February 21, 2011
John Lane, a resident at the Missouri Veterans Home in Warrensburg, could have gotten a deferment to keep him out of Korea. However, he decided against that.
He was working on a farm in Malta Bend, when he got his draft notice at the age of 22. He was one of nine children. His brothers were of the wrong age to go into the service.
“Mom didn’t like it, but I wanted to go,” he said. “I was a poor kid on the farm. I really enjoyed it (my service). I saw a lot of places I’d never seen before I got drafted.”
He was sent to Fort Hood, Texas, for 14 weeks of basic training. Then he went to radio school at Camp Chaffee, Arkansas. The men had to send and receive 18 words a minute to pass the school. Lane could only do 12, so he flunked out.
“Of course, when you flunk out of school, you go to Korea,” he said.
He was put with the 92nd Engineer Searchlight Company that was attached to an artillery group. His crew were sent ahead of the front lines.
The lights were used to show where the enemy was in the darkness.
“We would move up to places and shine the lights on the front line while they were fighting and everything,” he said.
Each light had a positive and a negative carbon. As soon as the light went out, the men had 13 seconds to change that carbon.
“They claimed they (the enemy) couldn’t detect where you were at until the beam went down,” he said.
Between 18 to 20 men were in his platoon and they were isolated and self-supportive. They slept wherever they could including in old bunkers, trucks and foxholes. They were stationed by the Punchbowl, a circular, mountain-rimmed valley in South Korea. He survived off food rations and usually ate once a day. His favorite meal was beans and wieners.
Three men were needed to run a searchlight.
“Whenever you’d hit a high spot, the artillery would start coming in, then they’d start shooting back at you and you’d know you done some good,” he said. “But if they didn’t fire back at you, then you know you didn’t do any good.”
Lane wasn’t in any hand-to-hand combat during his service, but he used a 50-caliber machine gun quite often. The thing he had to watch for was the artillery coming in while he was at the light.
He enjoyed receiving letters from his mother and sisters while he was overseas. He wrote letters to his parents a lot.
He was discharged from the service in April 1953.
“I’m glad we’ve got our freedom. A lot of boys faced the supreme sacrifice. They got wounded real bad. I’m just tickled to death to be able to go and serve my country,” he said.