Leo Roberson, US Army, 1950-1953
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I volunteered for the Army in 1950, and took my basic training in Fort Riley, Kansas, and then I was sent to the 101st Airborne Division to open their camp in Kentucky. Right after that we got the 101st open and they gave me orders to go to Korea. If I had it to do over again, I would offer to do it again. I mean, I may not be able to do the things that I did when I was over there before, because I got over about two months after the war started. I was an engineer, combat engineer man, and we had several duties setting and removal of mines and booby traps, and building bridges and roads, and this and that and the other, and across the 38th parallel. Like I said, if I had it to do over, I would be willing to go again, but I may not be able to do the things that I did in those days because I was only 18 years old. I’ve told a lot of people that I can still sweep floors and wash dishes.
My family is Army, and my wife’s family is Marine, and my brother and my youngest son served in Korea after the war, and my son was in the same outfit I was in over in Korea in 101st. I was with the 8th Army Division, 10th Corp Engineers too, and I love my country, and I would do it again. Right after I got over there, I got over there in about September of 1950, the war was just really getting going good, and I got my first battle star out of the Invasion of Inchon. It was a lot of guerrilla forces in the mountains in those days and we had … I helped the Marine Corp guard the helicopter pads, because they were new and just coming out. The bubbles, we called them the bubbles. Our job was to help defend the nurses when they landed the planes, the helicopters for the wounded, and 1st Marine Medical Battalion.
They were on one side of the river and we were on the other side trying to build a bridge across there. There was a lot of activity in those days. I served my country like I was supposed to. Had a lot of buddies over there. As I said, again, if I had it to do over, I would go right back doing it again. We had a lot of enemies floating down the rivers in those days because of the flooding part of the country, because the season was real flooding and the rivers were flooding real bad. One of my jobs was to stand on the pontoon bridge that we had beside it and defend the enemy from blowing up the pontoons, because they were floating down through there with big straps of hand grenades on their belts and our job was to take care of the grenades not hitting the pontoon, to keep from blowing it up, because it was still in use and the bailey bridges weren’t in full completion at that time, and we had to keep both bridges going.
I got knocked off of it once and served a lot of time with the hospital while I was over there, but I made it through. That country over there, from my understanding, it was under the command of the Japanese Army for about two or 300 years, and it was a very primitive place. There was a lot of cholera over there in those days. The Japanese beetle. I had to take a lot of shots when I got over there and I didn’t take to the weather when I first got there. They almost sent me home because of the change of climate and I started bleeding a lot, but I … 1st Marine Medical Battalion, again, took good care of me and doctored me up. I was crippled for a little while, but like I say, I made it through. There’s a lot of things. This happened 68 years ago and my memory, I forget a lot of things, but I had it tough over there, but not near as tough as some of the guys did.
I was left-handed and I couldn’t fire the rifle too good, fast enough, and they didn’t want me on the front lines, but I stayed right up there pretty close. I stayed with the 54th Field Artillery a lot from Germany when we first got over there. I tried to be a good engineer and we built a lot of bridges, lost a lot of equipment. I was over there when they started the Peace Conference of the 38th and what aggravated me so was to see them drive up in some of our vehicles for the meeting. I didn’t like that. Oh, I could sit and talk about it. I’d have to reminisce a lot to think about some of the things like it happened, because like I say, this happened 68 years ago when I was a young kid, 18-19 years old, and I can’t think of all of the things that happened. I ended up with four bronze battle stars. I lacked one getting the silver star. I stayed busy.