Andrew V. “Buddy” Blair
Andrew V. “Buddy” Blair joined the Air Force in 1948 and trained to be an airplane mechanic before serving in the Korean War. He describes the typical day of an airplane mechanic, supporting the air raids in the Chosin Reservoir, and the freezing cold air of Korean winters. He recounts his living conditions during the war. He shares his revisit experience and his thoughts on South Korea’s modernization. He is proud to have served and comments on how appreciative the South Korean people are for American soldiers’ efforts during their time of need.
A Typical Day in 6147
Andrew V. "Buddy" Blair describes the typical day of an airplane mechanic during the Korean War. He recounts waking up, going to chow, and then heading out to the fly line to see what planes had been assigned. He recalls the requirement that a mechanic fly with a pilot after the plane was serviced.
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Air Raid Support for the Chosin Reservoir
Andrew V. "Buddy" Blair describes working on airplanes heading out for raids on the Chosin Reservoir. He recalls not knowing what was occurring in the battle as Marines who were brought in were too traumatized to share much information. He adds that airplanes evacuated wounded soldiers from there to either Japan or to hospital ships off the coast of Korea.
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Cold Weather and Living Conditions
Andrew V. "Buddy" Blair describes how shocking the cold air of Korea was to him. He shares that on one particular occasion, they were forced to spend the night in a foxhole, and their shelter half froze to the ground. He adds that living conditions for his unit mainly consisted of tents with wooden floors and potbellied stoves to keep warm during the cold months.
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Revisiting South Korea
Andrew V. "Buddy" Blair shares his experience revisiting South Korea in 2009. He emphasizes that he never thought South Korea could pull itself up by its bootstraps in such as short time frame. He recounts how appreciative the South Koreans were during his revisit.
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Andrew V. Buddy Blair: Andrew V. Buddy Blair. A-N-D-R-E-W V. B-U-D-D-Y B-L-A-I-R
Interviewer: So, everybody call you Buddy?
A: Everybody. I grew up being Buddy Blair.
A: And when I graduated from high school in 1947,
A: I sent out invitations to the small town of Sugarland.
A: Andrew V. Blair. Nobody in town knew who that was. [laughing]
A: They didn’t even know my name.
I: So, your name is Buddy, that’s it.
A: My name is Buddy.
I: Okay. What is your birthday?
A: June the 26th1929. I turned–
I: So, you were born in the era of Great Depression?
I: Ah. And where were you born?
A: In Sugarland, Texas. My hometown.
A: Sugarland Texas.
I: Okay. Tell me about your family, your parents and
your siblings when you were growing up.
A: I have two sisters. Had–had three but one of them died when she was real young. And no brothers and a mother and father. And we lived at 716 Main Street in Sugarland Texas.
I: Your father was farmer?
A: My father was a carpenter.
A: Right. He worked for
in–Sugarland Industries, which is a subsidiary of Imperial Sugar.
I: Mm-hmm. And so what high school did you graduate?
A: Sugarland High School.
I: And what did you do after that?
A: Well I, while I was in high school I had decided that I want to go into the Air Force.
A: And I had noticed that the Air Force presented a tech school called Aircraft and Engineer Mechanics school. So I wrote to them and they accepted me as a candidate and they made all the arrangements for me to–to enlist on August 30, 1948.
I: Mm-hmm. And what is the school name?
A: Aircraft and Engine Mechanics Tech School.
I: Aircraft and Engine
A: And Engine, right
I: And then?
A: Tech School.
A: Technology School.
I: Where is it?
A: At that time, it was Shepard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. And then, that moved to Keesler Air Force Base in–
I: Ah. And is that military school, right?
I: So, when you write a letter–
A: That was after I was in the Air Force. I joined in August of ’48.
I: So you joined the school. So that means that you enlisted as a Air Force?
A: into the Army Air Corps, at that time.
A: And then while I was in, it changed to the United States Air Force.
I: So, where did you get the basic military training?
A: Where did I get basic training? At–at Keelser–at–
I: At Shepard?
A: In–in San Antonio.
I: San Antonio?
A: Where all–most of the basic and then while I was in the basic they’ll–they moved that training thing up to Shepard Field and Wichita Texas.
A: Wichita Falls.
I: What kind of
training did you receive at the Shepard Air–Air Force base?
A: Leaned all about the mechanics work.
A: Different things and the engine, the applications, hydraulics, electric systems and so forth.
I: Can you give me some details about the mechanics? What kind of and aerodynamics?
A: Yeah j–just regular normal air–normal airplane mechanics stuff.
I: Mm-hmm. For example.
A: For example, they had even worked on B36 at one time, in tech school, but mostly it was small planes and we just had small crews.
I: So, did you actually dissemble and reassemble things or what?
I: Can you give me more specific?
A: Well, if I get a little further along when I–
I: You said it’s the B36?
A: Uh-huh. The big, big bomber.
we went to–while I was in Korea, I served in an outfit with the T-6 airplanes, the T6 Texans
A: Training planes. We had a–a ground force personal in the cockpit and our pilots was in the front cockpit and we had 6 phosphorus rockets mounted to the wings of the air plane.
and the–they would fly over low and slow over enemy areas and mark the targets with phosphorus rockets.
I: So you–
A: And then the faster planes came over and dropped the [unintelligible] bombs and bombed it [unintelligible]
I: Wasn’t it difficult for you to learn all these things? Because you didn’t have any expert basis on this technology.
A: Well– we– we had just the standard the standard aircraft mechanics stuff.
So, after that where–what did you do?
A: Well, from there I was–I was sent to–to Keesler Field and I was–and training there and I broke my right ankle playing softball one day. So they sent me up to Oliver General Hospital in Augusta Georgia.
A: And then when I got out of that, they sent me back to
San Antonio to–to be–be reclassified and then they sent me back to Shepard field to finish the aircraft mechanics school. And then, I was sent to the Philippine Islands. And that was in 1949.
I: So, you sent out to Philippine in 1949?
A: Right. And the day after, the North Koreans invaded South Korea
on the 25thof June.
A: The next day, I was 21 years old.
A: And very shortly after that, in a couple of months, I was in Korea.
I: How did you get there from Philippines?
A: By flying.
A: We flew from that Okinawa and all the small islands over to Japan. And then we flew from [Ashia] up into Pusan.
I: And you landed in Pusan?
I: Oh. So when you–when did you arrive in Pusan, do you remember?
A: It must have been–
A: June or July of–
A: Yeah. Of 1950.
I And did you know anything about Korea before you landed there?
A: No, didn’t know a thing about it. And I just saw it in the newspaper and I said well, we’ll probably be there before too long and we were.
I: You didn’t learn anything about Korea during high school history class?
A: No, didn’t know anything about it. I just–just like the history books today, you get about a page and a half of Korean War.
I: Were you nervous about being in Korea?
A: No. you know, at that time I was 21 and full of vinegar. Shell shock, I mean that–bullet proof, just like everyone that’s 21 years old is. So–
I: Bullet proof.
A: Bullet proof and you take what comes today and tomorrow.
I: So what was your rank and what was your unit?
A: Well, at–I was a private then.
A: And then I was
promoted to corporal.
A: And while I was in Korea still I was promoted to sergeant. And then when I got back to the States I was promoted to staff sergeant.
I: What was your unit?
A: Technical and maintenance squadron. Headquartered in headquarters squadron and then went to 6147
maintenance and supply. The airplanes would be in 6148 and 6149 squadron and whenever they came to–for their major inspections they were shipped to our base and we pulled all the major inspections on all of the T-6 aircraft.
I: So, 6148, 49 that’s the Air Force squadron.
A: Yeah, Air Force squadron.
I: But you are 6147–
A: But I was the 47th
I: Maintenance and supplies
I: Where were you–where was this located?
A: Different places. In Daegu, I keep–they had K names at the time and I can’t remember them.
I: Yeah, what is K name remember? K13?
A: I had all of them on a cigarette case, aluminum cigarette case and I scratched the dates and stuff in it
and I don’t know where the cigarette case went to.
I: Okay. And does that belong to 5thAir Force?
A: 5thAir Force, right.
I: Yeah. So when this Army Air Corps become the U.S. Air Force?
A: It was while I was in Korea.
I: In Korea, yeah.
A: And I can’t just remember the exact date that they did.
I: So, tell me about the typical day of your duties belonging 6147.
A: Well, we’d get up–we’d get up in the morning and go to chow and then we’d go to the flight line to find out which planes had been assigned to us for that day. And then we’d go out and start pulling the inspection. And usually it took a day or day and a half to completely full–
perform all of the inspection. And then the test pilot assigned to it would come out and one of the members of the crew that worked on the plane had to fly in it with the pilot.
A: So, I got a little bit of flying time in.
A: Because–cause I was the maintenance chief. I was in charge of one of the squadrons–I mean one of the squads that went out.
I: Hm. You must be very proud of what you have done.
A: I was. Really proud.
I: Yeah. Were there respect from the pilot about your work?
A: Oh yes they’re–because they knew that our lives–their lives depended on what we did.
I: Exactly. Did you have enough parts to replace and fix and repair?
A: Oh yes. We–they had plenty of parts.
A: In that–in the supply. We would go in and check the part that we needed
and check with the–the–the supply man and he would give us the part and we would take it out and put it on the plane.
I: Were there any dangerous moment during your service in Korea?
A: Well, I ended up in the 6147 at Yonpo.
A: Yonpo the–close to
Hamhung and Hungnam Harbor.
I: Ah! Yonpo.
A: Yeah, Yonpo.
A: About 100 miles from the Manchurian border.
I: When were you there?
A: I was there and evacuated out with the Marines from the Chosin Reservoir.
I: Chosin? Oh! Okay.
A: They were put on LST’s and sent to Japan.
A: I was put on the LST’s and sent back to Pusan and reassigned and that’s when I got back in the 6147.
I: Yeah. And in Yonpo
what did you do?
A: I was handling the air evac missions out of–of Chosin.
I: You mean Chosin Reservoir?
I: Changjin Reservoir
I: So, you actually helped this air raid
A: Right, air–
I: and evacuations from Changjin.
A: Right. From Hungnam and Hamhung harbor.
I: What did you hear about the Changjin reservoir situation?
A: Nothing at all. We didn’t–we didn’t–we didn’t know where we were.
I mean, we didn’t have any maps. We didn’t–they weren’t telling us where we were. So–
I: Yeah but didn’t you hear from the Marine or other soldiers about the situation there how bad was it?
A: No, they were in–they were in such bad shape they weren’t talking about much
I: Hm. So you didn’t know what you are actually supporting for?
A: No. no we didn’t–we didn’t know from nothing.
I: How many aircrafts were there in Yonpo? What kind?
A: C-47’s, C-52’s
A: Yes. C-47’s C-46’s, 52’s. Just any kind in the–the–
A: C-119. They’d come in and load up with past–patients to be sent back to either Japan or the hospital ships.
I: Ah hah. So that was main mission of this carriers– right?
A: Right. That’s the main mission when it were–when we were at Yonpo.
I: Mm-hmm. What was the most difficult thing during your service in Korea?
A: Cold air. Cold weather.
A: The last night we were at Yonpo, the–our sup–superiors thought that the Chinese were going to overrun the positions and so we had to spend a night in a foxhole. And I had never been
exposed to that kind of weather. And our shelter half actually froze to the ground. And the next day we got on trucks and went to Hungnam harbor and evacuated.
I: Hm. What were you thinking? That why am I here or what am I doing here, things like that?
A: All I did was whatever they told me to do. [laughing] and
at the time, I didn’t know the Chinese–the–the Marines were all going back to the States.
I: What was the living conditions? I mean– when you were in the Daegu–
A: We lived in tents.
I: Daegu–and, you know, rear area it wasn’t not too bad, right?
A: No, it wasn’t too bad.
I: But, when you were in Yonpo how did you–what was the living conditions?
A: We were in tents.
I : Tents?
A: With–that had wooden floors and pot-bellied stoves.
Burning JP1 jet fuel
A: For heat. And–
I: That’s a very powerful gasoline.
A: Very powerful gas.
I: Yeah, I know that. How much were you paid, at the time?
A: God I can’t–I can’t remember.
I: Less than $100, right?
A: Oh yeah it–and most of mine went back home to the States.
A: I was buying a car while I was in Korea. When I–when I–
I: You were buying what?
A: A car.
I: A car.
A: When I got home, I had my car waiting for me at–
I: Who bought it for you?
A: My mother and dad.
A: With the money that I sent home.
I: That’s a–that’s a good deal huh?
A: That’s a good deal.
A: A very good deal.
I: Were there any Korean boys or Korean young–
A: Oh we had–
I: That actually worked with you
A: We had–
I: As a house boy or anything like that?
A: Yeah, we had young boys that–
and one day, we went to the mess hall and they had fish. And so, we took some trout back to the barracks for our house boy. And he wouldn’t eat it he said no that’s not fish, fish is that like. You know, the fish that they caught, because it was inland. So, he didn’t want to eat the fish if it was big. [laughing]
I: You did–how was the relationship
with the house boy?
A: Real good. Real good.
I: Do you remember anything?
A: We’d we go out and they’d have everything clean when we came back in so, they were real–real courteous and kind to us and we were to them too.
I: What did you do for them? Did you pay or did you–?
A: Yeah we paid them.
I: How much?
A: I can’t remember. Its– 2 or 3 thousand
won or something like that.
A: Now that’s not much.
A: Over in Korea at–at–at–at–at that time.
I: did you write letters back to your family?
A: Yeah. I wrote back–back home and they’d send cookies and things. And they always–they sent me one time they sent me a box of pecans. And I love pecans.
A: But I always shared everything that I got
with the other guys in the tent, except the pecans. [laughing]
A: [laughing] they didn’t get the pecans they didn’t know where the pecans were.
I: How often did you get the pecans?
A: Oh I got them maybe once a year.
I: Once a year?
A: Yeah. And I was over there for two years, so.
I: How much? How many?
A: Oh a box about maybe as 12×12 or something like that.
I: Do you still keep that–those letters that you wrote back and you received?
A: I had a fire in my home.
A: And it burned completely down. In 2005. So, I didn’t–
I: So, when did you leave Korea?
A: In 1952 I think it was, yeah. Because I got–ca–went to Mobile Alabama to Brookley–yeah Brookley Air Force base and I was assigned there to be discharged.
I: Hm. Then what did you do?
A: And I was promoted
to staff sergeant while I was there.
A: And then I got out. Because they wouldn’t promise me that they’d send me to Germany. And I said if they can promise me they’ll send me to Germany I’ll re-up, but they couldn’t so I said bye.
I: And what did you do?
A: So I went back to Sugarland Texas and started college at University of Houston and went to work for the Imperial Sugar Company.
A: Imperial Sugar Company.
A: And I worked for them for 40 years.
And I retired them when I was 65 years old after 40 years’ service.
I: Did you get the GI bill?
A: Yeah, sure did.
I: Hm. How–how was it, the GI bill?
A: It was pretty good. It paid books and tuition, but I had a job on the side because I was working at the service station.
I: Mm-hmm. So, that was a great benefit, right?
A: It sure was.
I: And that get you education.
A: Right. And I never did finish college. Because I got married and had kids, and you know. So…I enjoyed my life.
I: Oh. That’s–
A: I’ve got three kids, two boys and a girl and they’re all had some college. My daughter graduated college.
My youngest son decided he was–wanted to be a chef and he’s cooks he’s got his own catering company.
I: How about grandchildren or great grandchildren in the age of high school or in college right now? Is there any?
A: Well, I’ve got one that’s finishing high school this year and he’s going–he’s already been accepted to go to college.
I: Have you been back to Korea?
A: Went back in ’09.
A: My home burned down in 2005. And we rebuilt on the same spot. And then we got a reverse mortgage and we paid the house off so its ours. And we had some extra money so we went back to Korea with [Won pi pack] he’s has–lives in San Antonio and he
has–does guided tours. And we went with them.
I: And what did you find?
A: Fantastic cities. Everything modern. They don’t build just a high rise apartment, they build bunches of high rise apartments at the same time. And most of the people live in the high rises because of–the land is–too important for someone to live on because they gra–grow crops on.
So that’s–fantastic. I mean they’ve got their farming down perfect and everything else. After being in a war and all the bombs and everything else happening, I would have never thought that Korea would pull their self up by their bootstraps from people. We would walk down the street and I had a name tag that said Korean War Veteran
A: And the natives would walk up to me and say, you fought in the Korean War? And I says, yes. Oh thank you for saving my country. And they could not do anything enough for us.
A: We’d go in some place and buy something some souvenir or something and they’d put something extra in-in the bag because they wanted to–they wanted to share with us.
Fantastic. I just–I would have never believed it if I hadn’t have come.
I: You didn’t think that the Korea would pull that off?
A: I didn’t think–I didn’t think Korea would be able to pull it off.
A: And they– when they come to a mountain, they don’t go over it, they bore through that son of a gun. Make road straight–and all of the road–high traffic
roads that we went on and I was glad I wasn’t driving the bus because I wouldn’t have been able to keep up with them.
I: Isn’t it so rewarding to find out that the country you fought for
I: Come out so beautifully?
A: Definitely. And–and being in the–this Korean War Veterans ser–the–it–the Texas Lone Star Chapter of the Korean War Veterans. We have been invited to everything
that the community, Korean community have.
I: Koreans never forget what Korean veterans did 65 years ago and we thank them.
A: Well, I can remember the things that they went through. Oh Lord.
[End of Recorded Material]