Local Korean War veteran recounts his road to Ridgecrest

Local Korean War veteran recounts his road to RidgecrestBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

The Korean War is often referred to in the West as “The Forgotten War.” Being prefaced by the deadliest conflict in human history, World War II, and segueing into the generation-shaping and intensely controversial Vietnam Conflict – it was technically a “police action” in the absence of a formal declaration of war by the U.S.

But it certainly wasn’t forgotten by the 327,000 Americans (and millions globally) who fought in the conflict and their families. One such soldier (well, sailor) who served in the conflict was Ridgecrest’s Scotty Broyles.

A familiar face around the community – likely seen over the last several decades running with the Over the Hills Track Club or singing in one of the church choirs – Scotty was one of those servicemen whose name came up during his time with the Navy Reserves.

As part of the U.S. Navy’s Task Force 77, Scotty’s squadron deployed to Korea, by way of Hawaii and then Japan, in February of 1950. CTF-77 included destroyers, cruisers, battleships and three carriers – on one of which Scotty served, having trained as a Plane Captain.

“But when I got on the carrier, they told me I was too small,” said Scotty, a man of slight stature and build. “They told me the wind would blow me off the edge of the ship.”

“But that’s OK,” he added later. “It’s what makes me good at running up hill.”

He ended up below deck in the ship’s metal shop, “patching up planes that came back with holes in ‘em.”

Scotty was born William Horace Broyles, Aug. 28, 1928, in Mesquite, Texas. Before he was Scotty, he was “Scotch.”

“Not because I drank though,” he said. “But my dad would say he’d ‘scotch’ me up in a pillow in my crib so he could talk to me. A number of years later, I got a motor scooter and became ‘Scooter Scotty.’ Eventually it was just ‘Scotty.’”

Mesquite was about 12 miles from Downtown Dallas at the time, and “not exactly a boom town,” said Scotty. “The 1930 census was 1,041 and then in 1940 it was 1,046.”

His first job after high school was working at a grocery store. He used his scooter’s sidecar to deliver groceries, before heading to Dallas for bigger and better prospects.

Scotty worked several other jobs before considering the military at the suggestion of a friend. He joined the Navy Reserves in July of 1948. About a year and a half later, as he and his then fiancé Betty (with whom he still resides at High Desert Haven) were finalizing their wedding invitation list, he received notice that his squadron was being called up.

Scotty met Betty through music – another one of his loves – as she was a cousin to the steel guitar player in his band “The Texas Trio,” for whom he played the mandolin.

“We were pretty good too,” said Scotty, who began lessons when he was 9 and played his first paying gig when he was 18. “We played a major talent contest at the Dallas Sportatorium. We won 1st place and $100, which was a lot fo money in ‘48 or ‘49 or whenever it was.”

Music continued to play a large role in Scotty’s life (he was featured in Fretboard Journal in 2014 – fretboardjournal. com/video/scotty-broyles-jim-harvey-mandolin), and it was something he was able to keep up during his time in the Navy.

“I got back from Korea in January of ‘51,” said Scotty. “I met some musicians and we formed a band – a pretty good one: ‘The Rhythm Masters.’ Our band played all of the bases in the San Diego area through the special services. That’s what I did until it was time for me to get out in July – then I headed back home to get married.”

After marrying, the Broyles travelled for years to wherever Scotty found work. He did everything from playing nightclubs, to working on dams to improving the packing methods for Hughes microwave tubes.

With a degree in marketing from the University of Houston, he temporarily landed at Marquardt (his last stop before Ridgecrest) in the personnel department.

“Marquardt had a big contract that was cancelled and I was out of a job again,” said Scotty. “I was living in Gardena, looking for a job for about six weeks. That’s when I found Naval Weapons Station and came up here.”

Scotty landed at China Lake for the first time in the mid ‘60s, but didn’t find the shift to his liking.

“Working in personnel was reasonably enjoyable in the private industry,” said Scotty. “But in the Navy… it was *blows a raspberry*. When I worked for Northrop I was working out of one 2-inch binders. When I got here, the first thing they showed me were four 4-inch binders for the Navy personnel and 6-8 more binders for the rest. I decided I’d try computers and applied for a job at Magu.”

From ‘67-’70, he worked as a computer programer at Point Mugu, until he realized he didn’t care for the coastal weather. In true Scotty fashion, he packed things up again and headed this time for Carson City. But after another wrench in the works, fate turned him back to the High Desert.

“I called a friend at NWS and asked if there were any computer job openings,” said Scotty. “She said there were two, and I started two weeks later.”

That was in 1970, and he worked until his (almost) retirement in 1988. As with many China Lakers, Scotty returned shortly thereafter as a contractor for Boeing where he worked until officially retiring in 1993.

It was upon his return to Ridgecrest that Scotty discovered another one of his passions at the age of 41: running.

“The Over The Hill Track Club was just forming and I joined,” said Scotty. “I walked at first and then started jogging a little bit. I remember doing a 5k event and I won for my age group. I was hooked after that.”

Scotty went on to run 41 marathons, finishing 37 of them, and regularly placing in the top of his age bracket. “When I was 50-years old, I ran 50 miles,” said Scotty. “I wanted to do it on my birthday, but you don’t run 50 miles in August.”

He repeated the tradition five years later, running 55 miles, and again when he was 60 (though he admitted that he only made it at 44 miles). He ran his last marathon in 2012, at 83 years old.

In recounting his time in the military, Scotty said he learned a lot and was grateful for what he said was an easy deployment.

“We lost a lot of planes, but only one pilot” said Scotty. “We were fortunate in that regard. Some of the other squadrons lost … I don’t know how many good pilots. But we were there to fight. You do what you can do.”

Pictured: William Horace “Scotty” Broyles, retired China Laker and Korean War veteran — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2020-11-06