EAST MOLINE, Ill. | Although he was a honor graduate in his Field Wireman course, Rock Falls native Bill Schlobohm didn't use those skills while stationed in Korea.
Then in his early 20s, Schlobohm had finished two years of junior college in Mason City and had planned to study civil engineering at Iowa State University, but the draft board had other ideas for him in August 1952.
After a 17-day ocean voyage on the USS Howell, Schlobohm was assigned to the Army's 424th Field Artillery Battalion's "Baker Battery." Schlobohm was drafted alongside Tom Waggoner of Mason City, who was assigned to the same unit but a different battery -- Waggoner, the Headquarters Battery and Schlobohm, the Baker Battery.
Schlobohm arrived in Korea late at night, and was asked if he'd eaten.
"They said, 'Get somebody out in the kitchen and feed these men,'" said Schlobohm, now 85. "The cook was frying eggs with a flashlight and dished them into our metal containers.
"Then they shoved us out of the tent and into the February weather and into the dark."
He chuckled as he recalled the first mouthful of the meal -- pure lard.
Schlobohm was assigned to the role of battery surveyor after an executive officer took note of his math expertise, college education and career goals.
In his role, Schlobohm computed how high guns needed to be raised and which direction they needed to point before firing. The 424th was an 8-inch howitzer artillery unit with 12 guns scattered in three to six locations north of the 38th parallel, he said, about 60 miles northeast of Seoul.
"We had maps and airplane observers, and the combination of those two allowed us to figure out the point where we wanted fire," Schlobohm said. Observers in airplanes at the scene would offer further modifications.
Schlobohm's battery was eventually divided and sent to two separate locations. His group had four men who rotated a nighttime shift, so one was always awake and ready to answer a phone or radio call for a mission, which typically involved harassing enemy artillery or closing tunnels where enemy guns were located.
Flying observers conducted daytime missions, he said.
He felt fairly safe while in Korea, but incoming Chinese artillery occurred regularly.
"I got combat pay for two or three months, but I never felt that I had been in any particular danger, although I could have been," Schlobohm said.
Only one man in Schlobohm's unit was wounded while he was in Korea, falling victim to shrapnel after running the wrong direction.
After the cease-fire, Schlobohm was moved south of the demilitarized zone. He sent photos of the hills and fall colors home to his mother, who answered saying how beautiful the hills looked.
"Needless to say, we were not thinking of the beautiful countryside," he said, noting the Army was "constantly on alert" in case fighting resumed.
The Ninth Corps Artillery would occasionally visit, timing how long it took for Schlobohm's unit to set all four guns on a particular target. Another time, dynamite was used to loosen the ground, which had frozen.
"These were just training exercises, but during the cold of winter, they were not appreciated," he said.
Schlobohm was in charge of three battery survey personnel during a battalion test during the winter.
"I did not have the opportunity to work with all three crews ahead of time," he said. "I had them measure the same course and averaged the result, and came in with coordinates that were near-perfect."
Schlobohm was later promoted to sergeant and named chief of detail, the third ranking non-commissioned officer in the battery.
He returned home in February 1954 and, instead of resuming his career plans in Ames, studied at the University of Dubuque.
Schlobohm became an ordained minister in 1959, serving a number of churches in Iowa and Illinois.
Although he has been retired for 20 years, Schlobohm still preaches occasionally, is a substitute Sunday School teacher and is involved in a Bible study.
Now living in East Moline, Ill., Schlobohm says he never felt upset about his service.
"I felt the Russians had to be stopped," he said.