Nelson S. Ladd
After a period of hardship during the Great Depression living with his mother and extended family, Nelson Ladd graduated from high school while moving onto Wichita University. After being drafted into the Army, he attended basic training at Fort Bolivar, Virginia where he received training as a Camouflage Specialist to prepare for Korea in 1953. Nelson Ladd was assigned to the 2nd Engineer Construction Group, of the Headquarters Company S2-S3 as a Surveyor for a number of reconstruction projects during Korea War, most notably Operation X-Ray, or The Libby Bridge. On July 4, 1953, under the direction of the 84th Engineer Construction Battalion, this high level bridge would be named the Libby Bridge in honor George D. Libby of the 3d Engineer Combat Battalion who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic self-sacrifice. Nelson Ladd’s battalion would continue their reconstruction efforts by clearing mined fields, building helicopter pads, bulldozing mountains, and helping put up tents for the refugees in Pusan. After returning to Korea in 2013, Nelson Ladd marveled at the engineering feats and how prosperous the people of this beautiful country has aspired to become.
Dear John Letter
Nelson Ladd was very in love with a young lady and he planned to get engaged before deployment. However, after 6 months of being overseas, he received a letter from his fiance stating that she had met someone else. There was nothing he could do being 7,000 miles away from home, and by the time he had returned, she was already married to someone else.
Operation X-Ray- The Libby Bridge Construction
Nelson Ladd was the surveyor for the bridge constructed over Imjin River known as the Libby Bridge. The high level, steel and concrete bridge that is still intact and in use today was named after Sergeant George C. Libby of the 3rd Engineer Combat Battalion. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his self-sacrifice at Taejon, Korea. Nelson Ladd was there during the dedication by Army General Maxwell Taylor on July 4, 1953.
Less than a month after the dedication of the Libby Bridge, Nelson Ladd was a witness to a prisoner exchange between the North and South Koreans. He estimated on the day of the exchange, some 80,000 prisoners were returned to North Korea despite the South had detained about 400,000 North Korean soldiers. He observed that many of the prisoners had thrown the clothes that had been given to them at the camps along the roadside except their shorts and boots. The trucks headed back picked up the articles of clothing left by the prisoners.
Advancements in Korea: Then vs Today
After having visited Korea in 2013, Nelson Ladd is still amazed by the advancements Korea has made and how ambitious the people have been throughout the years. He had seen images of what Korea looked like before his revisit, however he had feared that Korea would have become like many East Asian countries, disparaged and unable to recover. Nelson Ladd described the Taft-Katusa Agreement (1905) between the US and Japan that led occupation of Korea and the Philippines that created the oppression upon the peoples of those countries.
Military Allowances during Korean War
When Nelson Ladd was drafted into the war, he was paid $88.50 a month. By the time he came home as a Corporal, he earned $135 plus 50$ in overseas pay. Nelson Ladd said he earned enough to buy his first car for $1,600 and he gave money to his family.