With Memorial Day coming up, we thought this was a cool story on a local man’s history in the Korean War and a lifetime spent in McKenzie County with his wife, JoAnne. The couple will be celebrating their 57th wedding anniversary this fall.
Dale Garmann was not yet 17 years old when the Korean War began on June 25, 1950. And he was just barely 18 years old when he chose to enlist into the U.S. Army.
“I knew I’d get called anyway,” said Garmann, upon enlisting into the Armed Services. “I just wanted to change a life, including my own. And I did pretty good in the service.”
Garmann was born on July 10, 1933, in Watford City. He went to school through the seventh grade before leaving his educational path to follow one working for a rancher his first few years out of school.
Then in 1952, after enlisting in the U.S. Army, he traveled to Fort Riley, Kansas for boot camp followed by ‘cook’ school. His MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) was a cook, but Garmann did not want anything to do with being a cook. He wanted to go to war and fight.
“I went through Boot Camp for about six weeks and then they sent me to baker school,” remembered Garmann. “But I told them I wasn’t cooking, I was going to fight. And after cook school was done, I didn’t cook one day. I was sent over into the infantry in Korea. It didn’t take very long to make rank once I was out in the platoon.”
When Garmann got to Korea, he recalls the line being stationary and realized that the biggest part of the war was already over by the time he arrived. But the U.S. had several conflicts to be fought.
“We had several conflicts with them,” said Garmann. “I was in Korea for about nine months before we were rotated out. And I ended up with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star during that time.”
Garmann recalls the exact night he ended up with shrapnel in one of his legs, earning him those awards of distinction.
“We were out on one of those hills and the Chinese were trying to get the hill back,” recollects Garmann. “We had been fighting for two days and on the third day, we were out in the trenches around the hill. We had a machine gun down there and I had asked for volunteers to go out with me, but no one wanted to. So I asked my Corporal and told him I would volunteer to go down there. During the nights, when the flares went out, we’d move this way or clear back over that way. Well, that third night, I ended up coming out of it okay with a little shrapnel in one of my legs. But the Chinese never did get that hill back. They sure did try though.”
Needless to say, Garmann said the guys listened to him after that incident and they told him they’d never not volunteer to go out with him again. He was the youngest soldier out there, and had a zealousness for showing his tough side and earning respect from the rest of his platoon.
Garmann was brought to an aid station to abstract the shrapnel out of his leg. Once his nine months in Korea were complete, he returned to the
“Once I got back to the States, I got a Mess Sergeant job,” said Garmann. “Compared to what I had been doing, it was like riding the ‘gravy train.’ I was the guy who took care of ordering the groceries and making sure the kitchen and mess halls were clean. But I grew up a lot after I got out of the service. It made a lot of difference in my life.”
Garmann spent the rest of his time, almost two years, in the U.S. Army stationed in Fort Bliss, Texas. After his three-year enlistment ended, he was honorably discharged and moved back to his home state of North Dakota. Garmann remembers North Dakota being his home the majority of his life, except when he was in the service.
Once back in Watford City, Garmann remembers meeting his wife shortly thereafter.
“I was working with her dad building combine trailers when I met her,” said Garmann. “I looked at her and said, ‘she’s mine’ – I’m going to marry her.”
And that’s just what he did. On Nov. 16, 1958, he married the love of his life, JoAnne (Karpyak). And later this fall, they will proudly celebrate 57 years of marriage together. Over the years, through thick and thin, they have raised five children, four boys and one girl. And they have over 20 grand and great-grandchildren.
For the last four to five years, Garmann has worked steady on oil rigs in the Bakken. Once he left the rigs, he decided to open up a trailer park, where he is currently working on four new sites for mobile homes in addition to two for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) trailers.
“I’m supposed to be retired now,” said Garmann. “But I’m working harder now than I ever did. I’ll be 82 on July 10. I didn’t think I’d ever make it. My dad died at 72. I’ve had a good life. I’m still married. My wife’s been a good woman – I knew that when I married her. I promised her I’d always take care of her and I’m still taking care of her. We’ll be celebrating 57 years this fall.”