Editor’s note: For our series highlighting local veterans during July, we had planned to chat with Korean War veteran Forrest “Woody” Boyd. Sadly, he passed away on June 24, before we had a chance to interview him. To honor his memory and service, his daughter spoke with us recently, recounting some of her father’s war stories.
Lisa Harris didn’t hear a lot about her father’s war experiences when she was young, but as the years passed, he started sharing more with her and other family members.
“According to my husband and my younger brother, the reason my father enlisted in the Army was because he was just a patriotic person,” Harris said. “He told my younger brother that he was too young to go into World War Two, so when the Korean War came up, he felt it was his duty to enlist.”
Forrest “Woody” Boyd, who died at his home in Clermont last month at the age of 91, was born in Sprague, Missouri, and attended the University of Missouri before enlisting in the U.S. Army.
He entered the service as Private 1st Class on March 8, 1951, and attended Army Engineering School Aug. 25 to Nov. 21, gaining the skills needed for topographical drafting. After spending some time in San Francisco, Boyd was off to Korea, where he served in Pusan and Seoul.
Boyd’s duties involved mapmaking the terrain where soldiers would be sent, so it was a lot of responsibility.
“He drew them by hand,” Harris said of his maps. “Every little detail: trees, rivers — they were extremely detailed, because the troops had to rely on them.”
Harris has one of her father’s maps displayed in her house, and not necessarily because she’s a cartography fan.
“I just like it, because my dad made it,” she said. Piecing together history leads Harris to believe her father may have ridden in airplanes and used a camera to capture the topography for his maps. The family has photos of him standing next to planes, and he had a 35 mm Minolta camera in Korea that went missing and later turned up in a store window. How did he know it was his? A crack in the lens.
“He saw a camera in a store, and it had that hairline crack,” Harris said. “So, he bought his own camera back.”
Boyd’s actions saved lives during his war years. When in the demilitarization zone (DMZ), which was considered a neutral territory, a hand grenade from the North Korean side was thrown at him and others.
“Everyone froze,” Harris said. “And he grabbed it and threw it away from everyone, and it blew up. And no one was hurt.”
The family has a box of mementoes from Boyd’s war service — official documents, photos, letters and other items encapsulating his experiences. One item he kept all those years, a colorful scarf, was a hand-embroidered Christmas gift. Many of the photographs are of Korean children.
“My dad s aid the kids were just precious, and so happy to see him,” Harris s aid. “He always tried to have something to give them.”
She said he told her, “The Koreans in general tried to make us feel at home.” In a letter to his parents that was tucked inside the “Korea” box, he reiterated that sentiment, talking about how the Korean people “fed them really well” when they were being transported from Seoul to Pusan in July 1952.
Even mapmakers had to put in time at the front, according to Harris.
“He told my husband and my mom that he spent time in foxholes,” because the servicemen rotated shifts with soldiers at the front. “My mom said he definitely saw a lot of action, but he didn’t talk about it much,” she said.
“He was very proud to serve,” Harris added.
Boyd received a Korean Service medal and a U.N. medal, and moved up the ranks to become a sergeant by the time he was discharged in February 1953 at Camp Carson in Colorado, according to Harris.
After the war, Boyd married his wife of 66 years, Barbara, in 1954. He worked for J. C. Penney Company for 18 years before moving his family from Illinois to Tallahassee in 1967. Why the move?
“My father’s desire to get out of the snow!” Harris said with a laugh.
After subsequently living in Orlando for more than two decades, Woody and Barbara moved to Clermont in 1998.
“My father always loved Clermont; he used to golf out here,” she said. He was a member of the Elks Club, Rotary Club and Korean War Veterans of Groveland, and his ashes are to be interred at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell.