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Retired Winsted Legion chaplain recalls service in Korean War
Jan. 23, 2012
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By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

WINSTED, MN – Gordy Kubasch retired last summer as the chaplain of the Winsted American Legion Martin Krueger Post 407.

Since 1972, he has given the invocation and benediction at Memorial Day Services, has served at military funerals, and said the blessing at Legion dinners and meetings.

Kubasch, 82, became a Legion member after returning home from his service in the Korean War.

It will be 60 years this June since he was drafted into the Army, and later became a member of Service Battery, 196th Field Artillery Battalion serving in Korea from Dec. 21, 1952 to Dec. 9, 1953.

His unit was located east of what was called the Punch Bowl, and the most northern US artillery above the 38th parallel – the dividing line between North and South Korea.

Kubasch describes the area as steep and mountainous. “You either went up hill or down hill, there wasn’t much level ground,” Kubasch said.

“It was like daylight all of the time,” Kubasch said. “We had search lights because we were up pretty high and we didn’t want the enemy sneaking up on us at night, but that never happened.”

The unit had 18 guns located on a mountainside. The guns were 155 millimeters, with a six-inch shell weighing 94 pounds.

“To get the shells to go 10 miles takes a lot of powder,” Kubasch said. “The explosion as this shell takes off is hard to describe. The ground all around for 50 to 75 feet seems to rise up in dust like a fog going into the air – about 6 feet.”

Kubasch estimated it took a dozen or more men to operate each gun.

Occasionally the unit would have what is called a “battalion right” which began with gun number one firing, and then at one second intervals, each gun in turn was fired up to gun number 18.

“The noise is deafening,” Kubasch said, “and they didn’t offer ear plugs to anyone.”

Kubasch blames the guns for his having to wear hearing aids today. His hearing aids and batteries are compliments of the US government.

His home for seven months was a bunker underground which slept 10 men.

“A bunker is a hole in the ground covered with logs and about 6 feet of dirt over the top,” Kubasch said. “It had a stairway with two turns to get down to the main floor where our sleeping quarters were. We slept in sleeping bags and had a stove in there to keep warm.”

The Korean winters of 1952 and 1953 were extremely cold. “I didn’t have a thermometer, but I know it got below zero,” Kubasch said.

In March 1953, Kubasch’s previous bulldozer experience, which came from working for his father’s business, Kubasch Excavating in Winsted, brought him a new job offer.

“They sent me to engineer school to freshen up my skill as a dozer operator,” Kubasch said, “and to learn how to operate the Army way.”

He packed up his bags and moved back approximately 4 miles to the service battery.

“I enjoyed the various earth-moving jobs, and it was safer,” Kubasch said. “Sometimes we did work for other American units, and if we were under possible enemy observation, we had to wear flak vests for protection.”

One of the benefits of his new job, according to Kubasch, was that he was able to live above ground in tents with wooden floors.

With his new bulldozer training, Kubasch developed roads, helicopter landing fields, gun parapets, search light pads, and a physical training and marching area.

The truce between North and South Korea came July 27, 1953, just a little over a year after Kubasch had been drafted.

With the truce came a cease fire.

“The next day we were all dazed and couldn’t think what was different,” Kubasch said. “It finally came to us – no noise.”

Kubasch had missed spending Christmas with his family in 1952, but with the end of the war, his parents, Herbert and Goldina Kubasch, were hoping he would be able to be home for Christmas in 1953.

When he realized he wasn’t going to be able to make it back in time for Christmas, he wrote a letter home telling them that he was all right staying for a few more months in Korea if he had to.

His mother treasured Kubasch’s words in that letter, and kept it separate from the other letters he had sent, writing on the envelope, “patriotic.”

In the letter, Kubasch wrote to his parents:

“I really appreciate my country now that I have been away from it . . . What I am giving to my country is a small price for the freedom and luxuries we all enjoy at home. Even the price of my life would be a cheap price so you could go on living in a free nation.”

Kubasch remained in Korea until Dec. 9, 1953 when he got his orders to return home. He was one of 3,714 service men who got on the General Nelson M. Walker, a troop ship. He celebrated his second Christmas away from home on board the ship arriving in the US Jan. 4, 1954.

“Coming under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco - what a joy,” Kubasch recalled.

Kubasch was discharged in March 1954.

During his time in Korea, Kubasch wrote home to his parents often, and has a collection of about 200 letters his parents saved for him.

“We were told we couldn’t keep a diary or a journal, so I sent letters home,” Kubasch said.

Besides treasuring his many letters, he also values newspapers with headlines that the war had ended, and he has about 300 slides of Korea and Japan from his Army days. A lot of history, he hopes to share with future generations someday.

In addition, Kubasch has received commendations and thank-yous from the South Korean government on several occasions for his service.

“The war certainly did accomplish something – a better way of life for the people there,” Kubasch said. “Their country is in good shape now.”

“They (South Korea) were still farming with oxen while we were there. When I was there, the tallest building was four stories tall. They have skyscrapers now. There was no industry, but there is now.”

Kubasch’s family

Kubasch has been married to his wife Lenora for 55 years.

They have two sons:

• Kendell who lives with his wife Suzie in Howard Lake, and

• Aaron who is married to Patti and they live in Winsted.

Gordy and Lenora have four grandchildren.

Their grandson, Daniel Kubasch, is currently attending the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut.

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