Cecil K. Walker
Cecil K. Walker achieved the highest rank of Corporal in the New Zealand Army. He was on a ship and landing at the beginning of the Korean War in December of 1950. Ultimately, Cecil Walker commanded and maintained six trucks and ten drivers that were in charge of resupplying the troops on the front lines. His profession of re-supply never put him in any “real danger”, but he played an integral role in the maintenance of supplies for the Allies. Cecil Walker has revisited South Korea and is amazed at the rebuilding, specifically the reforestation program of South Korea.
Desperate Living Conditions
Cecil Walker describes the living conditions in South Korea during the time of war. People were in desperate conditions during the time of winter. He describes poor housing and lack of general items. Cecil Walker describes how the people of South Korea needed help and he would go to war again to help people in need.
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Conditions In and Around Seoul
Cecil Walker describes conditions in and around Seoul. He helped bring supplies from Incheon to Seoul and transport Australian forces from the Second Line of Defense. Cecil Walker also describes how Seoul was deserted, with the exception of "Street Kids." He describes how when people did return to Seoul, they used any scrap to build shelter.
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Re-Supplying on the Front Lines
Cecil Walker describes the loss of two men while moving supplies, who were killed by guerrilla fighters. At other times drivers were held up so Allies could perform airstrikes on the hills in front of them. Cecil Walker describes how he was not scared though, because he was with others and doing a job.
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Cecil Walker describes re-supplying the front lines. The roads of Korea were trecherous and supplies were delivered in convoy. Cecil Walker describes night driving with only a singular light and even one episode during the winter when a "white out" occurred. Delivering supplies was essential, but very dangerous due to the conditions of the road system.
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[Beginning of recorded material]
C: My name is Cecil Kingsford Walker.
I: Um hm. Could you spell all of it.
C: And I can spell it I think.
C: C E C I L, Cecil
I: Um hm.
C: Pronounced Cecil. Uh, Kingsford K I N G S F O R D
I: W A L K E R.
I: What is your birthday?
C: Eleventh of September, 1928.
Hence my second name, Kingsford.
I: Uh huh.
C: Kingsford Smith was the flyer that flew the first plane from Australia to New Zealand
C: and I was born on that day.
I: On that day.
C: Hence my name, Kingsford.
I: I see.
I: I think you have a very special birthday because my birthday is September 12.
C: Is that right?
I: Yeah. So you born a day earlier. But I born in 1961.
C: A little bit earlier, Yeah.
I: A little bit earlier. You know, September is a beautiful month.
I: Where were you born?
C: In Inglewood, a little place called Inglewood.
I: Could you spell it?
C: I N G
I: L E
C: L W O O D.
I: Um hm.
And is it close from here?
C: That’s, no. It’s about 350 miles from here it’s still in Taranaki.
I: Okay. Tell me about your family background when you were growing up, your parents and your siblings, when you were growing up.
C: Well, I was one of nine in the family.
C: Nine children, and we spent, my father
was working in a sawmill when I was a baby,
I: Uh huh.
C: uh, when I was a child growing up, in Waverly, a place called Waverly, um. And then we moved from there when the, to a place, to go on a farm, it, just out of [PARA] which is still in Taranaki. And my father went sheer milking which is farmers
they go from farm to farm, uh, milking just, milking cows on a sheer basis
C: with the farmer.
C: And then finally, he came up to Whakatane here. But I stayed on in Taranaki, and I worked in a local store delivering groceries
around the village.
C: around the country. Hence I had to have a driver’s license.
C: Um, my father had a truck, and trucks were very scarce then, and farmers used mostly wagons and horses to take their milk to the factory.
C: But because my father had a truck, as boys all, four boys in our family, we would
have competitions to drive this truck around the farm and wiping out gate posts and generally learned to drive.
C: Uh, and I got a heavy traffic license at the age of 15, which was the thing, we had a war going on then
C: and, if you worked on a farm, which was considered an essential job
I: Um hm
C: uh, you could get your license at 15 because of a shortage of labor
C: And then I joined the Army from then, and because I had a heavy traffic license, I, I went into camp
C: did my basic training
I: When did you, when did you join the Army?
C: I joined the Army in August
I: And where did you get the basic military training?
C: I went to, uh, we, we, when did I say?
I: Where did you go to get the basic military training?
C: My basic training was done in a place called Lintin.
I: Could you spell it?
C: L I N T I N, which is near Palmerston North.
I: Um hm. For how long?
C: For about, I couldn’t tell exactly, but, uh, we had about
I: Three month?
C: probably two months there.
I: Two months, yeah, yeah.
C: And then we moved from there to Waiouru which is in the [INAUDIBLE] of the North Island
C: and we did our basic training there, our core training.
I: Again? Again. Another training.
C: Another training. And because I had, I trained as a gunner.
C: But then we were short of, they were short of drivers
C: so I got a job as a truck driver. I was a
I: So before we talking more about your military career, when, did you go to school?
When you were a children, did you go to school, right?
I: Yes. And when did you graduate your school? When did, when did you finish all the school? 1940?
C: I don’t know.
I: Yeah. And
C: Uh, it was the end of the War, 1955
C: I finished, college I think.
I: I see.
Did you know anything about Korea from the school learning?
C: Just general knowledge, not, not specifically
C: Korea, no, no.
I: So you didn’t know much about Korea at all, right?
C: No, no.
C: I knew where it was, you know.
I: Um hm.
C: But uh that’s all.
I: So when did you go to Korea from New Zealand?
C: We went by ship
I: By ship
C: Yeah. It was a troop ship up to Pusan.
I: Oh. When did you leave from New Zealand to get into Korea?
C: On the 10th of December. The troop ship left Wellington
I: 50. Wow. So you went Korea on the year that the Korean War broke out.
I: Ah. So you arrived in Pusan?
I: How was it to land in a country you never knew before and landed on the day of New Year’s Eve? How did you feel about it?
C: It was, uh, very, very different from New Zealand.
I: Um. Tell me the details.
C: At, at that time, uh, you could realize there would be, Pusan was a perimeter
I: Last perimeter.
C: And there was a lot of people,
C: All the refugees, uh, and the, the place was really packed.
C: And, and it was, uh, very, very cold. That was the most noticed of all things was the, uh ,
I: Exactly, from New Zealand
C: temperature because it was this time of year you remembered, you know, that we went
just a month prior
C: Um, so it was, uh, very cold.
I: How did Korean people look to you? Be honest. Just be straight. How did you think of them?
C: You had to feel very sorry for them.
C: They were having a big struggle.
I: What kind?
C: Poor housing or for, for any, you know, they were really crammed into the whole pop, uh, I suppose half the population of South Korea were crammed into Pusan and around that area, uh. They were, uh, very deprived of all things.
I: Looked very poor, right?
I: And miserable.
Well, they couldn’t help it.
I: Um. What did you think about that?
C: Oh, we’d, you had to feel very sorry for them.
C: That’s all you could do.
I: And that was the country that you didn’t really know much about it, right? So did you think that what the hell am I doing here?
C: Sort of.
I: Sort of, right?
C: Yes, yes.
I: Why am I here?
C: Why am I here, yes. Let’s get this over and done with.
I: But you volunteered for it, right?
C: I did.
C: And I’d do the same again.
I: You’ll do the same again?
C: I would.
C: In the same position, I would do the same again. Those people needed help.
I: That’s the normal thing to do, right?
So from Pusan, where did you go?
C: From Pusan, we moved up to, uh, a place called Miryang.
I: Miryang, yes. And why did you go there, and what, what did you do there?
C: Well, the guns had to be calibrated.
I: Um hm.
C: Uh, the gunners had to get everything sorted, and we had, on our, on our truck, we had the ammunition.
C: And the truck
was our sleeping quarters, everything.
I: And what was your unit at the time?
C: Well, I was the, in a small unit called The New Zealand Transport Platoon.
I: Um hm.
C: There was only about 70 fellas, and we, we had, uh, a fleet of trucks to
keep up with the artillery
C: keep their ammunition with them at that time, yeah. But we stayed where we were in Myrlang and then as things had changed, McArthur had made that landing in Inchon, and the whole situation had changed, and we’re moving up all the time.
I: Um hm.
C: All the time, every day, every two or three days, move up.
Move up again and, up to pass Taegu, um, I can’t remember a lot of the names of the places.
I: Um hm.
C: But, um, and then up to Seoul and then out to a p lace on a River called, uh, Bukhan River
I: What river?
C: which was more central, in the center of South Korea.
I: Hahn River? What did you say the river, name of the river
I: Hahn River.
C: Hahn River?
C: And, uh, well we spent some time around that area as I remember
C: And then, because our units were, we had, was so dispersed, we had Englishmen over, one [INAUDIBLE] We had Australians, and we had
New Zealanders and Canadians which were Commonwealth countries. They decided it would be better if we were all together, all Commonwealth countries.
I: Um hm.
C: So we moved in from the central part over to Seoul and up past Taegu, um, [Techno], sorry
I: Yeah, [Techno}
C: Um, and upper valley there,
and we spent quite a lot of time in, around the Imjin River area.
I: Um. So was it North of Imjin River or South of Imjin River?
C: Well, it was North and South.
I: North, okay.
C: We’d have two lines of defense. As I can remember, I might, might have this wrong. But one was called the Kansas Line
C: and the other was called the Wyoming Line I think.
C: I think it was called Wyoming.
I: Um hm. Or Jamestown? Does it sound familiar, Jamestown Line?
C: Gemstone, no.
I: Jamestown. No?
C: No. That, I don’t, I don’t recall that one.
I: So before we go into the detail, you been to Daewoo? That’s one of the major cities and Seoul
I: How did Seoul look to you at the time? How was Seoul?
C: Seoul was just deserted.
I: Tell me. Give me the details. Describe like, uh, watching villains.
C: I can show you later some photos of
I: Do you have a, do have a pictures?
C: Um, and I have been back since. And it was, there was nobody living there, of course.
C: I mean, a few street kids, that’s all
C: And we used to, our main job was
going from, we used to take rations but also from the Imjin River, close to the Imjin River, uh, villages, we used to go down and bring the supplies up from Inchon, the Port. We’d unload there, LST’s,
C: with engineers supplies, barbed wire, mines,
ammunition, all sorts of, uh, stuff like that. And we used to bring the Australians out, we’d go up in the morning and bring the Australians back over the river, this side of the river, to do
I: To the Imjin River
C: just to work on the, uh, second line of defense. And we’d spend the day with them, then take them back in the afternoon and evening.
C: And, uh, that was our days’ work.
I: Wow. So just give me more description about the Seoul you saw. How was it? You said that it’s
C: It was, um, pretty well flattened. Some of the bigger buildings were still standing, but they had been damaged. But most of it was flattened. It was really knocked about.
I: And you didn’t saw many people? You didn’t see many people?
C: Not in Seoul, no.
I: But those kids that you saw in the street,
how did they look?
C: They lived on scraps, you know, whatever they could get, yeah. And there was few of them. But they gradually got, you know, um, as time wore on, people came back, and they made houses of whatever they could just make, you know, all sorts of, I’ll show you photos of the things they had.
I: How about Inchon? How was Inchon?
C: I don’t remember Inchon. I cannot recall
C: because the, I don’t think that we went, probably the Port is a little isolated from the city itself. I don’t know.
C: But we used to drive straight .
I: To the port?
C: To the port.
I: And then to the Imjin.
C: And then up to the Imjin again, yes.
C: Um, there was one bridge across the Hahn,
C: and that had been, uh, damaged
I: Yes, heavily damaged. Almost collapsed, right?
I: And have you been back to Korea since then?
I: When did you go?
C: Uh, about two years ago, three years ago. We, I, I went to the 60th anniversary.
I: I see.
C: Um. thought it was a few years ago.
I: And you saw modern Seoul.
I: How did it look to you?
I: Tell me.
C: Un, unreal. You just could not imagine what we saw and what it was now. It is a, a beautiful place. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay there.
I: When you left Korea, when did you left Korea? I mean the, during the War?
C: I spent
18 months there.
I: So it’s gotta be ’52?
C: About ’52, yes. Must have been in, in ’52.
C: Halfway through ’52, yes.
I: Okay. When you left Korea, had you ever imagined that Korea would become like this today?
I: Why? Why you didn’t think so?
C: It, it was, it was such a primitive
place, you know. The, the farming and everything about it was so primitive. And now it’s just a, a modern, very modern place. And I couldn’t imagine it.
I: Do you know the rank of Korean economy now in the world? The rank of Korean economy.
C: The rank
I: Yeah. The number one economy in the world is China
I: Second is the U.S.
I: Third Japan, fourth Germany
I: Where do you think Korea is now?
C: Well, I would think by looking at the country, they are well up in the, in the second or third.
I: Yeah, that’s a little bit too much. It’s 11th largest economy in the world.
I: By 2030, about 10 years, 20 years later, we going to be ahead of France.
C: I’m sure you will. But, if you keep going at the rate you’re going,
you’re gonna be number one. You know this, this ship building and the, and the, and the work that’s going, it’s just incredible. You people can work. You know how to work.
C: That’s something we could learn from you a lot.
I: You guys working hard, too. But, so you were invited by the Korean government, right? You were
invited by the Korean government.
C: We were.
I: Yeah. Invited.
C: We, oh,
I: When you go back to Korea two years ago, yeah.
C: Yes, yes it was, yes.
I: Yes. It was the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs.
I: MPVA invite you.
I: How did they treat you?
C: Very, very well. Like Lords.
C: Just like Lords, yeah. We had motorbike escort s everywhere
we went. It was, um, no, they treated us
I: Did you
C: very, very well.
I: Did you go by yourself, or did you go with your wife?
C: No, m y wife, it was just a, all male delegation.
I: Got it.
C: from the government. The government did, Veterans Affairs.
I: Were you able to go to near Imjin River?
C: Yes. We crossed the Imjin
I: You did?
C: Yeah. Yeah.
I: And when you went,
visited again, what were you thinking? You were there driving all the time from Inchon and then major battleground, and you visited again
C: I didn’t know the place.
I: You didn’t know the place.
C: I didn’t know it. I would have been lost. I couldn’t, even though I’d driven up and down that road hundreds of time, I wouldn’t know it because we didn’t have,
A lot of the roads we drove on were just riverbeds and tracks.
C: They were not like now, you drive on mo, motorways, and you don’t even see where you went. Different altogether.
C: Just totally different.
I: So this is wonderful transformation, isn’t it?
C: The, the biggest transformation is I thought I’d go back, and you know, we, we were by a, a railway line
were Kimpo railway line, right?
C: Now, railway lines don’t move. [INAUDIBLE] this place.
C: But I couldn’t see it for trees. The whole place reminded me of Switzerland
C: cause it was all trees.
C: And that just transformed the whole country.
I: We are one of those successful full forestoration country in the world. It was just
no tree, right?
I: And then suddenly all trees
C: All trees.
C: That was the, the, the biggest, uh, thing that sort of hit you when you went there. I can’t see anything because trees grew on the road. Yes.
I: You are the first one actually mentioning about this forestration in New Zealand. I have how many, I have done 18 interviews. you are the 19th from New Zealand. But you are the first one who mentioned about these trees.
C: Well, that’s the biggest thing.
I: Very good observation.
C: In their countryside. Yes, it’s the biggest thing, trees, yeah.
I: So did you encounter any enemy while you were operating as a truck driver from Inchon and all, you know, going all over, you didn’t encounter any enemy there?
C: When we moved up before we get to Miryang,
I: Um hm
C: we lost two men.
C: They had truck
I: From Pusan to Miryang?
I: There was not many danger there. Were there gorillas?
C: Yeah. It wasn’t safe.
I: Yeah. Were you afraid? Were you threat?
C: I was never afraid.
I: Never afraid.
C: You, you don’t get afraid because you’re with your men. You’re with other fellows.
But at the Northern Region where the DMZ is, did you encounter any enemy while you were?
C: We were, were quite safe.
C: Uh, we did have to stay with the Artillery and, at times.
C: And, uh, but we were never, we did do patrols.
I: You did patrol, too?
C: Yes. Our platoon did two patrols for the Aussies, um
The Aussies took us across the river before we had crossed the river, before the front line was across the river. They took us across the river in the early morning in the dark. And we did two, we did, patrols into no man’s land. Um, but I think the Australians had made pretty certain that there wasn’t going to be any trouble. But we did get shot at, but it wasn’t, uh, that was, uh,
we were pretty safe.
I: Good. How close the enemy to you in Imjin River? Was it like 1,000 meters or 1 kilometer? How close was them?
C: Um, well, at different times, it, it, it, it, it, I couldn’t say because we were at different times we had, uh,
I: So sometimes you were able to see them in your eyes.
C: We, we used to watch from
uh, um, taking supplies up. And sometimes couldn’t cross the bridge. There was two bridges across the Imjin. There was a pontoon bridge,
I: Um hm.
C: And then there was another wooden bridge. And we’d have to wait while the air starts
I: Air strike
C: were performed on the hills we were going over, you know, before we could go over in case they, any, any of the planes
fought would be, uh, you know, attack and [INAUDIUBLE] Yeah. We
I: What was, yeah, I’m sorry. Go ahead.
C: Yeah, that was uh, had people to stop you and,
I: What was your rank at the time?
C: Well, when I first went, I was a, a gunner.
C: A gunner, and then I was a driver, and then I was a Corporal.
C: As a Corporal, I had to look after and maintain six trucks and 10 drivers. And I had to see
that those trucks were ready for the road every day or, or why they weren’t, you know. They, they had to be, and also I used to take convoys. I’d lead the convoy
to where they had to go. I had to know where we were going.
I: Yeah. How about, how much were you paid as a Corporal?
C: I can’t recall. I’ll have t o find my papers.
I: How many shillings? Think about it.
C: Um, actually a Corporal is a good pay, was a good pay.
I: Uh huh.
I: And what did you do with that money?
C: Well, most of it, I came home, and I had some money in the bank.
I: Because you saved it there, right?
C: A lot of it, yes. Some we, we had leaves. We used to go on leave a bit.
I: Um hm.
C: The Amer, after the, we’d been there about 12 months, the Americans decided it was time we had a leave. But the New Zealand government said no. You, you Kiwis can’t,
C: can’t go on leave now. We’re going to have the Americans fly you.
So the Americans said well, we’ll put parachutes on them. And they did.
I: Oh really.
C: Yeah, I was one of the first to go on leave and, and we had to get on these planes with a parachute strapped to us and hooked up to a line in the thing.
I: Oh. But that
C: That was squashed after one night and, uh, and, and we did have leave.
I: Any dangerous moment during your service there in Norther region around Imjin? Did you go to near 355, Hill 355?
C: We went through all the hills.
I: All the hills.
C: All the hills. [INAUDIBLE] was there. We were moving around all the time. So, um, dangerous regions. I couldn’t say really, you know. Um, you don’t worry about that sort of thing. The wars
weren’t a place where you had t o watch it at night . You couldn’t show any lights at all. They’d show.
I: Um hum.
C: Uh, we did, night driving was always dangerous because you had to keep up with the other truck because the lights on the truck shone on the white patch on the diff of the truck in front.
C: And if you lost sight
of the [INAUDIBLE] now you,
I: You are done.
C: You were in trouble.
C: It’s the same as driving in the snow in the, if we had a, one morning, we had a convoy 27 trucks going up.
C: When I got there, I had four trucks. The rest had gone. So we had to go back and find these, that gone, we had a, a whiteout, what they call a whiteout.
It had just started snowing when we left. And by time we got to the ration Port where the trucks come and get their stuff, we had about a foot of snow, and you couldn’t see anything. And there was trucks everywhere. They’d gone off into the paddy fields. They’d gone and tipped over and, we spent all day getting the supplies up there that day, and we were very cold.
I: Yeah. The, the, I mean the road was
not clear, right, because of the snow. So you get into the rice paddy and all this
C: You couldn’t see.
C: You couldn’t see a thing. And, another time when the roads got icy, had to come down one hill to get into 28 Brigade barely. It was quite steep. And there was quite a drop off on the right hand side. So, they told all the truckles to keep their,
the back of the truck
I: Um hm.
C: Hitting the bank until they got to the bottom, and there was a good sharp turn at the bottom. And that’s how, that’s how you got down the hill. You had to keep the truck bumping the bank because you had no traction whatsoever.
I: But you never wounded? You never hurt?
C: No. No.
I: So you came very safe
in one piece.
C: Came home in one piece, thank goodness. Yeah.
I: So now you, you told me that you didn’t know anything about Korea. Now you been back to Korea, and you were amazed by the changes that has been made by the Korean people.
I: What is Korea to you now personally?
C: Korea’s a lovely place. I love the people. And the Korean people have treated us, I think we’re very, very lucky
because most people that serve overseas serve om countries that are hostile to them.
C: that we served in the country that was very, very welcoming to us.
C: That’s different. I think we’re very lucky. And the Korean people have treated us very well.
I: That’s a very good point.
What would you say to the Korean people? Next year will be, as I told you, is the 70th anniversary of the war break out. Never been replaced by the Peace Treaty. It ‘s been war like that for 70 years, and we are commemorating next year t he 70th anniversary. What would you say to the Korean people?
C: Keep going like you are. You’re getting there, and, um, I think they’re lovely people.
I: What would you say to the young New Zealand students about your service as a Korean War veteran? What would you say to the young people here?
C: What would I say to them? It’s something that I did personally, and I would never regret it.
And if they get the opportunity to help somebody, help them. Yeah.
I: Yeah. That’s a noble thing to do. And that’s why we are thankful to, to U.N. Forces who came to our country and saved them from the Communist attack. That’s why we are doing this, and this is how we think that we can keep your legacy best, right? So we are going to talk with the teachers here in New Zealand and ask them to use this interview
in the classroom about the Korean War.
I: So they will hear from me, okay?
C: I’m happy about that, yeah.
I: Any other message you want to leave to this interview?
C: Well, as I said to you before, that I could do it again, I would do it exactly the same. I would go and help you
I: Give me five. Give me five, yes. You are a wonderful man, sir. And I really thank you for this opportunity to be able to see you and listen from you. And you have made so many wonderful comments about your service. And we thank you, sir.
C: Thank you.
[END OF RECORDING]