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Archive for Saturday, August 12, 2006

Shared history unites Korean War veterans

August 12, 2006

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The cold winters, hot summers and bridges they helped repair during the Korean War link them all.

Forty-eight veterans of the U.S. Army's 439th Engineer Battalion and their families are in Lawrence for the weekend.

The reunion had been an every-other-year event until a few years ago. As many of the members get older, they have met annually for the last few years.

"We used to take field trips, but the guys are getting to that age that they'd just as soon sit around and tell stories, and the stories get a little bigger each year," said Dale Pennybaker, of Lawrence, who is serving as host this weekend with his wife, Rita.

About 80 people gathered for a dinner and short program Friday night at the American Legion Dorsey-Liberty Post No. 14, 3408 W. Sixth St., as many made the trip from all over the country.

Other than Kansas, they came from New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Arizona, New Mexico, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri, Rita Pennybaker said.

Dale Pennybaker joined the unit's Company A in Emporia after he had served in World War II. He spent five months in Korea as a headquarters platoon sergeant and a tech sergeant.

The unit left McPherson on Aug. 14, 1950, for Colorado and eventually made it to the Pacific. It was a construction unit charged with repairing infrastructure.

"What I really remember is cold. It was really cold," Pennybaker said. "We had some tents set up, and they told us we had to keep the fuel oil outside the tent, but it was so cold it froze up. So we slipped them in the tents from then on."

Today, the Legion is open from noon to 10 p.m. for members of the group. They will tour the Dole Institute of Politics at 2 p.m. and meet for another dinner at 6:30 p.m. A memorial service is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Sunday.

Ross Laybourn, now from Georgetown, Texas, and Kenneth Webb, of Albuquerque, N.M., two retired captains, reminisced Friday evening.

"Fantastic - it was just a wonderful outfit. Everyone just did their job always," Laybourn said.

Harold Woods, another former captain who lives in Emporia, said the Korean winters and summers produced cold and hot extremes. As he finished his dessert, he accepted friendly welcomes from a few other veterans.

"Good to see all of you," he responded.

Comments

Fatty_McButterpants 8 years, 4 months ago

Pywacket: The art isn't too bad. It's a sculpture of three cranes intertwined - but I think there's only five legs. It's supposed to symbolize something. Personally, I would have preferred something a little more overt that shows that these guys went and fought in one of the most violent (there was a TON of hand-to-hand combat in Korea) and environmentally harsh wars that we've ever had.

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