In honor of those who served our country in the armed forces, this San Marino Tribune article continues a series of individual salutes to our courageous veterans.
By Mitch Lehman
For someone as dedicated to the foundation and infrastructure of San Marino as Gene Ruckh, it comes as a surprise that the man, who has for more than 20 years been a regular at city council meetings, is among the most well-traveled of her citizens. His living and dining rooms are stocked with museum-quality art reminiscent of his many years abroad in the United States Army and several subsequent overseas business ventures.
Gene Ruckh moved with his family from Kansas City to Alhambra in the 1940s, graduating from Mark Keppel High School in 1950. Shortly thereafter, the Korean War broke out.
“Me and a lot of my friends were concerned that we were going to become foxhole hounds,” said Ruckh. “So we entered the Naval Reserve.”
In late 1950, he was told to report to San Diego where he signed up for the draft and accepted an eight-year commitment.
“I took the test in downtown Los Angeles, scored high on the AQFT and was approached by different branches,” Ruckh said. “I was offered Officer’s Training School. I succumbed.”
Ruckh entered the United States Army in 1952 and was processed in Fort Ord. He was soon sent to Fort Roberts, where he was given four months of heavy weapons training and later, leadership training school. He was even put on division faculty and taught classes.
Ruckh later embarked on a six-month tour and ended up at Fort Sill, where he taught a class in machine gun infantry.
Ruckh, who then received orders to head overseas, reported to Fort Lewis and boarded ship for Korea.
Ruckh was assigned to the 15th Infantry Regimen.
“They called a truce on July 27, 1953,” Ruckh recalls. “The war was still active, but the shooting was down to almost nothing. The tour was not too dangerous, but occasionally a mortar would come in. As the war was winding down further, we spent a few months transitioning. My function was to help manage the transition.
When that was completed, they transferred me over to the 24th Infantry, where I served for a short time and was eventually transitioned to Military Police.” Ruckh was promoted to Platoon Sergeant.
“Our function was to manage all the police activities for the 24th Infantry. As the war was winding down further, we spent a few months transitioning. When the war eventually ended, we all pulled out and went to Japan.”
Compared to the harsh conditions in Korea, Ruckh said his time spent in Japan was “delightful.”
“No C-rations, no sleeping out in the cold. Three meals a day. It was great.”
Ruckh and his contemporaries patrolled the streets and the roads and settled in Camp Hakada.
Another assignment found Ruckh serving as Operations Sergeant for a colonel heading up an emergency force with the 1st Marine Division in Korea.
In the spring of 1955, command was turned over and officers were allowed to revert in order to fill up the ranks. Ruckh managed a division stockade.
“I had enough,” Ruckh said of that assignment. “The Army allowed an early release if you went back to school so I left six weeks early and came back to California. I phased out through Ft. Ord and enrolled at Pasadena City College.”
To fulfill his commitment, Ruckh was placed on reserve and in 1957 was told to prepare for a deployment that he believes would have landed him in Lebanon. Instead, he was told to stand down.
“I was relieved I didn’t have to go,” said Ruckh. His eight-year commitment termed out in 1958.