Remembering the forgotten war
Dale Schindler had quite an adventure when he traveled outside of North Dakota for the first time as an 18-year-old in 1952. "I trained at Fort Riley, Kansas, then on to Fort Lewis, Washington, and then on to South Korea," he said. "We got within...
Dale Schindler had quite an adventure when he traveled outside of North Dakota for the first time as an 18-year-old in 1952.
"I trained at Fort Riley, Kansas, then on to Fort Lewis, Washington, and then on to South Korea," he said. "We got within a mile or so of South Korea and we beach landed. From there we were loaded on to trucks and trains to Seoul."
Schindler's combat service in Korea makes him part of one of the older groups of American veterans. Schindler is 82, and many Korean War veterans are in their mid- to late-80s.
Schindler's military service more than 60 years ago is still fresh in his mind, even though the Korean War is often called the "forgotten war."
"Hardly a day goes by I don't think about my experience there," he said. "But I don't think I'd want to do it again."
Some of his memories deal with the living conditions of a soldier on the front line and the rats that seemed to infest the trenches and bunkers.
"They didn't bother me that much," Schindler said. "I was more worried what was out in front of me rather than the little rats."
He also speculated the rats had a better sense of self-preservation than the soldiers.
"It was amazing," he said. "The rats started disappearing just a few seconds before the enemy rounds would start coming in."
Other memories included close calls. He credited his survival in one incident to an officer's sense of smell while on patrol.
"The lieutenant stopped me," Schindler said. "'We're so close I can smell them,' he said. I didn't realize how close I was, but we got out OK."
American soldiers in Korea earned points for time on the front. Soldiers were rotated back to the United States when they earned 12 points.
"I was one point from being transferred home when they signed the truce," he said. "Even after the truce we had guards out. At the end, I was stationed at the Demilitarized Zone until I was sent home."
The DMZ is still in place in Korea. The 148-mile-long strip of land is guarded by armed sentries on both sides at the 38th Parallel.
Schindler completed his service in the U.S. Army without being injured. He also served in the North Dakota National Guard from 1978 to 1984.
"I guess I've had a lot of bad experiences and keep saying I'm surprised I'm still here," he said. "I never got hurt in the service, got hurt a few times working construction, though."
Schindler said Veterans Day, especially this year, has special meaning to him.
"I just came back for the Honor Flight," he said, referring to the WDAY Honor Flights that transport veterans to Washington, D.C.,to view the memorials. "I visited all the walls and memorials and Arlington (National Cemetery). I never dreamed I'd see that. It was really nice."
The most memorable moment came when the Honor Flight returned to Fargo..
"It was the most tear-jerking experience I've ever had," he said, referring to the return to Fargo with other veterans. "The place was packed with people cheering. By the time I got out of the terminal it really hit home."