The Norman Transcript

October 31, 2013

Korean War veteran kept his promise

By David Hopper
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Robert E. L. Richardson was born on a farm in western Oklahoma in 1932. He graduated from Weatherford High School in 1950. Bob promised his mother that he would go to college, but it took him a while to get there.

He joined the National Guard while he was in high school. Shortly after he graduated, he was called up to active duty in the Army during the Korean War. After completing Basic Training at Ft. Riley, Kan., he was assigned to Leadership School.

After Leadership School, he was assigned to train new recruits at Ft. Riley; he was a drill instructor at age 18. He realized after training two classes of recruits that he would essentially be doing basic training over and over because, after all, the Instructor still had to do all the exercises, the marches, the hikes and so forth with his trainees.

So, he wrote a personal letter to the commanding general of the 45th Infantry Division asking if he could be transferred to the Guard. Within 10 days, orders came through transferring him to Battery C, 158th Field Artillery. He took three days leave and reported to Camp Polk, La., just in time to move out to Japan for additional training and then to Korea.

During his deployment, Bob shared a tent with two young men from Sayre who always thought he had been planted there as an Army Criminal Investigation Division “spy” because of the unexpected way he arrived. He said they probably still think that to this day.

His unit eventually made it to Inchon, Korea, in November 1951 and was moved up to near the 38th parallel.

Bob was placed in charge of defense of an artillery battery of six .50-caliber machine guns. The battery was 2,000 yards behind the front line. The protection included stringing barbed wire around the site and sometimes using flares.

Most of the fighting with the Chinese soldiers took place at night. During his time at the front, he had three or five serious engagements with the enemy. He remembers his combat experience as mostly pretty routine.

In April 1952, he was selected for Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Ft. Sill. He was reluctant to accept because he hadn’t accumulated enough “points” to rotate home and he knew that, if he completed OCS, he would be obligated for a longer term of service. And he remembered his pledge to his mom to go to college. He decided, however, to try OCS.

Eventually, Bob’s promise to his mom to go to college began to wear on him. When he resigned from OCS, the Army tried to send him back to Korea. However, he had accumulated 32 “points” while deployed there and they couldn’t send him back.

He eventually enrolled at Southwestern State in Weatherford in summer 1953. He got back into the Guard at Southwestern and eventually received his commission.

After graduating from Southwestern, he came to OU Law School. He was elected to one term in the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 1958 while he was a law student.

After receiving his OU law degree, Bob received a Fellowship at Georgetown University Law School and earned an advanced law degree. While he was in Washington, he became a staffer for a Congressional committee.

Richardson was hired as a professor at OU Law School in 1964 and taught law for 40 years. He met his wife while they were both working on Gov. David Hall’s staff.

This year, the Norman Veterans Committee is sponsoring the Veterans Day Parade at 10 a.m. Nov. 9.

The parade will proceed down Jenkins Street to the Cleveland County Veterans Memorial at Reaves Park, where a ceremony will begin at 11:30 a.m. Ret. Lt. Gen. Harry M. “Bud” Wyatt, a former adjutant general for Oklahoma and director of the Air National Guard in the Pentagon, will be the keynote speaker.

The theme for the parade this year is “Red, White and Blue — Veterans on the March.” We would like to see honor guards, marching bands, floats, motorcycle groups and car clubs all with the same underlying desire: to honor our veterans.

Groups or organizations wishing to participate in the parade may download an application from normanfun.com. Today is the deadline for parade entries.

For more information, contact the Parks and Recreation Department at 366-5472.