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Larry Luersman Army

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Larry Luersman - 846 Views
honored by Michael Ford


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Assigned: 40th Division, 224th Infantry, Fox Company
Location of Service: Korea
Gender: male
From City: Delphos
From State: Ohio
Current City: Delphos
Current State: Ohio
My War Stories
  
  1952 (Courtesy Michael Ford, Delphos Herald). Formal holiday dinners are events families treasure. Thanksgiving Day is perhaps chief among them. The feast began in celebration of harvest and a cease-fire in the days of muskets and flaming arrows. One local man remembers spending a particular Thanksgiving Day under flying bullets and mortar fire in Korea. “On Thanksgiving Day 1952, the Army put on a big dinner for us. We started serving the turkey and everything just like here at home and I helped the cook distribute the food,” Larry Luersman said. “We got done and filled up a plate for ourselves. We had just done that when all hell broke loose. I dove under my Jeep and kept eating, even though I had dirt in my food that I had to pick out. Well, after 10 minutes, it was over and the only guy to get hurt was the cook; he had some cuts and that to his arm, so I took him to the MASH unit, which was two miles behind the line.” The now 78-year-old was engaged to his wife, Veronica, when he was drafted in 1951 at age 21. He is thankful she waited for him and says the hope of coming home to her kept him going. After basic training in California, he came home for two weeks but took his chances to stay for an extra six days. “I was AWOL for six days because my only sister got married on June 3, 1952, and I had to be an usher. I figured I was going to Korea and might not make it back, so I was not going to miss my sister’s wedding. The only trouble I got in was when I got in late on a Sunday, I had to stack chairs on some tables and clean the floor and I had to make up the six days at the end of my time in the service,” he said. Luersman’s hunch about Korea was correct. “I got to Japan on July 2, 1952, and had two weeks of chemical, biological and radiological training on things like gas masks, flame-throwers and radiation test kits. It was all just preparation, just in case, because the Germans had used that stuff in World War II but the Chinese and North Koreans never used it. That was a good thing because we had gas masks but they were way back at battalion rear. The guys in the trenches wouldn’t have been able to get them real quick going through those hills,” he said. After CBR training, the 1949 St. John’s High School graduate guarded prisoners on the west side of the Korea Strait. “In late July, we left Japan for Pusan and then went by train to Seoul. I found out my unit was in Koje-Do, which was an island close to North Korea for North Korean prisoners. So I went there for six weeks to guard prisoners,” he said. According to Luersman, prisoners began riots; during one such skirmish, three prisoners died. “Back then, the media didn’t know how prisoners were treated. They were treated rough; we had to keep them in line because they would riot in those compounds. Somehow, they got a radio because after three prisoners got killed, the enemy knew about it the next day,” he said. Luersman was assigned to Fox Company, 224th Infantry of the 40th Division. He drove a Jeep, transporting ammunitions, supplies and soldiers from front to rear and back again on the line. Though the enemy liked to attack at night, they did try to prevent supply transports during the day and had spies among the Americans. “We had South Koreans helping us with things like building bunkers and I could never tell them apart from North Koreans. Artillery always hit where people were. It seemed like we had mortar come in every day and they always knew where I was driving. I think they had spies because they were always putting it in where somebody was,” he said. Luersman was never hit but could hear bullets fly overhead and saw dirt kick up when they landed along the roadside. His unit had set up near Easy Company, which was at Heartbreak Ridge and had closed the area to Jeep traffic. “So we had to drive through a valley. We were out in the open and I had two officers get killed and the another lost his eyesight because they had hit him. At night, our guys pulled out tanks to guard that valley. In the daytime, the trenches were calm because everything was at night. So that was when we sent out patrols. I helped them get everything ready and we had a rifle with a scope you could look through and be able to see at night. I had never seen anything like that because I was just a farm boy. It had a battery you carried on your back and it would get you through the night. Then we sent it to battalion rear in the morning to be recharged,” he said. Luersman spent 9 months in Korea, performing supply transportation. “I hauled ammo, rations and water and even took guys back for showers from the front to battalion rear. We were always on the go. Commanding officers wanted Jeeps and trucks around in case something happened but we ran at night a lot; we called it ‘blackout driving.’ We had the lights off and only went 20 miles per hour. Where I had to drive, it was calm. I never had artillery come in at me at night,” he said. The Army worked on a point system. Soldiers had to have so many points and serve so many months to be eligible for discharge. Luersman spent 9 months in Korea before returning to his fiancé. “When you were on the line, you got four points every month and you had to have 36 points to ship out and come home. When I got my 36, I said good-bye and went to California for an overnighter and then they flew me to Indianapolis for processing. You had to have 21 months and I had 20, so I guarded the stockade. If anybody escaped while you were there, you had to serve their time until they got them back. So I made up my mind that if anybody got loose, I would shoot them in the leg so they couldn’t run off. I didn’t want to kill them. Fortunately, I didn’t have to shoot anybody,” he said. Luersman was discharged on Aug. 31, 1953, and married Veronica the following year. They raised two sons and six daughters while Luersman farmed and worked at Aeroquip, from which he is retired