Korean War Veteran Roy Trobaugh

Roy Trobaugh makes fishing sinkers from molten lead Oct. 18 at his Elk Point, S.D., home. Trobaugh served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, and he is a fisherman.

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal

ELK POINT, S.D. | Long before Col. "Bud" Day won fame for his heroic escape from a North Vietnamese prisoner of war camp, the Sioux City native also served valiantly in the Korean War. During that three-year conflict, Day ran into fellow Sioux Cityan Roy "Dutch" Trobaugh.

Trobaugh also had a military career himself, enlisting in his teens and serving three years in Japan and Korea. Growing up in the hard-scrabble Riverside as the 10th of 15 children, Trobaugh played sports, fished and could hold his breath in extended fashion to swim completely underwater across the Big Sioux River.

Trobaugh's older brothers (five of them served in World War II in the 1940s) ran around with Day, but he got to know him a bit too, decades before Day won the Medal of Honor and was the nation's most highly decorated living service member at the time of his death in 2013.

"(Day) was a wild and crazy guy. He was a good man, though," Trobaugh said.

Trobaugh enlisted in the U.S. Army on his 17th birthday, ending the ability to play center field on the top-notch Riverside Merchants team and some degree of admittedly aimless carousing.

"I was crazy. I was young and crazy. I did everything that could be done... A man's got to stop that stuff. If you don't, you end up in the hoosegow (jail)," Trobaugh said.

The enlistment came on Aug. 12, 1949, and he first served in Japan by mid-1950, making beach heads at Inchon as ships landed on Japanese turf. Shortly thereafter, he began soldiering through Korea, after that war started. Trobaugh was in Korea until his discharge on Sept. 17, 1952. By that time at having reached age 20, he had earned three Bronze Stars.

The goal of his company, which at times numbered 200 soldiers, was to cut off supply lines. He was an infantry rifleman, meaning he hoofed it around Korea, getting into battles and at times losing fellow soldiers.

"I went all the way across Korea, from one end to the other. We fought our way more or less clear to the Manchurian border, then the Chinese came across and chased us clear back," Trobaugh said.

He said the terrain wasn't exactly a jungle, but definitely not the treesy style he knew from Siouxland. During his trekking in Korea, Trobaugh was pleased one day to encounter Harry Denny, another Riverside area guy who was in the war.

On one rest and recuperation, or R&R, jaunt to Hong Kong, Trobaugh was surprised to run into Day. By that time, Day was a major in the Air Force.

"I took a little ride with him up in a plane," Trobaugh said. "...Bud was alright. You gotta be proud to know the guy that got all the medals."

Through it all, Trobaugh said his fellow soldiers were good guys and most military leaders served with high spirit and bravery.

"The soldiers were all right. I had one sergeant I couldn't get along with," he said.

Trobaugh came back to Siouxland after the war. He also lived in the Watts neighborhood of southern Los Angeles during a contentious time in the 1960s with his young family.

Now 84, and living in Elk Point, he has been married to Isabel Trobaugh for 61 years. Isabel Trobaugh has been mayor of Elk Point for many years, and the couple have two children and three grandchildren.

He still enjoys fishing, and makes lots of sinkers to give to neighborhood kids to use when they fish. That's something Trobaugh enjoys doing in a garage that essentially serves as his work shop. Living across the street from the Elk Point-Jefferson school, he often takes in contests of the Huskies teams.

Thinking back over his time in Korea, Trobaugh figured he served passably as a solider in the war.

"I don't know. So-so. I did my job," he deadpanned.

Trobaugh pondered whether the U.S. did well in achieving the goal of  defending people in the south part of Korea from a push of communism from the north.

"I really don't know. I never could figure out what we was doing over there," Trobaugh said.

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County and education reporter

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