Korean War Legacy Project

Cecil Franklin Snyder


Cecil Snyder was born on April 15, 1935, in Welsh Run, Pennsylvania. After graduating from Lemaster High School in 1954, he attended Hagerstown Business College to study bookkeeping and stenotyping. In the fall of 1958, he was drafted into the US Army and attended basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Later that year, he was deployed to Korea, landing at Incheon and stationed at Osan Air Base where he was assigned as a clerk. He spent thirteen months in Korea before being rotated back home and discharged. After his time in the military, he attended cosmetology school.

Video Clips

Drafted into the Army

Cecil Snyder talks about being drafted into the US Army in the fall of 1958. He describes basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and mentions the duties of a clerk, his military occupational specialty.

Tags: Basic training,Fear

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Seoul, 1958-1959

Cecil Snyder describes Seoul based on his visits there in late 1958 though 1959. He talks about the condition of the city, its infrastructure, sanitation, and people.

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

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Food for Korean Orphanages

Cecil Snyder, a clerk stationed at Osan Air Base, talks about delivering food to nearby orphanages. He describes collecting and delivering unused food, oftentimes used to feed the orphanages' livestock such as pigs.

Tags: Osan,Pyungyang,Food,Impressions of Korea,Orphanage,Physical destruction,South Koreans

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of Transcribed Material]


C:        Cecil, CECIL.

I:          Uh huh.

C:        Franklin, FRANKLIN.

I:          Uh huh.

C:        Snyder, SNYDER.

I:          Good.  And your birthday and birthplace?
C:        My birthday is 4/15

I:          Um hm.

C:        Thirty-five.  My birthplace is Welsh Run, Pennsylvania.



I:          Tell me about your family, your parents and your siblings when you were growing up.

C:        Wonderful parents.

I:          Uh huh.

C:        And I grew up, we moved to Welsh Run when I was approximately three years old.  I lived there all my life.

I:          Um hm.

C:        Went to grade school in Welsh Run.

I:          Um hm.

C:        And it was grade school and middle school.

I:          Um.

C:        In a one-room school.

I:          Ah,

C:        One-room school.

I:          Ah hah.



C:        Then I went to high school in Lemaster

I:          What is it?
C:        LEMASTER.

I:          LEMASTER.

C:        Pennsylvania.

I:          Uh huh.  Lemaster High School.

C:        High school in Pennsylvania.

I:          Um hm. How about your siblings?  How many?
C:        I had one brother and one sister, sister being the eldest.

I:          Uh huh.  And you are the youngest?

C:        I’m the youngest of the family, yes sir.

I:          Ah.  So, when did you graduate high school?



C:        Nineteen fifty-four.

I:          Nineteen fifty-four. Oh.  So, it’s well over after the Korean War, right?

C:        Yes.

I:          And did you know anything about Korea.

C:        No sir, I did not.

I:          And this high school or one-room grade school didn’t teach anything about Korea?

C:        Never mentioned, to my knowledge.

I:          Any other country that you knew before about Asia?



C:        Japan.

I:          Uh huh.

C:        Definitely Japan.  But I was not aware of Korea, no sir.

I:          So, you were in high school when the Korean War first broke out?
C:        Yes.

I:          Um.  Did you know that there was a Korean War, or how did you know, if you knew?  Did you know?

C:        It wasn’t discussed in the classrooms.

I:          At all?
C:        No.

I:          Uh huh.

C:        I just, conversations with your fellow students.

I:          Um hm.



C:        You know.  And I don’t know.  It’s just something young people don’t pay much attention to.

I:          Yeah.

C:        At the time.

I:          Who cares at the time, right?
C:        At the time, yeah.

I:          Nobody knew anything about Korea, yeah.

C:        You just knew it wasn’t gonna affect you at that time.

I:          Um hm.

C:        So, I guess you really wasn’t concerned.

I:          So, what did you do after high school?
C:        Well, I went to Hagerstown Business College



Here in Hagerstown.

I:          Um.

C:        And um, then

I:          Is it two years?

C:        One year, sir.

I:          One year.

C:        One year.

I:          Oh.  What did you study there?

C:        Machine shorthand.

I:          Machine

C:        Stenotype.

I:          Uh huh.

C:        I did that.  And I learned a little bookkeeping which was helpful.

I:          And then, did you get a job or did you?



C:        Yes, I had a, I knew I was gonna be drafted.

I:          Oh.

C:        I knew I was definitely gonna be drafted.  So, I went to work as a, I had applied at the Echo Pilot, which is a newspaper company in Green Castle, Pennsylvania.

I:          Uh huh.
C:        And I hadn’t heard from them.  So, I accepted the sales job.

I:          Uh huh.
C:        In the meantime, cause I wanted to work, cause I knew I was gonna be drafted.  I knew it was inevitable.

I:          Uh huh.



C:        So, I worked with that until I was inducted.
I:          When were you inducted?
C:        Nineteen fifty-eight.

I:          Do you remember the month?

C:        No sir, I’m not sure.

I:          No, okay.

C:        I got this.  I may have it here.  I’m not sure.

I:          Sure.  And it was Army, right?
C:        It was the Army, yes sir.  No, I don’t have that.

I:          It’s okay.

C:        It was in the Fall of the year.  I do know that.



I:          Okay.  And where did you go to receive basic military training?
C:        Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

I:          Fort Jackson?
C:        Jackson.

I:          Uh huh. Florida or

C:        South Carolina.

I:          South Carolina.

C:        Yes sir.

I:          Tell me about your basic military training.  Did you like it?  Was it hard?

C:        Basic training.  It was scary.

I:          Why?


C:        I was a country boy.  And you know, everything’s regimental.  And not being accustomed to that, you know, you just didn’t want to do something wrong.  And so, it was all very interesting.  And I’m just so glad that I did it.  It made me a better person.

I:          Yeah, discipline.

C:        Discipline.



Everything was regimental.  You ate well.  You exercised.  And you respected your superiors.

I:          Um hm.

C:        And that’s something, you know, that really isn’t being done today.

I:          Right.
C:        And I think any young man that it uncertain of their future should pursue a military career.

I:          Uh huh.  Yeah.  These days, there is no discipline.

C:        No.

I:          Not much, right?
C:        No respect.

I:          No respect, no discipline.



C:        No sir, none at all, no.

I:          What was your specialty?

C:        Clerk.

I:          Clerk?
C:        Clerk.

I:          Ah.  So, tell me about what does clerk do in the military.

C:        Just paperwork.  Just whatever.

I:          Um hm.  Were there any special training for this clerk?
C:        Well, pretty much like a secretary would do, you know.



I:          Um hm.

C:        That type of, whatever came through into the office that you could handle, you did.

I:          No problem handling those, right?

C:        Not really, no.  Everything was explained to you very well, and you just pursued it and uh, I was comfortable doing it.  And then I went overseas, of course, after, I went to Fort Lewis, Washington for Fort Jackson.

I:          Uh huh.



C:        And I knew I was going to be going to Korea then.
I:          Ah.

C:        So, we landed in Inchon.
I:          When did you arrive in Inchon?
C:        Well, it would have been shortly after basic training.

I:          Uh huh.

C:        I was in Korea 13 months total.

I:          So, it must be around 1959 or ’58?

C:        Still at the end of ’58 probably, yes.



I:          Uh huh.  So, you arrived in Inchon.

C:        Inchon, yes.  And then I was taken to Osan Air Base.

I:          Ah.  I know that.
C:        Do you?
I:          Yeah.

C:        So that’s where I lived for 13 months.

I:          How was life in Osan?  Where did you sleep, and did you go around the city?  Tell me about the scene that you saw around Osan.



C:        It was a little town, a little village called Chico.

I:          Chico?
C:        Chico.

I:          Ah.
C:        Do you remember that name?

I:          No.

C:        We visited there and drove around.
I:          Uh huh.

C:        And I was like a courier.  I would sometimes go to Seoul.

I:          Uh huh.

C:        In Korea and take things and bring paperwork back, and I was not really aware of what was all involved.  But it was my duty to go to and from.  So, I did that.



I:          How was Seoul, the scene?
C:        Bad.

I:          How bad?  Tell me the details.  What did you see?
C:        Just broken-down buildings.

I:          Uh huh.

C:        Mud roads.  At times, they would get some stone, some gravel stone and place it down so that it would absorb some of the mud that was out everywhere, you know.

I:          Yeah.

C:        But it was not good.



I:          How about people?

C:        Friendly.  And a lot of times, I noticed sanitation was not good.

I:          Uh huh.

C:        Sanitation was not good.  They would have like meat hanging from buildings in front.

I:          Meat?
C:        Meat.

I:          Oh boy.

C:        Not covered.

I:          Uh huh.
C:        You know.  So, the sanitation at that time was not good at all.

I:          Uh huh.

C:        No.

I:          Were they looking for food from the GIs?

C:        Selling it.

I:          From GI?

C:        No.  They were selling it to the locals.

I:          Uh huh.



C:        And I don’t know.  I guess they had no inspectors or to, you know.

I:          Um hm.  So, it was really bad, right?
C:        Sanitation was bad, yes.  It really was.

I:          Um hm.  Any other city that you went around other than Seoul?
C:        No, sir.  Well, Pujan

I:          Pujan?
C:        Pujan.  I think we drove down there.

I:          Uh huh.



C:        And we supported a lot of the orphanages.

I:          Oh.  How?
C:        Foodwise, things that we didn’t eat they could eat.  And a lot of them grew hogs.

I:          Uh huh.

C:        Or farm animals.
I:          Right.

C:        So, we would take well, unused food I guess you would say

I:          Uh huh.

C:        To their animals.
I:          I see.

C:        And help them out any way we could.



I:          Ah.

C:        But there were a lot of orphanages that we supported.

I:          Yeah.

C:        At that time.

I:          So, did you collect the unused food and provide it?
C:        Yes, pretty much.

I:          How did you collect it?

C:        Oh geez.  Um, whatever containers we could find.  And then for the hogs, you know, it really didn’t matter too much because they would eat most anything, you know.

I:          Right.

C:        So, any container we could find that we could take to them.  And they were very appreciative of what we would bring them.

I:          Uh huh.



C:        Yeah.  A lot of children, a lot of children, yeah.

I:          What did you feel when you saw them and the miserable condition?
C:        I felt lucky to live where I do, I did.

I:          Uh huh.

C:        Yes, I really did.

I:          Uh huh.  Did GIs collect money and donate it to the orphanage?
C:        Some, they did some of that.  But mostly we gave food, anything that was of value to them.



I:          Um hm

C:        Yes.

I:          And so, your main duty was inspection and, what is it, the

C:        Inventory.
I:          Inventory.

C:        And the kitchen area for the cooks, to see what they needed.  And then we would go draw the rations.

I:          Um hm.

C:        I’d have a list of things that we’d have to get for them.

I:          Um hm.

C:        And help them select items for the meals that the GIs would enjoy, yeah.




I:          Um hm.  Were there any Korean soldiers helping you rather than cook Tony?
C:        No soldiers, no.

I:          No.

C:        Just civilians.

I:          Civilians.  What did they do for you?
C:        Yeah.  I think there were about four.  Well, one was chef.  Tony was the chef.

I:          Yeah.

C:        And he would assign duties to the other three.

I:          Um hm.

C:        It was interesting.  They were good.  They were very good. They would make a lot of desserts.



Sometimes I would suggest things.

I:          Um hm.
C:        And he wasn’t always sure how to make them, and I would try and describe how it should be done.

I:          Um.

C:        But uh,

I:          Did GIs like to be there in Osan, other GIs?  Did they like it there or what?  What is the normal sort of

C:        We were, I think everyone was happy to be where we were, yes.



I:          Um.

C:        Cause when I entered, it was called the Korean Conflict.  Of course, the War was over.

I:          Um hm.

C:        But the remains of the War was there.

I:          Um hm.

C:        You know.
I:          So, were there any dangers or guerilla or any

C:        No, sir.  None at all.

I:          Not at all.
C:        I consider myself very lucky.

I:          Very lucky.

C:        Very lucky.

I:          And were there many US aircrafts?
C:        All the time, all the time.



I:          Yeah.

C:        Coming in and out.

I:          Uh huh.

C:        Yes.

I:          How many pilots?  Do you remember?
C:        No sir, I don’t.

I:          No.  Um hm.

C:        But it was a busy, busy air base.

I:          Busy.

C:        It really was, yeah.

I:          Tell me about how much were you paid at the time?
C:        We were paid every two weeks, but you know, I can’t remember.

I:          Hundred dollars?

C:        Probably no more than that.

I:          No more than that.

C:        No, I wouldn’t think.

I:          Hm.



C:        But I was married at the time.

I:          Oh.

C:        My wife and I have been married 58 years.

I:          Wow.

C:        Yeah.  So, cause she was working here in Maryland.  So, I would send most of my checks home because we had plans to do some traveling when I got out, build a home.  Everything was on hold at the time, you know.

I:          Right.  Must have been hard for your wife to wait.

C:        It was.



It’s hard on any wife of a military man, especially with children.  We didn’t have children at the time.

I:          You didn’t have children.

C:        Not at the time.

I:          Ah.  So, you must have written a lot of letters to her.

C:        Stacks and stacks.

I:          Stacks.

C:        Probably every day.

I:          Every day.

C:        Every day.

I:          What did you write?

C:        Just what, probably nonsense stuff.  But it was a letter.  And you would always say love you, you know.  That meant a lot.



And anything she could tell me more than I could tell her.

I:          Right.

C:        Of interest.

I:          How often did she write back to you?
C:        She probably tried every day.

I:          Every day.

C:        Yeah.

I:          Yeah.  Do you still keep the letters?
C:        I have them.

I:          Were there any benefits for you to retire after you returned from Korea?  Were there any benefits for you?  No GI bill, right?



C:        Yes.

I:          Oh.

C:        That’s where I got my training in cosmetology.

I:          GI bill?
C:        GI bill.

I:          When did you, when were you discharged from the military?
C:        Fifty-nine.

I:          Nineteen fifty-nine?

C:        Yes. I was in two years.

I:          Uh huh.

C:        And then I went to cosmetology school.  Your tuition was paid for.

I:          Uh huh.

C:        And then there were stipulations.  I mean you had to attend.

I:          Uh huh.



C:        You couldn’t be absent unless it was a doctor’s written, you know.

I:          Uh huh.  And have you been back to Korea?

C:        No.  I’d love to go.

I:          Uh huh.

C:        Love to go.

I:          Do you know what happened to Korea after you left in terms of economy?

C:        Well, it went to the sky practically, didn’t it?
I:          Yeah.

C:        Way up.

I:          Way up.

C:        Yes, sir.

I:          Had you ever imagined that Korea would change like that?
C:        No.



I:          Oh yeah, absolutely.  As I told you, your role was critical.

C:        Yeah.
I:          You may have not recognized it by yourself.  But you were a part of US defense of South Korea.  Thank you very much.

C:        Thank you very much.