Pollard recalls Signal Corps experience

T-R PHOTO BY CHUCK FRIEND Marshalltown resident and architect John Pollard recalls his days during the Korean War as a member of the Radio Relay company that was responsible for erecting radio relay towers and antennas in the area of Japan and Honshu.

Editor’s note: This is the latest in an ongoing series of articles profiling those who have ever served in the U.S. military, be it overseas or stateside. Every Thursday, a new profile will be published in the T-R.

Being a member of a signal corps unit during the Korean War had a lot of interesting twists and turns for 84-year old Marshalltown resident John Pollard.

Pollard, a native of Fort Dodge, was with the 8037th Radio Relay Company based at Camp Fuchinobi in Japan. However his stint of 18 months took him from Okinawa to Formosa (Taiwan), Pusan, Yokohama and Honshu erecting radio towers and installing antennas.

“These towers could range from 60 to 300 feet high,” Pollard said, “I wasn’t afraid of the heights, but still you had to get into a rhythm going up and even more so coming down while carrying tools. The winds bothered me the most.”

He also noted that one wanted to make sure the radio unit was shut down during repairs, as he and the others in his company often suffered RF burns if the unit was live.

His military experience began Nov. 23, 1952 when almost every boy in his class at Fort Dodge High School was drafted and taken to Des Moines for testing. From there it was off to Camp Crowder, Mo., just before Thanksgiving.

“Things did not start off the best for me. I got into an argument with a corporal and was sent under the mess hall to clean out a grease trap that I don’t think was cleaned out for years,” Pollard laughed.

He was then assigned to a group that headed for San Luis Obispo, Calif., for Basic Infantry Training and Rifle Marksmanship. “They found out I was a good marksman with the M1, so they let me try out the Browning automatic rifle,” Pollard said. “The only problem with that was that it weighed 22 pounds loaded.”

To this day, Pollard still enjoys target shooting and long range rifle shooting.

While in San Francisco, Pollard continued training in map reading, engine repair and learning to climb wooden poles to install the antennas for the VHF radio receivers. After a short leave, he was sent to Camp Stulman for preparation for embarkation to Korea and Japan. It was there Pollard became a full-fledged Private First Class.

Traveling on the ferry the General Mann, Pollard recalls many cases of sea sickness and that all of their military records were lost when the boxes they were in fell overboard.

In 1954, Pollard retired from military life.

“We had received rumors from some of our ‘spook’ friends that the Vietnam conflict was brewing and that was the reason the military wanted the ‘smart people’ to stay in,” he said. “They were offering us one-, two- and four- year tours and were going to send us to camp Gordon, Ga, where the officers would come out as Second Lieutenants. I did not accept their offer and ended with the rank of Corporal.”

Pollard said it was an interesting adventure for him, especially seeing the aftermath of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and of World War II. He tells of seeing the outline of people burned into a retaining wall when the blast went off

“I enjoyed and dis-enjoyed military life. It taught you to take commands and how to give your all. However if we were not in it to win it, what were we doing there?”

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Do you know a military veteran who should be profiled? Send your suggestions to Editor Jeff Hutton at: jhutton@timesrepublican.com or contact American Legion Post 46 Commander Randy Kessler at: iapost46commander@gmail.com