Sunday, July 18, 2010


The other day I learned, via a crossword puzzle, that a sergeant wasn’t the only NCO; a CPL is also one.

Not being from a military family or particularly well-read when it comes to military things, I actually felt like I was really stupid to have to ask Jerry why SGT didn’t work in the three squares I needed to fill. At dinner last night he gave me the “Intro to Rank” short course.

Considering the fact that I have had two husbands who both served in Korea, the only explanation that seemed reasonable was that my dad was too old to serve in the Second World War, and I wasn’t married to either of my husbands when they were in Korea.

However, this discussion led me to think of the wonderful pictures I’ve uncovered in my quest to digitize our slides, some dating back to…yes, the Korean War. So I’d like to share a few with you

The battalion camp near Osan, Korea.

Jerry’s years at MIT were made possible in part by the ROTC, a requirement for freshmen and sophomores. Those who continued in ROTC for their junior and senior years were paid as Officer Recruits, which helped finance their education. When Jerry graduated in June of 1951 with a degree in Building and Construction Engineering, he also was commissioned in the Army Active Reserve as a 2nd Lieutenant. He was called to active duty in September of 1951 and assigned to the 841st Engineer Aviation Battalion at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. The battalion was an active reserve unit, headquartered in Miami, Florida and had been sent to Fort Huachuca for training and completion of organizational assignments. Jerry was sent to Fort Belvoir, Virginia for advanced Officer Training and rejoined the 841st in March of 1952.

The battalion was then sent to Korea, with an assignment to participate in the construction of K-51, a major Air Force Command base about 100 miles south of Seoul. As Adjutant, Jerry was in charge of Battalion administration, as well as oversight of a few other areas - personnel, the company guard – and he served as the Communications officer. He left Korea in May of 1953 as a 1st Lieutenant, having served his required 2 years of active duty. In June he was assigned to an Engineer Reserve Company at Fort MacArthur in San Pedro. After completing his remaining three years of Active Reserve in 1956, he received an Honorable Discharge.

While Jerry was busy getting his education and helping the US build air bases in Korea, I was a young high-schooler, really unconcerned with the Korean war. All of my uncles had served in the Second World War and none of my friends were old enough to be drafted in the early 1950s. The Korean War did not seem to have any relationship to my life at that time.

During that same time period, Joe Kirkpatrick, a young man just out of high school and old enough to join the Marines, enlisted in February of 1951. He went to Camp LeJeune for basic training and then two months of specialized training in demolitions. He spent thirteen months in Korea. He was honorably discharged in February of 1954 with the rank of Staff Sargeant. As noted before, this was the time that I was enjoying teen-aged things and not worrying about the war. In June of 1953 I graduated from High School and in the fall of ’53 I headed out to George Pepperdine College in Los Angeles

I started my Sophomore year in the fall of 1954 and met a new fellow in our college choir who had just entered college after being released from military service. That man was Joe Kirkpatrick and he later became my husband and father of my children. Except for the fact that he had a monthly obligation to attend Marine Reserve meeting, his military service seemed a thing of the past and it had little bearing on our life together.

These photos all are significant to me now, though not because of the Korean War but because they draw the eye and the mind back to a war that our nation really considered a Police Action. As I look at these pictures I can’t help but be proud of these two fellows who served honorably, gave a few years of their young lives to our country, and then at different times walked into my life.

Isn’t it amazing what kind of reminiscing a cross-word puzzle will cause?

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