John Ebnet

7th Cavalry Regiment

1st Cavalry Division

U.S. Army

When the Korean War broke out in the summer of 1950, I, like many other guys across Minnesota, was drafted.

I was sent to Fort Riley, Kansas, for my basic training. During weapons training I struggled with the rifle and pistol; however, I did much better with the .30 caliber machine gun. This may have been a factor in my being placed in a heavy weapons company, instead of a rifle company, when I arrived in Korea.

I had been dating Helen Miller for four or five years. So, before I shipped out, we got married. I figured she had put up with me for such a long time, and if something happened to me I wanted her to have my life insurance.

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By April of 1951, I was at Uijongbu—north of Seoul—assigned to D Company, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.

It was my second night there and I was sharing a foxhole with a guy who had been there awhile; he was on watch while I was getting some shut-eye. Suddenly, something woke me up and I found that both of us were asleep at the same time. From that point forward, I stayed awake during both watches.

For several months I climbed the hills of Korea with a recoilless rifle and machine guns. One day the mess sergeant was rotating home and I was asked if I would be interested in being a cook. What a decision to make! Continue climbing those hills while dodging bullets and shrapnel; or become a cook stationed behind the front lines—I took it!

We didn’t have gas stoves; we had pump-up stoves like a Coleman stove that one takes on a camping trip. They were easy to pack when we were on the move.

I soon began to help organize the kitchen, which helped me obtain my sergeant stripes. In a short time I was able to get some guys from Minnesota—Donald Bialka, Clarence Hentges, and Art Fetting—to help me. These were some of the guys I had met during basic training. It was our job to make sure the men ate well. For breakfast we fixed pancakes, bacon, eggs, sausage, and rolls. We also had a lot of hamburgers.

We would travel to Kimpo airfield, near Seoul, and pick up supplies in a truck that had been captured from the Chinese. The kitchen at the airfield had more than they needed, so we always took plenty.

Besides cooking, we were also in charge of securing purified water; the same water from rivers the war was being fought in. The water was used for everything from drinking to boiling potatoes, washing dishes, and making coffee.

One night as we were preparing the next mornings breakfast, one of our medics stopped in for a cup of coffee. He unbuckled the belt that was holding his .45 pistol, and laid it on the table. When he left, it was missing. After searching frantically for it, he finally left without finding it. During breakfast our Korean helper was serving coffee, and did he get a surprise. From the bottom of one of our large coffee boilers, he scooped up the missing .45.

Even though we were behind the front lines, we were still surrounded by the war. Behind us, the artillery lobbed their shells over our heads to targets in front of us. I watched on numerous occasions as our planes dropped napalm on neighboring hillsides.

The 1st Cavalry Division was relieved in December 1951 by the 45th Infantry Division. The division went to Camp Crawford, Japan, where I stayed for two months. After returning home, I was stationed for three months at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

I was offered the rank Master Sergeant, but I turned it down. Instead, I went home to be with Helen.

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