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 Post subject: Richard Wentworth
PostPosted: Thu Dec 01, 2011 8:47 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 07, 2011 7:31 pm
Posts: 1571
Location: Eastern Iowa
Age: 30
I was googling news articles related to the blocked import of American rifles from South Korea and I happened upon this article. It's a good little account of one man's life I think some of you guys may find it interesting. ... l?nav=5003

STONINGTON - Richard Wentworth sat in his wheelchair on the walkway surrounding the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C., pointing out the different weapons the sculptured soldiers were carrying. The 86-year-old World War II veteran and his "guardian," Drew McDonald of Appleton, Wis., were visitors to the memorial while in Washington as part of the U.P. Honor Flight Sept. 22.

"That one there is a carbine," Wentworth said, indicating the weapon held by a nearby soldier on the left. "And that one there is an M1," he said, pointing to a soldier on his far right.

"So how do you know that?" the veteran was asked.

"Because I used them," was his abrupt response.

"Were you in the Korean War as well as World War II?"

"I was in World War II, Korean AND Vietnam!" he replied matter-of-factly.

Born and raised in Escanaba, Wentworth is a graduate of Escanaba High School, Class of 1942.

"I was 16 when the war (World War II) broke out and turned 17 in the fall of 1942," Wentworth said. He enlisted in the Army and underwent basic training at Camp Roberts in California.

"They sent me to artillery and later I changed to engineers," he said. "I was sent to Fort Lewis, Wash., and then went island hopping. I was in the Marshall Islands, Carolinas, Philippines and at Okinawa."

Although his work as an engineer was generally building bunkers behind the front lines, Wentworth said his unit was frequently bombed and strafed by enemy fire. "We got very familiar with our foxholes and the deeper the better," he said with a chuckle. "The soil was pretty rocky so we had to dig pretty fast."

While at Okinawa, Wentworth learned about the atomic bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thus ending Japan's involvement in the war.

"I believe I read about it in a military newspaper," he said. "I was really relieved because I thought we'd have to go up into Japan to fight. I have to admire the Japanese soldiers, though. They fought to the death. I was glad it was over."

After the Japanese surrender, Wentworth spent a few months in Korea as part of the occupation forces.

"The Japanese had gone in there and took everything and didn't leave anything behind," said the vet.

Wentworth returned to the United States and joining with a fellow veteran he had met at Okinawa, the pair decided to go to college under the military's GI Bill.

"We went to Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, but both of them were full because of the vets," he said.

They then went to apply at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"But we were considered 'out-of-state' and they were saving any openings they had for the Wisconsin veterans," he added. "I could understand that."

By chance, Wentworth read a sign advertising for students at Carroll College in Waukesha, Wis., and decided to give it a try. He was accepted as a pre-engineering student. That was the summer of 1946. After two and a half years of college, Wentworth joined the Air Force and was approved for a job driving tractors, cranes and graders in Wisconsin. Although his desire was to go back to school to further his education in engineering, he knew he faced a significant delay. Instead he began traveling with the Air Force as a support unit of engineers, and was sent to Germany where he took advantage of an opportunity to take part in the Berlin Air Lift during the early 1950s.

"I always wanted to see Berlin and when I asked about going along on a flight, I was told, 'You can go but you'll have to work.' I said that was okay," he explained "We loaded the plane with coal briquets and rode the circuit, bringing the coal into Berlin and then returning back to our air base. Actually there wasn't much to see except the place where we unloaded the coal."

He was also in Germany when the Berlin Wall went up.

Wentworth had the opportunity to return to Berlin in 2005, with his wife, and visited an open-air museum near the Brandenburg Gate and obtained a small piece of the wall.

Wentworth served for 17 months, again as an engineer, during the Korean War from 1952-53.

"We built 25 miles of road using asphalt, but the Koreans kept tearing up the road to use for fuel for their homes," he said. "We were doing road maintenance all the time. When we used gravel, the heavy rains would come and wash them all out. Wentworth said it was difficult teaching the South Korean soldiers how to operate the heavy equipment needed to build the roads.

"We kept busy pulling them out of the rice fields," he said. "Then they would lose face. But that's what the engineers were there for."

After his return from Korea, Wentworth was sent to Fort Carson, Colo., where his familiarity with handling guns turned his military career to a totally different direction.

"There was a marksmanship unit there and when word got out that I was from the U.P., I was asked to join," he said. "It was a farm system and every camp had a unit to develop shooters. I didn't sign up but I got into it by accident. I took part with my engineer unit and we won the match. Then I was told, 'You've got the rifle team.' I went to Fort Riley in Kansas, Fort Benning in Georgia and then to Camp Perry in Ohio, where the national matches were held. He kept winning and learned that out of 2,000 shooters, he ranked 16th overall. Wentworth was then offered the opportunity to be part of a unit to train marksmen for international competition.

"I told them I was an engineer, not a shooter, but was told they had the authority to promote me with that unit. They said 'you've been selected' but I still didn't want to go," he said. "I went back to Fort Carson where I was commander of an engineer company and two weeks later I received orders to go to Fort Benning."

In 1958, Wentworth was selected to take part in an international Running Deer Competition in Russia. In the competition, marksmen had four seconds to hit a moving target 110 years away with a bulls-eye that was six inches in diameter.

"I won individual medals and lost the doubles competition by 1 point," he said.

The following year, Wentworth returned to the engineers and was sent back to Germany for a second tour of duty. But he found his marksmanship reputation went right along with him and he once again was selected to coach the shooting team.

"The guy they had running the match didn't know what he was doing and I raised so much of a hassle that I was escorted off the firing range," he said.

Undaunted, Wentworth used his expertise to impress his superiors and take over the position. Wentworth took his training team all the way through Europe from Italy to Scandinavia.

Again Wentworth was reassigned to Fort Benning where he spent the next three years training Russian, Italian and Scandinavian shooters for international competition.

After being promoted to the rank of major, the veterans military career went off course in 1965 when he served a 13-month tour of duty in Vietnam. His duties were to give job assignments to soldiers in his battalion. While in Vietnam, Wentworth experienced danger on at least two occasions, once when he was riding in a helicopter followed by two others that were shot down; the other occasion occurred when a hotel he had just visited was mortared seconds after he left.

"I heard the blast and jumped over a wall and landed in a cemetery," he said. "I'm not particularly religious, but someone was looking after me."

After the war, Wentworth was asked if he wanted to re-enlist, but he declined. Instead, he joined up with a Swedish man he met while conducting marksmanship training and the pair went into business, setting up a machine shop that specialized in the manufacturing of small parts. Although the shop underwent a number of expansions, Wentworth dissolved his partnership after only a year. And once again, shooting became the focus of Wentworth's career; he went into business building shooting ranges for the military and law enforcement all over the world. He served as vice president of two companies based in Chicago and Los Angeles.

After retiring from the military, Wentworth contracted as an engineer at K.I. Sawyer for five years until the base closed. At that point, Wentworth became officially retired.

The veteran doesn't consider his service in three wars as anything extraordinary.

"I once talked with a man who said he had never met anyone who served in three wars," he said. "I told him, 'You don't get around much, do you?'"

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