It is August 1931 and Korean War veteran Carl E. Chambers is born on a farm in the small, rural agricultural town of Givens, Texas, located just 95 miles northeast of Dallas. At the same time, the U.S. is moving into the Great Depression (1929-1939), which became the deepest and longest-lasting economic downturn in the history of the Western industrialized world.
To survive this difficult time, the nine members of the Chambers family grew their own food and the five brothers each worked temporary jobs to earn money to contribute to the family’s essential needs. At the age of 10, Mr. Chambers started caddying at the local golf course, earning 50 cents for every 18 holes of golf, along with an occasional nickel tip. That experience led him to become a self-taught golfer, ultimately playing in the weekly “caddies only” golf tournaments for enjoyment. As his interest and passion for golf grew, so did his proficiency, ultimately affording him the opportunity to earn a golf scholarship to Paris Junior College only four miles away from his home.
After successfully completing his two years at junior college, Mr. Chambers continued his education when he was offered a golf scholarship to Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. Hardin-Simmons had a very competitive golf team at the time, and Mr. Chambers fondly recalls his senior year playing against North Texas University (now the University of North Texas), known at the time to be a golf powerhouse with multiple conference championship wins. With that being said, during one match, Mr. Chambers was matched against and ultimately defeated North Texas’ best player, Don January, whose own career would go on to include 22 professional golf tournament victories, including a PGA national championship.
In 1952, 19-year-old Mr. Chambers graduated Hardin-Simmons with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, got married and was drafted into the Army. On the other side of the world, North Korea had invaded South Korea two years earlier and a multi-national war was underway in a country less than one-third the size of Texas. The U.N., with the U.S. as the principal force, came to the aid of South Korea, while China and the Soviet Union supported North Korea. It was the first major armed clash between the Free World and Communist forces, as well as the first time U.N. troops were involved in a conflict.
Just six short months after graduating from college, Master Sgt. Chambers deployed to South Korea to join in the fighting with the Army’s 3rd Infantry, Battery A, 58th Field Artillery Battalion. Oddly enough, this was the same battalion one of his older brothers had served with in Europe during World War II. In Korea, Master Sgt. Chambers was responsible for a lightweight, towed artillery battery unit that included six 105-millimeter howitzers and trucks, along with 20 enlisted men. His battery team was regularly hit by enemy mortar attacks and, in one incident, his battery position was overrun, which resulted in deadly hand-to-hand fighting before the enemy retreated. Another time he will never forget was when his truck took a direct mortar hit. Although the explosion tore a two-inch gash in his steel helmet, Master Sgt. Chambers remained uninjured.
Apart from agreeing the Korean War is a “Forgotten War” in American history, Mr. Chambers’ personal memories of his 22 months in Korea are not the constant attacks, explosions and death. Rather, he recalls, “It was more about the way we had to live — almost like wild animals in miserable and relentless conditions.” Korea’s climate is similar to that of the U.S.’s east coast, yet more acute. During summers, the heat and humidity was nearly unbearable, and during the winter (especially in the northern mountains where most of the fighting took place), arctic winds from Siberia turned the country into a frozen wasteland to the point of often impacting the use of weapons. Master Sgt. Chambers’ only break from these conditions came with a seven-day Tokyo leave he received after his first year in Korea.
History records the Korean War as primarily an “artillery war” across a 155-mile battle front. The guns went silent on July 27, 1953, with a cease fire resulting from an unsatisfactory stalemate and a negotiated truce. The Korean peninsula remains divided today, along with a perpetual state of war readiness for the entire region, if not for the world. Master Sgt. Chambers’ time in Korea lasted until the end of the conflict in 1954, but before returning home, he met one of his younger brothers as he was arriving in Korea to serve as part of the post war force. More than six decades after the end of the conflict, more than 30,000 American service members remain stationed in South Korea.
Ever the golf enthusiast, Mr. Chambers managed to get in several rounds of golf in Japan before the Army sent him back stateside. Once home, he told his wife “he wanted his future to be of service to others,” so he took the financial support offered to veterans in the G.I. Bill and returned to Hardin-Simmons to obtain his master’s in education.
The excellence he displayed in his master’s studies program prompted the dean of the education department to send a personal letter of recommendation to the superintendent of the Dallas ISD. Mr. Chambers was immediately offered a job, without so much as an interview. He taught math for seven years before becoming a middle school principal for an additional 25 years. Mr. Chambers still hears from former students who share memories of past times and experiences. Some even remind him about the discipline administered as a result of their misbehavior and go on to cite, with appreciation, how much “the talk” that came with that punishment helped them in later life. Mr. Chambers is proud of his service with the DISD and feels honored to have had the opportunity to shepherd more than 30,000 young boys and girls during his time.
On November 11, 2017, America will once again honor its veterans as a part of our Veterans Day holiday. This almost 100-year-old national holiday holds a special memory for Mr. Chambers. While living in East Texas, eight years ago, he and seven other Korean War veterans were honored at a Veterans Day event hosted by a group of 37 local South Korean immigrants. Dressed in traditional Korean attire used only for festivals and special celebrations, they expressed their gratitude to the veterans for their service in Korea. According to Mr. Chambers, “I have never felt more honored and praised in my life.”
After years of being single, Mr. Chambers considered himself a lucky man when he met his wife, Linda, in a coffee shop. Married for more than 33 years, it was Linda’s idea for them to move from their rural home in East Texas near Lake Palestine into the Frisco Lakes community six years ago. After 70 years of enjoyment, Mr. Chambers stopped playing golf on his eightieth birthday and now enjoys occasionally buying a Texas Scratch-Off ticket in hopes he can repeat his past good luck by winning $10,000 on another ticket. A lucky man indeed!