Veterans Interview with Colonel Ian Larson with the U.S. Army, at Patriot’s Landing in DuPont, Washington. He was born in the Philippines in January 1940.
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This special answers for elders podcast honoring military veterans is sponsored by carriage. For more information about Careage, the website is Careage.com. Well, this is Chuck Almstead and I’m at Patriots landing and with me today is Ian Larson, and Ian is one of the residents here at Patriots landing and retired Colonel from the US army. I and welcome to answers for elders. Thank you. Well, we love doing these segments because we like to hear the stories of our veterans and I always like to start at the beginning because that’s always usually where a story starts. So did you grow up in this area? Are you originally from the Seattle Puget sound area or from somewhere else? No, and if you people are usually ask you know about my accent. I was born in the Philippines, in the Philippines, yes, and I grew up. Grew up there, spent my first fourteen years in the Philippines. Uh Huh, and I was born there in nineteen forty, January nineteen forty, just before the war. Wow, so you were in the Philippines during World Wars as a young child. Yes, what was that like? Well, I don’t remember very much because I was five when the war ended. MMM, I do remember one incident. I was two years old and we were having lunch and we were up in the mountains hiding out with the guerrillas. My Mother’s family was up there. Dad was interned as a prisoner by the Japanese. He was a civilian who worked as a mining engineer in the Philippines. Anyway, one day at lunch, heard some loud noise as an all of a sudden, explosions all over the place and the next thing I knew, somebody was picking me up and taking me off to a cave and in there, you know, women were crying and I couldn’t really, you know, understand what was going on except a lot of noise going on. Sure and yeah, so that I remember distinctly. Yeah, they otherwise not not very much. So. The Japanese would do some incursions up into the mountain areas where you were. They would, but they never could get there because we were so far up and so deep that the men would would would you, the give relis would keep them away and it was so far up there that they they focused the force of they had on protecting what was down in the lowlands. HMM HMM. So a lot of people don’t realize that the Philippines. There’s a lot of islands in the Philippines. Correct. Were you on one of the major islands or we were the island of Luzon, which is a, you know, the biggest northernmost island in the Philippines. And how long was Luz on occupied? Was that? Was that pretty much during the entire ward and are warm and really yeah, from nineteen well, Pearl Harbor in nineteen forty one. So by early nineteen forty two the Philippines was invaded and secured by the Japanese and from that point until the end of the war, nineteen forty five, it was occupied by the Japanese. Yeah, so you’re five years old in the war ends. What was that like? You remember that? What was it? What was the atmosphere like? I Remember Dad Coming Home Hu and he’d been a POW MMM for threesome, three plus years. Was He treated? Well, no, but he was treated. He was a civilian and he was, he said he was treated better than the soldiers that the Japanese had but nonetheless he came back weighing a hundred pounds a less than he did going in, because he said they suffered dysentery and Barry Barry and malaria and all kinds of you know, other diseases and obviously the Diet that they lived on was certainly didn’t help keep up the weight. Yeah, so the the the foot of the men that were in turn, they’re putting concentration camps. Was that in the Philippines or were they transported to other islands? Know, this was in the Philippines and they were held at along with many soldiers. was they removed around? They started out in a city called Baggio, which is where I was born, and then they were moved and eventually ended up at Santo Tomas University in Manila, and that’s where dad spent the majority of his time in concentration camp. MMM, yeah, so what happens after the war? What’s life like? I’m sure the islands somewhat trying to be rebuilt and, yeah, trying to go to school. Yeah, and afterwards dad worked as a mining engineer for a lot of for one of the US companies that mind for gold in the Philippines. Now, not one thing. That a lot of people don’t really lies is before the war, the Philippines was the second largest exporter of gold in the world, and so there are number of American firms that were there and he worked for one of them. Anyway, went back to his old job. And then, as far as schooling was concerned, you know, I went to a Philippines school and in the Philippines they have six grades of elementary as opposed to eight here in the US, and so six years of elementary then four years of high school. So I finished high school at Fourteen. I see. Yeah, yeah, so, and if I remember what you said earlier, you were in the Philippines about fourteen years and left after graduating high school. Pretty much did the family moved to the the US then they did? Yeah, we didn’t. Dad Settled in Seattle. He’s from Michigan but did not want to go back to the Cold Michigan winters. So blame him. Yeah. So, anyway, a friend of his, who would also was also with them in concentration camp, had come here originally in Sinn a bill, come on up here, you’ll like it in Seattle. So we did M and that’s where we ended up. Yeah, we came first dad and my younger brother and I came here first because it took a year for my mom, who was Spanish Filipino, to get a visa to come over, and so they joined us the following year, she and our youngest brother. So you’re in the Seattle in about nineteen fifty four, nineteen fifty five, fifty four? Yeah, may nineteen fifty four. Yeah, so you finished? Did you then have go back to school? But at that time, well, I tried to go to Seattle University and become a mechanical engineer like my dad. And so when I went over there and tried to enroll, a very nice fell I named Professor Harmon, took me under his wing and said I and probably the first thing we need to do with you is is get you some more edie, some more credits in English and math if you’re going to become an engineer. So what I did for the next two years was going to nice school and do just as he said, and then in nineteen fifty seven started full time at Seattle. You and interesting. So I’m trying to look at the progress here. So you’re getting into your late teens, early s and Vietnam starting to crank up in the early s so what happens in the early sixties for you? Well, in those days, if you’re eighteen and mail and able bodied, you had to take ROTC. If you’re in college, you had to take two years of our old TC, HM, basic, old CAC. So I did that and at the end of the two years my professor military science said just what you just what you said. The Vietnam I’m seating up and he said you’re going to be drafted and so maybe you want to think about going in as an officer. And so he recommended that I take two more years of our OLDTC, which I did, and then got a commission in the army after graduating. So where did your do your basic training? Well, I went to officer basic training as an infantry officer at Fort Benning in Georgia. HMM, yeah, a little bit warmer weather than Seattle quite. So. Yeah. So what year then did you end up going to Vietnam? Yeah, one, nineteen sixty one was when I graduated. MMM, my first assignment was with eighty two airborne at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. First I had to go to the basic infantry course for officer years and I also volunteered for airborne school and Ranger School, which I completed, and then served in eighty two for three plus years and then got assigned to Germany. But while there I volunteered for Vietnam, and this was in one thousand nine hundred and sixty six. So went to Vietnam for my first tour, sixty six through sixty seven, came back for a year and went back for a second tour. So sixty seven. Of course, I was twelve years old at the time. I still remember the Tet offensive, which was sixty seven. I believe sixty eight was at sixty eight. So first of I think first of February, Sixty. Yeah, so things were really heating up at that time. I just missed that because I had just come back from my first tour. And then you went back to the second and you did you on your own, decided to go back on the for the second? No, no, because by this time I, you know, decided I was I was going to stay in the army. I see. Yeah, so they, they, they gave you a return opportunity here return ticket. My first tour there I served as an advisor with a Vietnam’s army. I was an adviser to have Yenta’s Ranger Battalion. HMM. And then the second time I was with the US unit there was a hundred first airborne. Yeah, yeah. So how long then, on your second tour of duty, were you in Vietnam? One year, both, both both tours were one year tours. Yeah, yeah, after Vietnam, than what happens? Well, after Vietnam there was schooling and then, in fact the schooling was two years of graduate study at Georgia Tech, and the army was good enough to send me there. MMM. So I got a degree in computer science at Georgia Tech and from that point forward they rotate in my assignments so that on one assignment I would spend time in what they called my primary specialty, which was infantry, and then the next assignment would be normally a staff assignment that would use my alternate specialty, which was computer science. Yeah, so what’s a computers? I’m trying to think. Computer Science in the mid S was pretty rudimentary, I very, very from what we think about right now. It’s it was I hold more power in my smartphone and they had at Georgia tech in the great big room with the you know, with the mainframe computer. So what was that? What was the army doing with computers at that time? Was a more logistics kinds of things. That was probably the primary thing they did. But one of the things that I did after I graduated from Georgia Tech with I went to we were assigned to Fort Hood, Texas, and there I worked with an outfit called Masters. I forget what the acronym stands for, but basically a group that kind of looked ahead at the future, and one of the things we looked at while I was there was how to use computers for displaying tactical information on a screen, a large screen, that computer that commanders could look at and kind of see where units were, were were and using that to keep track the battlefield situation. So for two years we worked on that and course I mean light years ahead. You thinking about what’s going on now with drones and with automated warfare. It’s amazing, I’m sure you know, for you to see the beginning stages of that. So what’s going on now? Yeah, and again that was just so rude infantry that it just doesn’t compare with what we’re able to do today. Yeah, so how many more years than were you able to serve in the in the army? Well, I served thirty years in the army and then I retired here at Fort Louis. Uh Huh. And what was your final assignment at Fort Louis? I was a garrison commander. Here at Fort Louis, I see garrison commanders and I guess that they were known as the mayor of Fort Lewis. Interesting. So, after the army and retirement, did you head out into another vocation or when it was a time to relax? No, I couldn’t retire. Retire. Yeah, we just built a house in Olympia and so you know, the bills needed to get paid. Sure, so I ended up working at Fort Lewis as a civilian contractor. Uh Huh. I was going to take six months sabbatical if I did anything, but they called me up about a month after I’d retired from the army and said it, we got a project here we’d like you to work on based on your experience that would you come on? He’ll take about six months. Well, you know, the six months lasted eleven years with about when? Yeah. Well, I have not asked this question before someone, but you know, out of your thirty years of experience, could you say that there’s one of an experience that you had that you’re the most proud of? That you you said, you know, I this is something I want to hang my hat on. I’m pretty proud of this. Well, the reason I ended up staying in the army what I found that I love being with and and leading soldiers. And we were in Germany and I was fortunate enough to be selected for command and I commanded mechanized infantry battalion of about eight hundred young males, HMM, and commanded that unit for two and a half years and that was probably as good a time as I had both, you know, professionally and it was a good family time to because bomb older was a great isolated place, but if you were if you were there as permanent party, was very close knit. Yeah, so that’s what I’m proud ast of. I think is is the soldiers that I dealt with and I think hopefully I was able to influence a lot of young men, you know, were kind of on the fence when they had to decide what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives, and convinced that few of them to stay in the army. But you know, one of the things that I’ve learned as I’ve been we’ve been talking to veterans, is there was a lot going on, especially in Germany and obviously Vietnam, in the area of race relations. Yes, that that, you know, the army was dealing with even before some of the rest of the civilian population was, and so you you got to deal on the front lines of that. We did that battle, if you will, as well. What was that like? It was challenging and fortunately we had some good commanders above me that realizes that and and kind of kept it at the forefront of working on the issue, making sure that everybody was treated, you know, treated the same way. It didn’t matter what, what your color was. HMM. Yeah, now, because that, see, mixed in with this was also the fact that Vietnam had left the army, particularly in the lower ranking leadership positions and the e five position, the young sergeant positions, Brady pleaded, and we had to take the lessons from Vietnam and apply those to a way of training our young soldiers, corporals and sergeants, and teaching not be young leaders. So yeah, yeah, so what brought you here? To Patriots landing. Why did you choose to live here in this beautiful place? We looked around and and well, and look can probably as irroborate this, but we’d lived in this beautiful home on the water in Olympia for twenty six years, but it was reaching the point where, you know, just maintaining the the house was getting pretty hard and the fact that all our medical care with rank here at Madigan, Uh Huh, and so that traveling back and forth, that got a little old to so we decided, you know, here’s a place that’s close by, it’s from all that we’d heard about. It a really good place to come to. And so, yeah, after checking run a little bit, we decided yea, let’s do it. So here we are. Well, it’s a beautiful place. I just came from a meeting with General, former General Ken farmer, who’s the the CEO of carriage. Wonderful Man and great staff, and always enjoy coming here to Du Pont and visiting this facility because it’s a great staff, great people and the residents seem to really enjoy it. So very good. Yeah, we do well. Ian Larson, thank you very much for your service to our country and thank you for sharing your story with us here on interest for olders. Thank you. This has been a special honoring veterans. Presentation of answers for elders brought to you by Careage. For more information about carriage, the website is careage.com.
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Originally published April 14, 2018
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