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Courage Under Fire 2012

July 9, 2012

Courage Under Fire: Leroy Folks

Folks' calculations made sure shells hit enemy targets

STILLWATER, Okla. — While men fought on the frontlines during the Korean War, others supported with calculated fire from artillery.

Leroy Folks was a sergeant in the National Guard and helped direct fire missions to support the 175th infantry.

Folks and several of his friends enlisted in the National Guard in 1948. Their local guard unit was an artillery unit. He was assigned to Battery C of the 158th Field Artillery.

“We figured it was better than being drafted,” Folks said. They had three 105 mm howitzers.

His superiors soon found that Folks was skilled in mathematics and began training him in surveying, using an aiming circle and doing fire direction commands.

Folks explained that it was his job to translate information from aircraft and forward observers into fire mission coordinates. Folks said he was the “brains” of the battery's guns.

Folk's unit was soon mobilized for the Korean War.

“I felt like we were well-trained,” Folks said. “But of course I was only 20 years old and I didn't know what we might be facing.”

They unit traveled by ship to Japan where Folks was met with strange sights, smells and sounds.

 They traveled deeper into Japan by train and lived in a tent city where they trained.

When Folks and others saw men from the 1st Calvary marching past, they knew they would soon be relieving them. Folks was chosen to travel with an advance party to make preparations for the rest of the unit.

They traveled by boat and made an amphibious landing at Incheon, Korea. The unforgiving tide kept boats from getting too close.

 As the trucks drove closer to the front line, Folks began to feel eerie. The trucks turned off their headlights and massive spotlights swept the sky to keep everyone safe from enemy aircraft.

"They were called moonbeams,” explained Folks.

When they arrived at the 1st cavalry's firing base, they found hot coffee and good food. But not all was well.

“They had been shot up pretty bad,” Folks said. Much of their equipment was either worn out or damaged. Folks began familiarizing himself with area maps and preparing for the rest of the unit to get there. They arrived several weeks later and the base began providing support for the 175th infantry.

Forward observers and aircraft would say were fire was needed in relation to base points on the map. They would then provide other reference points so the guns could send rounds.

Folks explained that first they would fire one round to check if their aim was correct. And then, after corrections were made, several guns would fire for effect.

“It was pretty noisy,” Folks said.

Being precise was the difference between killing the enemy and hitting American soldiers. Folks recalled one frightening incident where a soldier showed him an incorrectly placed base point on the map which could have directed fire into friendly troops.

“That still hangs in my memory,” folks said.

After a year in Korea, Folks was sent back to the U.S. and arrived in San Francisco where he found everything looked strange and foreign.

“It was a bit of a shock,” he said.


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