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William "Bill" L. Tolar

Now Residing in Heaven -
Korean War Veteran of the United States Army

"I am blessed.  I have seen my God and He has been in close contact with me.  (He even sat beside me in a Jeep.)"

- Bill Tolar

 


[Bill Tolar was a member of A Battery, 1st Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Provisional Marine Brigade.  When he died on March 31, 2009, he left a legacy to his family and the general public in the form of a short memoir that he wrote about events that occurred on August 10, 1950 while he was serving in a forward observer team.]

Memoir Contents:


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Events of August 10, 1950

This is hard to talk about because each of the six wounded that we pulled out had bullet wounds.  The first one was the only one we lost.  The other five survived.  I have no idea who they were and have never seen nor heard from any of them.  I am blessed.  I have seen my God and He has been in close contact with me.  (He even sat beside me in a Jeep.)

Riding in back of truck....  Our FO (forward observation for artillery) party rated a Jeep, but we had to leave Pusan before they could unload it.  In front of us and around a bend in the road, the convoy came to a halt due to heavy enemy fire from a ridge on the left side.  The entire infantry battalion was pinned down in a ditch along the road.  Further up, some were pinned down behind a small hill in the rice patty.  A tank that was leading the infantry had fallen through a bridge over a small creek and had the road blocked.  It was easy target practice for the Gooks.

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Why Choose Me?

Sergeant Potokie ordered Lester Clary and me to get a stretcher and go forward and bring back Lieutenant Hall to help direct artillery fire on the ridge.  Why choose me out of all the other men???

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Target for the Gooks

Clary and I moved forward with the stretcher and as we rounded the bend I noticed that the road was empty and that the men were pinned down in the ditch across the road.  I suggested we cross over, and as we did we drew our first enemy fire.  They missed, as we quickly crossed the road and dove into the ditch.  We started crawling forward asking about the Lieutenant.  Marines in the ditch were griping at us because we were drawing enemy fire.  I noticed that I had a tan foil cover over the muzzle of my carbine and it was showing above the ditch as I crawled along, offering a target for the Gooks.  How could the Gooks miss Clary and me when we crossed the road and while we were crawling along???

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The Only Thing Moving

We came across a Marine that had been shot in the chest above the heart, laying in the lap of a corporal.  He asked us to take the Marine back to the aid station, but we had to decline because we were still looking for Lieutenant Hall.  The corporal indicated that Hall had been shot in the leg and was hiding behind a small hill about 200 yards from the ditch.  Clary and I began to crawl through the rice patty and immediately drew enemy fire.  They continued to miss.  Clary and I headed back into the ditch.  How could they continue to miss, especially when Clary and I were the only thing moving???

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Circling Corsairs

Clary ran across the road, grabbed an abandoned Jeep, turned it around, and parked it in the road in front of where the wounded Marine war.  We then loaded the Marine on the Jeep.  I was on the driver's side but Clary came around and said he was driving.  I told him he was nuts and to hop on.  Gooks began to fire at us and several bullets hit the folded down windshield, causing Clary to let go of my arm and the Jeep.  I took off.  I tried to speed shift, but failed.  When the engine idled down I heard Clary screaming, "Wait for me!"  I looked back and he was running down the middle of the road with bullets kicking up dust around his feet.  He grabbed onto the back of the Jeep and I took off. 

When we got back to the aid station we unloaded the Marine and made arrangements to change Jeeps due to having a tire shot out.  I informed Clary that he was the driver and to let me out and I would locate another wounded Marine.  We headed around the bend again.  I located a wounded Marine, who we loaded up and took back to the aid station.  Clary drove crazy and nearly ran over several officers, including a General who had flown in to help get the convoy back on the road.  One of the officers got a message to the aid station that Clary was not to drive any more.  When he got the news he said he was through and that he was not going up to the front any more, referring to me as being a suckie.  He changed his mind and continued the mission.

Coming back from our third run, I noticed three F4U Corsairs circling above us.  They dove towards me, turned on their side to fit in the valley, and proceeded to fire rockets and machine guns while flying about 50 feet above my head.  They then circled and dropped bombs and napalm on the Gooks.  Needless to say, our next three trips were much less eventful with only scattered small arms fire.  Lieutenant Hall was our final pick-up, and then we returned the Jeep to the road around the bend, picked up our gear, and headed back to the firing battery.  How could they continue to miss when Clary and I were the only targets???

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God Was There Beside Me

I did hop into a ditch with cold running water, stripped, washed my clothes, got the leeches off my body (plus the rice patty perfume), put my wet clothes on, and reported back to Sergeant Potokie and Captain Jordan.  Colonel Murray drove up, asked where I was, and then came over, shook my hand, and thanked me for pulling the wounded men out.  Jordan asked, "What is going on?  Colonels don't come up to PFCs and shake their hands for no reason."

As Murray described the rescue trips, I got weak in the knees and nearly fainted.  Jordan talked with me and told me to write a letter home, which I did.  It was published in part in a Houston paper, and eventually led to the poem by Elsie Gerhart entitled, "God Rode with Me Today."

"God Rode with Me Today" is the answer to all of the 'how could they miss' questions above.  I know I was praying the whole time, but the fact that I was not scared, not concerned, and able to concentrate on the task at hand was only because God was there beside me the whole time.  Maybe now you can understand why I refer to the first few weeks of August as my 'Boo Hoo' weeks.  Also, whenever I see an F4U Corsair, the tears flow because I know who sent the planes to cover us.

Captain Jordan pulled me back from the FO party and placed me in battery security, which I stayed in until mid-September when we pulled back into Pusan to regroup prior to the Inchon landing.  My left knee was giving me problems, so Jordan sent me to an Army medical doctor who determined after X-rays that I had a problem and shipped me out to the hospital in Japan.  Fukuyoka, Kyoto and Yokosuka were the different hospitals I was in prior to being shipped back to the States to Mare Island Naval Hospital.  Once out of the hospital, I was shipped to Treasure Island to await my fate.  I was discharged in January, returned home, and went back to high school and graduated.  The rest is history.  Very interestingly, I was one day short of 11 months service on my four-year enlistment.


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Silver Star Recipient

(Citation coming soon.)


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Poetry

God Rode With Me Today - written by Elsie Gerhart of Houston, TX

God rode with me today, Mom,
He heard your every prayer,
Through enemy lines, in bloody strife,
God rode with me there.

God rode with me today, Mom.
Alone I felt, and badly scared,
A man I am, but yet your child,
God heard you, and he cared.

Dear Mom, I write these lines to say,
I'm safe and sound tonight,
God helped me battle fear and foe,
I fought with Christian's might.

Good night, dear Mom, and thank you,
For teaching me to pray,
Though the road was hard, and blocked by death,
God rode with me today.

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God's Warrior! - written by Ken Miller, April 3, 2009

Bill Tolar, he carried God's awesome flag -
Never a doubt whose side he was on,
God's man - His warrior - so tried and true,
His faith so strong as the morning dawn.

In my mind's eye I see my brother
With Betty always by his side.
Yes, Betty, so quiet but full of God's strength,
The two--as faithful as the sky is wide.

War hero, though he would deny the hero part.
During war's terrible days and nights
He stood firm to face and conquer the enemy
'midst the bullets and shells and exploding lights.

Medals given, back home to his nation USA -
Back home to family and friends so dear to greet.
Sometime later a member of Pitman Creek.
When Bill and I in friendship did meet.

In classes and worship with hugs and smiles
What a joy to be around one and all.
Bill and I teased and had a lot of fun
Brother to brother, we just had a ball.

Bill, strong of character but tender with love.
No doubt what he thought cause he'd tell you.
Full of life and everything that's godly.
We need more men like Bill, we have so few.

Oh, and may I say something 'bout golf?
For Bill it must have been a lot of fun.
The game never made a hit with me
But now, in heaven, Bill has hit a hole in one.

Yes, Bill is where we want to be -
Heaven's gain is now our loss.
His body to dust but his life continues
With God and not with just a coin toss.

God is in control and aren't we glad?
I repeat, Bill is where we want to be
With our dear Savior and our loving God
And now, with the eye of faith Heaven we see!

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A Marine Died Today - author unknown

He was getting old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around with vets, telling stories of the past
Of a war that they had fought in and the deeds that they had done,
In these exploits with his buddies; they were heroes, every one.

And tho' sometimes, to his neighbors, his tales became a joke,
All his veteran buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke.
But we'll hear his tales no longer for old Bill has passed away,
And the world's a little poorer, for a Marine died today.

He won't be mourned by many, just his children and his wife,
For he lived an ordinary and quite uneventful life.
Held a job and raised a family, quietly going his own way,
And the world won't note his passing, though a Marine died today.

Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land
A guy who breaks his promises and cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow who, in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his Country and offers up his life?

It's so easy to forget them for it was so long ago,
That the Bills of our Country went off to Korea, but we know
It was not the politicians, with their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom that our Country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger, with your enemies at hand,
Would you want a politician with his ever-shifting stand?
Or would you prefer a Marine, who has sworn to defend
His God, his home and Country and would fight until the end?

He was just a common soldier and now his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us we may need his like again.
For when our Country is in conflict, then we find the Marine's part
Is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honor while he's here to hear the praise,
Then at least let's give him homage at the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline in a paper that would say,
Our Country is in mourning, for a Marine died today.


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Biography of Bill Tolar

It is with sadness we share the loss of our loved one.  Born March 5, 1931 in Houston, Texas, Bill Tolar died March 31, 2009 in Plano, Texas.  He was the recipient of the Silver Star for valor for his service in Korea.

Bill leaves to cherish his memories: his wife of 39 years, Elizabeth Tolar, Plano; sons, Mark J. and Monte Tolar, Atlanta, Georgia and Darrel Crabtree, Allen, Texas; daughters M'Lynn Schmitt, New Port Richie, Florida and Pam McCaughan, Camas, Washington; nine grandchildren; and sister, Betty Rae Blackwood, Houston.  He was preceded in death by a grandson, Marshall McCaughan.

A memorial service was held on April 4, 2009 at the Highland Oaks Church of Christ in Plano.  Internment took place at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.  Memorials may be made to the South Texas Mission Fund, c/o Highland Oaks Church of Christ, Plano.


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Family & Friends Tribute

Mark, M'Lynn, Pam, Darrel and Monte - in Memory of Our Dad:

Our father, William "Bill Tolar, is an American in every sense of the word--which to us means he loved God first, his wife Betty second, and his children and grandchildren third.  He always put others before himself.  Dad's character and love of life amazed us.  Always loving and smiling, he was a blessing to his kids.  He was never judgmental.

We would be remiss if we didn't talk about his wife Betty.  Dad loved her and took every effort to take care of her.  His children refer to Betty as a saint.  She never has raised her voice.  Dad and Betty's love for each other, humor, and belief in God was a true love story.

Our father was loved by everyone, but not as much as by his family.  We love you, Dad!

Tim Sudderth - In Memory of My Hero:

In looking back over my past 60-plus years, there are very few men that I can remember the first time I met them so distinctly.  What a first impression Bill Tolar made.  I thought to myself, "Who is this crazy old coot?"  So much for first impressions!

I soon found out who Bill was.  When Jesus said, "Love one another as I have loved you," Bill Tolar took it to heart.  Bill was the genuine article; he loved you and made no bones about it.  You could never doubt his sincerity.  When there was a need, Bill was there.

Diogenes could have stopped his search if he had met Bill Tolar.  If you want to know what a Christian looks like, look up Bill Tolar.  He'll be the one sitting next to Jesus when you get there - I have no doubt.


Love, good night, Must thou go,
When the day, And the night
Need thee so?
All is well, Speedeth all
To their rest.

Fades the light; And afar
Goeth day, And the stars
Shineth bright,
Fare thee well; Day has gone,
Night is on.

Thanks and praise, For our days,
"Neath the sun, Neath the stars,
'Neath the sky,
As we go, This we know,
God is nigh.

 
 

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