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Jacob J. "Jake" Huffaker
"The town of Seoul in the back streets was full of the ravages of war. We walked up a steep and narrow alley one day, and across the path in front of us lay a half-naked woman, dying. A baby was sucking at her empty breasts. A scene like that sticks to a person. The people lived wherever they could find a place to lie down. They even lived on top of the great walled gate in niches and corridors cut in stone. They lived in caves in the hillsides, and they lived in the shelter of iron sheeting leaned against the city's walls."
- Jake Huffaker
From Mother's Arms to Korea
- copyright by Jacob J. Huffaker -
My life began on December 9, 1927, at Kodak, Tennessee, in Sevier County. My dad, James H. Huffaker, told me it was a very cold, snowy day. I was not born in a hospital, but at home with Dr. Housley, a family physician, at my bedside. There was a brother born about two years before me, but he died shortly after birth.
My dad worked at a general merchandise store owned by his uncle, Guy Huffaker. The store sat just off the hill back of my dad's house. My dad had a brother who lived with my dad's parents on an 80-acre farm about a mile out the road toward the French Broad River. He came out in his "T" model Ford to take me out to stay all day with them when I couldn't sit up in the car seat. He let me lean on him.
When I was about a year old, I went to live with my grandparents. This was my dad's greatest mistake because I grew up to know my parents almost as strangers. My grandparents always told me that they were my daddy and mother, and that my parents had let me live with my grandparents because I was almost starving and they weren't taking care of me as my grandparents thought they should. I can remember back to the day my sister, Betty Lou, was born (November 30, 1931). My grandmother, whom I called "Mom", and my grandfather, whom I called "Pop", took me out to see my new sister.
I can't remember my first trip to Knoxville, but I can remember going to Knoxville with my Uncle Bob, who went twice a week to get groceries for my uncle who ran the store at Kodak. Before I got back home I almost always went to sleep riding in the "T" model truck, and sometimes I wet my pants. Knoxville was 25 miles from Kodak and it usually took a good half day or a little more going down there gathering the groceries and getting back home. During the Fall of the year or late Summer they would not let me go to town as there was usually a crippling disease breakout about that time each year and it was catching among small children. It is known now as "polio".
My grandparents lived on a farm of 80 acres and rented another farm of 380 acres about two miles from Kodak adjoining our farm. We usually raised about 50 to 75 hogs each year to sell and to eat. We had about 20 to 30 cattle along with about 20 milking cows. For a long time we strained the cream from the milk and sold the cream to a creamery truck that came around about three times a week and picked it up. We usually fed the chickens (we had about 400) the milk that was left, along with feeding it to the pigs, too.
To show you how a boy growing up will be so mean, I was always going out to the henhouse, getting eggs, and breaking them in the nest. My grandmother would find them and wonder how they got broken in the nest. I usually told her that I guessed the roosters jumping upon the nest broke them. One day I made the mistake of throwing some of the eggs against the wall of the henhouse. My grandmother then found out how so many of her eggs were being broken. After much punishment and hickory tea, I finally quit doing this. They gave me some hens and told me to feed them. What eggs I got from them I could sell at the store and keep the money. That was how I learned the value of things during those depression years when money was scarce.
My grandmother's parents lived down at a place called Bethel on the French Broad River about ten miles from Kodak. Her daddy was Capt. John Newman, owner and operator of a steamship that traveled up and down the river from Knoxville to Kodak. It carried grain and cattle to the markets and machinery to the farmers, along with other supplies. I can only remember him when he was bedfast. When we went down there to see him he always gave me some money. That was where I first got to saving money. I can remember the week he died. I was going to stay at home with Pop and Uncle Bob while Mom went down there. When night came I started crying for her and about 10 o'clock in the night they had to take me down there to her.
My school days began in September 1933, at Henry Crossroads School, a two-room schoolhouse at Kodak. This school was about a mile from home at my dad's house. I usually took my dinner, but as I got up in the grades of school I went to my dad's house for dinner.
My first teacher was Howard Bailey, a short man about four feet eight inches tall, weighing about 125 pounds. He was a very good grammar school teacher for small kids. He got out and played ball and other games with us and, boy, could he ever run fast with those short legs of his. If we were mean he usually whipped us with a ruler across our hand and pulled the hair at the back of our neck. I remember the first time that he gave me a whipping. He had to come back to my seat and pull me out of it.
Jessie Fox was my best friend at school. For several years his family lived on the farm that we rented and we walked to school together. Later on they moved down the road about a mile and a half from the school in a place called Piney toward Beech Springs. We usually sat together in school as they had those big long desks that seated two together.
For transportation to school I usually walked unless it was rainy and bad, and then I usually rode a mule, sitting on the back it with my grandfather or uncle, whichever was coming to the store that morning. I also walked to school in the rain and snow many a morning. Later on in school I got a bicycle and rode it to school. leaving it at my dad's house during school hours.
For playing at school we usually played "knockout" or "scrub ball" during the Fall and early Spring of the year. We also played ball games with other schools and played "two-eyed cat" a lot. We played a lot of tin can and ante-over the schoolhouse roof. Other games we played were "drop the switch or handkerchief", "Farmer in the Dell", jumping the rope, "Red Rover Come Over", "tin can", "cops and robbers", and "Ole Bar" (played by a boy that was about as ugly as a bear and was a real fast runner). For cops and robbers we used the coal house for the jail. In the Winter we had snowball fights and made slides and slide on them with our feet. We also made mud slides if the weather was warm. We played a lot of "whoopie-hide" and "roll-hole" and "keeps" with marbles. We took sticks and dug up old dead stumps on the school ground. Rainy days found us in the schoolhouse writing on the blackboard, playing games on the board, and making airplanes and flying them across the schoolrooms.
I had Mr. Bailey for a teacher until I got to the fourth grade. After that I went into what we called the "big room". This was a room much bigger than the small room that we were in for the first three grades. Mr. James Harden was my first teacher in the big room. I remember the first time he gave me a whipping. It was over throwing rocks at the big school bell on top of the schoolhouse and ringing it after school. There were three of us into it. He got a long hickory switch and gave us five licks with it. They were hard ones, too. I still believe it was those Schuberts that lived out from the schoolhouse who told him about us doing that. He lived over across the French Broad River and had plenty of time to get home. A bunch of us had to stay in during recess and dinner periods for eating candy during books for about two weeks that year.
From the 5th grade through the 8th grade I had Mr. J. Carroll Sims, a teacher from across the river toward Sevierville. He was a very good grammar school teacher who took a big interest in building up the rating of our school by putting in window blinds, better lighting, and air circulation in our room. He had us haul rock out of Johnie Creek and build an underpinning around the schoolhouse to keep out the winter cold. He made mortar out of salt and ashes. That really worked too. My grandfather died just about a week after I got through grammar school. During those school years my uncle had gotten married and was living out the road from home on the rented farm. After Pop died they moved in the house with Mom and me. They had a little boy and he and I never did get along with each other.
High School Years
My first year in high school I went to Carter High in Knox County. I stayed at Grady Cox's house in Thorngrove and rode the school bus to school with his boy, Kenneth, who was in a grade higher than me. I helped milk from 25 to 35 cows each night and morning and cleaned up the milk shed in exchange for staying there and going to school. I really enjoyed going to Carter. I could have gone to school at Beech Springs High, but it wasn't much of a rated high school so I didn't want to go there. I played softball and basketball at school, and was a star softball player. We really had some good times playing at Carter.
My second year at school I started going to Carter by riding with Jewel Kyte. He drove to work in Knoxville in the morning and then picked me up about 5 or 6 o'clock in the afternoon and brought me home. This lasted for about two months, during which time the Beech Springs School closed down and they started running a school bus from over there to Sevier County High up at Sevierville about 12 miles from Kodak. After that I quit Carter and started in at Sevierville.
During my first day out to play softball at Sevierville, I was the last one to be picked to play. The other side didn't want to take me as they had never seen me play before, but one or two of the side I was on had known me. The first time at bat I hit a home run. After that I was always taken first by that side. We had some real good softball games and I batted close to 400 average throughout the three years I went to school there. A few years after I graduated they started a baseball team. I sure wish that they had started it when I was going.
My puppy-love girls in school were first Ruth Fox, Edna Pollard, Flora Henderson, Louise Lindsey, Maxine Dobbs, Otella Philpott, Edna Ruth Swaggerty, Anna Mae Romine, Mary Coleman, Charlene Denton, Betty Jo Henry, Edith Cates, Edith Sarten, and Tassey Elliott. Ruth Fox was my friend Jessie's sister. Anna Mae Remines was the sister of another one of my friends. I might have married her except that I had a falling out with her after I invited her to a party and she had just come with another boy whom she said had just came with her sister's boyfriend. She and that boy later got married. Charlene was a girl at Carter High. During the last part of the last year of school I started a pen pal "penship" with girls throughout the U.S. and overseas. I also had one in Canada.
World War II
None of my family was in World War II. My dad's health kept him out and my uncle was deferred due to farming commitments. Our school put on bond drives during the war. I bought several war bonds during that time by buying stamps until I got enough to exchange into an $18.75 war bond that at maturity date was worth $25.00. Our farm contributed to different shortages, such as milk, meat and eggs, along with gathering up scrap iron for the scrap iron drives that came along every so often during the war years.
Six Years Following School Days
I graduated from high school at Sevier County High in the Spring of 1946, just after the close of World War II. In December 1945 I had to go to Georgia to be examined for the Army, but didn't pass the exam. I was glad about it, too.
The summer of 1946 found me on the farm in Kodak working for my Uncle Bob. I wanted to go to Pontiac to work in an automobile plant, so in the late Summer I went up there and got a job at Pontiac Motors. I worked for about four or five months until the Spring of 1947, when I wanted to come back to Tennessee to go to college that Fall. I stayed with my Uncle Mel Huffaker and Aunt Allie while I was in Pontiac. They ran a boarding house for men who were working around the area. There was boys from everywhere living there in that 14-room house. In the Fall of 1947, I enrolled in Hiwassee College at Madisonville, Tennessee. I went one term of school (12 weeks) and then decided it wasn't for me. I worked after school hours to help me along. I made about $100 during that period. I came back home and helped on the farm. The day after Christmas I had an operation for appendicitis, and was in the hospital at Jefferson City for three days and in bed at home for about a week. I wasn't able to do much work for about two months after the operation.
The year 1948 found me at Kodak, working for my uncle and writing pen pal letters. I had built up a letter writing of about 60 girls. I played ball during the summer months with Beech Springs of the Sevier County League. I pitched a three-hitter against Dripping Springs, but we still got beat 6-2. In the Fall of 1948, I was writing a girl in Danielville, Georgia, and she invited me down to see her for the weekend. I went to see her, but was disappointed as to the looks of her (although looks don't always count every time). She seemed like a real nice girl and her folks were, too. I guess she would have married me if I had given her half a chance, but she just didn't appeal to me for some reason.
After going down there I came back and got invited to go to Tannersville, Virginia, to see another girl who had been writing to me for about a year. Kathleen French had gotten my name out of the Southern Agricultural magazine in school. I went to see her and really liked her a great deal, but still not enough to marry. She didn't like me as much as I guess she expected. There were 11 of them in her family and about five of them still lived at home. I really enjoyed my trip up there in October 1949 and was invited back for Christmas due to her brothers liking me so.
In January 1949 I could tell by the letters that Kathleen and I weren't hitting it off anymore, so I quit writing to her. In the last part of January 1949, I went back to Pontiac, Michigan to get a job again. For two months I tried to get a job just anywhere there, but couldn't get one. I helped my Uncle Mel get groceries and wash dishes, and we painted the outside house and papered all the inside before the weather grew warmer. Finally I got a part-time job in a meat market where my uncle traded all the time. This was in March of 1949. In the last part of April I got a full-time job there making $52.50 a week at the Bazley and Junedale Meat Market. I really liked my job and pretty soon was the orderer and stocker of the lunchmeat department besides taking care of the trade. This was about a $1,500.00 a week sale of lunch meat, and I did all the cutting and displaying.
During this time I kept in touch with the people that I had met in Virginia. One of the girls, Betty Lou French, asked her mother to ask me if it would be all right if she wrote me as she felt sorry about the way her sister Kathleen had treated me. She wrote me, we got to corresponding, and I found myself falling in love with her through the letters and pictures that we exchanged and phone calls we made to each other. I talked to her for over an hour one night and it cost me $23. It was well worth it, though. The year slipped by fast as I found myself going on double dates with one of the boys who worked at the market and going to ball games down at Detroit.
In April 1950, I got a two-week vacation and went to Tennessee. Just before that my uncle had taught me how to drive. My other uncle lived in the boarding house where I lived, and I bought his 1949 Chevrolet. I didn't bring it to Tennessee, but came with my Uncle Mel. I invited Betty Lou French down to spend the weekend with me there in Tennessee. At that time Betty was staying in a home in North Tazewell, Virginia, and keeping house for a family. She said she would come down to see me, so the day I was to meet her in Knoxville at the bus station I spent most of the day getting my Uncle Bob's car cleaned up. He let me have it to drive to get her.
When I met her I hardly knew her because she had changed so. She had gotten prettier than the last time I saw her. We went to the Walgreen Drug Store and ate supper. I wanted to take her to the S&W, but she saw it and thought it was too fancy for her. After supper we went to a movie. I don't remember what it was as I didn't have my mind on the picture. We then drove to Kodak, getting there just before dark. Knowing that my family hadn't got through milking or eating supper yet, I took her on up to the Douglas Dam to let her see it. We came home and they all gave her a nice welcome.
The next day found us up bright and early. I helped milk the cows and then got ready to spend the day in the mountains with Betty. We had a good time as it was Betty's first time there and she really enjoyed it. That night we--Beecher Johnson, Nellie Shephard, Betty and I, went to Sevierville and saw a good movie. That night at Nellie's house I asked Betty to marry me. She agreed to be engaged, but not to get married for about a year. The next morning I made up an excuse to go to Sevierville and at K. Rawlings I got her rings which cost $127.00. I came back home, put the engagement ring on her finger, and broke the news to the family. All thought it was okay except Mom, who couldn't get used to the idea for awhile.
That night, Beecher, Nellie, Betty and I went to the Tennessee Barn Dance. We had a wonderful time. The next day we went to Sunday School at Henry Crossroads Church and showed Betty off to all the people. Daddy was surprised that we were engaged, but thought she was pretty. My sister (also named Betty Lou) said, "Are you going to marry her?" That afternoon Uncle Bob, Auntie, Mom, Mary (Uncle Bob's little girl) and Robby (his boy) and I took Betty back to Bristol, Virginia to catch her bus to North Tazewell to where she was staying to tell them that she was quitting and coming back to her mother's. The next day I left going back to Pontiac with my Uncle Mel.
In July 1950, Betty wrote and said she would like to come up there and get a job, but didn't have the money to come. I sent her $20 and told her to come on up. I told her that I would find a place for her and help her find a job. She came up there and some of the boys at the boarding house helped find her a job at Devlin Gables (a restaurant) where she worked until August. She got homesick, but I talked her out of leaving and talked her into getting married. Betty and I (along with my aunt) went to Toledo, Ohio to get married, but Betty couldn't prove that she was 18, although she was 20. A man in the courthouse told us that we could go to Angola, Indiana and have my aunt pose as her mother so we could get married. We drove to Angola, had another blood test, and got married in a Justice of the Peace's office on August 7, 1950. We then drove back to Pontiac. Betty and I stayed at the people's house where she was staying for about a month, and then found a place where Betty could keep a woman's baby in exchange for the rent of two rooms. We took it and then made a trip to Tennessee to get some things to start housekeeping. We made a trip to Virginia at Christmas.
In January 1951 we decided to come back to Tennessee to live. My uncle had bought another small farm out on the main road to Knoxville, and the Huffaker family had sold the other farm he had rented back about six or eight years ago. I quit my job in Michigan, although I hated to do it. They wanted me to stay and offered me a raise, but it wasn't the money. It was that we both weren't satisfied up there. We were all the time making expensive trips to Tennessee and Virginia. We moved back to Kodak and stayed out at my uncle's and Mom's house. I got a job at the Royal Manufacturing Company, where they made furniture. With a pull, I got Betty a job at the Standard Knitting Mill. We both started saving money to start housekeeping. We fixed the old house up out on the 57-acre farm on the main road, and in the Summer moved into it. We went into debt with K. Rawlings for about $1,300.00 on household items. We both worked all that year at the two places.
In 1952 many things happened. I quit the Royal because after working there for over a year I had only gotten a three-cent raise. I went over to the Standard Knitting Mill and got a job starting out at two cents higher than I was making at the Royal. In a month I got a raise of five cents. I worked from January until April, when I got my call to go into the Army as we were in a police action war in Korea against the Chinese Reds.
Life in the United States Army
On April 22, 1952, I was shafted--I mean, drafted into the U.S. Army. Jesse Schubert, Harvey Whayland and I went into the Army together. Auntie took me to Sevierville that morning to bring my car back. I tried to get deferred, but they wouldn't listen to me. We got on the bus that morning and went to Knoxville to be examined. I didn't think I would pass, but I passed the exam--if you could call it one. They said we would get another one in Fort Jackson, South Carolina. That night we left Knoxville and got to Fort Jackson about breaking daylight the next morning. They took us into a small building, made us take our clothes off, and we were examined a little again. That was all the exams we got. We filled out papers and were assigned to a tent section to be processed into the Army. My hopes were gone then to get out of the Army.
I was at Fort Jackson for about two weeks. During that time we had all our personnel records straightened out, shots were taken, clothes were given to us, and we had two days of tests. I tried to make as much as I could on the tests, and it was a real good thing I did. I didn't know how much they counted until I was in basic training.
Betty came down to see me the second weekend I was there. We had a good time staying in the guest house on the Post while Auntie and Uncle Bob stayed at Aunt Rose's in Columbia. Bill Huffaker was stationed there. He saw my name in the personnel records department where he worked and came over to see me. He told me two days before they did as to where I was going to take my basic training. He said I was assigned to the Signal Corps and was going to Camp Gordon to take basic training. That was a camp in Georgia about 45 to 50 miles from Fort Jackson.
In May 1952, Harvey Whayland, Jesse Schubert and I went to Camp Gordon, where we were assigned to Company 18 of the Signal Corps Replacement Training Center (SCRTC). We were assigned to our barracks and the following Monday we started our pre-cycle week of training. We had eight weeks of basic training. During this pre-cycle week we did almost every odd job they had around there to do, getting used to the Army way of doing things.
The next week we started our training. This consisted of marching, close-order drill, exercises, classes on many different subjects, movies, and tearing the M-1, carbine and machinegun down and putting it together again. I got so I could put the M-1 together with my eyes closed. In fact, they trained us to be able to do just that. The second week of training had us doing close-order drill, marching and going to classes, along with taking physical exercises. During that week we went over to another part of the camp and filled out forms on what training we would like to take after we completed our basic training. I put down two things and cryptography for the last thing. The GI said he would recommend me taking cryptography as I had made enough on the tests to be able to pass the course. He also thought that I should be able to get an FBI clearance to go to that school. About two weeks later, another boy and I in Company 18 went down to a building where we were told that we would be able to take that course. We had to fill out the history of our life so the FBI could check into it before we would be able to get a clearance for the school.
The first few weeks I really hated the Army, but there was no way out for me so I finally got adjusted to it and made the best of it. I usually came home about every weekend with Harvey and Jesse. One of us kept a car down there most of the time. We had a week out on the firing range firing the M-1, machinegun and carbine. I was so little the M-1 jumped all over my arm as I fired it and made me blue and sore from my elbow to my shoulder.
By the week of July 4th, we lacked one week of completing our basic training. We had already spent a week out on the range camping. During that week the temperature got up to 115 degrees one day and about 50 of our 75 man company passed out and had to go to the hospital. I was on KP that day, which was real lucky, as I guess I would have been there, too.
On Thursday, July 3, we got our passes to go home over the long weekend. Harvey had his '51 Pontiac down there for us to come home. Two other boys rode with us as far as Asheville, North Carolina, where they got out to go home another route. It was about 2 o'clock (a.m.) July 4th when we left them and started to Tennessee. We were about four or five miles out of Asheville when Harvey, who was driving, ran off the road going about 50 miles an hour. The car went down a small ditch and drove into a concrete drive-way. For a few minutes I didn't know what had happened. The next thing I knew I was crawling out of the windshield and upon the bank beside the car. I felt my face and found out that I was cut bad across the nose. They, the people at the house where we wrecked, brought a cold, icy towel out to me and I held it under my nose until the ambulance came for me. Not any of the other boys got hurt. The ambulance took me to a hospital, but they wouldn't touch me because I was in the Army. They took me to Oteen Army Hospital outside of Asheville, where they sewed my face up with six stitches and put me to bed. The next morning they took X-rays of my face to see if I had anything else wrong with it. That afternoon about 3 o'clock, Uncle Bob, Auntie, Gene and Betty got over there from Kodak after hearing that I was hurt. I was about half asleep with blood still all over my face when they came in the room. When Betty saw me, she thought I was hurt much worse than I was. She was pregnant with our first child Vickie, and she said that Vickie just drew up in a knot in her stomach when she saw how badly I was hurt. Auntie and Uncle Bob talked the doctor into releasing me from the hospital. I got up, washed the blood off my face, and got dressed. They thought that I looked better then. We got to Kodak about 6 o'clock that night.
The following Monday I was back at Camp Gordon taking basic training. I didn't want to miss out as I just lacked a week of being through. Jesse Schubert had his teeth pulled and he had to quit the basic training in the sixth week and go to the hospital. When he got out he then had to wait until another company across the road reached their sixth week training and join them in completing his training.
After I got back from having the wreck the following Monday, I went on sick call and they gave me a shot of penicillin. My nose still bled some during the week. When Saturday morning came and we were to ship out of the Company to somewhere else to take our schooling, I was sick with a fever and bumps had broken out all over me. They had to carry me back in the barracks after roll call that morning, as I almost passed out. They took me to the doctor after breakfast and he said I was having a reaction to all the penicillin that I had taken and for me to stay in bed the rest of the day and take pills that he gave me. I did not have to ship out that day. Besides, I was just going over on the main post to take my cryptography training. Lots of the other boys were going to New Jersey, including Harvey.
For the next few days I was very sore, getting up one morning with so much soreness in my leg that I could hardly walk. The next morning the soreness was in my arms and the next day it was in my shoulders. I stayed there for over a month waiting for orders to come down from Battalion Headquarters for me to go to Company 16 in training. There were about 300 boys in the next basic training group.
Call for Cryptography
I was sent from the basic training area to The Southeastern Signal School (TSESS) at Company 16. There I waited for two weeks getting my clearance for the school. I worked in a battalion office for those two weeks. I had Betty down there with me, as I drove down to get her the week after I was sick. We had an apartment (if you could call half of a garage one) off post for $60 a month. When another boy got through his school and shipped out, I got his apartment--which was much better for the same amount of money.
After those two weeks waiting I started my pre-cycle week in cryptography. During those weeks I helped clean machines in cryptography classes and cleaning rooms and polishing them. I started to school in August 1952, learning to type, and studying about motors and how they operated and ways messages could be sent. We had classes on M209 converters (not secret, they could be bought most anywhere), and different cycles of motors. We had tests on all the ways we learned. This was just a build-up to crypto, as other people were taking the same classes we were that were not going to crypto school after they completed this course. During the course of this school we had to be able to type 30 clear words a minute and 20 five-letter groups a minute. I passed with 32 five-letter groups a minute and 39 clear words a minute.
After we completed this part of the school we went over into the secret part of the school where all the crypto machines were stored. There was a high fence around about four big buildings and electric wires on top of the fence with guards walking around the area 24 hours a day. There were guards at the gates, too. They were armed with live ammo. We had our pictures taken and put on a badge which we had to show to the guards every time we went into the school area. We started out learning crypto by using the first system that was taught. This was called the "one-time pad". This was a pad of paper with letters on it that could be used just one time to send a message. It came to the receiver of the message in five letter groups after the clear message was put over the group of letters. This was used along with a chart to break the message when it was received.
After this method was learned and tests given on it to see how well we had learned, we were taught another way to send and receive message in code. This was called "the Ouija Board". This was a metal board with strips of letters that slid in slots on the board. We used the date-time group of when the message was sent to see what strips of letters were to be used first. It was similar to the one-time pad system in the way we equaled the letters to make them equal to something else. The next systems we learned were called "Apollo", "Baccus", "Minerva", and "Hercules". These were called the "rod" systems. They worked by rotors set on the machine.
The last system we learned was called "Python". This was an online system where we could talk back and forth to the other person without the enemy reading what we were talking about. This couldn't be broken by the enemy powers unless they had the equipment, and then they had to have the right send and receive numbers.
Later when I was in Korea, we had lots of trouble on the Korean telegraph lines during rainy weather as we would get extra hits on the line and put us out of set with the other station. Wherever the tape stopped we started at the next tape number, never using the same set over. This was a very interesting system to learn and it was the one that I used the most in Korea. It was a fast system to get messages out and in secret at the same time. The Korean bomb line was sent out to the 5th Air Force by this system because of the speed we could get it out.
During all this school we were not allowed to take notes or to discuss the work of the school outside the crypto compound. At the last of the school we went out in the field for a week of training, but the only thing we had out there was an M209 which anyone could own. This was just a wasted week.
After coming back off that week in the field, we got our graduation papers of completion of schooling in crypto, which had lasted ten weeks. We got our shots for overseas and I got my orders that I was going to Korea. I was due in Seattle, Washington, the 24th of November. I got out of school in October, getting a 24-day pass.
Month Leave at Kodak, Tennessee
On October 31, 1952, Betty and I packed our clothes and the next day left Augusta, Georgia, for Kodak. During the first week at home I just fooled around doing things like hunting, just going out in the woods, and walking around. I got things ready for Winter for Betty to live there at Kodak. The next two weeks we went to Virginia and stayed about a week and a half going over to West Virginia during the stay. We would have stayed longer, but Betty was getting heavy with our baby and we didn't want to get caught up there in Virginia for her to have the baby. I helped Uncle Bob gather in corn and hay and hand off some tobacco before I left.
On Monday night, November 18, 1952, I went to the store to get some gas for the car. I stayed up there a while talking to the boys. When I came home, Ruby said Betty was having pains. She was in bed, but she got up and we went to Jefferson City to the hospital. She was hurting every nine minutes when we left and she was having her third pain when we got to the hospital from the time we left home. It was about 25 miles from home at Kodak to Jefferson City. It was about 9 o'clock when we got to the hospital and at 11:45 p.m., Vickie was born. I stayed in the room until Betty went to the delivery room. Vickie weighed seven pounds, nine ounces.
I left the hospital about 1 o'clock and came home and told Uncle Bob and the others that Betty had had a baby girl. I came on home and told Gene and Ruby about it. I got to bed about 3:30 a.m. I went back to see Betty about dinner on Tuesday. Wednesday Uncle Bob and the others came to see Betty and the baby. Thursday it rained all day and was getting colder. Granny and I went up to see Betty and she told us that the doctor said she could come home today if she wanted to come. We got her and the baby ready and Granny and I brought her home.
On November 21st, the day started out with cold rain changing to snow by dinner. The snow got harder after dinner. By 2:30 it was really piling up fast. By 3:30 it was about 12 inches deep. It was snowing so fast we could see it pile up. Uncle Bob came out at the store looking for me. He said both of the cars were down at Carter School without chains and wanted me to take him down there to get them. I told him I didn't have chains either, so we got a pair at the store and put them on the car. We left to go to the school, passing cars stuck on the way down there. We went down by the way of Thornegrove. Auntie was sure glad to see us down there with the chains, as she was getting worried about how she was going to get home. We started back up the highway about 4:30, passing trucks, buses and cars stuck on the road. We turned off the highway and there was a car stuck in the middle of the road. We all got it started and went to the top of the hill above Paw Paw Holler Church. There was a drink truck in the middle of the road almost to the top of the hill The driver had just ran off and left it there. We pushed it into the ditch and came on up the road. At Underwood's School there were some more stuck and we pushed them out of the road and got some of them started. We came on up the road, getting home about dark. It was still pouring the snow. By dark it was about 15 inches and still pouring down. The power had gone off so I went out to Daddy's house to get a lamp to use to get up during the night with the baby. The next morning, Saturday, November 22, 1952, I measured the snow and it was 19 inches deep and still snowing a little. It quit by dinner. We heard that the airport and all bus and train service were out. I was to leave the next day if the planes were leaving the airport.
Sunday, November 23, 1952, the weather was partly cloudy most of the day and warmer. Snow melted on the roads and the airport was reported in operation. We went out at the house for dinner, as all were having a big dinner for me. We rode down the hill on the sleigh most of the morning until the snow got so soft that it wouldn't go. We had a wonderful dinner and then came back home about 3 o'clock after telling Mom and Daddy and all of them goodbye. I got things packed and about 5:30 Uncle Bob, Auntie, and Gene took me to the airport. It really was hard for me to tell Betty goodbye, and I wondered if I would ever get to see her and Vickie again. We got to the airport about 6:30. Uncle Bob and Auntie kissed me bye at the plane as I was getting ready to get aboard. The plane left out going to Cincinnati, Ohio on the first stop about 8:30.
First Plane Ride
This was the first time I had ever been on a passenger plane. I had been up in a small plane at the airport, but this was a Delta plane. When I got on I went up to the front seat on the left side of the plane and looked out at Uncle Bob and the others standing there at the side of the plane. They had gone as far as they could go with me. I wondered then if I would ever see them again alive. I was on my way to Korea where there was fighting going on.
The plane cranked its four motors one at a time, and taxied out to the end of the runway as I watched Uncle Bob and them going back toward the airport. We got to the end of the runway and there we sat for a few minutes as the pilot raced the engines until the whole plane shook. It would have taken off on the spot, I guess, if the pilot had released the brakes. He got his go-ahead signal from the operational department of the airport and down the runway we went gaining speed every foot. The plane raised off the ground without its passengers hardly realizing it, circled over the airport, and headed north. Before we took off, the orders came for us to fasten our safety belts. The snowy night scenery was beautiful with the lights of the villages and cities shining out from the snowy background.
We landed in Cincinnati, Ohio, about 10:30. I went into the airport and mailed a card telling my family that I had got that far okay. We left Cincinnati about 10:45 and landed in Chicago, Illinois about 12 o'clock. That sure was a big, beautiful airport. It was cold there, but there was no snow on the ground as we had run out of it in the northern part of Kentucky.
It was about 1:30 when I got aboard a Northwestern Airline plane, a four-engine job, and headed west. I didn't think it was running like it should and about an hour after taking off we had to light from the plane at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, wait about 15 minutes, and get aboard another four-engine plane. It sure was cold and dry there. I estimate the temperature was about 20 above zero.
It was about 3 o'clock when we left there headed west. Daylight caught us over the North Dakota Badlands. I began to look out the window to see the scenery and could tell where it had snowed and where it had quit. It sure was a beautiful sight to see. I looked ahead of the plane and I could see a big bank of clouds looming up in front of us. It looked like we were in for some rough going. About 8 o'clock we ate breakfast on the plane. At the edge of the Montana/North Dakota border we ran into the cloud bank that I had seen back a ways. I could see it was snowing, as I could see it between the window I was looking out and the engine of the plane. The clouds closed in on us so thick I couldn't see the last engine on the wing of the plane. I could just barely see the first one out the window not more than 15 feet away from me. With the wind blowing and the speed of the plane going through the air, the end of the wing of the plane looked like it was jumping up and down at least a difference of about three feet. They told us that in a few minutes our next place to land would be Billings, Montana. The way this storm was, I wondered if the pilot could see the landing field.
Just before we got to Billings, the clouds broke some and I could see the town of Billings and the little airport on a plateau above the town. The way the airport was situated above the town, it looked like we could run to the end of the runway, take a big leap, and land right in the middle of the town of Billings. As we landed, the pilot said that we would be grounded there for three hours due to the storm that we had just came through and the weather ahead of us. The wind was really blowing on the top of this plateau and snowing some. I didn't get outside of the plane as it was too warm there to have to move. The temperature was down to about 15 above zero. The wind was about 20 to 30 m.p.h.
We didn't have to wait the three hours out, as about two hours later (1 o'clock) we left for the west coast. We went out to the end of that short runway and revved the plane up. It took off down the runway, with me hoping that we had enough room to take off. At the end of the runway we left the ground. There was one thing about it. At the point where we left the ground, whether we were ready or not, there looked to be about a 500 to 1,000 foot drop to the floor of the valley below.
Our next landing was due to be at Great Falls, Montana. We went through clouds all the way to Great Falls. It took us about two hours to get there from Billings. As we landed, I looked out of the plane's window and saw a jack rabbit running alongside of the plane in the snow. It kept up the speed of its running with the plane's speed for a few minutes. I got off the plane this time and went inside and ate some dinner. I had almost gotten sick from not eating by riding the bumpy plane run from Billings. We were there about 30 minutes. The wind was blowing and snowing with the thermometer down about 10 above zero.
We left Great Falls, Montana about 3 o'clock, heading across the Rocky Mountains to our next stop, which was to be Spokane, Washington. Between Great Falls and Spokane was some of the most beautiful scenery that I had ever seen. We flew across the mountain ranges covered with snow and some covered with tall pine trees. We flew within five to ten miles of the highest mountain in the United States. This was Mt. Rainier, which is over 12,000 feet high. It was covered with snow from about halfway up. I saw the Rocky Mountains stretching down into Wyoming and up to Canada. We landed at the beautiful airport of Spokane, Washington about 4 o'clock. There was no snow there and the temperature was about 55. We could see the pretty valley that we were situated in and across it to the snow-covered mountain range.
We ate a very good supper there, got back on the plane about 45 minutes later, and hauled out for our last landing at Boling Air Base at Seattle, Washington on the coast. We were told about an hour's flying time out of Seattle that the airports were almost closed due to heavy fog coming in off the ocean and that we might have to go to Vancouver Airport. Just before we got there, we got a report that they would let us land at the Boling Air Base. We were due to land at the Seattle Airport, but the fog had closed the airport. As we came in to the airport to land, I couldn't see the ground until we made our last circle of the airport. We were just over the housetops about a hundred feet when I saw the ground. As my feet hit the ground, it sure felt good that I didn't have to crawl back on a plane a few minutes later.
Ft. Lawton and Navy Pier 16
After we got off the airplane and got our baggage, about four of us boys got together and got a cab for Fort Lawton. When we got there we reported in and were taken to a cold barracks and told to stay there for the night. We almost froze during the night with temperature getting down to about 35. There was no heat in the barracks and only two blankets each to keep us warm. The next morning they got us up about 5 o'clock to clean up and eat breakfast. We ate at a big mess hall down at the foot of the hill that we were on. Everywhere we went on this camp was either uphill or downhill.
During the day we waited around, turned our records in, and got a processing number to go by. During the next few days we processed to go overseas by getting our shots if we needed them, getting some other clothes and turning some in, and watching movies of what we might see and come in contact with overseas. They told us the way the people lived and their customs that we were to abide by, even if we thought they were funny to us. I pulled KP for about six hours one night and would have had to pull it all night if I hadn't been lucky about not having my name pulled out of the jar at the start of the selecting few. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner there in Fort Lawton. That was the best meal I had during my whole pull of Army duty.
The pine trees around there in the camp were very large and very high. There was a dead one just back of our mess hall that I would have bet if there was a squirrel at the top of it I couldn't have hit it with a rifle. It almost went out of sight it was so high. It was either raining every day or it was cloudy. There were two days that were rather pretty while I was there at Fort Lawton. The temperature got down to about 35 to 40 during the night and up to about 50 or 55 during the day. They said the weather stayed like that most of the Winter and a lot during the Summer.
After I got used to the place and we got a flying $50, I started going to town as the Army had buses that ran free to town and back for the boys. I usually went to see a movie just to pass the time. Another boy and I went to a stage show called "Oklahoma". It lasted about three hours and cost $1.50 to see. That was the best show-acting I have ever seen. Sometimes on Sunday afternoons I went into town and went to the YMCA to listen to some boys play hillbilly music. Some of them were from Virginia and Kentucky.
After about two weeks there we got our call to move out to Pier 16 to wait for our ship. We moved down to there on Army buses one morning. I really liked that place as it was much nicer, warmer, and convenient to everything, including going to town. I pulled KP one time and latrine detail one time while I was there for the two weeks. The rest of the time I went to town and laid around my bunk shooting the bull with the boys. The weather was rainy every day while I was at Pier 16. Some days it just poured, while other days it just drizzled all day. There were just three days it didn't rain some during the day.
On December 8 our orders came that we were leaving for Japan the next day. We all got our letter-writing completed, got our shots, had our records straightened out, and were ready to take off. They said it would take us from 14 to 16 days to get to Japan. I went to town for the last time in the United States the night of December 8, getting back to Pier 16 about 12 that night.
My First Ocean Voyage
On December 9, 1952 (my birthday) we got up about 5:30, turned our sheets and blankets in at the supply room and laid around the barracks until after dinner waiting to leave for the ship. Some of the boys had already gone ahead aboard the ship for detail duty such as guards, KP and what have you. After dinner came our call to fall out in the front of the barracks. They called off our names and we got aboard some buses that were waiting to take us to the dock. As we went down through Seattle, people waved at us and the boys hollered to every girl they saw on the way. People knew we were headed overseas and that they might not see many of us alive again. The boys knew it, too. A bunch of boys that came out with us from Fort Lawton had orders that they were going to Alaska. They really laughed at us about having to go to Korea. Just at the last moment, they got orders that they had to come to Korea on this shipment. That was a sad-looking bunch of boys. We really ragged them back for talking to us like they did when they thought they were going to Alaska.
There at the ship dock, we waited in the rain for orders to get aboard the ship. The Red Cross women came by with doughnuts and coffee for us. A lot of us didn't take any, and what did asked if they had to pay for it and made all kinds of fun about them. Do you know, though, that that was the only time I ever saw the Red Cross during my time in Seattle and overseas. Finally the line began to move aboard the ship and everyone was quiet as they thought of what lie ahead of them, wondering if they would be alive to ever see the United States again. I guess everyone was like me--breathing a prayer to their God as they walked up the gangplank to board the ship that they would be able to walk back down the gangplank when they came back to the United States. It seemed like everyone was choked up, as I was, about leaving.
As we went aboard the ship they checked our names off, gave us a mess card, and told what compartment we were assigned. I had Compartment C at the front of the ship about two decks below the top. I got a top bunk as I thought it might lay better and ride better. Also, I had heard that seasickness may follow as we get out at sea and I didn't want anyone getting sick all over me. As soon as we got situated we all went up on deck and watched the harbor patrol give us a watershow send-off. The boat moved slowly out of the harbor and the pier faded in the distance. I went below deck after a while and ate supper standing up. They said we would eat that way for a while until the water got calmer. It was calm at the present, but we were still in the Puget Sound and would not be at sea until the next morning. We watched through the porthole at the lights along the shoreline until it was time to hit the sack.
The next morning came and just as I woke up I knew I was sick. I jumped out of the bunk and ran to the latrine. As I walked through the door, I never heard so much groaning and vomiting in my life. Some of the boys used the toilet, and then turned around and vomited in it. It beat anything I had ever seen. During that day I volunteered for guard on the boat to keep from having to be a detail cleaning up all of the sickness on the ship and not having to pull KP.
For the first five days we went through a storm, although they said we were going around the bigger part of it. The waves ran about 25 to 30 feet high, sometimes coming over the front of the ship as the navigator tried to keep the ship running into the waves instead of getting in the valleys of the waves. The water raised the ship up out of the water at the front. Then it came down with a bang as the waves ran under the ship and it shook all over. The ship first rocked up and over to one side or the other each time. At times the motion threw us up the stairs and other times we had to pull ourselves to get up the stairs.
Officers ran all the boys out of the compartments while they had inspection every day. The cold air hitting us in the face made us feel better after being sick of sea-riding. The weather for the first five days was cloudy and cold with misty rain. The temperature was around 35 most of the time. The reason for it being so cold was because we were within 500 miles of Alaska. After five days the weather grew warmer and the sea calmer. It helped me to get over my seasickness. I hadn't eaten anything for the past five days, and for the first three days I didn't drink anything.
During our trip across the Pacific we crossed the International Date Line. We went to bed one night and when we got up it was two days later. (Example: Got to bed on Tuesday night and got up on Thursday morning.) During that day we got a card saying we had crossed the International Date Line. We also got a "short-arm" inspection that day--just to have some celebration is the only reason I could figure out.
The rest of the trip was good except the last 700 miles out of Yokohama, Japan, when we ran into some more rough sea. I didn't get sick during this period. One morning before daylight the fog was pretty thick. The pilot of the ship got a warning from one of the deck guards that there was a ship dead ahead of us. The pilot turned on the deck searchlight and turned the ship to the left. We found out that it was a Japanese fishing boat. If the ship had hit the small boat it wouldn't have hurt our ship, but it would have cut the Japanese boat into pieces. He kept the light on until daylight after that and the following night, too. Every few days on the ship we had fire and abandon ship drills. This called for putting on life jackets, going up on deck, and standing at the assigned boat positions and wait for the drill to be over.
My mess card sure didn't have many holes punched in it by the time we got to Japan. A boy got me a whole box of candy and I lived off of it most of the way. We spent Christmas at sea, a lonely day. We got a carton of cigarettes and a Christmas card from the ship. I gave my cigarettes to another boy on the ship. We landed in Yokohama, Japan, on the morning of December 26, 1952.
During the day of December 26, 1952, we landed at the Yokohama ship dock. I could see by the scenery of the houses, buildings, and people that we were in a foreign land. We walked down the gangplank, told our names as we were checked off the boat, walked a little ways to a train, and got on. We left the train station about 2 o'clock, getting to Camp Drake, Japan, which was about 35 miles from Yokohama and 15 miles from Tokyo, about 4:30. That was the slowest train I ever saw. It stopped about every four or five miles for about five to ten minutes waiting for other trains to come through. Several electric trains passed us on the way and they were almost flying they were going so fast.
On the ride to Camp Drake we took in the scenery of Japan such as the wearing of wooden shoes, masks over faces tied to each ear to keep from spreading colds, different costumes, public toilets for all people, Japanese signs of many designs and colors, along with pretty flowers on the sidewalks. We went through villages seeing girls running around on the streets waving at us, little kids jumping up at the windows of the train getting candy from the GIs, and how the houses were made and not painted. (They didn't believe in it.) We passed the rice paddies (we could tell by the smell) where they used human manure for fertilizer along with some commercial fertilizer. We had mail call on the train to Camp Drake and I got eight letters from home and Virginia.
We got in Camp Drake the afternoon of December 26, 1952. They took us to the barracks and had roll call. After the call we picked out our beds for the night. We ate a wonderful supper for the first time in about three weeks. After supper we had to fall out for assignment numbers.
December 27 found us up about 5 o'clock. We ate breakfast, came back and cleaned up barracks, and went on assignment call, but they didn't call our number. They told some of the others that they were going to Korea and some were staying there in Japan. During the morning we turned in our clothes and our records were checked. That afternoon we went over to another area and got our M-1 rifles and came back to the barracks. We ate supper about 5:30 and had another assignment call.
On December 28, we got up about 5:30, ate breakfast, and cleaned up. We had another assignment call. After that we went over to another building and got a new issue of clothing. I had to have some of them altered to fit me and got back to the barracks about dinner. After dinner we got what money we weren't sending back home changed to military scrip. We got our allotment fixed and I told them the amount of money that I wanted them to take out to send to the bank back home. I fooled around the rest of the afternoon after going over to the barbershop and getting another GI haircut. They told us it would be cold and dry in Korea and short hair would be easy to keep clean. After supper, there was another assignment call and I got my call to go to Korea and that for us to fall out the next morning for the rifle range. We were to leave Camp Drake for Korea tomorrow.
We ate breakfast about 4:30 on December 29, cleaned up the barracks, and fell out about 5:30 to walk about half a mile to the rifle range. We fired our rifles and pulled targets until almost dinner. About 3 o'clock that afternoon we got on the slow train for the Yokohama boat dock and got aboard the ship for Korea. I got a lower bunk for the two-day trip to Pusan, Korea.
The weather during our stay in Camp Drake was fair and cold, warmer during the day. The temperature got down to about 28 degrees to 30 degrees during the night. We could see the famous Japanese mountain, Mt. Fuji, with its snow-covered slopes about 30 miles away from the camp. It was beautiful.
On to Korea
On the night of December 29, 1952, we left Yokohama, Japan, for Pusan, Korea. We carried our rifles with us to Korea. The next morning I got up about 5:30, ate a good breakfast, and went up on deck to watch the ship plow through the calm water in the Sea of Japan on her way to Korea. About 5 o'clock in the afternoon we ran into a school of fish just about 100 miles from Korea. I never saw the like of fish swimming around in my life; there were acres and acres of them. I watched them until dark.
December 30 found us just outside the harbor of Pusan, Korea. As the ship pulled into the harbor we could smell Korea. (It was said at the time that Korea was the only country that could be smelled twenty miles from its borders.) We could smell that everything was wrong with Korea. Human excrement was used for fertilizer for rice fields because there was no other fertilizer. There were few farm animals, and most of these are oxen used to plow the muddy rice fields. Korean knew that human manure was not the right fertilizer to use and that using it kept open a running sore of many diseases. Yet that was all they had, as North Korea had the power plants to make fertilizer and South Korea the land for crops.
Leaving the ship at the dock, we boarded buses to take us up to the replacement camp outside Pusan. We wound through the broken streets, looking upon the scene of naked children in the filth of the streets, their bellies swelled with starvation. The narrow streets were eddy with the sick, the half-clothed, the leprous, the mutilated of the war, and the beggars. The gutters were market places in which the hungry bargained for rotten fruits with currency that was almost worthless. Many of the people were there due to the Communist drives from the North.
As the road climbed into the hills northeast of the city toward the Army replacement camp, we were choked with dust whipping down from the eroded hills by the Manchurian wind, cold, and dry. It bit into our windpipes and lungs. We passed a convoy of trucks moving with headlights burning at high noon under a bright sun to guard against collision. The dust was the after-effect of erosion due to the stripping of all timber by the Japanese occupation. The cut-off of coal supply forced the Koreans to use their green timber as it grew. We could look across the fields and hills and see the small scrub bushes growing. One of the main reasons for filth was due to very little water and rarely any soap. They bathed when they had a chance--in the sea, polluted rivers, and mud holes in the fields.
We drove up the road to the replacement camp, got our gear out of the buses, and lined up for roll call and assignment number to be used for processing through the replacement company. We went to a tent, picked out a bed that we thought would be a warm one for the cold night that was coming up, then went out and looked the compound over. Every few hours before dark we heard a call to assemble for shipping out numbers. Finally we were told we would not move out until the next afternoon. We then went back to our tent and wrote a note home telling them that we had arrived in Korea and how the place looked to us.
We got our bed fixed for the night. We had heard rumors that there were Chinese guerillas in the area back of the compound. Late in the night we heard the fire of a burp gun in the hills; still closer to the area where we were. Then we heard the answer to the firing. Some of the boys that came over on the boat with us were out there guarding us while we tried to get some sleep in the cold night.
The next morning we were up at daylight to go to the mess hall for our GI coffee and dried eggs or French toast, along with the old army standby, "S.O.S." During the day more boys that came over on the ship were off for the front lines, maybe never to be seen alive again. About 3:30 in the afternoon I heard my call number to shove out. We were told to get on trucks for a ride to the train station where we were to get a train for a ride to Seoul, Korea, about 300 to 350 miles north. Going to the train station we saw signs along the streets saying, "Whorehouse-First Class" or "No. 1 Intercourse". Where the Military Police had stopped it, we saw signs reading, "Laundry-24 hour service (formerly No. 1 Intercourse)". I heard it said in Pusan that if it were necessary to give the world an enema, it would be inserted there. Finally we get to the train station and boarded the train for the long ride to Seoul, Korea, wondering what lie ahead of us on the way.
Night Train to Seoul
It wasn't dark when we got on the "EUSAK Express" as it was called. EUSAK, I learned later, was the Eighth United States Army of Korea. The train was ran for and by the 8th Army. Every night it traveled between Pusan and Seoul. It was one of those narrow gauge tracks and old-timey coaches and cars. We ate supper out of K-cans about 5:30. After cleaning up the supper leftovers we were told that this train might be attacked by Chinese guerillas. They had been attacking the trains along the road to Seoul--mostly freight trains, but sometimes passenger trains. We broke open boxes of ammo to be used if attacked. We had a boy on our car that had a harmonica and played it after supper. He was real good with it by mocking different people. I watched the Korean countryside pass by before dark, looking at the fox holes where American soldiers had died for a lost cause, tank traps, and burned-out and destroyed bridges and equipment along the way.
We went through many tunnels along the train track, some of them being two to five miles long. I didn't feel too good going through the tunnels worrying that guerillas might be waiting on the other end. All they had to do was derail the front part of the train at the end of the tunnel and we would be trapped back in the tunnel. Thank goodness this never happened along the road. We made many stops along the way at the small villages during the night.
The names of some of the bigger villages we stopped were "Miryang, the first large village out of Pusan; "Taegu", main U.S. bomber base and Korean Army Operational Base headquarters; "Kumchon", large village between Taegu and Taejon; "Taejon", destroyed town about halfway between Seoul and Pusan that was the hub of the "Tank Killer" attack of U.S. forces that drove the Reds back in their last drive in South Korea; "Chochiwon", a village destroyed above Taejon; "Osan", a village above Chochiwon that was used by U.S. forces as a jet bomber base due to such flat land close by. Most all jet flights in 1953 were flown to North Korea were from this base. We went through "Suwon", a village used as a supply depot by U.S. Army and ROK forces. Acres and acres of supplies were stacked here. "Yongdong-po" was a getting off place for U.S. troops coming through Seoul. There was a replacement depot in the town.
As we came up through Korea on our way to Seoul it was a real good night for a guerilla attack. It was cold and there was a big, bright moon shining. We could see the hillsides and the white patches of snow along the tops of the mountains on the way up. A little after midnight I got down in the floor under the seat at the window and finally got a little sleep. The train's side wasn't thick enough to stop a bullet, but I thought maybe it would slow it down some. It was better than a piece of glass at the side of my head.
We pulled into Yongdong-po rail station just after daylight. The windows were frosted over so I couldn't see out. I knew it must be real cold outside by that. The boys came in said it was five above zero and snowing a little. I finally got some of the ice and frost off the window and saw some Koreans running around the cars on the train. As we piled off with our bags, the Koreans wanted to carry them for some money. Some of the boys did let the Koreans carry their bags and gave them some money for the service. It looked like they needed it, too. I didn't try this as I didn't trust them.
We got on open trucks and almost froze riding out to the replacement center. There we answered roll call, turned in our records, got some more blankets, and picked out a tent. Some of the boys left out that afternoon, but I wasn't that lucky. I had to stay all night. I almost froze that night as I couldn't get warm enough to get to sleep. I was on the top bunk as I thought the heat (what little the little old stove was putting out) would make it warmer up next to the top of the tent. I sure got fooled. The temperature got down to above zero in the night, and to beat it all, there was an airport just over from the compound. Every few hours some plane would take off and come right over the compound about 100 to 200 feet high.
After breakfast the next morning, we turned in our blankets, got on a truck, and went to the 22nd Signal Group over in Seoul, crossing the Han River on a repaired bridge that had been blown up during the fighting around Seoul. We arrived at the 22nd Signal Group and there I got my orders to go to the 304th Signal Battalion Operations. Two more boys went there with me.
March/April 1953 in Seoul
A truck took five of us to the 304 Signal Battalion about 5 o'clock in a school area in the northeast part of Seoul. We got signed in and they gave us a temporary bed in a room where there was no stove. All the old boys there told me how the place was and what inspections they had each weekend. They told me that they had what they called, "Bed-check Charlie". It was a single-engine Chinese plane that came down the valleys under the radar and dropped small bombs on the town just to keep the troops stirred up by not getting sleep at night. I saw where we ate. It was a gymnasium of a school. The building where we stayed was part of the classroom building. There were about 850 to 900 boys stationed there, working in different parts of the school area and Seoul. Most of them worked at the "Comcenter" at the Seoul University buildings where the 8th Army General was located.
The next day, January 4, 1953, I got up about 7:30, ate and cleaned up and went down to the Seoul University with the other boys as they went to work and saw where I will work if I get to work my MOS. Saw several machines that I learned how to use back in the States. It is just about a half mile to the University from our 304th compound area. Seoul, Korea was about 30 miles from North Korea and about 50 miles from the front lines. At night we could see the flash of the big guns going off, and if the wind was blowing right we could hear the bursting of shells.
We had Korean women called "Mamasans" that come in each morning. They cleaned up the barracks and took the boys' clothes out to laundry. It cost between 4,000 and 6,000 won to get them back. We could give the Mamasans a one dollar military scrip (or I did when I first got there) for 16,000 won. Cigarettes, tooth paste and soap were scarce items here. We could get about 32,000 won for a carton of cigarettes that cost $1.00. We got one carton of cigarettes one week and two the next week. We had a card to do this with. I got a Korean to make me a footlocker to put my clothes in, as the army did not furnish us one. I didn't have to live out of the duffle bag.
We had to pull guard and fire guard there, along with serving the boys chow on our guard days. It sure was cold to pull guard. The boys came into the barracks and warmed during their rounds of the area at night.
It snowed a little after I got there and the temperature got down to -12 below zero. It was also dusty and dry at times. The boys said it was rough there in the Summer as what time the flies were not bothering us, the mosquitoes would. We had to have mosquito netting up over our bed to sleep. Korea had a very pretty Spring and Fall, but from June until the middle of September it really poured the rain. It usually rained every day during the monsoon season.
I finally got to go to work in the MOS that I had studied for back in the States. I worked in the "tot" room. This was a room where we were in direct contact with the other stations. It was very interesting work and we knew what was going on before anyone else knew. We had volunteer censorship of our mail back home. We had to be careful of what we told the people back in the States. I really don't know the reason we just had voluntary instead of mandatory censorship over there. Maybe it was because it was never called a "war"--just a police action or conflict. We "crypto boys" were told to not write back home talking about what was going on where we were working.
Crypto boys were housed in a building off from the other army boys. I guess the reason was due to the work we were doing. Maybe they thought that we would talk about it to the other boys in crypto, and maybe someone from the other outfits might hear what was said and pass it on to others--maybe even the enemy. Over there we couldn't tell North Koreans from the South Koreans. We could go around and take pictures of just about anything we wanted to take and nothing was said. The only place I could not take my camera was in the crypto room where I worked. I had to leave it with the MP guard that stood outside the door 24 hours a day.
I hadn't been at work but about a week when we had a test run with some of our equipment over across town to a Japanese bunker. This was to see how quick we could get over there and get set up to send messages in case of heavy bombing by the Reds. We made the eight-mile run in 52 minutes one day. This bunker was built during World War II. It was hit by a block-buster, but that just knocked a little chunk out of the side into the steel-reinforcement of the bunker. The walls were eight feet thick and it was big enough to hold 200 men. We did not have to get outside the building for anything. At the back of the bunker there was a long cave dug back into the side of a hill. I guess this was to store ammo and other supplies. It was dug by GIs.
During the month of February 1953, we had lots of messages to send out and receive. We sent out all types of messages such as:
Then at the end of the week (Sunday nights) we got reports from all of the corps all across the front lines, both ROK and US, as to their positions on the line, how many we had missing, wounded and killed. We had to send all of these reports to the others (each other) on the front lines as to where they were, and then a report had to go to Tokyo, main headquarters of all forces in Korea. From there, Washington got its report.
There was heavy fighting along the front lines. Our equipment gave us trouble and we got behind in sending the messages. The Koreans changed money during this month as the other money was worthless due to so much black marketing. The changing of the money made the households of the Koreans unable to exchange but a set amount, making a lot of the people lose money in the exchange. The boys here took care of our Mamasans by taking her extra money and changing it for her.
We heard all month that we were going to have to start taking basic training in March. I guess they didn't want us to get dull. On the night of February 23, I had my first experience of an air raid and of Bed-check Charlie. Sirens went off at 1:15 and lasted until about 2:30. No bombs were dropped. I had just gotten over my walk on guard when it happened, but didn't have to get out in the cold. All the boys in the barracks had to get out of bed, get dressed, and go into the fox holes back of the barracks. It was real scary to hear the sirens whine all over town.
On February 27, as I was going to the mess hall to eat before going to work, I saw a colored boy going into the mess hall. We both saw each other about the same time and recognized each other. He had worked at the Bazley Meat market in Pontiac, Michigan when I had worked there. We sure were surprised to see each other.
During this month I got to go out and see what kind of a town Seoul really was. From the South Mountain I looked down on Seoul, its wide avenues, sweeping circles, modern buildings and capital building that shined white in the sunlight. There were great vacant spaces and disfigured brown splotches. Closer to the city I found that most of the modern buildings were gutted by shells and bombs, and the capital was hollowed by flames. The avenues were simply military highways. The vacant spaces were acres and acres of rubble in which children went wild, slept and fought, and somehow ate and played. The brown splotches were burlap-covered markets sprung up where once had stood stores. Four times the Chinese had rolled over the city, and it was 90 percent destroyed. This city was known as the "Pearl of the Orient".
When the Chinese armies swept down from the North, and for the second time the city was abandoned, everybody who could get out got out. The Mamasan who washed our clothes and cleaned up our barracks told us that the first time that the Chinese came down she got what things she could carry and her three children, and they walked to Pusan. That was about 300 miles from Seoul. She said that the second time the Chinese came she walked to Taegu, which was about 220 miles from Seoul. The second drive by the Communists brought the Seoul population of 1,000,000 down to 350,000. When I got to Seoul there were about 750,000 and about 500 to 1,000 coming back each day. They were trying to stop them from coming back as the city's economy and food supply were very low. They slipped around the road blocks and somehow crossed the Han River. One day there was a round-up of 300 children on the streets of Seoul who had no people or place to live. They were sent to Pusan and placed in homes. Within 48 hours all but a few of them were back in Seoul. There were 29 orphanages in Seoul, but they were all overcrowded. The U.S. Red Cross had nothing to do with them. They were set up by different U.S. outfits of the town and money was brought in by the GIs. Seoul was also a city of widows as well as orphans. It was estimated that there were 100,000 widows left in Seoul after the first Chinese attack. Men went to work and did not come back, and others were snatched from their beds between midnight and dawn and were shipped north. After the Inchon Landing by U.S. troops, the Communists knew they would have to evacuate Seoul again so they executed one of the greatest mass kidnappings in history. They got all young men of Seoul and marched or shipped them north. Prostitution was the city's biggest industry after that. I heard, "These girls are the only ones who have an inexhaustible source of capital."
Teenagers and bobby-soxers called themselves "Seikses". Unfortunately, the pronunciation of Seikses was "sexy". They were "Cherry" girls who went to school. They had their hair in a single braid down the back and all wore the school uniform of black and white. These were girls that the GIs never bothered.
There was another group of girls called "Moosie-maids". These girls were mostly widows who were not legally widows--their husbands had vanished to the North. A Moosie-maid was a steady girl, certainly not a prostitute, and just as certainly not a Seikses. A Moosie-maid, whether her soldier was American, British, Thai, Turk, French, or Korean, gave without great love and companionship, and sought nothing except companionship and loyalty while her soldier was in that area of Korea. She demanded absolute fidelity. If she caught her soldier with another Korean girl, he received wounds as grave and more embarrassing than those received in battle. A Moosie-maid wore American sweaters and skirts. The Sears & Roebuck catalog was the most widely circulated English language publication in Korea. A boy got a catalog, hid himself at his girl's house, and they spent hours deciding whether she would look best in sweater Vt-2385 or Vt-2387. Perhaps the sweaters and skirts would look plain, or even rustic, on 5th Avenue, but on Sejong-no Avenue, Seoul, they were high fashion. Except in the black markets, PX, and gambling, the troops had nowhere to spend their take--foxhole or take-billet pay. And Korea desperately needed the clothing and everything else in the catalog. It was an effective economic cooperation and mutual aid.
The town of Seoul in the back streets was full of the ravages of war. We walked up a steep and narrow alley one day, and across the path in front of us lay a half-naked woman, dying. A baby was sucking at her empty breasts. A scene like that sticks to a person. The people lived wherever they could find a place to lie down. They even lived on top of the great walled gate in niches and corridors cut in stone. They lived in caves in the hillsides, and they lived in the shelter of iron sheeting leaned against the city's walls.
The biggest smell besides the "honey carts" was the Korean national delicacy called kimchi. It was concocted from great quantities of garlic and fiery peppers, in which were preserved the Summer's vegetables. Every family put it up in big pot-bellied jars, some of them four feet tall. Personally, I did not like to get within ten yards of a used kimchi jar. Compared to kimchi, the hottest Mexican chili is bland as cream soda. When you took a swallow of kimchi, you thought a blow torch had been inserted in your throat, and afterwards you became a problem to your friends because of the odor that you had.
The Seoul PX was a great gathering place in the heart of the city at what was once the business district. When I was there the district was small shops and burned-out buildings. The PX was once a Japanese-owned department store. At the entrance to the four-story PX there was a sign which read, "Clear Your Weapons Before Entering". There were usually two to four MPs there to see that this was carried out. This gathering place was only an hour or two Jeep ride from a number of divisions on the front line. Through the doors passed a procession of all those engaged in this war, and to me it was fascinating to see all the different patches worn by different outfits and the many different uniforms of the nations fighting. I stood and watched them come and go. I also saw the stealing off of the GIs (if it wasn't tied to them) by Korean kids who scattered like flies when an MP came, and closed back in as soon as an MP left. The familiar talk around the Korean boys was, "Hey, Joe! Sleep with my sister? She's cherry girl. Clean, cheap!"
In the PX in downtown Seoul was found most anything a GI would need in Korea, plus other items of less importance. On the left side of the entrance door were Korean men and women painting photos of billfold-sized pictures on pure silk cloth. They were really good at it. All we had to do was tell them the color of hair and eyes and they would do the rest. I had a picture of my wife and baby painted on silk. The small shops outside sold little that was useful to the soldier except second-hand cameras, crude camera sets, and elaborate hand-tooled shoulder holsters. For souvenirs we could buy silk scarves or printed silk flags of Korea, the United Nations, and the Confederate States of America. The Koreans could never understand anything about the Confederate flag except that it was saleable. If the North won the war, why was it permissible to fly the flag of the South? That was what they couldn't understand.
Outside the PX there was an exhibit--a crushed Jeep or a wrecked truck with a safety slogan: "The man you kill may be your replacement" or "Rotation Ended Here." There was one tacked to a post going to the 304th Signal Battalion that I thought was very comical. It said, "Drive Safe. The child's life you save may be your own."
There is an island 60 miles off the coast of Korea called Cheju-do. This island was also called the "Island of Women" because at one time there were only women who lived on the island. There were no men on the island at all except at one time during the year for a brief period. Once each year selected Korean males were invited to land on the remote, isolated island. After a few days the men were taken back to the boat and were told to shove off for the mainland. At the end of the usual period, babies were born. The island women weaned all the babies, kept the girls, and sent the boys back to the mainland.
When the Japanese invaded Korea, they turned Cheju-do into a bomber base with long runways and fancy underground hangars, and a ground force training center. Often 200,000 troops were stationed there. After the war the women of Cheju-do were in command again, but not for long. The United Nations used the island during the Korean War for a prisoner of war camp and a training area for the U.S. and Korean troops, and 600,000 refugees are camped on the island. The women of Cheju-do kept to themselves as much as possible, but they began to doubt they were the master sex.
This fire-gutted, shell-shot, machine gun-riddled theater was about two blocks southeast of the city hall. It seated about 1,500 people. Two other GIs and I went there one afternoon to see a movie. There was a mixture of GIs, Koreans, and ROK troops. The seats were what impressed me the most. It really impressed a fat person. They were small, but built like the theater seats in the United States. I could sit in one very comfortably, but a boy who weighed about 150 pounds had a pretty good squeeze and a fat person had to sit on the edge of the seat. The rows were plenty wide apart so we didn't have to get up to let another person pass.
"Have no" was a common expression in Korea used by the GIs. In English it meant, "We haven't got it." "Etowa" meant "come here" in Korean. "Cutta" meant "take off, leave". "Dijobie" meant "O.K." "Debbie-john" meant "fat". "Skoshie" meant "little". "Toxson" meant "lot" or "have much". These were just a few of the words that the GIs used to talk to the Koreans.
March 1953 in Seoul
The first part of March 1953 found me still working at the crypto center at Seoul University. We started our basic training the first week of March. We had close-order drill and classes on Wednesday and Thursday. The boys really bitched about it. I guess we had to slow down in work to get results. I would have tried to get a transfer, but we were short of help as it was so I knew that I wouldn't have had a chance. Our shift changed to the midnight shift during the month. We only had about six days of basic training as the days picked out to have it were either rainy or snowy.
During the month of March we had heavy fighting along the front. We were loaded with reports to be sent and received. On Sunday nights would be our worst night for reports as we got the daily reports and the report of thee week's happenings from each corps in Korea. We had to exchange these reports with each of them so the other would know what the other corps was doing and where they were stationed.
Hank Snow and his bunch from the Grand Ole Opry at Nashville, Tennessee were over here to cheer us up. They were supposed to put on a show at the 304th but never got up there. They put on a show at EUSAK theater one afternoon and night and ate midnight supper with us before we went to work the night they put the show on at EUSAK theater.
April 1953 in Seoul
Bed-Check Charlie got started harassing us in the first part of April. He visited us each night about 11 o'clock, just as all the lights in the compounds and city was turned out. We had to get out of bed and get in the foxholes back of the barracks.
Also in the first part of April 1953, there was heavy fighting along the front lines. I was off one night, so I went to the mess hall and saw a movie. I got to bed about 11:30, but about 2 o'clock our trick chief woke me up and wanted me to come down and help them as they were covered up with work. I went down there and we didn't get caught up until about 7 o'clock the next morning. The trick chief let me off the next night for having to get out that night and work. Peace talks went on again in the first part of this month, so we had more messages to send from Kumson-ni to Tokyo.
We crypto guys laid out of basic training again so they decided to have it every day, as well as character guidance talks for men who stayed out with the girls all night. That was a good one, wasn't it? The Sergeant came around one day and said for us not to fall out for basic training. We told him we weren't planning on it anyway. They took the basic training list down from the bulletin board about the middle of the month. We heard they were going to give us a two-week cycle starting in May. The boys said that last year they were off two weeks from work during the cycle.
Peace talks were held again in April and a lot of messages went back and forth from Seoul to Panmunjom (Kaeson). They agreed to have a prisoner exchange called "Little Switch", so some of the boys in crypto had to go up there and work. I could have gone up there, but I was a little afraid as the Reds had been fighting heavy around the area. They held all sides of the "Neutral Zone" except the south side held by the 1st Marine Division. This Neutral Zone was only a circle a thousand yards in diameter in no-man's land. From the "tent" in the "zone" we could see Chinese trenches curling like a red-brown snake across the chain of hills, but we never saw a Chinese soldier as they kept their heads down. Not so with the U.S. troops. They could be seen popping up on the ridgeline. A group of men could be seen looking upon the scenes below. They vanished and in a moment mortar and shell bursts at the place where they just were could be seen. A train could be ridden from Seoul to Munsan-ni, and from there it was about 50 minutes ride by Jeep to the area.
During the meetings of the two governments, the Chinese troops attacked the line with heavy firepower to make their point at the peace conference. If things didn't go to suit them, there were heavy attacks along the line in the next day or so. It was amazing as to how they could use so much ammo and during the day no truck movements could be seen on the roads. At night even the U.S. bombers stopped the movement. The answer was that tens of thousands of North Koreans had been trained as pack animals, carrying ammo on wooden frames strapped to their backs. There was a saying in the 8th Army Headquarters that, "We'll never stop their ammo supply until we have a guided missile that will seek out an A-frame."
The Marines had an observation post that they called "the VIP Bunker". This bunker was roofed with heavy thick beams and topped with layers of sandbags. Nothing less than a direct hit could hurt its occupants. Visiting men from U.S. Congress and other countries came there to watch air strikes and Chinese positions through field glasses. Many times the Marines had to put on a show using U.S. boys as actors and attacking the lines just so the VIPs could see how the war was carried out.
There was a man at Panmunjom that was a British newspaper man before he turned Communist and wrote for the London Daily Worker. The intelligence officers credited Alan Winnington of being the propaganda brain of the Chinese and North Koreans, and the man who originated the germ warfare line, "The Big Lie of the Korean War". Willington was good at dishing out news, but wouldn't take it. He talked about prison riots on Koje island and how we scattered disease bugs across the land. For weeks around the area, North Korean security guards had been coming over to U.S. lines. They then sent new security guards to watch the old ones and four of the new ones came over. They asked Winnington when he was coming over. They said to him, "When you do come over, come through the Commonwealth Division. They'll take care of you." There wasn't anything else better they would have liked than to get a hold of him--and he knew it, too.
Syngman Rhee, President of Korea, was a man of about 80 years old in 1953. He was wrinkled, tough, and dried out. I was about 50 feet from him at the 8th Army Headquarters one afternoon as he gave out medals to Korean outfits for their gallant fighting in the front lines. When he was excited he blew on the tips of his fingers. I found out the reason for that was that he had been tortured by the Japanese Secret Police during World War II. They burned bamboo slivers under his fingernails. After that, when he was excited, he blew on his nails.
Flying Black Cat Squadron
The Black Cats were two-motored transports that did all sorts of odd jobs at night in Korea. Their bellies were painted black for camouflage reasons. The planes were equipped with loudspeakers and three Korean girls that sang. They flew over the enemy positions at night and the girls sang to the Koreans and told them to come back to their Fatherland and the fighting would end. The Chinese used loudspeakers on the ground with American-speaking people to discourage the UN troops. This was dangerous work and the Chinese soon got tired of it and used 20mm stuff and heavy caliber machine guns to drive the planes higher. The flying high lost its effectiveness and the Flying Squadron was grounded and loudspeakers were used from the ground.
Parties and Dances
During April of 1953 I went out over the town taking pictures of the scenery and people in Seoul. There really were interesting sights to see there. One night there was a big party up at the mess hall. One of the boys got drunk (a lot of them did that) and took his Korean girl home. (They were told not to do that after a big party.) MPs spotted him coming back and tried to catch him. He jumped in a creek and later another boy pulled him out. Jumping in a creek in Korea was just like jumping into a toilet back in the States. You smelled just as bad. We really laughed when they told about it.
On April 28th, we had a dance up at the mess hall. I went up there to see what was going on and met a boy that worked at the same work I did, only on another shift. He was off that night. We walked around talking and watching the GIs and Korean girls dance and watched a stage show. They had a pretty Korean girl up there dancing and a good band playing, too. We were watching them dance when this Korean girl and her boyfriend stopped dancing and came over and stood in front of us. They were holding hands, but the GI let go of her hand and stepped back from her so he could go over to the table at the side and get a beer. She was still watching them dance and thought he was still slightly behind her, so she reached back to grab his hand. Instead of her boyfriend's hand she grabbed this boy's peter that was with me and squeezed it. She looked around to see what she had a hold of and she sure was surprised. So was the boy that was with me. I thought I would have to lay down on the floor I laughed so much. We came back to the barracks and told the other boys about it. They really kidded him about it. They said they heard me laughing on the way back from the mess hall.
Month of May
There are Red demonstration posters out all over town saying, "Give us unification or give us death." We knew this was going to happen about two weeks ago and had been getting prepared for it. The last day of April three boys and I were assigned to clean out all the foxholes back of the barracks in preparation for attacks by Red planes. We were to stay on this job until all the holes were cleaned out and maybe a few more dug. The first day of May 1953 found me and the three other boys back of the barracks cleaning out the foxholes. During the day we could see the 304th getting patrols gathered up and going out into the streets of Seoul hunting for demonstrators to break up. We got most of the foxholes cleaned out by the middle of the afternoon. We started to go out the gate, but seeing a machine gun set up just inside the gate made me change my mind. GI patrols were out all over town, but there was no trouble yet. I hid out most of the afternoon after we got the holes cleaned out as the company was getting up patrols and going outside the compound. I didn't care to join them.
On May 19th my full clearance came through from Washington. I could then handle "top secret" and "personal for" messages. Our work speeded up as the fighting had stepped up along the front line. Planes spotted from 1200 to 1500 enemy truck traffic moving south. We had air raids every night except when the clouds were so low they could not fly through the valleys. During the rainy nights and days, too, we had lots of trouble getting messages through to other stations.
We had a GI show at the 304th on May 26th. It featured the "big draft-dodger" Dick Constino and his band. (Dick Constino was an accordionist.) He told a good joke during the show about a GI who had been told by the Army not to write home and tell where he was stationed. He wrote home and said he had shot a polar bear. His mother said, "I know where he is at; he's in Alaska." A few days later he wrote home and said that he was having a good time hugging a hula hula girl. His mother said, "I know where he's at; he's in the Hawaiian Islands." A few weeks later he wrote home and said that he was in the hospital. He said he wished he had shot that hula hula girl and hugged that polar bear.
May 29th and the 30th found us back of the barracks again on detail doing odd jobs and cleaning out the foxholes. On the 30th fighting broke out again on the front lines. Reds were putting the pressure on the UN to come to their own truce terms. In the night, 15,000 Reds hit the lines about 35 miles from Seoul, but had not broken through yet. US forces had two defense lines besides the front line to fall back to; one line was about 20 miles from the front lines and the other was south of the Han River. Heavy fighting raged in the 9th Corps area in the Kumwha Valley. One of the crypto guys up there wanted us to call him every half hour and he said he would call us every fifteen minutes to see if we were still in contact with each other. He said he was expecting to have to leave there any time.
Fighting slowed down on May 31st along the front. The 9th Corps crypto boy really appreciated us keeping in contact with him all night. One time I was a little late in answering his belling on the machine and when I did get there and got him stopped he said, "Boy, where have you been? I thought the Gooks had got around us that time."
June/July 1953 in Seoul
The first half of June went by without much excitement. We were still taking basic training and were still short of help in getting the messages out. On June 7th rumors came around about peace between UN and China. South Korea wanted all of Korea, but China wanted it divided at the front lines. One day the peace talks looked good and were progressing, and then the Reds came up with something else and down went the hopes of the talks.
We had an air raid on June 13th for about two hours so we were in our foxholes back of the barracks. Red planes were overhead. Searchlights lit up the sky, but we didn't spot them. Anti-aircraft fire was also heard from the Kimpo airport area. They sounded like a washing machine motor running. We could tell them from our small planes.
They finally stopped basic training again because they said it was interfering with our work at the Com center. We had a civilian crypto man working at our place by then. He sent messages from there to Washington. As I was cleared to top secret, I got to read some of the messages and help him send the messages. He had a sending and receiving roll of tape that he used himself. He went from our crypto room to the Embassy with messages.
June 15th found me still working at the 8th Army crypto room. The next night I had guard duty all night and an air raid came about 11:30. It lasted about an hour. A few minutes later as the boys got settled down, we had another one that lasted about 45 minutes. A few minutes later we had a "yellow" alert. I wore a coat most of the night and stayed warm. The weather got cool there at night as a cool wind blew down from the north just after the sun went down. It was nothing unusual to see the boys wearing coats after dark to keep warm. On June 17 we started our 12-hour day shifts. We knew this was coming as we were getting short of help and there were no new ones coming in to help. We got a commendation from Colonel True (Signal Officer) about the work we had been doing during our short-help situation and the big flood of messages we had to send and receive at that time.
Syngman Rhee released 27,000 Red prisoners of war on the morning of June 19th. That really put things in a mess. He said he did that because he didn't want a divided Korea or any armistice peace. They used tanks at some places to get them out. The U.S. called a division (18,000 troops) back from the front lines to try to catch some of the prisoners and also to take over guarding the prisoners at the camps. We were very busy that day sending messages back and forth to Tokyo and other points in Korea about the release of the prisoners. Peace talks at Panmunjom broke down. Reds said if we couldn't get Syngman Rhee in line then, we couldn't if peace was signed. An order from the U.S. forces went out that the ROK troops were not to have but day-to-day rations and ammo.
As of June 21st the Army stopped R&R as they were using the planes to bring troops for guard duty on prisoners and camps and also supplies for the front lines. Fighting stepped up along the front lines. Reds were putting pressure on the UN for the UN to put pressure on Rhee. Papers back home were really playing up the bombing the Bed-Check Charlies gave us the night before. They dropped one close to Syngman Rhee's home and killed three Koreans. That was just about two miles away from where we were. They went on to Kimpo airport (K-16) and dropped a few more bombs. Those bombs weighed about 100 pounds. Radio and papers in the United States said they dropped close to 8th Army billets. That covered the whole town and on the outside of the town. They were scattered out all over town. The capital building was just about two miles away from where we were located.
We were still busy getting messages about the heavy attacks by the Reds along the front line and about peace talks. It was June 24th. U.S. forces rounded up about 15 to 18,000 of the Red prisoners that were turned loose by Rhee's forces. They also had trouble on Koje-do Island with the prisoners. Prisoners captured some of the officers and wouldn't let them go. U.S. troops went inside the camp and killed some of the prisoners to show them that they meant business, so the prisoners let the officers loose. Guerrilla bands wrecked a freight train between Pusan and Taegu and held up the traffic along the line. We got messages through about it.
By June 26th we were having at least two to three air raids each night. The war situation didn't look much better. The night before, an AAA Battalion was wiped out to the last man as the Korean troops on both sides of them ran and left them there by themselves. If Rhee would have agreed with the UN, peace would have been signed, but he wouldn't do it. He said that he wanted to march north. "Unification or Die" were his words. Reds said they were afraid that the United Nations couldn't hold Rhee back if they signed the peace.
Over the next few days there were still more air raids. An R&R plane crashed on take-off at Tokyo on the way back to Korea with 129 boys getting killed in the crash. No one at the 304th was on the plane since they were still using the planes to bring in supplies for the front line. Fighting was still heavy. There were many planes flying north early every morning to bomb the Reds.
Peace Talks Continue
We were still having air raids during the first week of July. No damage was done. The Reds were just keeping us all on edge and mad at them. Marine planes downed two Red Bed-Check Charlie-type of planes about 40 miles south of Seoul and then there were no air raids for a few days after that because it was too rainy for them to find their way down through the valleys.
The State Department man got messages about what to do and took them to Briggs and Rhee. Rhee said he was going to pull out his troops if he couldn't have what he wanted. The U.S. told him that if he did, they would leave Korea and let him get slaughtered by the Reds.
Peace talks were going little better on July 6th. We got another commendation from the Company officer and our Signal officer about our good work during those busy days when we were short of help. The next day we were told that we were going to have to move from the school area to a new place they were building for us next to the Han River in an old Japanese headquarters of World War II. On July 9th we were still busy as work piled up about the peace talks and heavy fighting that had broken out up north again.
We got messages from Panmunjom on July 10th that the UN had been talking to the Reds about how they were to settle the peace. They talked about where the demilitarized zone would run, and what equipment and supplies and how many troops would be brought into Korea and taken out of Korea.
On July 11th we learned that the tape relay boys were getting an 8th Army clearance to "tot" to help us out a little while. That afternoon I went after something for us to eat down at the snack bar and as I was going down there I saw Syngman Rhee just outside the building where we worked, giving out rewards for outstanding fighting to different outfits. I was about 50 yards from him. I sure wished that I had brought along my camera, but it was back at the barracks.
They were talking about the peace again at Panjunjom and had almost agreed on every detail except the time set to sign the papers. On July 12th Syngman Rhee agreed to sign the peace treaty with Red China and the UN was just waiting on the Reds to agree on everything. The next day heavy fighting broke out in the central sector; from 30,000 to 50,000 Reds were pushing UN forces back. They were trying to straighten out the front lines before they signed the peace and to gain all the land they could before the signing. There was still talk and arguing at Panmunjom about who would be repatriated first and where they would go (the ones that didn't want to go back to their own country.)
All truck drivers were put on alert July 14th for possible ammo driving to the front lines. A boy in crypto could drive an Army truck and had an Army license, so he got his clothes packed ready to go if they called him. The Reds had from 50,000 to 60,000 troops driving on an eight-mile front in the Kumwha Valley area route to Seoul. We were really busy at work because of that heavy fighting and so many movements along the front that we had to report. Reds still argued over the peace terms and were using the new drive to make their point. I saw at work where they had set the time for peace-signing to be July 21st at 10 o'clock.
The Reds were still driving hard on the Central Front on July 15th. The heavy fighting was because the Reds had in the peace agreements that wherever the line of fighting was on the day peace was signed, there was what they would own. The Reds pushed the South Koreans back seven miles in one place. UN troops and equipment losses were running high as South Koreans left UN forces along the front line without support on each side. A lot of bombers and planes were going back and forth to the front all day bombing and bringing wounded back.
For the next four days there was heavy fighting. Red troops were still driving UN and South Koreans back on the Central Front and they were still having peace talks. The South Koreans fell back 15 miles in one day. UN troops rushed in and stopped it from being a general break-through. We had to keep 9th Corps called in all day as they thought the lines would be cut any time. There was heavy fighting around the Kumwha Valley area. Everything was almost ready for the signing of the peace treaty on July 21st. They had almost agreed on all military matters and repatriation of prisoners.
While the heavy continued July 20th through July 22, the Reds were fussing about minor details at Panmunjom. The Reds were supposed to sign the peace terms, but wouldn't agree on who was to pay for lighting of the peace building. The building was almost ready but the Reds continued to fuss about building materials and lights. The Reds and the UN fussed over who would furnish and equip the peace building. Meanwhile, Red troops were still pressing hard on UN and South Korean forces in the central sector.
We were still having air raids, but on July 23rd the Reds said they were going to sign a peace agreement at 10 o'clock on July 27th. The truce called for 35,000 troops to enter Korea in a month's period. No new equipment was to come into Korea. They were going to have a supervisory team watch at certain ports of entry to see that this was carried out. By July 25th everything was almost ready for peace signing. Newspaper men and reporters were at Munsan-ni ready for the signing. My shift would change on July 27th, which meant that I would get to take the message from Munsan-ni to the 8th Army that the peace was signed. It was to be signed at 10 o'clock and the firing and fighting was to stop at 10 o'clock that same night.
August/September 1953 - Seoul, Korea
This month started out by us having to do all the stuff that we did back in the States, like having reveille, retreat, roll call, bed-check, and inspections every morning. On August 1st we had a big parade down at the ball field next to the gate and all in the 304th Battalion were awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation by General Taylor as the best operative unit in Korea. Papers in the States said that we would be going home shortly, but we who were in Korea knew better. The only way we were going to get to leave that place before our 16 months were up or our time in the Army was up would be if all withdrew to Japan or back to the States. The big reason we knew that we would not leave Korea very fast was because, according to the peace terms, they could only send or receive into Korea 35,000 men a month. The UN also doubted and didn't trust the Reds. They were afraid they would attack again, and they had to have enough to keep Rhee in line, too.
They told us that we were going to be moved from our current location to our new Headquarters at Yangson in the southeast part of Seoul next to the Han River by the 15th of the month. We knew that it would sure be a big job moving all our stuff in the camp and all the equipment that we used in our work. I was glad that I was no maintenance man because I would really have had a time getting everything set up at the new place.
We stopped carrying our rifles to work. We didn’t see any need of them anyway as we didn’t have any ammo for them. Our ammo was taken away from us to keep the words of the peace terms. Stands were made to keep our rifles locked up. Now that was really getting stateside. I hoped that I would get transferred out of there before I had to spend the whole term over there in the 304th.
They started exchanging prisoners at Munsan the 5th of the month. Most of the prisoners coming back told weird stories about killings, beatings, starvation, and forced marches in the Communist North Korea and Chinese prison camps. On August 8th and 9th, Rhee stated that if North and South Korea were not united within 180 days, he would withdraw his troops and go at it alone. General Clark said that if Rhee pulled out, the UN would pull its troops out of Korea and let the Chinese slaughter him.
We had a little trouble at our crypto one night. An electric fire got started from our telephone to the Com center and burned out one of our stations. It took about an hour to get it fixed. We were still busy at times with the exchange of prisoners and other movements of troops along the Front.
There was a hard rain on the morning of August 13th about daylight. It really poured. It ran over a 10-foot high bridge going up to the mess hall. We knew that the Han River would be rolling by night. Water was so deep in the streets of Seoul that it was going through one door of a jeep and running out the other. South Korea had a big celebration that day because it was the birthday of the Republic of Korea. We are off guard again as we were short of help again. There were boys leaving for home and no one taking their place.
A week later they were still exchanging prisoners in Munsan, some of them are not wanting to go back to China and some U.S. boys not wanting to come home because they had been brain-washed into believing the Communist way of seeing things and way of life. On August 25th we got reports from the front lines about Chinese troop movements. They were digging tunnels along the front lines, there were movements of troops and equipment, and a few patrols ventured out across no-man’s land between the forces. Intelligent reports showed Reds digging in to hold the line and that they were still bringing in more troops and equipment into Korea. Fighting could break out most any moment. These reports continued through August 30th. They said that more men were moving down from Manchuria. Reports from Formosa said that seasoned Red troops were stationed in South China and that new troops had been rotated to North Korea.
By August 26th I had 293 points. Because crypto was short of help, our boys were not sent on R&R. They started R&R again for us Crypto boys on this date. They upped the days of R&R from five to seven days.
We got several messages from Munsan-ni about repatriation of prisoners of each side on September 2nd, but by September 6th they had stopped swapping POWs, so it was hard telling what might happen next. One of the boys in crypto went up to the prisoner exchange and got some pictures of the exchange. I got the negatives and made some pictures off of them.
We were supposed to go over across town to watch how they laid mines on September 14th, but a lot of us didn’t fall out to go. I went to work at our new place in Yongson that night. I liked the new place pretty good as it was much easier and handier to send and receive messages. Our place was a big Quonset hut built back of a brick building. I got a big desk to work at. They really built a pretty chapel and PX over there with about anything we were looking for in the PX. We got five new boys in crypto from the States. They said they would get out in 1955, which made me feel good as I was to get out in 1954. I found out that I was second from the top for R&R. Some left the day before going on R&R. We heard a rumor that we would have to take basic training again.
On September 15th the office clerk came and told me that I would be going on R&R the next week. He asked me if I wanted to go to Tokyo or someplace else. I said I wanted to go to Tokyo if there weren't too many wanting to go to the same place. Two other guys and I went over to Yongson to see if we needed any shots for R&R and to take a short-arm inspection on September 20th. As it turned out, I just had to take one shot and they didn't give us a short-arm inspection. I borrowed $30 from a boy so I could have $150 when I went to Tokyo.
War news was silent. They were waiting to see what would happen at the UN peace conference. I had planned to leave for R&R on September 23rd, but they put us off a few days longer saying a storm in the Tokyo area had held up plane flights and got the boys behind in getting back to Korea. One of our maintenance men (a boy from Alabama) had been laying around for about a week on his bunk. He was not eating much and just kept looking up at the top of the room most of the day. We all talked to him to try to find out what was troubling him and see if we could help any way. I guess he just lost faith in life. We told the Sergeant about it and he told the CO. The boy was called down to the office and he told the officer that he was homesick, he had been masturbating, and he didn't want to go out with the girls in Korea. They let him do odd jobs around the Company area and told him that if they got the chance and another place needed a guy, he would be the first one to leave.
The place where we used to work was reopened to school students and they were going back to college again. A lot of people were moving back to Seoul, cleaning and rebuilding again. SFC Trick Chief told a crypto boy the other day that if he stayed over there in Korea a while longer he would see that he made Sergeant before he left. The boy told him to take his gift and ram it up his ass. He said that he was going home and that he wanted to live his own life. We really laughed at the SFC.
Hot Floor Plan
This diagram is of the Korean hot floor plan. It was the way the Koreans heated their houses during the Winter. Smoke from the kitchen, used to cook, passed under the stones through the flues, heated them and made the whole floor hot. This hot room was covered with paper over the mud covering of the rock layer. Before entering shoes were taken off and left outside. As the houses were very dirty and filthy outside, we were really amazed to find how clean they were inside.
Koreans use the lunar calendar for crop planting. The calendar is covered in cycles of 60 years, with an extra month added to a year every few years. The months are doubled every year being two months to the same during that year. The only month never doubled is November, for some unknown reason. The 60 year cycle is divided into five different smaller cycles of 12 years each, and each of these years of the smaller cycle is named for an animal. The animals included are the rat, cow, tiger, pig, dragon, snake, goat, monkey, dog, hog, chicken, and horse. Persons born in these years are called by that animal name. The old people hold very firmly to the belief that a person born in any animal year takes on the characteristic nature of that animal. According to old Korean custom, a man should never marry a woman whose birth year animal is larger and stronger than his. Thus, a woman born in horse year can only marry dragon-year men and many of them are never able to marry at all.
There are other interesting things about the lunar calendar. Instead of four seasons, it has 24. This is an example of the names and dates of 1936. Other years and dates vary, and these dates would not correspond again for 60 years or until 1996.
Three days are short of making the complete solar year and these go toward the next month that will be doubled. The calendar does not show by the names of the seasons when the rainy season comes, but it's usually when the Small Heat and the Big Heat are in force. It is real helpful for rice growing--and it sure does pour at times.
This is the way the Koreans made kimchi, Korea's favorite food:
Huge heads of celery cabbage were wilted in salt water, then washed like rags in many waters until it was clean. Large white oriental radishes, some of them three inches thick and over a foot long, were trimmed and scrubbed. A handful of seasoning mixture composed of finely chopped hot red peppers, garlic, onions, ground ginger, and a little ground cooked beef was put in the center of each cabbage head, and the leaf tops twisted together. Then the radishes and cabbage head were packed into big earthen jars (about five feet tall) in alternate layers, with salt sprinkled between the layers. Extra leaves of the radishes were placed on top, and a scrubbed rock put on top of all as a weight. Jars were then filled with water and the vegetables allowed to ferment in a way similar to kraut. It took about ten gallons of kimchi for each person in the family for a Winter.
Along the market streets during the summer months I saw fish and meat hanging in the markets. There was no glass in the windows and no refrigeration to keep it cold. Flies swarmed all over, and such a smell coming from them just about made me sick at my stomach.
Washing clothes in Korea was done almost entirely beside running streams or where there was plenty of water. Wrapping their skirts about their knees, the women squatted beside the edge of a stream, wet the clothes, and rubbed them on a flat rock with a short hardwood paddle. From time to time, they splashed more water from the stream onto the clothes, and perhaps rubbed on a little more soap. The percussion of the paddling loosened the dirt as the water was "squished" through them by it. After sufficient amount of paddling, the women leaned forward and shook the clothing in the running water, until the water was perfectly clear as they rinsed. This method really got the clothes clean, but often the women had to go long distances to find water. In the Winter they had to break the ice and freeze their fingers and toes.
The city women had it much harder to clean clothes. She soaked her clothes overnight so they washed quickly, wrung them as dry as possible, and coiled them in a wooden tub. Many times I saw a woman coming out from the city with a tub of soaked clothes on her head, a bundle of wood on top of that, a baby tied to her back, and a bucket of food in her hand. The city woman might have had to walk two or three miles with this load to get to a stream. After the washing was done, she made a fire with the wood, boiled the clothes in the washing soda, and rinsed the soda out. They were spread on a rock or grass to dry, then they were as white as snow.
Ironing was very different and interesting, too. I wondered for a long time while I was over there as to how they could get their clothes so white and ironed so beautiful that I could see every crease. The starch was made out of pounded rice to a flour and then mixed with water. A very stiff starch was made by cooking it in an iron pot. It was sprinkled on the wrong side of the dried clothes until they were wet with starch. Clothes were dried again, then sprinkled with water to moisten them. The moist clothes were smoothed out flat, which the cut of the clothes allowed, and then they were folded in squares and piled on the floor of the not-floor room. They put a clean cloth over them and by the weight of one's feet, shifting about, ran the moisture through the fibers of the materials. When they were taken up, they looked ironed except where they were folded.
There was another way for clothes to be ironed and that was by a small table, polished on the top to the smoothness of glass. A pad of folded cloth was placed on the stone table as padding, then a piece of the moistened clothing, still folded, was placed on the cloth padding. Two hardwood clubs, which resembled small baseball bats, were then used to pound the clothing, which was unfolded and refolded from time to time to get another part of the garment on top. The creases left on the folded edges were pressed out by a small, pointed, long-handled iron which was heated in glowing charcoal, usually on top of several inches of ashes in an iron pot that was brought into the room where the ironing was done.
There was still another ironing method used by Korean women. They had what looked like a very long-handled frying pan polished to a shiny smoothness on the bottom. This was filled with glowing coals of charcoal. It took two people to do ironing well by this method and to make it easy. It was used for broad, flat surfaces, such as bed covers and women's skirts. One person held it almost parallel with the floor using one hand and the toe of one foot, while she pushed the pan of hot coal up and down the length of the garment with her other hand.
The clothes of the children and young people of Korea were very colorful, but when people reached the age of 30, they were considered old, and white was the proper color for them to wear. White was the color for the mourning, and by the time a person was 30, he usually was in mourning for someone, so that men and women over 30 usually wear white even to work in the fields. To save women work, the men were nearly always careful to avoid soiling their clothes. They pulled up their trousers while they worked in the fields, and had a way of squatting when they talked or got down near the ground to work which kept their clothes from getting soiled. I saw them sit this way for hours at a time.
Footwear in Korea consisted of sewed muslin socks, padded in Winter for warmth, and shoes made from molded rubber, or rice straw. Most of the men wore some kind of hat which was usually made from black horsehair. When taking things to market, the heads of the women were shaded by the loads they carried on them. Such a method of carrying demanded a straight back and neck and a very smooth flowing movement as they walked, so that the carriage of Korean women was especially beautiful and graceful. Her style of clothing allowed this free, easy, swinging gait. The American women with their hip-swinging walk could never do that. One out of three American women complained of backache due to the way they tried to walk.
Doctors & Diseases
The Koreans believed in evil spirits. For example*:
The biggest diseases in Korea were venereal diseases of all kinds, as well as dysentery. Many of the girls who were prostitutes often were teenage girls who had been sold by their poverty-stricken families so the family might have food to eat. These girls spread the venereal diseases as they sold themselves for food and shelter. When I was there in late '52, '53, and '54, I talked to one girl and asked her how she got started in prostitution. She told me that all her family got killed by Communists and she came to live with this Korean woman who in turn bought her Western-style clothes. In turn, she was to sell herself to GIs to pay for her stay and clothes. The Mamasan was always sure to have enough spent on her to keep her in debt. A lot more women did it to feed their families and to send kids to school. When I was there, it was estimated that there were about 360,000 prostitutes in Seoul. I sure believed it, too, as there were from 15 to 30 always along the block of a street during the daylight hours and many more at night, with "pimp" boys (boys who made a living by tips and trips with GIs back through the back alleys to houses where girls stayed) running around wanting to take GIs to see his "Cherry Sister"--who couldn't find the wrappings of her "box", let alone a "Cherry".
The reason for very much dysentery in babies and parasites in all ages of the Korans was due to the shortage of fertilizer. Human manure (shit, in American slang) was used on the fields so as to make crops grow to produce enough food to feed the people. Believe me, it sure did make it grow, too. I saw turnips over there that I didn't hardly know what they were. You could put about three or four of them in a wash tub (a tub that held about 20 gallons of waster). That's no lie either. The land was too limited to raise much stock for animal fertilizer. It had to be used to produce food for the people, as only a limited portion of the area was tillable and the rest was rocky mountain terrain.
The farmer with oxen had wooden carts. They went into the city at night and collected the human manure, carting it out to their farms where they stored it in big pits dug in the ground and applied it to the land as the crops needed it. How often as I passed these carts on the streets of Seoul did I almost got sick with such a bad smell. They came about every two weeks and cleaned out our toilet in the camp. For about four or six hours we couldn't get close to that toilet, it smelled so strong. One day, one of the carts (which we called "Honey Carts") turned over in the road that we had to travel to and from work. That really got us. Various types of parasite eggs, as well as disease germs, resided in this human soil. Leaches hooked onto the Koreans' feet and legs in the rice fields and sucked blood out of them. The Koreans' feet and legs were toughened to them so that they eventually did not have much trouble with them.
To show you how they believed in the old doctors of many ways, here is one example. A mother brought her little baby girl, about two years old, to a Korean-American educated doctor. The child's right side was badly swollen and had blue bruise-like marks and black speckles over the swelling. The child moaned when her side was touched. The doctor looked at the little girl's mother and said, "You have been taking this child to the 'Chim' doctor." "Oh, no," the mother said. "Oh, yes," the doctor relied. "These black speckles and bruises are where the "Chim" doctor has stuck needles into her side." Finally the mother admitted it. Again, the belief that evil spirits caused illness was the basis for the practice of stabbing hot needles into an afflicted part to kill the evil spirit supposed to cause the distress. This little girl had two dozen or more black specks on her side where she had been stabbed by a needle. This had also caused the bruised appearance.
Sometimes coins were heated red hot and pressed into the flesh for similar reasons. "Only an operation can save this child. If you will consent, we will operate and it will cost you nothing," said the Doctor. "Are you sure she will get well?" asked the mother. "I cannot be sure that she is strong enough to come through the operation, but it's her only chance to live. She will not live long like this." But the mother, expressing her fear that to "cut" the child would only let more evil spirits get inside it to kill the baby, would not leave the child. A few days later, I was told that the woman had taken the child to an old Korean doctor who had sold them a bite of bear lung for a yen, guaranteeing them if the child did not get better he would refund half their money. The idea behind the flesh cures was that the flesh of various animals was good for certain ailments. The part of the animal corresponding to the part of the person which was ailing was fed to the sick person and was supposed to cure him. The "Doctor" said the child's lung was ailing and hence the bite of the bear lung. According to the family, the child was much better, but she was seen upon the back of one of her sisters looking more sick than ever and every breath ended in a moan of pain. About two weeks later the infection ruptured and the child died.
The people believed that certain animals had certain healing properties and sometimes even well persons took those kinds of flesh cures to ensure staying well. The servant of one of the missionaries always asked to go to the country on a certain day each year. It was discovered that he went out to get a live lizard to swallow so that his legs would be strong. The herb doctor was well known. These doctors were sometimes quite effective in their treatments if they diagnosed the case correct and did not give improper dosages of herbs.
Among the most popular games played in Korea was "teeter-totter". A folded straw bag was placed under the center of the board. One girl standing on one end of the board was thrown up into the air when another girl jumped on the raised end. They got to be good at landing squarely on the board with their feet. I saw them go up as high as ten to twelve feet or the level with the lower edge of the house roof. I also saw GIs trying to do this with the Korean girls, but they only lasted about two jumps. The Koreans made swings out of rice straw ropes and had contests seeing what girl could swing the highest. They had a game of jacks, using different sized stones instead of jacks and a ball. They also played hop-scotch, some even with babies tied to their backs.
Buddhism in Korea
Buddhism was the main religious belief in Korea, mixed with Shamanism religion. On the road to the Buddhist temple usually stood a tree that came to be looked upon as a special tree on the basis of this animistic conception. People brought strips of clothing of the sick in their families and tied them to the branches of this tree with a petition to the spirit of the tree for the health of their loved ones. They also piled rocks under the tree.
“Little R&R” to Tokyo, Japan
The war situation was about the same during the first week of October 1953. Both sides were waiting for the peace conference coming up around the 1st of February 1954. Both sides were building defenses and pulling troops back to training areas and going through cycles of training. I thought the situation could blow up again just any time.
My name had been up for R&R for three days, and on October 2nd I found out that I was finally leaving for R&R on Sunday, October 4th. Two other boys that worked in crypto were going with me. I had only saved up about $190 to make the trip over there, but the two other boys that I was going with had plenty of money, especially a boy from North Dakota. He got $600 from a Mamasan to buy some cloth to bring back to sell in the black market, and he had $200 of his own. In all, the three of us had close to $1,100.
We left the morning of October 4th by Jeep to Group 22. There we processed and they took us over to K-16 (Kimpo) airport by Jeep. We learned there that we were getting to go to Tokyo as our names hadn’t been called off to get aboard the other planes leaving for Kukura and Kobe, Japan. Those boys had to put on Mae West life jackets and parachutes to ride the small planes.
We had to wait until about 2:30 to get aboard our plane. There was another one that loaded before we got on our plane for Tokyo. The plane that we took was the biggest the Army had. It was a C-124 Globemaster. We took off for Tokyo about 2:30 on a four-hour flight to Tokyo. The big plane, with 175 boys aboard it, had a time getting off the ground. It really lumbered down the long runway, gaining height very slowly. Seoul faded in the background and mountains passed below us, some covered with snow.
In about an hour and half we were over the Sea of Japan. We all hoped the plane stayed in the air, as we were not equipped to land on water. Just two or three people at the most were allowed to go to the latrine at the back of the plane as the weight in the back would make the pilot unable to maintain good control of the plane. I was in the top deck beside a window where I could see out. It wasn’t too long before we hit the Japanese mainland. Just before dark we passed the big Japanese mountain, Mt. Fuji, covered with snow. It was a sacred, famous mountain. Just after dark we landed at Tachikawa air base just outside of Tokyo.
We got off the plane and boarded some buses for Camp Drake. When we got there we ate a wonderful meal with real milk and steak. That was something we hadn’t had since we had left the States. After supper we went to a building where we turned in our fatigue clothing and got Class-A uniforms and our papers saying that we were on a seven-day R&R from Korea. As soon as we got our new clothes on and our old ones turned in, we got a cab and had the driver take us to a Japanese hotel. We knew that we couldn’t get in a Special Service hotel that late at night as the other planeload of boys had already gone to Tokyo, as well as most of this load.
Arriving at the Japanese hotel, we went into the bar and drank some whiskey and beer. The two boys I was with got to drinking pretty heavy, but I just had a whiskey and ginger ale. We all got a room and finally got to bed that night. One of the boys was so drunk that during the night he wet all over the bed. The next morning he had to pay for having the bed clothes cleaned. We got a big laugh out of that.
We stayed around the hotel the next day until the afternoon. Those two boys I was with were trying to get their heads straightened up after doing all that drinking the night before. We left that hotel about 3:30 p.m. to hunt a Special Service Hotel. We couldn’t stay in the Japanese hotel long due to the money we had to spend to stay there even one night.
We got a cab and went across town to the main part of Tokyo. We tried to get in a Special Service Hotel there, but they were filled. The boy at the desk said that he knew of one next to Tokyo Bay that was just for officers mostly, but would take some GI’s at times. He called them for us and they said to come over. We went over there at that hotel and got a room for $7.00 a day for the rest of the week. Meals were 35 cents for breakfast, 50 cents for dinner, and 75 cents for supper. They fed restaurant-style and had real good food with pretty Japanese girls waiting on the tables. We ate, drank some at the bar, looked around the hotel, and got to bed about 10:30 that night.
The next morning, October 6th, we got up about 8 o’clock--or I did. The other boys didn’t get up until about dinner because of too much drinking again. I went down and ate a good breakfast, and then got out and looked around the hotel and Tokyo Bay. After dinner we went into the bar, where we drank and talked some. We went back to our room until suppertime. After supper we went uptown to the Rocker-4 Club for the GI’s and saw a good floor show put on by the Japanese, along with tricks they showed the GIs. We got back to the hotel and to bed about 12 o’clock.
The next day, I got up about 9:30, cleaned up, and ate dinner about 11:30. I laid around the hotel until about 4:30, when we all went uptown to the PX to look around. We went to a Japanese restaurant and ate some. Eating in a Japanese restaurant, we were just about guessing as to what we were ordering and eating. We looked around town after eating, then went back to the Rocker-4 Club and saw some good boxing matches. We had our pictures taken with two other boys that worked in the crypto center in Tokyo. One of them had gone through crypto school in Camp Gordon, Georgia, the same time that I went through. We rode uptown on the Special Services buses because they were much safer than the cabs were there. When we rode with one of those reckless, left-side-of-the-road drivers, we were on the edge of our seat wondering what he was going to hit next. We got back to the hotel about 12 o’clock and went to bed.
On October 8th I got up about 9:30, cleaned up, and just looked around the hotel. It had been rainy most of the time so I had not gotten out to take any pictures yet. I wanted to do that before I left there. After dinner we all went down to the Tokyo PX and the boys did a little shopping. That sure was a big PX. It was five stories high and every floor was loaded with stuff for the GIs. After we got through looking and shopping, we went to a Special Services Hotel there in the main part of Tokyo just to see what it was like. We fooled around in the hotel talking to some of the GIs that were staying there. They seemed to like the place pretty well. We told them about our place on Tokyo Bay where we were staying. We came back to the hotel and ate supper. After supper we went to the Rocker-4 club again, but there wasn’t much going on there that time. We left there and went to another place where there were some American girls dancing. One of the boys with us got to dancing with some of the girls. After leaving there, we came back to the hotel about 12:30 and went to bed.
I got up about 8 o’clock the next morning, cleaned up, and ate. I called Betty at Kodak, Tennessee and talked to her for five minutes for $20.00. It was 9 o’clock In Tokyo and 7:30 at night the day before in Kodak. Betty sure was excited to be talking to me. One of the other boys called his wife just after I did. We had the manager of the hotel notify Betty the day before I called her that I would be making a telephone call to her the next morning.
After making the phone call, the boys had breakfast in bed and I went up to the day room at the hotel. There was a real pretty Japanese girl working in the photo shop. She sold films and had them developed and also sold a few gifts to send back home. After dinner I went back up there and got her talked into going outside and taking a picture of her. After that we went downtown and walked down Ginza Street, the main street of Tokyo, and we looked at all the shops. There was a building about ten stories high and there wasn’t a nail in that building under construction. They had a scaffold on the outside of that building and it was all tied up with ropes.
After supper we all went back downtown to another club and drank some. The boys bought some whiskey, brought it back to the hotel, and drank most of the night. I drank a little, but knew when to quit. Another boy had been staying with us some and running around with us. He was stationed in Tokyo and knew the boy from North Dakota who was supposed to get cloth with the $600 that the mamasan had given him. The North Dakota boy was spending it on us rather than cloth. He said that we were going to have a big time while we were over there. Our own money was getting low.
I got up about 8 o’clock, ate breakfast, went back to the room, and told the boys that I was going out to take some pictures of Tokyo. The day, October 10th, was the prettiest day we had had since we had been there. The boys were just getting out of bed, holding their hurting heads from all that drinking they had been doing overnight, when I left. I caught a bus and rode uptown to the PX. I got off and walked down to the main street of Tokyo and took some pictures. I walked on over to the Imperial Palace grounds, where the Emperor of Japan was supposed to live. It was a 380-acre place surrounded by water and guard gates and bridges over the water. I took pictures of the Imperial Palace grounds and guard gates (houses) and a very good picture of the heart of Tokyo. I met a GI at one of the gates and he wanted me to take a picture of him with his camera and said that he would take a picture of me with my camera. We both did that for each other. I took a picture of a Japanese girl dressed in her kimono outfit. I had a time getting the picture of her as there were so many GI’s around trying to get a picture of her, too. I saw a Japanese boy taking a picture of two Japanese girls beside one of the guard houses, so I got behind him and took a picture of them, too. Then they wanted me to take a picture with them, so I did. I went back to the Imperial Hotel where the movie stars from the States stayed when they were over there and I took a picture of it, too. I went by the Ernie Pyle theatre and took a picture of it. I walked back to the PX and caught a bus back to the hotel, getting there just at dinner time. After dinner I went outside of the hotel and took pictures of the hotel, Tokyo Bay, and a big bird in a tree beside the hotel. I didn’t know what kind of a bird it was. That night we all went down to the Rocker-4 Club and watched a band play and the people dance, getting back to the hotel about 12:30. It was Saturday night and our seven days were almost shot.
The next morning I got up about 10:30, cleaned up, and fooled around the hotel until about dinner. After dinner we just talked and laid around the hotel. I went down to the gift shop and bought some things to send back home. After supper we all went down town to a Japanese club, where we watched them dance and talked to the boys there at the club. We got back to the hotel about midnight and got to bed around 1 o’clock. That was our last full day in Tokyo on our seven-day R&R. It seemed like everyone had had a good time running around and seeing the sights. Really, I was the one that saw a lot of the sights as those other two boys did a lot of drinking and didn’t feel like getting out and seeing the sights of the town when it was pretty.
I got out of bed about 9 o’clock on October 12th and ate a little Japanese food. We ate dinner at the hotel and after dinner got things ready to give the boy to mail from Japan to the States for us. I got out and took a picture of the hotel and the girl that worked at the place where we got our gifts to mail home. About 5 o’clock we checked out of the hotel and went back to the Japanese Club until about 10:30, then caught a cab to Camp Drake in time to check-in and get our clothes. We got to bed about 2 o’clock. The next day we got up about 3:30, ate breakfast, got things together, went to the airport, and got on a C-124 for Seoul. We really had a wonderful time there in Tokyo on the seven-day R&R. We spent about $1,200 and got back with about $3 between the three of us.
Just after getting back to the 304th Signal Company from R&R, the boys told me that I had orders to go to Taegu, Korea. I went down to the office and they said for me to turn in my stuff because I was to leave that night for Taegu. I got my things ready and turned it in, but then they decided it was too late for me to catch the train and for me to wait until the next day. Richard Fidler was on the night shift, so I slept in his bed.
I got up about 6 o’clock the next morning and ate. I went to the CO’s office and caught a Jeep for the train station. I was really glad to get away from the 304th as they were getting more stateside every day with inspections every day, lockers that had to be in a certain order, beds that had to be made up good, inspections-in-ranks, shoes shined every day, reveille and retreat every day, roll call, bed check, and basic training.
I got on the train about 7:30 and saw Koreans gathering rice as I was riding the train to Taegu. I got off of the train about 4:30 at the Taegu train station. I caught a ride to the KMAG replacement company, as I didn’t know where it was in the town. When I got there I reported to the 1st Sergeant and he assigned me a barracks. I had to go across a Korean compound to get to the KMAG mess hall. They had Koreans working there so all we had to do was get our plate and get the food. After eating, the Koreans cleaned off the table. They feed us much better there than in the 304th.
The next day I wrote a letter to Betty telling her where I was at, and I talked to the boys around there that were always coming and going from the Replacement Company. The boy that had been masturbating back in my barracks at the 304th was there in Taegu. I heard that I was supposed to go to a new ROK Corps (5th)that they were building up above the 38th parallel.
On Friday, October 16th, I got up about 6 o’clock, ate breakfast, and went to get my records checked at KMAG’s headquarters. After that I went down to the supply room and got some winter clothes. I got gloves, a big overcoat with a liner, a liner for my field jacket, a wool pile cap, and a new style of winter shirts and pants. I also got another blanket, and, boy, was my duffle bag full. I could hardly carry it. I would get a sleeping bag when I was assigned to the ROK Corps. That afternoon I went over to got my shot record checked, as well as my teeth. They told me to come back on Monday because they might fill some for me.
There was an inspection Saturday morning. We just had to make up our beds and a houseboy cleaned up the barracks. After dinner I went around the area looking it over and just laid around until supper. After supper I went over to the Service Club and watched a movie. They really had a wonderful club for the boys there in the KMAG outfit. I got to bed about 11 o’clock.
I got up about 6:30 on Sunday, ate, and fooled around talking and writing letters. That afternoon I went over to the day room and read some. That night I was on guard duty, so I ate about 5 o’clock and got ready for the guard mount. They sure checked us, too. My walk was around the KMAG headquarters area, which was about a fourth of a mile from my barracks. I had the first shift and walked around the area from 6 until 12. I watched some GI’s court some Korean girls just outside the compound in a Korean house. I didn’t get to see them make any of the girls. There was a Korean injured hospital just on the other side of the compound and a Korean hospital just across the street from the headquarters. I got to bed about 1 o’clock and I sure was looking for that bed, too, after all that walking. That day I had heard that I might get sent to one of the other ROK Corps until the 5th was ready for me. Another boy who was in the crypto was assigned to the 5th ROK Corps, too, and he had to go to another corps until they were ready for him.
Monday I got up about 6:30, ate, and cleaned up. I went to see the dentist about 9:30. I thought that he was going to fill some for me, but he just cleaned my teeth--tearing up my gums, but making my mouth feel good. He was a Korean dentist. That afternoon I just stayed around the barracks and talked. I was told late that day that I was assigned to the 5th ROK Corps, but was on temporary duty (TDY) to KMAG headquarters there in Taegu for 45 days. I had to go to work in the crypto room there the next day. The next morning I got up about 6 o’clock, cleaned up, caught a bus for the headquarters, and went to work. I didn’t do anything but break one message and meet the boys that I would be working with.
October 23rd was inspection day. I ate and went to work. We had to stand rank inspections every two weeks in the main KMAG area. I didn’t do anything at work that day but fix a message or two, read, and help a boy work crossword puzzles. I thought I was going to have to stay over in the Company area and the First Sergeant even sent me over there. The Sergeant asked me if I was going to stay there. When I told him that I was just on TDY, he sent me back over to the Replacement Company. I liked it much better there anyway, as we didn’t have to get up every morning at 5:30 for roll call and barracks inspection every day. They really had a tough CO over there. He was once a Captain before he went out and came back in the Army.
The next few days passed without any new things happening. I worked every day. They sent that boy that came from the 304th to a place up toward the front lines. I didn’t know what he would do up there. We could catch a Jeep back to our compound if the buses were not running, and could even get a Jeep to take us to downtown Taegu if we wanted one. On October 31st I stayed around the barracks until after the inspection, and then went over and got paid. They also gave us three shots. I went to work after that and got off at 5 o’clock. That night I went over to the NCO club where they were having a party for some boys going back to the States. The boys going back home got free champagne, while we got a free hour of drinks. They usually had two Saturday nights during the month where all the drinks were a nickel. The boys really get loaded during that time.
The guard duty list on the bulletin board went around about three times the first week of November, but my name did not come up on it. We got a day and a half off each week from work. There sure wasn’t much to do there as we had about 10 or 15 messages the whole day. On November 4th I was getting ready to come back to the Replacement Company after work, waiting on a Jeep to come back, when down came a Korean with a pig tied to the back of the baggage carrier of his bicycle. I guess it weighed out to be about 125 pounds. I sure would have given anything to have had a picture of that sight. About a half hour later I saw a Papasan with an A-frame on his back and sitting up in there was a Mamasan with a white dress on. It was a pretty sight with him trotting along the street.
I cleaned up for inspection on the morning of November 14th. About 9:30 I went over to the main company area and stood inspection. I made out okay. That day at dinner I saw a sergeant that had been in the 304th and he said that he was glad to get out of there and to be down here. He said they were supposed to move to the new area today. The Captain said that we had to take some close-order drill next Thursday as we were getting rusty in our Army walk, I guess.
We had a real good dinner on Thanksgiving day. It was the best I had ever eaten since that day in Seattle, Washington. Just after Thanksgiving I went on the night shift. I had to work just a little harder, but not near as much as I had at the 8th Army in Seoul.
I stood inspection again Saturday, November 28th, and then went up to KMAG Headquarters and heard some I&E talks. That night I went over to the club, where I drank some and watched a good movie. I had a chance to go see Marilyn Monroe, but thought I couldn’t get close to her so I just stayed there in the company area. I also had a chance to take a jet ride, but thought it wouldn’t be too long before I would be leaving this place and I didn’t want to stretch my luck.
On December 22nd I got up about 3:30 in the morning, and four more boys and I went deer hunting in the hills about eight miles southeast of the town. We got a boy to take us in a Jeep back in the hills until it was so rough that we had to get out and walk. We told him that we could find our way back and that he didn’t have to come back after us. It was breaking daylight when we got out of the Jeep. The temperature was down about 25 degrees.
We walked about two miles to a Korean village, stopping every few minutes to rest as it was a hard climb. As we went through the village, we started climbing the mountain, having to stop every few yards to rest. I got sick at my stomach about halfway up the mountain. I guess it was from not eating anything before coming out in the cold, and then getting hot from climbing wearing so much clothing. I had my long-handle underwear on, wool shirt, and field jacket with liner. I told the others that I would go back down the mountain and wait on them to come back at the village we came through. Another boy who was with us had forgotten to pack his rifle the night before, so I let him have mine. It wasn’t quite daylight when I left the boys about halfway up the mountain and started back to the village.
I walked back down through the rice fields (patches of land on the side of the mountain that had been dug out and leveled off in stair steps down the side of the mountain). When I got within sight of the village, I lay down on the cold, frozen ground and waited for daylight and the sun to come over the mountains. As the sun came over the mountain, a Korean boy came up the path toward me. He saw me lying on the ground and looked like he was wanting to know what was wrong with me. I motioned to my stomach and went through signs that I was sick. He wanted me to follow him back to the village, so I got up and did. He took me to the first Korean house at the edge of the village and there an old Korean motioned for me to come in and showed me where the floor was the warmest. He motioned for me to lie down there. The old Papasan felt of my head to see if I was running a temperature. I hadn’t been there long before Koreans started coming in to visit me and asking questions. I guess that boy must have told everyone in the village. After I lay there on the warm floor awhile, I got to feeling better and got to talking to the Koreans. They got interested in my army clothes.
The boys came down from the mountains about 2 o’clock and asked the Koreans where I was at. They came in and wanted to know if I was okay to move out. I got up, got outside in the fresh air, and found that I was feeling much better. We thanked the Koreans for letting me stay there until they got back. The boys said that they saw one deer a few yards away, but it ran off before they got a chance to shoot at it.
We started down the road and hadn’t gone but just about a half a mile when we ran into a bunch of pheasants. We all shot at them, but didn’t hit any. It was hard to hit a pheasant with an M-1. After running around in the rocks and bushes thinking we had hit one, we went down the road about three or four miles before stopping at a Korean house where one of the boys said he had been before. I guess he was expecting to get some from one of the Korean girls, but he got fooled. We left there and walked about three miles before we caught a Korean bus, rode into the edge of town, and got off. Talk about a rough ride in that bus--we had one. Three of us were sitting on the back seat of the bus when it hit a real rough place in the road. Our heads almost hit the top of the bus. Everybody, including the Koreans, got a big laugh out of it. We were not supposed to ride Korean buses, so we got off before we got near the compound.
There was a girl there in Taegu called “Taegu Cutie” that the boys all talked about. I had never seen her, but a boy gave me a negative of her and I made some pictures for him. The reason that she was so popular was because she had the biggest “tits” in Korea. They were the biggest ones that I had ever seen in Korea. A boy was down there at her house and he said that while he was there for half an hour he counted 16 boys going in and coming out of her room. A short-time with her cost $2.00, so she made $32 for a half hour’s work. That was pretty good money for a half hour’s work. I was over in another barracks the day that two boys had been down to see “Taegu Cutie” and had just got back. One of them asked the other, “Did you kiss Taegu Cutie?” The other one said, “Yes”. The first one said, “She just got through sucking me off.” I thought I would die laughing at them. The other boys in the barracks just whooped and hollered. The boy didn’t know what to say. There are a few sexy girls there in Taegu, but not near as many as there were in Seoul.
The night before Christmas we had a Christmas party with just us crypto boys and Lieutenant Parker (who was executive officer of crypto). We had it downtown at a house he knew about. We had to take our shoes off before we came inside. We had everything--nuts, cake, candy, fixed Korean shrimp, and anything we wanted to drink. There were not any girls there with us. About midnight part of us left, but I think some of the others got so loaded that they were there all night. You should have seen those boys who were about loaded looking for their own shoes when it was time to leave. I was off a half day on Christmas, so I just laid around the barracks as it started to raining in the afternoon. I heard that we were not going to have inspection the next day as most of the boys had gotten drunk on Christmas Eve and had had fights with each other.
The next day I was relieved from duty at KMAG crypto and told to get ready to go to the 5th ROK Corps in the Kumwha Valley. They had the camp almost ready. That morning I went to town with a boy that was pretty rough--so rough that most boys wouldn’t have anything to do with him. He was real nice to me and we got along pretty good. I got all my things ready and laundry from the Koreans and got my orders to ship out on the 30th. I talked my Sergeant into letting me ride in one of the two trucks that were going up to the 5th Corps. I didn’t want to ride the train and stay in Seoul all night waiting for someone from the 5th Corps to come down after me. The two trucks were loaded with whiskey and furniture.
45 Days in North Korea
We left the company area in trucks about 8 o’clock on December 30th. It was about 2:30 in the afternoon when we stopped in a company between Taegu and Seoul to get gas and eat some dinner. The road sure was rough and the temperature was down about 25 degrees to 30 degrees. I was bundled up good, but my feet really got cold. We went through small Korean villages all the way up and saw where there had been heavy fighting in these places. There were holes and trenches everywhere, as well as equipment that had been damaged beyond repair. There were Korean guards at outposts along the way watching out for guerrilla bands that roamed the hills and mountains. People waved at us in the villages as we passed by. By traveling by truck, I could see the Korean scenery and smell the air, too.
We got to Seoul just after dark because we had to drive about 25 to 35 miles an hour all the way up due to the rough roads. I saw the big jet base at Sorwon just below Seoul where the North Koreans had landed a MiG-15 plane during the war and got $10,000. We stopped at the 22nd Signal Group where we thought we could get something to eat, but they had already eaten. I saw one of the boys at the gate that I had gone through school in Camp Gordon, Georgia with, and he was surprised to see me. He wanted to know where I was going. We went on up to the 5th Air Force compound opposite the Seoul University and got something to eat at the snack bar. I also got my feet warm.
We left there about 9 o’clock and got to the 5th ROK Corps about midnight. I was 20 miles above the 38th Parallel, 325 miles from Taegu, a mile and a half from the 9th Crops rest camp, and about three miles from the 9th Corps area. I was also about 15 miles from the front lines. They told me that I would find an empty bed in a tent just above the Company office. I found the bed, got my two blankets out, and just crawled in bed with my clothes on. That was the most miserable night I had spent yet there in Korea. I never got to sleep all night. I liked to have frozen, as the temperature was down to about 10 degrees above zero.
The next morning I got two more blankets, a good insulated lined sleeping bag, a field liner for my jacket, a pair of “Mickey Mouse boots”, and a parka outfit to wear. I was assigned to a tent where there were supposed to be five other boys. There were two oil stoves. When I arrived there was just one more crypto boy and me. The others were coming from other KMAG outfits. I was supposed to catch guard duty there about every four to six weeks.
A Brand New Year - 1954
The other crypto boy and I got the crypto room into operation. We built a table for the room and both of us together did a pretty good job, if I do say so, out of what we had to make it. We got our first message through the crypto room on January 3rd. I worked during the day and the other boy at night until the others got there. I had to stay all night while the other boy was on guard one night, so I just took my sleeping bag down there and slept some.
As of January 5, 1954, I had been on guard one time. I made it pretty good with the Mickey Mouse boots that had insulated rubber inside them and my parka outfit. When my hands got cold I stopped at the guard gate where they had a fire and warmed them. One afternoon one of the Korean houseboys and I got some lumber, put it around the tent, dug some dirt, and piled it up against the lumber to keep the cold air from getting up under the tent and coming through the cracks in the floor. The temperature usually got down to zero or below at night and up to about 20 to 25 during the day. We had had a few light snows since I had been here.
We got messages through for several days saying that the ROK forces were not to have over a day’s food and ammo. The troops were also going through training periods, getting ready for fighting. Corps, divisions, and battalions were getting ready for re-assigned supporting and defending areas. They were going to turn the POW’s loose the 25th of the month. Rhee gave the UN 90 days after the 25th of January or he said he would attack for unification of Korea. It was January 9th and I saw on the company orders that I would be leaving for the States in February. We had a big snow that day and the boys went out and snowballed each other. The snow was about six inches deep.
On the morning of January 15th we had another big snow. It was about five inches deep. The temperature had been down around zero every night. I took some pictures of the snow and the scenery around there. I did not have to stay in the crypto room but about four hours at that time. We got another boy in so I only worked from about 5:30 until about 9 or 9:30.
We heard that Rhee was trying to stir his troops to fight over the POW issue. The United States could hold him back, as they had the upper hand over the supplies. The U.S. said it was going to pull two Divisions out of Korea as there were enough trained ROK troops to take their place.
This 5th ROK Corps was located about 15 miles from the 44th MASH where Clifford O’Dell was stationed. He lived just about a half mile from me in Kodak, Tennessee. It was still very cold with the temperature getting down to zero or below every night. There was still some snow on the ground as the mountains around there were from 4,000 to 5,000 feet high.
The war situation was still about the same on January 22nd. The Reds gave 4,000 missing U.S. servicemen as dead or captured. They said that they died in camps and marches. The UN decided to go ahead and get the POW’s. Rhee gave them until the 26th of April to get it straightened out or he said again that he was going to do it alone. Red planes could come down this valley and hit us easy there. We had an air alert on January 23rd about 5:30 and got in the ditches along the compound. It was a real alert as the radar spotted one on their screen.
By the next week nothing new had happened to the war situation. The weather was very cold with temperatures getting down to -12 below zero a couple of mornings. Three big snows came during this time. One morning the stoves went out when the temperature was down to about 5 above zero outside. It was about 10 to 15 degrees inside the tent. The boys that had to go to work early had to get out of bed in that cold, get their clothes on, and see what was the matter with the stoves. They found out that the oil in the drums outside had gotten so low that it would not run into the stoves and they just went out.
On the first of February they put me in for promotion to Sergeant that month. I would have preferred that they keep the Sergeant rank and let me go home--I couldn’t use a Sergeant stripe in civilian life.
The UN shot down a Red MiG over the west coast on February 4th. Much troop movement was going on along the DMR zone. The 45th Division was due to be rotated back to the States in about six weeks. I was hoping that I might get to go back as they went. Three days later (February 7th), I heard that I was going home. I was supposed to be in Taegu by the 10th of February, on my way home. I had 73 more days in this Army. I finally got it made by getting paid for the first time since I had been up there. I got $68. I was going to go up to the front lines and I was really excited about that as I could have gotten some real pictures that day. but there were not enough boys going so the guy who was going to take us said that he would not take just two of us.
On February 10th I turned all of my clothes in and was ready to leave. It was a really funny feeling to know that it was the last night I would be staying there. We were to leave by truck to Seoul and then by train to Taegu. I bought some films and a gross of rubbers to take back home with me. They cost $2.48. I heard that we were supposed to take some Indian troops back home and were going back by the way of the Suez Canal, which would take about 50 days. I sure hoped that this was just a rumor.
We went down to see the Colonel that afternoon, thinking that he would tell us the advantages of staying in the Army and wanting us to re-up, but he just told me goodbye. He said that he was proud to have had me in this camp and that he wished me luck on my civilian life.
The Big “R”
I cleared the Company office on February 11th and got on the truck about 9 o’clock heading for Seoul, Korea. We had a load of furniture to take to a place in Yongdong-po. Another boy and I rode in the back of the canvas-covered truck. It was raining and very cold as we left the 5th ROK Corps area and drove toward Seoul.
We got in Seoul about dinner and took the furniture down to the place in Yongdong-po and unloaded it. We came back to the 22nd Signal Group, ate, and turned in our bags. Two other boys and I ran around Seoul until dark. We went down to a camp where one of the boys had been stationed while he was there in Seoul. We went back to the train station to see when we would be leaving for Taegu. It was to leave about 11 o’clock, so we just ran around in Seoul until about 10:30. We got on the sleeper train about 11 o’clock and got to bed about 11:30.
We got in Taegu about daybreak on February 12th, got off the train, and got checked in at the Replacement Company after riding there on some trucks that met us at the train station. The weather in Taegu was much warmer than up north. It was down to about 30 that morning. After breakfast we turned in most of our clothes. After I found out that we would not be doing any more processing, I went down to the PX in Taegu that afternoon and ordered about $30 worth of stuff to send home. I got a pair of pajamas for Betty, a baby warm-up jacket for Vickie, a large jacket for Robbie, and a medium warm-up jacket and sports shirt for myself. I bought Mary a pocketbook and got a pretty picture album. That night I went over to the NCO club and drank some until about 11 o’clock.
About 9:30 the next morning I went up to the KMAG headquarters and they took pictures of our Good Conduct ribbons getting pinned on us. That afternoon about 2:30 we went over to a Korean Army building and got our “Kimchi Award”. It was a big paper with Korean flags across the top of the paper talking about the KMSG origin. One side of the paper (the paper was about the size of a diploma you got at the end of high school) was written in English about our time in the KMAG outfit and how it was their honor to have had us helping them out. The other side of the paper was written in Korean, saying it was the honor the Korean Army to have had our help while we were with them. The Korean side was signed by the General of the Korean Army. I enjoyed being in the KMAG organization, what time I was with them toward the end of my tour in Korea. I went over and developed some pictures as we couldn’t get in the Club early because they were having another big “R” party for some other boys. We got in the club about 9:30 and got back to the barracks about 12.
I turned in more clothes on Valentine's Day. They told us that we would be going home by way of the Panama Canal and that we would land in New York about the last of March or the first of April. We had our big dinner that afternoon about 4:30 and that night we had our big “R” party with free champagne and every other drink we wanted to drink. They gave us a cigarette lighter with our name on it and how long we were with the KMAG outfit on the back of it. We were to leave sometime the next day for Yongdong-po.
The next morning we got our things ready and went down to the train station about 9:30. They had a big Korean band telling us bye and lots of the boys’ Korean girls kissing and telling them bye. Some of the boys really looked like they hated to leave the girls. I just laughed at them because I was anxious to get started. We left Taegu about 10:30 and got into Seoul about 5 o’clock in the afternoon. We got on some trucks and they took us to Ascom City just outside Inchon. We got in some warm barracks about 7:30. We ate supper and after supper located about five or six boys that I had gone through Company 18 in Camp Gordon, Georgia with in another barracks just beside the one we were assigned.
The next few days we processed for our trip back to the States. We turned in clothes and were issued more, got shoes fitted, and had stripes and patches sewed on our uniforms. I was assigned to a barracks and got a meal card to have to keep up with again. I met a boy that went with us from Knoxville to Fort Jackson, South Carolina when I first came in the Army. We had been running around together ever since we got together. We heard speeches and got our shot records fixed up. We went to a Service Club one night and heard a very good “Hilly-billy band” after supper. It sure was good.
Late one afternoon I went to the PX and waited about two hours to get in so I could buy a set of silverware for $10.50. It sure was a pretty set and well worth the waiting and money to get it. February 21st was supposed to be my last day in Korea. The night before, I went over to the barracks where a boy came through Company 18 with me. He had some whiskey and wanted me to drink some of it. I took about three or four good swallows and just after I got in bed because it made me sick. I was sick most of the night and kept some of the boys awake. They asked me if I had got a hold of some Korean whiskey. I told them that I didn’t think so, but if I lived until the next morning I was going to find out. That was the sickest I had ever been so far in my life. That morning I went back over to the barracks to see that boy and found out it was American bonded whiskey. He wanted to know if wanted some more and I sure told him “No!” I had to clean the mess up that I made the night before, and that almost made me sick again just smelling it.
I saw on the bulletin board where I was to get out of the army in Fort Knox, Kentucky. That afternoon we had a shakeup of our things to see if we had any guns and drugs that we were trying to take back to the States. I had my gross of rubbers laying on top of my stuff. The boys thought he would say something to me about having them, but he didn't. They laughed at me about it. After the inspection they came around wanting to know what I would take for some of them. I just laughed at them.
Free at Last
We got up about 6 o'clock on February 22, ate breakfast, and turned in our bedding. We ate dinner about 11:30 and then we lined up about 12:30 to load the trucks for Inchon harbor. About 2 o’clock we got on the trucks and pulled out for Inchon with everyone hollering bye to everybody. We got there in about an hour and lined up on the harbor shores with life jackets on. In a few minutes we started getting on the LSTs and went out toward the ship anchored out in the harbor. Some of our boys were already there on the ship getting everything ready for us. It was kind of scary riding the LSTs out to the ship as they were just out of the water.
We got off the LSTs onto a platform built on the water and from there we walked up the ladder to the ship, getting our meal card and carrying our bags in our hands. We ate supper after we got the bunks picked out that we wanted to have all the way home. I learned the names of some of the boys around me. Hashberger (the boy who went from Knoxville to South Carolina with me as I came in the Army in 1952) was sleeping just over me. A boy from just outside of Nashville who was in the same basic company with me in Georgia was just at the side of me. Some wanted the top bunks because it was cleaner (so they said). Others wanted the bottom bunks because it was cooler and rode better (so they said). But most of us didn’t care which we got, so long as it was a bunk. Then, almost everyone went topside to bid farewell to “Frozen Chosen.”
Every known remedy for sea-sickness was tried by some of the boys--and some new ones, too. I made it okay this time even though the weather was a bit rough as we got past the island of Japan and out into the Pacific Ocean. The sick boys were sure they would get their sea legs sooner or later—but how much later? Before most of them had a chance to feel sorry for themselves, duties were assigned. They became busy at K.P., guard, and deck details of cleaning.
After a few days out in the Pacific Ocean, the weather began to get warmer. As the weather grew warmer, we all buried our overcoats in the bottom of our duffle bag. The next relief from the warm weather was the shedding of fatigue jackets, for which we were very thankful and willing to do. A lot of the boys wished they hadn’t after they got blistered by the sun and had to go to the ship doctor and get something done about it. The boy that slept beside me had some blisters on his back almost as big as the palm of my hand. He was in real misery about sleeping at night.
We spent days on the deck sunbathing, playing cards, writing letters, playing checkers or chess, or just plain “shooting the bull”. Our conversations were all inclusive—girls, baseball, girls, world affairs, girls, war stories, girls. Not that our minds ran in one channel, mind you, but we had been away from girls for so long and the only women we had seen recently were on the movie screen or in magazines. Speaking of reading, pocket books were the main source of our reading material, along with the “Homeward Herald” (ship paper) supplied to us with an everyday account of travel and goings on in the world. All of that was quite welcome.
Some of the musically-inclined boys of the “hillbilly type” got together and formed a couple of bands. They were really “number one” to us hillbilly types. Daily movies were well-appreciated, and the bingo parties with some elegant prizes for the winners were loads of fun after supper each night.
It might be well to point out that we will never forget those fire and abandon ship drills. They always seemed to come right in the middle of a good book or one of our interesting past-times. It was a bit rough reacquainting ourselves with maneuvering those life jackets again for the first couple of times, but after that we were right back in stride once more.
Some of us never did catch up on that setting the clocks ahead one hour. It seemed that we lost an hour almost every other night in the week. As far as figuring out what time it was back in Korea, or what time it was in the States, most of us gave up completely. Then, as if to throw us in an entire state of confusion in regards to the time, we crossed the International Date Line on March 3rd, thereby regaining the day we had lost going over.
As time marched on, though at times it seemed to be dragging its feet, we saw our first stop on the horizon—the Hawaiian islands. We had heard quite a bit about the “cross-roads of the Pacific”, with its pineapples, hula girls, grass skirts, and palm trees. There at the pier waiting for us were some of those hula girls with grass skirts. Making a way to the edge of the ship to see the sight was a mighty hard struggle and shoving problem. Everyone that could see them really enjoyed the fine show that they put on for us.
A day among the people of Hawaii, coupled with the stateside atmosphere, was a thrill to all of us. Souvenirs were bought, good meals were eaten, and post cards were written--many with the theme, “It won’t be long now, Mom”, or “getting closer and closer to home, Sweetheart.” As midnight approached and our passes expired, we re-boarded the Ballou, sad to leave the Paradise of the Pacific, but glad to get started again toward home.
As we sailed out of the harbor, all aboard were up on deck looking back to the town and thinking we would never forget this island in the Pacific. We settled back for about two more weeks of traveling before we would get to the Panama Canal. We had heard that we were going to get rid of the Puerto Ricans aboard at the Canal, thereby cutting our traveling time by two days getting to the States. That rumor came true and, boy, were we ever glad as they had started getting on our nerves and several fights had broken out aboard the ship over them. The water was very calm, just like a piece of glass. We could hardly tell the ship was moving in the water.
We pulled into Panama Canal just about dark on the 22nd of March, covering 9,303 miles from Inchon, Korea. It was 4,511 miles from Inchon, Korea to the Hawaiian islands. We were greeted by the post band, which furnished us with an appropriate assortment of rumbas, sambas, and mambos. We got off the ship for about 12 hours, spending our time at the post PX and stretching our legs as many of the boys looked longingly cross the bay to Balboa and Panama City.
On the morning of March 23rd, the ship took on about 25 cars that the GI’s had on the post, taking them back to the States. It was a real interesting sight to see them loading the cars down into the ship. (I have pictures of this operation.) The motors of the ship started the ship to moving in the afternoon of that day and we moved into the locks on the western side of the Pacific into the Panama Canal. Everyone aboard was out with all kinds of cameras taking pictures of the locks and the scenery of the canal. We were given maps of the canal telling how it was operated and the path through the canal. It was very interesting to follow our voyage through the canal by our maps. Dark got us about halfway through the canal.
During the next six days we traveled up the Atlantic coast from the Panama Canal to New York. We encountered pretty weather for the first three days. After that the weather changed to cold and the waves grew high, making some of the boys feel bad again. We dug our OD uniform out of the bottom of the duffle bag on the night of March 28th. We were told that we would get to the harbor of New York about midnight of March 28th.
The next day, March 29th, we docked at the docks on New York side, getting off the ship about 2 o’clock that afternoon. We were put aboard a ferry, taken across the river to the New Jersey side of the river, put aboard a train, and taken to Fort Dix. We were given a good meal about 4:30 that afternoon and put on a train about 10 o’clock that night to take the boys that were getting out at Fort Knox, Kentucky, to Indianapolis, Indiana. The trip from Inchon, Korea to New York in the U.S. was 11,327 miles. The travel from New Jersey to Fort Knox took all the next day, getting there about dark that afternoon. It was a nice, wonderful trip across the States.
The next few days were spent getting our records straightened out to be processed out of the Army by getting separation papers. We were to be assigned to a Reserve unit for six years. The day before we were to be given our release we were called down to a building where a Captain tried to get each one to stay in the Army. The Captain told me that if I would re-up I would be assigned to the office of the Army in my home town. I told him that I might look like an idiot, but I was not. I told him that I was getting out of this chicken-shit outfit. He didn’t like that statement much, but there wasn’t much he could do about it.
Betty, my wife, and my uncle came after me the next day. I was “free at last” on the afternoon of April 6, 1954. All of a sudden, there I was, having to make my own decisions as to when to get up, when to eat, what to do, and when to do it. I took a month off before going back to work. I just wanted to travel around and get used to not having someone on my back all the time. I had to teach my little 18-month old girl, whom I hadn't seen since she was five days old, who her daddy was. When I asked her about me, she would go and get a picture of me and tell me that that was her daddy.
Life After Korea
I really did not have any trouble getting back into the stream of civilian life. Even though I knew that I could have my old job working in the knitting mill if I wanted to do the same thing that I had been doing when I went into the Army, I wanted to better myself. So I got a job with A&P Tea Company in Knoxville about the middle of May 1954. I drove to Knoxville a while before getting a house in South Knoxville close to where I worked. I stayed in that job for 26 years until they pulled out of Knoxville. From there I went to an independent grocery store in West Knoxville and worked another ten years before retiring on December 9, 1989, at the age of 62 years. I was assistant manager at the A&P store for 14 of those 26 years, and assistant manager for the ten years that I worked at the independent store.
As mentioned earlier in this memoir, our first daughter Vickie was born five days before I left home for Korea. She was born on November 18, 1952 and I left home going to Korea on November 23, 1952, not seeing my daughter until 18 months later. In November of 1955 we were blessed with another girl, Debbie. Years passed by and the girls went to school. During the years that our girls grew up, my wife Betty worked for the Standard Knitting Mill for 33 years until they closed up. She then got a job at a nursing home close to where we live and worked there until she retired in 1993.
Our first girl graduated from South High School in Knoxville in 1970, and the youngest one graduated from South High School in 1973. Vickie went to college at Tennessee Temple College in Chattanooga, Tennessee, graduated four years later, and taught school for a few years. She quit teaching and got a job with Scrugg's Restaurant Company, selling and servicing equipment they sold. Debbie didn't want to go to college, so she trained for a nursing job in Knoxville. She later went to the Methodist Medical Hospital in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, working in the operating room for 17 years. Between our two daughters we have three grandsons and two granddaughters.
During our retirement years we did a little traveling around. I went to Colorado two times on big game hunts. For many years during the Fall, I went to my brother-in-law's in Virginia for deer and turkey hunting, as well as Spring turkey hunting. Now I mow the yard in the summer months, get out and walk each day (weather permitting), do the grocery shopping, and travel to see our daughters--one in Huntsville, Texas, and the other one in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I also help my bee buddy in West Knoxville take care of his bees such as moving, feeding, and robbing them. During all those years, Betty and I have both been very lucky about not having any sickness that put us in the hospital. We have the Lord to thank for that.
Going to Korea made me appreciate home even more and my family back here while I was gone. I came back without a scratch, thank the Lord, but my wife said that I was even more bitter when I came back than when I left going over there. I was bitter about having to go when others here were getting out of going due to having a child. We were expecting one even before I was drafted and they knew that, but that didn't stop them from taking me away. Now after getting back safe, I wouldn't take anything for the learning and experiences that I got while over there. No money could have paid for what I saw.
I do think that the United States should have sent troops to Korea due to the fact that they had a treaty with the South Korean government going back to the end of the last war to come to their defense if needed. There should not have been two Koreas--North and South. This line was formed for the United States and Russia to get the foreign troops out of the areas. North and South Korea was then to be formed into one Korea. Russia and China saw to it that that didn't happen and put their own people in rule in North Korea.
I was for MacArthur going across the 38th parallel. I was for him even to win the "police action" or "conflict" and unite the whole country, but at that time politicians had already made up their minds that that was not going to happen. They got rid of the one that was causing them trouble--MacArthur, best Army General of all times.
Getting rid of MacArthur was the first mistake that the United Nations/United States made during the Korean War. The second mistake was not keeping a bigger standing army after World War II to use at the start of the invasion of South Korea by North Korea. The biggest mistake was not letting the Army generals run the show instead of the Washington politicians who were wanting to make a name for themselves. In fact, while I was working there in crypto in the 8th Army Headquarters, I read reports from the U.S. Marines on the frontline that they had to build a bunker made of heavy logs and dirt several feet thick (only a direct hit would have damaged it) for Washington "big shots" visiting to have a frontline view of the fighting. U.S. troops were ordered to attack a hill that the Chinese and North Korean troops held to show the "big shots" how the fighting was carried out. It's hard telling just how many of our boys gave their lives or got wounded just to show the "big shots" from Washington a stage-show there on the Korean hillside.
I think that the U.S. should still have troops in Korea because it was just an "armistice" that was signed, not a peace treaty. It's now over 60 years later, troops are still there, and still no peace treaty has been signed. At this time they are still talking peace terms, but I think that just talk is all that is going to come of it unless the United States President offers them the "sky" just to sign some terms before he leaves office.
When I was over in Korea, I read and heard reports about the shooting of civilians by American troops who believed that the enemy had infiltrated in a group of civilians at a place called Nogun-ri. What would you have done if, seeing civilians--women (they thought), children, and papasans coming down a road toward a roadblock, you sent a soldier out there to stop them to check them out, and he got killed by one of those "papasans" in those baggy drawers, pulling out a burp gun and just mowing him down. It's now you or them. Who wants to live the worst? You now find out that some of the children are armed with hand grenades and so-called "papasans" are actually Chinese and North Korean soldiers dressed that way to try to get through the UN/US lines. Many civilians were killed by bridge-blowings, too. When Chinese and North Korean troops moved south from Seoul, U.S. troopers set charges to blow up the bridge to stop them. Civilians kept coming across the bridge while U.S. troops were trying to stop them and blow up the bridge. Why don't the politicians say anything about all the civilians that were killed in the Balkans by UN/US forces about ten years ago?
Crypto in Korea
As I mentioned in the Basic Training section of this memoir, crypto was the first thing that I seemed not interested in for advanced training. I had two other things that I thought I might like to receive training for service over there in Korea. Crypto was the last one that I put down at that time, not knowing what it was. The person that was looking at my records and test scores recommended that I take crypto training. He said that I had made good enough scores to pass the training and my life's history looked good enough to get the FBI's clearance to take the course. We had to first have a "secret" clearance to even start training for Crypto. After I was in Korea for about three months I got a "Top Secret and Personal For" clearance. I helped the Embassy worker from Washington D.C. send messages back to Washington from the peace talks going on toward the last of the war. I helped him break the messages he received from Washington. I also learned, after being over there in Korea that those Army test scores were a lot more important than I thought they were at the time I was taking the tests. I still tried to make the best that I could when I was taking them, not really knowing how important they were going to be to me later on. I was told after the test scores that if I had made just two more points I could have gone to Officers Candidate School (OCS). OCS was not for me.
I pen pal to some of my old Army buddies that I have found or already knew where they were located. Ones that I worked with in Korea and now have found include:
Ones that I would like to know of their whereabouts include:
I got a report from Army records at St. Louis that Billy Swindle died back in 1994. I was really wanting to find out if he had any living relatives and, if so, I have a tape with his voice on it that was made in Korea at the time he was working with us in the 304th operations, working in the 8th Army Headquarters. I would make a tape off of the one that I have and send it to them if located.
The Korean War carries the nickname "the Forgotten War" because it was the first war that the United States lost. When you lose something and can't get it back, you try to forget it, no matter what you had to pay for it. Boys coming back had no parades, no honors given out, no newspaper reports about them coming home, no TV shows. It was just "get them out of the Army and back in civilian life and just forget about what happened over there. We just made a mistake, so forget about it."
I hope that if a student or someone else reads this memoir they will not forget the "Forgotten Soldiers of the Forgotten War". I've told my children about my time in Korea because I didn't want them to forget them. I have told them just about all that went on during the conflict over there in Korea. My youngest girl was the most interested in what went on while I was over there. She wasn't born at that time in history making.
Another reason that the Korean War is called the Forgotten War has to do with the missing in action that are still missing. At the time of this writing, 47 years since the ending of the "police action" in Korea, there are around 8,000 missing in action personnel. At the start they said that there were around 8,100 missing. That sure doesn't sound like the government is doing a sufficient job locating them--100 found in 47 years. There have been many more than that located in the Vietnam War.
World War II veterans had more respect and appreciation than we Korean War veterans got, but they were in a world war. There was more at stake to win or lose. Korean War veterans were just in a so-called "police action" or "conflict"--just one spot on the world. I will say, though, that the Korean action--war as it's sometimes called--has been the longest war in the world. No peace treaty has been signed yet. War still exists between South Korea and North Korea.
How Political Parties Operate
Serving in the Army showed me how both political parties in the United States operate and make the policies for this nation and even for the world. I was against Truman getting rid of MacArthur. Then there came Ike to Korea saying, "Elect me President and I will end the war in Korea." With that promise to the people of the United States, especially U.S. troops in Korea, coming home soon was just right up their alley. When China forced the UN/US to sign the Armistice agreement, we were right back where the South Koreans were at the start of the conflict. We now had a U.S. general as President of the United States that was afraid to do anything to upset the apple cart.
People need to find out about the "big lie" that was told over there in Korea in 1951 during the first heavy fighting. Really, just who was the Big Liar? What about the AAA Battalion getting wiped out to the last man on the night of June 26th in the Kumwha Valley area? How did that happen and why hasn't the US public been told about it even now? Next, why was the original date set for the Armistice signing put off for another week? A real interesting outcome brought that on.
Technical Terms & Abbreviations
Following are technical terms and abbreviations that were used at the 8th Army Crypto Headquarters in Seoul, Korea:
Ships of Task Force 77
Following are names of ships in Task Force 77 used in Korean waters:
Carrier Ships and Their Escorts
All of these ships mentioned were supported by numerous supply, cargo, minesweepers, layers, oil tankers, LSTs, and support ships.
Methods of Fighting, Operations, and Where They Were Used in Korea
"The Mayor of Wonsan" -
"Ulcer Gulch" -
"Tin Pan Alley" -
"T-Bone Hill" -
"Shooting Gallery" -
"Outpost Texas" -
"Operation Yo Yo" -
"Operation Thunderbolt" -
"Operation Strangle" -
"Operation Roundup" -
"Operation No-Doze" -
"Operation Little Switch" -
"Operation Killer" -
"Operation Kick-Off" -
"Operation Firefly" -
"Operation Fireball" -
"Operation Common Knowledge" -
"Old Baldy" -
"No-Name" Ridge -
"Moonlight Sonata" -
"Mighty Mouse" -
"MiG Alley" -
"Lamp Lighters" -
"Iron Triangle" -
"Ink Spots" -
"Death Valley" -
"Chicken Stealer" -
"Carlson’s Canyon or Bridge of Toko-Ri" -
"Package & Derails" -
"Bed-check Charlies" -
"Battle of the Buzz Saw" -
"Arsenal Hill" -
"Anchor Hill or Anchor Valley" -
"Chinese Horsemen" -
Articles from the Pacific Stars and Stripes (Korean Edition) - 1953
Peace Signed/Atmosphere Tense
At Panmunjom the day truce was to be signed there was probably no UN unit more and yet less obstructive perhaps than the 304th. As at all events of the world's importance than that of those working behind the scenes contributed in considerable measure to the smoothness of the operation; and among those diligently pursuing their jobs in the flurry of an international gathering were our camera and sound-recording men, our teletype, crypto, power-men, and others on temporary duty with the Censor's Office.
That Monday morning, Truce Day, July 27, 1953, everyone at Munsan, whether he was to go to the signing or not, rolled out early in the anticipation of an active most certainly a busier-than-usual day. At the Provisional Camp at Munsan, reporters and GIs rammed down hasty breakfasts and hurried out to jostle for places on the buses then lining up in the convoy. But once aboard they usually found themselves involved in that second and least pleasant phase of the "hurry up and wait" routine. Waiting didn't diminish the feeling of excitement, however. A cigarette or two and a little idle chatter only served to pass the time. It didn't get rid of that feeling of something extraordinary that was to come. Even those correspondents who had covered the negotiations from the beginning looked expectant, perhaps as persons who have followed an exasperating task to the point of exhaustion still manage to exert the necessary strength to see it to a conclusion.
Once on the road we settled down to watching scenery. A few civilian movie men might be seen leaning out their windows as we rounded a curve--getting some footage of the convoy or sometimes "shooting" a strip of the countryside itself. When we passed military installations by the roadside we would be closely scrutinized; for now, at least, the men had nothing more to do than to stare. They were waiting for the cease fire and apparently felt no qualms about taking that day off.
Somewhere after crossing the new Imjin River bridge the MPs checked us. A few miles beyond we passed a sign saying "M.L.R." The road was narrower from that point on and our bus scraped the leaves off trees in passing. Someone said, "I wouldn't feel safe on this road at night even after they sign a truce." Judging from the thick foliage and closeness of the trees, that remark might have been justified.
Panmunjom, when we came in sight of it, seemed to lie in the center of a flatland with valleys extending to east and west and hills rising from the valleys. Far off eastward we could see the orange and white balloon marking the end of neutral territory on that side. A helicopter was landing near the complex of tents nearest us as we came up from the south--that would be the UN campsite, of course.
MPs stopped us again before we entered the encampment looking for any weapons we might be carrying. The driver of our bus handed the guard his carbine. The rest of us had left our weapons at Munsan as we were ordered.
Photographers, both military and civilian, were already at work in the area. Most of them showed great interest in the Communist guards and Communist correspondents, crossing over at once to the northern half of the area to take pictures of them. There seemed to be no end of glaring back and forth, especially with the guards, but there was no incident. In their baggy trousers and box-like caps the Communist guards made a rather shabby (but, no doubt, sufficiently proletarian) appearance. The Communist pressmen stood out as the only civilians in the village. (UN correspondents regularly wear a species of military uniform.)
Inside the hall of the signing there were other curiosity seekers besides officials preparing for the ceremony. Newsreel and still cameras were being set up to record the actual signing. Things began to assume a more militarized appearance as dignitaries began to arrive and honor guards had been formed outside the entrance to the signing hall. As though to emphasize the need for this armistice, big guns somewhere west of the neutral zone began a sudden barrage. It came just before the time of signing--a kind of reminder.
The American news agencies set up a news-pooling arrangement to facilitate transmission of their "copy" to Tokyo. A single, continuous, telephoned bulletin covered the arrivals of the principal signatories, their entrance into the hall, their signing, and their departure. At the same time (and continuing for several hours) there was teletype and telephonic service on individual articles. The Press tents buzzed with activity well after the tie of signing.
The event itself was concluded so quickly that, to some at least, it must have been disappointing. The helicopter bringing the UN high officials hardly seemed to have arrived when it was again in the air and everything had been completed. Those who had come with anticipation of seeing some lengthy political drama felt they had hardly reached the point of anticlimax.
By noon almost everybody who had no more business at Panmunjom was on the way out. The reporters hurried along as usual hoping not to miss anything having to do with the Supreme Commander's signing of the truce terms at Munsan Base Camp in the afternoon. But our bus driver, a stoic fellow, took the same speed as coming up, stopped for his carbine on the way south. We on the bus relaxed; our disappointment at the briefness of the ceremony was balanced by our relief at knowing the firing would end in a few hours.
The same GIs who had watched us as we came up now watched us go back, their expressions seemed to indicate vaguely that they might be satisfied with what had been done by the peacemakers.
That day that peace was signed I received the message through the crypto room and relayed it on to the 7th Army Headquarters. We were all joyful over the event. Lots of the boys got dog-drunk. We saw flashes of fire from the big guns and rumble until about 10 o'clock, when the end of the firing was to stop. There is now a three-mile demilitarized zone between the UN and the Chinese Reds.
Staff Aides Rush Details of Truce
Panmunjom, Korea, July 21 - Two groups of Allied and Communist staff officers met at 10 a.m. in Panmunjom's truce hut today presumably to iron out the details remaining before an armistice an be signed. The two United Nations staff teams pushing toward peace were headed by Marine Colonel James C. Murray and Air Force Colonel Douglas M. Cairns.
Both groups met with their Communist counterparts to continue in secret staff meetings that started yesterday following the Communist decision to resume armistice discussions in return for a series of American guarantees that South Korea would abide by the truce.
Communist Laborers pushed ahead with construction of a large T-shaped wooden building that dwarfed any other structure in the Panmunjom neutral zone. The Reds resumed work on the structure yesterday and worked through the night by the light of American floodlights erected for them. North Korean workmen also were building a broad road leading off the main highway to the building.
Yesterday five teams of Allied and Communist officers held 10 truce meetings at Panmunjom in perhaps the busiest day of negotiations in the two-year history of the talks. Today, July 21, 1953, the Allied and Communist liaison officers met for 32 minutes at the Panmunjom conference site, but no announcement was made after the secret session. It is the liaison officers who arrange top-level meetings.
U.N., Red Armistice Overseers Stand By
Swiss, Swedish Negotiators await call to Peace Site
Tokyo, Japan, July 21st - Members of the Swiss and Swedish teams of the neutral nations supervisory commission today awaited an alert signaling the start of their ticklish task in Korea, but said "all we know is what we read in the newspapers."
Major B.A.J. Berglund, Swedish press officer, said Brig. Gen. Nils Ingvarsson, military head of the Scandinavian team, and Col. Divionaire Freiedrich Rihner, commanding the Swiss team, are in constant telephone contact with Far East Command headquarters. "There has been no break in the high command's silence regarding the truce situation," Berlund said. Both groups expressed mild surprise that a warning to prepare for the short jump to Korea had not yet been sounded.
Maj. Max Reimann, spokesman for the Swiss team, revealed that a second contingent, still in Switzerland, had not been alerted to leave for the Far East. This group, which will bring the total strength of the team up to about 80, is composed mostly of enlisted specialists, Reimann said. It is believed this group will depart when the date for signing the armistice is announced, he said.
Both offices said there has been no contact with the Polish and Czech teams, but "we understand they are in Peiping." Berglund said an advance detail probably would be sent to Korean ports of entity and to Panmunjom "to observe" and pave the way for the main party.
Meanwhile, with one ear cocked for "the word", the Scandinavians and Swiss are continuing activities scheduled for the week. The Swedes, who came from different army camps and have not worked together before, will get acquainted among themselves at a reception this afternoon. The Swiss plan a tour of the U.S. Naval Base at Tokosuka. Both are continuing morning classes at the Army Education Center.
Communists Say Czech, Polish Truce Teams in Peiping
Tokyo, Japan, July 21st - The Red China radio in Peiping said tonight Polish and Czechoslovakian representatives who will supervise an armistice in Korea have arrived in the China capital of Peiping. The broadcast, heard in Tokyo, said the two groups arrived separately. The two groups will participate on the neutral nations supervisory commission" which will police the armistice.
The broadcast said the Polish and Czechoslovakian delegates were met at the Peiping airfield by the chief of protocol of the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs, the Czech and Polish ambassadors to China, and representatives of the North Korean embassy in Peiping.
India Reluctance May Hinder Truce
Nehru demands protection for troops before accepting neutral role
July 21, 1953 - The reported reluctance of India to enter on its neutral role in Korea through a "back door" today threatened to raise last-minute difficulties in achieving a Korean truce. Sources in the Indian delegation to the United Nations say Prime Minister Jawaharial Nehru is demanding that Indian troops be protected against any attacks by South Koreans--civilians or military. He is said to have asked the United States for specific assurances that South Korean President Syngman Rhee has agreed to the presence of Indian troops despite his bitter attacks in the past on India's government.
On the other hand, these sources also say that the Nehru government would look unfavorably on any procedure calling on an island off the mainland or in the demilitarized zone to be established above the 38th parallel. One Indian source went so far as to say that Nehru even might have some "second thoughts" about India's serving as a member of the neutral armistice commission if the unified command advanced such a plan calling for Indian force "to go furtively into Korea by the back door".
India's attitude served to make the already wary U.N. diplomats even more cautious about throwing their hats in the air over the Communists expressed willingness to sign an armistice. India previously pledged 5,000 troops, armed with "Police" weapons, to help supervise the handling of balky PWs under the direction of a neutral commission composed of Sweden, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia and Poland as well as India.
200 Reds Swarm Over Hut Project
Panmunjom, Korea, July 21st - Maybe the North Koreans can't build skyscrapers, but they know how to throw a frame building together in a hurry. The Panmunjom truce hut--sometimes called the Panmunjom truce barometer--burst into shape here yesterday almost within minutes. About 200 Red workmen--boysans to papasans--sent the building skyward with wooden hammers and muscles and worked throughout the day as Communists mortar shells dropped on friendly positions about 1,000 yards southward.
At 7:30 yesterday morning, there was nothing but the crude foundation, which had been there for weeks. Before noon arrived, the blue-clad, sweating Reds had put up the frames for the walls and were working on the heavy timbered roof supports, in preparation to swing them into position with a derrick made of two wired-together telephone poles.
The Red workmen almost filled the interior of the approximately 35 by 34-yard building as they swiftly put the structure together with ancient tools and sheer power. The hut, which will be the biggest building here when completed, is presumed to be the one in which the truce-signing ceremonies will take place. At least, it will probably house some of the many truce commissions that will work here when and if peace comes.
At any rate, its sudden rise toward the sky has spurred hopes for a quick signing, especially since the construction job flared up on the heels of the Red's announcement that they were ready to talk truce business.
ROKs Fight to Retake Vital Hill