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In the Pipeline: Humble POW downplays his sacrifice

August 20, 2013|By Chris Epting
  • Lloyd Roberts holds a photo of himself taken by the Red Cross within an hour of his release from a Korean prisoner of war camp in 1953.
Lloyd Roberts holds a photo of himself taken by the Red… (Chris Epting )

The Western Union telegram is dated June 12, 1951. It is addressed to a Lillian Roberts in Mankato, Minn.

It reads, "The secretary of the Army has asked me to express his deep regret that your son PFC Roberts, Lloyd L has been missing in action in Korea since 18 May '51. Upon receipt of further information in this office you will be advised immediately. (Signed) Wm E Bergin Major Gen. US."

So what a wonderful thing to be having breakfast today with former Pfc. Lloyd L. Roberts.

What brought me here was an email I received last week from Ralph Ricks, a member of the Old Bold Pilots, a group of former flying aces and amateur pilots that meets early each Tuesday at a local coffee shop. (I wrote about him recently in this column.)

"It was 60 years ago next week that Lloyd was released after 26 months captivity by the Communist Chinese.  I would like next Tuesday's breakfast to be special in his honor. After five months starvation, his diet was almost entirely sorghum (milo).  I bought some at the feed store, and plan to cook up a batch to give out in small cups. … I haven't told Lloyd about this, and don't know whether to keep it a surprise. What do you think?"

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It was a gesture designed to allow the rest of the group to appreciate how wanting the soldier's diet had been for more than two years while in captivity.

And so last Tuesday, during the group's meeting, Ricks took the microphone at one point to officially announce the anniversary. Then he passed out cups of sorghum, a dense grain that Roberts and hundreds of other soldiers subsisted on as prisoners during the Korean War. Roberts, a soft-spoken man of 84, examined the cup and said wryly, "Looks about right, only without the bugs in it."

About 20 years ago, Roberts self-published a book about his life for friends and family. Now he is working on an e-book version of his story that will be coming out soon. He calls it simply, "One POW's Story." As we sat and ate together, he told me that he started writing in 1980, in the evenings when the house was quiet.

Private and modest, Roberts is not looking to regale readers with any huge feats of heroism. When you thank him for his service, he just shrugs and says, "I didn't really do anything but sit on my butt for a couple of years."

Right.

He was an infantryman in the U.S. Army, second division 23rd Regiment, and was captured in central Korea near the 30th parallel.

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