Korean War Legacy Project

Burnie S. Jarvis


Burnie S. Jarvis began serving in the U.S. Navy in the Fall of 1948 after graduating from high school.  Following service for about a year, he decided the Navy was not his lifelong career, and he left the service to work for the railroad. Following the outbreak of the Korean War, he received a letter from the U.S. government stating he was being recalled to service. He was assigned to help out the artillery with their eight-inch guns. He never went ashore in Korea but spent his entire time at sea assisting the U.S. Navy with artillery fire on the enemy while assigned to the U.S.S. Toledo. Following his service, he used the GI Bill to attend aviation mechanics school and became a federally licensed aviation mechanic. He is proud to have served his country and expresses gratitude for everything his service taught him, especially an appreciation for his own country.

Video Clips

Recalled to Service

Burnie Jarvis, at the urging of a friend and an unsubstantiated claim they could remain together, joined the U.S. Navy in the Fall of 1948. He shares he was assigned to a heavy cruiser ship, the U.S.S. St. Paul, after basic training. He offers details about what a heavy cruiser ship is. He shares how after leaving near the end of his first year to return to work for the railroads he was recalled to service following the start of the Korean War.

Tags: Basic training,Weapons

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Assigned to Assist Artillery

Burnie Jarvis shares how, following his recall to service in 1950, he was assigned to assist the artillery aboard the U.S.S. Toledo. He explains he was part of a gunnery division and operated a five-inch twin mounted gun. He notes that prior to his arrival in Korea he had not learned anything about Korea in school or ROTC training.

Tags: Basic training,Prior knowledge of Korea,Weapons

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Duties of the U.S.S. Toledo

Burnie Jarvis recalls he and the crew of the U.S.S. Toledo served mainly in the waters off of the east coast of Korea and about ten miles north of where the action was. He remembers spending about two weeks in any one location. He notes there was small arms fire from the shore but that it ended up being little more than splashes in the water. He notes there really was not much resistance from the enemy toward the U.S. Navy in the region. He explains the ship's main duties were to provide artillery fire for whatever the spotter located and even breaking up ice during the cold winters to prevent the enemy from crossing the rivers to resupply troops.

Tags: Chinese,Cold winters,Front lines,North Koreans,Weapons

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Life aboard the U.S.S. Toledo

Burnie Jarvis offers details about the duties of the crew members aboard the U.S.S. Toledo. He provides details regarding loading eight-inch projectiles as well as five-inch projectiles. He shares how the ship was resupplied with ammunition, food, and fuel. He notes that the ship had pretty much everything the crew could need including a dentist, doctor, and accounting office. He recalls they had very good cooks and bakers.

Tags: Food,Living conditions,Weapons

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Impact of the Korean War

Burnie Jarvis shares he received the South Korean Peace Ambassador Meal from the South Korean government and recalls not considering himself much of a hero despite what the Korean government said. He believes that it was important for the United States to be involved in the war as a matter of protecting the South Korean people from being overrun by the North and to preserve freedom. He describes how he proudly served his country and shares that his military service taught him many things including an appreciation for his own country. He add that following the war he took advantage of the GI Bill and trained to become an aviation mechanic, the field which he worked in the remainder of his career.

Tags: G.I. Bill,Impressions of Korea,Pride,South Koreans

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of Transcribed Material]


I:          My name is Jongwoo Han. I am the President of Korean War Legacy Foundation which has more than 1,500 Korean War veterans interview Wilsonville by the Honorary Counsel, Greg Caldwell.  So, I want to thank him.  It is a pleasure and honor to meet you, sir.  And please introduce yourself.  What is your name, sit?

B:        Burnell Samuel Jarvis, Jr.

I:          Can you spell it?

B:        BURNELL Samuel, SAMUEL, Jarvis, JARVIS Jr.



I:          What is your birthday, sir?

B:        June 8, 1930.

I:          Nineteen-thirty.  So that makes you.

B:        Ninety-two.

I:          Ninety-two?
B:        Yes sir.

I:          Wow, you look so young.

B:        Looks can be deceiving.



B:        You just had a birthday.

I:          Yes.  Where were you born?

B:        I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah.

I:          Salt Lake City.  And tell me about your family background when you were growing up, your parents and your siblings.

B:        Well, I was born a mechanic.  And my father was an auto mechanic.



And when I was growing up, I was always interested in mechanical things.

I:          Um hm.

B:        And I enjoyed that.  And I have a brother who was two years younger than me, and a sister who is nine years younger than me.  And I grew up during the Depression.  So, life was not hard for me.



My father always was able to work.  But many who lived in the neighborhood couldn’t find work, and it was a very difficult time.

I:          Great Depression.

B:        Oh yeah, very bad.

I:          Yeah, very bad.  And tell me about your educational background.  When did you graduate, what high school?

B:        I graduated from high school in 1948, South High School in Salt Lake City.



I:          And what did you do after that?
B:        While I was in high school, I worked at a gas station.  And when I graduated from high school, my father asked me what are you going to do now?  And I told him, I said I guess I’ll go to work on cars, and he said over my dead body.

I:          Why?



B:        In those days, you didn’t ask the why.  But since, I have come to realize that it was a great help to me for me to search other entities. And I went to work for the railroad.  And I was a machinist apprentice.



But about the fall of that year, my friend that I completely went through school with called me up and he said he went down to the Navy and checked up on it, and he said that we could go in the Navy.  And if we went in the Navy together, we’d stay together.  We went in the Navy together. He went to East Coast.  I went to West Coast.  And after I got out of boot camp, I was assigned to a heavy cruiser, ship.  It’s a very large ship.



I:          Which one?
B:        USS St. Paul.

I:          St. Paul.

B:        Yes.

I:          Yeah.

B:        And

I:          What kind of ship was it?
B:        Heavy cruiser.

I:          Heavy

B:        Heavy cruiser, yes.

I:          What does that mean?

B:        It was, the only thing larger was the battleship.  The battleship has 16” guns, the main guns.  The heavy cruiser had 8” guns as well as 6” and aircraft batteries.

I:          Um hm.



B:        But after serving the year, I decided the Navy was not going to be my career.  So, I got out and went back to work for the railroad.  And then after the Korean War got started, I got a letter from Uncle Sam, we need you.



I:          Ah hah.

B:        So, I was recalled in 1950.

I:          Yeah.

B:        And I went to San Francisco and then to Honolulu and then to Tokyo, and that’s where I met the ship, USS Toledo which is the sister ship of the one I was on first.

I:          USS what?
B:        Toledo.

I:          Okay.  TO

B:        LEDO, Toledo.

I:          Yeah.

B:        Names after (MIC TROUBLE) which is the same configuration,



And our assignment was to be the, help out artillery.

I:          Artillery.

B:        Artillery because our 8” guns could send a projectile

I:          Yeah.

B:        Twenty-five miles with very good accuracy.

I:          Um hm.

B:        And we were breaking up roads, railroads, bridges.  And somehow, the military would get a spotter because we were always l0 miles north of where the action was,



And we were anchored most of the time in a harbor or the mouth of a river.  And the spotter would call over, and he had a  map and a radio and binoculars, and he would send the coordinates of where he wanted some action.

I:          Um hm.

B:        And it would be sometimes during the day, sometimes during the night.



One of his favorite things was he would find a building or a place where the troops were sleeping, sometimes in the middle of the night he’d put a projectile in the middle, didn’t turn out well.

I:          Um hm.

B:        For them.

I:          Um.  So, before we go into more details about your service, when you graduated South High School in 1948, did you learn anything about Korea from the school?

B:        No.



I:          Did you know anything about Korea?

B:        No.  In fact, while I was in school, I took ROTC

I:          Uh huh.

B:        Which was free military training.  But there was nothing about Korea or the country at all.

I:          Not at all.

B:        Not that I recall.

I:          Uh huh.

B:        I was a poor student.  For English and Geography, I (MIC TROUBLE) to get by.



I:          To pass.

B:        To pass, yeah, that’s correct, to pass.

I:          So, when did you leave for Korea from where?  You said San Francisco, right?

B:        San Francisco.

I:          When was it?

B:        It was August or, late August or September.

I:          Uh huh.

B:        And then we

I:          Nineteen fifty?

B:        Nineteen fifty.  And they flew us from there to Honolulu.

I:          Oh.



I:          Oh.

B:        And we stayed there for probably two weeks to get another flight to Tokyo.

I:          Uh huh.

B:        And so, then we went there. And then we were put in barracks, or in Sasebo.

I:          Sasebo.

B:        Waiting for our ship to come in to get on the ship.

I:          You mean the SS Toledo?
B:        Toledo, yeah.

I:          Yeah, Toledo.



And what was your specialty?  You were in the Artillery, right?
B:        I was on the deck force, and we were in a gunnery division.  And I was underneath a 5” twin mount gun’s mouth.

I:          And what was your rank at the time?
B:        Seaman First Class.
I:          Seaman First Class.
B:        And because I had already decided that the military was not going to be my career,



I didn’t (MIC) because I was just going to get out and pursue other things.

I:          So, you were 20 at the time, right?

B:        Yes.
I:          You were not married at the time.

B:        No.

I:          You didn’t have a girlfriend?
B:        Well, I had some but no, not really.

I:          Not really

B:        No.

I:          Serious.

B:        Serious.

I:          Okay.  So, tell me about, from Sasebo you went to Korea, right?
B:        Yes.
I:          East Sea.




B:        I’m not sure whether it was on the east, I suppose that it’s probably on the east side.

I:          Yeah.

B:        And I really wasn’t aware of any exact locations.

I:          Right.

B:        But I always knew that because they told us that we were about 10 miles north of where the action was.  And that’s really all we knew.  And we were anchored in a bay or the mouth of a river.


And it was that way for a couple of weeks at a time.

I:          Hm.  Right. And do you remember any special action from the ship, USS Toledo to like bomb the North Korean shore or anything?
B:        No.

I:          Any action you remember?
B:        We did get some small armed fire from the shore one time.

I:          One time.

B:        It was right after lunch.



And we were anchored.  And there were splashes in the water.  But it didn’t make it to us.  It was maybe 2/3 of the way from the shore to us.  So, they

I:          Enemy fire?
B:        Enemy fire, yes.

I:          Oh.

B:        It was enemy fire.  And so, they sounded general quarters.



They cut the anchor loose because it would take too long to bring it back.

I:          Right.

B:        And they, with the 5” guns and the 20 mm, we started firing cause there were six 5” gun mounts on the ship, but four were able to bear where the small fire was coming from.

I:          Yeah.
B:        And it probably lasted maybe not more than 10 minutes or so.

I:          That’s it?



B:        Well because we got out of there.  And so, about a week and a half or maybe two later, we came back, and obviously we must have had a diver on the ship.  Every time they’d put an anchor down, it had a float on it so that we knew exactly where it was.  He went down and hooked it up, and we retrieved the anchor.



And before everything happened from the shore was all very green, lush trees, all them things.  When we come back, there wasn’t a stick standing.  And the captain was upset cause we had expended a lot of ammunition.

I:          Right.

B:        But we were just loading it all out.

I:          Any other episode
B:        No.

I:          No enemy ship?
B         Never.



We had, I’ll tell you something.  Two or three times was a South Korean, I don’t know.

I:          Fishing ship?
B:        No, they were bringing prisoners.
I:          Oh.

B:        They brought some prisoners out to the ship.  And that was the only time that we ever saw them.



And a year ago, there were four South Korean soldiers who had come to this country and were here, were at the meeting for Memorial Day. I took the occasion to talk to them, and I told them that their Navy was pathetic.

I:          Yeah.  So, mostly we overpowered the enemy Navy, right?



There was not much distance from North Korea and (INAUDIBLE)
B:        We never saw any opposition at all.

I:          The US Forces were dominant.
B:        Yes.

I:          Yes.

B:        Yeah.

I:          So that you didn’t have much action like a round ball, you know?
B:        No, we never saw any enemy activity at all.

I:          So, what was your main mission? I mean without engaging in enemy ship and what was your mission mostly?



B:        Well, it was to provide artillery for whatever the spotter would locate and even during the winter, the winters there were pretty cold, and we were even breaking up ice on rivers so they couldn’t get across the rivers with, to resupply from the north for their troops.

I:          Um hm.  So, you’d been bombarding

B:        Yeah.



The enemy area from the sea.  But you didn’t encounter enemy ships and engage in battle?

B:        Yeah, we never saw any enemy ships or anything.

I:          How open were you, did you bomb to the shore (INAUDIBLE)
B:        Quite frequently.  In fact, we had three turrets, and each turret had three barrels.  And at one point, all of the barrels were worn out.

I:          Um hm.



B:        And when they would fire a projectile

I:          Um hm.
B:        It has a tracer in it.  And early on, the tracers were true and straight, but it got so that the tracers were this way.  And so, we ended up going back to Honolulu

I:          Hm.
B:        To get the barrels changed to come back, and we did that as quickly as possible.

I:          You had to go back to Hawaii?

B:        To Hawaii.

I:          Wow.

B:        That was, I guess that was the only place that we could get to a facility that we could get the new barrels.

I:          Ha.



B:        The barrels were large.  And it would

I:          How long did it take to get to Hawaii?
B:        I don’t recall.

I:          Like a week?
B:        I have no idea.  But I do know that it was, that’s what happened.

I:          Hm.

B:        But then after we got the new barrels, everything was lovely again.

I:          Wow.  And so there were not many dangerous moments you could have been killed?
B:        No.

I:          No.



B:        When we loaded ammunition,

I:          Um hm.

B:        For the 8”, the projectiles were so large that they had to be handled with a hand truck.  The 5” projectiles we could pick them up and carry them off.  And the powder for the 8” was in bags so we could pick them up and carry them off. And the 5” were in brass, and they’d come in cans like that.



And occasionally we had to go out to see, to go to our freighter to reload ammunition and for food and for fuel.  And occasionally, not very, I would say quite rare, we would go out and operate with the aircraft carrier

I:          Yeah.

B:        And when they would launch aircraft or retrieve aircraft, they would go what they’d call flank speed, like 35 knotts which is over 40 miles an hour.



And for large ships, that’s a lot.  On our ship when we would go like that, the whole ship would vibrate.  And if they made a 90-degree turn, it would take five miles.

I:          Wow.

B:        Just to make a 90-degree turn.

I:          It’s big.

B:        Big.

I:          Yeah.

B:        And there were probably, on our ship, probably l,500 men.

I:          Fifteen hundred?

B:        Yes.  And we had a dentist and a doctor and an accounting office.  You know, it’s like a city.  I mean, that’s a lot of people.



I:          Yeah.  How big was it?  The length, do you remember?
B:        It was very, I don’t recall.  But it was very large.
I:          So, there were around 1,500 people.

B:        Yes.  Fifteen hundred, yeah, 1,500 men.

I:          Tell me about the life in the USS Toledo.  How was it?  I mean, what did you eat?  Where did you sleep?  How many hours did you work per day, things like that?  Were you able to watch movies there?  What was it like to be in there?



B:        They had a galley there and cooks, bakers, and they were very good.
I:          What did you eat?
B:        Oh, whatever they fixed.
I:          What was your favorite menu?
B:        Well, I don’t know that I had a favorite menu.  But they were, occasionally when the food was getting low and we had trouble getting to a supply ship, they would have

I:          You had to fish?



B:        No, we didn’t have to fish.  I don’t know what you’d call it.  But it was just, like hash for several days in a row.

I:          For a few days.

B:        And we always after we were at a supply ship, we would get a few fresh like apples or oranges and maybe some fresh milk.  But other than that, it was powdered milk, powdered eggs.



I:          But you had a hot meal all the time.

B:        All the time.  That was the nice thing about being in the Navy.

I:          Exactly.

B:        I had a nice dry place to sleep, and I didn’t have anybody shooting at me.  And we had good meals.  And we stood watch 24/7 every four hours.  And then the midnight watch, you got a sandwich that was, we called it Heartburn sandwich.  It was Spam.



I:          Spam.  I love Spam.

B:        You wouldn’t have liked it the way they made it.  They’d slice it and fry it, put it between two pieces of bread, and that was your sandwich.  But a few times, a cook would be standing watch with us, so he’s say let me go down, and he’d come back with steak sandwiches. And then when the guys that were up in the upper part of the mouth, they’d say hey, something smells, what do you have?  We didn’t tell them.



I:          So, compared to the Army who had to eat C-rations.

B:        Well, in the Army or the Marines, you lived in a foxhole with somebody shooting at you.  That’s the way it was.  So, I was very well off in that department.

I:          And lucky.

B:        Very fortunate.

I:          Very fortunate.

B:        Very fortunate.

I:          Right.  And were you able to write letters back to your family?
B:        Oh yes.



Whenever we went to the supply ship of whatever, either for fuel or food, they would generally have mail because it went through San Francisco, and they would get it to us through the supply train.  And so, then we would get mail when, and it was maybe every week or 10 days. It would go out the same way.



I:          Do you still have those letters?
B:        No.

I:          No.

B:        No.

I:          Once you are in the ocean, how long was it and to return to Sasebo?
B:        Oh, well it was almost a year.

I:          No.  Were you always in the ocean?
B:        Yes.

I:          You never returned to the base?
B:        No.  The only time we left was when we went to Honolulu.

I:          Honolulu for the barrels.

B:        For the barrels replaced.  Other than that, we were there, and we were busy with the War.



I:          So, how did you refuel your ship, and what about the food?  How did they provide you?
B:        We had a tanker ship that would show up every once in a while.  And we would go out, and they would have what they’d call a high line.  We’d rig up the highline and then bring the hose over, and they would pump the fuel over.

I:          Yeah.

B:        To us.  And that’s the way it worked.  The same way with the ammunition.

I:          Yeah.

B:        And food, exactly the same.

I:          Um hm.



So, when did you go back to, I mean, finish your service as a Korean War veteran?  When was it?

B:        It was like October or November of ’52.  And I got discharged then.

I:          Fifty-two discharged.

B:        Nineteen fifty-two.

I:          Yeah.

B:        Yeah.

I:          Have you been back to Korea since then?
B:        No.

I:          You’ve never been?

B:        I was never on the shore.

I:          Right.

B:        Right.  When I met with Greg, he says were you in the military?  Yeah.  And he says what part of the, what cities?  I wasn’t in any of the cities.



Then why, he said?  I was in the Navy, on a ship.  Well, he asked me if I’m a veteran. And then he asked me all these other questions.  And then he said well, you’re still a veteran, even though I was never on the shore.

I:          Oh yeah.  You were in the Navy.
B:        Yeah.

I:          Very important to guard the whole thing and supportive of Army and Marine actions in the, yeah.

B:        Yeah.



I:          So, you’ve never been invited back to visit Korea?
B:        No.

I:          No.

B:        No.

I:          Do you know anything about Korea now?
B:        The very nice thing, and you probably know, that the country of South Korea, they gave me this medal.

I:          The Peace Ambassador Medal.
B:        Yes.  And they called me a hero.



I’m not a hero.

I:          Um hm.
B:        But they also gave me, are you familiar with the book that they produced?  I have the book.

I:          Yeah.
B:        And the first part of the book tells about the War.  And then the middle part tells the transition after.  And the last part tells about how they flourished.  And I’ve been to the meetings and things.  I’ve met several people from South Korea.  They all treated me very nicely.



I:          Um.

B:        And they felt as if, well, a year ago when we met with some dignitaries from South Korea, and they asked Losarde, Chuck Losarde who you will meet, they asked him how do you feel about the War?  How do you feel about being involved in it?



I really had never thought of it that way.  But in thinking about it, I thought well, there were two great important things to me about, to preserve the country.

I:          Um hm.

B:        Because they were almost overrun.  They could have lost the whole country.

I:          Yeah.

B:        Through North Korea.  And the other part is preserve the freedom.  That’s very important to me.

I:          Absolutely.



So, Korea is now the 10th largest economy in the world.

B:        Yeah.

I:          Amazing.

B:        It is.

I:          And one of the most substantive democracies in East Asia.  What do you think about this whole change?  Korea was really poor at the time when you were there in 1950.

B:        Absolutely.  Well, they were being destroyed.  And the fact is that if through the United Nations if we hadn’t showed up, it would have been over.



I:          Exactly.

B:        I mean, it would have been gone.  And they would have been under the rule of the North with Communism

I:          Um hm.

B:        Which is not good.

I:          Right.  And that’s the legacy of your whole service as a Korean War veteran.

B:        Exactly.

I:          You say that you are not a hero.  But if you look at the whole trajectories of the Korean history and its relations with the United States, you are the one, the Korean War veterans, that actually transformed the relationship into now.  So, you are a hero.



B:        But I was glad I served my country.

I:          Yup.

B:        Because it taught me a lot of things.  And a great appreciation for my country.

I:          Absolutely.  How much were you paid at the time?  Your salary, annual salary.

B:        Oh, I thought about bringing my discharge papers cause it says that.  But we figured out that it was, we got paid pennies per hour.



I:          Uh huh.

B:        We were there 24 hours.  But we had free medical services, dental services. In fact, I got my wisdom teeth out in the service.  Free.

I:          Free.  Yeah.  So, what is the impact of your service as a Korean War veteran in your life after  you came back from Korea?



B:        Well, after I came back from Korea, I had a GI bill, and I went to Aviation Mechanics school.

I:          Ah ha.

B:        And so, I’m a federally licensed aviation mechanic.  In fact, I brought a picture to show you.  I worked, after I got through school, I got a job at a place that operated helicopters.



I:          Erickson?

B:        Eric, Ericson Aircraft was the company I retired from.

I:          Hold it and show the camera.

B:        That’s the back side.  And this helicopter here will lift 10 tons.  This one would lift at least 12 ½ tons.

I:          So, you got the GI bill, and you were trained to (INAUDIBLE)

B:        Well, I was trained to be an aircraft mechanic.



Then I went to work for a place that operated helicopters.  So, most of my career, I worked in helicopters.  But I worked for United Airlines for a little while. I worked on some fixed wings.  Fixed wing are much easier to work on than helicopters.  Helicopters, everything moves.

I:          Yeah.

B:        Fixed wing, nothing moves.

I:          (COULDN’T HEAR) in 2019.

B:        Oh.



I:          Because in the, still, we call the Korean War the Forgotten War, right?

B:        Yes.  I’m very familiar with that.  A lot of people.

I:          Yes.  And

B:        Talk about that.  As I understand it through the group, a lot of the schools don’t even mention it.

I:          Right.

B:        It’s taken out which is a shame because it was a key part of world happenings.



I:          Yeah.  So, that’s why we are trying to do this interview.  And that curriculum book that you have

B:        Uh huh.

I:          It’s all based on the analysis of the Korean War veterans interview of more than 1,500 that we have.

B:        Uh huh.

I:          So, this is the pre-lesson plan for elementary school teachers, pre-lesson plan for middle school and another pre for high school

B:        Um hm.



I:          So that teachers can use this curriculum book when they talk about the Korean War.  But it’s all based on the analysis of the interviews.  So, it’s not about the history book.  It’s about the witness book.

B:        Oh, I see, yeah.

I:          So please let people know.  I want to give it to you as a gift to you, sir.

B:        I will be glad to read it and share it.

I:          Yes, please.  And let your family and if you know of any history teacher, please share that with them and let me know if they’re interested in knowing more about my Foundation.



B:        Oh.  Well surely.

I:          Yes.  What would you say about your experience as a Korean War veteran?  What do you think?  What is the legacy of it?
B:        I was really glad to be a part of it for the reasons that I already told you and that to me, it was very important for the freedom of the people



and for their, and the way the country has developed itself and turned out to be a great partner of our country.

I:          Excellent, Burnie, I want to thank you for your honorable service as a Korean War veteran really.  And you are one of those Korean War veterans who transformed the whole relationship between U.S. and Korea



And contributed to make Korea what it is right now.  So, I want to thank you, sir.

B:        Well, my pleasure.  I’m glad I took the opportunity.