40th Infantry Division
I was born in Knoxville, Tennessee on December 4, 1929. The Great Depression bankrupted my family—like many others—and left them with nothing except the clothes on their backs. We moved to San Antonio, Texas, where my uncle took us in until my parents were able to get back on their feet. My father became a diary farmer.
During 1946, I met Fran Kilpatrick—the love of my life—and on July 5, 1949 we were married. However, in 1948 I enlisted in the 95th Medical Group, Texas National Guard in San Antonio. I was a low ranking enlisted man and wasn’t making enough money for a family to live on, so I applied for Officer Candidate School so I could make enough to support my family. In 1951 I was accepted into the Signal Corps OCS and after long and hard, training, I was sent to Korea to join the infantry on the front lines.
I can’t recall the name of the ship I sailed to Korea on, but I do remember being a compartment commander for four-hundred troops. It was one of the worst winters ever and the ship bounced around terribly. I believe all four-hundred men vomited constantly. We arrived in Korea during December of 1952.
Being a Signal Corps Outside Plant Officer with the 40th Infantry Division, I was responsible for keeping the communication cables and telephone lines up, and working at all times. This was not an easy task as the North Koreans kept firing artillery in our area, constantly knocking out our communication lines. To make matters worse, the South Korean civilians would cut out the brass cable connectors from the communication cable, in order to make souvenirs to sell to our guys.
Each time a cable or telephone line went out, which usually occurred during the night, my outside plant teams had to locate the breaks and fix them ASAP. Sometimes as many as ten spans of cable and/or wire had to be dropped, repaired, and replaced. The telephone poles in Korea were only about 5” in diameter, so a large American soldier couldn’t climb them because they would break. Thankfully, over half of my teams were KATUSA’s, who were very small and light weight Korean soldiers. Needless to say, they had the job of climbing the poles and doing all the required work. Now imagine this; there are ten of them on the top of ten poles, when suddenly they hear an incoming artillery round. Immediately—at lightning speed—they slid down the poles. I told them dozens of time that when they heard an incoming round there was no need to come down, because it had already gone over their head. However, they came down anyway. It was fun to watch them, because it looked like a synchronized dance.
While we were located near the Punchbowl, which was off limits to all civilians, we kept finding young Korean girls living in caves not far from Division Headquarters. The mystery: how did the girls get past security and into our headquarters area? The answer: when the kitchen water truck, and trailer, went back to the civilian area to get fresh drinking water, the guys would put the girls in the water tanks. The girls would be in water up to their necks, and during the night the guys would take them out and move them to the caves. Only an American GI could be so creative! However, it did not take long until all the girls were rounded up and taken back to the civilian zone. Needless to say, all of us soldiers quit drinking the water and wrote home telling our loved ones to start sending us juice and bottled water.
Korea was hell, but I was lucky to serve my tour without a scratch when so many of my buddies were wounded or killed.
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In 1963, I became an Army Chaplain and served in the Vietnam War in this capacity. After Vietnam I was given many promotions and great assignments around the world. In 1989, as a Colonel, I retired from the Army.
I thank God for a great life as a soldier and as a soldier’s pastor.