Baxter man recounts his time in Korea

The year was 1955, the cease-fire in Korea was on, but tensions were still running high. Larry Schmidt wanted nothing more than to marry his sweetheart, Janice Shore, but they were both worried about what would happen with the potential of a draft.

Larry decided that the best thing to do for his future family would be to get his two years of obligation out of the way so that he could hurry home and marry Janice with no threats looming over their heads.

Following in the footsteps of three brothers, two of whom served in World War II and one who served in the Korean War, he went to Newton to sign his enlistment papers.

Soon enough, he found himself in a hotel room waiting for the bus ride the next morning that would deliver him to Camp Chaffee in Arizona.

Once there, Larry excelled in his basic training program and was selected to train at the camp for an additional eight weeks so he could serve in the artillery. He was trained with a 10-man crew to work with a 105 mm Howitzer artillery piece.

“I was on the panoramic scope, which could only traverse 12 degrees in each direction … If you shifted a degree or two, you could shoot over miles away from the first spot which gave us a good range,” Larry said.

After concluding his artillery training, the Baxter man who had never been much farther away from home than the Missouri border soon found himself on a ship carrying him to a conflict thousands of miles away.

Upon touching ground in Korea, Larry was moved around briefly before being stationed in Camp Santa Barbara, only a few miles away from the Demilitarized Zone.

“We would rotate up to the edge of the DMZ for a few months … You could look through the lens, and see them just a few miles away looking right back,” Larry said.

After a while, Larry was transferred into a Provost Platoon, serving as military police personnel, and then he was again transferred to work on the supply chain for petroleum, oil and other vehicle necessities.

After a thankfully uneventful two-year tour, Larry rotated back to the states in March of 1957. He didn’t waste much time, marrying Janice just three months later in June of ’57 and starting the rest of his life.

He soon found work at Maytag. As Janice said, he was out the door the day after their wedding to stop by the offices and secure himself a job.

Due to the time of his service, Larry is one of the many veterans who isn’t qualified for entry into the American Legion, an oversight which upset him for many years before he decided that he would get involved in every way he could despite it.

“I was angry for a while, and I still am a little. I didn’t want to go on the Freedom Flight at first, because I felt like they didn’t want me and they didn’t care about my service,” Larry said.

He did, however, attend the Freedom Flight, an experience which he enjoyed. Over the last few years, Larry says he believes there has been a shift in the public’s views toward veterans and that he has seen more acceptance of Korean and Vietnam war veterans.

Greg Christianson, the post commander of the American Legion in Baxter, said the Schmidts are a key part of the Legion’s activities, helping to organize and run soup dinners and other events in the community.

When asked why he is such a help to the organization despite the fact that he can’t be an official member, he answered simply, “Our servicemen are important, and we want to help however we can.”

Staff writer Matt Nosco may be contacted at (515) 674-3591 or at mnosco@newtondailynews.com.