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Smither, James (Interviewer)

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Ziebart, Kenneth

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Kenneth Ziebart was born on May 23, 1928 in St. Joseph, Michigan. Ziebart’s family owned a farm and his father lost his job as a butcher during the Great Depression. He recalled hearing about the attack on Pearl Harbor over the radio when a newscast interrupted the football broadcast he was listening to. Since they owned a farm, Ziebart’s family received larger quantities of gas through wartime rationing. After missing the final draft for the Second World War, Ziebart was drafted for service during the Korean War in November of 1950. He attended Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, where he was instructed by personnel that were younger than the recruits in training. After basic training, Ziebart was sent to Beale Air Force Base in California where he received basic instruction on machinery and light engineer work before being shipped to Busan, Korea in November of 1951. In Korea, he was stationed at an airbase as a crane oiler and was later sent to another base outside Seoul where he worked in mechanized excavation. He recalled how, one night, an enemy aircraft flew over the base and dropped small bombs near the airfield, forcing Ziebart and the engineers to fill in the holes in the runway for American planes to land safely. Nonetheless, both bases saw little combat action, theft, or sabotage during his tour in Korea. He also recalled supervising a group of Korean laborers who he described as incredibly hard-working. There were approximately 85% African American personnel in the engineering units Ziebart worked with, which surprised him. He also visited Japan while on leave for a week during which the Japanese were exceptionally nice to their American guests. Toward the end of his enlistment, Ziebart was shipped back to the United States and was officially discharged at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin. When he returned home, he acquired a job for a photographing company. Reflecting upon his time in the service, Ziebart believed he received a quality technical education as well as a greater appreciation for life in the United States.

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Veterans History Project collection, (RHC-27)