Wayne Derrer was born in Lanark, Illinois on October 7, 1930. After receiving the 1-A Draft card in the summer of 1951, Wayne decided he would join the Illinois National Guard on the 23rd of September of that year. He was soon informed that his whole Guard unit would be called to active duty, so Wayne boarded a train for Camp Cook, California where he completed basic training before shipping to Korea in October of 1952 as apart of the 40th Division 3rd Class Quarter Master Petroleum Depot. Wayne describes his living quarters with the other soldiers, writing back home about his daily duties to his then girlfriend (wife Ferry for 58 years), and access to all the ice cream he could eat since he was near company headquarters. Wayne is very proud to be a Korean War Veteran and appreciates the generosity of the Korean people.
Petroleum Depot Duties
Wayne Derrer describes his post and duties at the petroleum depot. He explains that the main task of his unit was filling and loading barrels of gasoline and high octane fuel needed for distribution throughout the war. He describes the only day he saw excitement was in the middle of the morning on Christmas day. An unidentified aircraft was spotted and the air-raid siren went off. He took longer than others to get to the bunker because he stopped to put on his shoes.
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Living Close to Headquarters
Wayne Derrer describes his experiences living close to company headquarters. He explains that living close by afforded him easy access to good food. He says that he only ate C-rations when away from the company mess hall because it was more convenient than driving a couple miles. He goes on to explain that he slept in a tent with three or four other men and they did not have a Korean house-boy so they cleaned their own tent. He explains that living close to company headquarters also allowed him access to showers and plenty of ice cream.
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Proud to be a Veteran
Wayne Derrer discusses his pride for having fought in the war. He explains the South Korean rehabilitations and improvements have been tremendous. He goes on to describe the great appreciation the South Korean people have for the American veterans and how he has received the Ambassador Peace Medal.
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[Beginning of Recorded Material]
Way-Wayne Derrer. W-A-Y-N-E D-E-R-R-E-R
Derrer. And is that German name?
I: Is that German?
W: My grandfather came from Switzerland.
I: When is your birthday?
I: And where were you born?
W: Lanark, Illinois.
W: L-A-N-A-R-K Illinois.
I: Is it far from here? Is it far from here?
I: Oh. So, tell me about your family when you were growing up. Your sibling, your parents when you were growing up.
W: Well, in, I was born 1930, so I was growing up during the Depression area.
I: Uh huh.
R: I’m one of eight. I gots
four sisters and three brothers. My mother died when I was five years old.
W: The oldest one was 14 and the youngest [unintelligible]. So, I had a stepmother. We had a good family, on the farm.
I: Oh. What kind of farm was it?
W: General farming, milking cows. Every morning you’d get up, morning and evening, chores.
I: And, any vegetables you’d grow?
W: A few.
I: So, you didn’t have any of the shortages of the food?
I: Good to be a farm.
I: Good to be in the farm, right?
I: During the Great Depression.
W: Went, one of, one room country grade school, where there’s eight, all eight grades in one room. Then to high school. Graduate from high school in 1948.
We had a class of about 40, that was the biggest on that had graduated for a while.
I: Mmm hmm.
W: That was the end of schooling done. No thought of going any further than high school.
I: And did up know anything about Korea at the time?
W: No, absolutely nothing.
W: I got my 1-A draft notice in the summer of ’51. After thinking
about it, I went and joined Illinois National Guard. I think it was 23rdof September-
I: Mmm hmm.
W: I joined National Guard. Shortly a-, thereafter, just a matter of a few weeks, I forget the exact date, Illinois National Guard got notice that the whole division was to report for active duty February 15th, 1952.
That was in, I went to Freeport, there’s a unit in Freeport and one in Savannah and I went to Freeport. So, the 10th of February, we were activated, on the train, took the train to California to Camp Cooke.
W: For there for basic training. I know I was home for leave on Labor Day, early September. Left there, from there to
whatever it was. It took me months, ’til the 7thof October to get to my unit in Korea.
I: In Korea?
I: Where did you land?
W: I was went to California, a slow boat from there to, we got, stopped in Hawaii for supplies and that, Hawaii, and then on to Japan, I suppose. And then, then to Korea.
I: And, and did you land
W: I don’t where, where, well from Japan where I landed.
I: Right. And, so where did you go from there?
W: To my unit.
I: What was your unit?
W: 40thDivision Quartermaster.
I: What is Quartermaster?
W: Class three, which was the, a petroleum depot.
I: Petroleum depot. Okay, so the gasoline station.
W: We had them 50 gallon barrels to-
I: Uh huh.
W: We had Korea workers that done the work, worked with ’em. By working with ’em, they would cooperate good with you a few of, indulged with them.
I: So, was it far from line or where was it? Where were you? Was it front line, or were you at the rear place?
W: I don’t know. Oh. We were generally away from our head company because of the petroleum
I: Uh huh.
W: We had some, a small amount of high octane fuel for small aircraft. So, we were apart from the company a little bit. The only excitement that I had when at, the 11 months there, on Christmas Day, about the middle of the morning, our air raid alarm went off. There’s an unidentified aircraft up in the area. I know when
I went out of my tent door, I thought I was, could move fairly fast in them days. One of the other fellows were already going in the bunker. I get to the bunker, and I says, how’d you get out here so fast? Well, he ran out in his stockinged feet but I took time to slip in my shoes.
W: But that’s the only excitement. Never shot at once. We was in a area because of that petroleum depot. So.
I: So, what
did you do with the petroleum, gasoline? What did you-
W: Well, we had-
I: did you dispense?
W: we’d get it in by truckload. Then we had the other outfits would come in maybe get a few barrels of this, a couple of barrels of that and, whatever they needed. And dis-distributed it out to them then.
I: So, you distributed?
W: They would come with a request, they got so many barrels of this and that, that was it.
I: Mmm. What was your rank?
W: I, corporal.
W: When I got my orders to leave, well the sergeant said he was, had me up for a sergeant, but would have taken a little bit yet to, I says, I’m going home. [laughs]
I: And, how was living there? Where did you sleep, what did you eat and things like that?
W: Well, we were, of course, were close to the company, so we had good food if we
wanted it. Sometimes when we were away from the company, see we, I would just eat a C-ration instead rather than get on a truck and go a couple of miles to, to the company mess hall. I would just do that.
I: Mmm hmm.
W: Being on the night shift, I sometimes, which to me it was something to eat and it was convenient, it was convenient.
I: Where did you sleep?
W: We had, well I always in, I always had a
tent to sleep in.
I: Yeah. Tell me about the tent. How many, how many soldiers were there?
W: Why, I suppose there were three or four of us in the tent.
I: Only three or four?
I: And, did you have heating?
W: We did, we could, we could have a heating. As long as somebody was in the tent and awake.
I: Mmm hmm.
W: With stove. But, of course, most of the time I was on the night shift, so I was in the office tent.
W: That was the way the office was then.
I: Did you clean your tent, or did, did you have a houseboy?
W: No, we cleaned it, we done our own cleaning
I: So, there was no houseboy?
I: No Korean boy?
I: Where you able to do, take a hot shower?
W: Yeah, we could, yes, ’cause there was, been a, at the company, the 40thDivision Company, there’d have been a hot shower. Yes.
there are not much-
W: And, and they had an ice cream factory there, if we wanted ice cream, we could have ice cream too.
I: You could have ice cream?!
W: Yep, ’cause that’s where they made it.
W: At the company headquarters.
W: That was Division Headquarters, which-
I: And you don’t know where it was located?
W: No, not, didn’t pay any attention, because I never wanted, never left the base to go out amongst the population. If I had any
time off, ’cause I didn’t, I couldn’t have told a Korean from a North Korea, or a Chinese, or what, and I, no reason to go off, no reason to go off-
W: the base. No reason to leave the company.
I: What was the most difficult thing during your stay there in Korea?
W: Oh, I don’t know, really know, ’cause I was away from the population, I stayed in, on the company, where ever the company
was. Course, I left there to go to Japan for R&R, but otherwise.
I: You didn’t have any difficult things there?
I: Did winter bothers you, was it cold?
W: We, well, yes, it was cold, but I wasn’t out in the el-, the elements and, well, I was, yes, but not the, not the real cold. ‘Cause we weren’t up in the mountains, we were down on the flat ground.
I: I see.
W: We weren’t up in the mountains where it was really cold.
I: Did you talk to anybody, I mean, other soldiers who were in the front line, who were in the battle zone, and did you talk, were you able-
W: At that time, at that time, no.
W: At that time, no.
I: Did you write letter back to your family?
W: Oh y-yes.
W: And my lady friend.
I: Lady friend.
W: Who I had started dating shortly before I went in
service. We corresponded.
I: What’s her name?
W: We got home, we were, I got home in September and we were married in January.
I: So, your wife?
W: Yep, for 58 years.
I: Fif-, is she still alive?
I: She died?
W: She’s deceased.
I: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. So, that was your lady friend?
I: So, what did you write?
W: Oh, not too much [laughs] because,
it, ’cause it’s the same routine, day after day after day, just there and that, was the company, and then that fuel department. Didn’t have much to write about.
I: But you still wrote very often, right?
W: Oh, at least once a month as you might say.
I: Once a month, so you didn’t write that many?
W: No. I’d get home, a letter from home
occasionally, and, maybe occasionally from my sister, or brother.
I: What did you do, when you were not in the, you know, working?
W: Just, in the tent. What, we did have PX, I guess you call it.
W: Of course, being as a division headquarters, they had PX at the, where the company was located, yes.
And, did you know why you were there?
W: Yeah, yes.
W: Because they, they had been invaded by foreign coun-, not foreign, but another c-country. They come, invaded them, were gonna try to take ’em over. Communism.
W: Communism was try-, trying to expand their base.
I: Mmm hmm.
And did you, were you able to go to Seoul, the capital city, or any other area?
W: I didn’t.
I: You didn’t?
W: It was available. I didn’t, no, no.
I: How was the area that you were in? Was it destroyed completely? What happened to that area?
W: I don’t know.
W: I don’t know. At that time, the front lines were, well, they were fighting, they were, they weren’t moving very much, they weren’t going
back and forth like they had before. All, all they were doing was, oh, yes, it was hell up on line, ’cause, every, everybody wanted, they were, well, they’d been talking peace. Negotiating had been going on, for what a year?
I: Mmm hmm.
W: By then?
W: Course everybody went to high ground, you know, every-everyone, that’s what they were fighting for, was the high ground. So, they really weren’t bothering our area, where I
I: So, you were lucky?
W: Where, I’ve, I would consider very lucky. With the infantry training, course, you had fired some of the smaller weapons, you know, but rifleman was my main desig-, M, MO whatever they call it, that designation you had, that was my designation, or.
I: Mmm hmm. Have you been back to Korea?
W: I really didn’t want to
go, oh, reason here, well maybe I would like to go, but then I-
I: You decided not to go?
W: decided not to, no.
I: Mmmm. Any particular reason, that you don’t want to go?
W: No, well, for a number of years here, the last six years, my wife was on a feeding tube and I couldn’t go then. Since she’s deceased, I nah.
I: Do you know Korea now, more than Korea? Their economy, and their s-?
W: Well, I try to keep track of the news a little bit, but not.
I: What do you know? What do you know about the current Korea?
W: They’re starving their people, account of the military fellow and he wants a big military base. They’re doing these missiles now.
I: You mean
W: North Korea’s star-, they were starving their people.
W: You couldn’t, they don’t know what’s going on. You, no way can you upri-, have an uprising against them, ’cause they would, well, . . .
I: How about Sou-
W: Anyhow, there’s been thousands of people., I don’t know how many thousands have lost their
lives on that DMZ. Most people in the, here in the United States do not know the number of casualties since that ceasefire. Casualties there on that DMZ. It’s not publicized, I don’t even know what it is, for sure. It’s, it’s tremendous [unintelligible] what, for being ceasefire. It’s unbelievable. If North, I don’t know,
hopefully nobody will push the button and start it, some fanatic or, push the button and start it, because it’ll be hell, it will be, it won’t be trench warfare, it’ll be missile. It’s.
I: Do you know about South Korean economy?
W: Not too much, no.
I: You know that South Korea is economy is 11thlargest in
I: You didn’t know that?
W: I know they’re, they’re tremend-, they’ve done tremendous re-rehabs and [inaudible] and how grateful, how thankful the Korean, big, the biggest share of the Korean, South Korean people are thankful, because we’ve got, well in recent years, oh I got a
different cap than this. That bath [unintelligible] window that they’d, this was just only about 4-5 years ago that I had another medal that I can put on my thing that, oh, I forget, that South Korean [inaudible]
I: Ambassador Peace Medal?
I: Ambassador Peace Medal, right?
W: Was that the one that they melted down, was it, what did they
melt down and made that medal I know. If you went to our Korean meetings you can get that Korean Medal, yes, how, this has been 15 years afterwards that they were still, how grateful they were that they gave us another medal.
I: So, what do you think about that?
W: Oh, tremendous, tremendous. What most other countries have been through war
hasn’t come back with and, thanked their veterans for.
I: So, are you proud of Korean War veteran?
W: Yes. I was at, see, we didn’t form a chapter in Freeport ’til, what 1990-something. I was in, I got in on the ground of that. And, when fff-, it started the color guard, I joined that in
late-teen, 1990s and early 2000, we were probably marching in at least 10 parades a year locally. And they had a float that would always follows. About five years ago, I had to give up the color guard, ’cause I couldn’t, couldn’t hack it any more, and I got a cane now. And that was the hardest, one of the hardest things I had to give up, was our color guard.
W: Because I enjoyed that, something I could do and I
enjoyed that. And the way the people that corresponded when you went by, how thankful people were.
I: And, were you there when the armistice was signed?
W: Well, I was still with the company and where I was at, yeah.
I: When did you leave Korea?
W: When? Well, it would have been late September,
in September, ’cause I was, yeah, or early September. Cause, I, I got home, clear, well, all the way home, 23rd, 20thof September, late September, I don’t know the exact date.
I: So, 1953 right?
I: So, you were there when the ceasefire-
W: Yeah, I was there when the ceasefire was signed.
I: Tell me about the day that they signed the ceasefire. How was it?
W: Well, it wasn’t too exciting
in my area, because we, we hadn’t been under, under contact, under fff-, in compact, or near, well, really afraid for our lives, you might say. We were in a secure area, I guess you would say. Corse, when I went home then, it was by a slow boat, but, and we went from, got, landed in California, and went to Fort Car-Carson, Colorado, for
discharge. While there, I met another guy that was from Freeport and kinda knew who he was and he had a family member I guess drove out to Co- Colorado to pick him up, so they brought me back to my home farm in Lanack.
I: So, what did you do after you came back from Korea?
W: Worked on my family farm.
W: ‘Til I got married.
I: Mmm hmm.
W: Yeah. I didn’t have anything to do with the veterans until about 1990. I joined the VFW and the American, local VFW and the American Legion. Then, when the Freeport chapter started, joined that.
I: And when, because you had honorable service, fighting against the communism in Korea-
I: now, South Korea is the economy is really big. It’s a small country, but their economic power is up there.
I: And, we have a strong democracy, and South Korea is a strong alliance to the United States. Do you know that?
W: Yes, yea, yep. They do a lot of trading, a lot of trading.
W: Yep. Not only in food to eat,
but in other commodities, all other commodities. That’s what bothers me is all this stuff being made in China. [laughs]
W: It’s amazing what Korea, oh, you look at South Korea and North Korea and it’s amazing how it can be that much difference. Just because of one cotton picking ruler,
I: So, what should we do about this North Korea?
W: I don’t know. All, all you can do is, I don’t know. Try and show them what it’s like out of their country, I guess, but how you can get that to them, no, it’s suppressed, ya, I don’t know.
I: What would you say to our young students about your service and the Korean War?
W: I can look back, and it was good for me. Cause, I, I’m not from a military family. I don’t know, years ago, probably I had ancestor who might have been in the Civil War, but I had nobody in my recent history that was in
WWII, mostly because we were agriculture and I know my older brother would have been in WWII, but he was deferred because they had to have food and that was, he was deferred bec-, I don’t, even, the draft, even a draft, I don’t know. They were deferred because of agriculture and my dad would have been of
age in, for World War I, but, as far as I know, he was never approached, I don’t know what the status was. It wasn’t, it was mostly volun-, I don’t know. In recent years then it was volunteer, they didn’t have a draft and that’s what gets me during the Vietnam era. They, some left and went to Canada.
Well, you didn’t have to go in service, you could’a done volunteer service. But once they went to Canada, as far as I was concerned, they should not have, citizenship should not allowed them back in the United States. Period.
I: Mmm hmm.
W: They didn’t have to go to Vietnam. You could have done, and I suppose don’t wait ’til the draft, or you, you, you couldn’t do volunteer service when you register, register that way.
I: So, would you recommend our young generations to learn more about the Korean War?
W: Yes, yes, and how that country, what that co-, if it wouldn’t, the United Nations wouldn’t have went in there, they would have been the same as North Korea.
I: Mmm hmm.
W: They’d a been, that’d have been the same, yeah.
I: Young students will listen to you through this
Video and they will lean from you, about your service and your think, opinions about the Korean War.
W: Yeah. War is hell, there’s no two ways about it. And, why they can sit around a table for a year to decide to do it, it’s unbelievable. I don’t kno-, remember, now how long it was, but it was at least a year, wasn’t it, that they tried ne-, tried to negotiate?
I: Uh huh.
W: And argue over where to sit at the table and all that. That, they should have put, took all of ’em out of that negotiating room and put ’em on the firing line. Took ’em up there and on the front line and maybe they’da went back to the table and done it up right, on right away. I don’t know.
I: We thank you very much for your service.
W: Well, thank you.
I: And Korean people never forget your service and your fight for the Korean Nation.
W: Well, they are now, I mean, it’s they are, in the later, last number of years now-
I: Mmm hmm.
W: it’s, they really are thank-, ’cause all you have to do is, people see this cap, or I got a jacket like Frank’s got. I got a jacket like that.
I: Uh huh.
W: See that and-
I: Why don’t you-
I: put it on.
I: You look great.
W: I got a jacket like that and I got this one because I was at the, on the honor flight.
I: Honor flight.
W: How that was, honor flight, but people gave for that. Oh, my goodness. My goodness.
I: So, you liked it?
[End of Recorded Material]