Kenneth Yancy and his oldest daughter, Anice (Widow of WWII Veteran)
Korea War Veteran
“I was born in County Row Community in Van Zandt County, Texas on May 29, 1928. I had four brothers and two of them died at birth and the other two have passed away, Kelly and Gary. My dad was a civilian contractor and was building igloos (Quonset Huts) for WWII veterans in Texarkana. He started building them the day they bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.”
“I went to sixteen grammar schools and five High Schools,” Kenneth said emphatically. “I have lived in sixty-five different abodes. Most of those were before I was married. Most of those were in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and New Mexico. Some of those homes I only lived in for 2 or 3 days. My dad worked construction and we travelled a lot. I graduated from Galena Park High School right outside of Houston. I then went to college right out of High School at North Texas State in Denton. I graduated in Industrial Arts Degree in three years with a minor in Math and Education. Once I got my degree I started working for Plastic Craft Incorporated in Hot Springs, Arkansas teaching GI’s how to do carving on Plexiglass and Lucite.”
“They couldn’t find me when they wanted to draft me into the military,” laughed Kenneth. “I had been teaching school in Galveston, Texas in 9th grade Industrial Arts. I was deferred for the first nine months because I had a contract. When I was drafted, I was working in Marble Falls, Texas on a 12-story building.
I was inducted on August 8th of 1951. I was first sent to Dallas and then to San Antonio. I had to hitchhike to Dallas for my induction and it was six weeks into the military before I found out where my transient mother and father were living.
There I was sworn in, got my uniform and received my travel orders. They sent me to Camp Roberts, California for basic training. I came out of basic as a Private First Class, and that was unusual. When I was on furlough, I had already applied for OCS (Officer Candidate School) and had applied for Engineers and Artillery and Tank School. Because I had applied then they sent me to NCO School (Non-Commissioned Officers) at Camp Roberts. When I graduated from NCO School I was assigned as a Drill Instructor (DI) for basic trainees. At the time the Commanding General wanted all “his five boys” that was going to OCS to be sent back to NCO school. We tore that place up. The whole barracks got 2-gigs. I got 12-gigs on my first inspection. It took five days to get us out of there.
I went back to Division training until my orders came in for OCS. In October 1952 I graduated from Officer Candidate School. There were 72-candidates in the class and only eighteen graduated. I had to have 3-months of stateside service before they could send me overseas. They sent me to Fort Polk, Louisiana as a 2nd Lt. I was stationed with the 112th Engineer Combat Battalion.
I remember when I was stationed there I asked my wife, Mattie Ramsdell, to marry me on Easter Sunday. We were married for 61 years. My father built two dams in Marble Falls, Texas and I met Mattie when we were living there. She was the daughter of a school teacher.
We shipped out shortly after to Camp Stoneman San Francisco.
From San Francisco I got on the Liberty Ship USNS General M.C. Meigs where I was assigned as the Lieutenant and in charge of the Compartment with 355-men. We were just outside of the Bay and the waves were 35-feet high. Every man on that boat was seasick.
It took us 19-days to reach Yokahama, Japan. We were in port for about 5-days. While there I got orders to CBR School (Chemical, Biological and Radiological). It was in Ita Jima, Island. I was there 2-weeks. I visited Hiroshima while I was there. I was there 8-years after the bombing. I went down to ground-zero and the Japanese had set up a temporary memorial. There was till twisted steel everywhere. The only thing at ground-zero was the skeleton of a building.
After my visit to Yokahma I went to Sesabo and Pusan, South Korea. It was in the late spring or early summer of 1953. I took a train up to Seoul and then rode in a Deuce and a half up to Anji Pass which is about 70-miles above Seoul.
I was in B’ company, 1343rd Engineer Combat Battalion. The Headquarters was at Anji Pass, North of the 38th Parallel. I was about 27-miles to the South of C’ Company, still within the combat war zones in Korea. In that zone, we built a dining room for General I.D. White. After the war the U.S. Government charged that General $64,000 in materials to build those eating quarters,” laughed Kenneth.
“Our HIGHWAY responsibility was to take care of the roads from the city limits of Seoul to Pan Moon Jon, a distance of 27-miles. Many times, we had to dig out the roads from the fallen mountain. We had to check the roads every day. I had a job where they needed 9 inches of 6-inch rock on the road. The dirt roads in Korea get soft and hard and then the rains come and it gets soft. So, I laid and graded the 9 inches high of 6-inch rock. A Major come by in a jeep and asked me for my name and outfit and said this was the worst road he has ever driven over. A couple of days later a good rain came and this Battalion of tanks came thru.
I got my grader out and started grading it. About 2-days later this Major came thru again in his jeep. He was sailing this time. He went down about a mile and came back. He said, “Lieutenant, I want to shake your hands.” The road was as smooth as asphalt and the weight of the tanks really made it hard. Those tanks had pulverized every one of those boulders on the road.
We had signs up and down the road that said, “DO not cross here.” A tank came thru and said I am going right thru this shallow area in the river. The next thing we saw was the barrel of the turret on that tank sticking out of that river bottom.
We had a British Unit a couple of miles from our Battalion and they sure liked to party. The Company Commander and I attend one of their parties and he got to like the “Crème de Mints,” so much I had to drive him back to Company Headquarters. I got a call from Company clerk, the next morning, and said I was the new Company Commander, at least until ours sobered up,” Kenneth said laughing out loud at the story.
I had this same Company Commander call me one morning and said the Colonel is going to fly down in his L-19 and needed an airstrip to land on. He was only 20 miles away, but that is beside the point. We are talking after breakfast, he needed us to build him an airfield. I had two dump trucks, a front-end loader and a grader, that is it. Everything else was out in the field working on projects. You couldn’t cut a tree in Korea. That was against the law and would cost the Army $75 a tree, no matter the size. I found a creek running down by our area. With our Korean laborers we managed to build an airstrip about 70-yards long. About 11:00 a.m. that Colonel came in and landed that L-19. It was our engineer work,” laughed Ken.
“I was never in danger in Korea except one time. I was out maintaining a road. I had about 50-Korean Conscript laborers and about a half-dozen or so of my own men with me. On one side of the road was a hill and a swift running river on the other side, about 70-feet wide and only about 5-6 feet deep.
When we loaded up to go back to headquarters there were 5-infiltrators with one rifle and five rounds of ammunition. They had been picked up by our CI (Counter Intelligence) guys earlier in the day and they had been sitting on the side of the road all afternoon. I had a pistol on my hip and I think if they had attacked me they could not have overrun me with only one rifle. I was never really in no danger, but I was there,” laughed Ken.
“I also built a Quonset Hut for a MASH Hospital unit in the fall. This was the original 4077th MASH unit depicted by Hollywood. “My dad talked about seeing the show and said they would talk about going here or there and the one he built fits that same area where he built the MASH Quonset hut in Korea,” said his daughter Anice.
“When the war ended they brought us down from the 38th Parallel. I was released and left Korea the end of October 1953. I went over to Pusan and got on another ship about noon. The water was below the dock since the tide was out. That was funny. I ended up going to Seattle, Washington. They gave me orders and pay to go from Seattle to my home town. My home town, at that point, was Boise City, Oklahoma. I came home on a 30-day leave and took my dad’s car back to El Paso when my leave was up. I got to the front gate a little after midnight. I still had five years of reserve duty with the Army.
I went to work at El Paso Junior High School for their woodworking class as a teacher. I only stayed there for about a half year and they transferred me to the El Paso High School. There I taught Mechanical Drawing. I was also working as an assistant coach on the football team.
After the summer the school wanted to start an ROTC program and I had the experience so they hired me. You had to have a degree and had to have been an officer In the military. There were only two people in the whole school with those credentials. We were both hired and worked together. As a NEW ROTC unit, we were sent 250 Rifles. They all had firing pins and were weapon ready. You COULD NOT have weapon ready rifles in High School. I spent several afternoons disassembling 250 rifles and removing their firing pins. I got so good toward the end I could disassemble a rifle and remove the firing pin in :23 seconds,” laughed Ken. “Our rifle team won National Honors in the small boar rifle competition. That was in 1959. They only needed one instructor after that first year so I left El Paso.
I moved over to a new MOS, called Float Bridge Operator while I was in El Paso and drilling once a month and two weeks out of the year. I was still a 2nd Lieutenant. I really had a ball in the military,” said Kenneth. “In 1959 I received my Honorable Discharge.”
When Ken retired from the military he continued his teaching and worked various jobs including the Federal Prison System for 21-years. Ken taught 35-different subjects. Eight of those subjects he had to quit because they became obsolete. Some of those included Typewriter Repair, Radio/TV repair, and Automotive Troubleshooting Class. My biggest satisfaction of all the classes I taught was when a student received his or her GED degree.
Ken worked in 12 churches. He has travelled around the world and all but three Canadian Provinces and all but one state, the only state being Hawaii. I have had a really good and blessed life,” concluded Ken.
Ken, thank you for your service to our country while serving in the United States Army during the Korean War. Your courage and bravery will not be forgotten.
NOTE: Meet other Veterans from Van Zandt County by going to the top of www.vzcm webpage and click on MEET OUR VETERANS and click one of the (5) branches of services and the veterans last name first and click to read.
“Every Veteran has a story to tell.” Phil Smith
GOD BLESS OUR VETERANS AND GOD BLESS AMERICA
(ALL photos on this Facebook page are ©2022, Phil Smith and Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial. NO unauthorized use without permission) All Rights Reserved.