Roger Myers was born on a farm in Rockford, Ill. He joined the National Guard while in high school, mainly because they got to go to summer camp every year, and it introduced him to interesting experiences and skills. After re-enlisting, he was sent to Korea when his unit was activated. He remembers what it was like when there was a rumor of a cease fire in 1952– each side tried to gain as much territory as possible. He also explains what happened to a courier when he did not return one night. His service ended several weeks after the July 27, 1953 cease fire. He describes his trip home and his reception, going back to his hometown. He later married, had two children and led what he calls a ‘normal life’. Now retired, he serves at the local VFW, helping with funerals of veterans.
Rumor of a Cease Fire in 1952
Robert Myers recalls what it was like in Korea in 1952. He describes how both sides had patrols going back at forth across the DMZ at night. The rumor was that there was going to be a ceasefire, so each side tried to get as much territory as possible.
Robert Myers describes how headquarters had a courier who would send information back and forth every night. When he did not return one night, Robert Myers and other went looking for him and found that his jeep had crashed. As a result, Robert Myers had to do the duty for several nights until they found a replacement.
Why I Joined the National Guard
Robert Myers describes his basic training in the National Guard. He said that he joined because it was “something different” than being on the farm in the summer; they went to camp for two weeks each summer. During that time he met a lot of people and learned a lot of things including how to shoot, march, and drive various vehicles.
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Roger Meyers:My name is Roger Myers. I was born in Rockford, Illinois, at the old Saint Anthony hospital. We lived on a farm south of Rockford, but I was born in the city. I went to three one room schools in Winnebago County. Graduated from Boylan High School in 1949. I joined the National Guard while I was in high school, when I was 17.
My three-year enlistment was up in January of ‘52, so I reenlisted and in February I got called for active-duty. We were sent to Camp Cooke in California, which is now Vandenberg Air Force Base. We never went anywhere as a unit; they used us for individual replacements.
So some of the men went to Germany and some of us went to Korea, all over the world I guess (INAUDIBLE)
Interviewer: What made you choose to enlist? You said you first enlisted in the National Guard. Why did you choose that?
Roger Meyers:I don’t know. We went to summer camp for two weeks every summer, so it was something different than being on the farm.
We met a lot of people and learned a lot of things too. We learned how to drive a two-and-a-half-ton truck and a jeep and that, so it was kind of interesting to go to camp, especially, in the summertime.
Interviewer: What was the training like?
Roger Meyers:Just about like basic training. We learned how to shoot, how to march, how to drive and all the basic training things we did in the summertime.
We went to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, most of the time. I still see a few of the guys from back then, they are still alive.
Interviewer: So do you remember any of the instructors or what they were like?
Roger Meyers:Most of them were citizen people, citizen soldiers, you know. Some of the guys, when we got called to active duty, were married so they brought their wives to California too and lived off base. Especially the officers. But we are going kind of fast now, we are all in our eighties.
Interviewer: So when you were called to active duty what was the timetable like?
Roger Meyers:I think they gave us a week or so, because we took all of our gear with us. We went down to Davis Junction, a small station down there. We rode a train and C-Rations the whole trip.
It took us a long time because we had a steam powered engine pulling us and then that broke down out in the middle of the desert for a few days. We just sat there. Then we continued our training when we got to Camp Cooke. So we were there for quite a few months before, well, they were taking individuals wherever they needed them.
Interviewer: And what was going through your head when you were called to active duty and actually sent out? What were you thinking?
Roger Meyers:I was kind of thinking of it as an adventure, we didn’t know anything that was going to happen, you know, and where we were would be sent or anything. So it was kind of an adventure. And I got to see country I had never seen before, California, so we’d get weekends off and I went down to visit my great one time, stayed the weekend. So I kind of looked forward to the adventure.
Interviewer: Where were you sent to when you were actually assigned?
Roger Meyers:We got, I think it was like a 10-day leave, and then we had to report back to Camp Stoneman, California. Then that’s where we boarded the ship for, we didn’t know where. We were on our ship 31 days because we went, we had Navy and Air Force and Army personnel on board.
There were like 3000 of us on a 500-foot ship. So you had to wait for someone to get up if you wanted to sit down on the deck. But then it was hot too because we went down to Guam. We had two sets of fatigues to wear. So we’d wear one for a week and then we’d try to wash them by hanging them over the side of the boat, but that lasted about two minutes before an officer caught us and stopped us.
So then we ran out of soft water and had cold, salt water to take a shower in. Then you put on your fatigues that you wore two weeks ago. So when we went in to Manila Bay, we never got to get off the ship any time while we were on it until we got to Japan.
So we were on there 31 days, so we were glad to get off. And then we got our gear and weapon and everything in Japan and then got on the same ship for three more days to go over to Incheon, South Korea.
Interviewer: So when we left California and got on the ship you didn’t know where you were headed?
Roger Meyers:We had no idea. We suspected we were going to Korea, but nobody would tell you where you were going or anything.
Interviewer: What did you know about Korea at the time or about the war going on?
Roger Meyers:Just what we read in the paper and the talk around, because they called up three National Guard divisions to help with the fighting.
In California, the 40th and then the 45th in Oklahoma and the 40th from Indiana, I think was the third one. We kind of replaced, by the time I got to the 45th, we were replacements for the original assignments because they got there in 51 and we got there in 52, so we were replacements.
But I didn’t know too much of what was going on, you know just what you could read in the papers and the rumors you heard.
Interviewer: And what kind of, what were the rumors?
Roger Meyers:Well I don’t know if there are rumors, but how the fighting was going on.
It would pretty well settle down by 52, because they had the lines established pretty much. We’d have patrol’s going back-and-forth across the line. at night most of the time,. The rumor was that they were going to sign the ceasefire, so each side wanted to get as much territory as they could before they stopped fighting, because that would be where the line would be, the DMZ.
00:08:30 So they fired shells just as fast as we could haul them up there to try and drive the other side back. So that was pretty intense right at the very end until they signed the ceasefire.
Interviewer: What branch of the military were you in?
Roger Meyers:I was in the Army. Headquarters Company. We were pretty close to where the division headquarters, or where the Generals and Corps Colonels were. They were in charge of certain areas and they always wanted drivers, so they would call down to our motor pool and send a driver up to take them wherever they wanted to.
The first day we got there, we hadn’t put our stripes on yet. We got them issued in Japan and we were riding on a ship and in the truck the other two days. The Captain was there and he said anyone here Corporal.
00:10:00 I learned by then you don’t volunteer for anything, but one guy raised his hand and he said I am a Corporal, so he took off, one of the officers wanted to go somewhere, and about five minutes later they come back and the officer was as white as a sheet. I don’t know if the guy didn’t know how to drive or what, but he went off the road and scared him, so he picked me to take them the next time, so I took it nice and slow.
He was my friend at the time I was there. He would always request me for a driver. Mr. [Bosch], I remember his name. He was a [war] officer.
Interviewer: What were your duties?
Roger Meyers:Driving mostly. I drove truck to go pick up fuel or something.
And like I said at the last we hauled mortar rounds up there when they were firing off, but one of my duties was to meet the helicopter at the pad, they had a little pad built down there, where the officers from the Corps or different ones would come in and want to go up to division headquarters. My duty was to meet the helicopter, and they didn’t want to wait, so I had to make sure I could be there.
So as soon as I heard that flop, flop, flop going I’d head down there and be ready, so as soon as they got out of the helicopter, they could tell me where they wanted to go and I could drive them there. That was kind of an interesting job because you never know who it was going to be. I had a license plate with stars on it so if it was a General I could drive the license plate in, so they knew who it was.
Interviewer: So where exactly were you stationed at?
Roger Meyers:I think it was by [unintelligible]. We were probably four or five miles behind the very front militarized zone. We would go up there all the time.
When we first got there we had the old GMC two and a half ton trucks and we then got the new ones, they were automatic shift and they were really a nice truck. I liked them. When we would go out front it would take us about two hours to get out because it was all real steep hills and gravel and all that, but then coming down it took about 20 minutes. We had a driver that was leading our convoy, he was pretty wild.
All I could see was dust in front of me. We did that for two days solid, we never stopped. We had two drivers. The one kind of rest while the other one drove, that was an adventure too.
Interviewer: Are there any experiences or stories you can tell me from that time?
Roger Meyers:We had a courier too, went back and he would carry a satchel with information. He would go every night, at night for some reason. And one morning he didn’t show up so we went looking for him, an officer and a couple of us. And we found him down at the bottom of the cliff, he had drove off the road. Because there was no guard rails or anything, he just rolled his car down the side of the mountain.
And we saw the smashed jeep down below and he was dead, so then I did it for a couple of nights until they got a replacement. It was kind of scary to go by yourself on that dark road. Then I went back to the division motor pool one time and the stand there was chaos, you know mud flying, water and trucks and jeeps running every which way.
Then this guy came walking by and it was a guy I had went to high school with. He lived on the farm about a mile across the field where I did. I didn’t know he was there and he didn’t know I was there. So we had a reunion there for a while. He was in the 45th division, he was a tank commander. So he was just coming back to get a shower.
So the chances of that happening are pretty minimal you know, with everything going on.
Interviewer: So can you describe for me, kind of paint a picture, what did things look like? What did you see?
Roger Meyers:Well we lived in a tent. The mess hall was in a tent too, we had pretty good cooks.
They tried to do with dried eggs and made stuff pretty good, easy to eat, but there was just a group of tents and then we had a tent for the motor pool and the dispatcher was there and he would talk on the radio back-and-forth. What they needed for a driver and that. But every day was the same.
So after a few months you just lost track of what day it was because weekends were the same as any other day, same routine, day after day. But it was cold in the winter time too. We had a little oil stove in the tent, about two feet high, which didn’t do much good, but it helped a little bit.
We slept in sleeping bags and put longjohns on, really tried to keep warm. We were happy when spring finally came. They had a shower unit that would come up, it was all on the truck. They would go down to the creek and stick water hoses in the water and that sucked up the water and heated it and they had a tent with pipes you would go for a shower, so we did get a shower once in a great while.
Otherwise we would just sponge off every once in a while.
Interviewer: So you wrote on your paper, one of the friends you remember was Frank [Steiner], can you tell me about him?
Roger Meyers:Yeah we ended up, we didn’t know we would be in the same company, but we were in the same company in California, then we came home together. He was married, he had a 38 Buick out there and he said well, if you want to share that gas when we go home on a 10 day leave, he says you can ride with me. There wasn’t much room in those old cars, so we had a duffel bag tied on each fender, it look like a bunch of [unintelligible] coming, but we made it back.
And then we ended up in the same company in Korea. He was a pretty good jeep driver, one of the Colonels would always request him for his driver. He’s passed away now, he lived in Loves Park, a suburb of Rockford. But we got along pretty well.
We were on the same ship coming back, then we got released at the same time and headed back.
Interviewer: What kind of friendships and camaraderie did you build at that time?
Roger Meyers:Well Frank and I were really good friends. In fact he stood up for my wedding when I got married when we got back. I don’t know, you didn’t get too close.
I was close with, he was from Jaurez, Texas. Jose [unintelligible], I still remember his name. He was Mexican. We’d go to lunch together over at the tent. Every month his wife would send a big box of hot peppers and hot sauce, because he couldn’t eat anything without hot sauce.
So I started eating some with him. Started out a little bit, then added a little more. Pretty soon we would both be sitting there, just sweat coming off our brows. But he was a pretty good friend too. You didn’t get too close, because each time their time was up, then they would rotate back to the States.
Interviewer: When you had completed your time what did that transition home look like and when was that?
Roger Meyers:July 27 of ‘53, they signed the ceasefire, so it was just a few weeks after that. They said we could go home. We rode a train all the way down to Busan, which is the southern tip of Korea.
That took a couple of days. Then we had to turn in all our clothes and get different ones, cleaner ones I guess. I got pictures of some of the lines, you know there would be 75 guys in a line ready to go through the dismissal part of it.
Then we got on the ship; it only took two weeks to get back. Then we went into Seattle and went into, I forget the name of it. We were there just overnight and then we went to Fort Carson, Colorado. That’s where we were getting our discharge, but they had so many people they couldn’t handle it. So they gave us a five-day leave and said come back in five days because we’re swamped with processing people through here.
After I got discharged I took the Denver [unintelligible] back to Chicago then a bus back to Rockford. They had a bus station there originally. So I was back home.
Interviewer: And what did it feel like? When you got home, what was the reception like?
Roger Meyers:There wasn’t much. My mom, my fiancé met us at the bus station and we went home. My dad was still working on the farm, he came out and said hi. Had a pretty good reunion in that. In Seattle, every third ship or something, was a show ship.
When we went to camp from the ship, and got on the bus is the crowds were out and kind of cheered us on as the buses went by. So that was something new.
Interviewer: How did that feel?
Roger Meyers:It felt pretty good. Then we went and had a steak supper in camp. It was nice.
Interviewer: And what have you done since the end of the war?
Roger Meyers:I went back to Roper Corporation. That’s where I worked before I left for the military. They made Roper stoves, it was a big company at that time. Ranges for the kitchen. Then I started a sheet metal apprenticeship, so I was a sheet metal worker all the time, after my four year apprenticeship.
Got married, had a boy and a girl, so normal life. They got married and had kids, I just had a great grandson born July 22nd. Everything seems to be going good. Kids went through college, I retired and my wife retired and so we are both living a pretty good life right now.
Interviewer: Have you had a chance to go back to Korea?
Roger Meyers:No I haven’t. I friend of mine went back and he said you wouldn’t recognize it, the skyscrapers and everything. And I said it on the paper that one of the things, the South Korean people are very grateful for what we did. They’re always thanking us.
The ambassador was here one time, talked to the Korean War Vets association and expressed how grateful everyone is. I would meet someone every once in a while. We were on a trip out in Canada somewhere and met a guy, and we got to talking. He was from South Korea, he was with the Department of Agriculture and they were looking, trying to plan a way to grow trees in Korea like they were in the Northwest.
He even was saying well thank you for your service and that was a familiar thing that they say.
Interviewer: So how does it feel to have been a part of that and now see what they’ve done with it?
Roger Meyers:Well I’m pretty proud I did my share of the service over there. Like I said, when I left the whole country was basically in shambles, blown apart. It’s amazing how far they’ve come. I think they’re like 11th in the world as far as production and manufacturing and that, so it feels pretty good that we helped them out. Stopped the communism, that was a big thing.
That’s the first time that the Communists have been stopped from spreading to different countries.
Interviewer: How has the time in the service, how did that affect the rest of your life?
Roger Meyers:I don’t know. I felt proud to do it. Well and now I’m part of the VFW in the Korean War Vets, so we help out veterans the best we can.
I’m on the funeral detail with the VFW. We do a lot of funerals. Sometimes we get two in one day, with the whole firing squad, playing taps, folding the flag and presenting it to the widow or the son or daughter. We veterans kind of take care of each other.
I think that’s one way I can help honor the fellow veterans. When I can present the flag to the family. Otherwise, I don’t know if it’s affected my life too much. I don’t belong to any of the reserves or that. They just kind of dispanded the National Guard unit this year.
They have reestablished it after a few years, so we do have one here, but I’m too old for that now.
Interviewer: How has the time serving in the war affected your attitude or your thoughts towards war?
Roger Meyers:I think we should always be prepared.
I’m kind of upset that they’re cutting back for the military expenses, because I think we have to remain strong, a leader in the world. We are the strongest nation. If any other country is as grateful as South Korea would be for helping them out…
And we still have people stationed there. I think that’s one reason why communists don’t try to come back because we, I think we should have people stationed there. Wherever we have people station, there’s no recurring war for that. So I think we have to, like Teddy Roosevelt said, carry a big stick.
That’s my main thing is to keep the military strong.
Interviewer: Is there anything you would like to, any message for future generations?
Roger Meyers:I kind of think, some days, it would be a good idea if everyone served a year or two in the military, especially the congressmen.
So then they would know what it’s like, I think. My idea is it would be a good thing if they all served a year or two in the military before they could be a congressman or a politician, whatever you want to call it. So then they would understand what’s going on.
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