Alvin Jurrens grew up tending to the family farm before he found himself drafted into the Korean War. He served in the United States Army, seeing action on the front lines during his time overseas. He recounts multiple instances of close encounters, all the while serving sparing his mother war details to keep her from worrying. He speaks of the difficulties he endured upon returning back to civilian life. He shares that he is proud to have served in the United States military and in the Korean War.
Tending the Farm Before the Draft
Alvin Jurrens shares his family life growing up on a farm in Iowa. He explains that his father passed away when he was fourteen, leaving his mother with nine children to raise. He recounts dropping out of school after eighth grade to help tend to the farm. He shares that he did not enlist but was drafted into the Korean War in 1952.
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Withholding the Difficulties of War
Alvin Jurrens details an experience out on the front lines as a forward observer on the 38th Parallel. He recalls feeling safe in the bunker, but shortly after his departure, it was blown up. He shares a second close encounter he endured in a jeep incident as well. He acknowledges that someone was watching over him in both accounts. He also explains that he wrote letters home to his mother but withheld information regarding the difficulties there as he did not want her to worry.
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Return to Hardship on the Home Front
Alvin Jurrens describes the ceasefire on July 27th, 1953. He remembers waking up the following morning to, for the first time, a quiet morning. He tears as he shares the hardest part for him upon his return home after the war.
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The Legacy is Freedom
Alvin Jurrens expresses that freedom is a Korean War legacy. He shares it is an honor to have served, and it is worth the pain he endured. He states that it is simply something you do for somebody.
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[Beginning of Transcribed Material]
A: Alvin Jurrens, ALVIN JURRENS.
I: Great. And could you give me your birthday and where you were born?
A: Four, twelve, thirty-one. Georgia.
I: Great. And could you talk about your family at the time when you were growing up and how many siblings you might have had?
A: Okay. Started out, you know, mom and dad. And they ended up with nine kids,
And I’m the second oldest. And when I was 14, dad passed away. And there was mom with nine kids. And we lived on a farm. And then me and my older brother, he was probably 16, and we started farming. We did the work.
I: Wonderful. How was it growing up as the second oldest?
A: Oh, I, we thought it was okay. We was farmers, poor, you know, didn’t have. But we had plenty to eat, you know. We lived on the farm. Yeah.
I: Great. So, could you talk about if you graduated high school? Where did you graduate?
A: No. I was in 8th grade when dad passed away, and that was the end of my schooling.
I: Um hm.
A: And then I worked on the farm, yeah.
I: So, did you enlist in the military, or were you drafted?
A: No, we, I was drafted. See, I got deferred all the time till the Korean War come. And then, my older brother got drafted first, and he turned out to be a 4F you know. So then, I don’t know, a year later or something, then I got drafted.
I got drafted in ’52.
I: Nineteen fifty-two.
I: And where were you at this time?
A: I was still in the, on the farm in Georgia.
I: Okay. And did you know where Korea was at the time?
A: I went in the service, you know. There was probably about eight of us guys that left from the area, you know. And we stopped at Fort Raleigh and something up there, then in Fort, uh, Missouri.
Female Voice: Fort Sill.
A: Fort what?
Female Voice: Fort Sill.
A: Fort, then I was the only one that went to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. artillery. So, I took my basic training there and the advanced military training. And then I had two weeks at home. Then I got shipped to Korea.
I: Wow. So, when did you leave for Korea? What was the date?
A: January 1st in ’53.
I: Oh, you left on New Years’, Oh. How was that? How was that?
A: My mother’s birthday’s is on New Years’, so it was really something, you know.
I: So where did you, how did you get to Korea?
A: On the boat.
I: Did you stop anywhere before you went to Korea?
A: No. We got on the boat, and we run through the Golden Gate Bridge. So, we’d seen that. I thought well, the first day I’ll be able to see land. But after a couple hours, that was it. Then we were on the boat two weeks. And about the last part of the week, we hit a storm and they closed all the hatches and everything. And it smelled pretty in there then, Whew.
Gotta get seasick. So then when we, we went to Japan, and then we got on a smaller boat and went to Korea. Then we got off of that, you know, into the water and then down to the land. There was a train waiting there for us with no lights, no windows. I mean, scary you know.
And as I was walking up, you know, and all these guys, guy walks up to me with an M1 and, you’re on guard.
I: So where was that? Where did you land?
A: In Inchon.
I: Inchon. Did you make the Inchon Landing?
I: You did. And
A: And then no one got there to give me advice you know, on guard, and me being fresh from the state, I said what’s the password?
And he says you shoot first and then you ask them the password. I thought man, that don’t sound good. Then he turned around and he said I shouldn’t have said it cowboy, he says. Whoever talks first here dies first. And I n ever forgot that. And that was true, too. Cause when you get out to where just you were supposed to be and there was somebody else, you better shoot him.
I: So, when did you land in Korea? Can you give us the date?
A: Oh, probably the middle of January.
I: Middle of January.
A: I can’t remember the date, though.
I: Still ’52.
A: Yeah, still ’52.
I: And did you, sorry, did you participate in the battle, the Inchon Landing battle?
A: I don’t know what they called it then. I have a medal with battle stars on it, you know. But I don’t know which battle it was for you know.
I: So, after you landed in Inchon, what unit were you a part of?
A: Triple nine, Field Artillery, Heavy Field Artillery. And we got on a train, and then after a while we got on a deuce and a half truck, and it was going along to Triple nine and (INAUDIBLE) Evidently the guy got lost. And all at once I heard boom, boom, boom.
And they told me man, that sounds like a 50-caliber machine gun. And boom, boom, boom it went again. And then the truck stopped, and the guy out there says what the hell you doing out here? You wanna get killed? We was right on the front line. So, we, then he told him where to go, and that was it. A couple minutes, and we was where we were supposed to go. And then I was scared.
And then tired, you know. It was in the middle of the night and went to bed, was in a sleeping bag you know, told us to get into a foxhole until, and it was 30 below zero in there. And I thought how you gonna dig a foxhole, you know. And so anyway, he was tired and went to sleep, and evidently, they called a fire mission and I didn’t hear it.
And when the rounds went off like it went through my sleeping bag without opening it. Oh, that was something.
A: Ah you know. And then after that, fire mission was just anytime of the day or night, you know. Just fly over and get out there and load up them big guns and fire them all.
I: So where in Korea did you go afterwards?
I: Where in Korea did you go afterwards? Do you remember what city you went to next, or were you stationed in the same place throughout the entire time you were stationed there?
A: No, we, there was no cities there when we were there. We, 38th Parallel
A: And we was probably within a mile behind that. And I know one time, the first time anyway, I was called to be a forward observer, you know.
And I got up there you know, and seen those people out there, you know. So, I called in a fire mission, you know, and evidently there must have been more fire missions than I called. And that whole mountain lit up in fire. And man, that was, I mean, something that’s never seen, you know. So, the next morning, you know, that finally quit. And the next morning woke up and looked and it looked different.
I thought what’s wrong here, you know. And then I looked again through my bifocals or whatever you called them, my magnifying glasses, you know, and sure enough, we had blown the whole top of the mountain. And I told them we go the enemy now. And so (INAUDIBLE) here they come with (INAUDIBLE).
And then you know, we was in the bunkers, (38) I mean huge tanks. I tried knocking (INAUDIBLE) And I felt pretty safe there. And as we left going down the hill, I don’t know if it was a ball or a shell stuck in, boom, there it went. He was watching over me, you know. Taking care of me.
I: And do you remember when this was?
A: No, I don’t. It was between January and July.
I: January and July. Okay. Now, do you remember sending letters home or, can you talk about, who did you send letters to an
A: My mom.
I: So, who did you send letters to?
A: My mom.
I: And what did you say to her?
A: Well, we were told don’t write home what you’re doing and how bad it is because they’ll worry (INAUDIBLE) and I could see that. So, I didn’t. I just told her it was nice here and it was cold and all that stuff, you know.
But then in June, see I was in the gun section. Then in June they needed a truck driver to haul the ammo in you know. I thought that’d be a different pace, you know. So, I signed up for that. Then it wasn’t long, you know. They had just to bulldoze the roads, you know, and you could only go maybe 10 or 15 miles an hour. Anyway, we had about 100 rounds of ammo and powder on there, you know, coming down this road.
And I don’t know what happened. Something happened, and we start swerving, we rode down the hill and I thought man, this is it. Powder’s gonna go off and. And then that whole deuce and half cause they had the glass window on (INAUDIBLE) top. And that would came down, and that’s where we laid on when we went over rocks. (INAUDIBLE)
I: So, do you recall any specific battles that you were a part of?
I: Do you recall any specific battles that you partook in or
A: Well, Old Baldy, Pork Chop and I don’t know.
I: Okay. Talk, can you talk more about Old Baldy? What did you do during that battle?
A: Well, that’s the one that we fired all them rounds on them and blew the top off.
I: Okay. So that was Old Baldy that you were talking about.
I: And what about Pork Chop?
A: Pork Chop I really don’t know, you know. We didn’t see it. There was no tv for us or anything you know. So, I don’t know. But that’s what, you know, when we report, that’s where we had to stay to get them rounds in the right place.
I: So, what was your relationship with foreign soldiers? What did you guys, did you interact with many non-American soldiers while you were in Korea?
A: Well, we had Korean helping us, you know, laundry and stuff. They were nice. The only time we had problems was when Syngman Rhee released the North Korean soldiers to go back to help.
Then we had guys stabbed to death in bed. That was terrible.
I: What was it like to watch? What was it like to watch people being wounded like that in front of your eyes?
A: Oh, terrible.
I: Do you recall any specific memories?
A: No. The only time, you know, when they had to shoot and kill somebody, you didn’t (INAUDIBLE0 who because you knew your buddy wasn’t supposed to be dead.
I: Yeah. So afterwards, did you go anywhere else or did you, you said you left Korea in July, right?
A: No. I stayed there till February ‘54.
I: Oh okay. So then let’s go back. You were there for a while. So what happened after June?
A: Well, then it was you know, just guard and stuff like that, you know. There was no firing. You know, not July 27, 10:00, cease fire. We was firing right up until 10:00. There was guys said we ain’t gonna stop, you know. Ten o’clock, cease fire. (So, one day, more stuff and whatever and did a), after a while, we waiting for a fire mission, it didn’t come.
You know. We went, crawled in our sleeping bag and went to sleep and you slept and you know, you always had fire missions. You woke up. It was so quiet there. You knew day was gonna come and you get out, you know. Something like that. But it didn’t . That was it. That was the end of the shooting.
I: How did it feel to wake up to quietness for the first time?
A: Yeah, you know, you just sleep with your gun and you eat with your gun. And you always had your gun with you. And that’s the way it was there, you know. Yeah. That was unbelievable when I got home. My first night at home, the next morning I slept in my room that I always slept you know. And mom come upstairs, and I heard something, and I reached for my gun.
And course then I’d seen it was mom and it was good thing my gun wasn’t there. (CRYING) That was the hardest part.
A: It took a while to get over that.
I: So, you woke up to quietness, and you were still in Korea.
I: So, it was quiet. And you woke up. And you were still in Korea. So, what did you do until you left in ’54, yeah.
A: Oh, I still know (INAUDIBLE) you know, all the food and everything else, you know. And (INAUDIBLE) and then guard duty and stuff like that you know, regular military stuff, you know.
I: And then
A: Then on the way home, we got on the General Mann. It had two stars. You know, it took us 12 days to get over, ice water and everything. That was a nice trip. Going up, you know, we had 4,500 men on that boat. (WILLIAM WIGGLE)
And so, I knew they would get seasick. So, I took the top bunk. I thought then they won’t on my, you know. And laying on that top bunk, I don’t know what happened and the, somebody was just a foot above me and I sat up and boom, my head on the (INAUDIBLE) Stuff like that. Oh man.
I: How did it feel to leave after so long?
A: Not till you boarded, get back in civilian life, you know, you’re pretty aggressive. I mean boy, that’s what he said. He says anything wrong or does anything wrong that’s no good.
But I didn’t carry their gun then. That was a good thing, I guess. Used my fist if I had to, you know.
I: So, after you got back, what did you do? And when were you discharged from the military?
A: Camp Carson, Colorado. I was home, I got home in February and then I went back in for a month to Camp Carson, got discharged, and that’s when I met my sweetheart.
I: So, have you been back to Korea?
I: Yes. Have you been back?
A: No. Arnie Anderson. He was over there with me. But he was in a different outfit, you know. When we got back here, he arranged for Army reunions, you know. All us guys get together. That was something.
I: How did it feel to meet with your comrades again?
A: It’s just like now. This morning I was sitting in the waiting room. Guy seen my cap and when was you in Korea, you know? Fifty-two, fifty-three. Me too, he says, you know. And where it was and all that. Oh, you know, all my buddies that was with me up there never any of them stayed here, you know. And I never get to see them.
But here you know, when you wear that cap, they, it’s really awesome.
I: Well, you should go back. Do you know about the Revisit program that they have?
I: No? There’s a, it’s sponsored by the Korean government. And they cover everything for you except half of your airfare. So, once you’re there, you’re there for I believe about a week of 10 days, and they put you in a hotel and they bring you to the DMZ and they bring you into the new Korea that there is now.
You should consider going. If you’re interested, you can let my dad know. But it’s called the Revisit program. But I mention that because, you know, Korea is so different now from after, and it’s because of your service that we were able to become such a stable democracy. And also we’re now the 11th largest economy in the world. How does that make you feel about your service in Korea?
A: I know. I was getting to that, you know. When Arnie Anderson, he went back, you know, when we got there, here in South Dakota we have Indians living in teepees. There they were living in mud huts. And man, I tell you I couldn’t believe it, you know. How, you know, they didn’t have anything. And anyway, when Arnie went back and I don’t know when this was, but it was quite a few years later,
he says it’s just like the United States now he says. New buildings and all that. I said good for them, you know, yeah. That’d be interesting.
Female Voice: Yeah, it would.
A: Now you know, I’m, I had cancer and I’m on a bag. I mean, when I, let’s say I go on that trip, could they take care of me?
I: I think, I definitely think they have accommodations for that, yeah.
A: See, I went on an Honor Flight a year ago, and they had everything to take care of me. I mean, it was just number one, you know.
I: Yeah. So, after this we can go talk to my dad about it. But they, the Revisit program is really great. Many veterans have gone on it, and you know, they just, it would be great for you to go back to see what your service did for us.
A: You know, when oh, we had a meeting here once, Korean War Veterans, you know. And the Prime Minister from Korea was here handing out the medals. And I didn’t know they had that here, you know. So I went in the room, and then they handed out the medals and I was waiting for my name to call, and it didn’t.
And the lady said anybody there that didn’t get one? I said yeah, me. Said okay. So, she put my name on the list and I guess it, they got behind and they’re coming. So, she says after the ceremony is when it comes. And I shook the hand on him. That was really something.
He was so polite and so nice .
I: Great. So, what do you think the legacy of the Korean War and Korean War veterans is?
I: I’m gonna repeat the question. What do you think that the legacy of the Korean War and Korean War veterans is?
A: I don’t know how to answer that one. Give me any idea of what legacy is?
I: I mean, what, well I guess I can say what do you think came out of your service?
A: Oh, freedom. Freedom. And them poor people, you know. They have freedom now what they have, you know, they can live, freedom. (INAUDIBLE) It was an honor to serve over there because of our freedom. We know what freedom is here. There, it was pretty, you know. But now it’s different you know. No, that’s, yeah.
I wouldn’t want to go over again and do what I did. But I mean what I did, I’m proud of what I did. Helped what I did, you know, yeah.
I: So even through the pain that you had to endure even when you came back from your service, do you think
A: (INAUDIBLE) I’m wearing a brace now and had back surgery. There was times I couldn’t even walk right, you know. But since I started here, they, they’ve been taking care of me here, you know.
I: So even in spite of that pain, do you think it was worth it?
A: Oh yeah, you know. I mean it was something that you do for somebody, you know. You always do help.
I: Is there any message that you would like to leave us with or anything you’d like to say to the younger generation watching?
A: Tell them, you know, they go into basic training, do it over and over and over. And you do it in your sleep. And you think man, that’s sure a lot of crap to go through, you know. But boy when you get in, like in the War, then 99 times out of 100 it’s right. And you do what you’re told, you know.
I: So, is there anything else you’d like to say, any other thing that you’d like to leave us with?
A: Can’t think of anything right now.
I: Are you proud of what you did?
A: Oh yeah. I am really. I mean, wearing this cap, people you know, came and we went to restaurants in civilian clothes, ordered meals and I don’t know who, they paid for it. Unbelievable.
No, I did it, not that I was alone. But I mean it was an honor to. (INAUDIBLE) You know, when Korean War was over, it was the Forgotten War you know, and no one was talking here because it was over and that was it, you know.
I: Why? Why do you think it was the Forgotten War? Why is this the War that we forget?
A: I don’t know. It’s because I think when the Armistice was signed, fighting was ended, but the War wasn’t.
And it’s still not over. It is kind of sad really.
I: Yeah. How does it make you feel that this War that you fought in so long ago is spanning over 60 years to this day?
A: It makes me, you know, I you know when that happened, I figured it would, you know, but they didn’t and didn’t and didn’t, you know. So, I don’t know.
I have no answer for that.
I: Would you be in favor of reuniting the two Koreas?
A: Oh, I think they should, yeah. I mean, them poor North Koreans. No freedom, no food, you know. Do this or else you get socked, you know. Dictatorship. Terrible.
No, they should be reunited together. But take somebody with more knowledge than I have to put that together, I guess.
I: Is there anything else you would like to say before we
I: Is there anything else you’d like to say before we end this interview?
A: Oh no. Can’t think of anything. I think I said everything.
I: Great. Well, thank you so much for your service. And as a Korean American myself, I am very grateful for everything that you did, and I don’t see myself here without what you did. So, thank you very much.
A: Thank you.
I: And thank you for being here tonight.
A: Thank you.
(END RECORDED MATERIAL)