Picasa3 Eugene Joseph Plocki
US Army – 1st Lieutenant- Korean War (1952-1954)
Navy Reserves- Lieutenant Commander (1954-1976)
Make no mistake; Lieutenant Commander Eugene Joseph Plocki is a true patriot. His long-term commitment to our country is commendable and honorable. Though he never saw battle, he did go to war for our country. No matter what was asked of Lieutenant Commander Plocki, he was always ready to go, without any questions or inhibitions. His positions throughout his Army and Navy career were imperative to the military and their operations.
Born on October 31, 1930 in Chicago Illinois, the son of a mechanical engineer and a homemaker, Eugene grew up knowing he wanted to serve his country. Because he had a brother a Chaplin in the Army, Eugene became interested in a new program at Loyola University in Chicago, called ROTC. He enlisted in the ROTC program where he spent the next four years training to become an officer. He remembers his mother was apprehensive of his decision, but he states, “I had no apprehensions. I thought it was a great way to go; it gave me a great deal of experience. I was able to serve my country, and I learned a lot.” At the training center at the University, he attended various classes that trained him in military procedures and operations. “It was a program the required great discipline,” Plocki recalls. It was during this time that the Korean War broke out and he remembers how the program emphasized unity. “It really taught us how to function and work as a team,” states Plocki. His junior year of university he was sent to a 30-day training program at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin where he had a chance to apply his military knowledge.
In 1950, the United States became involved with the Korean War in order to stop the aggression of Northern Korea into Southern Korea and to preserve the freedom of South Korea. The United States helped push Northern Korea back to the 38th parallel with U.S. military force and the support of the United Nations. As a result of the U.S. involvement, the Southern Koreans regained their freedom and went on to become a prosperous nation.
In June of 1952, Plocki graduated from Loyola University and was given a job as an officer in the Army as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Infantry. His first assignment was in August, for four months in infantry school at Fort Benning, Georgia. His training included all aspects of military operations and procedures. Day to day duties consisted of morning marches followed by classes, Monday through Friday, from 8:00am- 5:00 pm and sometimes on Saturday mornings. His most memorable class was map reading. Plocki recalls, “You may think map reading would be easy, but if you were to be dropped off in a deserted area at midnight, with only a flash light, it was not so easy to find your way back to the command post.” He also remembers his armory training, which included the modar and rifle training with Browning Automatic, MI rifles and 30 caliber machine guns. It is unfortunate that during this time, he later discovered, that he sustained some partial permanent damage to his left ear from the loud explosives and cold weather.
Plocki finished his training in December of 1952 and was assigned to troop training at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. He trained various companies for sixteen-week cycles. He describes how, “The enlistees would come and we had revile at 5:00 am. Everyone would go to breakfast, and after breakfast, they would clean up their barracks and make sure their bed was made correctly and everything was in A1 condition because everything was inspected. Then we would fall out in platoon formation and would go to a classroom or a field exercise.” Plocki went through two full training cycles then after the fourth week of the third training cycle he was reassigned to Korea.
In July of 1953 Plocki was given a thirty-day leave before heading out to Korea. During this time he went back to Chicago to say goodbye to friends and family. In August, he boarded a prop plane and began his journey to Korea. His first stop was at Fort Lewis, Washington where he received a briefing about the conditions in Korea. He then traveled to Juno, Alaska, Adak in the Aleutians and finally to Tokyo, Japan. From Tokyo he was moved to Camp Drake in Sasebo Japan. Here Plocki attended classes on chemical, biological and radiological advancements. From Sasebo, Plocki, traveled by boat to Pusan, Korea then by train to Seoul, Korea. In Seoul, he was transferred by Army truck to his duty assignment the 3rd division infantry in Korea. Plocki served in Division Headquarters as a Civil Affairs Officer. He recalls, “When I arrived in Korea, I felt normal. I had no inhibitions. I had no problem accepting the fact I was in Korea even though I knew that it might be a battleground situation, but as you know, in June of 53, we signed a truce with Korea. The fighting had stopped, but we were still in a situation and we did not know what was going to happen.” As an Information Officer, his duties included providing information to the troops via newsletters, posting to various bulletin boards and giving information and lectures to the different companies in his group.
Plocki remembers his most significant assignment in the Army was as a civil affairs officer. His mission was to find out what the Korean civilian population was interested in and how the Army could contribute to its welfare. He was sent out to talk to the mayors of the community and learned that they really wanted education for their children. Plocki fondly recalls asking the Koreans “ What can we do to help educate your children?” Most answered, “Well build us a school.” Plocki remembers, “So we said ok, give us a plan of what kind of school you would like. They, at that point, got their engineers together, which was surprising, and they came up with the most elaborate school that you could imagine. We had a big discussion about that; I had to take it up with the Division Commander and find out what they wanted to do.” After much discussion, the Army did build a very nice school.
After a while, he was promoted to become an Educational Officer. In this position, Plocki helped coordinate credited college classes in the evenings and on Saturdays through the University of Maryland. They had classes in English, History and Science. Professors would come out from the University and rotate the courses every three months. By the end of his tenure in Korea, he was a 1st Lieutenant.
During the winter of 1953, Plocki remembers a Christmas USO show that was the highlight of his tour. He fondly remembers meeting Marilyn Monroe, when she came out to entertain the troops. Cardinal Spellman, from New York also came out to serve Christmas Day mass, and he the felt blessed to have met him and attend the mass.
In May of 1954, Plocki returned home to Chicago and reported to a separation center at Fort Sheridan, in Lake Forest, Illinois. He was advised that his commitment with the Army would then be as an inactive reserve and that he had no further obligation to the Army. At the time the government was cutting back on military expenses, decreasing the Army Reserve Program. He still wanted to serve, so in June of 1954, he joined the Navy Reserves.
During Eugene Plocki’s tenure in the Army he was awarded the following service medals: Korean Service Medal, National Defense Medal, United Nations Service Medal and Commendation Ribbon with Medal Pendant.
During the first eighteen months with the Navy Reserves in Evanston Illinois, he was an Administration Officer and was promoted to Lieutenant. Every summer he was assigned to a two-week training mission in a radio operations unit. In January of 1959, he recalls one such mission: “I was sent to do a two-week training in San Francisco. I left a blizzard in Chicago, but when I arrived in San Francisco it was 75 degrees. I couldn’t believe it. They assigned me to Scaggs Island. The weather was so nice I decided to transfer to Treasure Island, California.” At Treasure Island, his duty was as an Administrative Officer, and he served at this post until December of 1968. During this time, he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander, worked in sales in civilian life and met his wife, Catherin, whom he married in 1964. They have been married for almost 50 years and have five children.
In January of 1959 he transferred to Alameda, California and was assigned Group Command, a liaison to the various divisions of the Navy training center. He held this position until January of 1974, when he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander of the Naval Reserve Division. During that time, the U.S. was engaged in a war with Vietnam. Even though no one from his unit was called to active duty, he was always ready to serve his country.
Plocki retired from the Navy in 1976 and now lives in Larkspur, California. He became quite active with the Twin Cities American Legion Post 313 and was Commander for five years. He has been a member for 21 years. He also joined the Military Officers Association of America.
In closing, Lieutenant Commander Eugene Plocki is grateful to the military for offering him a life of adventure and opportunities. He states, “The entire experience was a positive nature and a benefit to me.” He encourages young men and women to join the military and apply to the various military academies such as WestPoint and Annapolis. The military has enriched his life in so many positive ways. He continues this journey as a proud American and a true patriot. We, the people of the United States, are fortunate to have men like Lieutenant Commander Plocki serve and represent our country.
Interviewed by Peter Jake Daniels on October 27, 2013