I should have taken notes but I will recall what I can.
Dad registered for the draft when he was eighteen. He was supposed to go into the service but WWII ended, he was 24 years old when he was drafted and sent to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He married my Mother just a few days before he departed on October 16 of 1950. At Fort Leonard Wood he helped to clean out barracks. Soon he was off to Camp Pickett Virginia…where he cleaned out more barracks. Since the end of WWII nothing had been done in the Camps, they were filthy and in ill repair, after WWII ended the Camps were ignored…but now they were needed to train troops that would be sent to Korea. The first troops sent to Korea received no training, they were just sent to plug the holes until reinforcements could be trained.
At Christmas time 1950, my Mother took the train from Minnesota to Richmond Virginia. Near Camp Pickett they tried to find an apartment but were always turned away when landlords found out my Dad was in the military. My Mother returned to Minnesota alone..well not quite alone…my name could have been Virginia.
In February Dad got a leave and returned to Minnesota for a few days.
Then he shipped out for Korea the end of February 1951 he went from Camp Pickett by train to San Francisco and from there departed for Japan by boat. In Japan they boarded a plane for Korea, in Dads words “a rickety old cargo plane.”
He was assigned to the 5th RCT (Regimental Combat Team) and made it to the front lines, when he got there he was assigned to a young fellow who said “You are now a BAR assistant.” Dad didn’t know what a BAR was…Browning Automatic Rifle. Dad was good with hunting rifles so he was a good shot, since they were short of ammo they were told to make every shot count. In two weeks he was no longer an assistant.
Dad was supposed to be in Korea for three months. What you see in the photo above is what he was issued for clothing. The three months became six, the six became nine, the nine became twelve and finally after thirteen months of sleeping with one horse hair blanket in the mud and snow he was sent to Japan and from there after being deloused three times he was sent by boat to Seattle. There was no welcome there. He went to Camp Lewis in Washington, from there he was sent to Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.
On leave he traveled by train to Frazee Minnesota, walked over to the Creamery where his brother Wilbert worked as a milk truck driver. Uncle Wilbert gave him a ride to my maternal grandparents home where my Mother was found with her hair up in pin curls, she went running upstairs to fix her hair…I was in the crib. It is said that “It was almost like she recognized her Dad right away, didn’t fuss or cry just sat in his lap.” I was six months old.
Dad had to go back to Wisconsin at Fort McCoy. He would return in two months on leave again.
My Dad and I in May 1952
He finished out a couple of more months at Camp McCoy and was discharged in July of 1952. There was a small welcome home party for him hosted by relatives.
The Korean War June 25, 1950 - July 27, 1953. Three years and one month. 36,941 died and 92,134 were wounded and 4,759 are MIA.
My Dad was one of the lucky ones coming home.
Growing up we heard a few war stories here and there, Dad didn’t like to talk about it much. I know he was cold in Korea, he talked about frostbite and wiggling your toes when they got cold, and of the wool socks his Mother knit and were mailed to him…three pair were stolen after Dad washed them and hung them out to dry so the last pair he never took off. He hated garlic, the smell of garlic nauseated him…I think there were garlic fields in Korea. The North Koreans and the Chinese trained young boys to kill however they could with guns, swords or knives…
Dad says “War is hell.”