Veterans are honored this coming Monday.
These are just a few of the oral histories that the Library has of the brave men and women who fought to keep us free. These oral histories can be read at the Library.
WORLD WAR II
Wayne T. Gingerich
Wayne T. Gingerich was born in California, but after his military service, he lived in Brigham City. In a 2005 oral history interview, he said:
I was 17 when I joined the Navy and was sent to Hawaii. On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, a few of us guys were standing on a ship anchored off Pearl City when we saw these planes coming. Someone said, “Are they Germans?” Then we saw the red circles on the planes, and we said “Oh, Japanese!”
We looked up, and saw the walls of one of the hangars on Ford Island fall down, and then the roof came down. We dropped the hatch. My battle station was about 20 feet away at the hoist that sent ammunition and powder back and forth. We sent it up, and they put it in the gun and shot it. We went this way all during the battle.
Finally we heard a tremendous blast! A bomb had hit the hawser and exploded there. Guys were getting hit with shrapnel, but I didn’t get hit. The next morning they sent for me to come to the main deck in the hangar and help bring these bodies down from the handling room.
We couldn't see anything during the attack, but later as we went around Ford Island, we saw battle wagons burning and sitting on the bottom. You don’t know what’s going on. You’ve got a job to do, and you do it. If you were topside and you saw all the bad things happening, it would be different, but I didn’t see any of that.
LaVoy Udy from Riverside was drafted into the Army during World War II. In a 2003 oral history interview, he said:
I was 21 when I was drafted and went to Europe. We got to Belgium for the Battle of the Bulge That’s where we started combat. I was driving a supply truck. The officer there said, “We’ve got a load of German prisoners. Would you take them back for us?”
So they all loaded into my truck. I had so many that one sat up in the front with me. He was just a young kid. I didn’t get scared until I looked over at him and saw that my gun was next to him. I was worried the whole time. It wasn’t too far until we got to a stockade where they kept these prisoners. I just pulled up, and they unloaded without incident.
We went in there two days before Christmas. In a letter, my wife wrote, “I’m so glad! I read in the paper that every serviceman will have turkey on Thanksgiving and Christmas.” So I wrote her back and said, “What I had wasn’t turkey! We had a blizzard, and I leaned against a tree and scraped the snow off a slice of bread with burnt corn on top of it and half a peach. That was our dinner.”
Well, the war ended, and we came back to the States. We went into a building, and a man stood up and said, “We want to welcome you back to America.” They put on a big spread of food for us, which made up for the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners we missed on the front.
Quinn Eskelsen of Brigham City spent 40 months of overseas military duty during World War II. After the start of the Korean War, he served there. He said about Korea:
I was Executive Officer in a Field Artillery Battery. It wasn’t long until we were in the front lines. We were actually above the 38th Parallel and on the north side of the Imjim River when the Chinese started one of their offensives. They concentrated so much power in one place that we couldn’t stop them. We were in jeopardy, but they did get us out of there.
They started the peace talks at Panmunjom. It was kind of a stalemate. We’d backed off on some of the grounds that we’d owned, and the enemy had occupied them and dug in. Then they decided we’d need those positions because it overlooked the railroad they used to supply the troops. They spent that fall trying to get that ground back. It was pretty disgusting to have to do it all over again. During WWII, we were there to win. The Korean War was about the first one we ever got into that we weren’t going to win outright, and we still don’t have that settled.
We were in combat all the time. During WWII, I probably had 35 to 40 days of combat, and I was very fortunate to survive that. In Korea I had almost constant combat during the whole year I was there.
When I got back to the States, I was still assigned to the Reserve, but I finally resigned. One time I thought about joining the National Guard, and then I decided, “No, I’ve had enough.”
Dawn Reeder of Corinne was drafted into the Army in August of 1951 when he was 22 years old, and was sent to Korea. He said in a 2011 oral history interview:
I was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division, to the Medical Battalion. I had the job of chauffeuring the Division Surgeon, the chief doctor in the Infantry Division of 22,000 men. I thoroughly enjoyed that because he wanted to be on the spot. Every time there was some action taking place on the front line, we went up there to see if the medical facilities were all working. We had some exciting times because whenever he went up, there was action going on. It was exciting. I was trained to be a medic, and I got a chance to use that training. I learned a lot from him. I helped bring in a lot of wounded.
After my six months with the Colonel, I went to church one day, and they had a new chaplain. Because he could speak Spanish, they assigned him to the Puerto Rican regiment. They were mostly Catholic. I was transferred over to be his driver. So for the next six months I drove for this chaplain
We had Sunday meetings. He'd have two or three meetings for the Puerto Ricans, and then we'd have one or two LDS meetings. It was good. I feel like it was worthwhile to the boys. I was in Korea for one year. Half of that time I was working to improve the men's physical health and the other half their spiritual well-being.
Clifford Green of Brigham City served in Vietnam and received the Purple Heart after being wounded twice during combat. In a 2004 interview he said:
I got to Vietnam July 16, 1967 and was assigned to a Special Unit called the 196th Light Infantry Brigade. We supported the 75th Rangers and the Marines. Shortly after that, I received my first wound in combat action. I remember how scared I was. I was just 19, and we got into a firefight. It was in a plantation-type place. The first thing I felt was a sharp pain in my arm, and I couldn’t move it. They loaded me into the helicopter. I remember going out and coming in, and I remember landing. They put me in the ambulance-type truck to take me to the hospital. You’ve seen those trucks on M.A.S.H. It looked just like that. When they put me in, they took off, and the thing kind of bounced. The guy above me fell on me face-first, and he was dead. I couldn’t move him, so I had to ride that way ‘til we got to the hospital. The Purple Heart medal was for the second time I was wounded.
Back at home, I started having nightmares. One of the worst things I ever did in my life was when I was asleep downstairs on my bed, and my mom came down and woke me up by just grabbing me. Before I knew it, I had her against the wall in a choke-hold. Until the day she died, she always woke me up with a broomstick. I apologized to her, and she understood, but it scared me so bad that the reaction was still there. I got home with my life, and I love this country. I will to my dying day, but I still have the nightmares.
Charles Earl, a native of Brigham City, was was drafted into the Army. In an interview in 2010, he told of his military experiences:
I was drafted in 1966 and went to Vietnam. We were right out in the jungle. As a matter of fact, we built our own barracks underground, covered them with coconut trees and put sandbags on top of the trees. We'd live in those underground. A lot of nights we would set bobby traps out around our perimeter area. If one would go off, we'd shoot a flare into the air to light up the place. If we saw any movement, we'd shoot again. The next morning when it got light, we'd go out and see. A lot of times we'd shoot animals by mistake. If we'd get deer or wild pigs, we let the Vietnamese have them. They cooked them and ate them.
One day we were cutting down coconut trees, and a little boy came up and said, “Here. They want me to give you this.” I looked in his hand and saw a hand grenade with the pin pulled. I grabbed his hands and called for the guys to get something to put into the pinhole of this grenade.
A problem I've had to deal with is that in Vietnam before they'd land their helicopters and their guns, they'd clear out the foliage using Agent Orange before they dropped the guys in. I got a really rare disease called amyloidosis from that. The doctor said, “You've got amyloidosis in your kidneys. I give you 6 months.” That was 8 or 9 years ago.