BISMARCK — Despite not getting the press that it so rightfully deserved, the Korean War featured many firsts for the U.S. Military, including the use of jet planes.
But one member of the Air Force had a much more important job than taking to the skies.
Sometimes referred to as the “Forgotten War”, the Korean War was sandwiched between World War II and the Vietnam War.
But for the hundreds of thousands of Americans who fought overseas for three years, it was a battle most will never forget.
And that includes Bismarck’s own Walter Rehling who was a member of the U.S. Air Force.
Walter’s Story begins at 17 on his father’s farm in late 1950. When his father allowed him to enlist, he told us that many people, including one of his country school teachers, tried to talk him out of it.
“She met with me and my father, and she said, Walter’s got, I hate to say it this way, but he’s very intelligent, and I’d hate to see him do something where he couldn’t use his schooling.”
With Walter being a member of the Air Force you probably think he was tasked with dropping bombs over such places like Yultong or the Imjin River.
Instead, Walter was asked to put his high intelligence to use. Walter was an intelligence electronic warfare crypto-maintenance specialist, meaning he was the middle man between those on the ground and Washington.
“I had a top-secret clearance, so I was able to go and handle classified stuff, matter of fact everything we did was classified really,” said Rehling
Walter would spend over a year near the South Korean capital of Seoul and told KX News even though he wasn’t in the air, he needed to be ready to fight at a moment’s notice.
“We had to learn how to use hand grenades, and heavier artillery a little bit, See that was one of the things we didn’t get trained on as part of our original training, we didn’t learn how to throw hand grenades, or how to set up a perimeter defense, those were all things we learned on the job,” said Rehling
He adds many people think of Korea as a warm location, but in fact, it can be just as cold and brutal as North Dakota, with soldiers on both sides suffering from hypothermia and freezing to death.
“Winter’s got so cold that we set our cots in circles, and we had a potbelly stove just in order to keep warm,” said Rehling
Walter’s time in Korea would last 13 months, before his duties were done. His responsibilities in the Air Force would send him across the globe including such places as Italy, Germany and Turkey.
He retired from the Force in 1971 after serving 20 years and two days, turning down a promotion and the opportunity to return to Korea.
He’s also written a 356-page memoir detailing his entire life, from the earliest days of his childhood, the marriage to his wife and all the fun that retirement brings.