Marine reservist called into active service for Korean War

Karl Roedel was still in high school in Jefferson City when local business owner and World War II fighter pilot Phil Dallmeyer convinced him to enlist in the Marine Corps Reserve in St. Louis. Dallmeyer explained to Roedel that it would be a good opportunity for him to earn some extra money while also serving his country.”I enlisted in an aviation squadron of the Marine Corps Reserves on March 12, 1950,” Roedel said. “There wasn’t any boot camp that I had to go through, but a few months later, the Korean War began, and I got called into active duty.”Entering active military service in August 1950, Roedel missed his senior year of high school after being sent to the Marine Corps Air Station at El Toro, California. For the next several weeks, he trained as an electronics supply clerk and was placed in charge of supplies for his company.Granted several days of leave to come home in November 1950, he married his fiancée, Jo Gipfert, and then returned to the air base on the West Coast. In late February 1951, while his former classmates were attending classes at Jefferson City Senior High School, Roedel was boarding a troop ship bound for service in the Korean War.”They sent me to an airbase known as ‘K-3,’ and I was with the First Marine Air Wing,” Roedel said. “I was in charge of keeping track of all the electronic equipment for our company but was later was given an additional type of duty to help with a problem that had developed.”The base, he explained, was located north of Pusan and, at that time, was badly in need of supplies. Roedel’s commanding officer told him and a handful of his fellow Marines to acquire whatever they could — and through whatever means necessary — to ensure they could continue their missions.”Logistics was a major problem for the Marine Corps from the outset,” wrote Kenneth W. Condit in an article appearing in the January 1953 issue of the Marine Corps Gazette. “In its solution the Marines have demonstrated versatility and adaptability to a great variety of conditions.”Condit added, “According to Marine Corps doctrine, all units were to have on hand a full initial allowance of supplies and equipment, and service units were to stock 30 days of replenishment supplies based on war time rates of expenditure. But these replenishment stocks, based on peacetime tables of organization, were pretty well depleted by the brigade, leaving slim pickings for the division units.”The young Roedel was one of a half-dozen Marines who made regular supply runs to a major logistics warehouse at Pusan to acquire supplies and transport them back to their air base.”We knew what ships were coming into the port, and we managed to get machine guns, clothes — anything that we could get our hands on without being caught,” he said. “It was really a free-for-all back then because the supply channels just weren’t in place or working well.”On one occasion, in dire need of reliable transportation for the Marines of the company, Roedel and his fellow Marines were able to stealthily remove a jeep from the Army warehouse in Pusan. Bringing the vehicle back to K-3, it was taken to the motor pool and repainted to appear as if it were a Marine Corps jeep.With the war surrounding them and Marine fighters departing the base for combat missions, Roedel and his fellow Marines often had to fend off attacks. On one occasion, Roedel was involved in the defense of the ammunition dump on base and was promoted to the rank of sergeant shortly thereafter.During one of their supply runs, Roedel said they managed to sneak away with an ice machine from the warehouse in Pusan, loaded it on their supply truck, and transported it to their air base. The machine, they thought, would provide a comfort item for their fellow Marines. However, its disappearance caused quite a stir.”It was the only ice machine in the country at that time, and they had a grand search for it,” Roedel said.He added with a chuckle, “We had to hide it in our ammo dump until the search had ended.”Returning to the U.S. in March 1952, Roedel received his release from active duty the following month. He then reunited with his wife in Jefferson City, with whom he went on to raise three children. In the fall of 1952, he re-enrolled at Jefferson City Senior High School to finish his senior year, graduating the following year.Using his military educational benefits, Roedel later graduated from Jefferson City Junior College. The Marine veteran eventually went to work for state government and retired as a chief fiscal officer with the Missouri Department of Economic Development.”I joined the Marines when I was 17 years old because Phil Dallmeyer and I were good friends and he convinced me it would be a good opportunity for me,” Roedel said. “And then the war broke out, and that’s how they got me!”With a grin, he added, “I was a bit of a greenhorn when I first joined, but after being sent to Korea and having to track down supplies … well, that was certainly something interesting to be involved in. But I am proud to have been a Marine and am grateful for the experience.”Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.   Karl Roedel was a junior at Jefferson City Senior High School when he joined the Marine Corps Reserve in the spring of 1950. Several weeks later, he was called to active duty and deployed in support of the Korean War. (Courtesy/Karl Roedel)   

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