GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.– He claims he should have died between eight and 10 times during his time serving in the Korean War. Veteran Jerry Kimball only recently started opening up about his time as a navy photographer.
Kimball used to describe himself as quite the daredevil. At 17 years old, he begged his mother to let him enlist in the draft because all of his friends were.
Kimball’s strong patriotism made him a great fit to join the service, and so did his view of death.
“The first detachment I made, I picked up seven dead guys out of that plane wreck and I learned that death was right around the corner all the time,” Kimball explained. “I adopted the fact I won’t come back. It didn’t bother me.”
“We spent about two months out in Taiwan mapping the coast of China and got chased out quite often by the Chinese,” said Kimball. “We’d go hide in the clouds.”
Kimball remembers one near-death experience in the plane he was in, and explained it with a bit of a chuckle.
“I just finished a cigarette and when I put it in the ash tray, the ashes were coming up out of the ash tray and I realized we were upside down,” Kimball explained. “I tried to get the escape hatch open, I was just going to bail out. I just sat back very peacefully and thought, this is it.”
Kimball witnessed a jet crash before his eyes as he was on board an air craft carrier. All these experiences changed his outlook on life when he eventually got out of the navy.
“You age pretty quickly,” said Kimball.
Kimball spent nearly 30 years with IBM before starting a business of his own that partnered with IBM.
Marriage and six children later made his time in Korea seem like another lifetime ago. And he’s only started talking about his experiences recently, something he says is not too uncommon with veterans of any war.
Kimball also hopes to write a book about his time serving in Korea.