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Korean War veteran overcame paralysis

Veteran's Day

Old Baldy in Korea is officially known on military maps as Hill 266. To Gordon Hoberg, a veteran of the conflict there, it was a miserable and dangerous place to serve.

The Old Baldy area was a battlefield for 10 months in 1952 and 1953. The U.S. Army lost 307 men killed in action in the area during that time. The area is made up of several hills including Pork Chop Hill,which has been the subject of movies in the past.

"We lived in a hut," he said. "Actually, it was just a hole in the mountain with room for two people. Ours had two windows. One with a .50 caliber machine gun and one with a .30 caliber. That's it. It was just two machine guns and two cots."

Hoberg said the troops didn't just sit in the huts and wait for things to happen.

"Our job was to keep the North Koreans from crossing," he said. "A lot of it was night patrols. There were real battles. They didn't call it a war back then but a conflict, but those were real battles."

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The life of patrols and sitting in a hole in the ground looking out over a machine gun were interrupted once a week when the soldiers were allowed to travel away from the front lines for a shower.

Then the situation got worse.

"I was injured when a soldier next to me stepped on a land mine," Hoberg said, referring to the events that resulted in him being awarded the Purple Heart. "Initially, I was paralyzed from the neck down."

That started nine months of hospitalization including time at Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Denver.

"When I was paralyzed, I was determined to walk again," Hoberg said. "I worked hard to get out of the hospital and make a life for myself. I wanted a family, I wanted a career. If you feel that way, you can often accomplish those things."

Once he could walk again, Hoberg returned to North Dakota. He attended Jamestown College, now known as the University of Jamestown, and the University of North Dakota School of Law. As an attorney, he practiced in Wishek and Napoleon, served as the state's attorney for Logan County and was appointed judge of the Southeast Judicial District with chambers in Jamestown in 1983. He retired from the bench in 1991.

He currently makes his home on a farm near Wishek.

Hoberg is one of the declining number of Korean War veterans remaining, according to David Braaten, veterans service officer for Stutsman County.

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"Most of them have to be into their 80s and 90s," he said. "Essentially, we're losing them at a very rapid rate."

There were also fewer soldiers mobilized for service in Korea compared to World War II, Braaten said.

"Really, there are only a handful left," he said.

Hoberg's time in Korea occurred 67 years ago. He said it taught him how precious life is.

"I'm very happy I served even if I had some tough breaks," he said. "I have no regrets and would do it all over again."

Hoberg 1
Gordon Hoberg, a corporal at the time, poses with comrades in Korea during the war. Hoberg was wounded and spent nine months in hospitals recovering. Submitted photo

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