WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service and sacrifice of Korean War veteran E.L. Heffley in “Salute to Veterans,” a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.
Heffley, the youngest of seven siblings, grew up on his family’s farm in Newton County.
He worked in a factory, earning 40 cents an hour, but he wanted something better. So, he and a friend went to Russellville to look for work. “We were going down past the courthouse and they had a sign out [that read] ‘Uncle Sam needs you.’ That’s what got us,” Heffley said.
As a 17-year-old, Heffley needed the permission of one of his parents to enlist in the Army. After his dad signed the paperwork, he was sent to Camp Chaffee, now known as Fort Chaffee, before basic training at Fort Ord, California. “It was eight weeks of pretty hard training,” he recalled.
Less than two years later, in 1950, he was training to deploy to Korea. “We went through two weeks of the hardest training that I ever went through,” Hefley said.
Heffley and his fellow soldiers got on a ship in San Francisco, but they didn’t know where it was going. One day before shore, they learned it would land at Pusan, Korea, today known as Busan.
“Our first contact in battle was just a day after we had landed,” Heffley said. “When we got in combat we found out we were a disorganized unit. They withdrew us and brought us back and reorganized. Some of our officers got relieved, some of our noncommissioned officers got relieved.” Heffley, a gunner on the 81mm mortar, was also reassigned. “The lieutenant called me over to the tent and he said ‘would you volunteer to be the forward observer?’ I said I won’t volunteer, but I’ll do what you ask me to do.”
Heffley attained the rank of sergeant during his one year deployment in Korea. For his service, he was awarded several military medals including the Korean Service Medal with six bronze service stars.
While some of his friends were interested in reenlisting after their tour, Heffley had no interest. His time in combat is something he tries to put out of his mind. He admitted that he talked more about it during the interview, than any time before. “War was not good for me,” Heffley said. “I think about the young people that got killed that didn’t have a chance in life.”
“I am grateful for E.L. Heffley’s dedication and service to our nation. His memories of his military service are an important part of our history and I am pleased to be able to collect and preserve his stories,” Boozman said.
Boozman will submit Heffley’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.