AFRH-W Resident Highlight – William Opferman
By Christine Baldwin | Librarian
William Opferman was born in Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the U.S. Army after WWII at the age of 18. At that time they were looking for qualified people for the Army Security Agency (ASA). He qualified and was trained to be a radio operator at the Signal School, Monmouth, New Jersey. He was then sent to Japan to serve in the occupation in the 304th Signal Battalion in Yokohama. Bill discovered his favorite assignment was guard duty. One day, he met a soldier wearing the crossed pistols of the military police corps and asked about joining the section. He was told that they were going to be placed into the calvary under General Walker and would not be MPs. Bill got accepted into the 502d Armored Calvary and trained to be a machine gunner and assistant driver in M-24 light tanks. The main job, of course, would be guarding the general.
In June 1950, Bill was part of an effort to begin communication with the enemy to discuss a peace agreement. “Our delegates were to meet theirs at Kaesong, near the border,” Bill said. Both sides were to meet unarmed, under white flags. As they approached, their convoy was stopped by a road block and Chinese soldiers appeared holding machine guns. Bill thought they were going to be captured or killed, but as he looked around he saw an enemy cameraman cranking a big camera in their direction. Yes, this was going to be propaganda about U.S. soldiers surrendering to them! Needless to say, the officers postponed the meeting. At a later time, they met again. Bill and the other guards were greeted by their North Korean counterparts, led by a 19-year-old female master sergeant. She spoke English well and was courteous, but not sincerely friendly. She never smiled. One time Bill asked her about tanks and she said, “Yes, we produce tanks.” He asked her if the North Korean tankers could read Russian, and if not, why were all the directions and notices in their tanks in Russian? She got up and stomped off in a huff in her big Russian boots. Another time he made a bet with some of the boys that he could make this girl smile. He did get a shy smile out of her, though he doesn’t remember how but he even has a picture of it.
Bill went back to the states and tried civilian life, but didn’t like it. So, he reenlisted and went back to Korea. He ended up becoming a military police investigator, got married and was sent back to the states, where he retired after 21 years at Fort Ord, California. He then became a special agent with the California Department of Justice. Bill always knew of the Home, since he was a small boy. In fact, one of his uncles, John J. O’Boy is thought to have lived here. Bill has been quite active in promoting the Home. He is featured in three books, the most recent an intergenerational book titled Remembering with the Heart: Stories by America’s Finest.