Theodore S. Cohen

Photo of Ted CohenTheodore S. Cohen
U.S. Army: 185 Infantry Regiment 40th division WWII, 14th ACR
WWII (1943-1946)
Korea (1965)

Born in Chicago, Illinois on February 19, 1925, Ted Cohen dedicated his life to serving his country. During high school Ted was part of his high schools ROTC program, instead of gym class. After Pearl Harbor the teachers were worried that students would leave high school and go directly to war. His drill instructor told all the boys that there would be plenty of war to fight and that they should get their high school diploma. And indeed there was plenty of war. He graduated in January 1943 and was sent by his draft board to active duty in June 1943. He went to boot camp at Camp Hulen Texas and spent eight weeks at basic training. Later Camp Hulen was converted into a German POW camp. Then he went to Aberdeen, Maryland and spent three months learning about ordinance. Then he was sent to Livinginston, Louisiana for infantry training in March 1944. His first deployment was to Luzon in January 1945, but the 185th regiment was relocated to Negros and then to Panay in May.

On August 6, 1945 the atom bomb, code named “little boy”, was dropped on Hiroshima. For Ted it was nothing special, just reports of a new type of bomb. Then on August 14, 1945 Japan surrendered after a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Despite Japan’s surrender Ted’s daily activities never changed, just regular patrols until all enemy troops were rounded up. Later word came in about a “false invasion” of the Japanese homeland island Kyushu. The real invasion was to be north on Honshu. The casualty rate was estimated to be 80% but luckily the mission was canceled due to the Japanese surrender and the war ending. In late September 1945 Ted’s division moved north landing at lnchon South Korea. His division was to be used as occupation troops and their job was to make sure all Japanese went back to Japan. Japan had been occupying South Korea as a colony since 1902.

On February 19, 1945 on Ted’s 21st birthday he was discharged and entered the ready reserve as all veterans did. He had a warm welcome home. He remembered it being a community event, at the same time he was taking off his uniform so were all his neighbors. When at home he enrolled in the University of Illinois. He joined the Illinois National Guard. He was assigned to the new Recon Battalion, because they were short of officers. Ted was offered a field commission as second lieutenant, he accepted and stated his military career. Then when he was 22 years old he received a new draft card!

In June 1950 President Truman made the US Military into the worldwide police force. Ted expected to be sent to Korea to help the South Koreans reverse the invasion by the North. But Ted was sent to the border of East and West Germany because the Soviets thought that they could progress because the US was engaged in Korea. He was assigned to the 14th Calvary. His job was to monitor and coordinate all border patrols along the border. In three cases he had to deal directly with the Soviets. The Soviets would ambush patrols this would enable them to take part of the patrol and hold them for a week or so as prisoners. In order to get the prisoners back the US had to enter Soviets territory to get them. The Soviets wanted to get the “upper hand” mentally by making the US come to them. Ted mentioned that there was an unusual amount of respect between both sides. The POWs only complained about the food when they were in prison. Ted served seven years on the border and was promoted to Captain.

 In 1963 the army thought that Ted needed a change of pace. He was now a major and was assigned to Special Forces at Fort Bragg. He was scheduled to go to Vietnam as part of the Special Forces. In December 1963, while on leave he was preparing to go on tour in Vietnam within the next month. He received a call from his armor career branch advisor and was informed that his orders were canceled and he was now set to be the National Guard advisor in Philadelphia, Mississippi. He marched down to the Pentagon and made his case that it was more cost effective if he stayed where he was and didn’t have to relocate his family. Ted said that the toughest part of being in the military was always having is family on the move.

In 1970 Ted made his final tour in South Vietnam in the Ban Me Thuet Mountains. Now Ted spends his time involved in MOAA and Rotary, as well as building a railroad town in an entire room in his house.

Interview by Robert Kent on June 24, 2011

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