Arthur W. Sorgatz
Arthur Sorgatz was drafted and six months into his service, he decided to enlist for another year which caused him to be shipped to Fort Campbell, Kentucky where he would join the 11th Airborne Division. After hearing the news that his Company would not be going home after sixteen weeks of basics, the group of men retaliated with failing the physical training test needed to remain in the Airborne Division and would be sent home, but now he regrets doing that. He sailed to Korea aboard the U.S.S. General Pope in December 1954 after a terrifying journey that toppled over fifty-foot waves with the prop was sticking straight up out of the water causing damage that was needing continuous repair to keep the ship from sinking. Driving a deuce and a half, he was assigned hauling merchandise throughout Pusan for a little over five months before being sent back to Yokohama, Japan where he continued to drive for the Army. On one occasion he recalled being assigned to headquarter duty as a guard to protect an entire warehouse of spirits for all of the troops in South Korea and offering some R&R with the supplies he guarded. When he ended his service with the Army in 1957, he spent a few years working a number of different jobs before owning his own business in 1967, until he retired in 1998.
Strangers Left The Dead
Based on Korean culture, if someone died and the body was lying along the road, civilians would leave the body there, claiming that if they returned the body to the family, the helper would have to take care of the deceased person's family. Sometimes, bodies would lay in the road for three to four days before it was picked up. Arthur Sorgatz had to drive around bodies any times during his tour in Busan, Korea.
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US and Korea Relations Today & The Importance of Military Service
Arthur Sorgatz felt that Koreans appreciate Korean and US soldiers more than citizens of the United States. He felt his time in Korea was a great experience. He wishes the draft was back to require young adults to experience discipline because he feels that it has been lost.
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Impact from a Tour in Korea and Japan
Arthur Sorgatz was able to learn about how other people live when he was stationed in Busan starting in 1954. Poverty was very high in Korea after the war and America's poverty level is nothing compared to Korea's at that time. In Japan, Arthur shipped damaged trucks to the port while creating his own fun by scaring Japanese civilians by backfiring trucks right within busy towns.
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[Beginning of Transcribed Material]
A: I’m Art. W. Sorgatz from Waterville, Minnesota. I was born on 2/8/33 on a farm in Waterville Township. And I entered service when I was 20 years old. And how far should I go?
I: What did your parents do?
A: Oh, they farmed. And I wanted dad to buy more land, and I was gonna farm, too. But he, after going through the Depression, he didn’t want to stick his neck out. So, then I started working out and got married when I was 19 and went in, and six months later I was in the Service.
I: And did you enlist or were you drafted?
A: I was drafted. And then I took, I enlisted for another year and joined the Airborne.
I: So which branch did you
I: And what was your unit?
A: When I went, after I joined the Airborne, they shipped me down to Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
And I was in the 11th Airborne.
I: So, when you were drafted, and you first went to training
A: I was only in a few days. I was just, I went to Fort Sheridan, Illinois. And at Fort Sheridan, after, I don’t know, a week or so, I joined the Airborne. So, I never went to a different unit. I went from there to Fort Campbell.
I: So, you were drafted into the Army but were able to immediately transfer.
A: Yeah, after I enlisted for another year. The reason I enlisted for another year really because I was getting $15 a month more. And that paid for the house rent back home. Doesn’t sound realistic, but that’s the way it was back then.
I: So, what was training like?
A: Well, Airborne you, regular Army you had eight weeks of basic. Airborne you had 16 weeks of basic. And you double timed, whenever you left the barracks, you double timed. You never walked. You went to the mess hall, you double timed. You went to a movie, you double timed. You went to church, you double timed. So, you did that for 16 weeks.
And then from there, you went to Fort Benning, Georgia for Jump School.
I: Can you tell me about Jump School?
A: Oh, well see after our 16 weeks of basic, we were supposed to go home on leave. Well, we got done with 16 weeks of basic, and they said no, you ain’t going home on leave. You’re gonna pull KP and detail for a month.
And then after the first of the year, we got done about the end of November. And after the first of the year, we, you were gonna go directly down to Fort Benning. Well, that didn’t sit very good with us. See, a company is about 220 men. So, we all started talking, and you had to, we had to do a PT test where I guess what PT would be like physical training, but you had to go, you know, push ups and all that kind of stuff.
And if you didn’t pass that, they’d kick you out of Airborne. So, we all started talking, and we decided we’re gonna fail it, fail the test. So out of 220 men, 200 men failed the test. So, they kicked us out of Airborne, and we went home on leave. That was my duration of being in Airborne. But that still bothers me today that I wish I would never have done that.
I wish I would have followed through. But you were young.
I: When did you get transferred over to Korea?
A: I left the States on the 16th of December, ’54. And we landed in Yokohama on New Years’ Day of docked on New Years’s Day. And then from there, we went to Inchon, Korea. And then we hopped on a train and went down to Pusan.
Inchon doesn’t have no ship docking. You anchored out in the bay, and then they took you in by boat. Pusan had regular ship docking. But I don’t know why we had to go way up there. But we did. I went over on the US General Pope. We had, they said it was the worst storm they ever seen. We had 50’ waves.
When the bough would go down into the water, the props of the ship would come out of the water. And the whole s hip would shudder. And our bough was cracking an inch an hour. And they was welding her up ways she was cracking. When she got back to the States, they put her in dry dock. And I never did hear anything about the Pope after that. So, I don’t know if they fixed it up or what happened. But it was rough.
But that whole ship was just shuddering when those props would come under water. Then we had 3,500 troops on that ship.
I: And then where you based?
A: Little, a few miles northeast of Pusan. Our barracks or whatever you wanna call them was about 50 yards from the Sea of Japan.
I: And what did your duties look like?
A: Well, we were truck drivers. And, but then we pulled a guard duty at the port, or at the pier. And that’s what we had, that was about what we’d done. We hauled merchandise. I don’t remember even no more what we hauled at that time. But I was only there for five months because then our whole unit, trucks and all, were shipped over to Yokohama, Japan.
And that’s where, and I was there about a year. When I was in Korea, then we drove deuce and a halfs. And when I got to Japan, we drove semis.
I: What did a typical day look like when you were in Korea?
A: That’s 50 some years ago. I don’t know. You got up in the morning.
And you either, we either had some trucking to do or else we had guard duty down at the pier. That was about it. Oh, I should tell you. When I first got there, I was assigned to a Headquarters Company in Pusan. We had two, we had three warehouses. Two of papers, forms you know, and one warehouse full of liquor. And we used to, they supplied the whole South Korea with liquor out of that warehouse.
We had parties every Friday night for 10 cent drinks.
I: So, what kind of things did you do for fun?
A: Not much. There wasn’t much to do because, you know, we were up there, there was a, I don’t know if it was a town or what. But there were people living, you know, right close by. It was all compacted, hut on top of hut. So, more or less not much.
I: Can you paint me a picture? What did South Korea look like just following the War?
A: Well, see, Pusan never got really damaged that much. It was all shacks, one right tight together. I asked, they came out with a book what Korea looked like before and after.
And our chapter, we had a couple guys that went back there on that, you can go back. The South Korean government has tours. And I asked him, you know, if they still had huts. He says no. And I asked him if they still worked out in the rice paddies by hand. He says no, that’s all machinery. And I asked him if they had any honey wagons. No. He said he never seen one.
I: Can you describe what the honey wagon is?
A: It’s human feces. They use that to put on the rice paddies.
I: Are there any stories or experiences that stand out to you from that time?
A: No. Like in South Korea, they had, if somebody died along the road, if the family didn’t pick him up, he laid there because anybody that would pick him up other than family had to support the family.
So, he more or less, he could have laid there three or four days. You drove around him. And finally, somebody had picked him up. I don’t know who. But that was one of their customs.
I: What kind of friendships or camaraderie did you form?
A: Well yeah, you did. You had, you know, picked out individuals that you associated with but not, you know, I guess I didn’t really have any close friendships.
I had one guy from Hastings. But then I lost his address after I got home, and I never did get in touch with him. It’s something you did every day, and you know, I mean you had companionship but nothing that was real close.
I: What impacted you the most from your time of serving there?
A: In Korea?
You got to see how everybody else lives, you know. You know, people don’t, people are used to living like we do. They don’t understand how in other parts of the world people live different. I mean, we talk about poverty here. We don’t have poverty, not according to the poverty that was there at that time.
What was the date that you transferred from Korea to Japan?
A: End of May ’54. Our whole unit went. Equipment trucks, everything.
I: And then what did your time in Japan look like?
A: It was good. We went to the 47th Transportation Company. And we did a lot of trucking there. Even at that time, we hauled a lot of damaged trucks and stuff back to the pier.
Which was shipped, I imagine it was shipped back to, back here, I don’t know where it went. We used to, Japan was kind of fun because a lot of your Japanese at that time had bicycles. And we’d see a guy going down the road in our, the same direction we were.
We’d turn our ignition off. And about the time we got alongside of him, we’d turn the ignition back on, and the truck would backfire. That went on for a while until we started blowing mufflers. Well, they couldn’t figure out why we were doing that. And they finally figured it out. Well, that was the end of that. So, we created our own fun or atmosphere.
I: And when did you rotate home?
A: I got back, I got discharged second of June, as soon as I got back. My three years were up.
I: What have you done since?
A: Well, before I went in the Service, I worked for Ben Edwards, right, West Mancado (INAUDIBLE). And then I come back,
And I got a job on a dairy farm for, I don’t know, six months. And then I got a, I went to Ottawa, Ottawa, Minnesota, and Chucky Schmitt’s, Schmitt mink far. And from there I went to construction, high line construction. And from there, I went to a feed mill in Waterville. And in 1960 and ’67, I bought the company.
And in ’98, I retired. I was there 38 years.
I: How has your time in the military impacted your feelings toward military service?
A: Well, if I would have been single at the time, and if I could have re-upped and stayed overseas, I would have. Overseas, uh, service was a lot better than Stateside.
I: What did it look like? What was the contrast?
A: Well, overseas, it wasn’t a spit and polish it was back home. You had more, it was more lenient. And you had more fun. When I was in Japan, that was in ’55 and ’56, I was amazed at their trains and their transportation.
They had these electric trains, you know. Your car manufacturers, you know, say well, from 0 to 60 in so many seconds. Well, that’s the way your trains were because most people stood up, and you had a handheld, you know, deal up there. And you better hang on because when that train took off, it was just like a bullet. And it stopped the same way.
And they claim they went 100 miles an hour. They were farther ahead than we were at that time already cause we never had trains that went that fast that I’m aware of.
I: What kind of life lessons do you feel like you learned through your time of service?
A: Well, one thing you appreciate life more. You appreciate what you have because there’s a lot of people in this world that don’t have nothing.
I: Having served there, what do you think of US and Korea relations today?
A: They came from beaten down to nothing. And now they came up to be the 10th most economical country in the world. And that tells you something. And as far as I’m concerned, the people between Korea appreciate us more than we do of Korea.
But it was a good experience. I’ve always said, you know, at that time, you had the draft. They should bring that draft back. And if nothing else, even for one year, that the men would serve. If nothing else, you learn discipline and how to take orders.
Because in today’s youth, they don’t know how to do that.
I: Is there any piece of wisdom or message that you would like to pass on to younger generations?
A: Oh, I suppose there is. One thing I found out when you’re young, you gotta keep your nose clean because that follows you all your life.
If you goof up when you’re young, you’ll get, that’s gonna be in your background all the way through. Enjoy yourself but still, you know, keep your nose clean.
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