Waterloo veteran tells story of Nagasaki at end of WWII - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo veteran tells story of Nagasaki at end of WWII

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Richard Klingaman Richard Klingaman
Farm South of Waterloo Farm South of Waterloo
Image burned into cement in Nagasaki after nuclear blast Image burned into cement in Nagasaki after nuclear blast

Less than a week remains until the inaugural Sullivan, Hartogh, Davis Honor Flight out of Waterloo.  Honor Flight takes our veterans to Washington, D.C. to see the new World War II memorial, and other landmarks including a trip out to Arlington National Cemetery.

For the past month, we've shared stories of some of the Waterloo area veterans on the flight list.

"I milked cows and we milked by hand," Richard Klingaman said about growing up on a farm just south of Waterloo.  Klingaman is from Orange Township.  He was laying on the floor listening to the radio when he heard about Pearl Harbor.

"I thought Pearl Harbor, where's that? I didn't think it would affect me but it sure did," Klingaman said.

A teenager during most of the war, Klingaman remembers the sacrifices they had to make on the home front.

"Got out of school early during the war at noon so we could help our fathers farm," Klingaman said.  "There's hadn't many of them (troops) come home yet when I was drafted."

Klingaman served as a truck driver.

"One of the reasons we were told we were being drafted is they were having such a big loss in the battle of the bulge," Klingaman said.  "I guess one of the things I had the experience as a member of the South Waterloo Church of the Brethren and the pastor got me aside before I left and he told me you're going to have the opportunity to drink. I want you to promise me you're not going to drink. Every time I'd go into a bar with these guys I couldn't drink. They really respected that and that's one reason they made me sergeant because I could put the guys to bed that were drunk at night.  Spending a year in Japan was quite an experience too."

Klingaman would later board a ship and cross the Pacific Ocean to provide relief to the Japanese people devastated by the first nuclear attacks in world history.

"Didn't know anything about it but they said this is Nagasaki where they dropped the bomb," he said.  "The Japanese were very receptive to us when we came in I think they wanted the war over, the common people."

Being in Japan was a bit of a cultural shock to the Iowan, but nothing he couldn't handle.

"The children, I remember the first thing I heard them say was Ohio. And I says Iowa. Ohio means hello," he laughed.

A lifetime later, the images of war still linger to this day.

"When we went ashore there was a cement wall with a ladder and a figure of somebody on the ladder. Somebody was on this ladder when the bomb exploded and the light left that impression on it and that has always stayed with me. That thing is just a terrible blast of energy and boy they were glad the bomb was dropped and get out of there even when we where in Japan on weekends and go around and sightsee and those islands were all fortified for an invasion. If we'd had to invade that it would have taken a lot of lives," Klingaman said.

After the war, Dick Klingaman came home to his farm south of Waterloo.  He farmed and was involved in housing development in the area south of what's now Highway 20.

The interview and pictures in this story come courtesy of the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum in Waterloo.  It's part of the veterans project, which aims to preserve the many stories from our men and women who have bravely served in uniform..

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