Albany man among few who served in three wars

Photo by Carly Farrell

Photo by Carly Farrell

ALBANY, Ga. -- McKinley Webb was an 18-year-old senior at Arlington Vocational High School in 1944 when he received his induction notice from the Department of Defense.

Little did he know that single piece of paper would launch him on a path to three wars and a career in the Army.

Webb, 85, has been retired from the Regional Youth Detention Center for the past 18 years, but his Army career saw him serve a tour in Germany during the late stages of World War II, two tours in Korea during the Korean Conflict and finally a single year in Vietnam in 1968.

He is one of just 78,000 American servicemen and women who saw action in all three conflicts.

Webb retired from the Army in 1969 as a Sgt. First Class and was awarded a Bronze Star for valor during his 1969 tour in Vietnam.

"I remember getting drafted in September of 1944," Webb said. "After basic training, I was sent to Bamberg, Germany, as part of an all-black ordnance disposal team."

Bamberg was one of the few German cities that remained relatively untouched by Allied bombings during the war, but there were plenty of unexploded bombs and other ordnance within a close radius to keep Webb and his team busy.

"I got to Germany in 1945 as the war was winding down," Webb said. "It was still rough at that time. The war was coming to an end, but there was still a lot of shooting going on. We just took it a day at a time and hoped and prayed that we'd all make it home safe.

"When the news came over the radio that the war was over, it was one of the happiest days of my life."

Webb returned home to Georgia in 1946, and at 20 he finally graduated high school the next year.

He was just over three years into his college education at Savannah State College when he was drafted again in 1951 after the Korean War broke out.

"I guess the Army had a problem with me getting a formal education," he said, smiling.

This time, however, Webb was assigned to an all-black outfit in the signal corps and decided to make a career out of the Army

"I was kinda famous because I could climb a telephone pole faster than anybody else in Korea," he said, laughing.

The Army had begun the slow process of integration by then, and Web recalled when it happened in his signal unit.

"We had around 400 people in our outfit, and they sent us six white guys," he said. "I guess that was the Army's idea of integration."

Webb got to come back home in 1953 but was sent back to Korea in 1955, finally leaving the country for good a year later.

Webb then was stationed at Fort Benning for four years and bounced around Germany and several other stations before being sent to Vietnam in 1968, where he spent a year before leaving the Army in 1969.

Looking back on his career, Webb said, "I feel fortunate to be one of the unique few who served in all three of those wars. I made a lot of friends, and it was a good experience for me. I got to see a lot of the world."