WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A member of the Greatest Generation said he shared his story so that he could speak up for those who never came home and for those who have since passed away.
Robben Ledeker was in the middle of the war in the Pacific when he ran into two friends from his hometown.
When he told them he’d see them back home in Arkansas City, they replied that they wouldn’t make it out of the war alive.
Ledeker said that is when he knew just how gruesome war could be.
He said he proud to of done his part.
“I was a pretty good looking guy back in my time, wasn’t I?” WWII Veteran Robben Ledeker said.
Ledeker was barely 18 when he got his draft notice.
“This is medical service corp,” Ledeker said
Two months later he was in the Navy.
“I’ve never been assigned to a ship, so my career in the Navy has been a little weird,” Ledeker said.
Ledeker said his brother Bill was his biggest hero.
He was held as a prisoner of war, following his capture at the Battle of the Bulge.
“It showed that I was in the Asiatic Pacific,” Ledeker said.
He said Guadacanal was secured by the time he got there, but there were some scary nights.
“I said what in the world is that noise?” Ledeker said. “Oh, that’s Washing Machine Charlie, he’s coming over and he drops a bomb every evening, out in the jungle, then he flies back to wherever he come from,” Ledeker said.
He said the bombings eventually stopped.
“I’m not sure if Washing Machine Charlie got shot down, or ran out of bombs, or his old airplane gave up,” Ledeker said,
The corpsman continued to supply ships in the harbor with medical supplies.
“We were getting so far back from the front, that the ships had stopped coming in for medical supplies, they would go somewhere else,” Ledeker said.
He said that is when they were told to load it all up.
“We worked three days and three nights without any sleep, but we got it done,” Ledeker said.
The men weren’t done in war, Ledeker was then assigned a ship for the invasion of Japan.
“I’d had amphibious training, and I knew right where I was going, is the front,” Ledeker said.
He said then everything changed.
“If Truman, God bless him, hadn’t dropped those bombs, I probably wouldn’t be here today,” Ledeker said.
He said he’ll never forget the war-ridden ship they made the journey home on.
“It had a great big crack, in the bow of the ship, but anyway we made it home,” Ledeker said.
He said he was on the bow of the ship and was the first under the Golden Gate Bridge.
“I remember, I got off the ship and kissed the ground,” Ledeker said.
He said the sailors then went on a very important mission.
“We went to a restaurant and ordered a glass of milk, fresh milk, (crying) because we hadn’t had anything but powdered milk since we were gone, then I called home,” Ledeker said.
He said when he returned to Arkansas City they took a special picture.
“This was a picture taken after WWII,” Ledeker said.
It was captured after the classmates, made it back safely.
“That guys name’s Jim Heck, Bob Beck,” Ledeker said. “I just don’t loan that out to anybody.”
He’s proud of his generation.
“We stand up and do what we’ve got to do,” Ledeker said.
He said he and his hero brother came from a long line of service dating back to the Civil War, and that legacy continues.
One grandson is a Marine, another served in the Army, and Ledeker was part of his great-great grandson’s Turning Blue Ceremony.
“It’s a great honor, and a privilege and to do it with my great grandson,” Ledeker said.
The corpsman even tried on his great grandson’s beret, and said that was a first.
It was probably the first time for his great grandson to wear a Navy cap, especially like the one he had as a young man more than seven decades ago.
Ledeker climbed rank quickly while in the Navy, and in order to keep that he entered the reserves after WWII.
He was called back for the Korean War and finished his service working at a center designed for amputees in Oakland.