Elmer Flake was born February 3rd, 1924 in a farmhouse built by his grandfather southeast of Paola, KS.
“It was very bad”. Elmer said of the Great Depression.
“How we ever, the bunch of us made it, I’ll never know guy..I’ll never know.
When it came to summer time, now we have air conditioner, fridge with ice, but in those days you’d have to come to town to get ice at the ice houses. They store them in the winter time. Our cold water was down in the well about 30 feet. We put it in the water bucket, a special glass jug to keep it cold.
Heat wise, our home, we had outside weather boards and sheet rocks, no installation. You better believe the home was hot. We would sleep outside on a hay rack in the summer to keep cool at night..It’d get that hot most summers during the depression.
We butchered our own chickens and hogs..made our own meat. We’d raise an extra head of everything and haul it to Kansas city to sell at a stockyard for some extra money. We didn’t waste a thing. We’d eat the intestines after washing them with salt water. We wouldn’t dare waste even just a grain of salt.
I was in my last grade of high school when Pearl Harbor happened.I enlisted in the Reserve Core to show I was ready to go to service. I had 9 months outside the military for training of what I chose to do, and I chose electricity. I spent 3 months in Laramie, Wyoming learning the basics, then Colorado learning the same stuff but more advanced. Then studied telephones in Wisconsin before getting more training with my outfit. My original unit was sent over to Germany but I didn’t have to go ,I was sent to Texas.
I went to Japan once the war was announced over with the 91st signal operation battalion on USS Sea Birch, shipping from San Francisco. As soon I got on the boat I started feeding fish (sea sickness). We traveled to Tokyo Bay where they signed the official peace agreement but all those ships there, including us, were all there in case the leaders change their minds, so we were ready to go if anything happened which didn’t fortunately. I was in Japan for three months but didn’t see any action at all. The long fight was over. Korea was a lot different..
I was called back to service in the fall of 1950 for just one year. I was in the 23rd infantry regiment headquarters of the 2nd division during Korea, They were short a guy in the electric department, so I won that job.
We were cut off several times, our whole 3 battalions regiment from anybody else. They’d have airplanes airdrop supplies to keep us fed and artillery. They drop one supply with oreo like cookies, that box would not open I swear, but those were a real treat for us. Last time we were cut off It took a Tank Battalion to get us out during some fighting.
I’ll never know how those Koreans kept going..they never had tanks or armor..just what little the Soviets supplied them with.
In the spring of 51, we were told the Koreans were coming in, so we dug foxholes. Me and one guy shared one by the side of the hill, then by that night here comes the artillery shells, bouncy down the sides of the valley. Things got closer and me and my comrade went into our foxhole, an artillery shell hit exactly where our foxhole was. Rock was flying everywhere but by God’s grace we survived and that’s how we earned our purple hearts. My first sane reaction after I realized we been hit was “I can’t move. this is it” and I started to think about my family and friends back home. But nothing else ever hit us. It was minor burns and a lot of bloody wounds.. it couldn’t been a lot worse like others but it sure seemed like the end of us. We may have been grown men in our late 20’s but we were in tears of fright. It’s not as easy to tough it out as they make it seem in the movies and documentaries.
WWII was pretty simple for me, I was lucky to never have anybody to shoot at me or be shot at, but Korea, i’ll never forget that..war is hell..especially Korea..all you is do is get sent over to kill one another. It’s stupid!
But it’s all over now, and I lived a good life.”
After serving, Elmer married, had two children and continued working with his electricity experience for several companies, mainly KC Power & Light where he retired from.