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Charles DeLapp at the operation office
K-47, Korea

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Charles Joseph DeLapp Jr.

Raymore, MO-
Korean War Veteran of the United States Air Force

"The living conditions in Korea were the hardest for me, I guess.  It had been one big camp out.  Being in Korea was not about fighting for the freedom of a country that had been invaded by North Korea.  The question wasn't just about Korea.  We felt it was a fight against communism."

- Charles DeLapp Jr.

 


[The following memoir is the result of an exchange of questions and answers between Charles DeLapp Jr. and Lynnita Brown of the KWE in the summer of 2006.]]

Memoir Contents:


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Pre-Military

My name is Charles Joseph DeLapp Jr. of Raymore, Missouri.  I was born on September 20, 1930, in Lexington, Missouri, a son of Charles Joseph and Anna Helen Lorantos DeLapp.  My father worked as a laborer on a river construction project.  The project was flood control on the Missouri River.  I think it was a part-time job as winter weather stopped the work.  During the Depression years he started being an intercity bus driver.  He continued in the bus business and retired at the age of 65 as district superintendent for Continental Trailways.  My mother had no outside employment.  I have a younger brother by seven years.  His name is John Michael DeLapp.

I attended elementary schools in Lexington and Springfield, Missouri, and then I graduated from high school in Springfield in 1948.  While in junior high, I worked in a public park refreshment stand in the summer of 1943.  In the Spring and Summer of 1944, I delivered newspapers for the Springfield, Missouri News and Leader.  In the summer of 1945 I worked in the Taystee (later Continental Baking Company) commercial bakery as a journeyman baker.  Boys were hired to fill these positions because there was such a shortage of able bodied men due to the war.  Starting in 1946 I worked as a baggage clerk at the Union Bus Depot in Springfield up until I enlisted in 1950.  Union Bus was allied with the company my father worked for and he told me about the opening.  The depot manager was very civic minded and a great believer in giving young people an opportunity to learn about the business world.

My uncle Corbet Snell was in the Army and another uncle Gussie Lorantos was in the Navy during World War II.  Both returned safely.  I followed the news, looking at maps to do so because I was interested in the geography.  My parents were not especially patriotic.  They were more concerned with the day effort to make a living.  I remember that the schools held scrap drives and participated in buying savings stamps.  I was involved in these activities, both on a limited basis.


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Joining Up

When the Korean War broke out, I didn't give it much thought.  I was more concerned about the upcoming school year.  I knew that Korea was a peninsula off the coast of Asia, and it was close to Japan.  I also knew that the Americans were surrounded at the tip of Korea.  I wasn't sure how the conflict would develop, but the news and information that came from the newspaper was all bad.  There was just a toe hold around Pusan.  As the news got worse and friends were called in the draft, it was apparent that I would be called.  I did not want to go to war but I thought it would be a major conflict.  Remembering how the draft of men in World War II worked, I figured we would all be in for the duration, plus six months.  That was my first mistake.

None of the people I talked to who were veterans of World War II said anything positive about the military experience.  Army life was well known for living in the field.  You know--sleeping in tents and on the ground, no showers, eating C-rations from mess kits. Associates from my work place, many of whom were veterans, said the Air Force was the best way to go.  One had been a tail gunner who said his job had been to watch for enemy planes mostly.  He read a lot on the return flight, and he had warm, dry quarters and hot meals every day in England.  Another had driven a gasoline truck at an air base in England.  He was never exposed to enemy action and life was good as compared to the infantry.

I enlisted in the Air Force on September 13, 1950 to avoid being drafted into the Army.  My folks didn't like it, but they realized that I would have to go sometime.  Until the time I was inducted, I read the newspaper daily to keep up with the war situation.  Newspapers ere readily available at the bus depot.  After I joined, I had no access to papers nor did I try to find one.  A close friend of mine, Everett Myers, joined at the same time for the same reason.  We went by train from Springfield, Missouri to the Kansas City processing center for physicals, swearing in, etc.  From Kansas City we went to San Antonio by train, then by truck from the railroad station to the base.  It was the first time I had been away from home other than for a few days with relatives.

Everett and I were in basic training together until about the last week.  There was a call for volunteers who could type.  I could type some because I had learned how in high school, but I remembered the advice "don't volunteer for anything."  Everett already had some typing skills because he had two years of college.  Most of the requirements for that job he already knew, so when he got the opportunity to become a clerk-typist through on-the-job training, he left basic, moved to location, and started unloading wounded personnel from aircraft.  We kept in contact through mail, but I never saw him again until we were both discharged four years later.

I don't remember a lot about basic training.  I remember getting my first military haircut on the first day.  We arrived late at night the evening before and were trucked to the mess hall where we were fed and given bed linens.  We got to sleep about three hours before we began our first day of training.  The first Sunday attendance at church was mandatory, but not after that.  I don't know why church was mandatory that day.  Maybe it was so that we wouldn't write the folks back home and complain about not knowing where the services were held.

I was assigned to Training Group 3700, Squadron 3702D, Fleet 5683.  We lived in 12-man squad tents designed to hold twelve beds and lockers.  They were temporary shelters set up on a previous grassy lawn.  Our drill instructor was Sergeant E-4 Satterlee.  Although I had no social contact with him, he was a fair man as far as I knew.  There was only one black recruit in our unit.  I did not observe any prejudice toward him.

The DI had a daily schedule.  A typical day was wake up at 5 a.m., fall into formation at 5:30 a.m.  We marched to breakfast as a unit, were given 30 minutes to eat, and then fell back into formation.  Meals were always rushed.  We ate normal American-type food--meat, potatoes, vegetables.  We were marched back to the tents to fall out for clean-up, shaves, etc.  (The restrooms and showers were shared with another group because of crowding.)  Then it was back in formation at 0800.  We were marched to a class or training exercise, physical training, or whatever was scheduled.  We were marched to the noon meal and given 30 minutes to eat.  Then it was back in formation to march to the next activity on the training schedule.  Except for Sergeant Satterlee, we never were with the same instructor for more than a few hours at a time.  After the evening meal we fell in for the last formation of the day.  We were then free to shower, do laundry, etc.  Recreational activity was limited to bull sessions.  Lights out was at ten, I think.

Basic training in the Air Force was not about airplanes.  It was about tests, the basic firing of a gun, and close order drill.  We underwent a battery of aptitude tests for approximately five weeks.  We also learned military courtesy, close order drill, the care and firing of the M1 carbine, and KP.  The M1 carbine was a much lighter weapon than the M1 Garand that was the standard infantry weapon.  I'm not sure why we went through the exercise of learning how to fire it.  We never learned about the care of the weapon, about the bayonet, or what models or ammunition were available.  We watched documentary and educational films.  Ones in particular that I remember were films regarding venereal disease.  In close order drill, the command was left face, fall out.  I remember that I turned to the right.  The DI gave me a rock to carry in my right hand the rest of the day.  I don't recall any other specific things regarding discipline.  I just remember the rock because it was effective.  Now I think it was humorous.

Southern Texas weather was hot in September/October days and cool in the evening.  Cold weather came in November and it was not really great to be sleeping outside in tents (little did I know).  A few people had already been sent to other bases (like Everett), so we were sent to share a barracks that was not full.  These people had finished their basic and for all purposes, so had we.  We had taken all the aptitude tests and had marched all over, so we were assigned housekeeping tasks to keep us busy until the personnel assignments came through as to where we were to go.  One day they would call out some names and those people would pack up and leave.  We didn't know where we were going.

I was very homesick the entire time I was in basic. For me personally, that was the hardest thing about basic training.  I'm not sure why I was so homesick.  There was sleep deprivation the first couple of days and then marching all day was very tiring. I was just tired and wanted this misery to end by going home, I guess.  There was no phone service, and even if there had been, there was no free long distance in those days.  I had no money.  Because of the short time in the Air Force and so much crowding of people, there was no payday schedule.  Money--or lack of it--became a problem for smokes, stamps, etc.  At least the mail service was good.

Basic training was accelerated because the Air Force had more recruits than it could handle.  They had to move people out to make room for those who were coming in.  Later a second basic center was opened in New York.  When basic was completed, there was no ceremony.  Members of the group were just assigned to go to different places.  The aptitude tests that I had taken during basic indicated that I could have several choices for advanced training.  I wanted to attend the radio repair school because I had learned that it was near St. Louis and close to home.  When I was told the school was full, I asked for radio operator school because I thought it would be in the same place.  But that school was full also, so I was sent to an Army school.


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Advanced Training

I had no leave after basic.  I went from basic at Lackland Air Force Base to an Army tech school at Camp Gordon, Georgia, where I learned to be a radio operator.  Camp Gordon was the home of the southeast signal school for Signal Corps.  I went there by a chartered commercial DC 3 airliner.  It was a long plane ride, at the end of which we were met by trucks and moved from the airfield to the camp.  It was Thanksgiving weekend.  We were assigned temporary lodging, and on the following Monday we were assigned to a training company.

The training course was for a ground radio operator.  The actual equipment we trained on was Army equipment meant for field use.  I don't remember all the actual nomenclature.  Among other equipment, I learned to operate an SCR ANGR 8--a portable, hand-cranked generator unit, as well as an SCR 522, designed to be mounted in tanks and half tracks.  We learned Morse code (by practice, practice, practice) and we learned how to operate radio sets used by the signal corps.  We were taught the sounds that were designed to be the letter A, then B, etc.  We then listened and wrote them repeatedly until the action of writing or typing the correct letter became automatic to us.  The machine was a tape player.  To learn to send the sounds, we used a telegraph key and a recorder to see if we could recognize what we had sent.

Our instructors were Army signal corps personnel and some civilian personnel.  The days were divided by learning code for half a day and classroom work half a day until we had not advanced our sending and receiving speeds as per the schedule.  Then it was code work eight hours until we received our required speeds.  Because of the speed requirements, the course varied by student.  Normal time was 30 weeks, I think.  It took me 32 weeks.  To pass the course we had to receive Morse code at 25 words per minute using a typewriter, and 18 words per minute using a pencil.  We also had to send 18 words per minute and we had to operate the assigned equipment efficiently, per the instructor.  I could not master that jump from 22 words per minute to 25 words per minute.  I had to have so many minutes of error free reception.  I just couldn't get over that last hump, and that last code speed became the hardest thing for me about advanced training.  All of the training took place on the base.

Attending the tech school was better than being in basic.  There were regular hours.  There was also no more marching, except to classes.  We had time after meals to smoke and chat with acquaintances.  Life just seemed a little better.  I had decided I could live and exist through the system, and was resigned to the fact that I wasn't going home any time soon.  On Saturday and Sunday, passes were usually available.  We picked them up at the orderly room and then rode the bus into Augusta, Georgia.  We went to movies, night clubs, dance halls, and hotel rooms--just anywhere that wasn't on the base.  Some weekends we were restricted because of sloppy formations or dirty barracks as determined by the first sergeant.

After advanced training, we were given a ten-day leave and ordered to report to Camp Stoneman, California, for further assignment in the Far East Air Force (FEAF).  Reporting date was 30 July 1951.  I went home to Springfield, Missouri, then made a trip to Columbia, Missouri to see an old girlfriend.  Since both of my parents had remarried several years earlier, I also made a trip to Chicago to visit my mother.  Knowing they had no control over the circumstances, my family's reaction to the news that I was being shipped overseas was "be careful."  As for myself, I didn't know for sure that I was going to Korea.  The orders said FEAF.  That was the Far East Air Force.

When my leave was up, I reported to Camp Stoneman as per my orders.  I stayed there for about ten days, processing, getting shots, and I don't remember what else.  I had no contact with anyone returning from Korea.  I don't believe anyone was returning yet except the wounded.  That was in July of 1951.


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Far East Air Force

I didn't go directly to Korea.  I didn't get there for another year.  Instead, I boarded the troop ship USNS General Weigel, and left the USA for Japan on August 7, 1951.  The Weigel was a large troop ship.  I heard there were about 5,000 on board.  Most were army personnel, but there were also dependents (families) onboard.  As I reviewed the orders, I counted 277 Air Force personnel on the ship.  I don't know of any cargo.

I had never been on a large ship before, so I was very concerned about being seasick.  The ship sailed in the early evening, so I went to my assigned bunk space and turned in.  I guess the gentle rocking of the ship in the swells just outside San Francisco harbor rocked me to sleep.  The next day I heard there were a great many people in our hold that were sick.  I was lucky and made the trip without incident.  It was a two-week trip, during which we hit no rough weather.  I played pinochle and watched the occasional movie on deck after dark to pass the time.  Once or twice I had duty sweeping the deck.

The troop ship docked at Yokohoma, Japan, where the pier looked surprisingly like the one we had left in San Francisco.  There was an Army band playing on the dock and several native girls were there in fancy clothes that I learned were called kimonos.  I recall an old sergeant telling me that they would look good before I went home--and they did.  Even that day I was impressed with the kimono, etc., not knowing they were formally attired to greet the ship.  The people were small in stature and their faces were pleasing.  In the places where I had an opportunity to see them face to face closely (workers at the base, entertainers, servers, etc. in the off-base entertainment), most were attractive.  I had no preconceived ideas about the Japanese.  I found the Japanese people to be very industrious.  Where I saw them as employees, they seemed to be efficient.  And although there had been a great deal of bomb damage all over the country from World War II, there was little evidence of it in 1951 because all of the litter, damaged buildings, and such had been cleaned up.  Personal hygiene was also very important to the Japanese people.  Hot baths--Japanese style--were great. The people were very polite and those who spoke English were always ready to assist.  I knew of no one in our unit who felt anything negative about the Japanese people.

We were trucked to an area called Fuchu, which was a processing area for  people.  I spent one day there in processing.  Formations were called, names were called, and we were told to go to an assembly area.  An NCO looked over our records and we were then sent to another assembly area.  There we were given our assignments, loaded onto trucks, and sent to a railroad siding where we boarded a train.  My orders were to report to Itazuke Air Force Base.

I boarded a train that went from the Tokyo/Yokohoma area to a southern island of Japan.  The train ride lasted for two days.  The cars were not like American passenger trains.  I believe they were specially-built for use by the military.  There were canvas bunks like on the troop ship, but not nearly as close  or as crowded.  I don't remember any regular seats or dining facilities, but I do remember boxed meals.  I saw a lot of the Japanese countryside.  The Japanese houses were very small, and I saw several that had thatched roofs (not common today).  The countryside was divided into small plots rather than large fields like in this country.  The train sped through small towns and villages.  I noted many places had flag poles on which the object was a fish.  The people we saw from the train were small in stature and their coloring was a light brown.  The train made stops (I don't know the reason), but we never got off the train.

I also saw Hiroshima.  Although the city was no longer in ruins, I could see in one instance where the atomic blast had etched open areas on a concrete bridge.  In this country and I guess everywhere, small concrete bridges are made with the sides slotted.  I can only describe it as similar to a railing for stairs or a deck.  The concrete ones are wider and so there is as much concrete as space.  In the instance that I saw in Hiroshima, the blast had occurred some distance away.  The light that went through the slotted sides etched paler lines than the normal color on the other side of the bridge.

When the train stopped I was trucked to the 6150th Communications squadron, my new assignment.  A part of the 6150 Air Base Wing, my squadron maintained the Itazuke Air Force Base.  As a radio operator I was assigned to the unit called Radio Receivers.  We maintained three networks on a 24/7 basis.  A radio network was a system of stations linked together by a common frequency--normally to communicate information pertaining to all.  In this instance there were three different networks or systems.  One was for danger of attack alerts and dangerous storm information.  One was for administrative information and another was for miscellaneous use.

The area where my duty station and quarters were located was all permanent buildings.  I was told it was once part of the Japanese military establishment.  It may have been a naval school, but I did not check into its history.  Our barracks was a large, one-story building in the shape of an 'H', with the latrine area in the cross bar.  Japanese men were hired to do most of the housekeeping in the common areas, on the floors, etc.

One of my first memories of being stationed in Japan could have happened anywhere.  While I was a replacement, other men had served their time and were being sent home.  I remember Sergeant A asking Sergeant B to ship home a box of china he had purchased.  For some reason Sergeant A didn't have the time, but he did give Sergeant B money for the charges and Sergeant B said, "Sure thing"--or the Japanese equivalent, and took the money.  Sergeant B never did send the box.  It was still in the store room when Sergeant B rotated to the United States.  I don't know what happened to the box or the money but I learned that although you might have thought you were "good buddies" with someone, it seems most people just looked out for themselves, especially when they realized they were from different parts of the country and the two "buddies" would likely never see each other again.

The personnel of the 6150th Communications Squadron worked in the Message Center in the headquarters building, the radio transmitter building, and the receivers building.  There were linemen for telephone work, etc.  In the area where my activity was based there was a theater, the main PX, an airman's club, and an NCO Club within walking distance.  There was also a consolidated mess hall, medical facilities, and a large sports field for football or baseball.  Other areas I was not familiar with included dependent housing and a commissary.  The flight line was separate from the administrative area by about five miles.  A military bus service was available to take us there, but I never went.

I was assigned as a ground radio operator.  My duties were to send and transmit messages as directed.  The radio was only a back-up means of communications, so our principle duty was to make checks with other stations in our network to ensure we could communicate.  There was an occasional storm (typhoon) warning and some administrative messages.  However, we made contact every hour 24/7.  A couple of old timers made me welcome on my arrival, but as they were being rotated to the United States, our acquaintance was short.  Because of trained manpower needs we often worked alone.  The schools to train radio operators were months long and there were no training facilities in the area where we were.

I remember one night the power in our small building went off.  I started the standby generator and reported the problem to the officer on duty in the communications center.  About an hour or so later there was a knock on the door and a very small Japanese man tried to tell me about the electricity.  I tried to explain to him that there was none.  He finally convinced me to go back on normal power.  He already had fixed the problem.  We shared cigarettes and warmed ourselves around the stove.

The commanding officer (CO) of the 6150th Communications was named Morris A. Moon.  I only know that because his name is on some of the orders I still have.  I don't remember anything about him.  There was a Staff Sergeant named Robert Reel who helped me learn some of the new procedures I needed to know.  Reel impressed me with his knowledge and his manner of helping me.

Entertainment was not a problem.  There was a movie theater and beer parlor on base and recreational equipment for football, baseball, etc.  I participated in some minor athletics such as touch football and I played a lot of pinochle. Usually if duty cycles allowed, we could get a pass to go into the city of Fukuoka, where there were Japanese restaurants, dance halls, etc.  I did some drinking, went to the movies, and shopped in the flea market type places.  I didn't really go sightseeing as a tourist.  Remember--there was a war on in that part of the world.  There were some training exercises, but only a couple of times were we sent off base into the field.  There were no USO shows.  Japan was not considered a hardship duty area.

The first time I went into the city with two of the "old timers", we were in a cabaret drinking.  When I asked about a restroom they pointed to a passage way where I went and found the usual fixtures in a male restroom (urinals).  I was doing my thing when I heard some sounds behind me.  I looked over my shoulder to see two Japanese girls combing their hair and chatting.  I went back to our table and gave these guys hell for sending me into the ladies room.  Of course, they laughed at me, and then explained the unisex lavatories to me.

The living conditions in the 6150th were outstanding, although there were a lot of bad hours to be on duty (nights) and the work was mindless and boring.  I felt any contribution I was making to the war effort was meaningless.  I loved being in Japan, but I did not like my job.  I asked permission to talk to the CO and told him of my dislike of my job.  I asked for a transfer--not out of Japan but out of that job. There were several other jobs that I had heard about.  The AACS Communication Squadron radio men handled messages regarding aircraft traffic and were busy all of the time.  There was an air/sea rescue unit that used radio operators on both the aircraft and the boats used to pick up downed aircraft crews.  These were opportunities I thought I wanted.  The CO's reply to my transfer request was non-committal.  Then about a month later I was told I was being transferred.

When I received the orders they were to the 474th Fighter Bomber Wing, APO 970 (Korea) as part of project Hotel Delta.  I later learned that as peace negotiations had started, any personnel who could be spared were being sent to Korea to build up the manpower.  When the order for Korea came through and I was a complainer, the easy way to deal with that problem was to ship out the complainer.  As I got older and wiser, I understood that my bitching was the wrong thing to do.  Oh well, too late smart.

Although I still had not had any contact with anyone who had served in Korea, I wasn't too happy about being assigned there.  But I had no choice.  I was transported from Iwakuni to Korea on a World War II vintage C-46 that rode like a bouncing horse.  I was on the verge of air sickness all the way.  I arrived in Korea sometime during the day on approximately 1 September 1952.  I think we landed at K-8, but I am not sure.


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Assignments in Korea

My first impression of Korea was that it was dirty.  Flying over Japan everything was green and the fields and paddies were laid out in a neat manner.  Going over Korea, everything appeared brown and dirty.  Landing at the military air base in Korea, it appeared the same as a base in Japan, except there was no look of permanence.  The base in Japan, Itazuke, must have been a Japanese military base at one time.  There was a large two-story headquarters building with a parade ground.  The mess hall was a masonry building.  The barracks, hospital, movie theater, PX, etc., were all permanent-type buildings.  I never saw the dependents' area.  The runways for aircraft were concrete.  At K-8, it was Quonset huts.  Buildings like the mess hall had corrugated sheet metal sides and roof.  Most of the quarters appeared to be tents, although I was quartered at the Headquarters area for my very short stay there.

I was assigned to the 474th Fighter Bomber Wing, Headquarters Squadron, Communications Section.  When I first arrived there, I had an interview with the wing personnel officer to find a duty station for my job description.  There was nothing that he thought he could assign me to, so I asked, "Why not send me back to Japan?"  Why they didn't send me back was something I could not understand.  I asked the major about the wing communications unit but he said they didn't have one.  A two-striper did not argue with a major, and I had very little experience in the Air Force at that time since I had only been in for two years.  As for returning to Japan, I assume the personnel shift to Korea from Japan was to increase numbers before some stipulation was imposed at the cease fire conference going on at the time.  As I recall, his reply was something like, "I can't do that.  I will have to send you back through the Fifth Air Force system."  I lived in a semi- storage/sleeping area for four days while they found a place for me.  I was never off the base during that time and did not see any Korean personnel.

On 8 September 1952, I got orders to report to the 6147th Tactical Control Group.  The 6147th and the 474th were separate entities, but both part of the Fifth Air Force.  I was told the 6147th  was located at K-47.  I knew that the higher the K number, the closer it was to the fighting front, so I began to be very apprehensive (scared).  Transportation to K-47 was by another stiff wing C-46 aircraft.  I was nauseous again.  When I got to K-47, I didn't know anyone--but I also didn't expect to see anyone that I knew.  It was the same as it had been when I got to the base in Japan.

I first received an introduction to the unit's mission, which was close air support.  Then I attended a short two or three-day school on the equipment I was to use.  That included the radio Jeep, how to engage the generator, what radios were on the Jeep, and how communications were established and handled between aircraft and ground.  Close air support was a new role for the military.  According to history books, it had been used sparingly in World War II by the Americans, so we were not effective.  (The Germans did it very well, but lost air superiority and thus could not use it against the invasion forces.)  The Air Force had nothing in place for this purpose in Korea, so it concocted the equipment as best as it could from what was available.  The Jeep was modified so the back seat area housed the radio equipment.  There was one high frequency (HF) receiver, one very high frequency (VHF) set, and one ultra high frequency (UHF) unit.  The VHF and UHF units were used to contact aircraft.  The HF unit was designed to communicate with other ground units, I think, but we never used it while I was there.  The electrical power for the radio equipment was obtained from an aircraft generator that was mounted where the front passenger seat would have been.  The Jeep's engine powered the generator unit.  Each Tactical Air Control Party consisted of one radio mechanic, one radio operator, and one experienced pilot who was the forward air controller.  Reading history of the first part of the conflict in Korea, the Jeeps were not too effective because of the limited sight of the controller on the ground.  When the Jeeps were taken to a hilltop, their distinctive antenna system made them stand out and become targets for enemy artillery.  The first airborne controllers were Air Force pilots in borrowed Army liaison aircraft (Piper Cubs).

Since I was assigned at the Corps artillery control center, the Jeep we used was in a deep hole that had been bulldozed out and the Jeep driven into the hole.  My duty was to be up and running and able to communicate with the aircraft as they came into our area of responsibility.  The radio mechanic's duty was to make sure that everything was working properly, including the Jeep.  The radio Jeeps were not used to travel.  We had regular Jeeps for necessary travel needs.  The controller at our assignment did not direct any flight that I know of.  I don't know what he did, but he checked on us occasionally to make sure everything was working okay.  I think he was also responsible for all the other men assigned to the Corps and who were on assignments at other levels.  I only remember two of the other men.  One was "Pop" something.  He was called Pop because of his age.  He must have been in his thirties, and I remember that he drank a lot.  Another man I remember was Tech Sergeant John J. O'Conner.  I tried to locate him some fifteen years ago, but was unsuccessful.

I checked out on the Jeep and was issued a GI driver's permit.  Although I was as experienced an automobile driver as a 22-year old could be (I had been driving since age 14 or so), I didn't really know how to drive a Jeep.  There were differences such as four-wheel drive, backing a trailer, light maintenance.  The check out was to drive around the motor pool lot, use the four-wheel drive, and maneuver the trailer.

I was then issued combat area hardware--carbine, ammunition, mess kit, bayonet, helmet, etc--just the things I had enlisted for four years to avoid.  I did not like this new assignment.  I was frightened about going to the front and was too concerned about that to consider anything else.  I had heard some rumors about the front line when I first got to Japan.  I recall that someone mentioned, "You could have been assigned to that radio Jeep outfit.  They go right to the fighting."  Remember--very early in this story I said that I had enlisted for four years to stay out of the infantry.

The next day or so, about six of us were loaded on an open 6x6 truck to be transported to our assignments.  Mine was to the 2nd Infantry Division, 9th Regiment.  We stopped at a couple of places and some of the people were left to replace those whose sixty-day tours were ended.  The last stop was at I Corps artillery command.  The Air Force captain talked to each of us.  He found out that the man assigned to stay at I Corps stuttered and would not be able to handle the radio assignment at that station, so he verbally changed our orders.  The other guy went to the 9th Regiment.  I was assigned to I Corps.  I really didn't know the difference in the assignments.  I realized that what I had wasn't "good living conditions", but at least I was safe.  I celebrated my 22nd birthday on 20 September 1952, just a couple of weeks after I arrived in Korea.  Some cigars had come in that day, so my "celebration" consisted of smoking one of them.

My duty at I Corps was to make contact with all air strike missions coming into our area, list the aircraft and armament they carried, and then pass them on to the next controller--whether it be ground or airborne controller--to check out the area when their mission was complete and report what results they were able to observe.  All this data was written on a large plastic sheet with grease pencil so that the officers in charge of fire support could be informed as to the effects of the missions.  This activity took place in a large tent called the Fire Control Center.  The large tent was actually made by connecting several tents together.  It was for all of I Corps and it was next to a deep bomb shelter that appeared to be a tunnel dug into the side of the hill.  The entrance was reinforced with sand bags.  I never had to use the bomb shelter.

The work was hectic at times because the number of flights was according to the fighting activity.  Another operator and I shared the duties.  Our work area was a table just inside the door at the side of the tent.  We were on the air from just before dawn to just after dark, operating the equipment through remote control cables.  Close air support didn't work in the dark.  The way the operation was explained to me (a lowly two-striper) was:  A combat commander had a target he believed needed to be destroyed.  He relayed this information to the next step up.  If they concurred, it was decided on how best to effect this distraction--bombs, napalm, artillery, etc.  Then a request for that type of attack was sent to the Air Force if it was decided to be the most effective.  The aircraft was prepared with the correct armament, and the attack was scheduled.  The pilots were given the area where they were to proceed.  They checked in with the controller at the Corps level, who passed them along to the next controller--if not diverted, who then directed them to the target, showing them where it was located.  The target was usually marked with a white phosphorus shell or rocket.  With telephone communications, the procedure from notification to strike was probably fairly quick.  I suppose the aircraft was probably already loaded and ready to go.  The distance from the various bases in Korea to the front was not too great.  I remember that there were times when a mission was scheduled for one area, but was diverted to a hot spot while it was in the air.

K-47 was probably fifty miles or so from the front.  I was never sure about the distance, but it was a four or five-hour drive at about 25 miles per hour.  I Corps artillery was probably three to five miles away.  After a few days at I Corps, I realized that the enemy was not pushing and neither were the UN forces.  It was sort of a shooting stalemate.  There were still skirmished going on.  Occasionally someone decided they wanted a hilltop the other guys had, and they battled for it for a few days.  But where I was at that time, it seemed safe enough.  Also, radio Jeeps did very little of the observer work.  The task was generally done by observers in aircraft.

On one occasion I was asked to ride along as shotgun rider while we took two new Air Force pilots to an Observation Post to watch an air strike.  Our forces were on the ridge next to the valley and the Chinese were on the next ridge towards the north.  As we were going across this long valley on gravel road, I looked behind us and saw that we were raising a very tall cloud of dust.  I commented that surely the enemy observers could see this cloud and realize where the vehicle was on this road.  About that time I heard the loudest explosion of my life.  I felt the truck jump off the road and I was really, really scared.  The driver laughed at me because I had been looking behind us and didn't see the American artillery pieces just off the road.  They sometimes waited until a vehicle came by to fire, knowing the effect it had on us innocent babies.  That was my scariest moment in Korea--and nobody was shooting at me.

Along the road I saw some Orientals in quilted uniforms along the road and had misgivings as to our location. The driver assured me that they were a Korean work crew maintaining the gravel road.  When we were very close, the driver told me that we were going to go over a steep rise and would be able to see No Man's Land and the Chinese positions.  (And they would also be able to briefly see us.)  He explained that we would immediately turn behind a hill and be out of sight to the enemy.  He said that one Jeep didn't present too much of a target to their gunners.  As we topped this rise, a large machine gun started firing and I was petrified.  The gun was mounted on a large tank and fired across No Man's Land occasionally.  He stopped the Jeep and then on foot we scaled a very steep hill to the OP.  It was actually a tunnel dug into the hill near the top so we could enter on the back side.  There was just a slot on the front side where the observers could watch enemy action.  This particular unit had a listening post.  The tunnel was large enough that they had constructed two bunks out of tree limbs and communication wire.  The Army observers told me that four men were assigned to this post for 48 hours before being relieved.  There was no strike the day I was in this area, as there was high enemy action farther east and flights had been diverted to the hot spot.  I felt safe, although I was still apprehensive about it all.  There were other moments of actual gunfire that concerned me deeply, but I don't think I was ever fired at directly.


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"Home" at I Corps

The entire area was situated on the south side of some medium-sized hills (not mountains).  A level spot had been bulldozed out for the fire control center.  Another spot had been leveled for the commanding general's tent.  The officer quarters was located up a small valley between two hills.  Lower down the hill, a flat spot had a field kitchen.  A concrete floor had been poured and a corrugated steel building had been erected for a place to eat inside.  The field kitchen and the dining area had lights, as did the fire control center.  I suppose the officers' quarters did also.  The tents for the enlisted people were around the side of a different hill about fifty yards away.  There was also a small motor pool there, where I think we got our diesel fuel.

My "home" or living quarters was a squad tent that I usually shared with three others.  There were two operators and two mechanics, and sometimes we had someone who was moving either to or from a new assignment spend a day or night with us.  The not-quite-level dirt floor of our tent sloped at about 15 degrees.  It was important to situate our folding cot so we didn't sleep with our head down hill, otherwise we got a headache.  The lighting in our tent was Coleman lanterns.  We had a small stove that burned diesel fuel.  It was only warm close to the stove.  The back side was freezing.

Water came in five-gallon cans.  The daily shave and wash up was done by using our steel helmets for a basin.  The helmet was also used to heat water.  It fit very nicely into the little stoves.  For showers we went to a spot on a river about five miles away.  There we could get a hot shower if the heater was working--or a cold shower if the pump was working.  The shower point did what it could, but a lot of baths were taken out of the GI helmet, like they were in World War II.  We could also exchange our dirty clothes for some that had been washed somewhere.  Everything was in a big pile.  We just sorted through them to try to find something that fit.  When it was cold, we peeled off the upper layer of clothing--shirts, T-shirts, sweat shirt--and bathed that part.  Then we redressed in the cleanest clothes we could find in our bag, then stripped from the waist down and bathed that part, covering it as soon as possible.  Our latrine was a very small tent pitched over a hole with a two-seater arrangement.  There were several large pipes embedded in the earth at strategic spots that were used to urinate into at night, etc.  They usually had lime spread around them every few days to kill bacteria and eliminate the odors.

At I Corps, the Army field kitchen prepared the meals and they weren't much different than at K-47.  There was lots of Spam, powdered potatoes (that made soupy, mashed potato stuff), powdered eggs, pancakes, sometimes bacon, and assorted veggies.  Sometimes we had green beans and other times we had carrots, etc.  Everything was always seasoned with bacon fat.  The best food I ever ate while in Korea as Thanksgiving dinner at I Corps.  The military put a high priority on food that day.  The cooks must have been at it for a week, along with preparing the regular meals.  We had turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, and all the other things one thinks of as part of a traditional Thanksgiving meal.  It was a great dinner, but other than that, it was business as usual. A few times sometime in our unit--maybe the captain--got us a few cases of C rations and we had snacks in our tent.  C rations were a complete meal with crackers, powdered coffee, cigarettes, and an entree--one of three: corned beef hash, turkey ala king, and beans and weenies (my favorite).  I missed those evening snacks when I went back to K-47.  We were cautioned about the diseases that could be passed on through the native food.  The Koreans used human excrement for a fertilizer.  When we walked past a Korean meat vendor's stall with dog carcasses covered with flies, that turned us off from eating anything Korean.  I probably missed the stateside meal of ham and beans the most.  It wasn't fancy food, but it was something I liked.

As mentioned, we had hectic days in the fire direction control center.  Sometimes when flights were diverted at the last minute, more than one called in at the same time.  It took some time to learn how to prioritize who to answer first.  Any time one of the Army officers asked questions, I got somewhat flustered, but I soon learned to deal with that.  Anytime we didn't have both radio operators available, it was somewhat difficult to arrange mealtimes, potty breaks, etc.  There never were any what could be called "breaks."  We were on duty all of the time--even when we were away from the radio equipment.

I was at one end of the tent arrangement, and it was some distance--20 feet or so--to where the officers who worked at the fire control were located.  Except for an Army corporal who was across the tent area from me, I was the only enlisted man in the area.  I didn't get much casual conversation other than a couple of times when the general who commanded the unit came in at that end of the tents and asked, "How are you, young man?"

We usually heard the results of the strikes because the flights checked out from the area when they completed their run or runs.  At that time, if we were not too busy with incoming aircraft, we asked for their damage assessment.  A war story:  One evening just before time to close down, as it was getting dark, a flight of Marine corsairs checked in and were assigned to the Marine forward observer.  As it was the last scheduled flight for the day, I could shut down when they left the area.  I changed to the frequency being used by the observer and the flight.  The observer reported their target was to have been a suspected ammunition build-up between two hills.  He asked the flight to stand by while he made another pass looking for the target.  Then he came on and said it was getting too dark and he couldn't make out the landmarks.  He asked that they circle at about 10,000 feet, let him clear the area, and just drop their bombs and then they would all go home.  The "dropped in the blind"-bombs hit the ammunition area and there were many secondary explosions.  These guys were laughing, shooting, and having a great time.  The strike couldn't have been better.  Sometimes it was better to be lucky than good.  I wasn't aware of any airplane crashes in our area.  At that time, the Chinese would find a downed aircraft, dismantle it in large pieces, transport it by night to a different area, and set up anti-aircraft guns hoping that the sight of a plane down would draw other planes to investigate the site.

On a non-hectic day, the guard woke me before daylight--usually at 4 or 5 a.m.  I don't remember the exact hour, just that it was early.  On cold nights I slept inside a sleeping bag with my outside uniform also inside the bag at my feet so the clothes would not be freezing the next morning.  The cooks were always up early so that breakfast would be ready for us.  I went to the kitchen area, got whatever was on the menu for that day, and took it into the metal building to eat.  There were crude picnic-type tables for eating.  Coffee was prepared by boiling about five pounds of coffee in twenty gallons of water over a diesel stove.  Eventually the grounds settled, but at that time of the morning it was still boiling.  I dipped my metal cup into the brew and waited for it to cool enough to drink.  Sometimes the grounds settled in the cup, and sometimes they didn't.  I drank some very grainy coffee in Korea.  After breakfast I went to the Center, which was generally in darkness when I got there.  I started the Jeep, climbed the hill behind the Center, and replaced the empty fuel can for the stove.  I then went back to the Jeep, engaged the generator, turned on the equipment, and got on the air, awaiting the first flight.  Usually by this time the lights were on for the day.  At mid-morning, the other operator relieved me so I could shave and clean up a little.  By that time it was noon.  I ate the noon meal and then relieved the other operator.  He then came back after the evening meal and relieved me so I could go to supper.  On alternate days I followed the other schedule.  On a very busy day, flights came and went so often it was difficult to get away to turn the mike to another person.

There were unusual days when a couple of guys took the Jeep and went to the shower point to shower and change clothes.  Sometimes we made a trip to Seoul with the mechanic to pick up a needed part.  There was one afternoon when we took a Jeep and went about five miles across the valley to hunt for pheasant.  The area was mined, but clearly marked in Korean and English.  We found abandoned firing positions, foxholes, etc.  We also found birds.  We shot three on the ground, and I actually hit one in the air.  It fell in the middle of a mined area and hit a mine, causing an explosion.  We didn't bother to try to pick that one up.  In exchange for all three birds, the cooks fixed one for us.  It tasted like bacon because it was cooked in bacon fat.  That day was a long way from a daily routine, but it was nice day to remember.

I did not really become good friends with any one person in particular in Korea.  There were those who I shared meals, beer, etcetera with, but I had figured out by then that all of the associations would be temporary.  Once we left that squadron, I knew that we would probably never see each other again.  I don't know of anyone in our unit that was killed while I was there.  I never saw Tech Sergeant John O'Conner again after I left the duty at I Corps.  I don't know what he did at K-47.  I was busy myself and just never saw him again.  I am sure that most of the non-commissioned officers and the officers, too, were probably veterans of the World War II era--or came into the service just after 1946.  It wasn't ever a topic of conversation that I remember.  Most of the folks that I had social contact with were like me, in their late teens or early twenties.

War was not always serious to us.  We were all young and didn't think about mortality and such stuff at the time.  At I Corps we got beer quite often and played a lot of cards by Coleman lantern.  At the base at K-47, besides playing cards there seemed to be a big Monopoly game every night.  It became "serious stuff" one night when the game broke up into a fight because someone would not trade a railroad or something with another player.  Somehow the humorous things that happened while I was in Korea are not in my memory banks.  Of course there were laughs.  I recall one red-headed guy who always had a smile and joked a lot.  But I forgot the humor when his four deuces beat my aces full one night in a table stakes poker game.  He was from West Virginia, but I don't remember his name.  At that time in my military career, I had not been worked or associated with any individual for over eight months or less.  Even during the year long duty in Japan, the ones who were there when I arrived were gone in a few months.

As far as I knew, the officers in my unit were competent.  A captain at I Corps seemed to be responsible for the personnel for all teams in his area.  Some saw to it that we got beer or liquor when it was available.  I don't know if the Army officers were doing it for their men.  As far as the other officers in the squadron, I guess they did their jobs.  The older non-coms really ran the show at K-47.

Mail service was great.  At I Corps, a light airplane called in each day for a mail drop.  The operator on duty would "roger", then go outside and watch this pilot fly over low and slow and drop our mail bundle attached to a streamer so we could follow its fall and retrieve the bundle.  I got mail from home from my mother and also my stepmother.  I never received packages via mail drop at I Corps but I got a couple at K-47.  They arrived in good condition.  My step mom asked me what she could send to me.  All I could think of was sardines and crackers, which she sent to me while I was at K-47.  They didn't last long when shared with tent mates.  Occasionally someone got a cake.  It was usually beat up, but it tasted good.  I don't remember anyone getting any bad news from home.  There were no Dear John letters to my knowledge.

I didn't think about leisure time.  I played cards, tried to learn chess, played Monopoly, worked where assigned, and had guard duty sometimes, although not often.  As to the vices of life, I drank, smoke, and gambled while I was in Korea.  I had been smoking for a few years before Korea.  Drinking was not too much of a problem because it was not always available.  I decided I wanted to buy a car when I got home from Korea, so I started playing poker whenever I could.  I bought postal money orders and sent the winnings home.  I didn't make a fortune, but I had about six hundred dollars or so when I got home.  That was a lot of money in 1953 for a young man whose job was the military.  And I got that car!

I saw no American women while I was in Korea.  There were Korean prostitutes, but they were not allowed in the I Corps area.  There was a farm line--a geographic line across Korea--and civilians were not allowed north of it.  At I Corps we once had a male barber who was escorted in for a day.  Those people assigned to duty north of the farm line did not get passes to leave their area and meander about in the I Corps area.  If a trip had to be taken for anything, it was authorized by an officer and a trip ticket or authorization was issued for the journey.  Military police had check points on all roads to monitor traffic.  One time a USO show came to I Corps.  A lot of guys showed up from a lot of places to see it.  I don't remember the names of the entertainers in the show.  They were not headliners, but it was a good show.  There were some women and men singers, a joking MC, and a small combo band.

All the time that I was at I Corps, the peace talks continued.  I didn't think they would accomplish anything, however.  I figured that the fighting would continue, but only in a holding fashion as it was at that time.  I didn't want a war with China for sure, but I didn't even consider that the United States would pull out of Korea.


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Going Home

The procedure for the radio operator and radio mechanics was to be assigned to an artillery unit for sixty days, then return to the base at K-47.  Some would then go to Japan for a five-day R&R leave.  Some would stay at the base for ten days or so and be assigned to a different artillery unit.

About sixty days after returning to K-47 from I Corps, I went on R&R to Japan.  Several from my squadron went together.  We flew to Seoul on a C-47 and then transferred to a big C-121 to fly to an airbase just outside of Tokyo.  We went to the hotels listed on a guide sheet, drank, ate food, saw some Japanese girls, danced, had hot Japanese-style baths, and just had a really good time.  We also got warm for a change.  We were there for five days and then we went back to Korea as ordered and continued to do our job.

After my tour at I Corps and an R&R leave, I was almost due to be rotated back to the States.  Rotation was done on a point system.  For every month in Korea, I received two and a half points.  A 12-month stay in Korea was 30 points.  I had already spent 13 months in Japan.  I received one point for each month in Japan, so after January I was due for rotation before my next 60-days assigned was up.  It was decided I would stay at K-47, assuming other duties until it was time for me to go home.

I enjoyed the special dinner on Christmas Day of 1952.  It was exactly the same as Thanksgiving.  I went to the Enlisted Men's club, which was a large metal building on a concrete slab.  It had a big fireplace at one end.  Beer was chilled by leaving it outside.  Electricity was turned off at 9 or 10 p.m. as usual, but Coleman lanterns and the fireplace gave some light.  On Christmas Eve night a USO troupe was at our base for housing, not a show.  But the popular accordionist Dick Contino played to a very noisy crowd in the club that night.  When the electricity went off, he moved by the fireplace and played "Ave Maria."  The crowd got very quiet, and when he finished everyone left the building as if on cue to go to their tents.

While at K-47, I went into the town of Chunchon a few times on a sightseeing trip, but I had no contact with the natives there.  The town of Chunchon had been a battle area a year or so earlier, so there wasn't much left of buildings.  Most of the people lived in shanties of scrap lumber and tar paper.  Some lived in a couple of caves in the area.  I remember the children being bundled up as it was winter at that time.  One of the odd jobs I was given while at K-47 was to teach a couple of classes of Korean soldiers how to drive a Jeep.  They were very anxious to learn, but they could not speak English.  After my year in Japan, I understood and could speak a few phrases in Japanese.  They understood Japanese, as it was taught in their schools until 1945.

Another one of my part-time jobs was driving replacement crews to artillery units (like my first time out).  I remember that we stayed overnight with a unit that was housed in an underground bunker.  One time while waiting for the crew going back to show up, five or six of us scaled the hill behind the bunker area.  Earlier in the war it had been a battle area and the remains of trenches were visible.  Also visible were remains of people.  We could tell they were Chinese because they had rubber sneakers on the end of their leg bones.  It was grisly.

There was a hold up on my return to the States because they couldn't find a duty station for me.  Then one morning when I was sacked out after being on guard duty the night before, the 1st Sergeant woke me and told me that they had received an assignment for me.  I don't remember much about my last hours with the company.  I guess the usual congratulations were given to me as they were given to anyone going home.  I was elated to be going home.  I packed and turned in equipment that belonged to the unit (my weapon, helmet, etc.).  I traveled by air to Fuchu, Japan, for one-day processing.  There we took our duffel bags or luggage to an inspection station where they were checked for unauthorized goods such as weapons and drugs.  The bags were sealed and transported while we each had a small hand bag with enough stuff for the trip.  From there I went by bus to the docks at Yokohama.  My orders are dated 13 April 1953, but the reporting date to Fuchu is listed as 23 April 1953.  It was a one-day flight to Japan, so I left Korea with the rank of Airman First Class on the 21st or 22nd.

At Yokohama I boarded the USNS Breckinridge on April 25.  About 5,000 guys were going home on the ship.  As normal for me, I did not know anyone on the ship, but there was general elation among everyone.  Hey, we were going stateside!  I worked in the galley every other day preparing green onion, carrots, and other salad stuff.  It was just something to do.  There were movies on deck at night and always a pinochle game.  There was no poker or gambling because everyone was saving their bucks to spend in the USA.

It was a ten-day voyage that ended at San Francisco, California.  I think that seeing the mainland was an emotional time for everyone.  The ship was due to dock around 7 or 8 a.m., but earlier than that almost everyone was up, dressed, and on deck waiting for daylight.  Someone had a portable radio (there were no transistors then), and we heard our first radio commercial in a long time.  It was a used car dealer, and it was hilarious.  There were lots of folks waiting at the dock to greet loved ones, but there was nobody for me to kiss hello.  I had written that I was coming home, but I didn't know the exact day.

After we disembarked, we loaded onto busses and went to a processing center where we were reunited with our hold baggage, given our travel orders and travel funds, and taken by bus to wherever we wanted to go locally.  Just a couple of hours were required for the processing.  I went to the bus station in San Francisco and got on the next bus for Springfield, Missouri.  I wanted to hold on to those travel dollars to help finance a car.  However, after an all-night ride and an all-day ride, I got off in Phoenix, Arizona, called the airport, and they held the plane for me while a cab sped me to the plane.  The engines were running and everybody ran along with me to get the tickets and baggage on board.  This returning GI really appreciated the special treatment.  I woke up the next morning when the plane landed in Dallas.

My next duty was with the 31st Air Division, Ft. Snelling, Minnesota.  I was assigned to the 514th Air Base Squadron, Communications Section, as a ground radio operator.  Some guys who returned from Korea went a little wild, but I guess I didn't.  Maybe I was a little conservative or something.  I did get that car--a pretty convertible--and I was always ready to go to town.  "Town" was the big city of Minneapolis.  There were lots of places to meet the local girls, who were, on the most part, about meeting Air Force guys.  It was a common thing for some local girl to call our barracks to invite three or four guys to a party.

I gave some consideration to re-enlisting, but I observed how the second-enlistment guys lived, especially those with wives and families.  I decided that being a family man while in the service was not good.  And those that were single were growing old alone.  Also, the duty was so boring.  Doing radio checks (no other communication) with two other places was just doing nothing.  I was discharged from the Air Force on 12 September 1954, four years exactly from the enlistment date.

I can't think of any incident that stands out in my mind about my tour of duty in Korea.  There are a couple of stories that I have told a zillion times about gun fire, and I remember the cold, the dirt, and the monotonous food.  There are not any really good things that I can remember.  The living conditions in Korea were the hardest for me, I guess.  It had been one big camp out.  Being in Korea was not about fighting for the freedom of a country that had been invaded by North Korea.  The question wasn't just about Korea.  We felt it was a fight against communism.


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Final Reflections

After I was discharged, I visited relatives for a couple of weeks.  I went home and looked for a career job.  Folks did that in those days--looked for a job to last a lifetime.  Job switching wasn't like it is today.  I got a career job, got a spouse, and started building a life for myself and my family.  All of my former friends prior to the military were scattered about and they had their careers and families as priorities, so there wasn't much social contact with old friends.  I just started moving in new circles.

My first job was with a consumer finance company.  After two days, I realized this wasn't anything I wanted to do.  While visiting a friend we were reading want ads for jobs, and I found one that looked very interesting.  I applied, was tested, and three weeks later went to work for the IBM Corporation.  I did not continue a formal education, although I attended electronic trade school for a short time to enhance my understanding in that field when the digital computer became part of my life.  Although I had little actual experience, it wasn't too tough to fit into the working environment that I was assigned.  The job as an IBM field engineer lasted thirty-two years, and I was able to retire at a very early age (when I was 57 years old).  The next six years or so I did part-time work if the job was interesting.  Then health problems sort of ended my working anymore.

In January of 1955, Nancy Joan Green agreed to be my wife, and she still is.  We have three children--two sons and a daughter.  Our sons are 50 and 49.  Our daughter is 40.  We have three granddaughters, two great granddaughters, and a grandson.  My activities now are centered about our home.  I am a lawn and flower nut, and also a jack leg fixer.

Reflecting back on Korea, I think that the whole service time mostly gave me a chance to mature a little.  I don't think the time in Korea was any more important in that respect than the time anywhere else, however it did give me an appreciation of how fortunate I am to have been born in the USA.  I think the United States should have sent troops over there when it did, although I also think that MacArthur should have gone north of the 38th parallel only as far as to complete the defeat of North Korea.  I think the continuing push to the Yalu River antagonized the Chinese, and that despite the warnings from intelligence sources, MacArthur continued on his march.  The Korean War was part of the cold war and I think the resolve of the United States against the takeover of South Korea held communistic expansion in that part of Asia in check.  As long as North Korea continues to rattle its swords, I think we should still keep troops in South Korea.

I revisited Korea four years ago.  I have a nephew who is a pilot in the Air Force and he was stationed with his wife and son at Osan Air Force Base, just south of Seoul.  His father (my brother, who is a retired Army officer) and I went to Seoul where he met us and drove us to quarters at a US Army facility.  We visited Seoul, my nephew's home in Osan, and made a day trip to the city of Chunchon, where the airbase designated K-47 in the Korean War is now an Army facility.  I had photos of some of the prominent land marks (mountains) so we could locate where the base I knew was in relation to the area today.  Of course, Korea has vastly changed.  There are no ox carts now.  They have been replaced with eight lane highways.  The drive from Seoul to Chunchon was only a couple of hours in heavy traffic.  In 1953 it would have taken most of a day.  I had no chance to visit the area I knew as I Corps.  That is in North Korea.  I did visit the Demilitarized Zone and the area where the peace talks were held.  I was amazed at the American men who have maintained and kept the peace for over 50 years.

More and more I think the young people of our nation take for granted the great life we enjoy here.  They have never known economic hard times.  The norm for a pay increase every year has gone on for so long it is assumed it should always be there, regardless of the company's fortune or the workers' productivity.  I believe that future generations will wonder why our leaders committed us to a war that didn't seem to threaten our country.

The Korean War carries the name "the Forgotten War" because the nation wasn't on a war footing like it had been five years earlier.  Sons and neighbors' sons weren't all away fighting as had been the case during World War II.  At home it was business as usual.  Production of consumer goods was not curtailed.  The rotation plan for personnel meant that no unit came home together, so there were no victory parades, etc.  The returning men were discharged when their enlistment time was up, not because the fighting had stopped.

My children only heard bits and pieces about my Korean War experiences when they pertained to a subject or topic we were discussing.  I did tell my daughter about playing poker and trying to get money to buy a car.  They never asked questions otherwise.  It's tough to talk to your kids about history they are not interested in.  It is also hard to talk to others.  Gosh, almost everyone my age was in the military when I was.  The Korea assignment was a lot like the assignments they had in other parts of the world--except for the big camp out (living in tents) and the fighting.

I didn't know anyone who was killed or wounded in Korea.  In the late 1980s or early 1990s, I learned that there was a 6147 Tactical Control Group reunion group in existence and I was eager to contact anyone I might have remembered.  I attended the session in Boston but did not find anyone I had ever known.  I never even contacted anyone from the 6150 Squadron.  Almost all of the attendees had been pilots in the organization.  I did try to contact a friend from my post-Korea time who was from the Boston area, but couldn't find him or anyone who might have known him.  Later I saw his name listed with social security numbers, which meant that he was deceased.  So my military contacts fizzled to zero.  Now I can't even recall names of anyone I worked with day in and day out.  None of the relations ever lasted over a few months.  If it wasn't for the copies of my orders that my step mom kept until she died, I wouldn't be able to write anything but generalities about my military experience.

I really think it is ironic that I elected to enlist for four years in the Air Force rather than two years in the Army because I thought we were in for a conflict like World War II and that everyone would be in until it was over.  It is even more ironic that I then spent my tech school time with the Army, was assigned to Korea attached to the Army, and had to live in conditions that I had purposely tried to avoid.  In my history there are other choices I made that were just as bad, but fortunately I have muddled through them all and have had a good life.

I have nephews in the military who are all involved with Afghanistan and Iraq.  The next generation will probably be somewhere else. I hope our nation will always have freedoms worth defending.  This memoir is about how it was in my time.

 

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Photo Gallery

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Barracks in Japan 1951

Tent in basic training, Lackland AFB 1950

Snows in January or February of 1953

Me at the 38th Parallel. My artillery assignment was north of the 38th.

Yours truly in shot-up Chunchon

 

TACP Radio Jeep

Me clowning around one day. I was not actually talking to anyone. Behind the radio jeep you can see the tents that housed the fire control center. The two black rectangular shapes are entrances to the bomb shelters. They were just big bunkers.

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