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Aubrey King of Manson

King built bridges, fixed trucks in Korea

November 5, 2012
By JOE SUTTER, , Messenger News

MANSON - Aubrey King keeps a scrapbook of photos from his time overseas in the Korean War. Each picture is rich with memories and stories, especially one of a small Korean boy pointing two guns at the camera.

The toy pistols were a gift from the soldiers in King's outfit, who basically adopted the boy, King said.

"We bought him overall pants, a blue-jean jacket, a cowboy hat, cowboy boots and a gun belt with two pistols," King said. "He lived at the Army camp with us about three miles behind the lines. We made sure the pants were a little too long, so he could roll them up. We said that would make him a really good-looking boy."

Article Photos

The boy, whom the men called "Shorty," and his sister were orphaned because of the war. The girl was sent to an orphanage when she turned 11, but the boy continued to live with the U.S. Army.

Shorty knew of a school a few miles off behind the mountains, but he didn't have the money to attend. The soldiers paid his way.

"I don't remember now, it was very little in American money," King said. "He was just thrilled to go to school. Where kids that age around here - 'Oh, do we have to go to school?'"

Fact Box

This is part of a continuing series that will appear daily in The Messenger through Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

King was a member of the U.S. Army 84th Combat Engineers. He was drafted and joined the service Dec. 7, 1950, when he was 22 years old.

King said he knew the draft might be coming, so he wasn't too surprised.

"I farmed; I rented 80 acres of my own. I knew it could happen. At least it came at a good time, I could get my crops in and sell them," he said.

King was discharged on Dec. 24, 1952.

He attended basic training at Camp McCoy, Wis., now Fort McCoy. He was originally slated for an artillery observational battalion, but was reassigned before training started.

"Their duty was to climb through neutral zones, get into enemy territory and radio back where different places are they might want to destroy," he said.

"One night at suppertime, they called a bunch of names to report to the orderly room. Come to find out, we all had glasses, and they didn't want anybody with glasses because the light would reflect off of them and give them away. I was glad to get out of there."

In the engineer battalion, King worked alongside Korean workers to rebuild a bridge that had been blown up.

Later, he was sent to Headquarters Company to work as a mechanic on trucks and equipment, thanks to his experience doing mechanic work on the family farm.

"We were about three miles back from the line. Never had shells come in. You could hear a lot," he said.

In his outfit, one man was killed, King said. He had been pheasant hunting in an area he shouldn't and stepped on a land mine.

"I really never was real scared. I didn't see anybody hurt real close."

On the other hand, "I was walking guard duty one night, and they cut loose with a .50-caliber machine gun up there. It was a real quiet and moonlit night, and I could just envision somebody sneaking down that hill behind us from bush to bush," King said. "About that time a dog came up behind me, and the shadow fell across in front of me. Good thing it wasn't a man or he probably would have been dead."

Once, after King was reassigned from bridge-building to mechanic work, he went up to see how the bridge was coming when suddenly "smoke and dirt blew off there on the other end. There wasn't no loud noise.

"I said to a guy who was working there, 'What was that?' And he said it was the North Koreans up there letting us know they were still there. They fired a shell, just a small one. So that was the last time I went up there."

King had the chance to see how the people of South Korea lived, and to visit the capitol.

"It made me real thankful I lived in the United States. The poor people in Korea, they lived in mud-walled houses and thatched roofs. They didn't have any furniture," he said. "Grandma, grandpa, mom, dad and the kids would all live together in one house, probably no bigger than this room."

After he was discharged, King went back to farming the family farm, which has now been in his family more than 100 years. He and his wife Louise have been married 58 years. They have three children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

He said a grandson, Brandon King, plans to enlist in the Army.



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