Date of Dream Flight:
Submitted by: Erica Comte
Email: ecomte@thecovington.org
Phone: (949) 389-8505
Name of Senior Community: The Covington
Address: Street Address: 3 Pursuit
City: Aliso Viejo
State: CA
Zip Code: 92656
Country: United States
Phone: (949) 389-8500
Recipient Name Bob Hilker
Recipient Age 95
Recipient’s Biographical Informaton: In June 1941, I drove from my home in Wisconsin to LA to find my fortune. I was a tool and die maker, and immediately found employment at Douglas Aircraft. Shortly after Pearl Harbor I applied for enlistment in the Air Force, but found out I was slightly color blind. I remained at Douglas until May, 1945 when I joined the Merchant Marine and entered the training school at Sheepshead Bay, Brookland for a Navy style Boot Camp. I chose the Radio Operator Training Course, but it closed down after E-Day. SO anxious to get shipping, I chose the Engine Room training. My hope of getting a ship to Europe was thwarted and my first ship was an oil tanker going from Boston to Texas City. After shipping a while, I took a short vacation to visit a friend in Atlanta, GA, and my draft card reached me. Frustrated, I went down to the local Army recruiting station in Atlanta and enlisted for an 18 month tour.It was May 6, 1946 and I started Boot Camp with the Army Engineers at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The training lasted 90 days and I was assigned to embarkation to Korea. After a two week voyage on a Liberty ship we landed at the port north of Seoul, Korea in the beginning of a cold winter. After a week of indoctrination the assignment to the 63rd. infantry encampment in Kunsan was my lot and I learned that the Engineering Company was full and leaving so I remained with the Infantry. We were stationed on an abandoned Japanese air field. Some buildings were usable, a few Quonset huts, but mostly tents at first. The mission of the Regiment was to build a military base there, and that proved to be very educational.On the first morning revile the First Sergeant asked for volunteers to do some plumbing and I stuck my hand up. That started my career. The makeshift showers the Engineering Company had constructed had frozen and the camp had no showers for a month. From that I was made Manager of the Officers Club, and Sergeant rating which greatly increased my freedom to see more of Korea. Construction included a Stateside housing development, movie theatre, and larger dining and Club facilities. I played the trumpet, and soon we found other musicians and a 16 piece jazz band emerged. The Regiment Commander was very pleased and allowed the band to rehearse instead of drilling so a dance could take place every Saturday night. We also toured some of the other camps in Korea, which was very exciting. Duties at the Officers Club also required trips to Tokyo, Japan to purchase dinnerware, decorations, and gifts for the Club. Some sightseeing occurred, such as the War Crimes Trials, Hiroshima, and parts of Tokyo that was not destroyed. In March, 1946, I was homeward bound and received honorable discharge on March 26, 1946.All in all, I didn’t see any “action” , but with the GI Bill, I was able to realize my boyhood dream of becoming an Engineer.
Branch of Military Served: Merchant Marine/ Army
Dates Served: 1944-1948
Military Rank:
Highlights of service: See under Biographical Information.