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By Larry Nelson
For The Sun-Telegraph 

Veteran's History Project: Verlin E. Bruns

 

Verlin E. Bruns

Corporal

U.S. Air Force

1951-1955

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is one of many American Veteran accounts published in The Sidney Sun-Telegraph. The writer, who is from Sidney, is conducting the interviews as part of the Library of Congress' Veterans History Project.

The United States Air Force came into being in September 1947. It evolved from the Army Air Forces a few years after the end of hostilities in World War II.

Setting up a department or branch of the U.S. Armed Forces is no easy thing.

In July 1951, the Korean War was being fought. North Korea had invaded South Korea. Selective Service – the "draft" – was on the minds of many young men who very likely would be called to active service.

In Auburn, Neb., the twin brothers Verlin and Virgil Bruns visited the Air Force recruiter's office. The wanted to see if the Air Force could allow them to enlist and serve together. At the time, the recruiter advised them that they could go through their service together but only if they enlisted as cook/bakers.

In about a week, the two young men got aboard a train car that was loaded with other guys headed for the same place, Lackland Air Force Base, near San Antonio, Texas. The train was powered by coal. It is July and very hot, no matter where one is. With the train cars' windows slid down the train made its way south. The exhaust from the stack just about smoked out the passengers!

The men were told that their uniforms and entrance work awaited them at Lackland AFB. As it turned out, recruiting people for the Air Force was a good business to be in. In July 1951, 71,000 recruits were headed to the same place – holy cow!. There were no barracks for lodging, just hundreds and hundreds of tents. Every three days showers were available, no uniforms for a few days, there were shots to be given, haircuts to be had – a true day-to-day scramble was happening.

Verlin and his brother were told that in a few days, they were going to be taken to Sheppard Air Force Base. On arrival at the new place, there were all the things missing from the previous place ... whew! They had a barracks to live in, a chow hall, and places to train.

For the time he was in "boot camp," there were four different drill sergeants assigned his unit. The first came into the recruit barracks in the middle of their first night and went about standing all the men's cots on end. It was time for a "latrine call"" The next day, that drill sergeant was gone. Two more would come into the picture before the better trainer arrived. Verlin called it "weird."

Verlin didn't have any trouble getting through the training. He was a Nebraska kid and knew about working, following orders and marksmanship. On graduation, the next stop was to Fort Hood, Texas. The next training phase would teach him how to cook and bake goods for their assigned unit. Again, not much of a problem. There was an additional week scheduled for a security clearance and a background check.

The matter of having twins in the same unit brought some issues forward. Often, records were mixed up and almost caused Verlin to lose a tooth that wasn't there on the X-ray. Inspections went easy as he and his brother kept one foot locker always ready. They just switched the lockers as the inspectors went along. Getting ready to deploy to Japan, one of them almost got double shots!

When training was completed, Verlin was allowed leave time to go home before heading to Japan. The orders stated to report to Travis Air Force Base (about 50 miles northeast of San Francisco. Verlin and Virgil were on the train and headed there, but as they neared Donner Pass, an avalanche had taken place and the train had to be re-routed causing about an 18 hour delay ... being AWOL was out of their control.

The men gathered as ordered and in a couple of weeks, left for Japan in a four engine Eastern Airlines plane that made four stops along the 36 hour trip. Stops were needed for fuel and meals. When they arrived in Tokyo, the men departed the plane and were greeted by a Japanese man who said "Ohyo" – or good morning. Virgil said, "No, we're from Nebraska."

The bus dropped off the men at Fort Johnson Air Force Base, about 11 miles north of the airport. From there, Verlin and the rest of his group went on to Camp Masawa.

This was a forward listening outpost. It was very stark and not built up. As the men did their jobs, others went about building the infrastructure for future habitation. Three times a day, the men loaded into "deuce and a half" trucks and taken to the larger installation for meals. There was a 600 gallon water tank that was filled twice a day. In about six months the place started to look like people would live there!

One of the main appliances used by the listeners came from 90 foot antennae, each with its own red light affixed to the top. The sight of this confused pilots so changes were made ... oddly, in the early going, when pilots were sent overseas, it was an accompanied tour. Their families could come along. Some of the pilots did not return from missions flown over the Korea Area of Operations, leaving the grieving families utterly alone. The practice of allowing families to travel along was soon ended.

Back to work, a nearby Army outfit prepared meals for the few airmen while the barracks were being built. By contract, foreign nationals were hired as cooks and dining room orderlies. The locals valued their jobs and worked very hard to please the Americans.

Verlin kept in touch by letter writing. He used his free time to read and chat with others. They ate lots of C-rations. He thought he may still have a small package of Lucky Strikes that were in the accessory packet with C-rations.

Verlin served here for two and a half years. He took advantage of learning as much about the Japanese culture as possible. There were two other men from Auburn, Neb., assigned to the area in different branches of service so their re-union was fun.

Finally, their tour in Japan was over. Verlin returned to the U.S. and got some leave time to go to Auburn, Neb. A stop along the way was in Omaha, where he and his brother bought an Oldsmobile. On orders they were to report for duty at March Air Force Base, near Riverside, Calif. They drove there.

Soon, the two decided to trade the Olds hardtop for a convertible. At March Fun times and 53 thousand miles in thirteen months. When checking into the Air Force Base, Verlin and his brother went to the post office and were greeted by a grumpy clerk. It seems that brother Virgil had responded to a love-lorn magazine and left his address for lonely girls to write. About 3,000 letters were waiting!

In 1955, Verlin ended his tour of duty. When he left, he had earned several ribbons for his service. He out-processed and headed home. In a short time, he used the GI Bill for more education and a home loan. Verlin is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars where he has been a commander and currently holds the office of chaplain.

Good job, Corporal Bruns! Thank you for your service!

 

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