said. “I had no idea how I got into it; I was just picked, I guess.” When not training officers, Witmer was “dug in” between Seoul and the 38th Parallel. That is, he and other machine gunners dug holes to conceal themselves from the enemy —- tough work in the rocky, hard terrain among Korea’s hills. “Getting set up took a couple of hours, I guess, by the time you had your hole dug and you’d get set in,” he explained. “You had to make sure you was deep enough.” The unit stayed in one spot for as much as a day or more before switching locations. Witmer clearly recalled his outfit’s chief gunner, Victor Reese, a Californian with whom he dug in. “When we’d switch positions, I was supposed to take the tripod, and he was supposed to the gun,” said Witmer. “He was so big, he’d pick up the whole thing and move it.” That’s how Witmer spent most days: waiting, moving, waiting a while longer. He remembered one time when the outfit was told to advance up a hill and dig in. Making their way took the better part of a day. Near the top, they received word they’d been sent to the wrong hill. Uncertainty, tedium and hard work weren’t
the only difficulties. Hunkered down in their holes, gunners had only their heavy topcoats for warmth and shelter from the elements. They lived on K-rations and whatever else they could find in the countryside around them. Often, they relied on water from nearby creeks and streams, said Witmer. Every so often, a Jeep would arrive for Witmer, with orders from the headquarters of the Regimental Combat Company. These instructions sent the private to other outfits, where he delivered his chemical and biological warfare presentation, often to company commanders. “I’d come back, go on to the next one,” he said, adding that he didn’t remember the content of his lectures because of his stroke. Of the country in general, he mainly recalled the terrain. He didn’t travel outside a limited area and said he never met any civilians. “We were out, dug in most of the time,” he said, marking his time in Korea as one year, 10 months and eight days. Near the end of his enlistment, he was offered a promotion to sergeant in exchange for four more years of service. Witmer believes this was because of his special training, although he wasn’t sure. He declined the offer. At about this time, Witmer learned his outfit would be processed out of service in the United States. He, however, was separated from the group about two months beforehand. He later spoke with someone who told him the group hadn’t been sent back to the United States. Although Witmer searched for more details, he said, “I was never able to find any information on the 5th Regimental Combat Battalion.” Witmer alone was sent stateside for declassification. Before returning to Iowa, he said his duffle was confiscated. At home, he quickly learned few people had been told he was away fighting in Korea. In addition, Witmer learned from his mother that none of the film he’d sent home had ever reached her. In Waterloo, Witmer found work as a pin-setter at the Electric Park Ballroom bowling alley. He also met Neva, whom he married in 1955. The couple later moved to Cedar Rapids, where Witmer was a technical illustrator for Collins Radio (later Rockwell-Collins). He retired after 30 years, and the Witmers relocated to La Porte City.
KOREAN WAR VETERANS
THEY SERVED WITH HONOR
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Combat, shock came quickly for Ken Lind META HEMENWAY-FORBES,
WATERLOO — Ken Lind admits he had no what he’d gotten himself into when, in 1948, he joined the Marine Corps Reserve unit in Waterloo. “I had several friends who had joined the reserve and (one of them) talked me into it. ... It was something to do. ... It never crossed my mind that we be” called up to active duty. “Of course we had just gotten through World War II. Who would have dreamed something would happen in Korea? I didn’t even know where it was at.” He soon found out. Lind was born May 31, 1929, in Sioux City, to parents who’d emigrated from Denmark. His dad worked in construction, traveling during the week and home on weekends. Eventually, his father landed a construction job in Waterloo, building the Rath Packing Co. plant. The family, including his parents and three siblings, relocated to Cedar Falls. Lind graduated from Cedar Falls High School in 1947 and went into construction work. He joined the Marine Reserves in 1948. “My older brother was a pilot in World War II,” he said. “He was a little disappointed in me when I joined the Marine Corps. I wish I’d taken his advice. He said if you joined the Air Corps you’d have a clean bed to sleep in at night.” Lind continued working in construction and also worked as a bricklayer, while meeting his monthly obligation with the Marine Reserves. “Then I decided I better use my G.I. Bill and went to Iowa State Teachers College,” now the University of Northern Iowa, where he studied industrial arts and earth science, finishing his degree in three years. He took a job in St. Louis, making maps with the Aeronautical Chart and Information Center. “We made all the maps for
BRANDON POLLOCK, COURIER STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Ken Lind, third from left, is part of a group of Korean War veterans who helped the Grout Museum plan a year-long Korean War exhibit.
“They gave the folks and we boys a chance to say goodbye for about 15 minutes. I had no inkling where I was going and what I would be doing.” Ken Lind the Air Force. ... I was assigned China, Russia and Japan,” he said. Then, at a weekend Marine Reserve meeting, everything changed. “They said ‘you can expect some new orders that will be sent directly to you by mail.’ ... I think I was notified three weeks before I was activated. I thought, well if I’m going to go in three weeks I’m going to take a vacation. The folks and I took a trip to the north shore of Lake Superior and spent a week up that way. Then I came back and gathered everything” and was shipped out.
“They gave the folks and we boys a chance to say goodbye for about 15 minutes. I had no inkling where I was going and what I would be doing,” he said. After a small send-off ceremony in Lincoln Park in Waterloo, Lind and his fellow reserve Marines were put on a train to California, where he spent more than a month training as a field telephone operator. “One of my buddies from Cedar Falls, when interviewed about our likes and dislikes, they wanted to know if any of us could type. I knew how to type. My buddy was the same. They asked
me and I said, ‘no I don’t want to type.’ He ended up running a PX depot in California. He spent his whole time there. I thought that was the dumbest things I’ve ever done,” Lind recalled, laughing. He was among 2,500 Marines put aboard a troop transport and shipped off to Korea. About halfway through the flight, they were informed their military occupations were no longer in communications. Because of the casualties suffered by U.S. forces, they were now infantrymen. “Everybody in the Marine Corps is an infantryman, no matter what your specialty is,” Lind said. There was no radio or telephone work. We are now going right up on the (front) lines. So that’s what I ended up with as soon as I got over there. They sent you to outfits that were depleted. “I became an assistant Browning automatic rifleman.
I had fired those weapons, but I never expected I was going to carry those 22-pound brutes around.” With the Browning’s combined rapid fire and penetration power, “I really liked the weapon, but it was heavy.” It didn’t take long for Lind to see the brutality of war. “My first shock was seeing my first dead person. I never encountered someone who’d been killed before. That really shook me up,” he said. Actual combat came quickly, too, on a ridge his unit was trying to take. “The first guy I ran into, I don’t know how many times I shot at him, but he was already dead. He’d been hit by (fire from) a plane. He had a hole in the middle of his (fore)head. When I got up to him the whole back of his head was gone. (But it had looked like) he was sitting in his foxhole looking at me. ... After that, the shock got over. Then it was a part of everyday life. Got to the point where it didn’t bother you anymore. You could sit down and eat a meal with somebody dead beside you.” Lind and his unit trekked on foot from Pusong, the southern tip of Korea, over the 38th parallel and to the north, throughout the country’s brutal winter. “Yes, it got cold,” Lind said, “25 to 30 below zero. Pretty cold sleeping outside that time of year. ... Sometimes you slept; you always slept with your rifle in the sleeping bad, keeping them warm. Otherwise they’d freeze up on you.” Before his service in the Korean War was over, Lind would survive a concussion blast from a tank and a bout with hemorrhagic fever. Back stateside, he continued serving in the Marine Reserve until the Vietnam War broke out. He had served his full contract and opted to discharge. “I said, ‘I’ve run around in the mountains enough I know I don’t want to go into the jungle.’ So got out.”
THEY SERVED WITH HONOR
30 | Thursday, July 27, 2017
KOREAN WAR VETERANS
Rieck recalls horror of war,
JOY OF ARMISTICE PAT KINNEY
ELK RUN HEIGHTS — Viola Rieck was and is a strict teetotaler, but she was giddy as a happy drunk on July 27, 1953. She was high on the joy of peace. She was in the U.S. Army at Inchon, South Korea and she heard the news everyone on the war-torn Korean peninsula had been waiting for for three long years. United Nations and communist North Korea and allies had reached an armistice in the Korean War. It was an end to the carnage of American soldiers who had lost life and limb trying to preserve freedom for South Korea. “I was right there. When that came over I was sitting at my desk” when word was received that North Korean leader Kim Il-sung had agreed to a cease fire. “I jumped up on my table — and usually I’m a pretty quiet person — and I just started dancing and dancing,” she said. “Now they wouldn’t be bringing them home with arms missing and legs missing and all the things I’d seen in Korea.” “Things like that, I’ll never forget,” she said. She sobbed as she told the story, 64 years later. Rieck was a company clerk. She delivered payroll in a Jeep armed with an M-1 rifle — a weapon she knew “as well as any man (did),” she said. Among other duties, she’d also help out at a makeshift hospital, tending to wounded. The memories haunt her to this day. It had been announced a day earlier the armistice might be imminent. That evening, she said, still crying, “I walked down to the ocean and I was praying that the war would end. And I looked out there and it looked like little boats out on the ocean. A year
later, I found out my brother was on one of those boats” and would have been headed into the fight were it not for the armistice. When she’d see those troop ships come in, she said, “All I could do was think, ‘How many of these are going to live?’ She would see wounded be shipped out to Japan once they were well enough to move. Rieck said she and comrades had their doubts. “We didn’t think it was going to end,” she said, “and we were getting all so tired of seeing guys coming in and missing (body) parts and things like that. “I was in finance and I was the one that had to send the (final pay) money to the parents of those that got killed,” she sobbed. “So you know it wasn’t a happy time. I was very, very sad.” Even then soldiers could hardly believe it was true, “because you weren’t in the States and hearing things,” she said. “We were there living it.” Riecks, now 84, was 19 when she served. She wonders how many of her comrades are still alive, “because I was so young.” Asked about the current situation in Korea, with Kim Il-sung’s grandson, Kim Jong-un, testing nuclear weapons and threatening the West and neighboring countries, Rieck said, “It’s the same feeling I had when I was there. I just don’t believe they are guys that you want to trust.” Her husband, Marlowe, also served in the Army in Alaska from 1951-53. Troops were needed there to safeguard against any kind of action by the Soviet Union, another communist nation just across the Bering Strait from Alaska. BRANDON POLLOCK, COURIER STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Of her service, Rieck said in a 2015 Korean War veteran Viola Rieck of Elk Run Heights is shown here with an Courier interview, “I didn’t do it for fame and fortune. I did it because I original letter, more than 60 years old, written by her commanding officer’s wife to her parents. was needed.”
THEY SERVED WITH HONOR
KOREAN WAR VETERANS
Thursday, July 27, 2017 | 31
‘We were fighting for our life, and
WE MEANT BUSINESS’ PAT KINNEY
CEDAR FALLS — Collegiate and National Football League running back. Decorated veteran of two wars. Successful businessman. August L. “Pudge” Camarata was all of those. Camarata, who passed away in 2011, was a star running back for Iowa State Teachers College, now the University of Northern Iowa, helping the school win a conference championship in 1946. He already had served with the U.S. Marine Corps at Okinawa during World War II, earning a Silver Star for gallantry in action and a Purple Heart for combat wounds. Camarata was drafted by the NFL’s Detroit Lions and signed with the club. After a year and a half, his NFL career was cut short by another war — Korea. He was one of several Cedar Valley area Marines who served at the battle at Chosin Reservoir in November 1950. They and other United Nations forces, deep inside North Korea, fought their way out of a trap by invading Communist Chinese forces to the port of Hungnam and safety, in bitter, subzero cold. “He was a fine Marine officer, no question about that,” said late Waterloo-Cedar Falls businessman Chuck Dalton, who served with Camarata at Okinawa and Chosin Reservoir. “He was a company commander in Korea. That’s a very tough job on combat — three platoons relying upon his decision making, along with
“We knew we were outnumbered about 40 to 1 and had a fight on our hands. They had so many men it didn’t seem like they would ever quit, and already we had them stacked like cord wood in front of our position.” August Camarata officers. Pudge was a fine person.” Camarata, in a letter to his wife published in the Courier at that time, said his unit already had lost its battalion commander “and a lot of key men” during the initial
Chinese attack Nov. 27, and were quickly surrounded. “We knew we were outnumbered about 40 to 1 and had a fight on our hands,” wrote Camarata, then a first lieutenant. “They had so many men it didn’t seem like they would ever quit, and already we had them stacked like cord wood in front of our position. “We fought the next four days without sleep, food or water, trying to eat snow to quench our thirst. I didn’t know one could get so thirsty when it was so cold,” Camarata wrote. “The Chinese had us surrounded but they didn’t know that they had a tiger by the tail,” Camarata wrote. “We were fighting for our life, and we meant business.” The four days of steady fighting left the Chinese “with about 50 or 60 dead for every one of ours,” Camarata wrote. He won a second Silver Star for his actions in Korea. Camarata’s Marines broke up roadblocks for the troops following them. “The colonel is proud of our outfit and so are we,” Camarata wrote. “We really have a fine bunch of men with a lot of guts and spirit.” He served 22 1/2 years in the Marine Corps and Marine Reserve, retiring in 1961 as a lieutenant colonel. He was president of Iowa Structures Inc. in Cedar Falls, operating a Harvestore dealership here and in Minnesota. He moved to Wisconsin in 1985, retiring from the real estate business. He is a member of the UNI Athletics Hall of Fame.
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Navy corpsman on treating wounded soldiers:
For the Courier
CEDAR FALLS — Kaye Ann Plumb had a choice to make: She could let betrayal and loss defeat her, or she could chart a new course. She chose the latter. The decision put her in medical service for the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. It also gave her perspective on service and health care in general, said Plumb, now 84. “When you’re a nurse, you see (patients) for that moment only; you never know how things went,” she explained. Plumb graduated from East Waterloo High School in 1951. Her father, who lived in Atlanta, viewed it as a major milestone. However, severe heart disease prevented him from traveling. He asked his brother and sisterin-law to travel from Standwood to stand proxy for him. Her father died during the occasion, and Plumb went to Atlanta for his funeral. More bad news greeted her. “My father had always saved war bonds for my education, so I could go on for college,” Plumb recalled. She learned her father’s wife had convinced a nurse to help her change the beneficiary of Plumb’s bonds. In an instant, her plans evaporated. Plumb rallied. An uncle who had served in the military encouraged her to research the G.I. Bill. Her mother wasn’t sure. The more Plumb learned, the more she believed military service was a good option. Plumb selected the U.S. Navy after developing a rapport with a recruiter and his wife. In No-
Kaye Plumb vember 1952, she set off for Baltimore for six weeks of boot camp. “It was confusing,” she said. “It was learning a whole new way of life: a lot of education about … military justice, protocol and ship codes, along with gymnastics and marching.” Boot camp also was exhausting, and Plumb recalled some weren’t cut out for long days that started before sunrise. “Reveille came early; you better get up, or somebody would come get you,” she added. “It didn’t bother me. … My mother was a stern taskmaster, so I learned young to do what you’re supposed to do. I was used to that.” Her first assignment took her to Great Lakes Naval Hospital in Illinois. There, she attended Hospital Corpsman School for six months. This included medical education included anatomy and physiology, effectively training Plumb as a nurse. “It was so amazing. You learned a lot of things,” said Plumb. After training, Plumb con-
tinued on at the hospital. It was staffed primarily with corpsmen like her, with “only a few RNs,” she noted. Patients included everyone from naval dependents to those returning from the Korean War. “I worked very hard in the hospital, and it didn’t matter if you were a girl or a boy; your gender didn’t matter. If you’d been trained as a hospital corpsman, you could work on the ward with men just as well as wards with dependents,” she said. One task she enjoyed was picking up returning troops in need of medical care. She and another hospital corpsman were assigned to a bus specially fitted to accommodate litters. “I tried to keep candy, chewing gum and cigarettes in my pockets, you know, because this was the first time these boys would be back in the United States.” One seaman exclaimed “I could just kiss you,” after receiving one such treat, before telling Plumb how grateful he was to be home. “I know Korea was very cold,” said Plumb. “I would tuck the blanket around their feet. One guy told me, ‘Don’t bother; my feet are frozen.’ It just tore me right apart.” It was particularly difficult to treat the injuries seldom seen in civilian life, added Plumb. She found shrapnel wounds, those resulting from explosions and burns especially “heart-wrenching.” The war hit close to home in other ways, too. “Four fellas I was in training with … went fleet marine,” she explained. “They were still corpsman, but … they went
straight to the front. … One was from Alabama; he had always been very protective of me, like a brother. Within a month-anda-half, all were killed in action.” Plumb transferred to a clinic at the Naval Air Station in Norfolk, Va., in 1954. There, her work consisted primarily of treating dependents. Corpsmen took care of all aspects of patient care, from assisting doctors and ensuring rooms were clean to managing medications. The path Plumb chose fulfilled her strong sense of duty at a time when women in military roles were sometimes viewed with skepticism and disdain. Still, she wore the uniform proudly and treated it as a duty. Sometimes, this led her somewhat unique vocation for granted. For example, she waited more than 50 years before telling most family members she was the only woman from the naval airbase selected to participate in dedicating U.S. NATO headquarters in 1955. She had shared the information with her mother, in case she wanted to find a TV to watch the ceremony. She didn’t think much about it after that, she recalled. “It was a beautiful day. … It was very impressive, but I didn’t say anything about it after that. I did my job,” she said. “I don’t know why, but it occurred to me (recently), so I mentioned it to my son. He couldn’t believe it, because I’d never told anyone about it before. … I didn’t think anybody would be interested.” Some reacted negatively to military women, said Plumb. “I came home (to visit), and my grandma was always very
proud of me,” she explained. “We were going to dinner, and I wanted to wear my civis.” Her grandmother wanted to show off Plumb in her uniform. The family, including several uncles and aunts, were to dine at the Chesterfield Club in Waterloo. Plumb relented. A woman at another table sized up Plumb and asked her companion in a snide tone, “What is she?” On another occasion, Plumb was traveling by train to a family funeral. Next to her sat a woman who made it clear she conflated servicewomen with “ladies of the night,” said Plumb. A sailor on the train eventually sought out Plumb. He had noticed the medical insignia she wore and enlisted her help with a medical emergency involving an elderly woman on the train. Plumb cared for the woman and she and the sailor waited with her until a doctor met the train. Before leaving, the doctor commended the pair for their “devotion to duty.” He later ensured they both received commendations. But when Plumb returned to her car, her seatmate was skeptical. She asked, “Was there really an elderly woman?” Plumb felt vindicated when they disembarked at the same spot. Waiting for Plumb were two cousins in uniform — one of the U.S. Air Force and the other of the U.S. Army. “I told them (the story),” Plumb said, noting how appalled the woman would be to see who picked her up. “‘That was whipped cream!’ I said. ‘That was the topping!’”
THEY SERVED WITH HONOR
KOREAN WAR VETERANS
THURSDAY, JULY 27, 2017 |
OVER THE AIRWAVES These are the songs Americans heard on the radio from 1951 to 1954, the years when American military service members were fighting in Korea. Every December Billboard published a chart listing the year’s top songs based on their cumulative chart performance in the United States.
2. “Wheel of Fortune,” Kay Starr
2. “Vaya Con Dios,” Les Paul and Mary Ford
2. “Wanted,” Perry Como
1. “Blue Tango,” Leroy Anderson 3. “Cry,” Johnnie Ray 4. “You Belong To Me,” Jo Stafford 5. “Auf Wiederseh’n, Sweetheart,” Vera Lynn 6. “Half as Much,” Rosemary Clooney 7. “Wish You Were Here,” Eddie Fisher and Hugo Winterhalter
Nat King Cole
1. “Too Young,” Nat King Cole 2. “Because Of You,” Tony Bennett 3. “How High The Moon,” Les Paul and Mary Ford
1. Percy Faith Song From Moulin Rouge
3. “Doggie In The Window,” Patti Page 4. “I’m Walking Behind You,” Eddie Fisher The Ames Brothers
1. “Little Things Mean A Lot,” Kitty Kallen 3. “Hey There,” Rosemary Clooney 4. “Sh-Boom,” Crew Cuts 5.”Make Love To Me,” Jo Stafford 6. “Oh! My Pa-pa,” Eddie Fisher 7. “I Get So Lonely,” Four Knights 8. “Three Coins In The Fountain,” Four Aces
8. “I Went To Your Wedding,” Patti Page
9. “Secret Love,” Doris Day 10. “Hernando’s Hideaway,” Archie Bleyer
9. “Here in My Heart,” Al Martino 10. “Delicado,” Percy Faith Patti Page
4. “Come On-a My House,” Rosemary Clooney 5. “Be My Love,” Mario Lanza
5. “You, You, You,” Ames Brothers
6. “On Top Of Old Smoky,” Weavers
6. “Till I Waltz Again With You,” Teresa Brewer
7. “Cold, Cold Heart,” Tony Bennett 8. “If,” Perry Como 9. “Loveliest Night Of The Year,” Mario Lanza 10. “Tennessee Waltz,” Patti Page
7. “April In Portugal,” Les Baxter 8. “No Other Love,” Perry Como 9. “Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes,” Perry Como 10. “I Believe,” Frankie Laine
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Army Corps nurse veteran recalls time on amputee wards MELODY PARKER
FAIRBANK – Elsie Guseman Russett never heard bomb explosions and machine-gun bursts of live combat during the Korean War, but she saw the wounds inflicted on returning warriors. The nurse worked on two amputee wards at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., during the conflict. “A lot of the boys were young kids who’d lied about their age and weren’t really old enough to be in the service. We had old soldiers, too, who were amputees,” recalled Russett, now 95. Russett served in the Army Nursing Corps from 1951 to 1957 and rose to the rank of captain. She recalled treating a young man who lost both arms and both legs, and another who’d lost both legs and one arm, as well as other injuries. Some amputations were the result of frostbite, she said. Soldiers, without proper winter clothing and boots, had lost feet or toes in the brutally cold Korean winters. “I remember going around doing dressings (on patients) and picking off toes. It sounds pretty terrible, but they were fairly cheerful about it, some of these young kids. They were sent someplace else for rehabilitation and prosthetics,” Russett said. Born in 1921, she grew up on a 365acre farm in West Virginia, helping her older sister and four younger brothers and their parents tend to chickens, horses, pigs and cows. Her dad raised oats, corn, winter wheat and buckwheat, as well. She had always wanted to be a nurse and after high school graduation, her father drove her to Morgantown, W.Va., to attend nursing school at the city hospital. The three-year program required working long days in the hospital, interrupted by afternoon classes.
Elsie Russett She graduated in 1943 as a registered nurse. “It was tough, but it was good experience, too, because we learned to do everything. I had a couple of tours in the operating room.” After graduation, she returned home and cared for her cousin’s ill baby, worked as a private nurse and later at a university student health center. After working in a hospital, she took a job in a doctor’s office where she worked for six years before enlisting in the Army Nursing Corps. Her basic training took place in San Antonio, Texas. “It was a lot of fun … sitting in classrooms learning about the army and hospitals in the army, which were quite a bit different than (civilian) hospitals. It was only a few weeks, and it was a very social life in San Antonio with lots of things going on.” Her request was approved to be sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center after basic training. “I thought I could get home more, but we were very busy. It was an elite military hospital. I adjusted pretty well … made a lot of friends.” The injuries she treated ranged from combat wounds to frostbite to “getting run over. We would get a convoy of patients … everything, arms, legs, whatever. Sometimes the soldiers would tell
COURIER FILE PHOTO
Korean War vetereans Elsie Russett, who served in the Army Nurse Corps, and her husband, Alan, who was a medical corpsman. about what had happened to them. I remember this old sergeant who told me he’d had maggots in his leg,” Russett said. She got orders to Austria, but ended up in Italy at a military unit as an operating room nurse. “I spent a lot of time on the beach and bought an Opel to get around. It cost less than $1,000, and I paid for it in postal money orders.” After two years abroad, she returned to the States and the end of her threeyear tour in the Reserves. It wasn’t long before “I decided I wanted more time and re-enlisted for three more years in the regular Army. If I was going back, I’d stay until I retired. I planned on making it my career,” said Russett.
The captain was sent to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, and met her future husband, a corpsman, on the recovery ward. Allen Russett, who was from Iowa, asked her to marry him. “That changed everything. … I resigned my commission.” The couple moved to Iowa where her husband became a pharmacist while she worked as a nurse at several hospitals, including the Veterans Administration Hospital in Iowa City. The mother of two sons later spent 16 years as a school nurse. Russett reflects on her experience as a military nurse, describing it as having a “big impact on my life. It was a good experience. I would recommend it.”
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communications Max McGrane laid the groundwork KRISTIN GUESS
WATERLOO — Max McGrane tuned out the horrors of the Korean War and instead stayed focused on his job — laying wire near the front lines and hiding from the enemy under the blanket of night. “Most of the time you had to crawl quite a ways. It was just your job, that’s all,” he said. McGrane served in the U.S. Army from 1952-54 with the 5th RCT combat team in communications, stationed in Korea near the 38th parallel. He was discharged as a PFC. He was born May 17, 1929, in Elma, and his father was a farmer who later ran a produce business until 1953. McGrane began working full time for his father after eighth grade. Later he was drafted into the military, completed boot camp at Camp Roberts in California and was sent to Korea by ship for 18 months, minus a seven-day leave he took to get married. Some details from deployment are somewhat hard to recall for McGrane. “You think you can remem-
Max McGrane ber it, and then you don’t, you know, I guess you just don’t want to remember it,” he said. During McGrane’s deployment, his job was to distribute communications wires in the middle of the night. The wires were similar to telephone wires, he said, and each day the code would change so the Ko-
reans could not pick up what the Americans were saying. So, each night new wire needed to be laid. Later, after the war, McGrane discovered the Korean soldiers were only about six to seven blocks away from him when he was at the front lines. “We knew they were close,
but we didn’t know they were that close,” he said. By day, his job was to stand on an outlook post or get wire ready for the night. “No one in the service was prepared ... what you did at boot camp you might not even do when you got to your outfit, unless you were specialized for it,” he said. When the armistice was signed, he said both sides were told to use up all of their ammunition until midnight of that night, and then quit fighting. “It ain’t funny but ... all this time and one day they said, ‘Today, you’re going to go out here and tomorrow, you can all go home,’” noting it took several months to a year for them to go home. After the ceasefire, McGrane and his crews were assigned to roll up all the wire they had laid. They were told they would be charged for any wire not accounted for. McGrane returned to Elma after he was discharged and worked at Waterloo Industries for 32 years, commuting 60 miles from Elma to Waterloo each day. “Like they say, it’s good experience after it’s all overwith,” McGrane said.
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Robert Wray drove truck in the war HOLLY HUDSON
CEDAR FALLS — Robert Wray was born in 1928 in Missouri, a farmer’s son. When he was 5 years old, he and his family — including his eight siblings — moved to Iowa in the middle of the Great Depression. While growing up Wray helped to support the family as best he could. First in the form of chores. “I would gather wood at night and make sure the chickens were in,” he said. The first actual job he held was separating cream from milk and then, at 14, he was hired on at a lumberyard unloading coal, sand and gravel out of boxcars after school. Sometimes he would work until midnight. After Wray graduated from high school, the family moved to Cedar Falls, following two of his older brothers who had been hired by John Deere. His father got work at a local lumberyard and Wray enjoyed life in Cedar Falls, going to the Rollerdrome almost every night when it opened and working at the Behrens-Rapp filling station on 14th Street. The skills Wray learned and his penchant for hard work would serve him well when he joined the Army in October 1949 and went to Fort Riley Kansas for 12 weeks of basic training. “It was pretty rough,” Wray said. “We had a real strict sergeant. I learned a lot, but was glad when it was all over finally. And I was glad I had it (training) when I got to Korea.” Following basic training, Wray was sent to Seattle. From there he was scheduled to go directly overseas. Instead, he wound up working in an office for a month until someone realized he wasn’t supposed to be there. “You’ve got to be shipped out of here,” he was told. “You’re on the next boat.” He was sent to Japan in March and left there for Korea in June. “I had to ask the sergeant where Korea was,” Wray said, laughing. “’Don’t worry, you’ll find it,’ he said. And I did.” Troops, including Wray, arrived in Korea by boat and had to rappel down
“I was the first one down. I let go of the rope and landed flat on my whole back. The sergeant came running over and said, ‘Are you alright? Were you hurt?’ … Just my pride. … Everything they taught me went right through my ears as quick as a whistle.” Robert Wray the ship into a smaller boat below. They were trained to be sure to hang on to the ropes as people in the boat below could be holding bayonets. “I was the first one down,” Wray said. “I let go of the rope and landed flat on my whole back. The sergeant came running over and said, ‘Are you alright? Were you hurt?’ … Just my pride. … Everything they taught me went right through my ears as quick as a whistle.” In Korea, Wray was a truck driver for the quartermaster corps and was then promoted to Jeep driver for the captain and lieutenant in his outfit. Once the troops landed, in the midst of heavy shelling, there was trouble getting Wray’s truck off the boat. It wouldn’t start and had to be hooked up to an amphibious craft and pulled
to shore. “I went from there to hauling gasoline and stuff for tank outfits,” Wray said. “Hauling for three days and three nights straight.” Shortly after, the unit was told to retreat. With no time to retrieve the barrels of gasoline, they were blown up. “Do you know how hard I worked on that?” Wray said. “There’s lots of waste in the Army.” Wray spent a good deal of his time driving. “Hauling troops from the ships to the front lines … at night it was dark as pitch and you couldn’t use lights or nothing. That was really scary. You could see the lights on the back of the vehicle in front of you but you couldn’t tell if there was
anybody around you or not. “I remember going that one night. I knew there was enemy around awful close and I was so scared I carried a bayonet in my mouth in case one of them jumped up on the truck maybe I could protect myself. That was the scariest part of the whole thing. Thank the good lord they didn’t do it. “After we got to the front lines they’d load us up … bodies of dead soldiers … haul ‘em to a boxcar. Eighty-five to a boxcar, and then they’d send them south to get shipped back home. “So that was quite an experience too,” he said as he choked up. “One day a couple of my buddies got killed there. They said the name and I had to look under the blanket to see, and I wished I never had.” While in Korea, the soldiers had few perks although the received a beer ration, cigarettes and were awarded leave to go to Tokyo. But Wray would not accept the leave. “I don’t want to leave here and know I’m going to have to come back,” he said. “So I never did leave till I got papers to go back to Japan and be shipped home.” One of Wray’s strongest memories was about a friend. “One good buddy that I had … his wife wrote him a Dear John letter and he couldn’t take it,” Wray said. “He left our outfit and went and joined the front lines. They said he just stood up and let them shoot him. “I said ‘She got her divorce all right.’ I swore then I would never get married until I got out of the service.” Wray sang in a choir while in the Army and said religious services would be held in the field and some got together and held Bible studies. “That really helped,” he said. “My faith is what got me through.” He would spend 11 months and one day in Korea. When he returned to the states he was stationed in California. Wray got married in June 1953 to a girl he met while home on furlough. They went on to have three children. He ended up buying his brother’s moving business, which he ran with his wife for 34 years before retiring.
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Sumner veteran Alfred Gloede survived Korean War,
despite close calls CHRISTINIA CRIPPES
SUMNER — When Alfred Gloede first got to Korea, he didn’t expect he’d make it back home alive. “I said a prayer, and I said I gave my life to the Lord,” Gloede recalled in an interview he did with Grout Museum staff. “I said I wouldn’t come back alive. I actually believed that, because it was rough.” But Gloede, now 85, not only survived the war, but he made it through his 16 months there relatively unscathed. In fact, he has a bevy of stories of near-misses. It started on his trip across the Pacific Ocean, before he even got to the theater of operations. There was a massive three-day storm, where he and his fellow soldiers were locked in their quarters for fear the ship could crack, and if it did his compartment could be lost. The ship made it, as did the men, despite some severe seasickness. Then, on his first night in Korea, he was asked to go out on patrol, without yet knowing the ropes. His superior mercifully confirmed he was new and sent someone else. “Boy, that was the happiest day of my life,” Gloede said. Those close calls paled compared to his time on and near the front lines later in his stay. He and his company — Gloede served as a member of the U.S. Army 7th Infantry, 32nd Regiment Company E — had just been relieved from serving on the front lines. But that night, while sleeping in a tent, a round came in and landed between Gloede’s bunk and the guy next to him.
Alfred Gloede “It must have been kind of a dud or something because it blew up, but I never got a scratch, and the other guy got a little bit of a scratch,” Gloede said. It wasn’t long after that they were called to replace Fox Company. He figured something happened but was shocked when his company was making its way up the hill and saw just about three dozen men coming off the hill. That made the company about 100 short. Their first job was to help get the men wounded and killed in the battle down from the hill. Then, they replaced them and were “under fire something terrible,” but managed not to suffer as many losses. Within a week, and after getting pounded by airstrikes while in bunkers, they learned there was a
cease fire. Gloede had been in theater for about three months by the time the armistice agreement was signed. But his work remained, including taking prisoners of war back to North Korea. “They said there was a good possibility that bridge could be sabotaged and just so everybody knew what could happen, and it just all worked out and nothing did,” Gloede said. Aside from that scary incident, Gloede said it wasn’t long after the cease fire that he began to relax and believe he would get to return home alive. When it was finally time to return home, in September 1954, Gloede escaped the nasty weather aboard the ship. But he still had
more near-misses before he could be reunited with his family and his girlfriend, who’s now his wife. The ship arrived, and all of the men who arrived in Korea at the same time as he did got called to go home. His name did not. But once aboard the ship a fellow Iowan recognized that Gloede’s name was called there and hadn’t been before. A jeep traveled to get him so he could get home. “I left everything, duffel bag and everything,” Gloede said. “I didn’t have no time, because I had to be down there at a certain time or I’d have to wait until the next ship. Well, I wasn’t going to do that.” His travel troubles didn’t stop there. Gloede’s flight into Waterloo was delayed, and without cell phones, he couldn’t alert his welcome party that he would instead be flying into Des Moines and getting a taxi all the way to town. So, the driver took him to the airport, where they were still waiting to welcome him. He, then, went back to the family farm and took up the family business. Despite all his close calls, or maybe because of them, Gloede said he was glad he got drafted at age 20 and had to do two years of service. “I learned a lot. I know how to respect people quite a bit, and there’s other things, you know. That you learn to get along with everybody; if you don’t you’re in trouble,” Gloede said, adding “I don’t know just how to explain it, but I know that I respect all the country a heck of a lot more than I did before.”
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MARVIN YARRINGTON WON
A BRONZE STAR
FOR HOWITZER SUPPORT AMBER ROTTINGHAUS
LA PORTE CITY – “It was a little scary.” That is what Marvin Yarrington said in a 2011 interview with the Grout Museum on how he earned the Bronze Star Medal for Valor during his service in the Korean War. After being drafted into the Army in 1951 and quickly marrying his wife JoAnn, the 20-year-old reported to Des Moines before being sent to Fort Sill, Okla. There, he battled homesickness while completing the 16week disciplinary and training program, which included basic and fire direction preparation. After the intense exercises and bivouacking experiences, including a nearly 11-mile hike with full field packs after spending the night in the rain, Yarrington joked that the hardest part was staying awake for classes. He was sent to Seattle to ship out. After stopping at Anchorage, Alaska, the ship sailed around the Aleutian Islands on its way to Japan and hit a storm. “The bow would come out of the water and slam back down like it was on a sidewalk. I thought, ‘we’re not going to make it,’” Yarrington recalled. “The propellers would come out of the water, and the ship would just shake.” The storm lasted for nearly three days and caused severe
Marvin Yarrington sea sickness for Yarrington’s companions. Yarrington made it his mission to help the others and bring food to those below deck who were too ill to leave their bunks. When the ship arrived in Tokyo, troops then boarded a train to Osaka, then to Incheon, South Korea, before being trucked to their outfit. “There was nothing left in Incheon at the time, I escaped that battle,” Yarrington said solemnly. “It was just riddled; people were living in makeshift cardboard houses.” Their first night in their base
camp provided little sleep. During the middle of the night, somebody suddenly shouted and fired a gun right outside Yarrington’s tent, “it scared me to death,” he recalled. When morning came, he was finally able to survey his surroundings, including guns and ammunition bunkers surrounded by tripwires with flares and fast-running clear streams “like in Colorado.” Yarrington was immediately thrown into collecting rocks from a nearby river to build gun stands and roads and pulling night guard shifts.
“You can imagine everything standing there because you don’t know where the enemy’s at or what’s going on. At every ripple in the water running over the rocks, you wonder if they’re sneaking up the creek. You’re always on your toes.” Other missions provided support for various units in dangerous situations. Yarrington was assigned to a support group for the 1st infantry and was ordered to discharge illumination shells to help in their escape. Yarrington and the others had to approach the front
line, keeping out of range of the howitzer cannons. Harsh ice and snow made it difficult to move men and artillery pieces, so Yarrington and his group cut down pine and cedar trees to position as a base to give the tanks traction. They were rewarded for their quick thinking, and Yarrington earned a Bronze star. Later Yarrington worked on Howitzers as a lanyard preparing projectiles, then loading ammo, advancing to sergeant. He was promoted to chief of section overseeing the weapon’s ammo, men, maintenance and inspections. He left the Army as a staff sergeant, anxious to return home to see his wife and daughter, born while he was still in Japan. Back stateside, he was stationed at Fort Custer, Mich., and Fort Carson in Colorado, before being officially discharged. He began farming with his father-in-law before working for a construction company for 25 years. Their family expanded with another daughter and son. His youngest daughter lives with him in La Porte City. After his wife’s death, Yarrington keeps busy with involvement in the American Legion. To this day, he values his service. “I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, but I would not want to do it again. It was a privilege to serve my country.”
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Thursday, July 27, 2017 | 39
Joe Nelson always wanted
CEDAR FALLS — Joe Nelson knew from an early age while living in Marathon he wanted to join the Navy when he was older. “We had a nextdoor neighbor who had been in submarines in World War I, and he told such great stories that I decided I’m gonna join the Navy and be in submarines,” Nelson said, even though the neighbor’s stories weren’t always positive. “Well, they didn’t stay submerged too much back then and he told me about bumping into things under water,” he said, laughing. “And they never sunk anything. They tried to find enemy (ships), and they weren’t successful as far as I could tell. “But (being) a little kid and my imagination, that was great stuff,” Nelson said. “He was a radio operator. I thought ‘That’s what I want to be when I grow up.’” The family later moved to Ackley and then to Cedar Falls just before Nelson’s junior year in high school. He graduated in 1950. His father ran Nelson’s Funeral Home (which would become Nelson-Richardson Funeral Home and then Richardson Funeral Home.) “The day after graduation, I announced I was going over and enlist in the Navy,” Nelson said. But his mother was not happy with his decision. “She begged me and talked me into going to college one year. So I went down to the University of Iowa and got in the first year, and she then cajoled me into going one more year.” After that, with his dream of being on a submarine spurring him
Joe Nelson on, Nelson met with a recruiter, took some tests and was excited to tell them he would like to be a torpedo man or in communications on a submarine. The recruiter came back and said, “Congratulations, I’m going to send you down to Lincoln. You’re probably going to be a naval aviator.” Though Nelson balked at the idea, the recruiter insisted. “Anybody who has two years of college and 20/20 vision had to go to Lincoln,” Nelson said. “That was it.” From Lincoln, Nelson traveled to Pensacola, Fla., for flight training, first learning aerodynamics and navigation. He eventually found himself flying a two-seat, single-engine plane. “The first time I was ever up in a plane, I was the pilot,” he said. “I had never flown in my life. … I’d never been in a plane.” Flight training went from learning the basics, like how to taxi, to even-
tually launching from and landing on aircraft carriers, Nelson said. Eventually Nelson’s squadron was deployed to Japan. Their planes were loaded onboard with cranes. They would pick up the presence of unknown submarines and track them with electronic equipment. Nelson served from 1952 to 1957 and thought he was done. The Navy had other ideas. In 1961, the building of the Berlin Wall was underway and President John F. Kennedy called up a number of reservists, including Nelson. He was sent to Brooklyn, then to Cuba. “We tracked Russian and Iron Curtain ships into Havana and took pictures,” he said. “We knew they were brining in missiles. … We could see them.” Nelson and his squadron were known as “harassers.” “We would provoke them,” he said. The planes would have to get
close enough to read the words on the ships and would have to make five or six passes to record all the words. It was hard to tell the Russian and Greek ships apart since their alphabets were so similar, Nelson said. “The Greeks would immediately put up their flag,” he said. “To let us know, ‘We’re Greek, not Russian.’” They were required to take overhead pictures and then one from the bow, one from the stern and three each from the port and starboard sides. While Nelson was away, his wife gave birth to their first child. One of Nelson’s scariest moments came when he was making an approach to land on a carrier and his plane was inexplicably dropping, losing altitude. “I thought ‘We’re gonna hit the water,’” he said. Nelson pulled up the landing gear and the plane’s nose dropped. “We skimmed along the waves and then managed to climb back up. “In looking back … I think the Lord saved me I don’t know how many times,” he said. “And I’m very grateful.” When Nelson returned home in 1962, he joined the family business at the funeral home, but his wife wasn’t happy with the hours he was putting in. Nelson went back to college for another year and then landed a job with the Federal Communication Commission in Washington, D.C., starting as an intern in personnel and retiring about 20 years later as the assistant chief of the Field Operations Bureau, before returning to Cedar Falls.
THEY SERVED WITH HONOR
40 | Thursday, July 27, 2017
KOREAN WAR VETERANS
Read up on Korean War history with these books It’s called the “Forgotten War,” but in recent years more books have been written and published at the Korean War. There are a few modern classics, too. Here’s a look at some of the releases:
This Kind of War,” T.R. Fehrenbach: A straightforward military account, the book is a comprehensive volume that chronicles ground action through strategy, ammunition, soldiers and equipment detailed by Fehrenbach who experienced the war firsthand.
Marine Corps Tank Battles in Korea, Oscar E. Gilbert: Tank warfare was an important strategy in Korea that helped the U.S. prevail in bloody engagements at Pusan, the Chosin Reservoir and throughout the Jamestown Line. The author argues that “Marine! The Life the availability of supplies and WWII vetof Chesty Puller,” Burke Davis: Puller was erans familiar with tank warfare helped the only man to be awarded the Navy the Corps to survive. Cross five times. In this biography, the brutalities of the winter campaign during “On Hallowed Ground,” Bill McWilliams: the Korean War are revealed, including In the midst of negotiations to end the the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. Puller said Korean war, fighting continued at the about the battle: “We’ve been looking for last line of the defense, the 7th infantry’s the enemy for some time. We’ve finally outpost on the peninsula, best known by found him. We’re surrounded. That sim- its nickname “Pork Chop Hill.” On July plifies things.” 6th, 1953, Chinese forces attacked during
a monsoon, leading to one of the fiercest battles of the entire war. With eyewitness accounts from the men who were there and survived, Bill McWilliams paints a harrowing portrait of the Korean War’s most devastating battles. The Last Stand of Fox Company: A True Story of U.S. Marines in Combat Bob Drury, Tom Clavin: Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s 10,000 First Division Marines find themselves surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered by 100,000 Chinese soldiers near the Chosin Reservoir. Their only chance for survival is to fight their way south through the Toktong Pass. The Darkest Summer: Pusan and Inchon 1950: The Battles That Saved South Korea and the Marines from Extinction, Bill Sloan: A dramatic story of the first three months of the Korean War told through eyewitness accounts and focused on the Korean War’s most decisive battles.
The Bridges at Toko-ri, James A. Michener: Pulitzer Prize–winning author James A. Michener crafts a tale of the American men who fought the Korean War, detailing their exploits in the air as well as their lives on the ground. Young and innocent, they arrive in a place they have barely ever heard of, on a ship massive enough to carry planes and helicopters. Other books on the list: “In the Devil’s Shadow: UN Special Operations During the Korean War,” Michael E. Hass “The Coldest Winter: American and the Korean War,” David Halberstam “Breakout: The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, Korea, 1950,” Martin Russ. “Pork Chop Hill: The American Fighting Man in Action, Korea, Spring,” Samuel Lyman Atwood Marshall “MacArthur’s War: Korea and the Undoing of an American Hero,” Stanley Weintraub Source: earlybird.com, goodreads.com
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