“A Brilliant Student”
Lewis Simons was born on a tobacco plantation in Brock, Kentucky on August 15, 1929. His parents, Lewis and Dora Belle Simons, moved to Portland, Oregon when he was very young. Lewis’ father was a decorated World War I Veteran and his mother, a teacher, earned a master’s degree at a time when it was rare for a woman to obtain that level of education.
Lewis grew up in Portland and graduated from Franklin High School. After graduation he worked for the Arthur Murray Studios as a dance instructor giving lessons. He was drafted into the Army in 1950, at the beginning of the Korean War.
He went through basic training at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina, home of the 82nd Airborne. After basic training he boarded a military transport ship bound for Korea with the mission named “Destination Evil”. The ship stopped in Etajima City, Japan and he and forty-nine other soldiers were disembarked to attend special training as Radio Operators. The military compound where they were housed was formally the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy.
After a few weeks of training, Lewis and his fellow radio operators were pulled from training and assigned to serve with the front-line fighting units.
He was assigned to the 15th Automatic Weapons Battalion, 7th Infantry Division and they were soon to engage in two major battles.
His unit was involved in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, also known as the Chosin Reservoir Campaign. It was a decisive battle in the Korean War. On November 27, 1950, the Chinese Army surprised UN Forces at the Chosin Reservoir area. A brutal 17-day battle in freezing weather and rough terrain soon followed. During the period between November 27 and December 13, 1950, 30,000 United Nations troops were encircled and attacked by approximately 120,000 Chinese troops.
The cold weather was accompanied by frozen ground, resulting in frostbite casualties, icy roads, and weapon malfunctions. In the end, 17,000 UN Forces were killed, wounded, missing in action, or died of wounds. The Chinese suffered over 51,000 casualties.
North Korea returned 55 cases of American soldier remains in the summer of 2018. The Trump Administration continues to negotiate with the North Korean government to return the remains of more than 5,000 Americans, believed to be located near the Chosen Reservoir and other places in North Korea.
Lewis served in the Army for one year, eleven months and twenty days before he was discharged as a Corporal. Soon after returning home, he entered Reed College in Oregon for one semester. He then attended Oregon State for one semester. His problem was lack of money to keep him in school. Eventually he was able to come up with enough money to attend Lewis and Clark University and obtain degrees in math and physics. Lewis was a brilliant student.
After graduation the University of California, Berkeley recruited him to work for Lawrence Livermore Labs on joint projects in the development of nuclear weapons under the tutelage of Edward Teller, known colloquially as the “father of the hydrogen bomb”.
Teller was a co-founder of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and was both its director and associate director for many years.
After seven years at LLNL, Lewis was recruited by Lockheed Missiles and Space to work on nuclear testing of the Poseidon Missile System. The Poseidon missile was a U.S. submarine-launched ballistic missile introduced in 1971 to replace the Polaris missile.
Lewis left Lockheed and entered the private business sector for a few years, consulting with Silicon Valley start-ups in product development, marketing and sales.
Lewis was married to Sandra Fordham and they had two daughters, Linda and Teresa.