Veteran Raymond Theobald
Born Sept 6th, 1934 in Jay Township, West of Sherburn, MN
Korean War Era Veteran
Currently lives in Sherburn, MN
Raymond “Swede” Theobald says he was born on the kitchen table at the family farm becoming one of eight kids in the family. By 1952 he had graduated from Sherburn High School and because of the Korean War, decided to enlist in the United States Army to help in the effort.
Following basic training at Fort Riley, Kansas, he joined the 10th Army Infantry Division, 86th Regiment. His military training continued at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland where “Swede” spent 16 weeks in Army carburetor/ignition school. “I got to drive M-46 and M-48 Patton tanks, doing testing on the firing range,” Swede recalled. These armored battle tanks were the principal fighting tanks during the Korean War.
After another duty transfer to the Red River Arsenal in Texarkana, Texas, Swede finally got the call to head overseas. But instead of heading to Korea, the Army shipped him to Germany. Swede boarded a troop transport along with about 3,800 other enlisted men, plus officers and their wives. “I was about half way across the Atlantic Ocean on our way to Germany when they signed the truce to end the fighting in Korea,” he said.
Stationed at the U.S. Army base at Bremerhaven, Germany, Swede quickly worked his way up the ranks from PFC to Staff Sgt. E-5 ranking. “I was a driver and squad leader because of my rank, working as Assistant Motor Sargent and 10-ton wrecker operator, mainly,” he remembered. “We had about 30 trucks that carried parts, plus Jeeps and such. We could head out and be in the field in less than two-hours. Once there we could rebuild a Caterpillar engine in the field if we had to.”
With the Korean War over, the scope of the Army’s mission in Germany changed. “I played basketball during the winter months,” Swede admitted with a smile. “I didn’t have to pull duty. We just played basketball and ate.”
Swede spent a total of 23 months of active duty in Germany with the Army before being shipped back home to be honorably discharged. “I really enjoyed my time in Germany,” he said.
Once back in Martin County, Swede working in road construction, paving Highway 4 from St. James to Sherburn. Then in 1958, Swede and his brother Chuck bought the old Chevrolet dealership in Sherburn, owning and operating Theobald Chevrolet at the south end of town for about ten years. They eventually sold to Hawkins Chevrolet of Fairmont. Swede went on to establish his own home based automotive radiator and mechanical repair shop in the garage of the home he shares with his wife Mickey home. He eventually retired in 2010, but still tinkers with things mechanical.
In October of 2015, Swede and his son Dan, were flown on a one-day Freedom Honor Flight to Washington D.C. “It was very humbling and emotional,” he said. “There were 79 veterans on the journey; seven World War II veterans and the rest Korean War veterans. Somehow, they got 57 wheelchairs on that plane along with a full medical staff and other volunteers,” Swede remembered.
Flying from La Crosse, Wisconsin, once on the ground, the veterans rode buses to and from the various Washington monuments, including a stop at Arlington National Cemetery and inside the grounds of the Pentagon at the spot where American Airlines Flight 77 crashed on 9-11. “We had police escort the whole time. And everywhere we went people lined-up and applauded us,” Swede said. “What an experience.”
Story and Photos © 2017 Joseph Kreiss Photography