"There wasn't many jobs. It was 1949. My cousin he was going to go in. So he said--"Let's go into the Army. So I said--"Okay. It's something to do," Kugler recalled.
Kugler trained to be a medical corpsman at Fort Sam Houston. Within a year, he put those skills to work in the Korean War, including the Incheon Landing. That operation retook the South Korean capital of Seoul back from North Korean forces. But not before Kugler volunteered for a mission to rescue five American servicemen pinned down by enemy forces in Seoul.
"The second lieutenant that took us in there, there were seven jeeps and eleven guys. They were supposed to be our security guys and he was supposed to know where he was going but he didn't," Kugler said. "And only five guys came back out of eleven."
Several months later, Kugler would be assigned to an aid station near the Chosin Reservoir, during severe winter weather. Temperatures dropped to 30-below. And unknown to U.S. forces and their allies, Chinese soldiers lay in waiting.
"When we got up there and they had us all in there, they just closed up he only road there and they had us surrounded. 25-thousand of us. 150-thousand of them roughly," Kugler said.
Massive casualties from the ensuing battle forced doctors and medics to stack bodies of those who died during treatment outside the aid station. Kugler's life was saved after one soldier died.
"I started dragging him out between the two tents that we had set up there and a mortar came in and blew us all over the place," Kugler recalled. "His body took the whole brunt of it, the mortar round. I've still got a hunk of iron in my arm right here from it yet. You know."
Those wounds limited Orville Kugler's tour to three months. But he would also see action in Vietnam and made a career of the army.
"I love the service though. Even after Korea, I got some pretty good assignments. Japan. Korea. Germany. Panama. Pretty much all over the place," Kugler said.
Local Five's Terry Kovarik has more.
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