ORLAND E. HUNTOON
First Sergeant | Infantry
There is a lot to learn and a lot to write about a man born before the turn of the century with service in three wars. A native of Vermont and descendent to original settlers of the state, Orland joined the Army in 1918 at the age of nineteen and was sent to Arizona for service on the Mexican Border. He was categorized as a Class B soldier - "Not quite fit physically for general military service, but free from serious organic disease; able to do an average day's work; able to walk five miles; to see and hear well enough for ordinary purposes; able to perform duty equivalent to garrison duty, labor battalion, shop work (in a trade), at home or abroad or combat service at home (United States Guards)." As a result of this classification, most of his service was with the newly formed development battalions that gave uneducated soldiers and opportunity to attend school. He was then assigned to the U.S. Guard 40th Battalion. These guard units were short lived, however, and of the first to be demobilized after the end of the World War I. Huntoon received his discharge at the very end of the year.
After returning to New England, Huntoon worked as a logger in rural Maine until April 1920 when he moved to Canada to take up a farm. His sponsor to immigrate to Canada was Harry Fair, a veteran of the 50th Infantry Battalion having served in four campaigns in France before getting shot in his right eye on November 2, 1918. Together, the two found work through the vast country from Orland's original idea of a farm in Alberta to gold mining in British Columbia. He found a girl from his hometown of Barnard, Vermont to marry while here and tried to start a family and settle down, returning to the United States in 1934.
Orland was quick to reenlist - he had a family to support and the Army promised steady income. For three years he served with the 4th Infantry out of Fort Missoula, Montana. The fort was originally established in 1877 to protect settlers from possible threats from Native Americans. By 1937 he was in Washington with F Company, 7th Infantry, a unit that would become his home into the early part of World War II.
When Huntoon saw his first combat on November 8, 1942, his career with the Army was sealed. This began his first tour of this war, from Casablanca through Tunisia. After short time back in the states, he requested to return to Europe and sailed over with A Company, 259th Infantry for the final days of the war. When he returned home a second time, he divorced his wife to marry the Army.
His experience in Korea mirrored his WWII service. As one of the first replacements to the 24th Division in 1950, he arrived in Korea on July 8 as field first sergeant of C Company, 21st Infantry. He was one of the many replacements stripped from the 25th Division to fulfill losses in the already weak battalions of the 24th Division. B and C Companies in particular had been wiped out during Task Force Smith. Huntoon was soon working closely with the company commander Bill Wyrick, who was at times amused by how bitter Orland would become about the poor supply problems. He often compared the shortcomings to how smoothly things ran in World War II and was often frustrated when he was not able to receive the materiel he requested. The staggering heat wore the old soldier faster than the younger members of the company and in the first week of September, Orland was forced to transfer to the regimental Headquarters Company. He was stubborn and still yearned for line duty, but it was a necessary break until the middle of November when he left Korea for duty in Japan and ultimately the United States.
For the next two years all he wanted to do was return to Korea, and finally he did in 1953. Like he had years earlier, saw the first and last days of the war. At that time he was over fifty years old and as salty as they come. He managed to get back into the same C Company, 21st Infantry stationed in Japan at the time in November 1952. Two days before the armistice, the 24th Division was in Korea again for the close of hostilities. Orland did not care - he was back in the field, in his home, wherever he made it.