In Memory of
U.S. Army Private Miller, South Dakota
Hand County

September 5, 1929--October 22, 1952
Killed in Action in North Korea

Neal Robert Hern was born September 5, 1929, in Miller, South Dakota, to Howard Esmond and Nellie Irene (Stigman) Hern. Neal only had one brother, Clinton. Neal attended schools in Miller and Wessington Springs and graduated from Miller High School in 1947. On December 27, 1950, Neal married Shirley Jean Rawstern in Huron. They had two children: Rex Neal, and Nola Jean, who was born after Neal’s death. Before entering the service, Neal worked as a farmer and rancher.

On October 10, 1951, Neal Hern was drafted into the service in Sioux Falls. He received his training at Breckinridge, Kentucky, and at Fort Benning, Georgia. Private Hern was sent overseas in September of 1952 as part of 160th Infantry Regiment, 40th Infantry Division, a heavy weapons division. He wrote his last letter to his beloved wife, dated October 20, 1952; in it were these words:

Well, Sweetheart, we have done it again. Moved that is! I am writing in a pup tent by candlelight…. We loaded up at dark last night and drove until nearly midnight. We got in our sleeping bags and rolled up in shelter halves and went to sleep and they let us sleep until 6:30. We usually get up at 5:30. I am on guard duty from 1 till 3 tonight so I am going to retire before long and get some sleep….We are still back about 18 miles so don’t start worrying yet. We can’t even hear any guns at night here. I don’t have any idea what part of Korea we are in now and if I did I couldn’t tell you anyway.

We got three more shots the other day, one for typhus, and one for small pox which is beginning to itch now and will probably swell up for a few days. I can’t recall what the other one was for. Cholera, I think. They were just one year to the day from the first shots I got in Fort Sheridan, Illinois. The 17th of October the typhus shot made everyone’s arm stiff and sore the next day. We couldn’t do our PT very good the next morning either.

The entire day yesterday was spent in packing up and moving out. Every sign of G.I. habitation was taken down or filled up. Well, Sweetheart, I just can’t think of anything to write that I think I ought to. Maybe in a few days I will be able to tell your more about what is going on here. Till then just wait patiently.

By the way tomorrow will be two months to the day since I sailed from Seattle. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like so long and other times it seems like about a year. Time passes pretty fast though because we are always doing something here. I have slept in many different places and seen a lot more since leaving. If the past has any bearing on the future, I will be in a lot more different places in the year to come. I sincerely hope that one of those places will be my one and only home with my own little family. Till then lots of love my Darling. Goodnight. Love, Neal

In another letter that Shirley saved for her daughter, Nola, Neal wrote about not having adequate writing materials and that his pencil had been lost, and he was unable to get another. He also mentioned the names of fellow soldiers from back home that he hoped to see, namely Kenny Van Zee, Jack Henniger, and Bud Sherbourne. He would read the division names on the passing vehicles, trying to see familiar faces. His final words in that letter were about his concern for Shirley, knowing that she was pregnant and that he couldn’t get to her if she needed him.

Private Neal Robert Hern was killed in action on October 22, 1952, in North Korea while fighting the enemy. He had only been in Korea for about a month and a week. He was 23 years old. He left behind a son, Rex, and a daughter, Nola, who was not yet born. Neal’s body was later returned to the United States and buried at Gar Cemetery in Miller.

For Pvt. Hern’s service, he was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Korean War Service Medal.

Neal’s widow, Shirley, remarried when daughter Nola was two. Their step-father, Merlin Jenner, made sure that Nola and Rex had the opportunity to visit their dad’s grave every year on Memorial Day. Merlin served stateside during the Korean War. He told Nola when she was very young that he didn’t want her or Rex to forget their biological dad or the sacrifice that he made. Nola says that they were lucky to have such a great step-father.

This entry was respectfully submitted by Zachariah Otterness, 8th Grade, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish, South Dakota, on May 14, 2004. Information for this entry was provided by the South Dakota National Guard Museum, the ABMC, an application for a veteran’s bonus, and the Miller Press, including the November 13, 1952, issue. Additional information and profile approval by Nola Storm, daughter of Neal Hern.