VETERANS TOWN PROFILE: Norm Pudwill, 93, recalls his 40 years of military service

PHOTOS (LEFT): Norm Pudwill in 1953 as a 3rd class petty officer in the United States Navy. (CENTER): 93 year old Norm Pudwill of Hot Springs is proud of his military service. (RIGHT): Norm Pudwill pictured in 1982 as a Command Sergeant Major in the South Dakota Army National Guard.

 

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By Charity Maness

HOT SPRINGS – Normand ‘Norm’ Pudwill, was born in Avon, S.D., in August 1928, the 13th of 14 children.

Raised on a farm, his earliest memories include all that farming entails.

“We raised our own hogs, chickens, geese, and crops like wheat and corn,” recalled Pudwill. “Every morning before breakfast or school we would have to tend the animals and milk the cows. Then we would have to walk two and half miles to school. In the winter my dad would take us in a covered wagon pulled by our horse..”

His father John, a Russian immigrant, spoke only German at home so when Pudwill was of school age his favorite subject was English. “Taking English in school really helped me,” he said.

In high school Pudwill enjoyed basketball, football and “I guess a little bit of everything.”

After graduation Pudwill dreamed of a life in the military.

“I tried to get in the Army first,” he said. “But they didn’t want me. So in I got on a milk truck from Avon to Sioux City Iowa where I actually enlisted on October 4, 1946. I went into the Navy then.”

While in the Navy Pudwill was stationed first on Mare Island in the shipping yard, but his training after boot camp had been at the hospital corps school in San Diego. He had hoped to put that schooling to work. His hopes became a reality after only a year on Mare Island as he was shipped to the island of Guam to be a corpsman.

“We arrived by ship,” said Pudwill, “what rough ride. We left San Diego and went into the ocean and mainly what I can remember was it was a really rough ride, it was during the war yet. I supposed we were worried about being hit, but I wasn’t out on the front lines like many were.”

Arriving in Guam, Pudwill got his land legs back quickly and hit the ground running.

“I was a hospital corpsman there,” he said. “I mainly treated locals from Guam and Japanese POWs that were brought to our hospital. Guam had a lot of Japanese on the island, and the Americans had to take Guam twice to get rid of the Japanese, but one batch of folks were hid out in the hills.”

“We went out and picked up a bunch of Japanese that were holed up in the mountains, but we were never fired on, we were in the hospital, they knew we were going to help them.”

“Eventually they became POWs. That is actually the only time I got in touch with POWs was in the hospital.”

During his time in Guam he helped train Guamanian nurses as well as helped to evacuate lepers from the island, transferring them to the newly formed leper colony on island Tinian.

The island of Tinian, made famous as the location where the bomb was loaded that was dropped on Hiroshima, had been converted to a leprosy colony under the direction of Pacific Fleet commander-in-chief Admiral DeWitt C. Ramsey in 1948 where newly created drugs such as Promin, Diasone and Promizole were utilized on a growing population of Northern Mariana island lepers.

“I don’t ever want to go back to Guam again,” he said, “it wasn’t much of a place.”

Discharged to the Navy Reserve in the spring of 1950, Pudwill tried his hand at carpentry while making San Diego his new home. But the military had different plans for him.

“That didn’t last long,” he said as he was called back to active duty less than a year later as a 1st Sergeant.

“Back to Mare Island,” he said, yet this time as a corpsman. “I helped Americans that had come back from the war, crippled and injured from the war in Korea. The Navy had people comin’ from all over.”

“That lasted about two years and then I came home, well, to Hot Springs and worked as a nurse at the VA here.”

“(At the VA) I took care of a lot of cripples from the war, that’s what the Navy did, most of them were crippled, when I went to work with the VA I will never forget this, the first patient I got assigned to died on me the first day I got to work.”

Pudwill worked for the VA until 1966.

“Then the National Guard re-enlisted me into the Army,” said Pudwill with a laugh.

“I was Unit Administrator of Company B of 109th in Hot Springs,” said Pudwill, “It was quite a promotion to be a unit administrator. Then I got transferred to Sturgis which was 109th engineers, it was the battalion headquarters and that’s where I served until they kicked me out in 1983.”

Pudwill retired as a Commander Sgt. Major.

“But I enjoyed my time in the service, some good assignments, some bad, but I had a pretty good rank most of the time, just taking care of the people assigned under me, I enjoyed that.”

Now almost 94 and a widower, Pudwill can no longer enjoy his gardening as “my legs are real bad”, but enjoys being in his home and watching shows such as Gunsmoke and playing cribbage with friends who stop by.

“I had a pretty good life,” said Pudwill, “I’ve had good jobs and never been unemployed. I am proud of our military; the military was good to me.” 

Fall River County Herald Star

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