By Jennifer Martin - email
"I went to Mississippi State in 1938 and entered the ROTC program and I liked the military and I thought I would like to pursue that as a course," Gus Heilbronner recalled.
Heilbronner graduated in 1942 then went on to West Point. World War II was underway.
"I went to Ft. Sill, OK, to go through the basic course in artillary school. To prepare for the invasion of Japan. Of course, while we were there, the 2nd of September, the war ended in Japan," Heilbronner said.
He would go on to serve in Japan for 30months after the war ended. When he came back, he married his childhood sweetheart. He was stationed at Ft. Riley, Kansas, before the Army sent him to Korea with the 8th Field Artillery in August 1950.
"During the time I was in Korea, I served initially as a reconnaissance officer in the battery. A forward observer with the infantry. I was promoted to captain in October of 1950," Heilbronner added.
"I initially went into Korea in the Puscon perimeter which was down south and of course we pushed up north. As a forward observer, you're with an infantry unit and you provide the field artillery covering fires for their movement. It's not very pleasant staying on top of the hill and getting shot at and everything like that. But I survived and was luckily. I spent 16 months in Korea. I was never wounded,"Heilbronner said.
"I guess my most memorable occasion was in November of 1950 after Chinese had come into the war. We were pushing north. We didn't have any cold weather clothes. I wrote my wife on a piece of toilet paper. Told her I was cold but I was ok. But we were gathered in a circle to get our mail and an incoming mortar round lit in the center of the circle. That mortar round was a dud. It did not go off. If it had gone off, I'd have been wounded or I'd be dead," Heilbronner recalled.
"Later on, I became a battery commander. C battery. And stayed in that job until I came home," Heilbronner said.
Heilbronner took part in 6 campaigns in Korea and earned three Bronze Stars for valor before leaving in November 1951.
He went back to Fort Sill, and served as Battalion Commander at the training Center. He went on to work at the Pentagon, in Logistics. He also spent three years in Panama and three years at West Point before heading to Vietnam.
"In Vietnam, I never had any actual combat. I was a desk soldier so to speak. I went over to be the G4, which was the logistician. By the time I arrived, the commanded had been changed and they had a full col in that position," Heilbronner said.
He worked in supply distribution, never knowing what was inside the boxes he was shipping out. He stayed in Vietnam just shy of a year.
In 1966, he came back to the states. He worked at the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. Then went on to Ft. Polk, where he retired in January 1973.
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