Korean War Legacy Project

Albert R. Sayles


Albert Sayles was drafted into the United States Army and served with the 6th Tank Battalion in Japan during the Korean War. He recounts his infantry and tank training experiences on both the home front as well as at the base of Mt. Fuji. He recalls his living conditions while in Japan, a surgery he underwent during his time there, and a tragic accident–the Tachikawa Air Disaster–which took place during his recovery period following surgery. He describes his return home which consisted of no reception and how he took advantage of the GI Bill, utilizing the funding to attend Community College. He is proud of his service as he feels it had a positive impact on his life and is glad the U.S. offered assistance.

Video Clips

Japan: Living Conditions and the Tachikawa Air Disaster

Albert Sayles offers an account of his time spent in Japan training with the 6th Tank Battalion of the 24th Division at the base of Mt. Fuji. He describes his living conditions and the cold winter he and others endured. He recalls a tragic accident known as the Tachikawa Air Disaster which took place while he was stationed there, killing one hundred twenty-nine servicemen who were returning to Korea following R and R in Japan. He shares that the images of the bodies lined in the hangar and thoughts of how quickly their lives ended are with him even today.

Tags: Living conditions,Physical destruction,Rest and Relaxation (R&R)

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Tank Training

Albert Sayles recounts being drafted into the Army and the training he was provided. He shares that after infantry training he chose to proceed with tank training. He recalls spending eight weeks learning all five positions in the M4 Sherman tank and elaborates on the changes made to the weapons on the tank between WW2 and the Korean War.

Tags: Basic training,Home front,Weapons

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GI Bill Benefits

Albert Sayles recalls receiving GI Bill benefits of $600 to attend Hagerstown Community College upon his return. He describes working for the post office while also attending accounting courses. He adds his thoughts on how wonderful the GI Bill was at the time and the opportunities it provided.

Tags: Civilians,Home front,Pride

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Impact of Service

Albert Sayles recounts returning home, stepping off the bus, and not a word being said to him regarding his service. He emphasizes that he simply went back to work and shares his thoughts on why the war was not a topic of conversation on the home front. He acknowledges that his service had a positive impact on his life and is glad the Korean people are appreciative of American efforts.

Tags: Civilians,Home front,Pride

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of Transcribed Material]

A:        My name is Albert Richard Sayles. Uh, July l9th,

I:          Um hm.

A:        1930. I was born in Washington County Hospital, Hagarstown, Maryland.  I was the only child.

I:          Only child.
A:        My dau, uh, my sister, I didn’t know it till I was about six years old

I:          Um hm.

A:        died at birth.  I went to, uh, well, all the schools in Hagarstown, uh, Broadway, wait a minute. Uh, Wayside, Broadway, Woonyn Way and then Hagarstown High School which is no longer here.



I:          So, when did you graduate the high school?
A:        Nineteen forty-eight.

I:          Uh huh.  And what did you do after your graduation?
A:        When I graduated, I went to work, uh, I was 1A in the draft.  So, it was hard to find a job.

I:          Uh huh.

A:        So, my father worked at MP Moellers.

I:          What is that?

A:        That’s in Hagarstown.  It was a pipe organ.

I:          Pipe organ.

A:        Largest, largest pipe organ, uh, factory in the world.



I:          Uh.

A:        At that time.  And uh, he could get

I:          What, what is the name?
A:        Moeller Organ

I:          M

A:        How do you spell that?  I don’t know.

Male Voice:  Moeller.

I:          Moeller.

A:        Uh huh.

I:          That’s German?

A:        Yes, I believe it was, yes, uh huh.  They had pipe organs.  They, we had, churches were all over the country.

I:          Ah.

A:        We did them for West Point and Annapolis while I was there.



So, I worked there till I was, uh, 21.

I:          Um hm.

A:        Then I was drafted.  So, I went in the service in September

I:          When did you, when were you drafted?

A:        September 25th, 1951.

I:          Um.  To Army?

A:        Army.  I went down to Fort Meade where I got processed

I:          Uh huh.

A:        Then they sent me to Fort Knox, Kentucky.



I:          Uh huh.

A:        where I took eight weeks Infantry training

I:          Um hm.

A:        And after eight weeks, they take you over to a conference room, and they gave me, uh, choices of what I wanted to do.

I:          Um hm.

A:        And they said you could either be in the Infantry, Airborne, tanks or go to Leadership school.

I:          Um hm.

A:        So, I said I’m here, so I might as well stay in the tanks.

I:          Okay. So, you got the training for tank?
A:        Right.

I:          For eight weeks?

A:        Right.

I:          What kind of training was it?



A:        Well, you learn everything about the tanks, you know.  You learn to drive them, fire the gun. You learn ev, all five positions.  There’s five positions in the M4 tank.  So, we had to learn all five positions.

I:          Uh huh.  How was it?

A:        Pardon?
I:          How was it, interesting or hard?
A:        Well, it was, it’s interesting.  But like I say, I’d only had 3” of armor.  And any bazooka shell or anything would go right through it.

I:          Whoa.



A:        So, it was, uh, they built 40,000 of them during World War II.

I:          What, what, what was the name of the tank, model?

A:        M4.

I:          M4?

A:        Sherman.

I:          M4 Sherman.

A:        Right.  And we had well, they had 75 mm on them then.  But when I got, well I’ll go on later on.

I:          Go ahead.

A:        Well, when I, uh, got shipped overseas

I:          Yeah

A:        Uh, they had 76’s on them.  So that was one caliber higher.  It was a more powerful gun.  So that’s what we had overseas.



I:          Same M4?

A:        Right.

I:          Same M4, but it’s bigger.

A:        And they had a bigger, or, company to Europe.

I:          Uh huh.
A:        Cause you know, tanks were mostly in Europe when Korea was mostly Infantry.

I:          Uh huh.

A:        So, there was 13 of us that we didn’t know where we were going till about a week later and they said well, you’re going to Leadership school.

I:          Oh.

A:        So, we knew once you went to Leadership school, you went to the Far East.

I:          Um hm.  Where did you have the Leadership school?


A:        That was in Fort Knox.

I:          There?

A:        And after I went to Leadership school,

I:          Um hm.

A:        They kept me there as Cadre.

I:          Um.

A:        So, I, well I got, wait.  I’ll back up a little bit. In April we got married.  So, I thought we’d, they said you’ll probably stay

I:          1952.

A:        Right.  April, what is it, 18th?  April 18th, ’52.  And uh



Let’s see. I came home in July for a week’s leave.  I got back, and our orders were there for the Far East, for all 13 of us.  So, they told me to report to Seattle, Washington.

I:          Um hm.

A:        In September.

I:          Um hm.

A:        So I, you get your orders in those days, I, I went by myself.  They gave me my orders, said you report there.  So, I reported there in Seattle, and that’s where we spent I guess a week until they processed you.



Then they shipped us out to Japan.

I:          Do you remember when you left for Japan?

A:        Uh, it was in, let’s see.

I:          Last week of September?

A:        September, yeah.

I:          Yeah, yeah.

A:        First part of September because I got over in Japan in September.

I:          Um hm.  So, did you know that you going to go to Korean War?

A:        Yes.

I:          You knew that?

A:        Oh yes.



I:          How did you feel about it?

A:        Oh well, we had to serve our country.  And I didn’t know much about, I didn’t even know where Korea was at the time.  But we had to serve our country.  And so, I, in fact, I had a trick knee from playing football.  And I, if I’d have told them, they’d probably wouldn’t have take me.  But I wanted to go.  In those days, we, I was supposed to go with a group of, I lived in a county, in Hagarstown, here.  And the group of guys I ran around with were in Hagarstown.



So, I went down to the draft board and put my name at the top of the list.  I heard they were going in September.  They called seven from the county, and I never did get with them.  They came later.

I:          I see.

A:        Yeah.

I:          Were you not afraid to be in the War?
A:        No.  Well, you had to serve your country.  My dad, my father, I didn’t tell you about this.  He was in World War I.

I:          Uh huh.

A:        He was in the Argonne Forest.

I:          Um.

A:        He was with the uh, National Guard from Hagarstown.

I:          Um hm.

A:        Twenty-ninth Division.  And they went to uh, France.



And he was in the Argonne Forest.  And uh, he got gassed.

I:          Ooo.

A:        So, uh, from then on, he didn’t talk too much about it.  But I just listened to him, like my uncle would come in, and they’d talk different things about it you know.  But like I said, uh, my daughter, I mean uh, my sister was born in or, and she died or I wouldn’t have been here.

I:          Yeah.  So how long did you stay in Japan?



A:        One year.

I:          One year.

A:        Right.

I:          So, you didn’t go directly to Korea.

A:        No.

I:          Oh.

A:        We went to Camp Drake, and that’s where they processed you.

I:          Yeah.

A:        And I got with the Sixth Tank battalion, 24th Division.

I:          Sixth Tank

A:        Battalion.

I:          Uh huh.

A:        Twenty-fourth Division.  And they were stationed in Japan at the time.
I:          Uh huh.

A:        See, they were in Korea when it first started.
I:          Right.
A:        They were one of the first divisions in.

I:          Yeah.

A:        And they pretty well got banged up. So, I guess they sent them back to Japan in order to recuperate.


So, we got with them.  And we trained all winter long on the side of Mount Fuji.

I:          Uh huh.

A:        Camp McNair.

I:          What kind of uh, training?

A:        Every day, we were in the field.  In the tanks, firing, everything you, everything like on basic.

I:          Um hm.

A:        Every day you were in the field.

I:          Um hm.

A:        We lived in tents.  It was five crew members to a tent.
I:          Uh huh.

A:        And it was cold up on us, Mount Fuji.

I:          Right.



A:        It was really cold.

I:          Yeah.

A:        And uh we slept, like I say, with five in a tent.  We had two little, uh, gas stoves

I:          Uh huh.

A:        that they were in the tent.  And at 10:00, they’d put those out.  We were, uh, I had a hernia operation.

I:          What is that?

A:        That’s right here on your, you have a knot on your side, and you, so they had to take me down to Yokohama to the hospital.

I:          Ah, uh huh.

A:        So, when I went down to Yokohama, I was there for a week I guess



I:          Yeah.

A:        Then they sent me to Camp Omia.

I:          Oh, Omia.

A:        Which is a, uh, mortuary more or less.  But they, that’s where you get your, uh, strength back to go back to your unit.

I:          Yeah.

A:        And when I was there, on June 18th on a Friday night, a Dob Master was going back to Korea took off from uh, Tachikawa Air Base and only got up so far, 129 soldiers or airmen and everything going back to Korea,



They were home, on R and R.

I:          Um hm.

A:        They got killed that night.  And they brought all their bodies over to the, where I was at.  And that still sticks in my mind.

I:          Oh.

A:        One hundred and twenty-nine of them.  And they had them lined up in a hangar with just their feet hanging out, you know, their boots and everything.  And I just said look 129 people.  I mean just, life’s snuffed out in 10 minutes.



And when I got back to my outfit, that was in July I guess

I:          Um hm.

A:        They got orders to go back, go to Korea.  So, I had less than 90 days left, and I stayed in Japan to wait on, come home.  And that was before they signed the Armistice.  That was on, uh, July 27th.

I:          Twenty-seven, yes.

A:        Yeah.

I:          Nineteen fifty-three.

A:        Yeah.  I was over in Japan in ’52 and ‘53/

I:          Huh.  So, you’ve never been in Korea.

A:        No.

I:          Ah.

A:        Never got there.  All, the whole outfit, like I say, the 24th went back to Korea at that time.




I:          Um hm.

A:        And I had less than 90 left in the service. So, they kept the people that had less than 90 days in Japan to send them home.

I:          What did you do after you returned?

A:        I went back to the, uh, MP Moellers.

I:          Yeah.

A:        They gave me my job back.  And I worked there till 1955.

I:          Um hm.

A:        Then I took the Post Office, Postal Service exam.

I:          Yeah, yeah.

A:        And I passed that.  And I went to work there in 1955,



And I uh, retired in 1995.  I had 44 years in.

I:          Wow.

Female Voice:  You went to HCC.

A:        Yeah.

I:          What did

A:        I did go to Junior College on the GI Bill.

I:          Ah.  Tell me about it.  When did you, when did you go, and what school?
A:        I went out to, they had the Junior College in the, uh, old high school at that time.

I:          What is

A:        It’s the, the, you know the high school that I said I graduated from here in Hagarstown?
I:          Yeah.

A:        The old high school.
I:          Uh huh.



A:        And they had the Junior College set up in there because they didn’t have a place to have it then.

I:          Uh huh.
A:        So, it was mostly all veterans that went in there.

I:          Yeah.

A:        So, I was studying, uh, Accounting which, uh, I said this isn’t for me.  But anyway, when the Post Office called me, I uh, said okay.  I went down. Well, the guy, the Postmaster came out to the house, didn’t he, hon?  And he uh, I wasn’t even home at the time.  I was at Junior College.



And Norma, he came to our house.  And you know, in those days they checked over everything you did.  And I was so lucky to get in the Post Office.

I:          Uh, what was the benefit of GI Bill?  How much were you paid, and what kind of benefit did that include?
A:        Uh, I think I, what did we get, $600 Norma?  I think I got $600 to go to school.

I:          Six hundred?  That’s too much.

A:        That was good in those days.

I:          No.  I, I just got another interview, and they said it was around $110 per month.



A:        Well, I was there two years.

I:          Right.

A:        Okay.  And what was the $600 for, Norma?

I:          Was it for a semester?
A:        No, no.  It could have been.  I’m not sure.

Female Voice:  All together it would have been that much.

I:          Yeah, all together.

Female Voice:  But yeah.

A:        Yeah, okay.  That’s probably what it was.

I:          Yeah.

Female Voice:  He would walk to school.  He would go to work, work all day, and then he went full time.  He would walk down to my mother’s house.


0: 12:30

She would feed him, and he’d walk all the way out to the high school.

I:          Hm.  So, did you know the benefit of GI Bill before you went into the Army?

A:        Uh, yes. I knew about it.

I:          Uh huh.
A:        But like I say, uh.  College wasn’t on my mind at that time.  I just, my parents just wanted me to get out and get a job.

I:          Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

A:        So that, in those days.  So.

I:          So, GI Bill is really, was a good thing at the time.



A:        Oh, it’s wonderful.
I:          Um hm.

A:        Like a friend of mine I met out there, Pat Miller.  He was in Korea in the, uh, Airborne.  And uh, he, we met there.  And he had a car. I didn’t even have a car at the time.  So, he would take me out, we had an apartment, and he’d drive me home every night.  Him and I would get off at 9:00.

I:          Um hm.

A:        He would, that’s, we became best friends.


[Audio Gap]



I:          What do you think is the impact of your service as Korean War veteran even though you didn’t go to Korea, but still you are a Korean War veteran?  And what is the impact of that service upon your life after you returned from Japan?



A:        Well, when we, when I returned I got off the bus, and nobody said a thing.

I:          Hm.
A:        I mean, it was just like, now during World War II, they had parades and everything.  I was just lucky to get back, and I went right to work in a week like I say, and nobody said a word because most all of them were veterans of World War II and everything.  They had gone through it.


And nobody said a word about anything.

I:          Hm.

A:        Until later on when Les, I met Les and everything.  That’s when I really realized what, you know,

I:          Why do you think it was the case that nobody really talked about the Korean War?
A:        Well, it was right after World War II.

I:          Um hm.

A:        And we lost so many people in World War II, and everybody was affected by it.  Our whole family, every, every person in our family that was eligible for the draft went.

I:          Um hm.



A:        So, I guess it was that, I don’t know.  And everybody was just back raising their families at that time.  And that, this just popped up and, you know, like I say, it wasn’t planned, but that’s what happened.

I:          Hm.
A:        But like I say, when I went to serve my country, and that’s what I wanted to do.

I:          And you said, so it has a positive impact upon your life?
A:        Oh yes.  Sure.

I:          Um hm.

A:        If I wouldn’t have gone in the service. I’d have really regretted it my whole life.



I:          Hm.

A:        But once you’re in there, you go where they tell you.

I:          What do you wanna say about this Forgotten War that Korea has been called, Korean War?

A:        It’s Korean Conflict I believe they call it, don’t they?

I:          Yeah.

A:        It’s not, it wasn’t a war so they say.

I:          At the time, right?

A:        Yeah.

I:          Yeah.
A:        But you know like I say, I’m so glad your people are so appreciative.  I mean, I can’t believe it. I’m just so impressed with that.

I:          Um hm.



A:        But I didn’t realize it all those years, you know.  Well, we were raising our family at the time.  And even when this other Gulf War and every, I mean, everything started out, the Missile Crisis and everything, we were just raising our family.  We were trying to get along.

I:          Um hm.

A:        And the Viet Nam War started, you know, and I, the way they treated them was terrible.  I couldn’t believe it.



I:          You know the Korea was completely destroyed during the War.

A:        I understand that.

I:          And now Korea is economically and politically is

A:        Oh, I, I see pictures of it now.  It’s amazing.  It’s, it’s beautiful.  And I’m so glad that, you know, that the United States could help you.

I:          Thank you, Albert, for this beautiful interview.

A:        Thank you.

I:          And your service, even though you were not in Korea.  But because of all the support from the Japan, Korea, Korea was able to pull this wonderful economic development and democracy, and we’ll stay loyal to each other.


A:        That’s wonderful.  I’m glad to hear that.

I:          Yeah.

A:        I’ll remember you the rest of my life.

I:          Yes.  Thank you very much.  Thank you very much.

A:        Thank you.