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Charles William Lombard
Fort Dodge, Iowa -
"I was never in battle. I was a medic at an airbase where we loaded wounded onto planes. I was also at our base just behind the line. We got wounded right after they were wounded and loaded them on a hospital train. I saw a lot of country and helped a lot of wounded. I loved serving my country."
- Charles William Lombard
My name is Charles William Lombard of Fort Dodge, Iowa. I was born on November 27,1931, on a farm near Rockwell City, Iowa. I was named after two uncles on my mother’s side, Uncle Charley and Uncle William. My nickname was Charlie Bill. My parents were Fred Elvert Lombard and Hazel Francis Stumpf Lombard. They were born in the United States. My mother's family spoke German together (the older persons), but us kids didn’t learn it.
I spent my childhood in Fonda, Iowa, from March 1,1932 to March 1, 1939. I went to school in Somers, Iowa, and graduated. My father was a farmer and he rented a farm in that area. There were six of us children, so my mother was a stay-at-home mom. My siblings were James Edward Lombard, the eldest, Elvert Francis Lombard, Thomas Leroy Lombard, Darlene Marie Lombard, and Franklin Delano Lombard. I was the fourth child and probably was closer to my parents than my siblings were. I was well-behaved and quiet, but I did talk a lot. We grew up in the Great Depression. We were poor, but everyone else in the area where we lived was poor also, so we all felt the same.
I attended Somers Consolidated public school through high school, and graduated in May 1950. I liked school and my teachers, probably because I was quiet. I played basketball as a guard and was a shortstop in baseball. I was also in the Boy Scout club in Somers--the only club in town. I went there mostly to play with other kids. I had to work with my parents on the farm doing chores and working in the field.
World War II
When I was about ten years old I heard the news on the radio about the outbreak of World War II. I never thought much about it at first. My dad read the paper, but he didn't talk about it. Mom didn't read the paper. I remember picking milkweed pods that were used to make parachutes, and we went around picking up old iron where we could. We sold it to the elevator. My brother Jim was drafted into the Army Air Corps in June 1945, but the war ended so he never left the States and was discharged. I went to school with the brother of an Army Air Corps pilot who was killed while in training. I don't remember his name, but they had a large funeral for him in the school gym. My first cousin was a gunner on an airplane and he was killed. They never found him. Since I was between 10 and 14 years old while the war was going on, I wasn't old enough to serve in the military. I remember the end of it. I was about 14 and happy it was over. I heard about it on the radio. No one celebrated in Somera--it was just a small town.
I joined the army on March 18, 1952 because I wanted to serve my country. My dad had been in World War I and my older brother Jim was drafted during World War II. I was rather young and cried when he left. My next two brothers, Elvert and Tom, enlisted during the Korean War. My brother Franklin was in the Guard. My sister’s husband, Walter Halligan, was drafted into the Navy.
My parents were not too happy that I joined as I had two older brothers already in the military. Both had enlisted. I wasn't 21 yet, so my parents had to sign for me, which they did. I don't know why they decided to sign for me. Since the other brothers were gone, my dad could have gotten me out of going saying I needed to stay home and work on the farm, but I didn’t want to be thought of as someone who wanted to take the easy way out.
I joined the army because I could not pass the physical in the other branches. I was lucky that I got into the army. I wore glasses and I had one finger about all gone from an accident when I was around two years old. If you had a score of four on anything you would not get into the army. I had two fours, but they were more lenient on testing if you enlisted. They put me in the medics. The Korean War was going on at the time, but I didn't know much about it. At the movies I saw pictures of people dressed in white, marching south in Korea.
I took my basic training at Camp Pickett, Virginia. A recruiter gave me a ride to the bus station and the bus took me to Des Moines, Iowa. I rode a troop train from Des Moines to Camp Crowder, Missouri. and then from Camp Crowder to Camp Pickett, Virginia by airplane, leaving from the Springfield, Missouri airport. I had never been away from home before for any length of time, but I was happy I joined. It was the best thing that could happen to me.
Camp Pickett was close to Richmond, Virginia. It was very hilly and all woods. I got there late in the evening. We had not eaten for awhile, so they gave us toast and gravy. I was used to having this at home. I learned that the guys called this "shit on a shingle". On the first day I was assigned to Platoon #3 and clothes were issued. Our living quarters were wooden buildings that were two stories high. There were black and white recruits and we all got along great.
My instructors were Sergeant Blake and Sergeant Lee. Sergeant Lee had just come back from Korea where he had been on the front line. He trained hard, as he knew what combat was like and what we were training for. Sergeant Blake made me "soldier of the week". I was chosen out of 220 soldiers over a 16-week time period. I came to appreciate my instructors. They were just doing their job as someday I would be using their advice to help me.
I had both classroom and non-classroom training, although there was not much classroom training. I had eight weeks infantry with rifles. I learned how to read maps, which was hard. I teamed up with someone who I knew could read them easier than I could. For me personally, learning how to read maps at night in the woods and find my way back to camp was the hardest thing for me during basic. I learned how to survive in the rough terrain. I also learned about gas masks. I then had eight weeks of medical field training--putting on bandages, giving shots, learning how to use tourniquets to stop bleeding, etc. I also learned to keep records. The routine schedule in basic was get up and clean up. Clean up the barracks, clean up the bathroom. Fall out. March to breakfast. We did pull-ups before we ate. We trained all day--in field and on the drill field like marching. I thought we had good food. They fed us meat, potatoes, vegetables and dessert.
As mentioned, our instructors were strict. Discipline was in groups or individual, depending on what happened. If they felt more than one was doing wrong or they didn’t know who did it, they would just have everyone do extra exercises. Physical discipline was doing pushups or some other exercise, or digging a hole. I was personally never disciplined by the instructors, but one of my friends was. He didn’t clean his rifle good enough so he had to dig a six by six foot hole. I, myself, didn’t like shooting my gun, so this guy agreed to take my ammunition and use it. But he left his gun very hot and not clean enough when we were checked out after training that day. They looked at my gun and asked if I had used it. I said, "Yes, Sir." He was the one that got in trouble for that. I didn’t. Another time he had to crawl on his belly until his clothes were rags. I don’t know what he did.
Pranks were sometimes pulled by the guys in basic. Once they put a muskmelon in a guy’s bed. He came in drunk, went to bed, and fell asleep on the melon. The worst prank was when a guy was sleeping and someone put matches in the crease of his boots. They lit the matches on fire and by the time he got the boots off he had a big blister. Another time the guy who got the blisters knew who had money in their locker. He found out how far down this locker was so he could count in the dark and find it. He took money out of the locker, rolled it in his hand, and lay down. I wasn’t asleep yet and saw him do this. The next morning I went to the office and told them what had happened. I quickly got out of there so that guy wouldn’t know how they found out. They went to him and asked if he had taken any money out of lockers. He said no. They asked to look at his hands. He had put the money under his mattress before they came to question him, but they knew he had had the money in his hand because it was sweaty from holding it. They searched under his mattress and found the money. This same guy wanted to get out of basic training. The squad leader gave him some money to get on the bus. Some of us told him that the guy would just spend the money and not get going, which is what happened. He came back and got his same bunk and locker that he had before. Another time light bulbs in a barracks went out. Rather than go to the supply area to get more, one guy went to another barracks and unscrewed their bulbs and hid them in his shirt. Someone saw him do it and a bunch of guys caught him and smashed his chest. He was cut a little.
Church was offered--whatever religion we wanted, usually Saturday afternoon. On Sundays we were off. The only "fun" I had in basic was watching the Fourth of July fireworks. Then when basic was completed there was a big picnic and beer. I think there was maybe only one recruit who didn't make it out of basic. He himself decided that he couldn't adapt to military life. I did my best in basic, and when I left I felt stronger.
After basic I went home on a three-day leave just to visit my parents. I flew to Des Moines, Iowa and called a relative who gave me a ride to Highway 69. He stayed with me until a young man stopped and said he would be glad to give me a ride to Somers, Iowa. He wouldn't take any more for gas. I got home around midnight. I wore my uniform while on leave, but no one made any comments about me being in the army.
After my leave I went to Fort Sam Houston, Texas for eight weeks of occupational therapist training from September 1 to October 30. The army needed occupational therapists because it had soldiers with every kind of wound, and Korea was a war of hand-to-hand combat.
I got to Fort Sam Houston by bus and then a troop train out of St. Louis, Missouri. Nothing eventful happened along the way. I attended an Air Force school because the Army didn't have any school for O.T. training. There were classes every day for eight weeks, with Saturdays and Sundays off. There were 24 students with a mixture of women and men.
From Fort Sam Houston I went on to Camp Atterbury, Indiana for four weeks on-the-job training at the base hospital. There was one week of training each for: amputees, psychiatric patients, blind patients, and general. Amputees had to learn to walk with artificial legs, and soldiers with hands or arms off had to learn to use their artificial new parts. There were soldiers with mental problems. General was whatever problem they had for being in combat. Some had lost their sight and hearing.
All of my training and hospital work ended on December 2, 1952. I was then assigned to the Far East Command, which was South Korea. I was happy to get that assignment. I had enlisted, was young, and ready to serve wherever they needed me. I had been thinking that I might stay in the United States because of all the training I had had to help patients in the hospital. I figured there wouldn't be any hospitals in Korea with this type of care needed.
At that time they were sending everyone they could to Korea to replace those who had been on the front line and were ready to rotate home as their time was up or they had points to go home. I had orders to report to Ft. Lewis, Washington, but so many were going AWOL there that they sent them right over. By then the foxholes were filled and I was assigned to an air base and helped put wounded on airplanes. It was called "Operation Christmas". They were trying to get some of the guys home for Christmas that had been over in Korea already. I didn't go to Korea until January 1953.
Basic training was good for me, as I learned army life. But my advanced training in O.T. did no good as I went to Korea. To use that advanced training I would have had to stay in the States and serve in an army hospital. I'm glad I was sent to Korea.
Trip to Korea
I departed from Pier 39 in Seattle, Washington on January 9, 1953 on the U.S. naval ship, Gen. C.C. Ballou. It only had army troops and no cargo. I think there were about 5,000 men on the ship and I didn't know any of them. This was my first time on a ship. I know I got seasick and couldn't eat their food. My buddy brought me bread and crackers and I got pop from a machine. One night a lot of the guys got diarrhea and it was a mess. There were others seasick, too--some worse than me. One time I laid in my bunk for Inspection and they didn't see me. When we hit rough weather they locked all the port holes and no one could go out on deck. The ship went up and down hard.
It took 16 days on the big ship from the United States to Japan. We didn't do anything for entertainment on the ship. We just sat around. There was no further training on the ship. I was assigned to K.P., but was not able to go. There was no stop-over. We went to Yokohama, Japan, and stayed about three days getting shots and a lot of warm new clothes as at that time we thought we were going to the front line. After that we got on a small ship that took us to Pusan, Korea. The trip lasted two days.
I arrived in Korea on February 1, 1953. The ship arrived in Pusan in the afternoon and we immediately got off of it My first impression of Korea was that it was very cold and looked like a rough country. I couldn't immediately tell upon arriving that I was in a war zone. It was just another army base.
618 Medical Company
We went to a town called Yong Dong Po to an army compound that was all tents. There we were assigned to a company. I was assigned to the 618 Medical Clearing Company, a holding company that was located at K-16 air base, the biggest air base in Korea. It was also safe as it was a long way from the fighting. I was picked up by a truck and taken there. I didn't know anyone in the unit when I got there. I was assigned to three different units while I was in Korea, and I never knew anyone when I got to them.
The 618 was made up of all medical corpsmen. My immediate supervisor was Sergeant Suzzy. He was a full-time military man. He was very good and I really liked him. The 618 was an army unit on the base just to put wounded on planes. Everyone else on the base was Air Force personnel. The only females were Air Force personnel who took care of the wounded after we put them on the airplane. There were some adult Koreans working at K-16. They were only male and they cut hair and did laundry.
K-16 was built on the Han River bed just outside of Seoul--the only place where there was flat ground. It had just one large runway. Several different units were based there. All of the buildings on the base were metal. The 618 Medical Clearing Company had three buildings--the officers' mess hall, living quarters, and a building for our patients. My barracks was a steel building, and my personal space in it was just a cot to sleep on and a foot locker. All units had their own set of buildings, and we shared with others for some things. For instance, there was a motor pool, movie theater, church, post exchange, post office, R&R center, and hangers for planes. There were also a lot of sandbag areas (like a trench) where we would go when we had "Bed Check Charlie". "Bed Check Charlie" was a saying that meant an enemy plane might be flying over at night. A siren would go off and we had to go into a sandbag reinforcement or shelter. This was sporadic. How close planes came, I don't know. No damage ever occurred. We probably had planes keeping them away.
Different Every Day
The 618 Medical Company was busy, but it was different every day, depending on the fighting up front. Larger amounts of patients came in when there was a push on the front line that involved a lot of fighting. Our casualties were all Americans. All United Nations units were usually together and each country took care of themselves.
A typical day began with getting up, getting dressed, and having breakfast. Then we got ready for wounded soldiers who were brought in from field hospitals by ambulances. They had gunshot wounds and shrapnel wounds, but they were all bandaged up at the hospital before arriving at 618 Med. Some were able to walk and others were on cots that had to be carried. We took care of them, made them comfortable, and got them ready to be put on airplanes that would fly them to hospitals in southern Korea and others to Japan. The persons with real serious injuries were flown back to the USA. After the patients were loaded onto airplanes, we then cleaned the place up, rested, and took care of things like writing letters, cleaning our clothes, and getting ready for another day.
We never had any emergencies while I was at K-16. We had no airplane problems while I was there either, but there had been a plane problem before when the plane was loaded with our patients. It crash landed and all were killed.
Patients were transported in smaller planes with four motors, or the biggest airplane at K-16 base--the C-124 flying Globemaster. The plane had two decks with an elevator, and it could haul vehicles as well as personnel. I don't know how many patients we put on it because it was always a different amount. I was trained to make out the plane manifest (who was boarding the plane). Charles Cross, the person who trained me, was rotated home. I was the only one to make out the plane manifest. I interviewed each patient by asking his name, rank, serial number and next of kin. I then gave a copy it to the Air Force and kept a copy for our unit.
As mentioned, we had a movie theater. We saw films starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and any movies from the 1950s. The rec center probably had a bar, but I never went there, probably because they were just visiting, playing cards and poker, and drinking beer.
I never made friends with anyone in particular, but there are two persons whose names have stuck with me--Charles Cross and Eugene Kruger. We just worked together and did whatever we had to do. There was always someone rotating home and new people coming. The 618th Medical Clearing Company was Medical 1st Platoon Air Evac, which had three platoons. I think K-16 was 2nd platoon. K-16 was the name of the Seoul City air base used by the military. 3rd Platoon was just like at K-16--just work on your job.
The church that was offered was for Catholics, Protestants and Koreans. I went when I could. I am Catholic. The preachers were soldiers just like we were. We were allowed off base. We could take a bus into Seoul where there was a big PX. There was no entertain there--it was just a store where we could buy things we needed like soap, toothpaste, and other bathroom things, candy and snacks, pop, cameras, and stationery to write home (paper and envelopes).
One group of girls from the USO came up to the hospital train to see soldiers that just got wounded. That was as close as they could get. I don’t know any of their names. They landed at K-16 and got in Jeeps to come up. Ernest Tubb and Hank Snow did a show that I saw just after I got there. I saw Cary Grant, Terry Moore, and Debbie Reynolds get off of a plane at K-16. At other times show girls came, but I didn’t know them. Cardinal Spellman was with General Taylor. There were other dignitaries who came that I didn’t know. The landing strip was right in front of our barracks, so we could see everyone as they got off the plane.
Teletype Operator School
While I was at the 618 Medical Clearing Company, a guy told me that I was going to school to be a teletype operator. School lasted two days. I don't remember where we went to work on this decoding job to learn how to decode messages. The war was still on.
There was one other guy that did this with me. The staff looked into our criminal record as we couldn't have more than traffic tickets to be able to do this job. We had to sign off on a paper that we would never say anything about the information in the messages we worked with.
At this time we were just in the office work and not working with patients. There were three of us that had to take in messages in shifts around the clock. There wasn't much coming in, but someone had to be there to work with whatever came in. This was the 30th Medical Group 8th Army headquarters (highest medical office in Korea). Everything was top secret. By the time we did the decoding, the war was over. We worked on the decoding job for about three months.
Two Months With 3rd Platoon
I remained at K-16 for four months. Then, because we were sent where they needed help when others went home, I was sent to our 3rd platoon, which was right behind the artillery line as far as our hospital train could go. It was about right at the 38th parallel. I didn’t mind leaving the 618's 1st platoon, but I knew it wouldn’t be as nice where I was going. Also, it put me in a different place where I could meet more people and give me some variety. I was used to working with different people all the time.
The hospital train had cars just like trains had in the States. It was just like a hospital. It had a dining car and coach with bunk beds. On the hospital train there were no doctors or nurses. We were trained medics. The patients on the hospital train weren't as badly wounded as some. The worst were taken by helicopter or ambulance to hospitals further south right away.
I waited on patients as we got them from the front line. We kept them in our tent, holding them until the train came. Then we put them on the train for evacuation. I kept their records up, as we recorded all the medicine we gave them and anything else we did for them, like changing their bandages. I really didn’t know what was going on in the front lines right ahead of us. Every so many days it seemed like they would fight more. It seemed like if it rained they would be fighting more, as the artillery disturbed the atmosphere and caused it to rain.
The 3rd platoon was a clearing company. All tents were for our patients, mess hall, and living quarters. It was all work and no play as we were close to the front line. We were out in the middle of nowhere, not near a town. It was different being with the 3rd platoon as opposed to being with the 618th at K-16 in that it was in the field and all tents. There was a barb wire fence around it with rocks in cans tied to it. We would be able to hear them if someone came around. We had guards walk around it all night.
Being so close to the front line didn't bother me. I just took everything for granted. I had been over there for awhile and I got used to doing my job. I worried more about being sent to the front line or foxhole. We were all called out one morning and told that two of us were going north or foxhole. I wasn't called.
I was with 3rd platoon for at least two months and then went back to K-16 for three weeks. I was at K-16 when the war ended at 10:00 p.m. July 27, 1953. We could see the artillery units were shooting a lot. The sky looked like the Fourth of July. Exactly at 10:00 it stopped right now. When they stopped shooting it got quite dark. We knew it was over and that the war was supposed to stop. After the war ended, one of our duties was to help with the POW exchange. I made out the plane manifest.
Prisoner of War Exchange
The 618th Unit helped get prisoners on their way back to the USA. The Koreans from the North brought the prisoners to Freedom Village, which was a gathering place out in the country. The POWs went into a big tent for processing, and then they were taken by ambulance right to the 301st Hospital in Seoul, Korea. Our Sergeant took us from the air base to the hospital at night, and I made out the plane manifest for the POWs who were to arrive the next morning. I then went back to the K-16 barracks. The next morning an ambulance brought the prisoners to K-16, where they were to board the plane to go onto Japan and then on to the USA.
Some of the POWs could walk and some couldn't. By the time I saw them they had on new GI clothes. Since I had a very short time to be with them, I never got to talk to them other than making out the manifest so they could get on the plane. I met the POWs and and got their name, rank, serial number, and next of kin. One guy got excited when I had to ask him the name of his nearest relative. He said, "If I'm going to die after all I went through, I'm not going on the plane." I told him that it was standard procedure to get this information.
We then took them to the air base the next morning, where the former prisoners boarded a plane to go to the hospital in Japan. In the first days there were a lot of higher-up officers at the air base to watch the prisoners get put on the plane. It was an experience for everyone. I was just doing my job at that time. It was great to be there and helping. I don't think I was really aware of the part of history that was being made. I was just there serving my country.
It took a month or so for all the prisoners to get back. The planes used to take care of these former prisoners were a C-47 or smaller. They held around 15 returnees. These planes took them to a hospital in Japan. From Japan they then went to the United States.
30th Medical Company
I was transferred to the 30th Medical Company on November 01, 1953, and I stayed there until I came home about January 20, 1954. My duties were running the teletype machine and translating the messages into reports for officers in charge. Three of us ran the teletype machine around the clock.
Our living quarters at the 30th was a tent for six men. Our office was an old building which was from the Koreans. Our living quarters and office were almost like living in the village among the people.
In this new unit I was able to check out a Jeep and I picked up a buddy at another base that I knew from back home in the States. We went to see and have dinner with someone I had graduated with who now was a 2nd Lieutenant and had been in charge of a unit on the front line. We all three got together on Thanksgiving Day 1953, my first holiday while stationed in Korea. Because he was a 2nd Lieutenant, they served us dinner at his headquarters. He told us about their job on the front line.
Generally, in our time off we went to the PX, visited people in the village, and just lay around. I went around Seoul. Everything was in ruins. I watched the people working to sell food and things they made. They had fixed a place to live. I went to a park on a Sunday once. People were just having a good time. I saw men harvest rice and plant it. I saw the people just trying to survive and get firewood, and saw honey bucket carts (picking up poop). I saw men building a railroad track, cleaning ditches, anything to survive. Women washed clothes in the river.
One time a couple of Korea teenage girls that were with their family trying to sell items asked a couple of us guys if they could get a ride and come watch a movie at the base. They received their dad's permission, so later we picked them up and after the show we took them back. Their dad was waiting for them when we got back after the show.
We had mail call about once a week. My mail was mostly letters from my mother. I also got letters from some friends. I didn’t pay attention to the date to know how long it took to get mail to us. I never had my mother send me anything, as I got enough food. There was just one time that I asked her to send me something, and that was for an outfit for our house boy (a young Korean). I had gotten close to our little house boy when I moved to 30th Med at the 8th Army Headquarters in Seoul. He kept our tent clean, shined our shoes, and did anything we needed done that he could do. My mother sent him a jean jacket and jeans. We had a high wire fence around the base and there were Koreans (moms and kids) right outside our area that asked for food or had things they wanted to sell to us. I walked right on by and didn’t buy anything.
R&R in Japan
R&R was Rest and Recuperation (a vacation for a week) for soldiers serving in Korea. We could go on R&R every six months. The war was on when I went the first time, but if there was enough help in our unit we could go. We had no choice as to where the R&R would take place. The first time I went on R&R was in June 1953, and I went alone to Yokohama. I don't remember where I went on my second R&R, but it was in Japan for a week the first part of January 1954. Since the end of my enlistment was March 18, 1954, I knew I would be going home soon after I got back from R&R.
Most everyone went on R&R by air. For a time planes were grounded after an accident. Those going on R&R went by ship for a short time. The trip wasn't very long. I went from Seoul airport to Yokohama the first time. On my first trip the plane had a gas line break and we had to land someplace before we got there. We slept on the plane. They repaired it and we went on.
I had saved enough money to go on R&R. All the money I needed was for shopping. When we went shopping there were stands where goods were sold. They had camps where we all stayed. It was all government and it was all paid for by government. We got the best of food. They had better meat and food in general than in Korea. It was great. I ate at the base. I did not go to bars like others did. I haven't had a beer in my life. Resting and eating at our camp where the government had us stay was the best part of R&R.
We had movies on our base and I did some sightseeing. The Japanese culture was a lot like that in Korea, only Korea had the war going on and people were just trying to survive. This was post-World War II, but I could see no sign that a war had been in Japan. I went shopping among the Japanese for gifts for home. I got things for myself like a couple of jackets all decorated in Japanese. I bought a couple of picture albums, a jewelry box, and other things to decorate with at home. I was single then, so I only thought of my parents. I bought a suitcase and shipped it home.
One time during my first R&R we stayed in a house, not a hotel. Two of us rode the train over to a town (I don't remember the name) and the other guy was able to get us a place to stay. The people didn't know any English and we just slept there. We didn't speak with or eat with them. We got there late afternoon. The next morning we walked along a beach (no one else was there). Later that day we rode the train back to the base. I don't remember anything else about that short day trip.
When R&R was over, I flew back to Korea by airplane just like we went over in. I never minded going back to Korea as it was my home and job. I had had a real nice vacation all paid for by our government as that is who I was working for. I loved serving our great country. That's why I enlisted in the army. I'm glad I went to serve and I helped a lot of wounded as I was a medic.
The next person to go home was on R&R with me and he never came back with me. When I got back they came to my tent and asked me if I wanted to go home as I was next in line. To go home abut a month early was great. I had nobody to train to take my place as I had already trained my replacement before I went on R&R. I took my clothes in a bag because they were all I had.
I was stationed at 30th Medical Center of the 8th Army near Seoul. I was put on one of the hospital trains and sent to a base in Pusan (the Korean spelling is Busan) to process and load on a ship. We had a physical before we got on the ship in Pusan. I wrote a letter to my parents telling them what ship I would be on and where I was headed. (I never called home all the time I was in the service because my parents never had a telephone.) For paperwork they interviewed us to see if we wanted to reenlist for another year. I would have gotten a higher rank, but I would have had to stay in Korea another year. I said, "No, I'm ready to go home."
I went home to the USA on the troop ship Marine Serpent. We went from Pusan, Korea, to Seattle, Washington, never stopping anywhere. I was on the ship about 14 days.
Back in the USA
Once we got to Seattle we were processed off the boat. When we left Seattle, they didn't tell us where we were going. We went by troop train to Camp Carson, Colorado. My dad surprised me by being at the train when I got off. I will never forget that. I didn't know he was going to be there and I never did find out how my dad knew where to go to pick me up. He must have made a guess and went with it since all he knew was the name of the ship that I was on. I had not been able to find out and tell my folks where I would need to be picked up. It was a great shock as I had been gone abut one and a half years.
I was processed for a few days and discharged at Camp Carson on February 24, 1954. After I got my discharge paperwork done we started home. We asked if anyone wanted a ride back to Iowa. There was one young man that went back with us. He was going to Spencer, Iowa. He called back home to his parents and they met us in Rockwell City, Iowa. I had no problem adjusting to civilian life. I went back to my job when I got home.
It was good that the United States went to Korea. We stopped communism from going into Japan. MacArthur probably should not have gone north of the 38th parallel because it got China in more, but it would be nice if North and South Korea were one again. People have relatives and friends on both sides. Once we had a prison camp where they all got out. We were all locked down, but they went into villages and had no trouble. The village people just accepted the prisoners to be in the village. The POW camp was about two miles from my base.
It is my opinion that after the first year everything went okay in the Korean War. South Korea is great now, but North Korea has a bad leader and the people have nothing. South Korea has it much better than they had it before. I think the United States should still have troops on the 38th parallel or the North would keep coming over.
The Korean War was not called a "war" at first. It was just a "police action." After our government called it a war, all of its veterans came under the GI Bill of Rights, which gave us medical benefits, etc. as veterans receive. I think the Korean War has a good place in history as it slowed down communism. There were thousands killed and there were POWs and wounded. The Korean War might have been nicknamed "The Forgotten War" as lots of people didn't think we should be there, but the USA helps fight to keep communism from getting a stronger hold and to help people live a safe, good life. We also fight to keep things good around the world so communism doesn't move closer to the USA and make things dangerous here.
In the last few years I have sat down with my children and grandchildren and showed them the pictures I took in Korea and Japan, and I told them things that I experienced. For years I never thought that I did anything great, but it was a great experience for me. I did see war and what it can do to a country.
I went on the Honor Flight with Cindy (my oldest child) and I learned a lot about what I did and how the Korean people appreciated what we did. There were World War II veterans and me, a Korean War veteran, on the flight. I think that we are all treated great and the people appreciated what we did for their country.
After he went on the Honor Flight, I met a former POW from Fort Dodge at a military fundraiser. He didn't go through where I was working when we had the prisoner exchange, but we visited a little and made plans to see each other, but that hasn't worked out yet. He is Cecil Phipps and was a POW for 33 months. After going on the Honor Flight a lot of us wear the veteran ball caps that we received. When we are living in Texas during the winter I run into a few other vets with their hats on, which is a good conversation starter. They were not always POWs, but veterans from the Korean War. We have a little time to visit about what each one of us did over there and where we were at. I belong to the VFW but am not active in it or anything else. I love the magazine I receive as it keeps me up on military past and present.
I was never in battle. I was a medic at an airbase where we loaded wounded onto planes. I was also at our base just behind the line. We got wounded right after they were wounded and loaded them on a hospital train. I saw a lot of country and helped a lot of wounded. As mentioned earlier in my memoir, I loved serving my country. I never changed because of going to Korea--I was just older when I got back. When I went over there I was young and had a new, great experience. I loved it all and would do it over again.