Hooton recalls srervice during Korean War
Ralph W. Hooton was born and raised in Stafford County located
in the south central part of Kansas. The family farm was located
seven miles south of the town of Stafford, which is where he attended
school. His father, Floyd Hooton, and the rest of the family moved
to Jewell County in 1947 where land was selling for less. He finished
school in Esbon, graduating from high school in 1948. After high
school, Ralph settled in to farming with his dad until one morning
he went to the mailbox and found a letter stating
"Greetings, you have been selected to serve in the United States Army."
Oct. 25, 1951, Ralph reported to Camp Crowder, Mo., where it took him six days to be processed. He was assigned to Company "L" 35th Infantry APO 25 of the United States Army. His next stop was Fort Ord, Calif., for basic training. While undergoing basic training, he didn't get a pass. Following basic, the Army sent Ralph to leadership school at Fort Ord. This was another eight weeks without leave. Ralph came out of the leadership school as a Private 1st Class.
"Jock Murray (a Jewell County resident) was there the same time I was and he got passes but I didn't" said Ralph.
At this stage of his service time, Ralph remembers he was given two to three weeks to come home. He reported back to Ft. Ord was processed put on a boat and sent to Seattle, Wash. At Seattle those from Ft. Ord joined more troops from other bases for shipment to Tokyo.
Arriving at Tokyo's Camp Drake most were privates. It was not long before Ralph was promoted to a corporal and then to Sergeant 1st Class. Camp Drake is the place where the Japanese conducted training during WWII. The American soldiers were issued equipment and rifles and loaded onto another boat and sent to Pusan, Korea. There they boarded train and traveled for one more day.
Ralph wrote letters to his parents and his uncle as often as he had time for. His parents kept those letters so now he has a scrap book to look at. His parents and uncle wrote lots of letters back to Ralph but he couldn't keep them for they made to much baggage for him to carry. He usually received one or two letters a week while serving in the Army.
When the train would slow down to take on more troops or supples, the Korean youngsters would run out and ask for candy. Of course the soldiers gave their candy to the children. They traveled on to KojeDo Island in Kumswa Valley.
At KojeDo Island there were 156,000 prisoners of war held. More than 3,000 of the prisoners were women. His main duty here was to guard the prisoners. There were not lots but quite a few riots, usually caused by women.
"One time there was a riot among the women and a Lt. Col. Connley went inside to stop the riot. The women attacked him and almost killed him before he got back out of the compound," said Ralph.
Ralph and the other guys he shared his tent with had a house boy who kept the tent picked up and clean. Another job while stationed here was the supervision of the POW's building a dam for the Army.
The Army usually had troops spend 30 to 40 days in one section before being moved to another location. Upon the end of his time at KojeDo Island, Co. "L" was sent to Bloody Ridge to relieve troops on the front line. This is where the 57 mm recoiless rifle was used. Bloody Ridge was located next to Heart Break Ridge on the Eastern Front. Co. "L's" main job was to stand guard duty and watch for the troops coming up the Kumswa Valley. Following his 33 day stay at this location, Ralph was sent to Japan for some R&R. Ralph distinctly remembers he was on R&R when he heard Dwight D. Eisenhower say, "If I'm elected I will go to Korea and settle this thing."
Returning to the front line, Ralph was told to instruct some of the guys on the recoiless rifle. One-hundred-twenty guys came in over the next four or five days for training.
On Thanksgiving day it was raining while dinner was being served outside. Ralph and a buddy were told to report to headquarters where were asked to go to Seoul and serve as part of the honor guard when President Eisenhower arrived.
"We had clean sheets to sleep on but I didn't see Eisenhower while I was there," said Ralph.
June 2, 1953, while serving on the western front, Ralph received shrapnel in his right shoulder back and buttocks. He was hospitalized for 14 days and then returned to the western front. Ralph has a letter in his possession that he wrote to his uncle shortly after his injury.
June 26, 1953. "Dear Lee, I'm coming your way," your nephew.
As the troops were pulled out of Korea, they were loaded back onto boats. Co. "L" 35th Infantry APO 25 stepped back on their homeland soil at Ft. Lewis, Wash. Ralph then boarded a train for Camp Crowder, Mo. where the processing out of the Army was started. The men had stood around two days doing nothing and were getting anxious to leave. One of the higher officers didn't like the way the men where acting and proceeded to restrict everyone to base.
"I went into my commanding officers office and ask if I could leave, explaining to him that my folks and sister had driven from Esbon to pick me up and I wanted to go home," said Ralph. Aug. 3, 1953, Ralph was discharged.
Ralph has is a book he made out of a sea ration box held together with two "O" rings. The book has the names of the members of the 4th Platoon 1st Squad, 2nd Squad and 3rd Squad listed inside. Ralph traded a Korean POW his spoon for the prisoner's brass spoon and has it in his possession today. Medals received were the Purple Heart, Korean Silver Medal, Combat Infantry Badge and US Service Medal.
Ralph returned to the Esbon area and went back to farming with his father. He later farmed on his own. Following his retirement Ralph moved to Mankato and for several years was the caretaker of Mount Hope Cemetery.
Ralph has two daughters, Mrs. Rick Diamond (Sheila), Mankato, and Mrs. Chuck Foster (Sandy), Dodge City; and one son, Harold Hooton, and wife, Donna, of Ulysses, along with five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. His son, Wayne Hooton, is deceased.
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alumni events planned
This coming weekend there will be events happening throughout Jewell County.
Jewell County VFW Post and Auxiliary will hold services at 9 a.m. Monday morning on the Courthouse lawn. Also at this time the rededication of the Veterans Memorial Monument will take place. Following this, ceremonies will be moved to Mt. Hope Cemetery for services. Coffee and cookies will be served afterwards at the VFW Post home. Raising of the avenue of flags at Mt. Hope Cemetery will be performed by VFW members Saturday morning. Placement of the stars and stripes on graves of veterans will take place at 3 p.m. and will be performed by VFW Auxiliary members and Mankato Eager Beavers 4-H Club members.
Jewell will hold a community Memorial Service at the Jewell Christian Church Sunday with the Jewell America Legion and Auxiliary participating in the service. at 10:45 a.m. Rod Rose, Ionia, will present a video. American Legion members will place the stars and stripes on graves of veterans prior to the weekend and retire the flags after the honored weekend comes to a close.
Perry Lamb Unit 386 will hold services at 11 a.m. Monday at Esbon Cemetery with Wanda Thummel, Esbon, as the speaker.
Services at the Webber Memorial Services and Pleasant View (Greenwood) Cemetery services, southeast of Montrose are uncertain at this time.
Emory Clemons American Legion and Auxiliary Unit will hold services at the Burr Oak Cemetery at 10 a.m. Monday.
Three museums in Jewell County will be open with brief hours.
The Palmer Museum, Jewell, will have doors open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. The Burr Oak Museum, located in the old limestone grade school building, will be open Saturday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and Monday by appointment only. Contact Cheryl Hillman or Peggy Wilson. Janelle Greene, curator of the Jewell County Historical Society museum located in Mankato, will have the doors open Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to noon.
A host of alumni gatherings will be held.
In Burr Oak the Class of 1958 will be gathering at the Community Center at 2 p.m. and the Class of 1953 will be holding their get together in the home economics room in the old high school building.
The Burr Oak-White Rock High School alumni banquet will be held Saturday with social time at 5:30 p.m. and supper served at 6:30 p.m. Cheryl Hillman was in charge of reservations.
The annual Athens-Ionia alumni reunion will be held at the Ionia United Methodist annex at 12:30 p.m. Sunday. It will include a potluck with service furnished.
Jewell High School alumni banquet will be held Saturday. The afternoon reception will be held in the Jewell Community Center from 4 to 6 p.m., with the catered meal served at 7 p.m. at the center. Mike Nulty, class of 1968, will be the master of ceremonies. The association's business meeting will follow.
Other classes of Jewell High School planning activities during the weekend are the class of 1968 and 1973.
Mankato-Rock Hills High School alumni will be held Saturday. The Class of 1963 will host an open house and reception at the old high school 301 N. West, from 2 to 4 p.m. The present high school at 608 E Madison will also be open for tours from 1 to 4 p.m. The open house and hospitality time at the Mankato Community Center, 214 N. High, will be held from 4 to 6 p.m., with the catered alumni banquet starting at 6 p.m. Verla Roe was the contact person for reservations.
Randall Rural High School class of 1963 met for lunch Sunday in Concordia. Those attending were Mr. and Mrs. Robert Hart, Terry Behrends, Sharon Lienberger Jewitt, Delores Blochlinger and Paul, and Thelma Shelton and Frank.
Free fishing weekend announced by KDWPT
The old adage, "There's no such thing as a free lunch," may be true 363 days out of the year, but the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) is bucking that notion for two days by offering free fishing throughout the state June 1-2. Anglers must still abide by all other fishing regulations set forth by KDWPT during the free fishing weekend, but anglers normally required to have fishing licenses, those age 16-74, do not need licenses June 1-2.
Poppy Day dinner Saturday in Jewell
The Jewell American Legion Auxiliary will continue the tradition
of serving a meal on Memorial Saturday. Veteran made poppies will
be available for a donation and the proceeds will help the veterans
in the hospitals in Kansas.
The roast beef sandwich meal will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Jewell Community Center. Proceeds support those going to Girls State, Cadet Law Academy, veterans and local charities.
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