Remembering the Korean War

Korean War veteran kept eye on ball, plus track

2014-03-23T19:45:00Z 2014-04-02T14:17:06Z Korean War veteran kept eye on ball, plus trackTimes Staff nwitimes.com
March 23, 2014 7:45 pm  • 

Most of the action paratrooper Eugene Hollingsworth saw in the Korean War was in athletic competitions, not on the battlefield.

Hollingsworth, of Portage, has vivid memories of that war, beginning with the vaccinations given at an induction center shortly after he enlisted Feb. 29, 1952.

"Great big guys who were older than me were passing out," he said. 

"I don't know if I had ever had a shot. I don't know; I don't remember them," he said. "But seeing these great big guys just getting a shot and — bang! — down on the floor."

Hollingsworth trained as a paratrooper — he had been on five plane rides before his first landing — but didn't spend much time jumping out of a plane in Korea.

"We emptied a lot of trucks of ammunition. We must have emptied countless trucks of ammunition and food supplies," he said. "I think that's what they took us over there for, really. Not to fight, certainly. I don't think we lost anybody" in his U.S. Army Airborne unit.

He remembers digging out old bunkers left behind by the enemy.

"It was my turn in the hole, so I was in there digging — you know, we've got these little military shovels; they're only about 30 inches long — and I hit something. It sounded more like a rock. It was metal. And one of the guys — there were about three or four of us — and one of the guys said, 'I think that's a grenade.'"

"If there was a medal for clearing a bunker," he said. "I got out of there like a shot!"

The grenade, fortunately, was a dud.

Behind the lines, the troops had built an amphitheater like terraced rice paddies and could "watch movies every night if you wanted to."

He "had a lot of beer, had a lot of ice cream" in his time off. "Killing time is about what it amounted to," he said.

When his unit returned to Japan, Hollingsworth was the company clerk.

"And I'm in the office doing whatever clerks do, and the football coach came in and said, 'Can you type this up for me?' It was a whole list of players that were on the team or going to try out for the team, and this guy's an all-city, this guy's an all-state, and this guy's all kinds of things."

Hollingsworth was playing catch with some of the players afterward, and the coach asked if Hollingsworth had ever played football.

"And, yes, I had, at Wirt," he said. The coach invited him to try out for the team.

"I said, 'I just typed out a list for you, and these guys were all-conference, all-state, they were everything, and I don't think I'd have much luck trying out for your team," Hollingsworth said.

Hollingsworth had played quarterback at Wirt High School in Gary.

"In fact, I got a commendation here. I had forgotten all about it. Some general sent me a commendation here for playing football.

"We ended up being the co-champions in the the Japanese football league," Hollingsworth said. "We played the Army, the Air Force, the Marines, and ended up being co-champions."

The same coach next picked Hollingsworth to play basketball.

"And all this time you're on special duty, and all you do is go to practice and play," Hollingsworth said. "It was really a neat service.

"We got through with the basketball season, and I tried out for the track team and made that. And after that I played baseball. So for over a year I did nothing but play sports," he said.

"Finally, it was time to go home, and I said, 'Oh nuts!'"

There are some photos of Hollingsworth from back in that era, wearing his Army uniform and his football uniform, but other memorabilia are gone. He lost his duffel bag on the way to Korea and again on the way back.

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