"A Salute to Those
Who Have Served"
A series of Korean war veteran biographies & photos published in the Allamakee Journal, 2001
The biographies were compiled and written by Maury Gallagher and have been re-published on the Allamakee co. IAGenWeb site with the written permission of Mr. Gallagher (Jan. 2017). They were transcribed & contributed by Errin Wilker for Allamakee co. IAGenWeb
Hitchins, Bernard - U.S. Air Force
After graduating from New Albin High School, Bernard Hitchins joined the United States Air Force on January 4, 1951. Upon completion of Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, he sailed on the USS Patrick from San Francisco, California, to Tokyo, Japan. Bernard served as a cook during his tour of duty. On January 5, 1955, after four years of service, he was honorably discharged as an airman, first class. Bernard's wife Jean (Neitling), a Eugene, Oregon native, passed away in May of this year (2001). Bernard lives in Carmichael, California.
Hitchins, Donald J. 'Don' - U.S. Army
Donald J. Hitchins was born in New Albin, Iowa, on January 15, 1935. After graduation from New Albin High School in May of 1953, he worked with bis parents on the family farm on Iowa River Drive southwest of New Albin. In January of 1955 he entered the United States Army with five other Allamakee County men. After Basic Training at Fort Riley, Kansas, he was assigned to the 86th Infantry Regiment of the 10th Infantry Division. In July of 1955, the entire division sailed from New York to Germany on the USS General George M. Randall. Upon arrival in Germany, Donald's regiment was stationed in Schweinfurt, Germany, replacing units of the 1st Infantry Division. Donald was a construction equipment operator, but for most of his tour of duty in Germany he served as a jeep driver for a lieutenant.
In December 1956 Donald returned to the United States and was honorably discharged from active duty as a private, first class at Fort Sheridan, Illinois. He was discharged from the Army Reserve on December 31, 1962.
Don and his wife Dorothy (Moody), a native of Harpers Ferry, Iowa, were married on June 18, 1955. They have seven children, Kathy, Jim, Linda, Joyce, Joanne, Kevin and Jody, and thirteen grandchildren. Don and Dorothy, and their son Jim continue to operate the family farm. Donald's two brothers, Bernard and Thomas, are also military veterans.
Hitchins, Thomas - U.S. Army
Thomas Hitchins joined the United States Army in April of 1954. After Basic Training at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, he completed medical training for the Quartermaster Corps at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. Tom was then assigned to Letterman Hospital in San Francisco, California, where he worked in the medical supply unit of the hospital. In April of 1956, he was honorably discharged from the Army as a private, first class. Now retired, he lives in San Jose, California.
Wuennecke, Edgar - U.S. Army
Edgar Wuennecke was born in New Albin, Iowa, on the 14th of October 1928. He grew up and worked on the farm of his parents, John and Ella Wuennecke. The farm was located 1 mile east of the Wheatland Church. Edgar and his brother, Armin, now of Waukon, both went to the Wheatland school. Edgar continued to work on his parents and neighbor's farms until he was drafted into the Army on June 1, 1953. On that day, eight Allamakee County residents left Waukon for Camp Crowder, Missouri, where they were officially inducted into the Army. On June 10, the inductees were conveyed to Fort Leonardwood, Missouri, for six weeks of basic training, and six weeks of engineer training.
On October 26, 1953, Edgar and the others were flown to Stoneman, California, where they prepared to embark for overseas duty. A large contingent of Army personnel loaded onto the transport ship, USNS General John Pope. The ride over was uneventful except for the death of an Iowa soldier who died of spinal meningitis. Edgar noted that this event caused a great deal of consternation to all concerned because this disease can be highly contagious, and in those times was often fatal. In a ship packed with soldiers and crew confined in relatively small compartments, Edgar and the others felt that the potential for disaster was clearly present. Fortunately, no other cases were reported.
The troop ship landed in Sasebo, Japan. From Sasebo, the engineers were taken to the Japanese island of Ita Jima for six more weeks of engineer training. Edgar said he really enjoyed his stay there because the barracks and eating facilities were first rate. They used the same facilities the Japanese military had used before and during WWII.
On February 9, 1954, his engineer class was ordered to Inchon, Korea, and assigned to the 1343rd Engineer Battalion. A short time later he was transferred to the 633rd Light Equipment Engineer Company where he was a quarry man for his entire Korean tour.
When asked what he remembers most about Korea in that post-war time frame, Edgar say, "It reeked. The small towns had no sanitary facilities, so human waste and garbage ran down open gutters in the streets. Human waste was also used on crops for fertilizer." He said he never did see Seoul or any other larger towns, just the small towns and countryside near the quarry site.
Edgar spent his entire Korean tour living in tents. He said there were about eight men to a tent, and they were very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter.
Of his work on the crushers, Edgar said it wasn't such a bad job because they had a lot of help from the Koreans. "One of the Koreans could speak passable English," he said, "so he was made the boss and he told the other workers what to do."
Edgar feels good about his service in Korea. "Although some GI's showed a bad side to Koreans, most treated them well and tried to help them. They hired young boys to keep the tent areas clean and to shine their boots. "Our purpose for being there was to repair roads damaged during the war," Edgar said, "and the rock we crushed contributed greatly toward to mission. Our engineer company also built an elementary school next to our camp. Built of stone and mortar, it was called 'The Friendship School.' On special days such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, our company would put on a big feed for the local children."
Although the war in Korea had recently ended, things were not yet back to normal. Edgar remembers the nighttime trips to the quarry site alone in the back of a 2-1/2 ton cargo truck which was driving in blackout conditions. Other uncomfortable time were when he was assigned to stand guard duty on the gravel crushers alone at night. "This was not long after the last cease fire," he said, "and you couldn't tell a South Korean from a North Korean by looking or talking to them."
In March of 1955, Edgar returned to Inchon, where he boarded the troopship USNS Marine Phoenix for the trip home. On the return trip the seas were rough and many were seasick. He said the chaplain had a very difficult time serving communion on Good Friday.
The troopship landed in Seattle, Washington. From there Edgar went to Fort Carson, Colorado, where he received his discharge with the rank of sergeant on April 20, 1955. Edgar spent 1 year, 5 months and 14 days at sea or overseas. Over a yer of that time was spent in Korea. For his service, Edgar was awarded the National Defense Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the Korean Service Medal, and the Army Good Conduct Medal.
Edgar returned to Allamakee County where he married Shirley Meyer. They purchased the City Meat Market in New Albin in February of 1958, and have worked there ever since. They have two children, a daughter Angela Strong, and a son, Alan, both of whom reside in New Albin.
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