Local vets recall when the guns went silent

Charlie Lombard, of Fort Dodge. was at a military base in South Korea known only as K-16 on a summer night 60 years ago when the sound of artillery fire ceased, signaling the end of combat on the Korean Peninsula.

Elsewhere in South Korea, Dean Williams, of Fort Dodge, had to wait a little bit longer to learn that the fighting was over.

On the other side of the world at an Air Force base in Virginia, Wilmer Fevold, of Gowrie, felt a ”big relief” upon hearing of the armistice.

Former state Senate President Jack Kibbie, an Army veteran who had spent nine months on the front lines at a place called Heartbreak Ridge, was at his family farm in Palo Alto County when he learned of the armistice from news reports.

That armistice went into effect on July 27, 1953, ending fighting that started when North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950.

The 60th anniversary of the armistice is being marked with events in Washington, D.C., and two local Korean War veterans, Cecil Phipps, of Fort Dodge, and Gordon Madson, of Manson, are there.

There were no such special events in 1953.

”All I can remember was that it was a normal day until 10 p.m.,” said Lombard, who was a member of the Army’s 618th Medical Clearing Company.

A normal day in South Korea at that time involved a lot of artillery fire. Lombard recalled that there was so much artillery fire that it seemed like an Independence Day fireworks show. But at 10 p.m., all the shooting stopped.

Williams was with an Army infantry unit north of Seoul, South Korea, when the armistice went into effect. He said a couple of days may have passed before the soldiers in his unit learned about it. He recalled that news of the armistice was passed down the chain of command from the commanding officer, to the first sergeant and then to the squad leaders.

Whenever Williams reflects on his Korean War service, the frigid weather always comes to mind.

”When people ask, I tell them I’ve never been so cold in my life as I was when I was over there,” he said.

Fevold was stationed at Langley Air Force Base, training crews to fly a two-engine bomber called a B-26 Marauder, when the fighting stopped. He recalled that he was scheduled to go to South Korea previously, but he wasn’t sent because his wife was pregnant.

”We were interested in what was going on over there,” he said of his fellow airmen at the base.

Because Kibbie had spent so much time on the front lines, he was discharged from the Army on July 3, 1953.

”There was talk of it before we left,” Kibbie said of the armistice.

He was a member of the Army’s 45th Infantry Division and was assigned to a tank. He said that while he was at Heartbreak Ridge, Chinese troops were across a valley from his unit. He estimated that a distance of about three football fields in length separated the Americans from the Chinese. Artillery fire was a nightly occurrence, he said.