MARION, Kan. (KSNW) – A Marion native said he saw many things others never will forget from the highest points in Korea.
Korean War Veteran Bob Reinke was just one week shy of his junior year of college when he was drafted. In no time, he was serving in Korea.
“I didn’t think I was going to be quite as involved in it as quick as I was.”
Reinke ended up in Officer Candidate School or OCS. He said he was first trained as an engineer to build bridges, roads and run heavy equipment.
Then, he was sent to topography school. Reinke still has the dog tags he wore as an officer.
“They just become part of your body.”
He was a long way from home.
“The 38th parallel runs right through the state of Kansas. There it is.”
He said he always felt guilty he didn’t see direct combat, like many others.
“They really put in a war. I mean, that was severe, extremely severe.”
Base camp for Reinke was just a quarter-mile from the main line of resistance or MLR.
“I got shot up on a number of occasions with artillery, but I didn’t have to look down the end of a Chinese rifle.”
He lived in what he described as a “sandbag castle.” So they spent a lot of time looking for survey monuments.
“They were always the highest point, along the MLR, because you always wanted the highest point to look out.”
He said the enemy was always presenting challenges along the way.
“The Chinese would throw three or four rounds in at us.”
He said that wouldn’t go on long.
“Instead of four or five, we’d fire back a hundred or so rounds.”
Reinke was leading a survey platoon of 20 guys, and most of them had engineering backgrounds.
“We made a lot of maps with exact elevations and whatnot.”
They were updating maps that dated back to 1925. While making the new maps, the Chinese had to use instruments made by a neutral country.
Reinke said the guys felt like they really pulled one over on them since the tripods were typically set up higher for his guys. He said the Chinese they worked with were much shorter, so they told them to bring a box to stand on. He said they didn’t catch on at first.
“They should have said lower the tripod, but they weren’t going to let us know we caught them.”
He remembers landing on the beach in a C-47 for one special mission.
“Here’s where we were trying to find the survey control.”
His small team was surveying three small islands, just seven miles off the coast of North Korea. He said at first he never understood the United States’ interest there.
“They were wanting to use this as a control point for the bombing.”
He said the military was moving to drop bombs by coordinates.
“More of a precision bombing, so it was kind of a lead-in to GPS.”
He said they were always so close to the action.
“Watched a couple of planes get shot down, making strafing runs, and everything.”
One plane that was shot down belonged to a fellow Kansan.
“Now, there is Alex’s plane scooting down the runway.”
The plane belonged to Reinke’s good friend.
“There’s the plane. They got the wheels back up.”
The two were sons of WWI heroes, and Reinke’s friend was an experienced Navy pilot.
“He made such a perfect belly landing that the Navy came in and put a new prop on and a few things underneath the plane,” Reinke said. “They ended up flying the plane back out.”
Reinke said he had so many experiences while serving that he chose to get into the Reserves. He said there were other incentives to join.
“That would keep me in, beer money.”
He said he will always have admiration for the Koreans they helped.
“They still remember us as pulling them out of a bad situation.”
The small field edits they made to antiquated maps along the way contributed to history in a big way.
“A lot of bad maps cause a lot of bad deals.”
Although Reinke said he had no idea that’s what he would end up doing during the war, he said that experience went on to shape the rest of his career.
“I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. I’d gladly go again.”
He said he has no regrets, but he was still glad to get home.
“Glad to get back in the groove.”
Reinke went back to college at K-State when he returned, and that’s where he met his wife. He got his degree in geology, but he said at that time oil was $2.65 a barrel, so he ended up going to work for Armco Steel.
He said the training and education he received, thanks to his time as an officer in the military, sure came in handy.
He said he got together with some of the guys from OCS class years ago, and they had a great reunion.