Korean War Legacy Project

Don Leaser

Bio

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 United States Navy in 1951 and attended 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 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 while also holding several other jobs.

Video Clips

Quartermaster on USS Herbert J. Thomas

Don Leaser describes his duties on the destroyer USS Herbert J. Thomas which was based out of Hawaii. He describes his responsibilities of signaling and sometimes steering the ship. He recalls the dangerous nature of his responsibilities.

Tags: Weapons

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kaMv1hXvBa4&start=282&end=466

Rescuing an American Pilot

Don Leaser describes rescuing an American pilot from the sea who had been shot down. He recounts how North Koreans were also shooting from the banks near Wonsan. He recalls being 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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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kaMv1hXvBa4&start=466&end=700

Life on the USS Herbert J. Thomas

Don Leaser describes life aboard the USS Herbert J. Thomas. He recounts how they slept on bunks and that his favorite foods were eggs and cheese. He shares that his ship was the head of the fleet which had three ships. He notes he was able to write letters home but adds he did not write enough, only writing one letter to his girlfriend, Geneva.

Tags: Food,Letters,Living conditions

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kaMv1hXvBa4&start=743&end=893