Andrew Greenwell began his military career as a Merchant Marine, touring the world. He joined the Army as a Messenger Engineer, receiving top priority classification to carry out his missions delivering information throughout Korea and Japan. He describes his unit SCARWAF (Special Category Army with Air Force) and its threefold mission to build, maintain, and defend. He recounts one particular dangerous flight while on a mission. He shares his impressions of modern Korea after seeing the devastation of war and his interaction with movie star Marilyn Monroe during his service. He is proud to have served a country in need.
SCARWAF: Special Category Army with Air Force
Andrew Greenwell describes the special unit, SCARWAF, that he served in during his time in Korea. He shares that his unit was attached to the Air Force because, at that time, the Air Force did not have all of the capabilities to function and still relied on Army Engineers. He explains that his unit had a threefold mission which was to build, maintain, and defend.
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Returning to Korea
Andrew Greenwell describes his return to Korea in the 1980s. He recounts seeing multistoried buildings and other advances that left him in disbelief. He expresses his amazement at what the Korean people had done for their country in such a short span of time following the war.
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The Most Dangerous Flight
Andrew Greenwell describes flying over the East Sea on a classified mission when his plane found itself in the middle of a typhoon. He recalls preparing for a parachute exit due to the predicament. He remembers saying his last prayers, preparing for the worst, and the pilot being able to pull the plane out of the storm.
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Meeting Marilyn Monroe
Andrew Greenwell describes meeting Marilyn Monroe at a USO (United Service Organizations) show while in Korea. He recounts making his way up towards the stage for the performance and positioning himself to obtain her autograph. He recalls persuading her to sign his book not once but twice.
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[Beginning of Recorded Material]
Andrew Greenwell: I’m Andrew D. Greenwell. Born in Leonardtown, St. Mary’s County Maryland. That’s in the southern part of the state. I graduated from the University of Maryland.
Interviewer: When you were born.
A: I was born October the 29th, 1929.
A: The 29th, 1929. I’m 83 years old.
I: Mm-hmm. And what school did you go?
A: I graduated from the University of Maryland–
A: Oh, I went to a Catholic High School
called St. Mary’s Academy.
A: In Leonardtown, Maryland.
I: And what year did you graduate?
A: From high school?
A: 1948. There were 48 states, there were 48 of us in the class
A: And so–
I: Yeah and then you strictly went to the University of Maryland?
A: No, I did not. I went to the United States Maritime Service Training School
A: In St. Petersburg, Florida and I graduated after 6 months in
engineering and I then went deep sea on ships around the world.
I: Where did you go around?
A: Well, one trip I made I went all the way around the world. I left New York and went through the Panama Canal–I went over the Marseille and then down to the Suez Canal. I went–in 1951 I was on the LST 287 we had almost 60 ships and we went on a very secret
convoy up to Northwestern Greenland 900 miles from the North Pole and Operation Blue Jay to build the Thule Air Force Base there. And I did a lot of trips over to Europe and all over, yes.
I: Hm. Did you enjoy that?
A: It was good. It was a good experience and I used my money to go to college.
I: How much were you paid monthly?
A: Oh gosh, we’re going back to 1951, ’49, ’51.
I –I don’t have no idea.
A: Its been s–
I: Was it $100?
A: Oh yeah, it was–yeah it wasn’t anything like salaries today, no. It was very–I would –I’d say we were probably making oh I don’t know, two and half thousand a year or whatever.
A: But room and board and all that.
I: Uh-huh. What was your job in –in [unintelligible].
A: I was in the–I was in the engine room.
A: Fireman, oiler water tender. I took readings on–on the engines and on the–the after steering and electrical system and that’s what I did and–
I: So you were engineer?
A: No, I was–I was what we called QMED qualified member of the engine department.
A: But we was not a licensed engineer, no.
I: Mm-hmm. So when did you finish your Merchant Marine?
A: Well, I
used it in some of the months when I was in college too, after I didn’t’–my last time I went was in 1957. That was the last time I took a cruise.
I: But, you knew that Korean War broke out, right?
A: But I, yeah, when I went in, I volunteered for the draft in the Korean War, but it was winding down. But I was in a–’51 and ’52 I was in the
Merchant Marine and ’53 I went in the Army.
A: 1951 I was in the Merchant Marine.
A: And 1952 I was also on another ship.
A: And then in 1953 I volunteered for the Army draft.
I: You–you–so you enlist or drafted?
A: I gave up my student deferment and went to the draft board and asked to be drafted instead of enlisting for three years the draft board would take you
for two years.
A: so, I went in the Army for two years and served one year in Korea of the two.
I: Alright. How did you know about the breakout of the Korean War, hmmm?
A: I was in the 29thInfantry Division Maryland Virginia National Guard from 1947 to 1950. And I was at Camp Pickett, Virginia.
I: What was that? You said that you never joined the Military until 1953.
A: I–that’s–the Army you’re talking about the Army active duty, I’m talking about I was in the National Guard.
A: And I didn’t go in active duty.
I: So, tell me about the National Guard when did you join the National Guard?
A: I joined the National Guard in 1947. My father asked me to join because they could get an armory for our rural county if we got a–a chapter of the National Guard.
A: So he asked me. And a lot of World War II veterans were joining and I enlisted with them for three years in the National Guard.
So, from 1947 to 1950. And in June of 1950, I was at Camp Pickett Virginia on maneuvers with the 29thInfantry Division
A: when the June the 20–20–the 25th, when the war started.
I: I see.
A: I was in–I was in the National Guard. But. They didn’t call us up like they did a couple other National Guard divisions.
A: They didn’t call. 44 to 50 divisions they called up.
They didn’t call us up.
A: So, then I got out, and then I volunteered later for the draft.
I: And you didn’t know where Korea was at the time, right?
A: Oh yeah, because I had my cousin and friends had served over there right after World War II and before the Korean War so yeah, I had a first cousin that was over there and some close friends. So I was very familiar with Korea.
I: Oh, what did they tell you–
what did they tell you about Korea?
A: I don’t think we really talked too much about our military service.
A: I just knew they were over there–
A: And they didn’t really elate on what they did.
I: So, tell me about you volunteered to be drafted in 1953.
A: Well I–I–what I did–yes–what I did was–
I: What month was that?
A: No, what–what happened is that I went in–into the draft board in the Spring of ’53 and they took me
A: They took me a yeah I gotta look down–
A: They took me in June of ’53.
I: June of ’53.
A: Yeah. Then I went on active duty. The war was still on til the 27thof July.
I: Yeah right.
I: So, when did you leave for Korea?
A: I left for the Korea probably about November–October, November of 1953
A: And I was over there for Christmas of ’53, I remember that.
I: Mm-hmm. And when did you leave from Korea?
A: About 11 months later and it was about October of ’54.
I: Mm-hm. So did you receive extra military training to be dispatched to Korea?
A: Well, I was in–in Korea I was in what they call SCARWAF Special Category Army With Air Force. S-C-A-R-W-A-F. Special Category Army With Air Force. And what we were
were army engineers attached
I: Special Category–
A: Special Category Army With Air Force.
A: W-A-F Army With Air Force.
A: And we were called SCAWAF Special Category Army With Air Force and we were Army Engineers attached to the Air Force because the Air Force had become, in ’47 a separate service, but they didn’t have all the capabilities to function,
so they still relied on the Army engineers. And since I had been in the combat engineers of the 29thInfantry Division Maryland National Guard I think the army saw that I had three years of National Guard engineering experience and they put me in the Army engineers in Korea and that was SCARWAF and we had a threefold mission there. We had a battalion of Army engineers on each of the air bases,
or case sites in Korea.
A: K-2, K-16, K-55, K-13, so on. You know them, and I know them too.
A: and so what happened was that we had a threefold mission to build, maintain and defend. And we had a battalion of Army engineers on all of the air bases in Korea and Japan.
I: So, could you tell me about your specific job assignment?
A: Yeah. My specific job assignment is
that I started out as a–as a mail clerk or the mail person in my company. Which the Merchant Marines–it’s not like a four year enlistment in the service. You sail on a cruise and then get off.
A: And I saved my money and then I’d go back to college.
A: So, I was sailing and saving my money and between the Merchant Marine and the University of Maryland is where I was.
A: Until I went on active duty in the Army.
I: What did you study there?
A: Journalism. I got a degree in journalism.
A: I became a reporter for the daily newspaper down here when I got married. I married a girl down here.
A: So, that’s what I did–started.
I: Newspaper and what is the name of newspaper?
A: It’s called the Daily Press right here and now. Newport News Hampton Daily Press.
I: Mm-hmm. That’s very interesting career. You’ve been all over.
A: Oh we haven’t stopped there yet.
I mean, what I ended up doing I did the city government here, city of Hampton hired me and that’s when I was telling you about the two city managers that went to Syracuse.
I: Right. But, let’s go back to your service there.
A: Which thing? The ship or the–the National Guard or the Army?
I: No, in Korea.
A: Okay, I was in Korea.
I: You, in the beginning you did tr–you deal with the mail, but later what did you do?
A: Well, they took me because I was handling the mail for my company and then they turned around and
they–they needed somebody to take classified mail.
A: And documents to these air bases around Korea and Japan. And I was tapped to fly top priority on these so, that’s what I did. I flew messages all over Korea and Japan to the air bases.
I: Oh, so you personally delivered those classified–
A: For the–for the–battalion, right. I mean for the–
I: Tell me about the–
I: Tell me about the details. What is the process? Let’s say that somebody gave you the classified materials. How do you pack? Where do you go? How do you deliver? Tell me about this whole process, detailed.
A: Well, basically, it wasn’t like I handled any of it as such. I had a–a pack and I–I took it to the headquarters that I was authorized
to fly. I had top priority to fly on any aircraft, bump anybody, even though I was just an enlisted man.
I: What was your rank, at the time?
A: I, PFC and then a corporal.
I: Mm-hmm. So, where did you go? That’s why you’ve been all around the K-bases?
A: No I–no I–no–no– just in– in Japan and Korea.
I: No, no I’m saying within Korea.
A: Oh yeah.
I: Because you were delivering the classified materials.
A: yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, I went to Seoul, I went to K– K-16 I guess and K-55 Usan, K-13 Suwon,
A: K-47, I’ve forgotten all these K sites now, but that’s where I went to those. And then I went over to Akizuki you know where Akizuki is Japan?
A: Ashiya, I went over to those places too.
I: Was already the armistice was signed, right?
A: Yeah. Yeah, but it was still
If I could tell you, I went back to Korea,
A: In ’88. 1988.
A: To set up an assist an city program. And I never will forget flying into Seoul and I looked out the window of the airplane when we were coming into Seoul and I saw this 16 story office building and absolutely– I left in ’54 and this was ’88
and I could not believe what I saw, in particularly when I landed. And I was absolutely amazed what the Korean people had done for their country from what I saw in late ’53 and through ’54 and it was just a very antiquated environment that I remember. And honey cots and putting the stuff on their rice paddies and washing
down in the river with the things beating. And I couldn’t believe the Seoul that I saw. And they treated us, when I went back for the assist a city program the top people in the government and in the industry and they took care of us. Samsung I was with the CEO of them and they were just so great to us.
There were four of us from the city who went over as a team and I was asked to go by the city manager who was a Syracuse graduate.
A: And we went over and our assist a a city program is–is very intact and viable today. So, anyhow, what it was is that the–they took us to the Olympics and we went up to the DMZ and–and they let me walk around
a table and I got a certificate that I crossed into North Korea. [laughing]
I: [laughing] So, you must be proud of what you did for the Korean nation?
A: You better darn believe I am. You better believe I’m proud. Every time I see Koreans, I’m very proud of them. And we have a I–I just put about a year of my life into an environment that was just enriching. And that’s what it was
with me. I–and I’m very proud and I’m–from my Korean service, I belong to the Korean War Veterans Association, I belong to the Veteran of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. And I’ve been the commander of two of them. So yeah I–I’m very proud of my military service and particularly my year of service in the–the Land of the Morning Calm. [laughing]
I: Mm-hmm. [laughing]
Were there any dangerous moments in your service?
A: Oh yeah, yeah.
I: Tell me about it.
A: Well, one time we had a–a flight–there were only a couple of Air Force pilots on a C-47, and we were going over to Japan and they were gonna ferry two planes back to Korea and I was the other passenger
on that. Like I said, I had top priority to fly, and we left about two or three o’clock in the afternoon it was nice and sun shiny. And we got over the Sea of Japan and the weather just all hell broke loose. Pardon my Latin. But, that’s what do you call them, a typhoon is that what you had? We hit one of those and the pilot
he–he just had the–the crew chief kept looking out the window with his flashlight on the wings to see–to see how the plane was doing. And it just started shaking and bumping and everything really bad.
A: And so then they–the pilots that were sitting down a passengers
The two jet pilots, one of them struggled to get up to the cockpit and the–the pilot had the door open and you could see that he was pushing instruments here and there. And finally, the– the jet pilot came back to his buddy that they had been reading hockey books and just relax, and they started strapping on one of them parachutes. Passengers were required to wear a parachute, so I had a parachute,
on, but not strapped up. They–I just got in the harness and the crew chief came back and told me to, soldier strap on he said we’re going over the side. So, here we’re in a typhoon over the Sea of Japan and we have to talk about parachuting out of the airplane. And I said my last prayers, because I knew I was going to reach the maker up there.
A: And it turned around God, how he did it,
but he got us out of that. And we went over instead of going over the Akizuki we went over to Ashiya. And then I took a train and came back across. And I was on one of my missions to carry a–classified material.
I: You mention Sea of Japan, we call it East Sea, so.
A: Is that right?
I: Yeah. Yeah. It’s been East Sea. And even in the old map of Japan,
I: They call it East Sea.
I: But during their period of control of Korea from 1910 to 1945, they changed it to Sea of Japan and
A: That’s–that’s what I remembered it by.
I: Yeah we don’t agree to that,
A: No, no.
I: so East Sea would be appreciated. [laughing]
A: Alright. East, what is it now?
I: East Sea.
A: East Sea, okay.
I: Yeah, yeah.
A: East Sea, okay.
I: Yeah. So, tell me about the life in–in the Air base you move all around but your base was in Suwa? Or where was you?
A: I was at K-2 Air Force Base in Taegu.
I: Taegu and from there you deliver the classified materials?
A: From there I–from there I was–that was part of my job. I still had my job with Taegu also.
A: But whenever they needed a currier or messenger,
A: They tapped me and that’s what I did. It wasn’t like that was all I did. I wasn’t like a full-time doing that, but
I: I see.
A: But they–they used me.
I: Were you by yourself delivering those
A: Yeah. Yeah.
I: By yourself?
I: Wow you have to hand carry those.
A: Yes I did.
I: Wow. What else did you do in the Taegu Air Base K-2 while you not delivering those classifieds?
A: Well, basically I was in the orderly room doing various kinds of company chores and duties. Wasn’t anything special, I was just an enlisted man.
A: I made corporal and then I came home.
A: So, I wasn’t an officer or any of that.
I: But you had a skill dealing with the engines.
A: Oh that was–that was in the Merchant Marine.
A: I graduated from the United States Maritime Service Training Station St. Petersburg, Florida.
I: That’s why I figured that you might end up working in the engine room or anything in the Air Base.
A: No, not–not this was administrative type of work.
I: Oh, okay.
A: But I was one of the
Things that I started to tell you earlier was in February of 1954,
A: 59 years ago, Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio.
I: That’s right, you talked to me over the breakfast.
A: Yeah. Yeah. She married this hall of famer, Joe DiMaggio and he had a commitment in Japan with a–
with a– baseball.
A: And the USOS started come over and do some shows and she did three performances in Korea.
A: And the last performance was at K-2 Air Force Base in Korea, at Taegu. And I asked a buddy of mine that was in the Army with me, let’s go down and see the USO show with Marilyn Monroe.
And he said, there’ll be so many troops there you won’t get within a mile of her. And I said, $10 I’ll bring her autograph back, [Urell]. So, I had a couple of years of journalism at University of Maryland, so
A: I knew how to handle myself so, I walked in front of the stage and I had a book and a pen and the generals and colonels was sitting in three rows of chairs
And I went over to the side of the stage and sat down. And I think the security people must have thought I was with stars and stripes. So, I just sat there and she performed and I was right up on the side of the stage. And she –she finished her piece and she started down. And they were five and six at least military people
back to back reaching out to try to touch her hands, some of them had cameras and they were taking videos, shots and pop it was a night performance. So, she came down and got down. I had a little address book from the University of Maryland.
A: And I turned it to a vacant page and gave her a fountain pen with brown ink. And I stood on my toes and reached over the
other GIs that were in front of me. And I never will forget Marilyn Monroe, who–who really impressed me. She took that book and she looked at it and she looked right at me and she says, they told me not to sign any autographs. And I said Miss Monroe, I said, if you turn around and go back one page, you’ll see where this other actress was here last month and she signed. Oh did she sign? I told her who it was, I can’t recall now.
And so, she turned around and she signed my autograph. And I was the first one, because she said this was her last tour, I mean three shows, and this–she had finished it up and she hadn’t signed any autographs then. So, she gave it back to me and when I got it, my thumb here smeared the ink. She went all the way down to the end. I waited, she came all the way back and this is how sharp that lady was, I turned around and went to a new–the same little telephone
directory and I got– with all those hands and I got–and put it up to her again and she got it, she looked at me she says, I’ve already signed this. I says, I know Miss Monroe, but I’ve smeared the ink I said would you sign it again? And she signed it again. And I have it back home three homes I’ve lived in and–these years and somewhere one of the dresser drawers somewhere I’ve got that autography from Marilyn Monroe. And she didn’t sign that many of them,
I can assure you.
A: She hadn’t signed any up until that point and that was her last performance out of three shows.
I: You are lucky man.
A: Yeah, well I got to see Marilyn Monroe. And I was watching something about 10 days ago on TV and they had the most famous sexually beautiful popular Hollywood actresses and they had
30 and they started 39, 29, 20 and went all the way up, it was on television and Marilyn Monroe won all as the most famous sexiest Hollywood actresses of all times. Now, that’s it.
I: The comments to young generation about your service in Korean War.
A: I’m just proud of–I’m proud of the young people who are serving today,
because I’ve experienced it and my grandson is a Marine rifleman and scout and he was in Afghanistan as a Marine rifleman for 8 months and to see him back and healthy. I’m very proud of these people that serve in these Iraq’s and Afghanistan’s and Vietnam I–I was not in combat, but I served
in a country that needed our services.
I: Very good. Any other promise that you want to leave to this interview.
A: No, I don’t think so. I appreciate the– seeing me.
I: Absolutely I want to present you a certificate of Ambassador for Peace. This is made by the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs of the Republic of Korea.
I: And also Korean Veterans Association.
A: Okay, good gra–
I: And I wrote your name in Korean Andrew Greenwell.
A: Oh my goodness gracious. Oh boy oh boy what a something is this.
I: That’s–and you see the–
A: and you put it over here–yeah.
I: Great. And this is the metal made by the same department.
A: Oh boy, oh boy! Oh gracious. Oh boy, oh boy.
[End of Recorded Material]