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First Lieutenant | Corps of Engineers

By the time the front lines became established networks of trenches and bunkers, the Corps of Engineers were constantly at work to maintain, improve and repair the system of fortifications that stretched for miles across stiff ridges of the Korean hills.  Constant artillery barrages demolished and caved in the sandbag castles and at night the Chinese would sneak into no man’s land and lay mine fields that required the clearing by the skilled engineers.  Tanks that were limited by the steep hills became fixed in special pits that protected them as they acted as artillery – all constructed by the skilled and adaptive engineers.


For units like the 40th Division that arrived at the turn of 1952, this stagnant kind of war was the only one they had seen in Korea.  Their homes consisted of stacked sandbags and lumber bunkers complete with doors where they created amenities to mimic something more comforting amid daily patrols and frequent artillery strikes that raised adrenaline to the maximum.  After a brief course with the 101st Division which was churning out officers and men for service in Korea, Lieutenant Carl Rebele joined B Company, 578th Engineer Battalion when they were entering their second Korean winter and had been subjected to nearly a year of this harsh lifestyle.  With little snowfall during the season – except for snowcapped peaks in the distance – the landscape was left dry, brown and barren and the frozen earth made it quite difficult to dig anywhere.  Thawing into spring did not simplify work for the engineers as it only turned the hard ground into mud that devoured vehicles and kept both construction and ordnance occupied.


In late March, the young Lieutenant put his engineers to work in constructing a new supply route for the line units.  The rocky Korean slopes were not conducive to typical means of road construction and the steep area had to be blasted and dug out to afford a path for supply – but it was most successful and earned Rebele a commendation.  Though the armistice put an end to working under hostile fire, it did not mean the 578th was left unoccupied and the rest of Carl’s Korean tour continued with rigorous training and repairing the shattered countryside.  In a country with poor or no roads a few years earlier, there was a dramatic change since the onset of war and by 1953 there was a vast network of engineering marvels that pushed Korea into the modern era.

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