Korean War Legacy Project

Bernard Brownstein


Bernard Brownstein was drafted into the military but was able to defer his draft due to his college enrollment. When his draft came due, he thought he would be stationed in Germany but found himself shipped overseas to Incheon. He describes driving with other soldiers through Incheon and whistling at women they found attractive. He also details his impressions of the destruction of Seoul. In addition, he describes a visit with his cousin Myron who was stationed at the DMZ and desperately needed toilet paper. He marvels at the ingenuity of the Korean people and how they transformed their country from what it was to what it is today. He is proud of his service and feels that he played a small part in assisting Korea in its efforts.

Video Clips

Everyone Looked Beautiful

Bernard Brownstein describes his arrival in Incheon and drive to his camp. He explains that the soldier driving him whistles at Korean women as they are driving. He explains that initially he didn't find the girl attractive but as time went on, everyone became beautiful.

Tags: Incheon,Civilians,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,South Koreans,Women

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No Windows Anywhere

Bernard Brownstein describes the condition of Seoul during the war. He explains what the food markets looked like at the side of the street. In addition, he explains the bullet holes and blown out windows of the capital's buildings.

Tags: Seoul,Food,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Physical destruction

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Toilet Paper Was The Big Thing

Bernard Brownstein describes being able to visit his cousin Myron who was also serving in Korea for five days. He explains how pulling connections made it possible for them to visit in person. He also describes how the only thing that Myron wanted from him was toilet paper.

Tags: Front lines,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions

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Ingenuity of the Korean People

Bernard Brownstein shares his memories of Seoul and its disheveled state. He marvels at the ingenuity of the South Korean people as he recounts how they constructed their homes and carried out everyday tasks. He adds that the automatic internal ingenuity of the Korean people led them from where they were to where they are now.

Tags: Seoul,Civilians,Impressions of Korea,Modern Korea,Physical destruction,Pride,South Koreans

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of Transcribed Material]


B:        My formal name is Bernard Brownstein.  Everybody calls me Bernie.
I:          Bernie.
B:        My last name, Brownstein, is Brown like the color STEIN.  I’m originally from New Jersey.  And I came to Kansas via Arizona.  I was very, very happy went I got an email from Mr. Han who said that he was looking for Korean veterans to interview.



And I said I have some great pictures I wanna send to you.  I was fortunate enough time I was in Korea in 1953 – 1954, I went to the PX and bought a beautiful Argus C3 camera.  And I also bought at the same time am Arusflex camera.



I was always kind of an amateur photographer in my teens.  So, I was really glad to be able to get something there.  I brought along with me from the States a movie camera, but I’ll be darned if I can find the film that I took. I had some great Kodachrome pictures, a couple color pictures and 8 mm., I don’t know where they are.


I moved a number of times from where I first was when I got home from Korea.  I lived in

I:          So that’s your memory of your service in Korea, right?
B:        Yes.

I:          Yes.  So, let me ask this question.  What is your birthday?

B:        My birthday, everybody celebrates my birthday with me.  It is New Years’ Eve.



I was born December 31, 1930. I am 86 ½ years old.

I:          Where were you born?

B:        I was born in Newark, New Jersey.

I:          Ah, I know Newark.  And everybody celebrates your birthday, right?
B:        Everybody celebrates  my birthday.  At one time in the 90’s, I went to Florida to Universal Studios, to Universal whatever it was, and about a quarter to twelve my wife and I walked into the area,



And it was going nuts with music and sparklers and fireworks.  And I said wow, isn’t that something.  They’re all celebrating my birthday.

I:          I am happy for you.  So, you are a New Years’ Eve boy.
B:        Yes.

I:          So, tell me about your family when you were growing up.  What about your parents and your siblings?  How many siblings did you have?



B:        Well, we lived in a small town called Irvington, New Jersey which is outside of Newark.  There was my mom and dad and then my sister.  I only  have one sibling, my sister.  And of course, my mom and dad have long passed away.  My sister lives in New York now.  And every once in a while, we get a chance to get together. But she’s way over there on the east coast.  I’m out here in either Arizona or Kansas.



And we don’t always get together that easily.  But we talk on the phone quite a bit. I got married in

I:          Before you talk about your marriage because I wanna have a chronological order of your life.

B:        Oh, okay.
I:          Before you get into the military.  So, I ‘m sorry to cut in there.  But tell me about the schools that you went through.

B:        It’s all part of the narrative.

I:          Yep.



B:        I graduated high school in 1948, in June of 1948.  And I did not want to go to college.  I wanted to go into the family business which at the time was live poultry.  And my mother worked me over.  Boy, she really worked me over until finally somewheres in September or October I said okay, okay, I’ll go to college.


She said if you go for one year and you don’t like it, that’ll be okay with me.  So, I applied to one school.  I’m Jewish.  I applied to a Catholic University.
I:          Uh oh.  Before you go into, when did you graduate your high school?
B:        Nineteen forty-eight.

I:          What high school?

B:        Irvington High School.

I:          And let me ask you this question.  Did you learn anything about Korea during your high school days from the history class?



B:        No.  There was nothing about Korea.

I:          Nothing about Korea?

B:        In 1948?

I:          Yeah.
B:        Nah.

I:          So, you didn’t know where Korea was?

B:        No.

I:          Not at all?

B:        Not at all.

I:          What do you think about now, you didn’t know anything about Korea.  But now you are the Korean War veteran.  You’re talking about those pictures that you took, and you have still a vivid memory

B:        Oh yeah.

I:          How do you put this into a perspective?



You didn’t know anything about Korea.  Now you are the Korean War veteran.

B:        Well, there was nothing really to know about Korea until the War started in 1950.  So, I doubt if there were many people in the United States who knew that a country named Korea even existed, you know. It was way, way far away from, especially from the East coast.  It was on the other side of the world.



I:          Yeah.

B:        So, I applied to one college, and that was Seton Hall University.  Nope, it was Seton Hall College when I applied.

I:          Right after the graduation of high school?
B:        No, I didn’t do it, I didn’t want to go to college.

I:          So, what did you do after high school?
B:        Well, I worked.
I:          Where?
B:        In the family business.  And my mother kept getting on my case about, you know, an education.


Finally she said listen.  If you go one year and you don’t like it, that’ll be okay.  I’ll understand.  So, I said alright, I’ll apply to a school.  And since I’m Jewish and I applied to a Catholic school, I figured for sure I don’t have to worry.  They’re gonna reject me.  Well, lo and behold, in October, I applied in September, in October I got accepted to start in January of 1949.



So, I started school in January of ’49.

I:          Seton Hall?

B:        Seton Hall College.  It later on became the University.

I:          Yeah.
B:        By the time I graduated, it was a university.  But the funny thing is I was 18 on December 31 of 1948.  I started college January of 1949.

I:          Yeah.

I was gonna get engaged later on in 19, wait a minute, in 19, I’m losing myself.  Oh, so I went to school for about a year, almost a year.  And the draft board caught up with me.  Well, I had a girlfriend.  And I had a girlfriend now since 1948.  I met this very lovely young lady.
I:          What’s her name?



B:        Her name was Gilda.

I:          GUI

B:        GILDA.  Gilda.  And she was three years younger than me.  So, I’m out of school.  She’s in school.  She’s still in high school.  So somewhere down the line in 1949, I get a notice from the draft board, and I went down to see them.  Well since I was in a little town, it was three guys sitting around a table, and I walked in, I made an appointment, and I walked in, and I said listen fellas.



I wasn’t that easy with the men.  Now I can talk like that.  But then I was scared out of my wits.  But I said I would like to go to somewhere and finish school in three years, and then you can have me if it’s alright with you.  So, in 1949, the Korean War had not yet started.  There were rumblings, but nothing started.


So the draft board kind of acquiesced and indicated that it would be alright if I went to school unless something serious happened.  Then they would get a hold of me.  Well, that was fine with me.  So, I was able to finish school in January of  1952.

I:          Yeah?

B:        I finished school in January of 1952.  But the graduation was not until June of ’52.



By that time, Seton Hall College had become Seton Hall University.
I:          But before you talk more about it, so you knew the Korean War broke out.

B:        Yes, while I was in school in 1950, we heard about the Korean War breaking out.

I:          What were you thinking?  Were you thinking that you were going to be in the War?

B:        I was thinking I was gonna be in the Army.  I didn’t know if I’d be in the War itself.  But I knew I was gonna get into the Army.


I:          Were you nervous about that fact?
B:        I don’t think so.  I don’t think I gave it much of a thought.  I mean, that was a time when everybody was drafted.  You signed up when you were 18, and you got drafted a year or two later.  It was kind of a normal thing.

I:          Were you actually married at the time?
B:        Not then.  However, I graduated Seton Hall in January of ’52.  The ceremony for graduation was in June of ’52.



I got engaged in July of ’52. I got married October 19 of ’52.  And November 4, I was in the Army.

I:          Oh, my goodness.
B:        I was inducted two weeks after I got married.  I had time for a honeymoon in Florida, came home, packed my bags.  My dad took me down to the Induction Center in Newark, and that’s how it went.



I:          Where did you go to basic training?
B:        Well, I was first taken down to Camp Kilmer in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

I:          Camp Kilmer?
B:        KILMER, Camp Kilmer.

I:          Um hm.

B:        Named after the poet Joyce Kilmer.  From there, I was taken down to Fort Eustis, Virginia, EUSTIS.  Fort Eustis, Virginia.  And there I did my basic training. When I finished basic training,



I went in for an interview, and they kind of indicated that I would be going to Germany, and I would be taking instruction to become a locomotive engineer.  That sounded pretty good to me.  I said how long am I gonna be here?  You’ll be here about another three months. I  said can I live off post?  Yes, you can.  I said I’m recently married.  I wanna bring my wife.  Sure, go ahead.  Called up my wife, Gilda, I said, I’m gonna be here for three months.  I want you to come down.  Basic is over.



Well, she thought that was pretty good.  But two days later, they called me back for a second interview.  And they said you know you’re not going to Germany. I said no, where am I going?  You’re going to the Far East.  What do you mean Far East?  You’re going to Korea.  I said oh shit, damn.  That’s not so good.  Called up my wife and said.

I:          That’s my country.  Don’t shit about it.



B:        I said hold everything.  So, the first thing they said is you’re going to Texas.  You’re gonna be there for three or four months, and you’re gonna learn how to be an aircraft and engine mechanic on light fixed wing for the Army.  Okay.  So, I got in an airplane. I don’t know, with a bunch of guys, and we flew to Texas. I was stationed at San Marcos Air Force Base in Texas.  That Air Force Base is no longer there.


But it is still a government facility.  It was somewhere between San Antonio and Austin.  So, when I got there, I found out I was gonna be there for about three  and a half months.  And I called Gilda and said I’m gonna be here. I can live off post.  Come on out. I’ll find an apartment.  She was afraid to fly.  This was back in the days that people never flew.  I mean, it was a rare occasion.

I:          Um hm.



B:        So, she took a train.  It took her six days to get there.  And I had rented a little apartment.  And when she came in, and I rented the apartment, but I wasn’t in there, you know. I rented it, I got it, made sure it was clean, and then I stayed out of the apartment till she got there, and she went into the bathroom to take a shower or a bath, whatever, and she came running out screaming.



They had these Palmetto bugs that were so big in the bathtub you could put a saddle on them and ride them.  So, I took care of that.  I got that cleaned up.  Anyhow, I learned my trade there for about 3 ½ months how to take care of my airplane. And we enjoyed some fishing, and we hitched a ride with some other guys who had a car there.  And we just, three months of nice living.



I went to school learning my trade, and she would hang around with another one or two of the wives that were there.

I:          But before you go into, when you told Gilda, your wife, that you are headed to Korea, what was her reaction?

B:        Oh, she was really horrified.  She always was, I don’t know the right word, not nervous but she worried a lot about things.



And she worried about me.  And she worried that I was going there.  And I said honey, there’s, you know, I can’t change that.  That’s already in cement. I can’t do anything about it.  I’ll be okay.  I’ll watch myself.  I’ll be alright.   I don’t think I’m gonna be in combat because I have a certain trade that I have to do.  And don’t worry.  I’ll send you all the details when I get there.

I:          What were you talking to yourself?  I mean, you were trying to, you know,

B:        Make her feel better.



I:          Yes.  But how about yourself?
B:        I made myself feel better.  You know, I really didn’t think much about it.  You know, when you’re in the Army, they tell you today you’re gonna do one thing.  And tomorrow they change their mind and do something else.

I:          But that feeling you were disappointed, right?
B:        No, I wasn’t.  You mean that I didn’t go to Germany?

I:          Yeah.  Because you were supposed to be headed to Germany.  But rather now you’re going to a war.



I didn’t, I don’t know that I was disappointed. I just, I just took it, you know.  That was something that happened.  That was all.  No, I wasn’t disappointed about, I would have liked to have been a locomotive engineer.  But well, I’m going to Korea.  Okay.  Big deal.  I mean, that’s how I looked at it at that time.  I wasn’t worried. I wasn’t nervous.  I was cautiously optimistic that everything would be okay.



I:          Um hm.

B:        So, after I finished my 3 ½ months of mechanical training and we’re ready to go back home, she said I’m not gonna fly home with you.  I wanna take the train.

I:          By herself?
B:        I said, no, with me.  And I said no honey.  We can’t do that. I only have 30 days.  I can’t waste five or six days on a train.



Well, she finally said okay cause she was scared like you can’t believe of flying.  Back in those days, the best thing was a super constellation, a TWA super constellation, four engines, big wingspan.  We got to the airport at night.  It was a red eye flight.  We got on board, and we’re about an hour off the ground, and the right outboard engine catches on fire.  Well, I’m lucky I still have this hand because she grabbed into that hand that I don’t know how it’s still there.



The plane turned around and went back to, I think it was Houston, I’m not sure, and we landed.  And she’s telling me Bernie, we gotta take a train.  I says honey, I can’t take a train.  It’s five, six days.  They said in six hours, they’ll have a new plane here from Florida cause that was the hub for TWA.



I said, and that’s what we’re gonna do.  Well, that’s what we did.  We waited it out.  And our plane came, and we flew back to Newark.  And I spent one very idyllic month.  I can’t remember anything special about it, just that I was there.  And then I left and flew out to Oakland, California where I became a casual for 30 days.  But one thing I gotta mention to you.



When I was inducted into the Army on that day, I never ever saw my father cry.  You know back in those days, men never cried.

I:          Um hm.

B:        And if they did, you never saw them cry.  Well, my father dropped me off on one side of the street, made a U-turn to go back to where he was, and I saw him wiping his eyes.  That’s one thing.  And my mom, may she rest in peace,



She had beautiful golden hair.  And when I came home, her hair was white.

I:          Um.

B:        When I came home from Korea.  From worry.  Like all mothers do about their kids.  Anyhow, back to where I was.  So I went to Oakland, California, and I lived there as a casual where every day you had to roll up all your stuff, put it in your duffle bag and be ready.



And finally, I was ready.  They put me on a ship.  Now I have a picture of the USS General Brewster.  I’m not sure if I shipped to Korea in that one or from Korea in that one.  My memory doesn’t tell me which one.  But I had a picture of the USS General Brewster.

I:          What, when did you leave?

B:        I left in June.

I:          Of 19

B:        In June of ’53.



It was either late May or early June.

I:          Um hm.

B:        I went from Oakland, California to Adak, Alaska, picked up some sailors, and continued on to Sasebo, Japan. I was at Camp Sasebo, Japan for two weeks in a squad tent. It was raining cats and dogs.  There was mud outside, and God forbid you touched the tent, you’d get water coming in the minute you touched it.



And after two weeks, I was put on another ship, went to Inchon Harbor, got off there and went to a Repo Depot, a replacement depot in Inchon.  But what I remember about Inchon is that as the boat came to dock, I’m not sure if the dock was moving up and down or the boat was moving up and down.



But boy, there was a big thing going on there.  And fortunately, they had a long enough gangplank that was able to connect the two places because that was really something.  So, I got off the boat in Inchon, and they took me to a place where I had a bunk.  And within a day or two, I was interviewed, and the guy that was interviewing me said well, where do you want to go?



He looked at my MOS.   I was an aircraft and engine mechanic.  I was not an Infantry person.  He said do you have any idea where you, I said how the heck do I know? I just got here in Korea.  I don’t know any place. I said you tell me.  What’s around?
I:          You didn’t tell me about the city. Was it destroyed or people?
B:        I didn’t see any, I know I got on a truck or, probably a deuce and a half.



Yeah.  We climbed up on a deuce and a half, and we rode to a camp, and I didn’t really see anything.  But it’s subsequent to that that I saw.  So, this fella, the interviewer says you know, there’s a nice small outfit right over the hill. I said what do you mean a small outfit, and how far is over the hill?  He said I don’t know, about 20 minutes or so, 20 miles, something, not far. I said okay, I’ll take it.  He said alright.  Somebody’ll come and get you.



So, a very nice young Corporal came with a jeep a day or two later to pick me up.  We’re riding in the jeep and I’m looking out, and there was nothing but desolation.  I mean, I didn’t see anything that you could call a city, you could call anything.  It was just dirt roads and dirt around and dilapidated huts almost.  And as we’re riding along, you have to excuse me for what I’m gonna say.



As we’re riding along, the Corporal who’s name was Edward Glass I think, yeah, he starts whistling at a young Korean lady he saw walking on the street.  And I said what are you whistling at?  He said look at her.  She is just beautiful.  I said are you kidding me? She’s not beautiful.  He says how long you been here?  I said I just got here.



He said I’ve been here 18 months.  She’s beautiful.  Well, I have to agree with him. After I was there 18 months, everybody looked, you just got so familiar, there were no strange features.  Everybody looked really beautiful.  That was a little fly.

I:          Um hm.

B:        So, he drove me to my outfit.  I was with the 304th Signal Battalion 8th Army Headquarters, right outside of Seoul,



An area called Dungdanum, Pyingyidundamun.

I:          Yeah.

B:        Which was an airfield that had become an airfield on the former Imperial Race Track.

I:          Hm.

B:        So, it was a great big oval with a starting strip.  Inside that oval was where the Korean farmers planted rice, which you’ll have in the pictures you’ll see an ox with a plow behind.



I:          So that’s in the Dungdanum area?

B:        Yeah.  It was right in the middle of where I was.

I:          Um hm.

B:        On one side was, 8th Army Headquarters really owned the whole field.  We had, my little group had a small part of it. I didn’t have anything really to do with 8th Army Headquarters other than go there for a meal.



I walked.  My group consisted of 11 other enlisted men and myself and a Master Sergeant and five pilots, Lieutenants and Captains.  That was it.  The only duty I had

I:          When was it?

B:        I got there in June of ’53.  I got to Inchon in June of ’53.



And in July of ’53, yeah, I think it was late July, six weeks later, oh August, they stopped shooting.  And they had this “armistice”.

I:          Yeah.  In July.  That was Jully 27th.
B:        July 27, right.
I:          So, you were in Dungdanum air, what is it, can we call it an air base?

B:        Yeah.
I:          What was the name of the air base?

B:        Able 2.


I:          Able 2?

B:        Yeah.

I:          What do you mean?
B:        A2.

I:          A2.

B:        Right.  So, in military

I:          That was in Dungdanum?

B:        Yes.

I:          Please excuse my ignorance.  But I didn’t know that there was any airstrip there.

B:        Look, well, look up the Imperial Racetrack.
I:          Um hm.

B:        It was a real racetrack at one time.  There were no more stands.  But that racetrack, you’ll get a picture of it in the pictures I gave you.



So, how many aircraft were there, and what kind of aircraft was there?
B:        Where I was, there were, let’s see.  There were 11 of us.  We each had at least one plane.  I had two.  There was maybe 20, 25 aircraft.

I:          What kind?

B:        L19’s and L20’s, small, fixed wing.  Light fixed wing.  All with tail wheels.  And occasional



I:          So, what does L stand for?

B:        I have no idea.

I:          This is for

B:        Just an Army

I:          This is for reconnaissance?

B:        The ones I used were the same type that were used for artillery spotting.  But we used it, my outfit used it for transporting VIPs around the peninsula and picking up and dropping off mail around the peninsula.  And one of our planes was used for taking pictures.



It had a hole in the belly for a camera.

I:          Um.

B:        And Syngman Rhee, President Syngman Rhee

I:          Um hm.

B:        Used to come and go from that airfield.  So, as I said, we were in a small part of the airstrip.  Eighth Army Headquarters had the major part of it.  They had helicopters.  They had larger planes,



Beach craft bonanzas I think.

I:          And did you see Syngman Rhee?
B:        Yeah.

I:          Did you take a picture?

B:        I think that’s in one of the pictures.

I:          One in the picture.

B:        Yes.

I:          That’s great.

B:        Yes. Now he was a President.

I:          You took a picture, or somebody else took a picture?
B:        Me. Because I was allowed anywhere on the airstrip.

I:          Hm.
B:        Now he was your President. But he was also very dictatorial.



And also, he took a lot of graft.

I:          Oh.  Tell me about it.

B:        It was just something that we talked about.  He was corrupt.  Everything was corrupt.  A lot of small countries who didn’t really achieve democracy yet always had corruption.  It’s still today, same thing.  That’s why your latest president got impeached.

I:          That’s right.



Because of corruption.

I:          You are updated.

B:        Oh yeah.

I:          About Korea.

B:        Yeah.
I:          So, tell me more about the episode there.

B:        I worry about Korea today because we’ve got close to 30,000 troops there.  And there’s a couple of million people living in Seoul.  God forbid I couldn’t imagine what could possibly happen there.   Unbelievable.  If anything starts up there, we have to wipe out the entire DMZ because they have everything pointed at Seoul, everything.



I:          Yeah, you’re right.
B:        It’s really horrible to even think about it.  Okay, where were we?
I:          So, you were, tell me about the Seoul you saw, how was Seoul, the condition?  I mean,

B:        It was really very devastating to view it.  I saw food markets on the side of the street.



I have pictures of that, where the food was displayed on, they have a canvas or something on the street, and they put baskets and then put the food in the basket for people to buy.  There was no meat.  The only meat that they ever had there while I was there was if they had a dog that they butchered.  And that’s how they had some meat. And the downtown area, the capital, all the buildings were shot up.



You could look at every building and see all the bullet holes in it, and no windows.  Everything was blown out.  And I remember there was a nightclub in Seoul that I was fortunate enough to go to.  The thing that got me the most was that you went to the bathroom, it was unisex.  On one wall were the urinals. On the other wall were the stalls.  And men and women both walked in at the same time and walked out at the same time.



And it wasn’t thought of as anything abnormal.  That’s the way life was.  And I kind of accepted that. And while I was there, I wanted to talk to my wife.  So, in order to talk, on the telephone.  In order to do that, you had to make an appointment three months in advance to talk for five minutes.

I:          Um hm.

B:        And don’t be late.  So, I went down to the telegraph building, telephone/telegraph building which was run by the Americans.



And there you sat, or you stood, and you waited till it was your turn, and they’d tell you to go to a booth and you were all by yourself, and you had a phone and you could pick up the phone.  It was two pieces yet.  And I talked to Gilda for five minutes.

I:          Hmm.

B:        It was the greatest thing ever.  It was really super.  And then I came out of there, got in the jeep and went back to my outfit.



I was really very, very fortunate. I was in an outfit with a total of 12 enlisted men, myself plus 11, living in a Quonset hut.  And since the combat had stopped, you could almost say I was living in the life of luxury, in a palace because while I was there, my cousin who is six weeks younger than me, I found out he was up on the line.



And I got to talk to him on a field phone.  And I said listen.  If you

I:          How did you know?
B:        Mail from home.

I:          Oh.

B:        Mail from home told me where he was.
I:          Your cousin.

B:        My cousin, my cousin Myron.  I forget if it was,



I’m not sure. I think it might have been the 7th Infantry that was there.  He was an infantryman living in either in a pup tent or a hole. And I got to talk to him, and I said listen.  Talk to your CO and see if he’ll let you come here for a few days. I’ll talk to my CO, see if I can get a plane to pick you up.  So, it’s the old story.  It’s never what you know, it’s who you know.



I talked to my CO.  We arranged for a date.  We got to his CO, arranged for the same date.  My pilot went up with the mail, stopped off to pick him up, he came back to me, and he stayed with me for five days.   Well, when he stepped off the plane on the airstrip, and the airstrip was as bare as anything, like a parking lot, and all we had was a Quonset hut and what some people said was a hanger which was an old wooden building that you couldn’t get an airplane into.



He looked around and he said Bernie, he says, you got a palace here.  And so, for four or five days that he was with me, he just relaxed.  We played a little hoop. He ate well.  He slept well.  I brought an extra cot in to put near my area, so he’d have a place to sleep.  He showered.  All the things that he couldn’t do up on the line.



I:          Where was he?  Do you know?
B:        I don’t remember exactly where.  But he was right up on the DMZ.  And I said Myron, you’re getting ready to go  home, what can I get for you?  What do you need?  What do you want?  He says Bernie, all I want is all the toilet paper I can carry.  They rationed the toilet paper up there.  I gave him rolls and rolls.  He just stuffed them into his bag, into his, wherever he could find a place to carry them.



Toilet paper was the big thing.  Can you believe that?  Toilet paper.

I:          It’s like what a joke.  You were asking him what can I give you and he’s saying

B:        Toilet paper.

I:          Oh, my goodness.

B:        Because they rationed toilet paper up on the line.  You know, this was, I don’t remember if it was still in ’53 or early ’54. I can’t remember exactly.  But that was the only time I connected with him while we were both there.



I:          Let me ask this question. What adjective would you use to describe the scene of Seoul at the time?  What adjective could you use?
B:        Oh, you know, have ever looked at a person and you see that they are disheveled, they have no clothes that’s right.  The city of Seoul had nothing on.



Had no clothes.  It was just torn and ripped and just falling apart.  It was terrible.  It was so devastated.  It was really the most terrible thing I ever saw.  I had an opportunity to fly around the country because I could just get in the back seat, and we’d go.



And I asked flying around in some of the green areas where you’d see a cluster of maybe a dozen huts.  And then you’d see an area with a bunch of round bumps.  And I asked what those bumps were, and those were graves of Korean civilians who, their, not their ancestors, their relatives were buried but buried sititng up I’m told.


Is that correct?
I:          Um hm.

B:        Yeah. I’ve got pictures of that.  I also, in my pictures, you’re gonna find two very important things that I thought was really great.  One was the construction of a house.  The wood frame with straw woven together and put across so that they could put up plaster on it, and the straw crosswire would hold the plaster in place.



And that was the insulation.  And then I saw something, and then I saw them making tiles for the roof.  I thought that was fantastic how they did that.  And there’s pictures of that, of them carrying the tile, one guy in front, one guy behind with a long pole and the tiles hanging out to dry between the two of them, walking to put them somewhere.  And then I saw women making linens.



And they had like a long bench, a high enough, about a waist high bench, and the linens were on the bench, and the women were on either side with long flat poles.

I:          Um hm.

B:        And they would beat the linen to make sure that it was done right.  Unbelievable.



All of those things I saw. I don’t think anybody else saw that stuff.  And I thought it was just fantastic how they managed to do, and the other thing that I thought was great was that they would take our beer cans, aluminum beer cans and soda cans, and they would make intricate things out of them, including a tin roof.  They folded it back so it interlocked.  I mean, that took a lot of ingenuity to do that.



And you know, that’s how I know that the Korean people grew from what they were to what they are because there was a lot of automatic internal ingenuity.  And you just couldn’t keep, they just needed a chance. You could not keep them down.  Just fantastic.  And I’ll tell you something.  I’ve always dreamt if I could afford to, I would like to go back to Seoul one time.



It’s just financially out of my reach.  I would love to see it again.  And I would like to see if I could find Dungdaemun.  I don’t think it’s there.  It was probably wiped out because it’s a megalopolis there now.  It’s like a new modern New York.
I:          Yeah.  You’re not going to believe what you’re going to see.  Do you know that Korean government has a Revisit program for Korean War veterans?



B:        I know that.  But I

I:          Do you wanna apply?

B:        I can’t afford to go there.

I:          They pay for everything except

B:        They don’t pay for airfare.

I:          They pay half of the airfare.

B:        I’ve seen this thing listed in the Greybeard’s Magazine.

I:          Yeah.

B:        It’s like a $4,000 deal.

I:          No.  You don’t have to pay.   No, no.  You pay about $700.  That’s it.

B:        They want $450 to register.

I:          Yeah.  That’s what they charge.



But I can get you to MOVA, so you don’t have to pay $450 but half of the airfare.  Are you willing to pay  half of the airfare?

B:        For me and Shirley, yeah.
I:          Yeah.  Then I’ll get you.  You want me to?
B:        Oh yeah.

I:          Yeah.
B:        I would love to see that before I die because it was so impoverished, so terrible.  It was almost revolting that there was nothing there.



I lived off post for a number of months with a young girl there, even though I was married.

I:          Um.

B:        I was celibate for six months.  The guys used to bring girls into the Quonset hut at night.  You can’t help but hear everything that’s going on.  I finally gave in.  Of course, they helped because they brought a girl in for me.



I can remember her clear as a bell.  Pok Sun EE.

I:          Um hm.

B:        She’s probably, I’m 86, she’s gotta be at least 80 years old if she’s still around.  My houseboy was Kim Bong Qu.  I could never find him either.



I tried Google.  Couldn’t find him.  He was such a nice young man, such a nice young kid.  And that’s how they made a living, doing those things.  I went to this girl’s house and her mother was there.  She lived with her mother.  And I’m not sure if there was a sibling or not. But it was accepted because that meant she had an income.



I:          So,

B:        I’m very sensitive to that.
I:          Yeah, I know.  But have you followed up with what’s happening in Korea right now and the economy and democracy and so forth?
B:        Oh yeah.

I:          What do you know?  Tell me about it.

B:        What I see today is it’s incredible how Korea has rebuilt itself into what it is. I  have looked on the internet at the buildings and the city.



It’s not what I remember.  I think the only things that may still be there is the railroad terminal is probably still the same place.  The telephone/telegraph building is probably there.  The one building that we called the PX, I don’t remember what building that was.

I:          Dungdaemun is there.

B:        Dungdae, well Dungdaemun

I:          East Gate.

B:        There was no buildings.

I:          Now it’s there.

B:        Now it’s there.

I:          Yeah.



So, you will see those.  And I think you need to see it.  And that’s the best way to know about your legacy, what you did for Korea.  But as you know and as I told you last night, our history textbook doesn’t tell much about it.
B:        No, nothing.

I:          Why?

B:        I don’t know.  They don’t tell, they don’t even say much about the Second World War anymore.  They gloss over it all.

I:          But there are much about Second World War.



B:        Yes.  If you dig in, you can find it.  But Korea was the Forgotten War.

I:          Why?
B:        It was a police action.  It was nothing.

I:          Why is it nothing to Americans?
B:        On the  whole scale of things, it was this big.

I:          But Bernie, name any war that U.S. has been involved since World War II that came out with a successful outcome like South Korea?

B:        None.

I:          None.

B:        We have been losers.  Even the Korean War was a loser.



Only because in my opinion, my very humble opinion, Harry Truman said to MacArthur you can’t go up to the top.  And had he gone up to the top, this whole world would be different today.  The whole world would have been different.  Yeah, we could have encountered a million Chinese.  That’s very possible.  But I think we could have still taken them on because we were rip roaring at the time.



I know we got pushed all the way back down to Pusan and Taegu, and we went back again because we just don’t take no for an answer.  But I think Harry Truman made a big mistake.  And now you got that crazy SOB there who, I don’t know why he thinks he is.



But I’m really worried about him and what he might do because you can’t count on somebody who’s mentally disturbed.  You don’t know what they’re gonna, you can’t anticipate it.  Rational people you can talk and you can anticipate.  And in their conversations, they give you clues.  There’s no clue to this guy.  No clue at all, you know.



I watch the news all the time to see what’s going on there.  And I was there, I didn’t give an ounce of blood there.  But a lot of my friends and buddies did, and ones that I never knew.  And it should not be in vain.

I:          What is Korea to you personally?
B:        Well, I’ll tell you.   You know how a parent or a grandparent looks at the child who has grown up and become very important in life,



And all you get is this feeling inside, that’s my kid or that’s my grandchild. Well, that’s my Korea.  That’s what has happened.  It is just wonderful what they have done for themselves.  And they did it for themselves.  Nobody did it for them.  The only thing that we did was to make sure nobody bullied them anymore.



But I think the Korean people there are all on their own. I’m crying.  You know, I was very fortunate, there’s a lot of guys that you have talked to and are gonna talk to who saw all kinds of action.

I:          Um hm.

B:        I didn’t see any action.



And I’m not sorry that I didn’t see any action.  But from what I saw, I knew what had preceded my getting there and what I see now on, sometimes on tv but mostly on the internet.  What has become of it, I’m just enthralled.  I’m just enthralled.

I:          Um hm.

B:        Yeah.



Your country deserves applause for what it has done for itself.

I:          And you deserve our applause because you gave us a chance to rebuild.

B:        I didn’t do anything.  I was just there. I didn’t do anything.  I was just there.

I:          So, what do you think we have to do to correct the problems that our history textbook doesn’t tell much about the Korean War?



And how are we going to educate our young generation about your legacy?  How do we have to do it?

B:        Well,

I:          What do we have to do?

B:        You have to get on the internet.  You have to get on tv.  You have to get authors to write about it.  It’s like anything else.  You gotta market it.



Today you have to market anything you want to, if you want something to be prominent, you got to market it.  And you gotta think of very innovative ways to market the product. And this is one way, what you’re doing.  But I don’t think it’s anywhere close to enough because you’re one person, one foundation.



That’s the beginning.  If you’ve got others to come together with you so that one speck becomes adhered to by other specks and becomes large enough that it’s not a speck anymore.  You can see it.  That’s what it needs.

I:          Um hm.

B:        The story really needs to be told.  And you know what?  People who don’t look at history have a tendency to repeat the same mistakes that the people before them did.



And that’s, I’m afraid, what’s happening.  I really am.

I:          Your witness today and your picture will tell those stories.

B:        I hope so.  I hope so.  I came home from Korea in 1954.  I think it was either late November or early December.



I  was, somehow or other I got to Camp Kilmer again.  And my dad came down in his car and picked me up and took me home and took me to where my wife was living with her family.  And we went on the second honeymoon to Atlantic City, New Jersey.  And while we were there, I’m peeing one morning and I’m not feeling so good, and the pee’s coming out brown.



And I looked in the mirror.  I didn’t look that good and my eyes were yellow.  All I said to myself was Bernie, what the hell did you do to yourself there?  Well, we left Atlantic City, drove right back to Newark, went to the doctor, I wound up in a hospital, I had Hepatitis.  And I laid on my back, back then they didn’t get you out of bed in two days.  I laid on my back for five weeks in a hospital working on sour balls all the time.



And then I got better.  And while I was in the hospital, I said Gilda, you gotta find an apartment.  We can’t live with your parents.  And she found an apartment for us. I got out of the hospital, went right into our first apartment, and the rest is kind of history.



Our first apartment was in Newark on the third floor.  And we had our first child there, my daughter Beth was born in January of ’56.  So, I was still working in the family business in the poultry business.  But I left that business in February of ’57.  I saw that my father and his partner, my uncle, were doing the same things that they did 35, 40 years ago.



We’ve been doing it that way for all these years.  We’re not gonna change. I said well then, the business, nothing’s going to happen to it.  Time for me to move on.  I bought myself an ice cream truck.  Didn’t know anything about it.  But I bought an ice cream truck.  And at the end of February, I went out to sell ice cream, but nobody wanted to buy.  So, I had candy apples in the can and Charlotte Russe.


And a Charlotte Russe was a little piece of cake in a cardboard cup with whipped cream and a cherry on top.  It was like a sponge cake.

I:          You’re making me hungry.  So, stop there.  And let us wrap this up because you have been an hour here already.
B:        That’s all?

I:          That’s all, right?  Yeah. I think we can go on and on.  So, you are welcome to come back to the hotel this evening (INAUDIBLE)



But are you proud of your service?

B:        Pardon?
I:          Are you proud of your service?
B:        Oh, absolutely.

I:          Why?
B:        Because I think I helped to do my part however small it was to allow the Korean people to revitalize themselves, to get back on their feet and to grow.  And that’s really what it was.  They were just knocked down flat.  And they had to get up again.


And the opportune, that was the opportunity that I think we gave them as soldiers to get up on your feet, don’t worry. Nobody’s gonna knock you down again.  Get up on your feet and start doing what you have to do.  And that’s what they did.  And the proof is in the pudding.  Look at Seoul.
I:          Why did it happen to you?  You didn’t know anything about Korea.  But you are now the central witness of what happened to Korea.  Why?



How do you link to that?

B:        I don’t know.  It, you know the draft was something that was ongoing still from World War II.  That was still something that had to be done.  The United States has always been a country that looked out for the little guy.  That’s just the kind of people we are.