– US Army, 1942-1945
Thoburn was raised a “farm kid” in Miami County, Kan. The whole family worked on the farm, including Thoburn's one brother and two sisters.
Thoburn was drafted into the Army and was trained to work on the telephone lines needed for communications. He was assigned to the 345th engineers group. Soon, Thoburn's group was sent to North Africa where they were assigned to be truck drivers hauling troops back and forth to the front lines. Thoburn's group was also charged with hauling ammunition and supplies where they were needed. Their commanding officer was very good to them and Thoburn has fond memories of how well he took care of his men.
Thoburn says that he has tried to turn a lot of the bad memories off and what he experienced is very difficult to talk about. Watching the suffering of others was too tough.
Thoburn states that they met wonderful local people in the northern part of Africa. From there they were sent to a war ravaged Sicily. They had to be very careful because the Germans were in Sicily as well. He remembers watching captured Germans being marched into custody and being saddened because many of those boys were younger than he was.
They were bombed nightly and the shrapnel would hit close to the trucks they had nearby. They were scared so they thought hiding near the drive shaft of the truck would protect them; they soon realized realized that wasn't a very smart idea since the shrapnel was hitting so close to the truck's gas tank. They stopped doing that. When they had down time they would occupy themselves working on the trucks they used. They carried M-1 rifles and later were issued carbine rifles.
Upon returning home, Thoburn became a newspaper carrier for the Kansas City Star. Later he switched gears and went to work for John Deere. Thoburn and his wife had one son, who is deceased.
Thoburn and his wife loved to go fishing together. They bought a travel trailer and spent a great deal of time fishing at Bennett Springs.
Peggy Sowders, a city of Independence staff member, compiles stories from veterans from around the area at the Truman Memorial Building. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-325-7979 if you are interested in helping a veteran tell his or her story.