Robert Stephens served for the US Army during the Korean War, primarily repairing tanks in the field and reached the rank of Sergeant. He was born in Wisconsin on June 15, 1930 and was the youngest of five children. Robert Stephens grew up and worked on a dairy farm where he became mechanically inclined. He graduated high school in 1949, and was drafted into the Army in 1950. Robert Stephens mainly served north of the 38th parallel where he encountered many dangerous situations repairing tanks. He was part of the 245th Tank Battalion where he served as a Tank Retriever and Recovery Chief until he was discharged in 1952.
F.O.R.D., Fix Or Repair Daily
Robert Stephens describes fixing tanks. The tanks used in Korea had Ford V-8 engines and often the spark plug housing would crack. This occurred often and created a supply chain issue. Robert Stephens also describes how the tanks would slip their tracks. He would have to go out into the combat zone and fix the slipped track.
Typical Day: North of the 38th Parallel
Robert Stephens describes a typical day North of the 38th parallel. He describes the extremely harsh weather, living conditions, and a near death experience where he almost drowned. The weather was cold enough to freeze tank tracks. At another point, Robert Stephens had to cross a river that swelled due to rain. The tank retriever stalled in the middle of the river and Robert Stephens almost drowned trying to make it to shore.
Robert Stephens describes his training to become a mechanic on tanks. He describes being trained on the M46 with a Continental engine, whereas the tanks in Korea were the M4 with a Ford engine. The role of a tank mechanic was to keep the tanks and Jeeps running. His particular unit was support for many different UN forces. Robert Stephens describes how when the tanks broke down in the combat zone and he and his crew would have to go into danger to fix a broken down tank.