Bradley J. Strait
Bradley Strait was born in Canandaigua, New York, and served in the Navy during the Korean War. He was stationed aboard the USS Joseph P. Kennedy, DD-850, from February 1951 until 1955, and he offers an account of the living conditions aboard ship and describes some of his duties. He served in the US Navy as an ETI and electronics technician, and after being discharged from the military, he returned to Syracuse where he continued his education in engineering at Syracuse University. He is proud of his service and shares his thoughts on Korea today.
Reasons for Enlisting
Bradley Strait discusses reasons why he enlisted. He explains he was a young boy when the attack on Pearl Harbor took place and that he was very impressionable at the time. He shares he was too young to participate in the war, but he was not too young to be impressed by it and would later enlist to serve during the Korean War. He recounts everyone contributing to the war effort during WWII but shares that there was a different mindset during the Korean War on the home front.
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Destroyers during the War
Bradley Strait explains the difference between a battleship and destroyer. He discusses being stationed on the USS Joseph P. Kennedy Destroyer and shares that one of its chief functions was anti submarine warfare. He states that destroyers were used for shore bombardment at Wonsan Harbor and Incheon during the war.
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Front Lines and Living Conditions
Bradley Strait explains he was stationed mostly in Wonsan Harbor. He remembers the North Koreans had pushed the Americans back to Wonsan and that a battle was taking place there, and he details the role of destroyers during this battle. He also recalls the living conditions on the ship as being very tight and cannot imagine women being stationed on the ship due to the close conditions.
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Animosity towards the North Korean Leadership
Bradley Strait shares the level of animosity he feels towards the leadership in North Korea. He weighs in on the benefits of reunification and suggests that South Korea is a good model of democracy. He highlights the economic gains South Korean has made as well.
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Advice for a Different Era
Bradley Strait offers some advice on military service based on his experience. He promotes the Navy as he feels it prepared him in many ways from life lessons centering on teamwork to offering him benefits after service. He shares that he feels he received a better net return having gone the route he did compared to others he knew.
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[Beginning of Transcribed Material]
B: My name is Bradley, BRADLEY, Bradley J. Strait, STRAIT. I’m 79. And I’m from Canandaigua, NY. Proud of it.
I: Like I said, I worked there.
B: I know you did.
I: For 20 years as a Technology Education teacher in what they used to call Shop.
B: I know, yes.
I: Building all kinds of things with the kids and stuff. And I heard that you’re a person of distinction.
In Canandaigua. How’d that occur?
B: You got me. I have no idea. But they, I think there were five people in that first class. I can’t tell you the year. But it might have been sometime in the middle 80’s. I don’t remember. But I met the other people there. I don’t think I knew any of them beforehand.
But one of them, you know this hands-on tools or
I: Tech, Industrial Arts or
B: No. The company that’s called Hands on Tools? This guy founded that company. And yeah. This fellow
I: Hands on Tools or something?
B: Yeah, that’s right. He founded that company. But he was a pilot off the USS Lexington.
If you remember, the Lexington was sunk during the Battle of Coral Sea. This was in May of ’42. And he was in the air when the ship went down.
So, he had quite a time. But anyway, he was one of them. And there were three others. I honestly don’t remember who they were right now. But it was nice. And you being, I think he had a great idea there. I think it’s a very nice thing to do. Of course, I obviously would think so I suppose. But I think they stopped doing that. I think they’ve abandoned that program, yeah. I think so. It’s too bad.
I: Yeah, I think they did.
B: Damn shame, yeah.
I: People that graduate need some recognition for their efforts, I think.
B: Oh yeah. It’s very heartwarming.
I: Yes. Very nice. We’re here today to ask for your feelings and participation about the Korean War veterans. What do you think of this project? We’re going to be interviewing hundreds of Korean War veterans in Central New York. What do you think of this project, and what made you interested in participating?
B: Well, because one of my friends asked me. He called me and asked me if I would talk to
I: Dr. Han?
B: Yeah. Allan Major. Have you met Major?
I: I don’t know him.
B: Anyway, Major and I used to teach together a course in the Liberal Arts college which was kind of enjoyable to do. Allan Major. He’s a very good teacher. And I really enjoyed listening to his lectures. But he called me and asked me if I would participate in this, and I said I guess so. I don’t know.
But he was asking me some things that were dear to my heart about why I joined, or why I enlisted and what some of the motivations were, what was the mindset of people, you know. And that’s kind of interesting stuff for me, I think.
I: Fifty years from now they’ll be listening to you talk about things.
B: Well, I was born in 1932. And obviously when Pearl Harbor took place, I was almost 10 years old, just a couple months shy of 10 years old. And you’re very impressionable at that age. So, my point being that my friends and I were at that stage during World War II. And we were too young to be in the Corps.
But we were certainly not too young to be impressed by everything that pertained to the War. Well, what we remembered, there were about 20 of us. And we all enlisted. And we were all inducted in different times of course. I was the first one to be inducted. But everybody else went into something, you know, the Navy, the Army, the Marine Corps, Air Force, you know, whatever.
And I went into the Navy for a specific reason. But that’s beside the point right now. But during the War, as you may well remember, everybody was involved in one way or the other. We were just kids, but we collected, we sold war stamps and bonds. We collected metal, scrap metal I mean. We collected newspapers. We collected everything imaginable all in the interests of the War effort.
And it was on everybody’s minds every day. And everybody poured over the newspapers or listened to the radio, you know. And for a while there, the news was terrible, actually terrible, especially in the Pacific there. The first five or six months, the Japanese expansion was just rampant until Midway, you know, until the Battle of Midway. And then everything started to turn around.
But so, my point being, everybody was involved. Now when the Korean War started, of course we were influenced by our experience. And so, the Korean War, there was a War going on. We better, we’re gonna have to enlist. We’re gonna have to get going, you know. So, all my friends enlisted in something, all from the Academy. And everybody had a different experience.
But what we almost uniformly spotted was that at that time, the mindset was completely different. You recognized after about a year that the general population went about their business as usual. There was nothing special. They didn’t do anything special because there was a war going on in Korea. They went around business as usual, and they said to the people who were fighting the War,
You guys go off and fight the War. We’ll live our lives as if that wasn’t even going on. I’ve never forgotten that.
I: So, a lot of people do think of it as the Forgotten War.
B: That’s right.
I: And you’re here today to tell us the reasons why it shouldn’t be forgotten hopefully and why you want to be participating in this project. I mean, it’s like something for history so you feel committed to the project and want to tell us all about Korea, right?
B: Well, I’m not capable of telling you all about Korea. But all I can say is what I experienced and why my
I: What you know. When did you enlist?
B: I enlisted at Thanksgiving 1950.
I: You enlisted, not drafted.
B: Enlisted, yeah.
I: Okay. And what branch did you enlist into?
B: The Navy.
B: Um hm.
I: And what was your specialty? Did you get a choice of a specialty?
B: We did. Why I did this, I’ve forgotten. But all my friends and I, we all enlisted in something at Thanksgiving. But this one fellow named Ulrich, lived up on Granger Street as a matter of fact. I lived on Fort (INAUDIBLE) I live right next to the old Academy.
I: You live right by Evans Field and
I: down the street from the Granger Homestead pretty much? Well, your friend does.
B: Yeah. Oh, he does, yeah.
I: I used to go down that street all the time to go to work.
B: Yeah. I’m sure you did.
They had an electronics school opportunity for new recruits if the intelligence level was above something. I don’t know what it was. But he and I were both accepted into the electronics program. And so, we went to boot camp with everybody else. And then as soon as boot camp was over, we went into electronics school.
And then we went to, when we came out of the electronics school, we were assigned to a vessel or a shore base or whatever you wanted, and I went to the Academy, this is the ship, this one here.
I: What’s this?
B: This is a destroyer.
I: That’s a destroyer. Eight fifty it’s called?
I: Is there a name to it also?
B: Yeah, it’s named after John Kennedy’s older brother who was killed, as you probably remember, in 1944 in Europe.
I: And what’s the name of the ship?
B: Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr.
I: Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. ship, and it’s a battleship. It looks pretty big.
B: No, it’s a destroyer.
B: Not a battleship.
I: It looks pretty big.
B: Yeah. But this
I: What’s the difference between a battleship and a destroyer? What is
B: All kinds of differences.
B: Battleship is infinitely larger than this thing.
I: Okay. What’s a destroyer do? I mean, what it’s supposed to, what’s its’ usefulness? I mean, I look at it as a battleship. Most people would.
B: It’s a warship.
B: Its main battery is the 5” mount. This is a twin 5” mount here, twin 5” mount here and there’s a twin 5” mount aft.
B: Then there are 3” guns on the starboard side and the port side on the other side and a twin 3” mount above the 5” mount aft. It has torpedoes as you can see right here.
I: It could launch torpedoes.
B: Yeah, launch torpedoes.
I: And its’ purpose?
B: Well, attack of course.
I: Attack what, anything?
B: Anything, yeah. But in the Korean War, more and more, one of the chief functions of a destroyer was hand to submarine warfare. And so, we had depth charges aft.
B: And what they called head shocks which was another anti-submarine weapon up forward.
I: They would drop these things into the water?
B: Yeah. Let me tell you. When they went off, you thought the world was coming to an end.
I: They could go down, sink a little bit
B: Yeah, and Jesus, I tell you. The whole surface of the ocean would just shimmer, you now. It was very impressive.
I: And try and search or destroy submarines.
B: Submarines, yeah.
I: And these guns would be shooting at what?
B: Yeah. Well, lots of things. But they could be used for anti-against another ship, shore bombarding in, for example in Normandy, a lot of the destroyers were enclosed and used for firing at the German big guns up on the cliff there.
I: In Normandy.
B: In Normandy, yeah.
I: And in Korea, what would they use these for?
B: Wonsan Harbor.
I: They would use these in Korea, too?
B: Yeah. Also, in Inchon. But at Wonsan Harbor, this ship was used for shore bombarding.
I: How many men are on something like this?
B: Well, about 300.
I: And were you assigned to one of these ships?
B: This one.
I: This ship.
B: This very ship.
I: You were an electronics person on the ship.
B: My main job was the fire control radar which controlled the firing of the main battery, the 5”
I: Tell us how that’s done. I mean, I have no idea what fire control is.
B: Well, it’s a radar.
B: And there’s the antenna right there.
I: Okay. That little thing right there?
B: Yeah. And that little mount there is called the director. And if an airplane is coming in, if my radar was working better, working correctly and it damn well better be, we would lock on that aircraft.
And that would automatically train these guns on the airplane.
I: You had sophistication like that?
B: Oh yeah.
I: That year?
B: Oh yeah.
I: So, these things would actually turn on your numbers you would plug in or something?
I: Wow. So, it was an anti-aircraft as well as shore bombardment?
B: Yeah, and other ships. If there were any enemy ships in the area, you could fire at the ships as well.
I: So, you would just control these.
And there would be another person with your capability on another destroyer doing the same thing?
I: So, each person had their individual, now what was your title?
B: I was electronics technician.
I: And you would read the radar and attack these ships?
B: My battle station as they called it was the Mark 25 operator which was located in the director up here.
So, you were kind of exposed. But anyway, that’s where it was.
I: And you would be inside an office or building?
B: No. I’d be inside that.
I: Oh, you’d be in there.
B: You know how many people were sitting in there during it? Six. Six people.
I: Six people in that little box?
B: Yeah. Kind of crowded.
I: With a little like console or something?
B: Yeah. I was the only one that had the console.
I: And they had wires running to this, and you would turn them.
Were there any men in here loading it?
B: Oh yeah, of course.
I: Oh, there’s men inside here.
B: In the guns, not in the director.
I: Okay. So, the men are inside here loading these cannons. What are they called? What size guns are those?
B: These are 5” guns.
I: And what’s in those things, powder or missiles?
B: Well, there’s a powder and a shell.
I: With a big, I remember seeing a movie once where they had like a little silk bag of gunpowder. Is that what they put in those?
B: No. They are silk bags. But ours were canisters like.
And you put the canister for the powder, and then the projectiles would be loaded as well. Yeah.
I: So, it was almost like a big bullet.
B: Yeah. Well, the 3” guns were big bullets, great big rifle bullets. Only they were 3” in diameter. The 5” guns
I: These had big missiles in them?
B: The 5” guns had 5” projectiles.
I: How long were these things?
B: Well, I’m not sure I remember. But the projectional might be this long.
But the powder case would be about that long, yeah.
I: And they, do you regulate how much powder per distance or how would you?
B: Well, the range is controlled by the positioning of the gun mount. If it’s a long raise, they’d raise the, you know, it’s just on the cannon.
I: Oh, it’s elevated this way.
B: Just like a cannon, yeah.
I: I see.
B: You could raise these in elevation or change them very, very easily. But that’s all controlled by the radar.
I: Wow. I didn’t know that.
I: Well, you had a very important job.
B: Well, I also had responsibility for the surface search radar which looks, early warning, which looks for targets on the surface on the ocean. And that antenna is the one way up on top there.
I: Would that spin, too?
B: Yeah. If you want an exciting job, climb the mast and work on that antenna when the ship is moving. That’s exciting. Now this part is the air search radar antenna, and that was the responsibility of one of my ship mates, a guy named Grover Boose who also lives in Syracuse here.
I: So, you were assigned to this. How long were you on this vessel?
B: I was on the ship for exactly three years.
I: So, you had training, how long did your training last for this electronics?
B: Well, I was at boot camp of course for three months. And I was in electronics school for oh, let me think, something like six months, I think.
I don’t remember for sure, yeah.
I: And they trained you how to use the equipment that you were gonna be.
B: No. They basically taught you the principles of electronic systems like radar and radio. And those were the principle subjects, I think. By the way, I’m a college professor, you know, or at least I’m a retired college professor.
And I gotta tell you. The young men who taught us in that electronics school were damn good. They were really good. I edit a newsletter for my former shipmates. I mean, all shipmates of this ship. A lot of them I didn’t even know of course. But it was commissioned in ’45. And it was taken out of commission in ’72 I think or ’73. So, all those crew members are part of an association.
And I do the newsletter for that group.
I: You still do it now?
B: Yeah. As a matter of fact, I just got ready to send it out today. Or the latest one. Why’d I bring that up anyway? I can’t even remember why I brought it up. But
I: You’re talking about the teachers teach you the best.
B: Oh yeah. Those guys were great. There was an article, a guy wrote an article. He was aboard this ship about 15 years after I left the ship.
And he went to some kind of electronic school. And he was talking in this article about the instructors. And I said boy, that’s not like it was when I was there. I mean, the guys that taught us, I thought, were terrific.
I: The other thing you were gonna bring up is you really had almost, I don’t know if you did, maybe you had on the job training because they taught you just the basics.
I: Then when you get into this little room, is that where you learned it?
B: You had to learn pretty fast.
I: On the job training?
B: You had to learn pretty fast, yeah.
I: Wow. That’s a pretty risky thing. Were there people there that had experience to help you?
B: No. Not really. But the point is, the beauty of the Navy is that everybody on that ship depends on everybody else. If you screw up, then the whole ship is gonna suffer for it.
And I don’t care who you’re talking about, the lowest most
I: Big consequences.
I: Big consequences.
B: Big consequences, yeah. So, you just didn’t dare screw up.
I: It’s almost like a big team had to work like hard core.
B: Absolutely. And everybody knows it.
I: Now this little director thing was manned 24 hours a day?
B: No. But if the ship went into what they called battle stations, then everybody went to their battle stations.
And everybody had something to do during the, some specific assignment. Mine just happened to be in that director.
I: So, the ship is pretty susceptible to submarines and torpedoes. Was this surface radar working all the time?
B: Well, that’s a surface radar. Now there’s also sonar.
B: And the sonar is under water.
I: Underneath the ship?
B: Under water.
B: And that’s looking for submarines.
I: And is that operating all the time? Is somebody manning that?
B: Yeah, pretty much. If the ship is underway, if it’s moving, then the sonar is, unless the ship is going really fast because then there’s so much water noise and you can’t tell anything. But if they’re looking for submarines, they go to a slower speed, and you can bet the sonar’s working.
I: Your training was basically like six to eight months of training in electronics. And you did that for three years?
B: Um hm.
I: On this particular ship?
I: So, that was your home for a long time.
B: That’s right.
I: What was it like to be on a ship?
B: Well, I enjoyed it. I actually thought a little bit about shipping over surprisingly, that is re-enlisting when my enlistment was up. Because by that time, the Korean War was all over. I thought geez, this might, you know. But my father really wanted me to go to college, you know. And so, I figured, I had the GI bill.
I: That would be helpful.
B: Yes. My father had Multiple Sclerosis. And I knew when I first went to college that he was gonna have to scrape like the dickens to send me there. And the tuition was a drop in the bucket compared with what it is today. But that drop in the bucket was a big drop for him. I knew that. And my brother knew it. My brother was a World War II type. And he had the GI bill.
When we went in, I don’t think we knew that the Korean War veterans were gonna get the GI bill or get a GI bill. But they did, thank goodness. But I had the GI bill. And so, I decided I’d better go back to college. And I’m glad I did of course, because everything worked out very well.
I: Where’d you go to college?
I: Where did you go to college?
B: Here at Syracuse.
I: You went to SU?
B: I went right back to Syracuse, yeah. But I didn’t go back to pre-law which was a stupid thing for me to do anyway.
I’d have been a terrible lawyer. I went into the College of Engineering and
I: How were the instructors there as opposed to the ones that taught you how to use the radar?
B: Well, my instructor
I: Or the electronics?
B: My instructors at Syracuse were always for the most part were very, just terrific. We were talking about that just recently. Of course, we had to take lots of things. We took a lot of Mathematics. And the Mathematics teachers were just absolutely phenomenal.
A former Math Dept. Chairman was a guy named Don Kibby, and I always said he could teach Calculus to a rock. I mean, he was really good.
I: Good teacher.
B: Oh God. He was great.
I: He made it a learnable experience for you?
B: Yeah. And that can be a very unlearnable experience.
I: Yes. Not many numbers in those Calculus. A lot of letters and symbols.
B: That’s right.
I: And you found that to be helpful in this electronics field you went into, the Calculus?
B: Well yeah. You can’t do the field, you can’t work in the field at any advanced level and not know Calculus, that’s for sure.
I: So, it was very helpful.
B: Yeah. But generally speaking, the instruction at Syracuse University in my time was just terrific. Absolutely terrific. So, I’ve been very lucky.
I: So, you went into SU what year?
B: Nineteen fifty.
I: Nineteen fifty.
B: September 1950.
I: And you graduated?
I: Degree. So, it took you a little bit of time.
B: It took me a long time.
I: Okay. But you enjoyed it.
B: Very much.
I: And you had a Masters’ Degree or something.
B: Had a Masters’ and then a PhD.
I: In Electronics Engineering?
B: Everything was in what they call Electrical Engineering.
B: Yeah. That included electronics and everything.
I: So, you were in school for eight years.
B: Oh, a lot longer than that because I wasn’t here during those eight years. I started in 1950, left basically at Thanksgiving time 1950.
Came back in ’55 and graduated in ’58. Then I got my Masters’ Degree in ’60, went to work at Eastman Kodak for a while, came back and got the PhD in ’65. So, if you wanna start at the beginning,
I: Fifteen years.
B: Fifteen years.
I: Oh, you’re a professional student.
B: A lot of people thought that. Probably my mother thought that.
I: But the GI bill helped you a lot.
B: Oh boy, did it ever. Made it possible.
I: You sound like a person that had a big impact on the students that you had in school.
B: I hope so.
I: Are there any memorable moments as a professor? Anybody coming back and saying you were a terrible teacher, or you were a great teacher?
B: Well, I’ve had some very nice things said to me, I’ll tell you that.
I: Uh huh.
B: We’ll let it go at that, yeah.
I: And the teacher always felt, let’s see, I taught for 34 years. And over the 34 years, I had maybe two students call me up and say what a good job.
But those two students made me feel good.
B: Damn right.
I: You know what I mean? It makes you feel like you did your job.
I: I see you have another photograph here.
B: Well, I just brought this. This is from the Doolittle Raiders as I told you. And this was during World War II, 1942. But the reason I brought it is that this is an aircraft carrier of course. That’s a destroyer.
I: Oh my God. It looks so small.
B: I know. It is small.
I: So, the destroyer’s here to protect this big ship?
B: Well, from submarines, yeah. But also, we also, now this guy’s on plane guard duty right now. What they’re doing, one of the things they’re doing is if one of these things dumps in the drink, if they try to take off, they’ll go up and attempt to rescue the crew. And they do a lot of that. Not everybody survives of course. But
I: You mean, as they’re taking off, they would crash or landing or just coming in and missing
B: Both. Now see these things aren’t supposed to, they’re too big to fly off an aircraft carrier, at least the aircraft carriers in those days. They did something special in those days. They just revved them up like crazy.
I: Put special engines in them you think?
B: I don’t know. I don’t think so. But they had to rev those damn things up.
I: Just to get off the plane.
I: Just to get off the ship.
I: So, you said something about one of these ships was involved with bombing of some kind.
B: That ship.
I: That particular
B: That very ship.
I: What is the name of that one?
B: The Hornet.
I: The Hornet.
B: Those are the B25s which are not Navy planes at all. But they bombed Tokyo in April of ’42. That’s, let me see, January, February, March, April, four months after Pearl Harbor.
I: So, these, they’re not planes. They’re, what are they called?
B: They’re bombers.
B: They’re Army bombers.
I: And they were loaded down with bombs to get off an aircraft carrier. They really had to, like you said, rev it up.
B: Rev it up. And the carrier was probably going as fast as it can go to get the windspeed up.
I: Because you always travel into the wind when you’re taking off, right?
B: Taking off into the wind, yeah.
I: And they’re bouncing around, too.
B: Yeah. Bouncing around. Well, this isn’t too bad right now.
I: So, these bombers were, I never knew bombers took off from aircraft carriers.
B: They don’t. But they did that day.
I: Because I know I’ve seen the small fighter planes do that.
I: So that was something unusual? How close were they to Tokyo in this picture do you think?
B: Well, not
I: I don’t see Japan in the background.
B: Not, no. They’re not close enough for these planes to fly and return to the ship. Those guys had to try to get rid of their load and then land some place in China.
B: And there are some horror stories about what happened to some of those guys.
I: They knew that it was inevitable that they couldn’t make it back?
B: Yep. They knew that.
I: I didn’t know that.
But they thought they could land in Nationalist-held China and get back that way. But a lot of them landed in Japanese-held China or got shot down over Japan, you know.
I: Oh my God. What a destiny.
I: Knowing that you can’t, what is it, the distance with the fuel going and coming?
B: Yeah, exactly.
I: And they couldn’t get the ships close enough cause they would be under attack from Japanese.
B: Yeah. If they got close enough, the ship would have been attacked or sunk before they could get these things off the ground.
I: Oh my God.
B: Yeah. Or off the carrier.
I: What proud, heroic people.
B: Yeah. I’ll say.
I: And you said one of your friends was one of the ones who, the ship was sunk?
B: No. My friend was on, who was a Canandaigua guy, he was on the USS Lexington at the Battle of Coral Sea which took place April, May, about a month after this raid took place.
Now the Coral Sea is down south of, let’s see, what is it. South and east of New Guinea, and what the Japs were after was they were gonna try to take Fort Morsby on the southern New Guinea coast so that they could control the sea lanes to Australia. Australia was a big supply base for the U.S. in the early part of, well, all through the War actually, not just the early part.
But the Coral Sea was a stalemate. We lost a carrier, the Lexington. And he was up in the air. He was flying around when his ship went down.
I: So, what did he do?
B: He had to land some place else. There was another carrier there, the Yorktown. And I honestly can’t remember now whether he landed in China or on the Yorktown. I think he probably was on the Yorktown.
Yorktown was wounded, and that Yorktown went back to Pearl Harbor, got repaired and fought in the Battle of Midway one month later.
B: That’s a great story.
I: I was watching a movie about that, I think.
B: Oh sure. There is
I: One of those actors in that movie was, I try to remember the names of, I can see the faces, but I can’t remember the names of the actors in that.
B: You’re talking about Midway?
B: Well, let’s see.
Glenn Ford was in that. He played Admiraal Spruance. Nimitz was played by a very famous guy,
I: I want to see
B: Henry Fonda.
I: Henry Fonda.
B: Henry Fonda.
I: It was Henry Fonda, yes.
B: Henry Fonda played Nimitz, and I don’t, I could think of all the rest of them, but it’d take me more time than you have to spend.
I: It was an interesting movie.
B: Very interesting movie, yeah.
I: It was, did you think it was pretty accurate in the way they did it or is it more show?
B: I’m not qualified to say. But I do know, I firmly believe that Midway turned the War around because the Japanese expansion lasted about five or six months. Afte Midway, it was turned around.
I: Let’s switch gears a little. When you were stationed in Korea, where were you stationed?
B: Well, the ship was off of, was all over. Ships don’t stay in one place. But the most significant place where the ship was was in Wonsan Harbor.
I: Was that in a
B: Well, it’s on the southeast side of South Korea. And if you recall, the North Koreans had pushed the Americans back. And so, they really had kind of a foothold is all.
And things were kind of in dire straits there for a while. And so there was a battle going on at Wonsan Harbor. And the Kennedy and other ships like it were bombarding shore installations of the North Koreans. But then after that, MacArthur led the Americans at Inchon Landing up
I: Now, Inchon’s on the east side?
B: The other side, on the west side.
I: And Wonsan was on the
B: Southeast side.
B: But the Inchon Landing basically cut the Peninsula in two. Now the effect that that had was the Chinese and North Koreans that were down in the south, they were cut off. It made a hell of a difference. So that was quite a coupe on the Americans part.
I: And you were bombarding the shoreline.
B: Kennedy was bombarding the shoreline at Wonsan Harbor, yeah.
I: I heard that the Inchon thing by MacArthur was a brilliant move by him.
B: It was.
I: Then there was another General, somebody came in later on in the War, Walker? Was there a General Walker that came in? He was more of an Army person.
B: Could be, yeah. I don’t know. I mean, I don’t remember.
I: What were your, did you ever land? Did you ever get into
I: You never landed? You stayed on the ship the entire time?
I: What were the living conditions like on the ship?
That’s why this, I can’t imagine having women aboard ship, on a military ship. I just can’t fathom that because conditions, you’re right next to, you know, you go to the men’s room, head, we used to call it the head. I mean, there’s, I don’t know, six or eight people in there all at the same time.
Living conditions are so tight.
I: You mean sleeping beds?
B: Yeah. Our racks were maybe two or 2 ½ feet apart.
I: Series of bunk beds?
B: Yeah. And we were
I: Wake up and hit your head.
B: Yeah. You’re packed in there like sardines. And how they could have women aboard a Navy ship is absolutely beyond my understanding.
I: What was your opinion of Korea, the Koreans, the South Korean Army? Maybe you dealt with the North Korean,
I: Were there any North Korean battleships or destroyers? Did you ever come across those?
B: No. The American fleet was pretty powerful. Any ship that came close to the American fleet was gonna be hammered pretty badly.
I: So, you never had any conflicts with other ships?
I: Submarines only or?
B: Submarines we chased, yeah. But no.
I: No ships above the water. Okay.
So did you ever encounter any foreign troops being captured and put on your ship?
I: No? Okay. Let’s see. When were you discharged?
B: February 4, 1955. I remember it well.
I: You know the dates. And when you were discharged, was there like any kind of homecoming party for you or was it festive? Was there any resentment that you were there? Did people just didn’t know?
B: My ship was in Cuba at the time. And my enlistment was fast coming up. And I was ready to leave the ship because I had to go back, If I was gonna go back to college, I had to get there because hell it’s
I: February you were gonna be discharged.
B: The semester had already started.
B: So, I was really nervous about it, you know.
And the Executive Officer who was the second in command of the ship you know, he came down to the main deck and tried to talk me again into re-enlisting. And for once in my life, I stuck to my guns. But he made it kind of uncomfortable for me, you know.
I: Well, he also told you, he kept you over there until February after the semester had started.
B: Yeah. Well, my shipmate, the guy that I told you about who lives in Syracuse who’s personal responsibility was the air search radar, good guy.
Now he left the ship before we went to Cuba.
I: So, like in January?
I: He was discharged in January?
B: Well, I don’t remember when he was discharged. But he left the ship. He was transferred to the Separation Center before we left for Cuba, not me. I thought I should have been transferred at the same time. But it didn’t happen.
I: You were gonna be discharged.
I: You knew it was coming up.
B: Yeah. But it didn’t happen.
I: So, they made you stay on the ship.
B: So, I had to go to Cuba with them. But then it got to be pretty late, maybe the first of February I’m guessing now. But there was almost no time. And I was beside myself cause if I wait any longer, I’m gonna be too late, you know.
I: For the semester.
B: I don’t know why they did that. It might have been that they were trying to, but the Executive Officer really made it a little bit unpleasant for me because.
I: He wanted you.
B: Yeah. He wanted me to stay. And I think the reasons may have been selfish on his part. I don’t know. I have no idea. I’ve never understood that really. But so, I jumped on a barge. It went over to the mainland, and I caught a plane to Jacksonville where there was a Separation Center.
And I basically had to take responsibility for myself to travel. And I got this old BC3 with the wings going up and down, you know. I was scared to death. That was the first airplane flight I ever had. I thought we aren’t gonna get anywhere with this thing, you know. But I got to Jacksonville. And they got me out pretty fast. And I flew up to New York City, and then I must have taken a train to Rochester, and my parents picked me up.
I: So, you went to Old Idlewild Airport.
B: I did.
I: Now Kennedy.
B: Yeah, Kennedy, yeah.
I: And you took a train from Kennedy.
B: No, I took a train from someplace. I don’t remember. But I must have taken a train
I: From New York?
B: Probably to Rochester, and then my parents probably drove me up to Syracuse.
I: Um hm.
B: But I was just in the nick of time because classes had already started.
I: They let you enroll?
B: And my shipmate, Grover Boost there, the guy that I told you about, he was already there.
He came to Syracuse, we were gonna come back to Syracuse together. He had never been to Syracuse. But he was gonna come to college there. And he was there waiting for me.
I: And he was enrolled already.
I: So, he was there, and they let you enroll late?
B: Yeah, they did.
I: Late entry.
B: Good thing, yeah.
I: To the college. So, getting back to the other question.
Were there any festivities? I mean, you were in a rush to get home. Was anybody happy that you arrived home or
B: I think so, yeah.
I: Or your parents?
B: There wasn’t any time for a celebration that’s for sure.
I: You just went right to classes.
I: That’s quite a switch to go from military right to civilian
B: Yeah, it is.
I: Was there any memories that you have being on the ship? Do you think of it all the time?
B: All kinds of, thousands of them, yeah. I think about it all the time.
I: And you had a newsletter first and so you must see.
B: I had to think about it.
I: You must see, hear a lot about it.
B: I do.
I: And so, it had a big impact on you, this military thing.
B: It did.
I: It sort of groomed you into electronics do you think?
B: Yeah. Definitely.
I: You know, people in wartime sometimes have animosity against the enemy. Some people don’t. What are your feelings on the North Koreans and the Chinese?
B: Well, I have animosity toward the leadership in North Korea.
I: Um hm.
B: I think those people are nitwits.
I: Um hm.
B: I don’t know what they think they’re doing. But I would think reunification and democratic form of government, I think the South Koreans are a good model. I don’t know why these people up there persist, you know, and why the population allows them to persist. It’s beyond me.
I: That’s right. It’s not the people. It’s the leadership and the politicians and the government and everything.
It seemed to be.
I: And I’m sure the people that are in North Korea want to be just like the people in South Korea.
I: They must have some information.
B: I would think so, yeah.
I: But the reunification is something that you would look forward to joining
B: On their behalf. I mean, it doesn’t affect me too much. But I would think that they would be interested in reunification. They probably have relatives. You’re Korean, Miss?
Female Voice: Yes.
B: Do you have relatives in North Korea?
Female Voice: I don’t have, Private Lowe’s father was from North Korea.
Female Voice: Before the War.
Female Voice: And they have relatives there.
B: Yeah, some.
I: And being separated from your family.
I: And I know, have you heard about the reunification meetings that they have?
I: The South Koreans go to North Korea for a few days and meet their relatives. But the North Koreans won’t allow the North Koreans to go to South Korea. They’d never go back. So, do you know about the economy in North Korea at all?
B: Not in any authentic way. My impression is that it’s not good.
I: Yeah, you’re right.
I: And South Koreans have everything.
I: And I’m hoping someday the reunification does.
B: Look at the Hyundais and the Kias that you see on the streets. My lord, they’re all over the place.
B: And my son is a banker in Chicago. And he’s in Corporate Finance, you know. And one of his customers is Hyundai. One of his clients I should say, one of his clients is a Hyundai Motor Company along with Ford and General Motors, yeah.
I: It’s a thriving economy.
I: I think it’s the 11th largest economy in the world.
B: I wouldn’t be surprised.
I: And China’s number two. America’s number one.
B: Very industrious people.
I: What would you like to say to the camera or to me about young people in another war? What would you do if you were young and there was another war started right now? What would you tell the youngsters that could be going to war or eligible, you know, you were in the military, and there was a different era then.
B: Different era.
I: What would you say to them now?
B: Boy I tell you. I don’t know because now they talk about limited wars, you know. Well, they talked about limited war in Korea. The casualty rate in Korea was enormous. And Korea was not a limited war.
I: It lasted a long time, right?
B: Yeah, it lasted, well, it lasted quite a while, yeah.
But and look at Afghanistan for God’s sake, you know. I don’t know. I’m influenced by my own background. And if we’re at war, everybody should be at war. Everybody in the, if the United States is in a war, everybody should play a role in some way or another.
I: Allies are coming from different countries helping out.
B: Well, maybe. But if the United States is at war, it’s not something for just a few people to do.
Everybody ought to be involved just like during World War II. Everybody ought to be involved somehow. They ought to be collecting scrap metal or some damn thing.
I: What would you say to young people? What would you say to a youngster that has a draft card?
I: I just did one for my son. I had to fill it out. Otherwise, his financial aid would be affected. You have to do the draft card when you’re 18. And they repeatedly haunt you until you sent that in. And I was afraid, you know, as a dad.
What would you say to kids that have the draft card now and there’s a war or a limited thing going on right now? Would you tell him to enlist? Would you say something else?
B: I’ll tell you what I told a young fellow in my church out here. My church is right down the street here, Janseville Community Church there. His mother is the daughter of two of my Canandaigua friends. They happened to live in Syracuse for quite a while.
But they’re back in Canandaigua now. She’s a lovely girl. And she has two sons. And the youngest son was going to enlist in the military. So, they asked me what do you think? I said if he’s gonna enlist, enlist in the Navy. The Navy will help, the Navy, if he gives them a chance, they’ll help him carve out his future.
And he’ll be serving in the country at the same time. They sure as hell helped not just me but a lot of people that I was in the Service with were favorably influenced in their future direction. And I was sure as hell one of them.
I: So, the Navy is what you would suggest, not Army or
B: I’m prejudiced. You realize that.
B: Prejudiced as hell. But I think the Navy’s a great outfit. I really do.
I: The Air Force?
B: Well, I don’t know enough about the Air Force to say these days.
A lot of my friends back at that time did join the Air Force. I don’t think they got the same net return. I honestly don’t think they got the same net return by any means that I did.
I: The Air Force, you get like a jet or your plane as just a certain amount of people can work on these. But a ship, you have a big vast like little moving city.
B: As I told the people before, everybody depends on everybody else.
Everybody’s got a job to do, and everybody depends on everybody to do that job. And if they don’t do it, everybody’s on their case for it.
I: So, it’s a valuable lesson in working together.
B: Damn right it is.
I: So, the Navy is what you would tell them.
I: Have you ever been back to Korea?
B: I’m prejudiced of course.
I: Have you ever been back to Korea?
I: What would you
B: I had the chance, yeah.
I: What is your, I mean I asked before. But again, what is your opinion about the division between the North and South?
You said that there should be unification. What are your feelings about the Korean War now, after you’ve been out and everything? What’s your opinion about what happened or
B: Our country and the allies, Great Britain and all those who participated, Australia and I’m sure I’m forgetting some important players. But it was the right thing to do. Absolutely the right thing to do.
No question about it in my mind. And as I said before, I think the best thing for the Korean Peninsula is that they reunite. The only thing holding them back is the leadership in North Korea as far as I’m concerned. My group, when I say my group, those are all my high school pals.
All the Academy guys that graduated with me or one year before me. I think they all had the same feeling, that is the thing that was missing is the general acceptance among the population as a whole that we were in a War. And as I said earlier, we grew up during World War II when everybody was involved. In one way or another, everybody was involved.
That wasn’t true in Korea, and it hasn’t been true since. It got progressively worse. Viet Nam was worse than Korea by a long shot because those guys came back, and a lot of people kind of gave them the business, you know. They said you know, you’re a bad guy cause you, you know. I just, it almost made me sick to my stomach the way people acted. And it hasn’t gotten any better.
I: The Korean War was, after World War II was prosperity and stuff, and we got into another skirmish. And you’re saying that there were a lot of people going about their business, but there were these soldiers over there, and a lot of people refer to the Korean War as the Forgotten War. What do you think about that?
B: Well of course, my age group doesn’t forget it, right.
I: Um hm.
B: It’s a long time ago. And World War II hadn’t been forgotten really. But by today’s generation, it’s been forgotten.
You and I haven’t forgotten it. But today’s generation, you ask kids about Guadalcanal for example. Half of then wouldn’t have the feintest idea what Guadalcanal was and the importance that that had in the American war effort, you know. Or Anzio. What about Anzio? They wouldn’t have heard of Anzio.
I: And today like you’re saying, the Korean War is totally out of their mind.
I: I mean that.
B: It’s a long time ago.
B: Yeah. At least to today’s young people it is.
I: What could you tell the people? People are going to be watching this long after your ashes are gone. What would you tell people today about the Korean War today, for the future. Like some kid’s watching this video 20, 30 years from now. What would you say to them about the Korean War?
B: Well, as I said, I think it was a necessary step.
By that I mean the United States involvement with the British and allies that we had, the Australians certainly. There had been aggression, same as in, I felt the same way during the first Gulf War because Kuwait had been invaded. And we went to the defense of Kuwait, and George Bush Sr. stopped the Americans before they
I: Went into Iraq.
B: Before they tore, well, they went into Iraq alright.
But they didn’t
B: They didn’t tear the place apart.
I: Um hm.
B: They didn’t bombard Baghdad. They sure as hell could have, but they didn’t. I respect that decision because we accomplished our objectives. Now in Korea, it was a very tough thing there, especially the stalemate there in the later years there. But at least it ended.
Why they don’t reunite is because of those people, you know. I think we did the right thing as I’ve said before. I think it was the right thing to do. And I just wish it would have a happier ending.
I: You know, I was there at the DMZ, and you can see that the North Koreans are watching the South Koreans. The South Koreans are watching the North Koreans. There’s still this little cold war going on.
B: And that’s 58 years ago.
I: Yeah, a long time. And it still hasn’t been solved.
I: Someday maybe.
I: It will be. I know that you brought in a lot of materials. You have the photograph of the
B: Well, I just brought that to show the
B: Relative size.
I: Ok. Do you have anything else that you would like to contribute or loan to this
B: As I told Allan, I have my DD14 for example. And I have
I: What’s a DD
B: It’s your official separation papers.
I: It’s discharge papers?
B: It tells you where you were and what you did and all that other stuff.
I: Oh, I see.
B: Your, everything about your service on one sheet of paper. And then your Honorable Discharge. I have that, of course. But they’re in my bank box. And I just didn’t have time to go there and get them.
I: There’s no rush. I would like to get some pictures of these sometime whenever you have a chance so that we can have them for the archives.
Hopefully this project will go places. We’re gonna, from what I heard, there’s gonna be Central New York mostly and then maybe branch out. Hopefully it will, and we wanna thank you for coming.
B: It was my pleasure.
I: Your involvement with this is very important. And your knowledge of, you know, we have a lot of military people, and you’re one of the Navy people.
I: And it’s nice to see that you had a very big involvement in this War.
I: And the South Korean people you know, from what I know and being there, the South Korean people have embraced all the Americans for helping them out.
B: We tried to do our job. That’s what we tried to do.
I: Um hm.
B: And mine went pretty well. I have to say. Everything was pretty good.
I: Well Mr. Strait, thank you for coming.
B: Okay, my pleasure.
I: Thank you very much. It was nice.
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