Rosenau bakes, war ends before invasion
November 11, 2014
One modest, hardworking farmer and rancher from northwestern South Dakota has only moved about 12 miles from the place where he spent his youth.
But Herman Rosenau, who operates about six miles west of Glad Valley and grew up on a farm/ranch about six miles east, has seen some miles and country in his 89 years.
Drafted in May of 1944 but "called up" in January of the next year, and sent by train to Abilene, Texas in January of 1945, he had never been further from home at that point. But he was about to be.
Rosenau said he wasn't really surprised when he was drafted at age 18, "I figured it would come sooner or later." And he wasn't really scared "It didn't bother me as bad as it seemed like it did some. But I was tough. I was gonna make it."
After infantry boot camp in Texas, Rosenau headed to Missouri for medical training. "The war seemed to be turning and the Japanese would rather shoot a medic than anybody else so they packed lots of us up for medic training."
During the two-month session, Rosenau remembers the instruction on morphine usage. "The main one that was instructing us had been in North Africa and he was very insistent on when to give morphine and when not to. He said, 'I've seen boys die that wouldn't have had to.' He got his point across."
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Morphine was "quite available" to the military medics at the time, he said.
Occupation troops were being sent to Korea and Japan and Rosenau was "lucky enough to win Korea," so he went there from his original station in Manila, the capital of the Philippines.
The primitive living conditions of the Koreans surprised even a farm boy from South Dakota. "They were backwards further than you can remember the homesteaders telling about things. In that country everything was by foot or an ox."
Rosenau fell into a new job shortly after his arrival.
He said when the company's two cooks saw that bread came in a 100 pound sack and a gallon can of yeast, they wouldn't look at it. "I told the mess sergeant I could bake bread so that was my job. I started out baking twelve loaves of bread every night." Rosenau said there were no bread pans so the metal tins that held bacon were saved and used to bake bread.
He had helped the baker on the ship, and had watched his mother bake bread every week as a child. "After helping the baker for about two weeks, you'd have to be pretty dumb not to know what went into a batch of bread," he said.
The war was coming to an end by the time Rosenau arrived in Korea but it stopped more quickly than most expected, he thinks.
"We were getting ahead of the Japanese and the war was turning," he remembers. It was understood that the soldiers in his company would be helping with a massive invasion. "They figured that we'd have to go ashore in Japan before they'd surrender."
Rosenau said, "Some of the officers said they figured we would lose from a half million to a million boys going ashore in Japan. 'But you're tough, you'll make it.'"
Being a medic, he'd have had the responsibility of stopping the pain and bleeding and getting the wounded to a hospital.
He's thankful he didn't have to find out how it was to treat wounded soldiers.
"When they dropped those two little eggs over Japan they got their attention and they were ready to talk business," he said.
Life resumed to as close to normal as possible after the war.
"When I came home from the army I came home to the farm and I guess I wasn't smart enough to leave," he said.
"I've been dabbling in the dirt and following a few cows for the rest of my life. I wouldn't trade for half of New York City."
Along with his wife Nina, Rosenau continues to farm and ranch on his own and can only be caught in the house when the sun is down.
His outlook on agriculture is pretty simple.
"Take care of those cows and they will take care of you."