Richardson: Seeing the world with the U.S. Army

In January 1959 I joined the U.S. Army; I went from Rockingham by bus to Charlotte for induction. After a day and night we were send on to Fort Jackson, S.C. by bus, for Basic Training.

By Howard Richardson My Life Retold

By Howard Richardson
My Life Retold

After finishing Basic Training and a 10-day leave I had to report to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineer School at Fort Belvoir, Va. Just South of Washington D.C.

We went through the Engineer Equipment Maintenance Enlisted School from 25 May 1959 to 2 July 1959.

This school was for 396 hours

Then we were assigned to go to another school, the Engineer Equipment Repair Course.  This one from 6 July 1959 to 11 September 1959. This school was for 440 hours.

Thirteen of us were assigned to the Far East 8th U.S. Army in South Korea. We left Washington D.C. by train to Oakland California, the trip took three days and two nights. We crossed Maryland and into Pennsylvania to Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, we crossed the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and into Kansas, the Rocky Mountains, Utah, Wyoming, saw the Great Salt Lake, crossed Nevada and into California after three days we arrived at the Oakland Army Terminal. We got to see and cross the Golden Gate Bridge.

Here we were processed and received orders to go to Korea.

We were then taken to Travis Air Force Base for a flight to Tokyo, Japan. After we left Travis and were out over the Pacific Ocean, the plane started having trouble with one of the engines. The pilot said everything was find we would make it OK on three engines, but then in a little while we were informed that we had lost another engine and would have to land in Honolulu Hawaii for repairs.

That we would be there between six six and nine hours and we should be at the airport at least two hours before then to be sure we were there when the plane was ready to go.

A group of about eight got a cab and went to the beach for about two hours just so we could say we had been to the beach in Hawaii. We were back at the airport before the seven hours were up.

We left Hawaii and went on to Tokyo Japan. From the airport we went to “Kishine Barracks where we were to stay until there was transportation for us to Korea. About four days later we were taken to Yokohama Port and boarded a ship for Inchon Korea, three days later we arrived in Inchon and from there we went to Ascom City U.S. Army Replacement Center to be assigned to Engineer Units around South Korea.

I was assigned to the 45th Engineer Group (M&S) U.S. Army Engineer Depot Korea, to the 82nd Engineer Det. Our job was to process engineer equipment and send it to the units to use, also we received and process new equipment as it came from the states to wait for units to order it. Also we had to do heavy repair to any of the equipment that gave trouble in the field.

While in Korea for 13 months I got to see some of the country: Seoul, Pocheon, the DMZ zone, the Port of Inchon. I saw a lot of the damage left from the fighting from 1951 to 1954.

Also as I have written in another story I was in Korea when President Eisenhower came to Korea, and I got to met him.

It was a great experience to get to see that part of the world.

After 13 months in Korea we got orders to return to the United States. You better believe we were some kind of happy.

We boarded the ship for home in the Inchon Korea Bay and then went to Yokohama Japan to pickup some more troops. After we left Yokohama,

The trip home aboard the ship was a long 14 days. It was cold for a day or two, then was nice, but we were in a storm for three days, but also as we were in the North Pacific Ocean we passed where we could see Russian soldiers walking guard on the coast. Later we made an overnight stop in Adak, Alaska and then stopped in Kodiak, Alaska to refuel the ship so we could make it on down the West Coast of Canada and the U.S. to San Francisco, Calif., and under the Golden Gate Bridge to Oakland Bay.

After we got off the ship we were taken over to the Oakland Army Terminal and checked through costumes. Then I went to the airport for a flight to the East Coast. On the way we had to stop at Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and Jackson Mississippi, to Atlanta Ga. The plane was late getting to Atlanta and the plane that was going to Charlotte was already on the runway getting ready to takeoff, but somehow the pilot made contract with the airport so that both planes stopped on the runway and six of us got off one plane on onto the other for the trip to Charlotte.

When we arrived in Charlotte Airport, my Dad had sent my first cousin to pick me up for the trip to Rockingham.

After a 30-day leave I had to report to Fort Belvoir, Va. I arrived at the replacement center on Friday morning and checked in. The first lieutenant that was in charge at the replacement told us if we wanted a weekend pass to fill out the paper work and we could get one, I got mine and turned around and came back home for the weekend I had to leave on Sunday afternoon to get back to Fort Belvoir in time.

In the next week I was assigned to the 87th Engineer Bn. and I got settle in and were back to normal. This was in November 1960.

I found out that I might be able to go to Greenland for six months, because I had just over 18 months left in the army. I applied for and was accepted. We were going to build a two-mile air strip, and an airplane hanger, that was 800 by 1,000 feet. This had to be done in six months.

We were to leave the states sometime the last of May. I came home to leave my car. While I was home I got married, which was unexpected at the time but I still had to leave to go to Greenland for six months.

Anyway I went back to Fort Belvoir and we were busy getting ready to go to Greenland on May 29. We went to McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey for the flight to Thule Air Force Base in Greenland. On the way we landed in Newfoundland and then on to Thule, after we arrived we were move up to the base of the Ice Cap to a place called Camp Tuto Greenland.

This was where we were to build the air scrip and hanger.

Since I was the top E-4 I was assigned to be the supervisor for the night crew. It was set up so that the day crew would work from 7 a.m .to 7 p.m. and the night crew would work from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

I had 29 men on my crew. We had to do preventive maintenance on the equipment, service as needed and do major repairs. I also was on call for search and rescue when need on the ice cap.

While we were in Greenland the Berlin Crisis had come about and President Kennedy extended all the armed services tour of duty. I was one of the lucky ones I only got extended for two months and three days.

The air strip and airplane hanger was finish sometime about Oct. 1, 1961, and people started going back to the states, I stayed until Oct. 20, getting everything closed up and ready for the long winter. I got back to McGuire Air Force Base New Jersey and back to Fort Belvoir Va. on Oct. 22, 1961.

After we got back to Fort Belvoir. I was transferred back to the 87th Engineer Battalion, where I stayed until I was discharged on March 28, 1962.

I think you will agree that I did get to see a lot of the world in three years.

Richmond County native Howard Richardson is author of “My Life Retold,” available on Amazon.com.

Filed in: Military and Veterans, Opinion

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