Sidney Botts - Sergeant
Sidney Jasper Botts was born on January 26, 1930 on his family’s farm near Elliott, Iowa. He was named for a grandfather and a great-grandfather and was the second child in what would become a family of three boys and three girls.
Sid’s father, Blair, died in 1978 after a farm accident, and his mother, Ethel, lived to the grand age of 99, passing away in January 2009. They would have been very pleased at the thought of a memorial at Iowa State.
We would like to thank Sid’s sister, Millie, for gathering the memories of her brother and sisters so we could tell Sid’s story today. Here is that story, using mostly Millie’s words:
“Our memories of Sid are rather limited because of our ages the last time we saw him. Randy was only a few months old. Sister Betty was seven, Helen was fourteen and Mildred was sixteen. Our oldest brother, Eugene, would have had the most vivid memories since he was two years older and he and Sid were very good friends when they were growing up. Gene passed away in 1986.
I think we all took it for granted that our happy, handsome, smiling brother would always be around. He was a very sociable person who seemed to like everyone and loved to play harmless pranks on people – always with a mischievous smile on his face.
Sid attended a one-room country school through 8th grade and graduated from the small high school in Elliott, Iowa that consisted of 80 students. He participated in all the sports the school offered, played in the band and acted in school plays.
Though baseball was Sid’s favorite sport, his best friend, Gale Eschelman reported that he was a small but “gritty” football player. During the summer, Sid would help on the farm all day and at night would rush to drive twenty miles to play baseball.
In those days of one-car families, he often had very short date nights so he could take a sibling to choir or play practice and be back to Elliott early to take them home. He really was a terrific brother! Even his “THOU SHALT NOT” lectures to a younger sister were delivered with humor, though he was very serious about the subject.”
After Sid graduated from high school, he enrolled at Iowa State and declared animal husbandry as a major. He attended full time from Fall 1947 through the Fall 1948 term and during this time, his family only saw him at Christmas and during the summer. After he completed the fall 1948 quarter, he returned home and continued to farm.
Sid married Joanne Wheeler from Red Oak at about the same time he received his draft notice. He entered the service in Fort Riley, Kansas on March 12, 1951. He was home at Christmas that year, and left for Korea immediately after the holiday. He was assigned to the 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division.
Older brother Eugene was already in Korea and Sid hoped to be able to find him. Before that could happen, Gene was injured in a combat jump and evacuated to Japan. Sid’s friend, Gale, was also in Korea at the same time though he was assigned to an artillery unit. He managed to talk to Sid during the summer of 1952.
Sid’s daughter, Pamela, was born in March 1952. He asked about her and talked about her in every letter that he wrote home, but he never got to see her. She was 7 month old when he died.
In most of his letters to his parents, he seemed cheerful, or at least accepting of his situation, though he did complain about the terrible cold in Korea that winter. Sid was a Sargent and squad leader.
In October 1952, at a time when men who were soon to be rotated back to the States were supposed to be pulled back to a safer place, he and his platoon were sent forward again because UN forces had suffered so many casualties during that two week period.
On October 15, when Sid’s wife and parents thought he would soon be on his way home, they were notified he had been killed in an artillery bombardment during the Battle of Triangle Hill. He was 22 years old.
Several months later, friend Gale Eschelman was able to talk to members of Sid’s unit. They told him that Sid and another sergeant were helping the wounded on Triangle Hill when an enemy mortar round killed him and severely wounded his buddy. Gale says, “He was just an Iowa farm boy doing his duty.”
The Battle of Triangle Hill was a protracted military engagement between two United Nations infantry divisions and Chinese forces.
The battle took place from October 14 to November 25, 1952 and was part of American attempts to gain control of what was called "The Iron Triangle". Triangle Hill was a forested ridge of high ground two and a half miles north of Kumhwa near the Korean Demilitarized Zone.
Sid died on the second day of the operation, a day of attacks and counter attacks. Over the course of nearly a month, American and South Korean forces made repeated attempts to capture Triangle Hill. Despite superior artillery and aircraft, the high numbers of American and South Korean casualties resulted in the attack being halted after three weeks of fighting, with Chinese forces regaining their original positions.
Although the battle was a tactical draw, US planners learned an important fact - that liberating Communist countries could be excessively dangerous. The experience on Triangle Hill in Korea contributed to the decision against the invasion of North Vietnam decades later. It’s possible that Sid and his unit helped to save American lives in Southeast Asia in the 1960s and 70s.
Sidney is remembered on several memorials. In Fountain Square Park in Red Oak, each Korean or Vietnam veteran killed in action or missing in action has a stone with his name engraved on it. He is also listed on the Korean Memorial in Washington DC. Two booklets honoring the veterans of Montgomery County also include Sidney. One published in 2001 by the Red Oak Express lists all county veterans and one produced by the American Legion Post #445 of Grant, Iowa lists county Korean War veterans.
Now, Sidney will also be remembered at Iowa State University.
Sister Millie says, “These are wonderful memorials that bring pride and comfort to surviving family and friends.”