Allen E. Torgerson
Allen Torgerson was drafted into the United States Army in 1951 where he was trained in as infantry for the Korean War. He describes his feelings about being selected for the draft and adds his thoughts on others participating in some type of service. He recounts a shortage of officers in the military during the war and the duties, due to the shortage, being passed down to those of lower rank. He remembers his experiences while on Rest and Relaxation (R&R) and ones with KATUSA (Korean Augmentation to the United States Army) and ROK (Republic of Korea) soldiers who fought proudly for their country. He is proud of his own service and thankful he survived the war.
Feelings Towards Being Drafted
Allen Torgerson describes his feelings towards being drafted. He shares that he felt he should do his duty and believes that everyone should serve in some form or fashion such as through armed service, community service, and/or programs similar to the Peace Corps. Allen Torgerson adds that while he would prefer not to fight again, he would not trade money for his previous experience. He expresses his thankfulness that he survived.
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Duties as First Sergeant
Allen Torgerson describes there being short of officers during his time in South Korea. He shares that the shortage of commanding offers led to the handing down of duties to those below the usual rankings. He recounts that these duties pertained to morning wakeup calls and sorting the sick and injured.
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Knowing What You Are Fighting For
Allen Torgerson describes fighting alongside KATUSA (Korean Augmentation to the United States Army) soldiers and ROK (Republic of Korea) soldiers. He explains that while there was a language barrier, the KATUSA and ROK soldiers knew enough English among themselves to communicate with Americans. He emphasizes that both groups showed pride in their country and knew what they were fighting for during the war. He adds that South Koreans show appreciation for what America did for them.
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Off Duty & Rest and Relaxation
Allen Torgerson shares that one was never really off duty during the war as one was still involved in everyday army duties other than when on Rest and Relaxation (R&R). He recounts spending a few days in both Japan and Seoul during R&R and remembers there not being much to do in Seoul as the city was destroyed. He shares that if one found some spare time in camp, he would play cards to pass the time.
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I’m Allen Torgerson. I was born in Garden City Township, Blue Earth County on October 19th1929. My parents were farmers and, so I grew up on a farm south of Lake Crystal. And, graduated from Lake Crystal High School in 1947. And, then farmed with my parents–
–until I went in the service in June of 1951. And, took my basic training at Fort Riley, Kansas in advanced infantry training there, and leadership school and then went to Korea–
–in well, I left here in February of 1952. I arrived in Korea April the 4th1952 and went on line April 14th, which was Easter Sunday, of 1952.
Served in Company B, of the 38thRegiment the Second Infantry Division. We came off line in, oh, about a month after I arrived there, and we went down to Je-ju do, which was an island on the, just off the south coast of Korea and–
–there were about 80,000 communist prisoners of war there, and they had been having riots and uprising, they’d even captured one of our American generals, holding him hostage. So, we were, our 38thRegiment was sent down there to help sort things out and get everything under control–
–again. And, so we were there about two months I believe. Or may, between two and three months. Then we went back up, back on line or, um, in the Old Baldy area of the MLR.
And, then it was, we were on line for a while, and then we would go into reserve and, for retraining and resting, and, and we would replace another division for three, four months. And, I was transferred to headquarters company of the 38thRegiment–
–in, I believe it was July of ’52. And, promoted to first sergeant of that headquarters, Headquarters Company in October of 1952. And that was my–
–main service, and um, until I rotated out in, well, the last part of March, first part of April of ’53. And, returned to Camp Stoneman in California and, and to receive my discharge-
at . . . oh, in Colorado, can’t think of the name of it right now, Fort Carson, Colorado. Farmed with my folks for a year or so, and then I married my, one of my–
–school graduates. [laughs] We had known each other all our lives, I guess. And, and we farmed for three years and then I went to work for, well, I worked for a year for Alco Products and drove a semi over a several state area. And then I went to work for the Blue Earth County Highway Department in 1959.
And operated equipment and, for ’til ’71, and I was promoted to maintenance supervisor for the Blue Earth County Highway Department and served there for, in that position, then for 20–
–years. And retired in 1991. Retired during the big Halloween blizzard. [laughs] But, my replacement was well trained and was able to take over, everything was ready to go. It was a good time–
The war was already going on and then you got drafted–
I: What was kind of going through your mind at that time?
A: Well, I guess I felt that I should do my duty. But, I, I still firmly believe that everybody should have couple of years of service, whether it be in the Armed Services, or some type of–
–well, type of community service, or what do you call it, um, when they go overseas to–
I: Like Peace Corps?
A: Yeah, something like that. I, some type of service, I think that everybody should. And so, it was, it was one of those experiences like you’ve probably heard many others say that–
–you wouldn’t want to do it again, but you wouldn’t take a million dollars for the experience. Than-thankful that I survived.
I: Where did you first arrive in Korea?
A: I, we landed at Seoul, at the–
— . . . the seaport there for Seoul. And we rode in boxcars for, I don’t know, 40-50 miles ’til we got to replacement company for the 2ndDivision.
I: What kind of things did you guys do when you were off duty?
A: [ABRUPT START] When you’re in a situation–
–in, I’ll call it a war, because it was a war. They called it police action, but it was a war. When you’re there, you’re never off duty really in my opinion. And, even when we were back in the reserves, why there was still just everyday army duty. And, and I was promoted to first sergeant of the infantry company and that involved–
–every day, duty every day, I mean, there was no, the only break we really had was when we went on, did go on R & R for five days to Japan. And I did have a couple of days off where I went into Seoul. And, there wasn’t much to do there, the city was in, destroyed, more or less. But, there was, there was an, an Army PX there and–
–so . . . and if you did have any spare time, in camp or on line, why, played some cards.
I: What did your duties look like?
A: My duty? Well, as first–
–sergeant, you’re pretty much responsible for everything that goes on. We were short of, we were short of officers, so you would, had to perform some of the duties that your lieutenants and, were, would have performed if they had had ’em, but we were just real short.
Included everything from getting everybody going in the morning to who was sick or injured or wounded or whatever. And, just keeping everything going.
I: Did your duties change at all, you said you were on line and then you went to Headquarters Company. How did that compare as far as what your, what your normal duties–
A: Well, that, wasn’t a lot different for the actual change from B Company to Headquarters Company, I’d say, as a corporal and I was promoted to sergeant then, and, and I was, but then becoming first sergeant, did, that was a big change, of course, in your responsibilities and–
–duties and all, was, was a big change. You weren’t just one of the boys anymore then. We did have quite a few South Korean soldiers that were assigned to the company too, because we didn’t have enough Americans to fill out the company and this was a practice that there were so many, they called them Katusas Korean augment–
–service for, that worked with each company, and . . . I had some real good friends with the South Korean soldiers too. They were, they knew what they were fighting for.
I: What was it like working with them, was there a language barrier, or?
A: Yeah, there was some, but there were enough of them that knew some English that you could communicate and if some of the, r-, we call them ROK soldiers, or Republic of Korea soldiers, couldn’t understand, why, they had buddies that–
–would tell them what to do, or what was expected, yeah. We had some of the ROK soldiers that were assigned to our company were, had been in the ROK ranger, they had been ROK rangers and for whatever reason, they were disbanded, and we received some of them, so. I was glad they were friends–
–and not on the other side.
I: Why is that?
A: Well, like I said, they knew what they were fighting for and they were, they, real good soldiers. If you’re fighting for your homeland, if it, hopefully it will never happen, but if war came to America, it would be a lot different, everybody–
–would know what they were fighting for. And, I guess the end results is so evident with the South Korean people today, that even, we have a, we in-invite some of the South Korean students from the college here to, when we have an occasion and that–
–and they’ll give a short speech at Veteran’s Day program and at the Memorial Day program. And, and these are grandchildren of, you know, the ones that were our age when the war was going on. And, they’re still so appreciative of America and what was done because South Korea–
–now is no comparison to North Korea, which it probably would have been if the United Nations hadn’t stepped in. A good example is the Kim family in the cities, I don’t know if anybody has mentioned it. They have a picnic and program in appreciation for Korean War veterans every year. They’ve had 11 years now that they’ve been doing that and they have just put on a good program. A lot of food and it’s, they’re still so appreciative of what America did for them. And one picture that we had around here, I don’t, I don’t think I’ve got it right now, but it shows North and South Korea from–
–way up above, at night. There are a few lights around Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. Otherwise, the rest of North Korea is dark. South Korea is lit up like state fair, whole country is. So, I think that, that says a lot, right in that one picture, I thought says a lot.
I: Have you had a chance to go on any of the revisit trips?
A: I’ll tell you, I, I did not go and, for quite a few years, I just didn’t have any interest in going, I guess, and now I wish I had, because, just to see the, the progress and, um, the difference now from what it was when I was there. But, I’m too old, I wouldn’t try that long trip anymore now. Now I got too many physical limits.
I: What does Korea mean to you now?
A: Well, I’m, I’m glad that I could help them to achieve what they are, have achieved. I, I guess to, to keep communism, I guess, put it, put it plain and simple–
–to keep communism from spreading, I would go again, even though I can’t, I realize, physically, but I feel strongly enough about it that I would have, would go again to preserve our country’s freedoms.
I: How did your wartime experiences affect the, the rest of your life?
A: Well, it makes one appreciate life–
–a lot. And, it’s a, it’s a learning experience. Maybe some good, some bad, but mostly good, I think, in developing a person’s character and, and goals.
I: Do you have any, like a piece of wisdom or a message that you would like to pass on to younger generations?
A: Well, I guess, appreciate what we have and our freedoms and do your duty.
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