Korean War vet relects on service

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 29, 2000

It was 50 years ago this month that an AP photographer stopped and asked a young private what his name was and where he hailed from.

Saturday, July 29, 2000

It was 50 years ago this month that an AP photographer stopped and asked a young private what his name was and where he hailed from. The young man was Pvt. Richard Anderson, of rural Mower County, and his picture ran in a Minneapolis newspaper and the Austin Daily Herald not long after.

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An Austin Daily Herald columnist told of trying to find out which Richard Anderson was pictured in the Minneapolis paper.

"The Herald secured the picture and published it on Tuesday night’s front page, but few people who saw it had any idea that three hours were spent just to get information needed to write the few lines of type identifying the boy," he wrote, adding the details of the winding search that eventually identified Anderson as the son of Mr. and Mrs. Julius Anderson of rural Mower County. "Now what we’re interested in is getting this war over so that Richard can come back to visit Austin and Lansing. He really should be entitled to fill up on a big juicy steak in return for helping us fill up the pot pourri column. We’ll be waiting for you to open the door, Richard!"

"He actually made good on that promise," Anderson said. "Mom and I didn’t think he would, but he bought me a steak dinner at the Fox hotel. A nice man, I don’t remember his name."

Anderson was one of the lucky ones – he lived through what many have called the bloodiest war in history. During the little more than three years of the Korean War, about a million South Korean civilians were killed and several million more made homeless. About 580,000 UN and South Korean troops and about 1.6 million Communist troops were killed or wounded or were reported missing.

"They called it ‘the forgotten war’" he said. "I almost was on my way back after I’d switched to the Air Force, but then they sent me to Japan instead after they found out I’d already served in Korea."

Anderson served a total of 13 months in Korea, in the 11th Battalion as a field artillery lineman. He earned a bronze star in the process.

The switchboard operator and telephone lineman was commended, the paper that came with the medal explains, because he "worked more than 24 hours several times without rest or relief … and early times in the campaign often subjected himself to heavy enemy fire in order to maintain vital communications which were an indispensable function necessary to successfully accomplish his unit’s assigned missions."

He was a long way from the family farm 10 miles northwest of Austin where he and his 16 brothers and sisters were raised.

"I was just doing my job," Anderson said. A career military man, Anderson served four years in the Army and 18 years in the Air Force. Ten of those years were spent in Japan, a little more than a year in Korea.

"I remember Korea as a very poor country," Anderson said. "They had buses run by coal … The war didn’t help any.

"That AP photographer, I heard he died a couple weeks after he took my picture. That was too bad."