Testimonies from the Midwest

 

Staff Sergeant Keith Christensen, 14th Armored Division

          n WW II photo, Keith is on the left; his driver on the right          In Korea photo, Keith is in the middle between his pups         Photo of Keith Christensen

In WW II photo, Keith is on the left; his driver on the right. (Contrary to appearances Keith did come home in one piece.) In Korea photo, Keith is in the middle between his pups. (See Postscript)

 

Keith Christensen was born on September 21, 1920, at Buffalo, North Dakota.  Although he hails from North Dakota,  Keith  moved to Rapid City, South Dakota, in 1962, and calls it his home, thus his service record is included in this project. The following is his story, told in his own words.

Service Record: I was inducted into the service on October 20, 1942. I completed basic training at Camp White, Oregon; then I started my Army Specialized Training Program at U of C, Berkley, from June through December of 1943. Then at Camp Roberts in California, I joined the 89th  Chemical Battalion, which had the 4.2 mortars. From there I  left the 89th to join the 201st Infantry doing ration and clothing tests at Fort Carson, Colorado. I was sent unassigned overseas from Camp Shanks in New York in October of 1944. In the ETO  I joined the 19th AIB, 14 Armored, Co. C, in November of 1944. I was wounded in action on January 12, 1945, at Hatten, during the third day of battle there. I was sent to the 21st General Hospital in France to recover and came back to my unit in February of 1945. After the war I left the 14th Armored and went to Co. G, 157th, 45th Division, headed for Japan. With the war over, I arrived home in September of 1945 and was discharged November 12, 1945. I took a direct commission in 1949 and was recalled to Korea, where I was stationed in August of 1951, Co. G., 24th Infantry, and with Co. D., 27th Infantry at Koji Do from December 1951 to February 1952.  I stayed in USAR (active reserve) and retired as an 04-Major Infantry in September of 1974.

Camp Encounter: Elements of the 157th Infantry, 45 Division took Dachau. We (19th AIB, 14th Armored) were only 4 kilometers away when ordered south. I regret that I did not see Dachau.  We (19th) liberated Hammelberg in mid-April. All prisoners were POWs: US, French, Russian, Serb, etc. Patton's son-in-law, LCL Waters, was there. Elements of the 14th Armored liberated Moosberg on Austrian border. All POWs: mostly US AAC shot down fliers.

Quoted from Keith’s book: “Into Hammelburg. Such rejoicing. Smiles. Hugs! Tears! One felt a bit embarrassed. But some of these men had been POW’s for years. They were wounded GIs and the wounded son-in-law of General Patton was there. Our saved, but less desirable ration cigarettes went in a hurry. In fact, it dawned on me later in the day that I was nearly out of some for myself. Also, our rations went fast. We were glad to give. These guys were certainly deserving to any and everything we had. This short episode taught me that the basic values in life are really what life is all about. Oh, what we take for granted in these great United States. “

In Korea from December to February at Koji D, where there were POWs only: NFK and Chinese, 75-100,000. A real mess. DP's (slave labor) were a real problem after WW II. Our State Department's handling is the basic reason for our world-wide mess today.

 Awards: I was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, Commendation and Good Conduct Medals, two CIBs (Combat Infantry Badges) for WW II and Korea, Expert Infantry Badge, various Theater Ribbons, General Service Ribbons. I am waiting on the new Korean medal.

 

After the War: I took a direct commission after WW II. I was recalled into Korean service on October 6, 1950. I separated March 1, 1952 and returned to school. I was then a federal investigator for the CSC until 1957 when I started teaching. In 1962, I moved to Rapid City and worked as a full-time counselor. I retired as a Major, Inf., USA in Sept. of 1974 and from Rapid City Public Schools in 1985. In  1985 I began my autobiography: Hero for a Day, which is about ready as of January 2001. I married in 1947 and have three children.

 

Advice from a WW II Veteran to Today's Youth:

Freedom is not always free. Don't take freedom you have here in these great United States for granted. Be careful of what you see and hear. Let your heart judge by what was done not said.

Allied prisoners in the Hammelburg POW camp, greet their American liberators, who are from the 14th Armored Division

Allied prisoners in the Hammelburg POW camp, greet their American liberators, who are from the 14th Armored Division; photo courtesy USHMM

Stalag VIIA at Moosburg in Bavaria

Stalag VIIA at Moosburg in Bavaria; photo courtesy of  http://www.moosburg.org/info/stalag/bilder.html

 

http://www.geocities.com/MotorCity/8418/us14ad.htm

 

Postscr

 

Postscript: “Dog Tales”

Whenever or wherever armies stop, the animals showed up. I had dogs twice in the service. One while at Camp White, Oregon, after basic training and one in Korea. Both were full blooded German shepherds and both were females. So I also had a batch of puppies from each dog. In each case, I named my friend, Lady. And they were.

WWII:

The Camp White Lady had her pups in the platoon sergeant’s private room. He was unhappy about our choice of birthing rooms but left quickly after we agreed to clean up any mess. We put Lady and her family in the furnace room. She was busy and guarded the pups until their eyes opened. Then she welcomed a break in her daily routine. She would accept the dirtiest, unknown enlisted man as a playmate for her pups but not any officer. Anyone with an insignia was definitely not welcome. I had to leave as I was transferred. I gave a pup to each of the CO’s and I believe Lady and one pup stayed with the company.

Korea:

Where Lady #2 came from I don’t know.  She showed up one day when we were back in reserve. Someone knew that the CO of the 35th Regiment had a German shepherd—a male. So a marriage was arranged and blessed. Lady’s pups were born in late ’51. They were nearly weaned, ready to go, when orders for Koji Do came before X-mas of ’51. She had six pups and one, I named him Elmer, was the biggest and most saucy of the bunch. You never knew what he would do.

Orders finally came for the move to Koji Do, an island near Pusan in southern Korea, which had been a former leper colony but was then a POW camp for North Koreans and Chinese POWs. I had to take Lady and the pups with me. This meant that every thing I owned and had to move would have to be handled three times: myself, gear, Lady, pups. I secured an old mummy bag for the pups. Lady was such a sweetheart, minded perfectly. In fact I believe she could read my mind! The day came! I loaded my gear, Lady, the pups with plenty of help. The CO’s silence I accepted as approval.

At Inchon the Landing Craft Infantry were waiting. Three trips from shore to craft with gear, Lady, and pups. I was pooped myself. Standing on the gang plank were the ship’s CO, my CO, and the first mate. Up I went with my gear, followed directions to assigned state room. Then back for Lady. Put Lady with my gear, then back for the pups. I stuffed them into the bag and hopefully approached the three top officers watching the loading. I had noticed some cold stares on two of the faces when I carried Lady up the second trip. Up I came. The pups were fighting and struggling—pure commotion. Just as I reached the three in command, Elmer worked himself free, out came his head, and several loud “Arf-Arfs.” I took off. Within minutes, I was ordered to report to my CO. I could see that he was mad. I saluted and he didn’t put me at ease. It was short. “Lieutentant, why didn’t you clear those dogs with me?” I said, “Sir, what if you had said no?” A pause…”Get out of here.” I saluted and left. I was only at Koji Do a little over a month when I received orders to return to the Zone of Interior, then USA, then home. Once again I gave one pup to each of the companies. Lady and Elmer stayed with D Company, 27th Infantry Regiment.

 

Lady #2 and pups on the USS Henrico en route from Inchon to Koji Do; photo courtesy of Keith Christensen

Lady #2 and pups on the USS Henrico en route from Inchon to Koji Do; photo courtesy of Keith Christensen