Korean War Legacy Project

Charles Comer

Bio

Charles Comer, born in Tennessee, moved to Dallas with his family when he was five-years-old.  When he was seventeen he enlisted in the army, putting off finishing high school until he his return from the Korean War.  While in Korea, he served with the Military Police and patrolled the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) after the armistice was signed in 1953.  He was sent home after his appendix burst to finish his service.  After his discharge he returned to Texas and finished his high school equivalency through Texas Christian University and later attended Arlington State.

Video Clips

Korean Civilians

Charles Comer describes the Korean civilians that he saw upon his arrival at Seoul. He explains that the city itself was destroyed. He describes the sad state of the people who had been frequently moved around due to war evacuations. He goes on to describe the children, many of whom had been orphaned by the war and would crowd around the passing trains as the troops would give them their c-rations to eat.

Tags: Incheon,Seoul,Civilians,Food,Impressions of Korea,Physical destruction,Poverty,South Koreans

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENq0i6_CW8M&start=644&end=725

Excitement Dissipated Quickly

Charles Comer describes his feelings of excitement as he left Japan for Korea. He explains that being a young man of eighteen, he was looking forward to seeing a new country but was quickly disheartened when he arrived at Seoul. He explains that the destruction he witnessed was a stark difference from the thriving city of Kobe he had just left in Japan.

Tags: Seoul,Impressions of Korea,Physical destruction

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENq0i6_CW8M&start=783&end=855

Life after War

Charles Comer describes his pursuits in the United States after his return from the war. He explains that he completed his high school education and then went on to college. He was able to continue his education due to the G.I. Bill. He later became a police officer and worked for the Dallas Police Department. He describes the day he was working in Dallas when JFK was assassinated.

Tags: G.I. Bill

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENq0i6_CW8M&start=999&end=1165

Military Occupation

Charles Comer describes his job as a military policeman as well as patrolling the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) after the armistice was signed. He describes manning check points and patrolling the hills where the former Chinese prisoners were staying after Syngman Rhee released them. He explains that his patrol duties along the DMZ were at night and were often times quite dangerous.

Tags: Fear

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENq0i6_CW8M&start=347&end=452

Photos

7th Military Police Unit

This photo shows the military police unit with which Charles Comer served. One of his duties as an MP was to track down people who had deserted their post in combat. If you look closely, you can see that this picture includes both US and Republic of Korea troops. Along with serving as an MP, he also served as patrol for the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) after the armistice had been signed.

7th Military Police Unit

Coming Home

In this photo, Charles Comer is amongst other soldiers that are returning home to the Untied States. At this point in his service, Mr. Comer has just had just dealt with appendicitis surgery and was going home for a few weeks before finishing his service in Aberdeen, MD.

Coming Home

Reading and Writing

This photo show troops reading and writing as they pass the time in a foxhole. While Charles Comer does not specifically discuss this in his oral narrative, it sheds light on the day to day activities of people who were serving in combat.

Reading and Writing

Children of the War

In this photo, Charles Comer is giving rations to some Korean children. In his interview he discusses that troops would often give their c-rations to the Korean children who seemed under nourished and may have been orphaned due to the war. In his oral narrative, he tells the story of a Captain England, who adopted one of the orphan Korean kids that they found when they were traveling through Seoul from Incheon.

Children of the War

Video Transcript

00:00
Charles C-H-A-R-L-E-S  w middle and
00:05
last name C-O-M-E-R that’s your last name
00:09
yeah what is your birthday and where
00:12
were you born I was born in Tennessee
00:14
April 21st 1935 on Easter Sunday morning
00:20
tell me about your family when you were
00:24
growing up your parents your siblings we
00:28
came I’m the youngest of eight children
00:30
and we came here and we came we moved to
00:35
dallas in 1940 from tennessee and my
00:42
brother had an accounting he was a cpa
00:44
he had an accounting business there my
00:48
other brother had a manufacturing
00:55
company and then I had a brother that
00:59
was stationed that Freeport not free
01:06
Borca air base next to this report i
01:10
can’t think he named the air base right
01:12
now but he he was in the service there
01:15
and he was killed on an accident and
01:20
then i had a couple of sisters and they
01:25
were older than I was there everybody’s
01:29
deceased but me when did you graduate
01:33
high school I did when I I went in the
01:37
Army when I was 17 and I finished high
01:41
school when I got back and then started
01:45
to Arlington state college I said that’s
01:48
a great oh so you joined the army right
01:52
right enlisted right in your 70s chillin
01:57
thing so you got the signature from your
01:59
parents or they gave me information yeah
02:03
so where did you get the basic military
02:07
training well I took my initial basic
02:10
training with the 1st Armored Division
02:13
in Fort Hood Texas North for dreaded
02:16
Texas and then advanced training I took
02:21
it in San Antonio at the army base sir
02:28
so do you remember when was of you and
02:32
enlisted to the army 17 60 like a 1947
02:39
now I listed in nineteen fifty-two 52
02:47
and you did you know that there was a
02:51
Korean War oh yeah another buddy of mine
02:55
and I unless you together mm-hmm and you
02:58
all know about the Korean War broke all
03:00
yeah how did you know well it was in the
03:05
news generally and we were aware of it
03:10
sure mm-hmm and then after you done with
03:16
your basic military training in san
03:18
antonio what was your specialty I was a
03:22
metal terrible Asian military policeman
03:26
and how did did you go to Korea yeah
03:32
when I got our left and I shipped out a
03:39
seattle washington and when did you
03:42
leave for korea hello yeah well I know
03:47
approx yeah where was it was in March
03:51
lighter part of March 1953 and did you
03:58
stop by in Japan or did you go directly
04:00
to korea won t right well i went to kobe
04:04
kobe hand when we zeroed our rifles in
04:08
there and then got on a launch the tank
04:14
landing craft and went over to Incheon
04:18
hmm
04:22
so it must be around March or April in
04:26
in Korea it was must been my droid is
04:30
that night for April were you nervous
04:36
yeah did you know anything about what’s
04:43
going on in Korea yeah well when we
04:49
landed it was getting into the evening
04:52
dusk and at Incheon and they loaded us
04:57
and my memory fades a little bit but if
05:01
I’m not mistaken we got on the train and
05:04
we went some distance on a train and by
05:09
then it was dark and we got on we called
05:13
him dusan I trucks and went up to the
05:19
7th division and at first you could see
05:25
the the first thing you could see were
05:28
the flashes artillery and then you could
05:32
hear the artillery and then as we got
05:35
closer and got in close to closer to the
05:38
division you could start hearing that
05:41
you could see the flares and the small
05:45
arms going on so what was your specialty
05:48
again militarily and so you give
05:52
military police there too in Korea I did
05:55
both I we patrol the main supply route
06:02
of and we also searched the present
06:11
Sigmund we had released all the Chinese
06:14
prisoners prisoners and they were up in
06:17
the hills coming back again and we we
06:21
made patrols up in there and then we we
06:26
man checkpoints and then once the truths
06:33
with sign and July
06:35
I went to the 31st sent from infantry
06:39
regiment on what they call a TDY
06:42
temporary duty for I believe this six
06:48
weeks and we patrol the DMZ that was
06:57
dangerous isn’t it was in a lot of
07:00
firefights yeah tell me about if there
07:04
was any dangerous moments during the
07:06
Patrol well as dangerous me because it
07:10
was at night and you had depend on the
07:15
petunia sergeant to make sure he didn’t
07:20
step in off the side of a hill or or
07:25
draw fire but we didn’t we didn’t make
07:29
in context while I was there hmm so you
07:33
didn’t have a direct contact with any
07:35
enemy soldiers know but still there
07:39
should have been a lot of minds there
07:42
too right yeah everything was mine yeah
07:44
well it was mined on the south side of
07:48
the DMZ everything back to tong xue shan
07:51
dong Xue Shan was mined anywhere you get
07:55
off side of the road or you even where
07:58
two roads come together you stayed away
08:01
from that median because that was all
08:04
mine yeah so you belong to 31st
08:08
regimental top 7th division I belong to
08:12
the seventh military police unit the
08:14
military police are in addition to
08:17
patrolling the DMZ area you had a lot of
08:21
issues with the soldiers right had some
08:25
deserter yeah what was the kind of
08:28
issues that you had to deal with regular
08:32
US soldiers there well if if they left
08:37
their unit we had tried charcoal now or
08:42
there are any many soldiers that not
08:44
many and how many I think
08:47
the squad and I got three out of a
08:51
little out of a bit of village and then
08:54
went back to you so you have to keep
08:57
track down on them well had it had to
09:02
pick them up yeah what else well there
09:05
any crimes well we didn’t deal with the
09:09
crimes not unless they were military
09:13
crimes of course we were in a combat
09:16
zone so they wouldn’t you know he didn’t
09:19
have people committing crimes I have a I
09:24
brought it my wife had kept an album
09:27
album and I have a few military pictures
09:30
from Korea in it what was the most
09:33
difficult thing during your service in
09:35
dmz area and do you remember the name of
09:39
city where the location where you were
09:42
well I was I was in the 7th division
09:45
which was north of Donkey Kong uh-huh
09:53
old baldy and pork chop hill were all on
09:58
our perimeter that’s a very famous yeah
10:03
made a movie in there portra exactly an
10:06
old baggage now I I didn’t if your lot
10:09
of cream of veterans who served in the
10:11
Old Baldy hell yeah you still remember
10:14
those area oh yeah the heels coursework
10:17
or bowel you know all of them nor bow
10:21
from artillery and no trees left now not
10:26
not not a one tree not very many not
10:30
very many right wow that’s up that tells
10:33
how intensive the weather was there he
10:36
ran and course so was this rubble on I
10:40
got earlier when did you go to Seoul
10:42
when I came in through in John uh-huh
10:45
yeah how was it it was this bomb run
10:52
over you know this pretty well rubble
10:57
how did Korean people look at the time
11:01
well they’re all the civilians were
11:04
stressed from then you know run over
11:11
back and forth like that yeah we said a
11:15
lot of kids running around without
11:19
parents and so forth Elvis said did they
11:29
have all place to live there the kids
11:34
when we got on that train everybody we
11:39
had C rations with us and we just threw
11:44
them out to Train window you know they
11:46
were hundreds of kids there long saga
11:56
trying what’s been hard for you to even
12:00
watch them they’re suffering right yeah
12:05
yeah were there any Korean children
12:14
working with you or living with you in
12:16
the tent where did you sleep actually
12:18
what was your well they were before I
12:21
got you know they’re in Seoul or near
12:25
Seoul for itself most of them and of
12:28
course that area above that was what
12:32
further was mine so they I think our
12:38
captain captain English I’d like he he
12:41
took one of them back with him back
12:44
stakes you mean houseboy I took him as a
12:48
he adopted yeah what were you thinking
12:55
when you were in Korea it was almost the
12:58
end of the Korean War right and what
13:02
were you thinking did you know anything
13:04
about Korea before you left for Korea no
13:07
no and all were you thinking
13:14
well as I just I turned 18 on the way
13:18
over so just what 18 year old would
13:22
think it was except you know as it’s
13:25
kind of exciting for 18 year old until
13:27
you got into the and so what devastation
13:31
and everything taken place huh just what
13:37
an 18 year old would think I get so you
13:41
were excited before you landed in Korea
13:44
but when you saw the destruction of the
13:47
war you were kind of here that changed
13:50
my idea a little bit yes Kobe was you
13:56
know it’s a thriving city so in Japan
14:00
you mean kogi Japan yeah yeah so coming
14:07
from that too so was it was quite a
14:09
shock yeah when you left Korea when did
14:16
you left Korea as in 14 months later
14:21
would have been not again ranji live 54
14:27
i get so you remember their ceasefire
14:33
was established right right what were
14:38
you doing and what was your feeling
14:40
about it I mean at the time I got
14:43
everybody glad it was over with and it
14:47
specially those guys up there in the
14:49
trenches yeah yeah because I I had I had
14:57
my appendix burst sometime after I got
15:02
there I remember when it was and I went
15:04
to they took me to a mass unit it was it
15:09
was a man by the Norwegians and though i
15:15
had a does a guy on the cot next to me
15:20
as ethiopian that when had been wounded
15:24
and he was there
15:27
he couldn’t speak English or Norwegian
15:31
and I couldn’t speak Ethiopian or no way
15:34
so we had to had a good good time about
15:38
that so you you you sure that your
15:43
operation was done right oh yeah I’m
15:46
sure they know the doctor doctor was no
15:48
reason yeah and was in the ship now I
15:53
went on ship no it was a mass unit army
15:57
in it in a ten was intense yeah so and
16:06
then you came back to your outfit came
16:09
back to Fort Bliss Texas and then they
16:15
did what they call disorientation or
16:20
whatever be callin and then I was
16:22
allowed to go home and I was there for
16:24
30 days and then I was stationed in
16:29
Aberdeen Maryland to finish my time out
16:35
three years total and then what did you
16:40
do after you discharged from the
16:41
military well I want college and oh you
16:45
finished your high school right yeah so
16:48
did you go back to your own high school
16:50
now like I did it through texas
16:53
christian university but what about the
16:57
high school did you feel it you said
17:00
that you here but I got my equivalent so
17:06
you went to Texas Christian University
17:09
again what did you study I had to take
17:13
the two years of high school subjects oh
17:20
and then when I got to orange and state
17:29
college then I still had some
17:35
mathematics I had to take and along with
17:39
the college courses
17:41
double up on that’s nice yeah you got
17:47
the GI Bill to do yeah all right yeah
17:49
yeah I got that on college college and
17:54
how much were how much did they give you
17:58
job you I never didn’t know what I was
18:01
credited with but while I was there they
18:09
read an ad in the Dallas paper for four
18:15
policemen so I took a civil service exam
18:19
and I went on the Dallas Police for I
18:23
was there when Kennedy God széchenyi oh
18:27
really yeah did you witness it well now
18:31
I was at at Love Field where the air
18:35
force one came in and escorted the his
18:43
aide is at his age and Conley they’d
18:46
were at austin texas they flew in and i
18:50
took his aide and as a highway patrolman
18:53
took Carly’s eight and we went toward
18:57
Parkland Hospital work Kennedy was at
19:01
and before we got there we’re late we
19:06
met the hearse with Kennedy’s body on it
19:10
so we turned around followed it back to
19:12
the plane that must be set yeah yeah it
19:21
was a sad day yeah
19:26
have you been back to Korea now it not
19:30
even next year or if my help I’ll read
19:33
oh you are going next year yeah ah why
19:39
did you decide to go back well I’ve got
19:42
one grandson has already been and I’m
19:45
going to take another one with me old is
19:50
he 26 what what does he do now he worked
19:54
for his dad my son has a company here in
19:58
Tower uh-huh and he worked for him so do
20:05
you know what happened to Korea after
20:06
you left the country when you left in
20:10
1954 was rumbled right here wall ashes
20:15
and not many trees left old buildings
20:18
were burned down and destroyed do you
20:22
know what happened now well I’ve seen
20:26
pictures of it I wouldn’t imagine I
20:29
wouldn’t recognize it now but there was
20:35
a comical thing took place after they
20:38
signed the truth tong xue shan had been
20:41
pretty well level and so they had the
20:47
military radio planner it proc may not
20:52
mean anything to you but the song was
20:54
dear john it was it was a popper song
20:57
back then and it was like when you went
21:01
overseas you girlfriend got married
21:03
somebody else you know well they were
21:06
playing that song and on the on a
21:09
military radio and so they were taking
21:14
funds up to rebuilt on to shan dong du
21:17
shell and they said they would play that
21:21
song continuously till they got the
21:25
amount of money that they wanted and and
21:28
that’s what they did so every time he
21:30
turned radio on that song was all
21:34
now if you go back next year to dong du
21:38
chun you will not recognize it now it
21:42
will you will see a area packed by the
21:46
high-rise buildings oh yeah when that
21:51
wouldn’t click with me at all so do you
21:57
want to go back all this old baldy area
22:00
pork chop hill yeah i’m going i’ll go up
22:03
to the DMZ now Korea is 13 largest
22:10
economy in the world hip you know she
22:14
under Samsung this big companies right
22:18
of Korean company yeah and we are the
22:22
most substantive democracy in an asia
22:26
how did it happen all Oh garlic
22:30
overnight God God that did God work on
22:36
Korean here any other comments you want
22:39
to leave to this interview now I guess
22:43
huh you gone under alrighty thank you
22:48
very much uh-huh