Korean War Legacy Project

Don Leaser


Don Leaser was born in Decatur, Illinois in 1933, moved to Wisconsin with his family, and graduated from Antigo High School. He enlisted in the Navy in 1951 and had boot camp in White Lake.  He was a quartermaster during his time in the Navy and his main duties were signaling and sometimes steering the ship.  He served on the destroyer USS Herbert J. Thomas which had four hundred and seventy-five sailors with five inch guns. His ship was able to rescue an American pilot from the sea who was shot down by North Koreans. After he left the Navy in 1954 he went back to Wisconsin and worked on the farm and held several other jobs.

Video Clips

Quartermaster on USS Herbert J. Thomas

Don Leaser describes his duties on the destroyer USS Herbert J. Thomas. He had responsibilities of signalling and sometimes steering the ship. He says it was dangerous and they were based out of Hawaii.

Tags: Weapons

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Rescuing an American Pilot

Don Leaser describes rescuing an American pilot from the sea who had been shot down. He said North Koreans were also shooting from the banks near Wonsan. He was hit by shrapnel from a North Korean cannon that bounced off his helmet while on the deck, but he was not injured.

Tags: Wonsan,North Koreans

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Life on the USS Herbert J. Thomas

Don Leaser describes life aboard the USS Herbert J. Thomas. They slept on bunks and his favorite foods were eggs and cheese. His ship was the head of the fleet which had three ships. He was able to write letters home, but he said he didn't write enough and only wrote one letter to his girlfriend Geneva.

Tags: Food,Letters,Living conditions

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