U.S. Army – SP4
93rd Engineer Float Bridge Company
Cold War (November 1953 – August 1955)
World War II saw the lives of over four hundred thousand Americans devoured. The U.S. was regarded as the lone superpower of the world. Just before the turn of the 1950’s however, the USSR developed the atomic bomb sending the U.S. into the nation’s second red scare within a span of 30 years. Communism was evil, rampant and like a virus, kept hijacking countries and corrupting them from the inside. In fear of a communist invasion, the US jacked up defense spending following a relative low after the end of World War II. The third incarnation of the draft was continued, and for the only time in U.S. history, was issued during peacetime. All around the country, young men like Ralph Paul Kellogg willingly stepped up to serve when their name was called.
Kellogg was born on March 14th, 1932, in San Francisco, California. His father was an office manager for Simonds Saw and Steel Company and his mother worked part-time as an office worker. Kellogg had an uncle who served in World War I. Prior to entering the military, Kellogg worked for M. Greenberg & Sons as a draftsman.
Kellogg was drafted into the military on November 25th, 1953. Before this, he had been in the Coast Guard Reserve for three years. The idea was that Kellogg, when drafted, would simply move into active duty; however, he got a concussion and one of his eyes turned in. Because of this, the Coast Guard wouldn’t take him and the very next day Kellogg was sent to Fort Ord. Kellogg’s mom was upset about this because going into the Army meant leaving her, while being in the Coast Guard didn’t.
At basic training, Kellogg was on an 8-2-8 cycle and part of his time was on bivouac. This meant that he would have eight weeks of training, two weeks off, then eight weeks of training. During basic training, all soldiers were required to carry rifles wherever they went. Because of this, Kellogg would spend time practicing with M1 rifles. Kellogg would also spend much of his other time going to classes. For example Kellogg took a course on how to use face masks. One moment from this class Kellogg remembers was at a bivouac on the bleachers. The instructors would throw tear-gas bombs at Kellogg and he would have to learn how to respond in a real life scenario. By taking courses like this one, Kellogg believed that he learned everything he needed before being sent off.
Kellogg flew from Fort Ord to New Jersey a week before being sent to Germany. He specifically remembers one class that he took in New Jersey about what to do if you are captured. He remembers being told, “Those of you who learn to bug out, are the ones that usually escaped.”
After basic training, Kellogg spent eight weeks learning truck-mechanics. As a result of this special training he became a parts clerk. During his two weeks of leave Kellogg had his eye operated on.
Kellogg was sent off to a small German town west of Munich called Leipein. The site was a German airfield with bomb-crater holes in it and was shared with a tank company. When he first arrived, Kellogg was excited because he had never been to Germany. At the site, the mission of Kellogg’s unit was to provide the parts for a bridge to be built; however, other engineering companies would actually do the building. This was done several times a year by Kellogg and the rest of his unit.
At the assignment, Kellogg was a private first class because he had been in the Coast Guard Reserve; he was then promoted to corporal, but the name was changed to specialist four. He enjoyed carrying around a carbine everywhere he went. He remembers taking it apart cleaning the stock and varnishing it on numerous occasions. His living situation was pretty good especially compared to how it was in Korea. Where he was, there were never any shortages. He would sleep in buildings called billets. He was always able to communicate with his family via letter and according to Kellogg, the food was simply “fine.” They had their own cooks and they put on weight. For entertainment, Kellogg and a group of guys would go off base with a pass and drink beer. Many of the members of Kellogg’s unit were truck drivers and they would just count the days until they could go home, but Kellogg enjoyed his job.
On his leave, Kellogg traveled with two other guys in an old Chevrolet that they bought. They went to cities in Europe such as Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris, as well as other countries such as Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Austria. During his service, Kellogg suffered no injuries. He received the National Defense Service Medal, The Army Occupation Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.
Kellogg recalls three particularly frightening moments during his service. First, in Germany Kellogg remembers a dangerous truck driving experience. Accidents didn’t occur often; however, when they did happen the results would be catastrophic. All the trucks were typically full with 10 tons of steel. One time, Kellogg describes, “We were going through town, and we were going down a hill towards the middle of town, and this truck ahead of us lost its breaks. And it just took off down the hill. And it jumped the curb, went through the front of the house and out the back of the house. Just took the whole house with it.”
A second disaster occurred when Kellogg was on Bivouac. He remembers, “We were on Bivouac. These four guys – They put their sleeping bags behind the truck and slept on the ground. You never want to do that. They came and took the truck and ran over them.”
The final mishap that Kellogg experienced occurred when a truck-mounted crane fell over. Another crane was used to make it upright again without much trouble.
Kellogg recalls being surprised to see an atomic cannon one night when he was taken out of bed to the airfield to get parts. He was able to see the atomic cannon because the inconspicuous company that rarely stops by the base and only travels by night had brought the cannon on this occasion.
At the end of his service, Kellogg had a slightly unfortunate event that turned into an interesting story. Kellogg and a buddy were getting ready to rotate home. Both of them acquired a keg of beer. The engineers built a crate for everyone to put their belongings in to ship home. Kellogg and his friend figured that they could keep the keg of beer by stuffing it into this crate. It turned out that the kegs for the beer were old and leaked. This didn’t make any difference for the selling company because the beer was pumped out every night. However, this was problematic for Kellogg and his buddy. Kellogg stated, “Well, here we had two – two kegs of beer, and we knew it – it would never survive the trip back. So we asked our – our commanding officer if we could have a party, and he said, ‘Sure.’ (Both laugh.) So we had 10 gallons of beer and we had a great party!” Even with all of his crazy experiences, Kellogg describes this as the most memorable moment of his military experience.
Kellogg was released back at Fort Ord on August 24th, 1955. His parents picked him up and brought him home. Kellogg then made reservations to go back to school. In August of 1955 Kellogg started at UC Berkeley where he majored in architecture in a five-year program. When he completed the program, he got married, had a daughter and started working for Bank of America in the architectural department.
Since his release, Kellogg has tried to keep in touch with some of the friends that he made in service. Most interactions with them are done online, but one of his friends came to visit him in Marin from Los Angeles. He has also spent 10 years with the Tamalpais Valley Community Services District in an elected office. Additionally, Kellogg was involved with a church as an Eucharistic minister and was involved with the Order of the Arrow in the Boy Scouts. Kellogg is a member of two veterans organizations. One is Post 72 San Rafael Veterans of Foreign Wars and the other is the Marin County United Veterans Council. In both Kellogg has the role of a quartermaster or treasurer.
In the end, Kellogg felt that his time in Germany was well spent. Germany needed help at the time and Kellogg was able to provide it. He made a lot of German friends and he realized that the people he talked to were not Nazis, rather regular human beings. This feeling is evident as both Kellogg and his wife have gone back several times since.
Now Kellogg holds a reoccurring opinion among veterans that everyone should give up two years of their life in service to their country. He thinks maybe after graduating high school, young adults could take off for two years, and then come back and go to college. After whichever form of service they participate in, Kellogg believes they will be more prepared for their future lives. He thinks this is the least we could do for the betterment of our country.
When asked what advice he has for young men and women that are interested in serving or are about to serve, Kellogg responded, “I’m scared. I’m scared for them. The – the way they’re – they’re set up now – and – and going right into active duty, it’s not good. It’s — that whole thing bothers me. We don’t belong there. We should never have gone there.”
Kellogg is an experienced man who wants the best for the world. He thinks everyone should be involved in something for the betterment of humans. His Cold War military experience shaped the man he is today. Moving on, Kellogg looks to continue to influence humanity for the better, so that the world’s problems one day may be nothing compared to what they are now.
Interview by Jacob Bruner on January 18th, 2016