- Birth Date: 1931
- Place of Birth: Phoenix, Arizona
- State of Residence: Arizona
- Years of Service: 4
- Branch of Military: U. S. Navy
- Rank: Radioman 3rd class
- Wars Involved In: Korea
- Theater(s) of Operation: Korea, Japan
Mr. Orth was born in Phoenix Arizona in 1931. He grew up on a ranch in Arizona. When the war broke out, he knew that he would be drafted. He had two other brothers in the navy so he enlisted in the navy on Jan 19, 1951 when he was 20 years old. At that time, he was playing football at Phoenix College and he enlisted just before final exams. They took the average grade that he had and gave him credit for the rest of the year.
He went into Boot Camp on Jan 21, 1951. When he was first in the service, he got strep throat, and they wanted to send him to the hospital, but if they did, he would have been put with a different company, he wanted to stay with his company so he had to cope with strep throat. Early on, he was on an Admiral command ship which was set up to be the admirals headquarters, but he did not see active duty on this ship. During his time in the service, he was mainly a radioman on LST 1141 (Landing Ship Tank). His duty aboard the LST began on Nov. 19, 1951. He shipped out to Japan on Dec. 25, 1951. This ship had boats in it that carried the troops to the shore. He was in charge of directing the traffic of the landings. The radio that he operated was the only one on any of the landing ships. At this time, the navy was short of radiomen so after his ship had taken part in several landings, his ship was docked in Wonsan Harbor with a helicopter on board. While there, one of his main duties was to let helicopter pilot know where downed pilots were. When a pilot had to ditch in the ocean, he would be radioed the location of the pilot and he would then let the helicopter pilot know where to go. He also spent three weeks on a mine sweeper in Jan. of 1954 sweeping mines out of Wonsan Harbor. His final duty was bringing prisoners form the prisoner islands to Korea for separation. On Feb. 20, 1954 he was transferred to the U.S.S. Merrick (AKA 97). He brought prisoners back from the islands from April through October.
After coming out of radio school he was on a training maneuver and there was a guy who was known for messing around was taking messages to where the officers were. All of a sudden he jumped up and said, “Oh I’m so nervous.”
During his time in the service he was known as the one armed bandit. One time, they had lined the ships side by side, and he was crossing them and he tripped over a rope. He dislocated his shoulder and he had to work the radio with one arm. A cartoonist on board drew a picture of him working the radio with one arm.
One time when the LST left port, there was a man who was a Radioman 3rd class and Mr. Orth was a Radioman seaman, but this man got in so much trouble that by the time they got to Japan that he was demoted to a Radioman seaman and Mr. Orth was promoted to Radioman 3rd class so Mr. Orth was not above the other man instead of the other way around.
He said that the North Koreans had dug tunnels and would pop up and fire on the ship, so his ship was trying to triangulate the fire to stop the North Koreas.
On one occasion, he was let off in Korea on a rest and recreation leave, he was walking on the street and he walked up to an old man with a horse cart to look at the horse, because he had grown up on a ranch around horse all of his life, and he says that the horse almost bit him.
He had two R and R’s one in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines. While in Hong Kong he went to a peninsula called Coolan in China but when he was about to go there, he was told not to wear uniforms because if he did the Communists would have attacked him. When he was on deck while in Hong Kong, they were on watch all the time because they were afraid that the communists would send a small boat to attack the ship. One time while in Hong Kong after he had a few beers and he went to a fair. He went in and played darts and won a bottle of soy sauce. He saw a lady walking down the street who looked needy so he gave her the bottle of soy sauce.
Every time that they would do well on their inspection, they got a two day pass in Japan. On Japan he went to Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, and he saw the great Buddha. While in Tokyo on one occasion he went to thieves alley and a man came up to him and pulled up his sleeve and his arm had many watches on it and said, “Do you want to buy a watch,” then he saw Mr. Orth’s watch and said, “Do you want to sell your watch?” another incident that he remembers was when he was calling a taxi and as the taxi pulled up a man opened the door and bowed lowly and as Mr. Orth ducked to get into the taxi the man grabbed some money that was in Mr. Orth’s shirt pocket and ran off.
On the LST there were a lot of young officers just out of officer school. It was Mr. Orth’s duty to inspect the radio. On time when he went to examine the radio he found a piece of paper in the radio that a young Ensign had put in there to make sure that the radio was inspected.
Another story that he remembers from his time during the service was about an Ensign that no one liked very much. This man would always sleep in late so some officers took a record player and record and put it under his bed and turned it on as loud as they could and woke him up. This Ensign, whose name was Shafer, was known as Shafer finine because he went by the book. One time a seaman noticed a line in the engine room was leaking, so he changed it. Shafer put him on report for not requesting permission from the men who held the different ranks that he needed permission from in order to change the line.
On the LST, which is 300 feet long many times after the troop boats left it and landed on the shore, if the landing boats came to the shore sideways, they have to take ropes to straighten them out. He recalls that when he was roping a boat he saw an army captain standing waist deep in water yelling at his crew to turn the boat around which he thought was funny.
When asked if he was ever scared, he says that he was never in any heavy fighting during the war, but he was shot at when he was coming in for some of the landings. He also relates that he was in several typhoons and when he was on the AKA troop ship the waves were so bad that when he was sleeping in the stern, he could hear the propeller hum and when a wave hit he could hear the propeller coming out of the water.
On one occasion, he had to walk shore patrol. On a certain hill there were many Japanese criminal mob elements. He had to walk along the road that led to the hill to stop any military personnel from going up there because it was too dangerous.
He said that his only problem with the navy was that when he got back to San Diego, he was told that it would be several weeks before he could get his discharge physical. They said that he could also go home and have his physical back home at the VA. When he got home, he went to the VA and the VA did not know anything about the physical. He never had his. He says that after the armistice was signed, the military was trying to get people home as soon as possible. He says that he was treated well in the service and at home.
He says that the Korean War Veterans motto is freedom is not free. He hopes that future generations will keep up their patriotism and their appreciation of the country. When you see how people in other countries live, you appreciate what you have even more. While in Hong Kong he remembers seeing whole families living in the entrance way to a building at night because they did not have homes and people using raw sewage to fertilize crops. He says that his time in the service made him appreciate what he had in America and it also made him more independent.
He says that the Korean population of Phoenix has put on shows and participated in parades in order to thank the veterans for what they had done during the Korean war.
After he got out of the service, he used the G.I. Bill to go to ASU. He coached football for 20 years at the Phoenix Union High School District. After coaching He went into the home repainting and remodeling business. He retired in 2012.
His grandson is carrying on the tradition of his family and is in the navy in the special forces on Bahrain.
He was the Commander of the Korean War Veterans Association Phoenix Chapter (Ray Harvey Chapter) two times (2009-2010 and 2011-2012). He currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife.