Carl Claus - Corporal
- Silver Star
- Purple Heart
Carl Jacob Claus was born on April 17, 1928 on his parent's farm, two miles south of Plymouth, Iowa.
He joined an older sister, Pauline and when he was four years old, a brother Ernest joined the family. They grew up together and attended Plymouth Consolidated School. Carl was a very bright student and a joy for his teachers.
He had a very pleasing personality and had a great love for all of God's creatures. As a young boy he collected butterflies, beetles and moths, putting them in cigar boxes and labeling each one with a common name and a scientific name. He also had a collection of bird eggs. He had many pets, including the family dog, fan-tailed pigeons, guinea pigs and rabbits. His big white rabbit was named Hallelujah since it was given to him on Easter Sunday.
Model airplanes also took a good deal of Carl's time. He made many of them and hung them from a wire stretched across his bedroom ceiling. He had a vivid imagination and took one of his planes out to a plowed field partially covered with snow and placed it so it looked like it had landed near the mountains. He then took a picture of it.
When he was around ten years old he entered a contest in school by writing an essay on "Why My Father Should Raise Purebred Ayrshires". Sometime later he received a letter telling him he had won first prize -which was a registered bull calf! He was so excited that he ran out to the field where his father was working to tell him the news. The whole family was elated and this was the beginning of their purebred Ayrshire herd.
Carl was also interested in music and by the age of nine he was playing first clarinet in the school band. This he continued all through high school.
He had a good friend and neighbor the same age that lived just across the road. Carl and Wally spent many pleasant hours together studying, camping out and discussing the topics of the day. Wally was Catholic and Carl was Protestant, so they had a good chance to discuss the differences of each church. They got along well and Carl was always able to see the other person's view. He was well liked by all who knew him.
In the winter Carl enjoyed skiing and riding horses. Sunday afternoons were often spent playing checkers in competition with his sister. He was usually hard to beat.
Summers were pleasant and he and his brother Ernest and cousin Elmo went swimming in the river near home. They also liked to fish and one day caught a large turtle. They took it home and asked Carl’s Mother to make turtle soup. She was a Home Economics teacher and she tried her best but after two days of cooking, the turtle was still too tough to eat - though the soup was good. So much for turtle soup – they never tried that again!
After graduating from high school with honors, Carl attended Upper Iowa at Fayette and then transferred to Iowa State College in the Fall of 1947 to study veterinary medicine. While in Ames, he got acquainted with a veterinarian and often went out with him on calls when he had time off from classes.
After three years of college, Carl enlisted in the Army and was inducted on January 13, 1951 at Ft. Riley, Kansas.
Carl was one of a group of men selected to train scout dogs for service in Korea. The 26th Infantry Scout Dog Platoon was deactivated after World War 2 and then activated for the Korean campaign.
At Ft. Riley, Carl trained German shepherd dogs and became very attached to his favorite, Rex – a true German shepherd in type, color and manner. He took the dogs he had trained with him when he shipped overseas in February 1952 as a Corporal with the 26th Infantry Scout Dog Platoon, 7th Division. During the entire campaign, the 26th was the only scout dog unit in Korea.
A fellow soldier described Carl as well-liked and well-educated, someone who read his bible every day and when the going got tough, always seemed to know the right answer.
The year before Carl arrived in Korea, UN forces had fought their way north. US Army units captured the towns of Chorwon to the west, and Kumhwa to the east and raided north toward Pyonggang. The advance slowed as Chinese resistance increased.
U.N. and Communist forces became entrenched. A newspaperman called this area the Iron Triangle and the name stuck.
The Iron Triangle was manned mainly by the US Army and by the spring of 1952, the UN faced an experienced opponent that could not be easily defeated.
Since both sides were willing to negotiate and settle the conflict roughly along the front lines as they existed in 1952, neither side risked a major offensive against the other. But service at the front was just as dangerous in 1952 as it had been during earlier stages of the war.
The enemy believed that they could erode the UN's will through the daily grind of raids, patrols, bombardments and limited objective attacks. By June, Communist guns were hurling over sixty-eight hundred shells a day at UN positions. UN artillery retaliated and Communist and UN soldiers clashed daily somewhere along the front line.
Carl was seriously wounded by the enemy while on patrol in North Korea on June 5, 1952. He died the next day, June 6, in the 8063rd Mobile Surgical Hospital at Homsok-Tong. He was 24 years old. He and Rex had been together and Rex also died in the attack.
The story has it that Rex had alerted and Carl had advised the patrol leader of the position of the enemy, but the patrol had proceeded anyway.
The 26th saw plenty of combat action, and there were many instances of success in saving lives. One regimental commander remarked that after using a scout dog team, the infantry patrols did not want to go out without one. Fellow scout dog patrol member, Clayton Haak, said, “Our primary job was to save lives, instead of taking them. When the war ended, it was proven that patrols that had a dog on point had 65% fewer casualties.”
According to a former member of the Scout Dog platoon, the service of Corporal Claus and Rex were a big part of the reason the dog platoon was awarded a Meritorious Unit Commendation in 1953 by the Army Chief of Staff.
The commendation cited exceptionally meritorious conduct in direct support of combat operations and stated that the full value of the 26th was nowhere better understood and more highly recognized than among the members of the patrols with whom the scout dog handlers and their dogs operated.
The commendation stated further that handlers and dogs were invariably located at the most vulnerable points in the patrol formation so that the special aptitudes of the trained dog could be most advantageously used to give warning of the presence of the enemy.
Carl is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, near his hometown of Plymouth in Cerro Gordo County. We like to think the spirit of Rex hovers nearby.
In October 1952, Carl was posthumously awarded the Silver Star at a special ceremony organized by American Legion Post #400 in Plymouth, Iowa. Carl also received a Purple Heart.