Korean War Legacy Project

Barry J. McKay


Barry J. McKay was born in Gisborne, New Zealand, in 1931. He enlisted at age seventeen in the New Zealand Navy in 1948. He was among the earliest New Zealanders to serve in the war beginning at the outbreak of the war in August of 1950. He served two tours, first on the HMNZS Pukaki for about six months, and later on the HMNZS Taupo for nearly fourteen months. Both ships’ missions focused on disrupting the supply lines of North Korean forces. His primary duties involved working in the boiler rooms to maintain the pistons’ oil levels, but he also assisted in escorting landing parties to shore.

Video Clips

Early Conflicts Along the Peninsula

Barry J. McCay was stationed aboard the HMNZS Pukaki when he first arrived in the waters off of Korea. He describes action aboard the HMNZS Pukaki as it cruised the East Sea. He recalls how, in one encounter, his ship came under fire from a Soviet-made MiG jet.

Tags: East Sea,Fear,North Koreans,Weapons

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Cold and Rough

Barry J. McKay describes his most dangerous and difficult moments aboard two other ships in his time in Korea, a British destroyer for training and then the New Zealand frigate, the HMNZS Taupo. He describes enemy attacks and his role in escorting landing parties.

Tags: East Sea,Chinese,Cold winters,Physical destruction,Weapons

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Life and Duties Aboard the HMNZS Pukaki

Barry J. McKay worked the engine rooms on both of his deployments to the area just off the eastern coast of Korea. His shares information about what his duties included as one of the men in charge of the ship's boiler room. He offers details of what life was like onboard the Pukaki.

Tags: East Sea,Cold winters,Living conditions,Weapons

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of recorded material]

B:        Barry McKay.  B-A-R-R-Y  M-c-K-A-Y.

I:          Um.  What is your birthday?

B:        My birthday is the 22nd of the first of ’31.

I:          So you born January 22, 1931.

B:        Yeah.

I:          Um hm.  So you are now

B:        Eighty-eight.

I:          Wow.  Eighty-eight?  You look like 68.


So where were you born?

B:        Gisborne.

I:          Gisborne?

B:        Yeah.

I:          Um.  Tell me about your family when you were growing up, when you were child, your parents and your siblings.  How many siblings did you have?

B:        There was four of us.

I:          Yes?

B:        A older brother

I:          Um?

B:        Uh, the older sister and a younger sister.


So you were in the middle?

B:        Yeah, just about, yeah.

I:          Um.  And tell me about the school you went through.

B:        I went through Agatava school.

I:          Could you spell it?

B:        A-G-A-T-A-V-A.

I:          Okay.  And what else?

B:        I went to the Gisborne Intermediate, and then from Intermediate to high school.

I:          And high school.

B:        Yeah.


I:          Yeah.  So from your school, what did you learn about Korea?  Did you know anything about Korea from the school?

B:        No.

I:          Not at all?

B:        No.  No.  There were, there was [INAUDIBLE] sent over there.

I:          Ha.  Did you know anything about China or Japan?

B:        No.

I:          Not at all.

B:        No.

I:          Yeah.  So now you are the Korean War veteran, right?

B:        Yeah.

I:          Yeah.


What do you think about this?  You, you didn’t know anything about Korea.  Now you are Korean War veteran.

B:        Yeah.  Yeah.

I:          What do you think?

B:        Oh, so what?

I:          Um?

B:        Yeah.  I quite enjoyed it over there.

I:          You enjoyed it?

B:        The people, yeah.

I:          Um.  So when did you join the military?

B:        I joined the Navy in 1948.

I:          Forty-eight.  How old were you at the time?  You were 17?

B:        Yeah.


I:          Yes.

B:        I was in years, nine months.

I:          Nine months.  And where did you get  the basic military training?

B:        Uh, Tamaki, Auckland.

I:          Kabuki?

B:        Tamaki.

I:          Could you spell it?

B:        T-A-M-A-K-I.

I:          C-A-T-I-M?

B:        T-A-M-A-K-I, T-A-M-A-K-I.

I:          Tamaki.



B:        It, it really was called Motor Hill.  That’s when the Navy, what they called Tamaki.

I:          I see.  And how was basic military training there?

B:        I was there for three months.

I:          Three months.

B:        Then I went to [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Um hm.

B:        the rest of my training.  Then they put me on a ship,

I:          Ship


B:        and I went to HMS Pukaki.

I:          Could you spell it?

B:        P-U-K-, P-U-K-A-K-I.

I:          U-K-A-K-

B:        I.

I:          I.  So Pukaki.

B:        Pukaki, yeah.

I:          Pukaki.  And that was Her Majesty New Zealand ship, Pukaki.

B:        Yeah.

I:          What kind of ship was it?  Was it cruiser or frigate?

B:        Frigate.

I:          Frigate?


So explain this frigate to young children here.  They don’t know what’s frigate.  What kind of ship was it?  How many people?  What kind of weapons?

B:        It was kind of a mine sweeper, you know.

I:          Um hm.

B:        It had, uh, about three hundred of us on there.

I:          Three hundred?

B:        Yeah.

I:          Had many people.

B:        Yeah.

I:          So it was a kind of big ship.

B:        Well, it was fairly big.


I:          Um.  And what was your specialty?  What did you do?

B:        Engine room.

I:          Engine Room.

B:        Yeah.

I:          So you knew the boilers and so on.

B:        Yeah.

I:          Yeah.  How big was it, engine?

B:        Oh, she was up and down [INAUDIBLE] but all mostly in the mortars.

I:          Mortar room.

B:        Yeah.

I:          Um.  so when did you go to Korea?


B:        I was in Korea in 1952 as a Sergeant.

I:          I’m sorry?

B:        Nineteen fifty, soon as, soon as it broke out.

I:          Oh.  So you went to Korea as soon as War broke out.

B:        Yeah.

I:          Were you in Japan?

B:        No, no.  Straight

I:          Straight.

B:        Straight to Hong Kong, and then from Hong Kon up to Sasebo.

I:          Hong Kong to Sasebo?

B:        Yeah.

I:          Yeah.  And then to Korea.

B:        Oh yeah.


We patrolled from Sasebo coast up and down all day, all bloody night.

I:          Hm.  Do you remember  the month that you arrived in the Korean Sea, Yellow Sea?  Was it summer or winter?

B:        Winter.  Oh, the old winter, I suppose, it be, we got there about, uh, August.

I:          August?

B:        Yeah.

I:          So you were there pretty,


all in the phase of the Korean War.

B:        Yeah.

I:          Hm.  Tell me about any military action that you took.

B:        We, uh, we were patrolling the border

I:          Um hm.

B:        and firing at the shore when

I:          You were firing at the shore?

B:        Yeah.

I:          Why?

B:        We were trying to put the trains out of commission.  The, uh, stop going up and down the coast.


And then the biggest ship we had, it was the Missouri.

I:          Missouri Aircraft Carrier.

B:        Yeah, no.  She was a, a battle wagon.

I:          Uh huh.

B:        She was the biggest one there.  She had four 8” guns.  Ours was only 4”.

I:          Yeah.

B:        And ships had 40 mph an hour, and we have to get in about 4 [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Um.

B:        The way she falls, you can see the ground all around the place.

I:          It’s a big aircraft carrier.


B:        Yeah.

I:          Yeah.  American ship, right?

B:        Yeah.

I:          Yeah.

B:        Yeah.  The Americans were there and, and Dutch, French.

I:          What about other occasion.  Were you being attacked by North Koreans?

B:        Yeah, we were attacked.

I:          Tell me about it.

B:        We were attacked by a MIG fighter.

I:          MIG fighter.

B:        Yeah.

I:          Tell me about it.  How, how did it  happen?  Describe the  details because young children


they don’t know anything about it.

B:        No.  We was

I:          Explain it.

B:        We were just cruising up the coast, and this MIG come out of somewhere and open fire on us.
I:          Where were you?  Were you in the engine room or were you on the deck?

B:        I was in the engine, in the boiler room.  And then it didn’t do, uh, much damage to, to, I think it was too much artillery around


firing at them.  We were the only ones under attack of all the ships

I:          Uh huh.

B:        were getting under attack.

I:          Did you fire back?

B:        Oh, I suppose they did.  I heard the guns going off anyway.

I:          Um hm.  Must be very scary.

B:        Oh, yes.  Just had to sit there and keep the boat going.

I:          Hm.

B:        Yeah.  Every once a time


we’d get type the information from the Captain and he’d go fast or slow.  And then on up to, up to the, the, what’s the name, the [INAUDIBLE] you see, and we had three [INAUDIBLE] and you’d switch from three.  And if you went there going fast, [you’d have to go forward


INAUDIBLE] to keep one spare all the time.  Keep it clean.  And then  you [just threw flaps and she’d change it right over].

I:          Hm.  Where did you learn taking care of engine?

B:        On the ship.

I:          On the ship?

B:        Yeah.

I:          So you didn’t know much about the engine before.

B:        No.

I:          So what kind of job did you do?

B:        Me?

I:          Yeah.  Engine, with the engine.  What did you do?

B:        Oh well, keep the, the,


the pistons oiled [INAUDIBLE] and the piston would hit the [INAUDIBLE] up and down.  So there were [OCCASIONS]  That was the engine was in the boiler room to keep the water level there, of the boiler the same level all the time.

I:          Same level.

B:        Yeah.

I:          So you were checking all those maintaining.

B:        Well a few.  They, they upped the bloody, you know


the, uh,   separated the ship to take more water you see, yeah.

I:          How long did you work every day?  What time did you start, and what time did you end?

B:        Well, I was on three watches, [that was four watch], three watches, four hours.

I:          Four hours.

B:        Yeah.

I:          Yeah.  So there is a shift.

B:        Yeah.

I:          Two shifts or one shift?


B:        There would be three of us all at once.

I:          Three of you.

B:        Yeah.

I:          Um.

B:        It was three or four hours each.

I:          Um hm.

B:        Yeah.

I:          And how was life inside of this frigate?  Even though there are a lot of people in this, uh, big ship.

B:        Yeah.  There was

I:          But still this small

B:        twenty-four on our deck.  And we had to sleep in  hammocks, you see.

I:          Hammock.

B:        Yeah.

I:          Um.

B:        Cause when they swung the hammock with the ship rolled,


the hammock, [STAMMERS] never touch you.

I:          It’s a swing, right?

B:        Yeah.  Yeah.

I:          Yeah.  How was it ?

B:        It was alright, yeah.

I:          Okay?

B:        Yeah, quite comfy.

I:          Yeah.  Compared to the  Army’s who had to sleep in the friend, uh, foxhole with the water or snow.

B:        Oh boy.  Their sleep was, was, uh, very cold in the winter.

I:          Yeah.


B:        But the first trip I did was a six, five months .  See, we went over, see it’s July, and they, we were back by December.

I:          December of 1950.

B:        Yeah.

I:          And then, did you go back?

B:        Yeah, well, I went on to the War strike, and I went down [INAUDIBLE]

I:          When was that?

B:        Fifty-one.

I:          Fifty-one.  You went back to Korea again.

B:        We were called from,


they called on to, to another ship, Taupo.

I:          Um hm.  Another ship named what?

B:        Taupo.

I:          Could you

B:        T-A-U-P-O.

I:          That’s it.  Taupo.

B:        Taupo, yeah.

I:          Taupo.  And that’s a frigate, too?

B:        Yeah.

I:          So you were there two times.

B:        Yeah.  Last time was 14 months.

I:          Fourteen months.

B:        Yeah.

I:          So you left Korea


more like, uh, 1952, ’53?

B:        Yeah.

I:          When, ’52 or ’53?

B:        I was there in, uh, [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Fifty-two, 52.  Were there any dangerous moments where you could be wounded or being hit?
B:        Well, see, when I was transferred to a British, uh, destroyer [INAUDIBLE]


I:          Yeah.  So you were transferred to destroyer.

B:        Yeah.

I:          So from frigate Taupo to destroyer.

B:        For three months training, yes.

I:          Uh huh.

B:        And then we were attacked

I:          Yeah

B:        and we lost three men only.

I:          Why?

B:        Because they hit the, hit the, the laundry where the,


we, we used to have laundry, you see, and it hit the laundry and killed these three seamen, yeah.  And they happen to be Chinese.

I:          Happened to be Chinese.

B:        Yeah.

I:          How come?

B:        Well, they were, they were allowed to come on board and do their laundry.

I:          Oh, laundry.  So they were not soldiers.

B:        No, no.

I:          But they were killed.

B:        Yeah.

I:          Huh.  I’m sorry to hear that.


B:        Yeah.

I:          Um, Barry, what was the most difficult  thing during your service in the ship?

B:        Ooo,

I:          What did really bother you?
B:        Nothing doesn’t,

I:          Nothing in particular?  Was it cold?

B:        Oh, it was cold.  Cause when they put anybody ashore, I’d have to be


on the

I:          Deck.

B:        on the boat.

I:          Yeah.

B:        They took the, they departed, I was the Chief Engineer on the boat, you see, to keep the boat running

I:          Um hm.

B:        and we, I used to take the, the landing parties ashore, then set off and wait for the signal to go back and get them.

I:          Hm.

B:        And my God, [INAUDIBLE] was cold and she was rough.


I:          But engine room was always warm, right?

B:        Oh, yeah.

I:          Yeah.

B:        Yeah.

I:          Yeah.

B:        But, you know, the, the, the best part of it all was trying to get back on the ship because the  boat was rolling [SEAS]

I:          Um.

I:          Did you volunteer to join them again or were you ordered to join them?

B:        Oh, would you, if they called you up, you just went.

I:          I see.  And you were not married at the time, right?

B:        No.

I:          No.


And you are here with your daughter.  So when did you marry?

B:        When I came out.

I:          Came out.

B:        Three years after I got out, yeah.

I:          I see.  And have you been back to Korea since then?

B:        No.

I:          You never been back to Korea?

B:        No.

I:          Ah.  Do you know what’s going on in Korea now?

B:        Oh,

I:          Do you know about  the Korean economy and so on?

B:        No.

I:          You don’t know?

B:        No.

I:          The country you fight for 70 years ago


now becomes 11th largest economy in the world.

B:        We were in Korea, Kura

I:          Yeah

B:        very far from Hiroshima.

I:          Hiroshima.

B:        And we were, uh , taxi, [INAUDIBLE]  we went through to Hiroshima to have a look, and it was flat.  All that was there were a few

I:          Yeah.

B:        Bars.  Of course, we [PULLED] in there

I:          Um.


Have you seen any Korean cities?  No.

B:        No.

I:          No.  Did you have a chance to patrol Han River ?

B:        I could have, but  I was in, uh, uh, cause I was, port we went to

I:          Han River or

B:        Yellow [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Yeah, Yellow Sea.

B:        Yeah.

I:          Yellow Sea.

B:        We went up one river


and got stranded.  Had to get another boat in to pull us out.

I:          Um hm.

B:        It was just as well.  They didn’t have any big guns on them.

I:          Hm.

B:        But we used to fish the dead bodies out of, out of the water and sew them up in canvases and [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Um.  Anything you remember that


particularly you remember during your service in the ship?

B:        Some what?

I:          Any, any particular episode that you remember?
B:        No, no, no, nothing

I:          No.

B:        spectacular.

I:          So are you proud to be a Korean War veteran?

B:        Yeah.

I:          Um.

B:        Yeah.

I           What do you think you did for Korea?

B:        Hm?

I:          What do you think you did for Korea?

B:        Oh, helped the people I suppose,


you know?

I:          Um.

B:        [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Yes.

B:        you know, have a life?

I:          Because you fought for Korea, Korea were able to rebuild their nation.  Now they are 11th largest economy in the world, very big economy.

B:        Yeah.

I:          Yeah.  By 2030, we will be ahead of France.

B:        Yeah.

I:          Just behind Great Britain.

B:        Yeah.

I:          So we going to be 7th largest


economy in the world.

B:        Oh yeah.

I:          Yeah.

B:        Yeah.

I:          But the Korea when you went there, Korea was miserable.

B:        Yeah.

I:          Yeah.

B:        Yeah.

I:          That’s why we are doing this, okay?

B:        Yeah.

I:          In your family, is there anybody who’s teaching in the high school or middle school?  Any school teacher in your family now?

B:        No.

I:          Nobody’s teaching.

B:        No.

I:          Oh.  We are doing this so that teachers will play this interview


in the school.

B:        Oh yeah.

I:          for the children so that they can know who Barry John McKay was and what he did.  You did twice in the  Korean War, right?

B:        Yeah.

I:          Yeah.

B:        My  granddaughter took my medals to, uh, school and explained them

I:          Yeah.

B:        what they’re all about.  Then she brought them back to me.

I:          Yeah.  What’s her name?

B:        [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Um.  And she explained about your medals, right?

B:        Yeah.


I:          That’s very nice.

B:        [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Excellent.  Any other story that you want to say to this interview?

B:        Uh, I don’t, I don’t know.  I just can’t remember them.

I:          Um.


So you didn’t know about Korea.  But now you know Korea, and you are Korean War veteran, right?
B:        Yeah.

I:          So what is Korea to you now personally?

B:        Well, it’s called [INAUDIBLE] country

I:          Um hm.

B:        you know?  It was more like a civilized country.

I:          Yeah.

B:        when we were there.  They, they just did what they had to do.

I:          Um hm.


Do you want to go back to Korea?

B:        Oh, I’m too old to go back there now.

I:          Um.  Alright.  Barry, thank you so much for coming and sharing your story with us.

B:        Yeah.

I:          And I’ll make sure that this interview will be edited for the use of teachers and students in New Zealand.

B:        Yeah.

I:          Okay?

B:        Yeah.

I:          Great.  Thank you so much.

B:        That’s alright.  Thank you.

I:          Thank you.


[End of Recorded Material]