For much of his five years in the Army James Lunn was within arms length of the firing button for ground to air guided missile. He was an Army’s fire control specialist for land-based “Hawk Missiles” in the U.S., South Korea and Germany.
“I was one of two people who fired the missile. It required the fire control officer and his assistant to to push two buttons,” the 65-year-old explained. “I was the sergeant who assisted.”
Lunn joined the Army July 31, 1966. His father had just died and he was the oldest of eight children, the principle bread winner for his family.
After basic at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. he went to Fort Bliss, Texas and trained as a fire control guided missile crewman. He also handled the radar system for the missile.
“From Fort Bliss I was sent to Kunsan, South Korea. I was stationed at a ‘Hawk Missile’ site near the town of Kunsan,” Lunn said more than 50 years later.
“When I stepped off the plane in Korea I was still 17 and everything was new and different. Korea was real hot in the summer, real cold in the winter and it smelled bad,” he said. “But the people of Korea were wonderful. I loved the people because they were so outgoing and welcoming.”
He became a sergeant in Headquarters Company, 6th Battalion, 59th Regiment. Their job: shoot down enemy aircraft with their “Hawk Missile.”
“A short time after I arrived in Korea, I remember being on guard atop the mountain where our ‘Hawk Missile’ was located. I pulled guard one night and watched the snow blowing up the side of the mountain,” Lunn said. ” The wind chill that night got down to -90. My mustache was frozen solid when I came back from guard duty. Someone grabbed it and half of it broke off in his hand. It was all part of a soldier’s initiation.
“While I was in South Korea the ‘Pueblo Incident took place. The stuff hit the fan and we went on continuous duty at our hawk site for three weeks without leaving,” he said. “We were there just in case the North Koreans launched anything. Nothing happened in our area, so things eventually cooled down.”
The USS Pueblo, a spy ship, was captured with its entire crew off the coast of North Korea. The U.S. said the ship was in international waters, but the North Koreans said otherwise.
The ship’s 83-man crew was taken prisoner. The Americans along with their spy boat were towed into the Port of Wonson. The crew ended up in Pyongyang, North Korea. For 11 months the North Koreans beat and tried to brainwash their captives. By then the U.S. and North Korea reached an understanding about the incident and the Americans were returned. However, their captured boat is still on public display in Wonson Harbor.
The high point of Lunn’s 14 months in South Korea wasn’t the “Pueblo Incident,” but the time he spent working with Catholic nuns at an orphanage for Asian-American children.
“I volunteered to work at the orphanage. That’s where I learned to speak a little Korean,” he said with a smile. “They were so desperate. We brought the nuns food for the children.
“They ranged in age from infants to about 11. Euro-Asian children weren’t accepted by South Korean society. If they survived the only thing they had going for them was the orphanage.
“Korea was hard living. While I was there about 10 percent of its people died from exposure every winter,” Lunn recalled. “I watched a woman give birth to a child. She was on her way to the fields. She stepped off the side of the road, had her baby, picked it up and she and the baby went to the fields.”
After more than a year’s service in South Korea, Lunn returned to the U.S.
“When we got off the plane at the Seattle, Wash. civilian airport war protesters were waiting for us with their ‘Baby Killer’ signs. We went from there to Fort Lewis, Wash and were hassled some more. It was the same when I flew into Fort Bliss.”
Lunn re-upped and spent another three years as a Hawk missile-man, but this time he served in Germany.
“I ended up at a Hawk missile base outside Frankfort. Because I was an E-5 (sergeant) I had my own apartment over looking the town square. The Germans were friendly, but not as open and nice as the South Koreans.
“Because of my top secret clearance I was a courier for a while in Germany. I ran missile parts and whole missiles here and there. The missiles were moved on flatbed trucks.They could be a challenge moving them through the confines of a medieval town with cobblestone streets.”
Lunn had hoped to make the Army a career. However, he obtained a discharge after five years because of medical problems involving family members back home in the States.
Because of his mechanical ability he became an auto mechanic in civilian life. In August 1990 he went to work with Charlotte County, Fla. Fleet Maintenance. By the time he left and obtained a similar position at the City of Palm Beach Gardens, on the east coast, he was Fleet Maintenance Supervisor. He became Fleet Maintenance Superintendent over there and retired from that position in 2009.
Lunn moved back to Englewood, Fla.the same year. He is active in the Vietnam Veterans of America, Gulf Coast Chapter 1037. He has three grown sons: Adam, Wade and Zachariah.
Name: James Edward Lunn
D.O.B: 15 March 1949
Hometown: Kansas City, Mo.
Currently: Englewood, Fla.
Entered Service: 31 July 1966
Discharged: 24 June 1971
Unit: Headquarters Company, 6th Battalion, 59th Regiment
Commendations: National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, 1st Class Mal Qual Badge
Battles/Campaigns: Cold War: South Korea, Germany
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Wednesday, June 18, 2014 and is republished with permission.
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