Veterans Interview: Dennis Boyd talks with Major General John Hemphill at Patriot’s Landing in DuPont, Washington. After graduating from West Point, he served 34 years in the U.S. Army, and was awarded two Purple Hearts during the Korean War.
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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.
And now back to answers for elders as we honor our military veterans. Careage is the proud sponsor of our Veterans segment posted by former C L Seahawk Dennis Boyd. Hi. This is Dennis Boyd with answers for elders, and today we’re here in Dupont Washington talking to Major General John Hemphill. Major General, thank you very much. Appreciate you joining us on my play. Sure to be here. General, I’m going to let you kind of give us a tour of your career with the with the military and how you get started. Well, I started in junior ROTC in Boise high school. My father and uncle had been there before that and that I was there in junior high school. Actually had an entered the ROTC when World War Two started, so I went on the ROTC. The national guarders federalized, so I also anticipated in the state guard as long as they had that there, and that was my start. But having that ice guests army orientation, I so admired the paratroopers and those d day that decide to be one and I thought the goal of the way to get there was to get into West Point. I started out two quarters at Michigan State. I got to take the exam for a West Point but I didn’t have an appointment. I decided, well, I’ve found out you go in the army. There’s a prep school they’d started for West Point. Join the army and go there. So I went home and I’m fifteen. In June I got a letter in the mail that said that another congressman and Idaho. Now I had a vacancy and I was offered the vacancy. So I arrived at West Point on one July, one thousand nine hundred forty seven to begin my time with the army. So what was the the atmosphere like it West Point? I mean obviously World War Two, it just wrapped up and I don’t know if Korea was even on the horizon yet. Well, the atmosphere back in it started in Michigan State when I went in there as an eighteen year old as football player and I was playing out there in the field with those guys. He’s played for the air forces, something like that. They were twenty six years old at the Gi Bill. I’m eighteen years old and wondering when I’m going to the little scholarship I had how he is going to survive the next month, and so that really set me on that. I was I was going to go in the army period and on that. And I guess at West Point you were you were constantly the education and so on as well. I’m very proud of my west point class. There was we came in, there was four hundred and seventy eight of this. Now they have, you know, a thousand east one of the classes. No, we actually start out eight hundred and eight hundred and fifty and we graduated four hundred and seventy eight the time came. We had a couple of them that were had already been the combat and World War. We had a lot that had been in this one of the services before that time and I was probably agewise and set to right in the middle. The discipline was no problem for me. I enjoyed the discipline. I think the having been in Michigan State and saw the what the way they they gave classes in there and west point it was much better. You had an instructor for every twelve students at Michigan State. You sometimes in class you saw many a graduate student and the education system, education where it was tremendous. I had no problem list in their fact I’m one of the few members that go through there. Never had a punishment to her and it’s just a matter if you know. I said, well, I didn’t get caught, but also I have no problem living a discipline life. So from your graduation at West Point, you receive your commission. Yes, I chose it. I will I was an infantry in from the beginning. That’s not it. And so when time came, I chose the infantry and I chose to be a paratrooper. And so my first choice of that was to go to the eleventh airborne division Fort Camel, Kentucky. So when I graduate in fifty one, my next stop was down at Fort Betting for the infantry school and then I joined the Eleventh Airborne Division, which at that time the Korean War was going on. I was surprised it just didn’t send me on over. But that was a general reserve and you had to serve so long. Well, that was to my advantage because I came in there and they had all those great World War Two experience and Korean War experience, noncommissioned officers. That taught me what I needed to know, and I also I had a girlfriend at that time that I’ve been married to for sixty five years now, and so she didn’t make any difference to her that I was going off the war. So two months before I left to go to the Korean War we were married and I went to on the Korean War. Arrived over in Japan at the end of September a fifty two left there and joined the seven fifty division in October and served there in the that time. Sent me and a second lieutenant, but tune leader Short tour to company executive officer and as a second lieutenant I was made a company commander of company I, the thirty one infantry. Now my classmates were in the same way. Of course. I’m so proud of him that, because they came over premier in the infantry and the and the engineers and they were before they went. Most of them had been been company commanders of infantry companies in combat. I lasted there for a while. Got Got caught up in the pork shop, meet Grinder, shall we say. That was very interesting place. I can tell you that there’s a very small place but in one hour one time we got forded out rounds of artillery and and mortar pounded on us. My first purple heart there and then, after getting dusted off and sent back in, I got another purple heart few months later and another little fight just ways from from port shop and spend some time in the hospital. Got On the hospital and they told me, well, we’ll let you, we’re going to reassign you in Japan and I asked him when can I bring my wife over and they said well, for a lieutenant it’s three years. I said that’s no way and I talked to captain name of Johnson, who surgeon, and talked to him in to let me go back to the line. So I went back and join my unit and was supposed to come home and July of one thousand nine hundred and fifty two, but I got transferred back to the division headquarters, which change my status, but I so I spent three months there, but I had a really vanished to that and that I got to go into a meet the three thousand five hundred of our prisoners who came back and that was an interesting experience. And for you that don’t remember those days, there’s very about communist brainwashing. Communist brainwashing and those that came back. They were suspect, all of them, and I had the pleasure of meeting them as they would come in from brought in by ambulance. Of them, well, some of them had to be carried in. There’s generally walk in, etcetera, and we would my job was to meet them and say we’re glad to have you back and to offer from coffee and ice cream, and we’d sit there and enjoy things and then they go on and get their physical and have something to eat and then we’d meet them afterwards and then they would be flown by Marine Corps helicopter on down him too, to Seoul. I met different people there. I remember one of them mess sergeants, came in. He and I sat there and need the I hate the ice cream. I’m I’m a great ice cream fem. He I don’t how many cups of coffee he dragged they came after his sergeants so and so come. Oh, I haven’t had a good cup of coffee in three years. Leave me alone, I want to work coffee. Well, he served later with me them as mess sergeant in the regiment of combat team up for Devan’s. I had a couple of other people that came through that I served later with. We’re just broken, just broken. One was the West Pointer. I’ll just say this that he went served with me up at Fort Devan’s and he went down to the dance course at Benning and he went to parachute school and he tried not to hook his parachute up. Was He going out and he just lost in. The last time I was track of him, he changed his name. We have lieutenant curl came through that was broken like that. And then I had a guy I met coming through and I saw later served the Pentagon named Tommy Trexler. Hey, Tommy something. He trough not excellent individual to work with, spark and you know, really somebody that worked hard with you and he, I guess he escaped three times and he said problem out there that when you’re escape out there and you’re trying to ground it, you don’t blend into well with the native population. But there was like that. And I had A in my company was cottony commander there at Fort Devens. I had a an individual whose name was skipper and there was one of the turn twenty one that didn’t come back, name as skinner and unfortunately, in the interrogation they gave to those people coming back on the ship, you know, they had interrogators on the ships talking to him and his name got mixed up and I know for a while he was with us. What we had send him down to Boston because in federal court, you know, in court until he can, Leary’s named Exeter. I think he left the army after that. So we had some of that and what it really turned out was like in this civil war, the federal prison camp they had down in Georgia where there’s some bullies and there were some bullies, and then in the prisoners system of it. Not many. I got back to season of Mother’s was one individual came to was a captain faking he needed to cane. Now his cane was hollow dot and he had what records that he keep in that cane. And so when I think back hard, I’m sorry, ID print it some mere church why I you. You were the first, probably said of eyes, US eyes that were sitting on it as they were came across the border and to see their their reaction was it. I mean it’s Gott. He’s almost a disorientating for them to come from the conditions that they’re only. We saw him afterwards. Everybody was joyous and happy and yeah, and there was some and some that just reluctant standing around, etc. I will say this that, you know, I had a we had a French lieutenant to French sergeant come back and there was a French officer there. I think he was a lieutenant current, I don’t recall. And those two when they came out at Colonel Give them a kiss on each cheek, pinned two medals on him and gave him a bottle of champagne. And that’s the way to greet your perches coming back. General, can you one of the ways that we like to wrap up these conversations is kind of the the best of times in the most challenging of times during your career? I think the most challenging times my career was during the pork Shop Hill era. I just talked about that type of thing. That was the most challenging time. I think the most fun time the life is to, you know, have a family and the I married a pretty little girl. She was twenty and we adored next month to use twenty one. We had a family of five daughters out of that we had twelve grandchildren. Eight of my boys, five are in the armies fifty today doing what I did, three of my majors, two sergeants, and see that and say hey, hey, that’s it, and to have that young lady join me and follow me, that that lady survived that time with me, and that’s sixty five years later. I can stay back. I love you. General. First of all, thank you for your service and thank you for what you’ve done for this country. This has been a special honoring veterans. Presentation of answers for elders brought to you by Careage. For more information about Careage, the website is Careage.com.
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