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Ken Rode Army

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Ken Rode - 1707 Views
honored by Michael Ford

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Assigned: Medical Company, 7th division, 31st regiment
Location of Service: Korean War
Gender: male
From City: Delphos
From State: Ohio
Current City: Delphos
Current State: Ohio
My War Stories
  1952 (Courtesy Michael Ford, Delphos Herald). Wounded soldiers were treated during World War II by a system of portable surgical hospitals, field hospitals and general hospitals. The United States Army changed that system during the Korean War to one that revolved around the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. Though the M*A*S*H TV show lightened war with a splash of cross-dressing, one local veteran who was there remembers more mortar shells than pranks. Ken Rode, 76, was drafted in 1952. After boot camp, he was trained on how to assist physicians in the field before boarding a ship for Korea. “On the day before my 21st birthday, I landed at Incheon. They unloaded us off the troop ship and all we had was a tent, a cot and a sleeping bag. After a couple of days, they found a place for us to go and I ended up with the Medical Company, 7th division, 31st regiment. We pulled guard duty for a couple of days, then a mess sergeant came through and asked if anybody wanted to be a cook. I was with a guy from Georgia who said ‘Rode and I will do it,’ so he volunteered me. It was the best thing he ever did; it was the best thing anybody ever did. Otherwise, we would have been assigned to the infantry,” he said. The MASH was a camp of tents set up near the side of a mountain. It was far enough from the line that the severely wounded were flown in on helicopters. This put Rode in a much safer spot but the enemy did attack the hospital with artillery shells. “We did our thing in the kitchen the rest of our time there; from March 28, 1953 until the middle of June 1954. We were right on the 38th Parallel. We had a doctor for a company commander and they had an aid station up on the line. If they needed to leave them, they’d bring them to the hospital. Depending on how badly they were banged up, they’d give them blood and whatever else needed to be done,” he said. Rode remembers the Army having Republic of Korea soldiers defending the South alongside the Americans. The North Koreans and Chinese crept around at night but the United States Air Force had a way to address the problem. “At night, they’d fire artillery shells and you could hear them whistling. They’d light up the sky a lot of times. During the day, the North Koreans and Chinese were like rats. They wouldn’t come out but at night, they’d come out and the Air Force lit up our area like daylight. They’d drop flares so you could see the rats,” he said. There was one occasion when enemy artillery came quite close. “One night, we had creamed chicken for supper. I’ll never forget - it was about 5 o’clock and either a tank company or heavy mortar company put a shell in on the line. I was on duty as assistant mess sergeant. When the guys came in with the wounded on a 2 1/2 ton truck, blood was everywhere. Most of them ended up in body bags,” he said. The images burned into Rode’s mind left an impression more acute than the ones Time Life gave to history. “There was fighting up on the hill one night and we got up the next morning and there was a stack of clothes outside where guys were being treated. Bloody clothes were as high as the ceiling; they’d just come through with scissors and cut them off their backs and through them out back. Then, they’d get wrapped up and hauled away,” he said. Rode remembers enemy mortars flying through his tent one morning “for breakfast.” “We had mess gear all over and guys just scattered. It went through our tent and blew a hole in it but didn’t hurt anybody.” Because South and North Koreans share facial features, they are very difficult to tell apart. This made it easy for enemy soldiers to blend in where they should not have been. “We had a guy whose job was to move people when shells came in. One day, he saw a guy wrap up a piece of paper and stick it in his sleeping bag. Well, they all looked the same; olive green. So, he switched sleeping bags with the guy and when it was unraveled, they found a map of the whole area. It showed our company location and other company’s locations, so he was a North Korean spy. When he was there was when we were getting hit a lot. How he got his messages out, I don’t know,” Rode said. When Rode returned to the family farm on which he was raised, he continued in agriculture and had supplemental employment with Delphos businesses. He and his wife, Gertrude, were married in 1958 and raised five children. Rode is proud of his service to the nation and understands the role war plays in the country’s past and present. “I’m glad I served. Things need straightened out, like they’re doing now in Iraq. It has to be done. Otherwise, we don’t know what the world might come to. War is a horrible thing and it never was easy - from the Civil War on through. If we didn’t do it, we’d probably have people from other countries over here dictating what we’re going to do,” he said.