35th Infantry Regiment
25th Infantry Division
I was born, and raised, on the family farm, which was located two miles outside Sherrodsville, Ohio. After graduating from high school in 1948, and harvesting all the crops, I decided it was time to join the U.S. Marine Corps.
After driving thirty miles to their recruiting office, I was informed by the recruiting sergeant that their quota for the next ninety days had been met. So, instead of leaving, I went across the hall and enlisted in the U.S. Army.
Upon completion of basic training and leadership school at Fort Knox, Kentucky, I headed to the west coast; there I boarded a troopship bound for Japan. I vividly remember the army band playing, “Far-away Places” as I walked up the gangplank, along with several thousands of fresh faced GI’s. A deep feeling of loneliness, and uncertainty, came over me.
After cruising the Pacific, for seventeen days, we finally arrived in Japan—it was March of 1949. Having been seasick every day of the voyage, I must have lost ten pounds. The Army of Occupation in Japan consisted of the 25th Infantry Division stationed at southern Honshu, the 24th Infantry Division on Kyushsu, the 1st Cavalry Division was around the Tokyo-Yokohama area, and I’m not sure, but I believe the 7th Infantry Division was on Hokkaido.
Being assigned to an infantry regiment, I just knew my career was going to consist of close order drills, bayonet training, and the dreaded K.P. duty. However, after a morning of hot, dusty drills, our company returned to our barracks when our sergeant said he had some announcements to read. He said, “The ‘follering’ men, after chow, will turn in your rifles to the supply sergeant, grab your gear, and climb aboard that 6 x 6 truck. You’re going to the other end of camp to be trained as medics.” As he read off the names, I heard mine; silently I gave thanks. Eventually I became a member of Medical Company, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division—little did I know that I was about to become a combat medic.
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After North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950, our division was the second division deployed to Korea.
The most terrifying experiences of the war for me were when I received my two Purple Hearts. I received one when we were in a convoy attempting to retreat, and were in danger of being overrun. The enemy had broken through our convoy and was picking off our trucks one-by-one, with deadly mortar fire. I was riding shotgun in our truck, when it stalled in a long line of vehicles. I immediately ordered everyone out of the truck and when all the guys had just gotten out, it went up in flames. We were under a lot of small arms fire, so we all ran. As we made our way across a rice paddy a bullet hit me in the right arm, which spun me around and knocked me to the ground. As I was getting up to run, I felt a stinging sensation in my left buttock. The back of my pants leg was soaked, and my boot was squishing with what I thought was blood. Finally, we made it over the top of a small hill—out of the line of fire—when we stopped to assess our situation. When I reached for my canteen, it was empty. Why? I had just filled it an hour or two earlier. I soon discovered two, neat, round holes in the bottom of it. The “blood” that had soaked my pants leg, and filled my boot, was the warm water from my canteen; the wound to my buttock was nothing more than a scratch. I can’t remember if I laughed or cried—maybe both.
This was enough to get me a few days on clean white sheets, in a hospital back in Japan. When I returned to my unit, I was glad to see all my buddies. Shortly after this, I had enough points to rotate home.
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On August 23, 1951, just after dusk, the General John Pope approached the California coast with 4,290 soldiers returning home.
Thank God—I was home.