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Rich Hugel Army

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Rich Hugel - 1759 Views
honored by Michael Ford

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Assigned: 148th Division of the 105 Howitzer Unit
Highest Rank: Sergeant
Location of Service: Korean War
Gender: male
Basic Training: Camp Polk, Louisiana
From City: Landeck
From State: Ohio
Current City: Landeck
Current State: Ohio
My War Stories
  1952 (Courtesy Michael Ford, Delphos Herald). When the northern seas had calmed with a South Pacific end to World War II, all was well until war erupted again. This time, the Russians were not our friends and we were on guard. Many of those who did not join their fellow soldiers in the war zone went on maneuvers in Alaska on case the Red Army got any ideas. Landeck resident Rich Hugel, 78, was one of those who endured near-arctic temperatures. “It was cold but I got used to it. I landed on the longest day of the year — June 21, 1953. We practiced out in the field a lot. We went on maneuvers clear across Alaska and I saw Russians walking around on the other side through my binoculars. They were there and we weren’t too far from Japan, either. The U.S. was thinking they might try to sneak in,” he said. Hugel grew up on a farm west of Landeck and was drafted in to the United States Army in 1952. He had been “called up” twice during World War II but failed the physical because of high blood pressure. When the need was even greater, the third strike was other than a charm but the Northern Frontier was better than Korea for the newlywed. He and Betty’s 56 years of marriage began the year prior to him being drafted. A few weeks after he arrived, she joined him and the couple rented a cabin for $295 per month. “We were in the little town of Mountainview - not far from Fort Richardson outside Anchorage. She worked at a little general store near where we lived,” he said. With Soviet presence nearby, there were times the Army kept the couple apart. “We had to report in every morning and do different things like take care of the trucks, wash them in the motor pool garage and clean guns and stuff. There were some days when I couldn’t go home. We had to go out in the field; sometimes for two or three days. We built a tent and played cops and robbers. No, just kidding they trained us. We’d be sleeping and all of a sudden, the infantry would come in and ambush us,” he said. Rifles were loaded with blanks on those occasions but that wasn’t always the case. “We had live ammo when we guarded the ammo dumps because we had to protect ourselves from bears,” he said. Hugel’s two-year enlistment began with basic training at Camp Polk, La. He got pneumonia and was set back for two weeks so he could join the next class. After graduating, he stayed and trained the next group of recruits. He was assigned to the 148th Division of the 105 Howitzer Unit to backup the infantry. After being sent to Alaska, he says he knew he would not go to war. Hugel was 23 years old when he was drafted. Having grew up in a rural area, the Army was an eye-opening experience. “The Army was the first time I had ever been around colored guys. I had always worked around Delphos and we never saw anybody like that,” he said. He credits his experience with bringing on added maturity. “It was my first time away from home and that was something different. It sure made a man out of me because I learned you have to get out on your own and make your way in life. Everybody ought to go through two years of it. If they did, the world would be in better shape,” he said. Hugel was thinking of staying in the Army until a new commanding officer helped him make his decision. “I was just about ready to stay in another year but we got a new commanding officer. I was in charge of two 50-calibur machine guns and two 25s and had to make sure they got set up in the field and made their way back to base. I ordered some new guys to get them and they wouldn’t budge so I did it. The C.O. told me I was supposed to have the guys do it and threatened to take my sergeant’s stripes from me. I told him I didn’t think so because I was headed home in a couple of weeks. “A week later, he came in and asked me what I thought about re-upping and I told him he had helped me make my decision right out there in the field. I told him to just get my discharge papers ready and send me home; and he did,” Hugel said. Hugel and his pregnant wife returned to the region in December 1954. They rented the Landeck home they later bought and still live in. They raised three girls together and he went to work at a factory in Spencerville before becoming an independent truck driver contracted with City Feed and Grain.