Military Order of the Purple Heart

Texas Capital Chapter 1919 Austin, Texas

 

HAROLD WEEDEN

 

1933 - 2015

 


187th AIRBORNE

REGIMENTAL COMBAT TEAM

SHOULDER PATCH

187th AbnRCT EMBLEM ON REGIMENTAL COLORS

MOTTO: “NE DESIT VIRTUS”

LET VALOR NOT FAIL


HAROLD WEEDEN

Patriot, Chapter 1919

 Army, Korea

 

Harold Weeden was born in Van Zandt County, Texas in 1933.  When he was a small child, his family moved from the farm into the town of Terrell in Kaufman County.  His family was musically talented and as he grew up he naturally took to picking guitar and learning songs his father taught him; but his father died when Harold was thirteen years old.  When he was a tenth grader at Terrell High School and had just made first-string running back on the football team, Harold, the youngest and only child still living at home, had to drop out of school and go to work to support his mother and himself.  His siblings, although young adults out on their own, were themselves struggling and unable to help.  He and his mother moved from Terrell to Houston to be near Harold’s older brother, and then his mother died when he was seventeen.  His brother had served an enlistment in the Army and had a good experience, so he recommended to Harold that he go into the Army as well.

 

Shortly after he was eighteen, Harold Weeden took a three year enlistment, signing-up for the paratroopers.  He was sworn in at the train station in Houston on October 9, 1951 and sent to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio for some initial processing before being sent on to Fort Riley, Kansas for his 16-weeks of Basic Training.  Harold says, “That training in Kansas was good preparation for Korea because we were outside all the time, exposed to the weather, and Kansas was really cold in the winter.”  Then in March 1952, he was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia to the Infantry School where he graduated from the basic Airborne training course in June.  Immediately after his fifth and qualifying parachute jump, Harold departed that same day on orders for Korea.

 

He shipped from the United States on the troopship, MARINE LYNX, arrived in Japan in June and then was sent to the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team on Koje-do Island where the North Korean POW mutiny had just been put down. Harold and other new replacement paratroopers unpacked new  M-1 rifles, cleaned off the cosmoline, and got them ready for use. Taken out to the rifle range, farm boy Harold, who had grown up with a .22 rifle in his hand, attracted notice of the cadre when he put every round through the bulls-eye of the 500-yard target.  So, he was issued a 1903 Springfield with scope and told that he was henceforth a sniper.

 

Harold Weeden, with five other replacements also destined for Company G, 2nd Bn, 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team, were sent over from Koje-do across to mainland Korea on an LST where eventually they reported in to the First Sergeant.  The headquarters tent of Company G was set up in a muddy area, so as Harold prepared to report in, he first found a dry spot and leaned his sniper rifle up against the wall.  Then when he went in to the First Sergeant he was asked what he could do and Harold replied that he was a machine gunner.  Today, Harold says, “The First Sergeant said, “good we need a machine gunner,” and I was instantly sent off and taken in charge by the Weapons Platoon.  As far as I know, that scope mounted Springfield ’03 is still in Korea leaning up against the wall.”

 

After he arrived, Harold’s unit was at Taegu where they made several training parachute jumps, conducted forced marches and other training, then went up into the line.

 

Three months after Harold reached Korea, the 187th Airborne was deployed in sector with Company G occupying a combat outpost on a hill about 1,000 yards forward of the Main Line of Resistance.  It was September 21, 1952 and Harold’s three-man team had just been sent even further forward of Co G’s advanced position. Under observation and in range of enemy fire, the three were hurriedly digging-in to create some cover for themselves when hit by a 76mm recoilless rifle.

Harold Weeden was severely wounded with shrapnel in his abdomen, left arm and left thigh.

 

Harold says, “A lot of people saw what had just happened when we were hit and a jeep came forward and carried me out, even though it had to traverse a lot of ground fully exposed to the enemy. The men on that jeep were awarded the Silver Star for what they did in rescuing me. After I was back to relative safety a medevac mission was called in and I was strapped down into an external litter on an H-13 Bell helicopter and flown back to a hospital.  That flight must have looked like a scene from an episode of the television series, MASH. I was operated on in that surgical hospital, but they didn’t get all the metal fragments out of me.  After ten days I had to be medically evacuated back to Japan, to Yokohama Hospital.

 

I had been under medical care for ten days already but that didn’t make any difference when I got to Yokohama. As soon as I arrived a couple of very determined Japanese nurses took charge and proceeded to thoroughly scrub me clean, from head to foot.  I was a paratrooper, but I was still only an 18 year-old, and in addition to the physical pain that was an embarrassing experience for me, a real shock to the sensibilities.

 

Harold would be in the hospital for three months before he was well enough to return to his unit.  Meanwhile, the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team had been pulled out of Korea in October 1952 and returned to their home base in Japan, Camp Chicamagua on Kyushu Island, where they reconstituted the strategic reserve force for the Pacific.  Harold arrived back with his unit in December, just before Christmas, and he was made Assistant Supply Sergeant in Company G.  After he had been back for about six months, the regimental combat team was deployed back into combat in Korea for the third time.  Harold had this to say about their arrival back in Korea in June 1953, “The paratroopers removed all their unit patches and insignia, exchanged their paratroopers uniforms for standard army issue battle fatigues, and we went back into Korea concealing the unit’s identity and the fact that the Pacific reserve had been committed into action.  It didn’t work.  As soon as we went up into the line, the Chinese propaganda loudspeakers opposite us broadcast their welcome to the “Rakkasans.”  Rakkasan was the imprecise Japanese term for paratrooper.  That name not only stuck, it was adopted ever after and all units of the 187th Airborne today still proudly call themselves the “Rakkasans.”

 

Company G was manning an outpost forward of the lines when the Armistice was signed in July 1953.  The 187th Airborne remained in Korea for another two years before returning to the U.S. (where it then became a part of the 101st Airborne Division), but Harold Weeden came home “on points” (he had 36) in September 1953.  He was one of only six men in Company G eligible to be shipped back home that early.

 

When he arrived at Fort Lawton, after landing at the port in Seattle, Washington, Harold says, I didn’t have a penny in my pocket.  I had not been paid in six months and the train trip from Seattle through Los Angeles and on the San Antonio took three days and nights.  Finally, after I got to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, my wife came up from Houston to meet me and she at least had a little money. At Fort Sam I was put on 30 days leave with orders to report to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

 

I knew that the 82nd Airborne was slated to go to Alaska and I had had all the cold weather that I wanted in Korea.  So, when my 30 days leave was up I went through Fort Benning, Georgia and found another 187th Airborne veteran, Captain Macdonald, in the Airborne School.  I had not known him during my time in Korea and Japan and he had no authority to make personnel assignments but he gave me a letter of acceptance just in case I could manage to get my orders changed.  It took some doing.  When I reported in at Fort Bragg and stated my case, the Lieutenant behind the desk took an instant dislike to me and threw my letter of acceptance in his trashcan. I walked around the desk, retrieved my letter, and took it to the Major in charge.  That’s where I lucked out.  The Major knew Captain Macdonald personally, and when he saw the letter of acceptance he directed that a set of orders be cut sending me to the Airborne School at Fort Benning.  Orders in hand, I didn’t waste any time leaving Fort Bragg and getting back to Georgia.”

 

Harold Weeden spent the last year of his three-year enlistment in charge of the Maintenance Department of the Airborne School in Fort Benning just outside Columbus, Georgia.  He found a place to live nearby that was across the Chattahochee River in Alabama near Phenix City.  He was living there when martial law was declared in 1954.  The Regular Army was sent in, troops were on the streets with loaded rifles and fixed bayonets and they cleaned-up that tremendously corrupt mob-run town in very short order.  Harold could not get from home in Alabama to work in Fort Benning without going through Phenix City to get over the bridge.  Even in uniform and with an ID Card, he had to have a written pass to get past the checkpoints to and from work.  You can revisit what happened there by renting a copy of the old movie The Phenix City Story.”  Harold saw what can happen, even in the United States, when there is a complete break-down in law and order in a community, and he can tell you things that he saw and knew about that were worse than what was shown in that film.

 

On October 9, 1954, Staff Sergeant Weeden’s enlistment was up.  He took his discharge, returned to his brother’s home in Houston, Texas.  He next enrolled under the GI Bill, taking university classes as a beginning student majoring in accounting.  Months went by and Harold never received any money from the GI Bill.  He was married and they couldn’t live on nothing, so he dropped out of school and got a job.

 

He went to work for Hutchison Manufacturing Company, a Houston company that developed and marketed a machine that recycled the drilling mud used by the rigs drilling for oil, and also developed and marketed an improved derrick lighting system for drilling rigs.  Harold worked the off-shore drilling rigs and installed the lighting sets from the top of the derrick to the platform floor.  He worked long hours and was paid well for it.  For the first time in his life he was making big money.

 

Harold Weeden was a driven man, and he says, All my life, I wanted to be somebody and this was the way available to me to do it.  I worked a 77 hour week and drew tremendous overtime pay for that, and at the same time, also played guitar and entertained  in Houston area  honky tonks and night clubs; and I saved every penny possible. Then I started investing my money in real estate and making money from that too.”  Harold moved to a 10-acre place in Pearland and, with his experience from Hutchison Manufacturing, he went to work for Fisk Electric Company, the biggest electrical contractor in Houston.  He was employed by Fisk from 1957 until 1972.  His last assignment with them was as general foreman of Fisk’s 110 workers on the 3-year construction project of Shell Plaza One, the tallest building in Houston at the time.  After that, he was ready to strike out on his own.

 

Harold moved his family to Vista, California and went into business as a general contractor in the San Diego area.  Initially he built houses, and then later specialized in purchasing and renovating existing residential, commercial and industrial properties; and his sons were heavily involved in the business with him.  He eventually accumulated 150 separate properties, mostly rented out, but some of which the family held and operated.  He says, California living was great, perfect climate, really beautiful, but; it could never be home to me.  I wanted to be back home in Texas.  So, I sold out in California and then moved here and bought some properties; one of which is Executive Town Homes in San Marcos that is being operated by our son, Mike.”

 

Harold and Elrose Weeden are settled into their comfortable life style of country living in central Texas and Harold has been a Life Member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, affiliated with Chapter 1919 since he found out about us seven year ago.   He is also active in the Lone Star Chapter of the “Rakkasans,” 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team Association.

 

Harold Weeden passed away from heart complications, surrounded by family and close friends on Tuesday, July 14, 2015. Harold was buried in Four Mile Cemetery in Mabank, Texas on July 20, 2015.

 


PARACHUTE DROP IN TRAINING AT OITA, JAPAN,  IN SPRING OF 1953.

A FLIGHT OF THREE C-119 “FLYING BOXCARS” ARE DROPPING PARATROOPERS ABOVE THE CHUTES FLOATING DOWN FROM TWO PRECEDING FLIGHTS.  NOTE THE 1950 STUDEBAKER NEAR THE DROP ZONE

HAROLD WEEDEN (WITH GUITAR) IN JAPAN

WITH TROOPERS DAUPHIN AND DEITER

PART OF WEAPONS PLATOON, CO G, 187TH INF, IN JAPAN, 1953

L To R, MALLETTA, OLIVER, WEEDEN, WEBB, TAYLOR, BARRETT, DENNIS, PEREZ, DEMETRI.  C.—GARCIA, DAVENPORT, BOULING

Harold Weeden, Purple Heart Honor Flight

Korean War Memorial, Washington D.C.

June 6, 2015

 

Harold Weeden

VA Veteran of the Day

September 22, 2015

 


TOP PHOTO

 

HAROLD WEEDEN

IN JAPAN, 1953


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