The 35th Infantry Regiment Association salutes our fallen brother, 2LT Richard O. Olson, O-1925739, who died in the service of his country on May 9th, 1953 in North Korea. The cause of death was listed as KIA. At the time of his death Richard was 21 years of age. He was from Madison, Wisconsin. Richard's Military Occupation Specialty was 1542.
The decorations earned by 2LT Richard O. Olson include: the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Korea Service Medal, and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.
Second Lieutenant Olson was a member of Fox Company of the 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. He was Killed in Action while fighting the enemy in North Korea on May 9, 1953. Second Lieutenant Olson was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantrymans Badge, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.
A childhhood friend of mine. We grew up together and lived not far apart. We both dated the same girl for awhile. I returned from Korea in May, l952, and saw him in our home town of Madison, Wisconsin, just before he left for Korea. I remember discussing that he would probably be a platoon leader over there, listening to the Platoon Sergeant, the old pros, and keeping his ass down. I never found out the exact circumstances surrounding his death. A tragic loss. His family was devastated. I was a pallbearer at his funeral. (William Rosensteel)
Richard is buried in Cottage Grove Cemetery in Cottage Grove, WI (near Madison, WI)
The boyish face under the wavy red hair looks out from the yearbook photo through narrowed eyes, a hint of mischief in the smile. The year was 1949. Richard Olson was graduating from Madison East High School and heading to the University of Wisconsin with a world of possibilities looking back at him.
But life has a mind of its own. We will never know what might have happened to Olson had he lived a long life. We know what did happen four years after he graduated from high school: 2nd Lt. Richard Olson was killed in action in the Korean War.
Olson died 60 years ago this month. The casualty list carrying his name was released on Memorial Day 1953. It is fitting that this Memorial Day weekend we remember Olson as a representative of the more than 1 million American soldiers killed in war since the country's founding. They died serving the rest of us.
Olson was the son of Olaf and Eleanor
Olson lived on North Seventh Street. Friends called him Dick. "He was fun-loving and exuberant," recalled Bill Rosensteel Jr. Rosensteel was two years older than Olson but knew him well because they attended
the same church. "What I remember most was our friendly competition" in dating the same girl, Rosensteel said.
Olson excelled at music in high school and played in the band. At UW he entered the Reserve Officers Training Corps and was a member of the Pershing Rifles unit.
In early 1951 he entered the Army. In the summer of 1952 he met up with Rosensteel again when both were back in Madison. Rosensteel had recently been discharged from a three-year hitch in the Army, which included several months in Korea.
"I remember telling him if he went to Korea, which was a distinct possibility, to keep his ass down and listen to, and learn the art of combat from, the sergeants and others who had some experience
in dealing with the North Koreans and Chinese enemy." Rosensteel said.
Olson arrived in Korea in March 1953. Soon his division replaced Marines defending the truce talks at Panmunjom.
Details of his death were not released. He had been at the front 13
days. Rosensteel was a pall bearer at the funeral.
Rosensteel had a chance to pursue his possibilities. He married, had a short career as a trucker in Wisconsin, then moved to California, where he served more than 27 years in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, retiring as a lieutenant. He and his wife, Joan, raised three children.
With respect to his friend, Rosensteel has pondered a question many soldiers face: Why him and not me? He takes comfort in a passage written by war correspondent Ernie Pyle-a passage all of us should consider:
They died and others lived, and nobody knows why it is so. They died and thereby the rest of us can go on and on. When we leave here for the next shore, there is nothing we can do for the ones beneath the wooden crosses, except perhaps to pause and murmur, "Thanks, pal."