Robert Kohler served during the Korean War after enlisting right after high school graduation. He was sent to Japan in 1950, where he heard about the Northern invasion. He remained in Okinawa for the next few years, stating that he was lucky that he didn’t go to Korea. Robert Kohler recalls having to stand guard on a ship full of prisoners during this time. He also remembers how dangerous the typhoons were. Overall, he is proud of his contribution to the war.
With the "Worst of the Worst"
Robert Kohler remembers leaving on the troop ship. Because his rank orders had not come through yet, he had to do guard duty on the ship. He was in a cell block with the prisoners who were the "worst of the worst."
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Living through Typhoons
Robert Kohler remembers experiencing many typhoons in Okinawa. The storms would lift the roofs off of the huts that they were in. Robert Kohler says his most difficult time was doing guard duty outside, during a typhoon.
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Robert Kohler Interview Transcription:
I’m Bob Kohler and they call me Sergeant Bob. Cause I formed a ministry of my church
parish here in Irvine. So I’m the parish recruiter. That’s why the call me Sergeant Bob.
And, What is your birthday and where were you born?
Yeah, 11/26/1930. Thanksgiving 2 days ago was my 85th birthday. So it was nice.
OK thank you, thank you.I was born in Johnstown Pennsylvania in, uh ,you know, on the
Could you give brief info about your Family background as well?
Well uh. Mother and father of course two sisters and one brother, deceased. Now in my
family we have four boys all grown and we have one infant daughter, deceased. So that’s brings
you up to date on my family. My history.
Do you know where your parents came from? Did they immigrate from Europe?
Yes both of them did, of course. Uh, on my ,on my mother’s side they came from
England. My mother’s name is Wilson. On my father’s side, of course they were here already
…uh, sometime in the early 1800’s. So, that’s the story about my parents.
Ok, Thank you. Then let’s talk about your educational background leading up to the moment
when you joined the military and then your military background. So, yeah, can you tell us about
your educational background up to the point when you joined the military?
Yeah I graduated from Johnston Senior High on June the 13th and then I enlisted on the
army on June the 30th. Because in my, uh, in Johnstown, there’s only two jobs you can go to
One is a mill and one is the coal mines. And I’ didn’t want either one of them. So That’s why I
enlisted in the army.
And how old you were you when you enlisted?
What kind of basic military training did you receive where was it when was it and what was it
Well, When I enlisted we had 14 weeks of basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey
Atlanta general depot Auto mechanics this type of thing. So, After that I was transferred to Fort
Hood Texas for about three or four months. And then I got overseas orders and went to Camp
Stellman california and we left camp Stellmen california about june the first 1950.
So we were on a General Walker troopship on June 25th when the war broke out and
they announced over the intercom on the ship that the north had invaded the south so we didn’t
know where we were gonna go. How was any ordinates.
First stop was Okinawa. So all the ordinates The
rest of the troop ship all went to
Pusan. The inventory supply medical communications. Now I was lucky I’d hate to call it
fortunate And every year on June 25th that’s my anniversary because otherwise I would had to
have gone to Korea.
But I always felt that the ones that didn’t go served proudly and even the ones from
Okinawa when that were transferred to Korea like the 27th infantry regiment, when I got there
they were transferred immediately to korea
So what we did in Okinawa we provided, 1, the support for Korea, plus, on Okinawa, the
Air Force, the B29s they took off every day to bomb and came back every night to uh, cantina.
We were pretty much involved with the war effort. We also trained on weekends as provisional
infantry. In other words I carried an MI in the rice paddies of Okinawa.
I fell once, had a hand puncture a
piece of bamboo went through my hand. And that
wasn’t good’ cause I was in the orderly room after a while and uh… So anyway it was a kind of a
hard time then, I was in the hospital for a while, but everything worked out alright.
Um, Ok, So when you went to Okinawa your…can you tell me your unit you were in, your rank
I was in the 87th ordnance battalion. We were stationed at Maschinado which is
between Maha and Katina. We operated a huge depot where we repaired all kind of equipment:
auto, yeah, vehicles and light armoredall
sent that was damaged all over Korea and was sent
to us. But then after a while, they transferred me from the ordinance partthe
orderly room because in high school I’d taken typing and they needed someone in the orderly
room to be the clerk and luckily, I accepted right away ‘cause i didn’t have to pull any KP guard
duty….So I spent the last year and a half maybe as a company clerk and my rank when I left
was a staff sergeant.
When you left uh.. .
Yeah, I left in July 1952 and on another troop ship 14 days back to the States, But on the
troop ship my orders hadn’t come through to be a sergeant. So I was still a corporeal, so I had
to pull guard duty on the troop ship and the Marines were in charge of the brig so the army
guys, two of us, worked 2 on and 4 off. And we had to be put inside the cell block with the
prisoners. These were prisoners from Okinawa, Japan, and Korea. They were general court
martial prisoners. I mean, these were the worst of the worst. They were being sent back to Fort
Leavenworth, Kansas. And, uh, I don’t want to tell you why they were committed, the crimes
they committed, but you can guess that, uh, they were very serious, very serious.
What would you say was was your most difficult or dangerous maybe time, you remember
during your duty ? And maybe on the other hand happiest and most rewarding?
Hm, Ok Okinawa was famous for its typhoons and, and when I was there the two years
we had about 13. That’s one every so often and I can remember we were housed in quonset
huts which were tied down by cable and outside of our quonset hut was a 55 gallon can of sand,
and we remember hearing the winds at the fearest time and
that 55 gallon can of sand was
Roofs were blown away that weren’t tied down and uh, we had to stay inside one time
37 hours, almost a day and a half. Couldn’t go outside, otherwise I’d be a statistic, you know.
But anyway we had pretty tough times: Guard duty, I was on guard duty during the typhoon
once, cause you had to be out there all 24 hours and so that was probably the worst part of my
duty being on guard duty in a typhoon. But I’m still here to talk about it.
Well, as I mentioned my rank was staff sergeant but to get staff sergeant I had to drill a
squad in front of a company commander, which I did, of course, to make the grade. So that
would be my most rewarding time in the military to be uh a staff sergeant,
which I, you know, I think is a pretty high rank.
What do you think is the impact that you had, your service had in Korea?
Well as I mentioned we supported everything they did in Korea. I mean If they couldn’t
repair something there, they’d send it to Okinawa because we had a very large depot. We had a
larger one than they had in Japan. Cause we were closer than Japan was. So yeah we took a
lot of pride in what we did 87th ordnance battalion I mean, that’s what we did
And vice versa what do you think the Korean war and serving in the Korean war has had
an imapact in your life?
Well i’m always proud to have served, I don’t wish so much I had gone to Korea. I
respect the ones in my ministry that did serve there that includes world war II of course, but
Korea, because I’m closely related to the same age group,We’re all in our 80s (course i’m 85 as
I mentioned.) No, I respect every one of those soldiers that served in Korea. and they’re my
heros. Let’s put it that way, they’re my heros
Anything else that you want to talk about? There’s a part also where we can ask the veterans
what they feel about how Korea is now. They’ve grown so much in terms of their economy and
their political situation and they’re now one of the leading players in the world and that is due to
all the service of the US military men who served during the war and behalf of those who served
do you have anything you want to say to those that will be listening to these stories later on? I
mean you’ve already said it. I guess I‘m just asking if you have anything more to say in terms of
that great thing that you did.
We have one man in our ministry who is in Korea on pretty much the front lines he’s in
infantry so he’s probably up doing the dmz with the other members of the group. So he’s one of
my young hereos. I have two heros: older and younger. And this young boy, is name is Juan,
his mother gave me his information to put in to the ministry. We have a website so I put him in
the ministry in the Army branch and as I mentioned we have 91 in our ministryall
We have an honor roll all the ones that served and deceased in our church. Some of course
served in korea and, again, those are my silent heros.
And your church’s name is?
St Thomas More Catholic Parish Irvine, California.
Alright anything else that you want to say?
No, that’s all I can say. Thanks for the opportunity to do the video. Enjoyed the other
groups that are part of the Foundation and I want to thank you, Jenny, for selecting me and
we’re going to work on the other members of the group that served in Korea and served during
Korea like I did and, so, it will be fine. I appreciate it. Thanks very much.
Ok Thank you.