Chuck Olmstead interviews Patriot’s Landing resident Bill North, a retired Sergeant Major with the U.S. Army. He was born on a farm in Oklahoma in 1932. He joined the National Guard in Fort Sill when he was 16, becoming a cannoneer. The battalion was mobilized for the Korean War, trained by the U.S. Army, shipped out to Japan and finally to Korea.
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*The following is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.
Welcome to answers for elders. My name is Chuck Olmsted and I’m here at Patriots landing in Dupont, Washington, and with me today is Bill North. He’s a retired sergeant major with the US Army. Bill, welcome to Answers for Elders. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate being here. Yeah, well, we want to hear your story and you and I were chatting a little bit here and I know you’ve got a lot to share and I always like to hear about what life was like for folks before they went into the military. And so are you in northwest? Boy? Did you grow up in this area or where did you grow up? I grew up in Weatherford, Oklahoma. Okay, so you’re in Oaky, I’m in okay. Hah Huh. Excuse me. So what year were you born? One thousand nine hundred and thirty-two. Okay, right, I guess those were depression years, weren’t they? That I cannot remember. Yeah, you don’t remember that. No, my family, my grandparents, took care of us. Uh Huh. So I don’t remember ever being hungry or anything like that. was that a farm or were you in the city, city. Uh Huh. So your all. I was born on a farm, let’s put it that way. My grandparents, Uh Huh, but then my other grandparents lived in a city and that’s where we moved to when I was five. I see. Yeah, so you grew up. You grew up in Oklahoma then. Yeah, yeah, so what was life like for you? Were you involved in sports? Where you music? Or it was sports and girls? There you go, was that was the main thing? What did you like? What sports did you like playing? I played basketball, I played football, I tried baseball. Couldn’t hit that little thing, so it didn’t do that right. And then when I was sixteen, I joined the National Guard battery. See, of the one hundred and fifty eight piled artoe Italian sixty sixteen years old. Yeah, wow, we did. You and I did that for one reason. I wanted to get a pair of combat boots and go to their parties. So we had had some extra money. Uh Huh, Gould. We had to go to drill once a week and then camp at Fort Sill for two weeks in the summer. Yeah, so, yeah, so, so what? When you’re in the National Guard, what was your what were your duties and I was a cannoneer and then I was the why? Was One of the loaded the one hundred and five and shoved it in the breach? I see. Yeah, which is that was a lot of the training at Fort Sail was for cannoneers, was it? Yeah, Fort Sales artilery center. Yeah, my brother, he was in the National Guard in the late S and did his training at Fort Sail and with the howitzers there. Yeah, yeah, so is that what you then did when you were in the military? Know, what happened is in one thousand nine hundred and fifty I graduated from high school. Then the Korean War started. Then the forty five infantry was mobilized and one September we went to Camp Pok Louisiana. I was still seventeen at that time, and when in the army for training and I became a Ford Observer, which means it’s you’re just calling in the fire to the fire direction center. HMM, and state at Camp Poke and then went camp stoneman California, and we went by ship to Japan, and Japan we went to Ocado, which the northernmost island, and then we trained. Actually it’s just tosi which is outside Sapporo, and then our brigade was right at the top, so we got to move to support o where we had brick buildings instead of tents outside, out houses and stuff. And then I believe, I’m not sure of that exact day, but I think it was in November, we boarded a ship and went to Korea and we went into inch on. We went over the side of the ship, full pack and everything, Into Lst’s but this is in the one where they blocked off the they cut off their supply line of the Chinese when they’re about to push push us out of poss on. And then during Korea, I my battalion supported our infantry and I served with company K, one hundred and seventy nine infantry. And then when we went in reserve, we provided support for the nineteen and the twenty Filipino regimental Combat Team, and then from there we provided support for the Eighth Rock Battalion or battalion or brigade, I don’t remember which one, and there we had some problems. Got Overrun, they retreated, left on the hill and I heard, I don’t know how true it is, at the commander of that brigade was executed because of what happened now? I don’t know. That’s the big story. Yeah, but so this is in Korea. Yeah, during the war and your one thousand nine hundred and fifty one and you were and you were kind of MIA for three days. Yeah, they didn’t know where you have after that. I wasn’t missing right our inftory came in, got us out and I’ve been going to the VA for years and I don’t know why they want to know what happened in those three days, because the next thing I remember was being put on a hospital ship and poss on and then to Japan and then back to the states, and then I went to Fort Sale. Wanted to get a sign because I was artillery. Wanted to get assigned to Oklahoma because my home was only seventy five miles from there. And where did the army send me? For DORD, California. Uh Huh, for tords sent me to Fort Louis, Washington, to the fifty seventh field artillery group and I got here on a Saturday. Never Forget it. They told me it’d been writing for thirty two straight days. Don’t you don’t get thirty two days of rain in Oklahoma. No. So I got here on a Saturday. We adnesday it had rained every day. Wednesday I volunteer to go back to Korea and Friday I left and headed back to Oklahoma on leave to take my car and took a bust back up here in the personnel center was located on North Fort. Spent thirty days and they said, well, we can’t send you back to Korea, we have send you to Japan. And on the thirty day I got called in. They said can you type, and I said Yep. They said how would you like to be signed to Japan, making the assignments to Japan, Korea and Okanah, we need somebody on the AFEY assignment team. I took the job. Stayed here till fifty six. HMM, learned to play golf in the rain and never get wet and when to Japan, spent three years in Japan, came back. I’m not going to talk about my marriages in between, okay, so, but anyway, went to Germany, spent a year, then went to Vietnam. MMM. And I was the sergeant major for the, as you general of the twenty five in f division at Coochi. So you talked about military career. I can go back to Korea. Got Hit a little bit in the butt and not bad enough to go anywhere or do anything. And then when I did go down, the doctor said, well, I wouldn’t even country that day and I’m not going to sign anything before I was in country. And then the lieutenant that was they have for an observer said come on North, let’s get back up on the line and we left and I never worried about it again. HMM, until Vietnam. MM. And in Vietnam people that were there. I was in the Twenty Fifth Admin Company and I replaced the certain major who had his own hoops in the T admin company right next to the latrine. Well, they burned and cleaned the latrine every day and that hoos field with smoke every day, and so I got smart and had had one built over behind division headquarters so I could hook into the electric power and have power twenty four hours a day and so on. And from there I made one mistake and that evermore to attack. They shoot at the headquarters and they always overshot it and they’d hit around my hooch and I did get hit in the leg and dealt with some stuff that a little bit too gruesome to talk about on men that were killed. HMM. But after now I I came back to Fort Louis, was a sort major for the Asian General Fort Lois. And then final I went to Alaska and only state a year, was offered a job I thought I should take. So I put in my retirement papers. Retired in one thousand nine hundred and seventy two. So I spent twenty two years. And and so seventy two, that was just the Vietnam War was winding down. Hadn’t yet been completed, but yeah, there were withdrawals were taking place and we you know, when we came back it wasn’t the most pleasant thing. Is San San Francisco, and but being career it, I knew what I thought of it, so we just went on. Yeah, so what would you say your twenty two years in the military? What? What? What were some of your most vivid memories as far as what you learned is about yourself being in the in the service, that you can think you’re tough as hell but you can be awful scared. I can remember laying in a bunker and listening to the shrapnel stuff sounding off laying on my back and when I turned over and put my face in the dirt I felt so much better. And but, like I said, I had to get up and go. We had some direct hits on some buckers with guys in him. So that’s a part that I’ve spent years trying to deal with. One of the medics couldn’t even get in there with it. In the certain major of the twenty five division got in. I held the light form poured the water over the hands, washing blood off her hands as they got the bodies out. MMM and that stuck with me. I’m still close my eyes and see his hands and I’m pouring water on to wash them. Yeah, so I’ve been through mental stuff with the VA for years. Never where I was going to go shoot myself or anything like that. So that’s about the life of my military. Yeah, so what happened after military? Well, first I they said I was messed up and head. I worked a year at Unit Mutual Savings Bank as Lotte supervisor loan services. Then I left there and went to the Credit Union as Office Manager for Lois Credit Union. Now it’s considered Eric Acu, was what it is now, but it was Fort Lois Federal Credit Union, and I was the officer manager there and only spend about a year and a half and left there. Then didn’t do anything for about six months and went out with a friend who drove a truck and decided to go to school learned drive a truck. Interesting. So I drove a truck, learned to drive it. Then they wouldn’t harm it because didn’t have any experience. So then I had to try to buy a truck, which I did. Then I couldn’t get a job. Could didn’t have experience. Then I finally found a company that would take me, and the reason they did was because ever check bounced. So that wasn’t any good, so I left. Then went to another company that had no authority from the ICC and we filled out rental papers that we work for the company we were hauling for, and did that for about out a year, I think, and they they knew we were lying, but we hauled for that this whole cheaper than what they would have been if it had been legal. And then I decided I could do the same thing. So I wrote ever state, got the paperwork licensed in ever state and started a company called veterans trucking and did that for twenty years. Well, so a long haul. Yeah, yeah, I en it up. First we were going to New York and back and then I during the strike of consolidated freight before they went out of business. They were hauling big toys and when, during the strike, I went down and they I told them they could put it on my trailer and it would get to the point of delivery rather than, they said, consolidate freight. They say that they had parts laying an ever part of California. So I did that for ten years, just whole playground equipment to schools, parks and churches all over California and brought produce back. And then I went down to buy a golf cart and they told me that said I someway in my conversation got around the rentals, and so I got the idea of starting a golf cart rental company. So I went to Colorado to course air that changed golf carts every two years, bought eighty golf cars, had three trailers built and at that time we did it without tops. HMM. And my I had a trailer that Hall Thirty Golf Cars Without Tops, one that hall ten with tops, and won a hall twe twelve, with ten with tops, I with tops, I think. In anyway did that. We rented, rented them out to country clubs for tournaments when they needed to shotgun starts and they needed for per hole. So they need seventy two carts and if they didn’t have any, wet and did pretty good. And then September have a Dang heart attack. HMM. And my friend who just moved in here with me here and not together, but he was driving my truck and I was doing the golf carts and he’s still running long haul. So he just took over and did everything for me. Now I had surgery, quadruple bypass, and then since then I’ve had a pacemaker and defibrillator in a stant. They changed all the plumbing on you. Huh. Yeah, and here I am, yeah, still going. How did you? How did you decide on Patriots landing? Well, that story is the fact that it was in the newspaper here in Jacoma that the generals and colonels were working on a thing and I wrote them a letter and I said you don’t have an enlisted man on your thing. You need to start major. So they put me on the committee. So we lived in Dupont. We had a homebuilt here and so they put me on the committee and I worked on that for about two years, I think, with Jane Lynne, the owner, and stuff. And then when my wife had a stroke, but came out here. Then when she got better, went back home. Then when she had another one, then I came out here, stayed a year. Then we left here and went to one and Spanish springs, Nevada, and I stayed there eight months and then never adapted to the altitude. HMM. They said from Agent Orange, my lungs aren’t there, greateness and stuff. So anyway, came back here again and then went down and they were doing the old smelter. They were placing that with point resting. HMM. Went down there and bought a condominium, HMM, right on the water, and we lived in an apartment down there until they finished building the condominium right behind it, and that was the first full condominium down there. Now they’ve got about three complexes, I think. And stayed there until my wife had another stroke, and this one was devastating, and so I sold it, came back out here, tried memory care for her plus care for the stroke, and she couldn’t remember, she couldn’t walk, she’d get up, she’d fall at night and finally I said I’ve got to take her out and I find the found a nice adult care home for hm and just saw her this morning. But now I’m retired and just taking life easy. Yeah, yeah, well, I’m glad that you would be able to find fund your home back here again, that you’ve got a place that you know. Yeah, I still call myself an Okey, but I only spent the first seventeen of my years my life there, Uh Huh, and I’ve spent more here than anywhere else. Yeah, besides overseas. Yeah, well, you’ve got some good people and good support system here, so I’m glad that you’re able to. Like I said, I’ve been here. I like this place. I mean it’s nice and people are Nice and you meet Nice people here. You know, everybody’s got a story. We’ve all got stories. HMM. We’ve all been through it someone. And the food is good to restaurant style. That’s one of the best things about the place. You know, you can sit anywhere from seven to seven. Just go in and eat when you want. There you go and what you want. Well, Bill, I want to thank you for sharing your story with me. Well, I hope it’s something that you know, some people will understand, others won’t. Well, that’s okay. And you know, I want to thank you for your service, okay, well, thank you. Yeah,
Suzanne Newman, host of the Answers for Elders radio show and podcast, proclaims often, “Caring for my mom was the hardest thing I ever have done, but it was also my greatest privilege.” Following a career of over 25 years in sales, media, and marketing management, Suzanne embarked on a 6-year-journey caring for her mother. Her trials and tribulations as a family caregiver inspired an impassioned life mission outside of the corporate world to revolutionize the journey that so many other American families also find themselves on. Answers for Elders provides education, help, and support to families, caregivers, and seniors across the country who are experiencing their own unique journey within the complicated world of Eldercare. Each week, Suzanne is joined by vetted professional experts in over 65 categories including health & wellness, life changes, living options, money, law, and more. Suzanne lives in Edmonds, Washington with her husband, Keith, and their two doodle dogs, Whidbey and Skagit.