Typhoon warning kept veteran from combatNovember 23, 2018
By LEANN BURKE
JASPER — Harold Erny of Jasper, 90, admits he teared up a bit during the Honor Flight homecoming celebration in Evansville earlier this month.
A Korean War veteran, Harold served in the U.S. Army from 1951 to 1953. A farm boy from Jasper, he was drafted into the Army at age 23, like just about every young man at the time, he said.
When he came home two years later, it wasn’t anything major. Other men his age did the same every day. On Honor Flights, however, the homecoming is a main focus, and for Erny, seeing his family among the massive crowd gathered at the Evansville Regional Airport to welcome him home tugged at his heart.
“It just about got you,” he said.
His wife of 65 years, Millie, explained: “At the time, you just came home, and people were glad you were back. Nobody made anything of it.”
Harold insists he didn’t do anything during his time in the service, comparing his years to those of his brothers — Robert, Richard, Vince and Sylvester — who also served, two in World War II, one on the ground in Korea, and one in Germany.
Still, he’s proud of his service.
As soon as he was drafted in 1951, he traveled to Indianapolis to be sworn in. Immediately after the ceremony, he was back on the troop train headed for basic training at Camp Pickett in Virginia. After training, Harold had a two-week train ride to Camp Irvine in the middle of the Mojave Desert in California. That train ride was the easiest part of his service, he said.
“We didn’t have to do anything except eat and sleep,” he recalled.
Once he got to California, Harold spent 17 months in the middle of the desert as part of the 325th Tank Battalion building the targets troops used for moving target practice. The targets were fixed to cars on a track that went around in the circle in the desert. The tanks shot 90mm tank rounds at the targets. When they hit, Harold said, you knew.
Millie is convinced that’s where he started to lose his hearing.
With seven months left in his service, Harold deployed to Camp Schimmelpfennig in Sendai, Japan, a trip that took two months by boat. Once he arrived in Japan, he trained for sea-to-land landings on an LST ship — the type of ship used in the invasion of Normandy in World War II. One end of an LST opens into the water, allowing tanks and troops to rush out and onto the beach.
“When that front end went in (to the water), you thought the whole thing was going to sink,” Harold recalled.
If not for a typhoon warning, Harold said, he would have been part of a beach landing in Korea. Instead, however, his ship received word that a typhoon was on the way and was sent to a shipyard where all the ships tied together to weather the storm. But the storm never came. The warning was canceled without any incident, but the weather fluke saved Harold from seeing combat.
A few months later, Harold returned to Jasper and to Millie. The couple met in 1948 at a dance at the Schnitzelbank Restaurant and were engaged when he was drafted. They decided to put their wedding on hold, instead exchanging vows when he returned home in 1953.
Now, the couple has seven children — Greg, Jeff, Marilyn Schepers, Edward, Charlotte Schepers, Allen, and Diane Gress — 14 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
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