Special to Leader-Telegram
Jack W. Register, a retired Menomonie veterinarian and Korean War veteran, is one of several veterans now featured in a permanent exhibit at the new National Guard Readiness Center/Armory in Stillwater, Minn.
The exhibit, which consists of a series of graphic panels, covers the history of the National Guard in Stillwater from its pre-Civil War militia days to the present-day conflicts in the Middle East.
Short biographies of local veterans are interspersed with the narrative timeline. Register grew up in Stillwater and signed up with its Heavy Mortar Company while still in high school.
“I joined the Guard in 1948 to play basketball,” said Register, recalling his enlistment. “They had a pretty good team. I was only 17 and needed a parent signature. Dad would not sign, so I got my mother to sign. I told her not to worry because World War II had just ended. But she warned me, ‘You’ll be sorry.’ Two years later they activated the National Guard.”
“(My mother) was a lot more right than me,” Register said.
The Cold War of 1948 turned hot in June 1950 when communist North Korea suddenly invaded South Korea. In November, the North’s powerful ally, “Red China,” entered the fray. The Minnesota-based 47th “Viking” Infantry Division was activated the following month (Register was then a sophomore at the University of Minnesota) and whisked off to Camp Rucker, Ala., where it became a training and replacement division.
The Army transferred Register out of the 47th Division in October 1951 and shipped him to Korea, where he was reassigned to the 15th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division.
“That was Audie Murphy’s old outfit,” recalled Register. “It was the first thing I was told when I arrived.”
Due to his previous mortar training while in the Guard, he was put into the regiment’s Heavy Mortar Company.
From then on, Register was never far from the front lines, working mostly in the fire direction center or as a forward observer north of the 38th Parallel in the Chorwon-Kumwha sector.
Register rotated back to the U.S. in September 1952 as a sergeant first class.
“I had many close calls,” he said, “but the good Lord was watching over me.”
After Korea, Register returned to Stillwater and used the GI Bill to complete his university education. He became a veterinarian and moved in 1957 to Menomonie, where he practiced his vocation, raised a family and retired.
“We are proud to include the story of men like Jack Register,” said Jack Johnson, coordinator for the ongoing armory history project. “Those who fought in (the Korean War, sometimes referred to as the ‘forgotten war,’) are every bit as deserving of our remembrance and thanks.”
The armory is open to the public.