Korean War Legacy Project

Billy J. Scott


Billy Scott originally joined the National Guard by ‘altering’ his age on the required form; he was actually sixteen years old. He soon found himself called to serve overseas in the Korean War. He describes the eeriness of Korean weather at night and the dangers of falling asleep while out on watch. He recounts the starving people of Korea and the efforts he and other American soldiers made to provide them with food aid. He details his friendship with a KATUSA (Korean Augmentation to the United States Army) that inspired fellow soldiers to give as much as they could gift. He is proud of his service and is thankful for being allowed to share his story.

Video Clips

The Black Moon of Korea

Billy Scott describes the two types of weather in Korea regarding visibility in the moonlight. He shares that the Chinese possessed the ability to adapt to the moonlight more so than the Americans. He recalls rotating watch and only sleeping a few hours in between and explains the danger of falling asleep during war.

Tags: Chinese,Cold winters,Front lines,Living conditions

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The Rubble of Seoul

Billy Scott describes civilian men, women, and children starving in the destruction of Seoul. He shares that he and other American soldiers had never seen anything like it. He recounts gathering c-rations along with other fellow troops and tossing them to those in need.

Tags: Seoul,Civilians,Cold winters,Food,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Physical destruction,Women

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The Friendship of Two Strangers

Billy Scott describes his friendship with a KATUSA (Korean Augmentation to the United States Army) named Pyon during his time in Korea. He recounts the opportunity Pyon was given to pay a visit to his family he had not seen in roughly a year's time. He shares that American soldiers gathered food, clothing, blankets, and money and gifted them to Pyon to secure his family's safety. He adds that he will never forget him.

Tags: Suwon,Civilians,Food,Impressions of Korea,KATUSA,Living conditions,Poverty,Pride,Women

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of recorded material]


B:        I’m Bill Scott, uh.  I live in Virginia now, but I’m originally from Oklahoma.  Uh, I was born out there, [INAUDIBLE] reservation. And, uh, my folks were farmers and, uh, spent most of my life, early life, on the farm.

I:          Um hm.

B:        And, uh, anyway, I was, eh, between my


junior and senior year in high school, that’s between 11thand 12thgrade, uh, when the War broke out in 1950, June 1950, well, in January of that year, uh, some of my friends, they belonged to the National Guard, Oklahoma National Guard.  And for us little farm boys, there wasn’t much, many ways, to make a living or


earn any money. So they said join the, the, uh, National Guard with us, Bill, and you can make some money there by making a, a couple drills a month and you get paid for it.

I:          Um hm.

B:        Well, now then I was between my junior and senior year in high school

I:          Um hm.

B:        and there was not that much money that a young fella could make at that point in time.  So, uh, uh, I,


uh, took them up on it, uh, took advantage of it.  Now, but they had some laws there that, uh, you could not join the National Guard unless you were at least 17 years old with your parents’ permission.

I:          Um hm.

B:        And I wasn’t 16.

I:          Um hm.

B:        My birthday was on July the 5thin 1933.


But, uh, uh, I, uh, went to the National Guard Army, got my enlistment papers, filled them out and where it says age, I, uh, uh, altered my age about a year. [LAUGHS]

I:          Just altering.

B:        Uh, altered it,

I:          Yeah.

B:        I didn’t lie about it.

I:          Right.

B:        I altered my age.  So I was in the National Guard, and, uh, it, we learned all about the infantry.


Our organization was a, an infantry company. So they made a, uh, rifleman out of me, and then later a BAR, Browning Automatic Rifle, shooting, it’s a lot larger than the M1 rifle.

I:          Um hm.

B:        And, uh, we trained, uh, and we were training, getting ready to go to summer camp.  We were supposed to go to summer camp, uh, late


June or early July. It would have been early July. But, uh, unfortunately, uh, the War broke out, uh.   North Korea invaded South Korea June 25.

I:          Um hm.

B:        And, uh, now.  We just came out of World War II, uh, in 1948, uh, ’45,


and this was still on everybody’s mind.  Such a horrible, long war.  But, uh, in 19, uh, ’50, uh, we, we didn’t know much about the, uh, war over at that time, and we were being young like this we were, we were, um, uh, we were more used to chasing girls and, and living a boy’s life.


So, uh, we didn’t know where it was.  We said where in the world is Korea?  And we, we had not been taught geography about Korea, how, you know, they’d been split. And we said what’s, where the heck is Korea?  But we found out in a hurry.  The newspapers got on it, and they gave background and, uh, who the, uh, North Koreans were and South Korea,


but we were, you know, had a contingent force.  Couldn’t have been much over there, you know, for Americans cause they, uh, come to find out that they were, they were just over there. They, well, they didn’t help the, uh, South Koreans that much. but they fought a delay in action.  So, uh, that was on June the 25th, and


we went almost through the summer watching this War progress.  In September 1, 1950,

I:          Um hm.

B:        the American government mobilized the 45thInfantry Division with, along with three other National Guard, uh, Divisions. At that time, we had 10 – 12 thousand men in our Division.  It was peace time, and the normal,


uh, normal amount of men at that time was, uh, 20-22 thousand.  So we were underhanded.  Well, they mobilized us, pushed in Federal service and sent us to Fort Polk, Louisiana where we put ourselves through basic, basic training, start from scratch. And after we got, uh, out of that,


then they had started drafting people across the whole United States and guys joined the Army cause there was a war they’re wanting help South Korea and, uh, the American Army, too.  The, uh, South Koreans had what little Army we had over there.  They were taking a beating from the, uh, North Koreans. Well, uh,


they sent us all these draftees and guys that joined the Army.  We had to put them through basic training, learn how to fight

I:          You taught them?

B:        Yes.  We, we taught them, at attached guard.

I:          Where was that?

B:        Uh, Camp Polk, Louisiana.

I:          Um hm.

B:        And, uh, well, we, we put these guys through basic training, these, uh, guys that joined the Army and, uh, drafted. Draft was in at that time.  So, uh, we put them through


Infantry training, and as soon as that happened, they, uh, loaded us up and sent us down to New Orleans, Louisiana.  It’s on the Mississippi River.  We got on a ship, they put us on a ship, the Marine Lynx, which is an animal.  we went through the Panama Canal which is quite a story in itself,


and we got through, through the Canal only, we were about three or four days out in the Pacific, and a, uh, one or two guys on that ship came down with spinal meningitis which is a very highly contagious, bad disease.

I:          Um.

B:        So they deferred our ship around to the Port of San Diego, California.


Well, they unloaded, uh, these two guys, fumigated the ship, and, uh, took on additional supplies, and we, they sent us to Hokkaido, Japan.  The ones that enlisted, they knew where they were going.  They enlisted for a reason, to go over to fight.

I:          Um hm.

B:        And they, very positive attitude and, of course, we had the positive attitude ourselves as the National Guard.  They called us cadre.


At the same period of time, we had a big occupation force in, uh, Europe because the Russians, the Communists were really making noise over there.

I:          Um hm.

B:        So they sent some National Guard, two National Guard divisions over to Europe as well as the regular Army troops that were already stationed there.  And, see, that would have been a real good time


for, uh, Soviets to invade Germany,

I:          Right.

B:        France. All them.  Actually start fighting World War II.

I:          Um hm.

B:        But fortunately they didn’t.  But, uh, they sent two National Guard divisions to, uh, uh, Europe, and the 45thand the 45thand the 40thDivision, 4th’s out of Oklahoma.  Fortieth Division is out of, uh, California.  So they sent us over there.


Well, we landed, the 45th, landed at, uh, Hokkaido

I:          Yeah.

B:        the northernmost island in Japan.

I:          Um hm.

B:        Now on the north, north end of Hokkaido there was a strait, uh, Strait of Japan or something, I don’t know what it was.

I:          Yeah.  Strait.

B:        But it was Sakhalin Island,

I:          Yeah.

B:        we could see Sakhalin Island in the distance,

I:          Um hm.

B:        That was Russian.  They got that in the, uh,


at the end of World War II.

I:          Yeah.

B:        And we, we could stand on the, uh, uh, northern shore of Hokkaido, and we could see all these Japanese fishing boats here and there. Occasionally, a Russian troll boat would come out there and, uh, get these, uh, get these


crewmen and they would lug the boat, pull the boat over Sakhalin Island, and of course the Japanese were very disturbed about this because there wasn’t a thing we could do for that creating a new war.  So then we, diplomacy was, was not that great between the Russians and, and the free world at that time.

I:          Yep, yeah.

B:        But, uh, we, we stayed on Hokkaido.  We went

I:          How long?


B:        Uh, we got there in April, uh, and we dis, intense training until uh

I:          1951.

B:        1951, the, uh, in fact snow setting on uh, Hokkaido was very deep at that time, and they just issued us winter clothing, uh, and equipment, all this.


But we had it about four days and they called us back, called all this, uh, cold weather gear back, and we knew then uh oh.  We knew why. So they sent us over to, uh, Korea. We relieved the First Cav Division.

I:          Where did you arrive?

B:        Uh, at the, we landed at the Port of Inchon, and, uh,


now this, this was December of 1951 when we did this.

I:          You stayed there in Hokkaido for more than six months?

B:        Yes, um hm.  Training, very intense, uh, infantry training.  Fighting training using the tactics that will be used in Korea by the Army. But we did, we went through very intense training.  We were, we were


a very proud and very well-trained Infantry Division when we went to, uh, Korea.  At, uh, San Diego on the way to Hokkaido, we were about the middle of the ocean, Pacific, when we received word that President Truman had fired General MacArthur.  There was a lot of mixed feelings on this because we knew where we were going before we came back home.


And, that was a set in stone conclusion where we were going as an infantry unit.  There’s a lot of, uh, mixed feelings about MacArthur being, uh, fired.  And I was one of those that, uh, was glad because he, his, uh, strategy was to bomb the Yalu, sterilize the Yalu with atomic bombs


and then use Chiang Kai-shek and the, uh, uh, his troops, and American troops, and invade China which was biting off a big chunk of meat there that you couldn’t swallow. So we knew where, what he had in mind, and we were glad that he got fired.  The first casualty in our, um,


uh, company happened to be in my squad.  Had a piece of shrapnel came through in this, sliced his arm, um.  It just severed the, uh, muscle, everything.  But the [INAUDIBLE] save, saved him and everything.  When the artillery come over, and that, and when you’re on patrol at night time, it’s real eerie [LAUGHS] cause uh, you have


two types of weather. You got, uh, a black moon, uh, you know, just, you got, you, moonlight or you got moonlight on snow, and you see a long way in the snow.  But this, uh, when it’s even the moon, full moon, but just natural, uh, you don’t know where they are.  Chinese the same way,


uh, with us.

I:          And especially Chinese working in night.

B:        Yes.  They do, right, yes.  Uh, Americans I guess, we’re just day people so we dig our trenches you know.  But we do what we call button up at night.  Now, I post our guards and, uh, depending on the severity of the situation at the time, uh, 50% watch means half the squad will be


watching while the other half rests and sleeps or whatever, and we usually have a couple of hours shifts all through the night rotating and, uh, well that, you know, you don’t get that much sleep and, uh, when it comes to sleep, you’re, for short period of time, uh, you, your nerves seem like they’re on the outside of your skin.


You just, uh, your sensitivity is great, greatly heightened on this cause, uh, nice little twig or something like it snapped, you’re, you’re wide awake, uh, you know, you, your mind never rests.  It, well it rests, but never goes to sleep, uh, because if you do go to a sound sleep,


then you may not wake up.  But, and Chinese were the same way.  Uh, it’s a, and the Chinese, they, they would, uh, oh, they were, I’m not going to say fanatic, but, uh, they had a different approach to fighting than we did.  They sacrificed


their men for, to get an objective and, uh, of course, Americans and the free world, uh, Koreans, South Koreans. we used strategy more than just a sacrifice of human life. We’d see, we’d see little children and women and the old men, uh, there in Seoul


in this rubble, now them little kids, some of them were this small themselves.  They would have their little brother or little si, sister on their back, and this was cold weather now.  This was December, early December.  So, uh, it, well, Ame, uh, people from the free world, we don’t


like to see people suffering.  And these poor little kids, mamasan, papasan, too, just starving and, we’d never seen anything like this.  So what happened, we, all of us did, we got our c-rations, and we’d toss it, you know, out to some of the children, mamasan, papasan, you know.  They need it a lot more than us cause we knew we’d be


getting rations another day or two.  But these people, they don’t know where their next bite of food’s coming from.  We had, uh, this fella, [Yong Dong Chong], and he as I got to be real close friends.  Uh, he was a, uh, teacher before the war started at Suwon

I:          Um.

B:        and, uh, he had a wife and two little daughters. He had, you know, pictures,


and, uh, Peon, uh, talked English, spoke English.  He’s picked up all the time I was helping him out.  But Peon was a great guy, uh.  Well, uh, he is, I asked him one day how’d you wind up here, Peon, and he told me that, uh, his living at, uh, Suwon, and he


went to town the war was, it was going on, and the, uh, South Koreans were in Suwon at the time. He went in, into town or some place to get food or whatever it was.  But he was on the street, and this Army truck pulled up, had some soldiers in it, they just grabbed him off the street, put him in the truck and told him he was a katusa


uh, Korean  [INAUDIBLE]and he had been, uh, he’d been in, uh, that for a year and had not seen his family.  They didn’t know where he was or anything, uh.  They knew that they were still in Suwon.  So, uh, he came to me one day.  He said Sergeant Billy?  I said yeah Peon?


He said I have an opportunity to go see my wife and my family.  I was just as happy for him [INAUDIBLE]. I said okay, Peon.  I said, uh, when are you leaving?  He said well, tomorrow.  And I knew he was hedging about something.  I said, uh, well Peon, do you have money for it?  He didn’t.  I went, his pride.  He just didn’t want to.  But


I said well, how do I close how old you are?  He tells how old, young his, uh, kids were and his wife.  So I said ok.  I said Peon, we’ll take care of it.  And, uh, so I got the guys together, and, well, we, uh, the, uh, Chinese won, excuse me, I’m sorry.  The, uh, Korean won.  We played poker


with that’s what they, uh, that’s what they paid us with.  All we didn’t send home to our folks, you know.  Just took a small allotment, and, uh, uh, the military scrip that they give, uh, we, we played poker with the money.  It’s all we had to do.  But I told the guys, I said, uh, Peon’s going home to see his family finally.


And, uh, he doesn’t know what their condition is or anything.  So, well, the next day when Peon came to tell me goodbye, he’s going, going home, uh, well, I’d gotten a bag, it’s a big ones carry over your shoulder, and that was full of money.


The guys

I:          Very nice.

B:        And I says that’s not all, and brought, a couple of guys brought out this big old duffel bag, and we had put food in it and, uh, c-rations and clothing, what fatigues we had, you know, all this for her to make something up, blankets for her to make some winter clothes out of. But we loaded,


he could barely walk I’ll tell you, and, but we, he was gone for a couple a weeks.  He came back, he was a different man.

I:          Um.

B:        You know he got to see his wife, and with all the money we got, he got to get a nice shelter and took care of it, and that, uh, when I finally rotated back the next June, Peon and I, we were close.  I, I had tears in my eyes.  I didn’t wanna leave him in that mess, you know.


Well, he was the same way.  Well, I’ll always remember Peon.

I:          Um.

B:        [Peonyong dong Chong].  At, uh, this one was my division patch, the 45thInfantry Division.  It’s thunderbird.  It’s Indian name for, uh, well, it’s


got a history behind it.  Now this is just a patch that I took off a cap, sewed some ribbons there, the Korean War, uh, Veterans etc. created the Thunderbird.  This is my rank.  I was a Sergeant, ok?  Uh, now this is U.S. and the, uh, cross rifle.  It’s what went on your collars, and these, this is, uh, Jap, uh, Japanese, uh, occupation.


This is, I don’t know how I got it, good conduct medal.  Uh, now this is Campaigns, Korean Service Campaign, one star for each campaign. That’s, first one was the, uh, uh, Fall/Winter 1951, and the other one is for the Spring/Summer of ’50, 1950. And this is the, uh,


United Nations, uh, ribbon.  This is, u h, Korean government issued us these, and this, I can’t tell what, uh, I forget what that, those two are.  But the Korean


government awarded us that.  Now these, oh, uh, this is, uh, oh, these, these are the medals that goes on.  This in lower right is a can opener for our c-rations.  I wore that on, on a chain around my neck with my dog tags

I:          Yeah.

B:        here in the case.  This is a 45thcoin based on this.  This is my, one of my dog tags so they identify me.  You notice there’s a notch, uh.  That, the reason this way,


they started this in World War I, dog tags.  If you’re killed, put that in your mouth you can’t, gases from building up.  Uh, this is the, uh, my rank and all this identificating.  This is for my regiment, 179thInfantry Regiment, 45thInfantry Division.  And this, the green is combat, uh, leader, Combat Leader.


This is my regimental combat.  But this

I:          Yeah, just show me, yeah.

B:        shrapnel, okay.  Alright, and, uh, I put this together for my great-grandson, uh.  In fact, I know this is a picture of me on, uh, uh, Porkchop.


I appreciate you and the Korean people giving me the honor, I consider it an honor, of telling part of my story.


[End of Recorded Material]