The three young 20-year-old men who climbed into a 1950 Pontiac in San Francisco on a November day in 1953 were eager to get on the road.
All three had been wounded in the Korean War battle on Pork Chop Hill. They spent time in Tokyo Army Hospital in Japan and then shared a room for five months at Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco. Discovering they were all from the Midwest, the three formed a friendship as they recuperated and shared stories.
Among their other injuries, each of the three, coincidentally, had lost one eye in the battle. The trio realized that if they pooled their resources when they were released from the hospital, they could drive home to the Midwest together.
They dubbed their trek back to the Midwest “The 3 Guys With 3 Eyes Road Trip.” It was a tough drive through snow-covered mountains, which necessitated buying chains for the car.
After returning home, the three went their separate ways.
Now, nearly 60 years later, two of the men have been reunited for the first time, and are planning a reunion with the third.
Robert Krause of Crystal, one of the three, instigated this spring’s reunion with Duane Broten of Princeton, after he spotted a newspaper story about Broten earlier this spring.
“That newspaper story brought back memories,” Krause said. “I thought he had to be that guy I was with in the hospital in California. I called him, and he was very happy to know I remembered him.”
Krause, a member of the Crystal VFW’s Ritual Squad, invited Broten and his wife, Monica, to come to the Crystal VFW Memorial Day ceremony and to a luncheon at the VFW afterwards.
Together once again, the men marveled, as they had when they first met at the hospital 60 years ago, that all three served in the same Army division and same regiment, though they were in three different companies.
“We were all on Pork Chop Hill at the same time and didn’t even know it until we got to the hospital,” Krause said. “We must have walked in each others’ footsteps and never knew it. We had no idea we’d all been wounded on the same hill.”
Krause, a sergeant, was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.
A native of Bertha, Minn., Krause grew up in a family of 10 siblings. His father was a World War I veteran; three of his brothers served in World War II, three served in the Korean War and one was on active duty during the Vietnam War.
Following his discharge from the service, Krause worked as a truck driver in the Twin Cities for 31 years.
He and his wife, Ardelle, have lived in the same home in Crystal since 1961. It’s a block from the VFW, where the two are active. The couple has two sons, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Duane Broten, a native of Roseau and uncle to the three famous Broten brothers from Roseau who played in the National Hockey League, served in the U.S. Army for three years and also was a sergeant. All four of his brothers were in the military as well.
Broten was captured by the North Koreans and sustained 27 shrapnel wounds. He escaped after spending five days in a trench. He subsequently received a Purple Heart award in the ‘50s, and in April 2013 at long last received a POW medal from U.S. Sen. Al Franken, presented at the State Capitol.
“It was totally overwhelming in a really great way,” said his wife, Monica Broten. “All that stuff was in the back of his mind, and he’d forgotten about it. He wants his kids to know about it.”
After he was discharged, Broten spent 28 years as a U.S. Postal Service carrier. Since he was in Korea when his Class of 1952 graduated from Roseau High School, Broten finally received his diploma in a special ceremony in June 2013 in Roseau.
Long ago, he parted with the 1953 Pontiac that brought him and his two Army buddies home from San Francisco.
Married to wife Monica for 30 years, Broten has lived in Princeton for 40 years. He has six children and six grandchildren.
Still to come is a three-way reunion with Curtis Boyd, the third member of the “3 Guys with 3 Eyes road trip.”
After Broten and Krause were reunited on Memorial Day, Monica Broten said she got on the Internet and started searching Korean War databases for information about Boyd.
She found him in Bradley, S.D. Broten telephoned Boyd, and the men are hoping to arrange a meeting of the “3 guys with 3 eyes” road trip group in the near future.
In a telephone interview last week, Boyd said he was a corporal in the Army and was awarded a Purple Heart.
An only child who is not married and has no children, Boyd said he did construction work and farmed after his discharge from two years of service in the Army. He and his parents raised sheep and cattle.
“When my folks were still living, we had 750 laying hens,” Boyd said.
The farm on which he grew up is five miles northwest of Bradley, S.D., where he now lives. The city, with a population of 80 people, is “awful quiet,” Boyd said.
He no longer farms, noting that a stroke 15 years ago “put a hold on my farming.”
“But I still get around pretty good,” he said.
Lisa Sundberg, a registered nurse at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Minneapolis and president of the Crystal VFW Women’s Auxiliary, said the men’s story she related at the VFW Post 494 gathering on Memorial Day brought tears to many.
She said a newspaper clipping in the admission area at the Veterans Hospital tells the story of Duane Broten being honored as a POW 60 years after his service.
“For the past 20 years there is not a day that goes by when I hear a veteran share an experience that they have not spoken of before that touches my heart, knowing they have given so much …” Sundberg said. “I can only hope and pray that a moment of listening can bring peace and comfort to those who gave so much to all. Let us never forget!”