Charles L. Hallgren
Charles L. Hallgren was born in 1930 in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, where his family owned a dairy farm. He graduated high school at the age of seventeen, worked on the farm for a year, then joined the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) in 1948. After completing basic training, United States Army Engineering School, and specialized training to work with military vehicles, he was deployed to Korea in June 1950. During the Korea War, he primarily worked with B-26 bomber aircraft and had the task of diffusing weapons before they exploded. He was subsequently deployed to Japan to diffuse and inspect tactical nuclear weapons in a variety of locations around Korea during the Vietnam War. He later retired from the military as a Chief Master Sergeant after serving his country for thirty years. When asked about the legacy of the Korean War and his service he stated how it proved that one country helping another country at the right time makes the world a much better place.
An Overcrowded Voyage
Charles Hallgren describes his journey from basic training through deployment to Korea. He recalls boarding a troop ship containing six thousand soldiers though it was only supposed to carry two thousand. He describes the congested sleeping situation aboard ship as well as the limited food availability.
When Bomb Drops Go Wrong
Charles Hallgren describes the dilemma of dealing with ammunition and explosives that were produced during World War II but sent to be used in Korea during bomb drops. He explains the task of having to diffuse weapons before they actually exploded to prevent deaths. He describes the challenges that accompanied working with B-26 bomber aircraft. He recounts how the enemy would also run wire in between mountains to take down planes which may have been how General Van Fleet's son was killed.
Back to Korea During the Vietnam War
Charles Hallgren describes being deployed to Japan in 1970 for the purpose of inspecting Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) units in Korea. He explains that Korea had tactical nuclear weapons which had to be inspected in various base locations on the peninsula. He describes his impressions of seeing a modernized Korea in 1970.
[Beginning of Recorded Material]
C: My name is Charles Hallgren. Hallgren is spelled H A L L G R E N.
I: And you have a middle initial L.
C: L, right.
I: And your first name is Charles.
I: What is your birthday?
C: The fourth of February, 1930.
I: Fourth February.
I: So you born one year after the Great Depression.
I: Where were you born?
C: In Mount Joy, Pennsylvania.
I: Mount Joy?
C: Two words, Mount Joy, Pennsylvania.
I: J O Y you mean.
C: J O Y.
I: Yeah. Tell me about your family when you were growing up and your siblings.
C: I was, I was brought up on a dairy, ice and milk business. So from the time we were turned about 11 years old, we started working seven days a week
until we finished high school, and then at that point we decided what we would do with the rest of our lives.
I: Um hm.
C: And I decided to join the United States Air Force which, at the time, had just come out on its own. It used to be the United States Army Air Force
I: Hold on, hold on. You going too fast.
I: So what high school did you graduate and when?
C: Mount Joy High School.
Oh, by the way, how many siblings did you have?
C: I had four brothers.
I: Where are you in that four bro
C: I was in the middle.
I: In the middle. So five?
C: Five total.
I: No girl?
C: No girls.
I: And what did you do right after the graduation of your high school? Did you join the military right away?
C: I didn’t join the military because I was only 17, and I couldn’t join till I was 18 without
my father’s permission. And being, we run a business from the house, my father wasn’t too anxious to give me permission until I was 18.
I: Uh huh.
C: So as soon as I turned 18, I joined the Air Force.
I: I see. Air Force, when was it?
C: This would have been in April of 1948.
I: April, 1948. Where did you get the basic military training?
C: I went to San Antonio, Texas to
Lackland Air Force base.
I: Lackland. Well, and then after that, what did you do?
C: I went to Cheyanne, Wyoming to take Engineer School.
I: Uh huh.
C: And from there, I went to New Rochelle, NY to a little island called Fort Slocum, and I was, ended up working not too much engineer but more in the motor pool which was vehicles.
I: Where in New York?
C: It’s just north of New York City, New, New Rochelle. It’s just north of the Bronx, and you had to catch a ferry back and forth to the base.
I: Oh. Very interesting. And when did you leave for Korea?
C: From Fort, From, uh, Fort Slocum I went to Mitchell Air Force base, and that would have been in the fall of 1949. When the war started June 25 of 1950, I was at
Mitchell Field. Two days later I was on a troop train heading to the west coast. So I caught a troop ship towards the end of June, and we headed for Korea. And
I: When, where, where did you leave from?
C: I left from Camp Stoneman, California.
I: Um hm.
C: They took you by ferry down to the, uh, where they put you aboard this troop ship, and the troop ship was made for 2,000 people.
We had 6,000 people.
C: So you had three people to a bunk.
C: Luckily I had the midnight to eight in morning, an eight in the morning shift. So at least I got to sleep at night. Then the buy that was to relieve me, he would come in, wake me up, and he would get in the same bunk. And you can imagine what that ship woulda looked like because one out of every four was seasick, and they only served two meals a day because of the amount of, and only one of them was a
hard meal, and one of them was a soft meal.
I: Um hm.
C: So it wasn’t, uh, it was more like a garbage run than a troop ship.
I: You didn’t throw up?
C: I did not. Luckily I did not get seasick.
I: But 6,000 people crowded in this 2,000 accommodation
C: for fourteen, fifteen days.
I: For, and many people throw up.
C: Yeah, oh many, many threw up. Ev, everything that, the mess hall was a mess. That’s why they called it a mess hall. [LAUGHS]
But now I, that whole cruise, if you didn’t get sick, it was livable.
I: So from there, you went to Japan.
C: I went to Japan. I landed, uh, close to Yokohama.
C: And we got off, and they give us a mattress and said go find a hut, it was a little Quonset huts, and we were there for a day and a half, and they put us in a train, and I went down to Iwankuni, Japan, Iwankuni, Japan.
I: Um hm.
C: Which is about
thirty kilometers south of Hiroshima. And Hiroshima was still, looked like it did when the war ended. And we stayed at Hiroshima, I was in a B26 outfit called the Third Bomb Wing. The, uh, airplanes were B26s, and we shared the base with the, uh, Australians The Australians actually run the base, but because of the Korean War, we moved into it.
And then we moved from there to Taegu, Korea.
I: From there?
C: From there.
I: So you took a flight?
C: Well, they sent about 30 of us over, and they were gonna do reloading. We would load our primary mission in Iwakuni, and then come back to Taegu and load the secondary mission so they’d get two flights.
I: Um hm.
C: But what happened, we weren’t in Taegu but two or three months, and the, the result was if Pusan Perimeter, when the, when the Chinese moved south
with the North Koreans, we’d get run out. So…
I: I see. Wait, when did you arrive in Taegu?
C: I arrived in Taegu probably about, uh, September.
I: Of 1950.
I: Huh. And how was Taegu when you arrived there?
C: Well, we had a tent, uh, that could sleep four people. And we were right on the flight line.
I: Were there any North Korean soldiers there?
C: Not at, not at that time.
I: So that must be late
C: They, they came
C: Yeah. And they came, I would say I wasn’t there a month and a half when they evacuated us back to Japan. So then I stayed in Japan again loading, I worked with ammunition.
I: So what was your unit at, actually?
C: The Third Bomb Wing.
I: Third Bomb Wing
C: Yeah like
I: of what?
C: Of, of B26 aircraft.
I: But, do you have any other higher unit? Where, where would those
C: Fifth, Fifth Air Force.
I: The Fifth Air Force, okay.
C: Fifth Air Force, yeah.
I: And anything else?
C: No. I, I, I worked in ammunition and, uh, EOD, Explosive Ordnance Disposal. We took care of munitions that didn’t go off or crash airplanes and things like this.
I: Uh huh. So that was your specialty.
C: That was my specialty.
I: What was your rank?
C: When I first went over, I was a corporal
I Uh huh.
C: And, uh, when I came home, I
was a staff sergeant.
I: I see. And so your base was in Japan, not in Korea.
C: No. Our home base was in Japan. Our secondary base was at Taegu.
C: And then we, we moved back to Japan, and we would fly two missions a day. We had about 20 B26s, or nine, I’m sorry, three, three bomb rings. The 8th, squadron, 13th squadron and the 90thsquadron. The 90thwas an Air Reserve squadron
that came from Long Beach later in the war. And about June of 1951, we moved to Gunsan, Korea, and we activated the base of Gunsan.
I: When was it?
C: About June in 1951.
I: Uh huh.
C: And it, prior to us being there, it was a Japanese base. So there was a runway and the things had sets.
I: Um hm.
C: But Gunsan was on the, uh, what I, what I want to call the eastern shore if you’re
over there, of Korea where you have the high tides. And it made it
I: That’s a western shore.
C: Western shore, yeah.
C: But I’m thinking with us going east and going west, yeah.
I: Yeah, right.
C: But anyhow, because of the high tides on the LSTs, we moved over, and we moved a lot of our bombs. We had a lot of 500 pound bombs, a lot of thousand pound bombs, a lot of 260 and 220-pound fragmentation bombs, and then smaller bombs.
And because of the tide, they could not get the LSTs in close enough to download. So when they got a good tide, they did an awful lot of downloading. And from the city of Gunsan out to the base, I’m gonna think was about 10 or 20 kilometers. So they had to haul the bombs in and out, and they had a transport outfit that hauled the bombs for us. And all the bombs were old munitions form World War II, and because of that, there was an awful lot of deaths with the ammunition
C: because the weapons were unstable.
I: Tell me about it. Were there any incidents?
C: Quite a few incidents, especially with the parafrags. They were, uh, fragmentation bombs that you put a parachute behind, and they would drop them from low altitude, and a lot of the people had stolen the parachutes out of the parafrag bombs. So when the B26 would drop the parafrag, it went off right away. They lost a few airplanes from what should have been a delayed
instant. That nation was an [INAUDIBLE]and then also the parafrag bombs had a fuse on it that was real sensitive. And the people that, we had assembled them in racks. You’d assemble them in racks to load onto the, into the Bombay of the B26. Uh, we had quite a few incidents there. I would guess we had up to 20, 25 people either killed or hurt real bad
I: Um hm.
C: because of the ammunition being outdated.
I: Um hm.
C: When that happens to me, I end up calling my grandson. But anyhow
I: So there are many incidents because of the explosives, right?
C: Yes, because when the World War II ended, the American military went down. They just delayed it practically. So all the munitions were left stored in Okinawa and Quam, and when the Korean War started, they started emptying out them revetment some bombs and whatever, and shipped it to Korea. At the same time,
we had hardly any ammunition people. So when we first got over there, we had 12 people working a good 20 hours a day trying to get around airplanes. We had one guy we called Big Brady cause he had run into five airplanes while he was over there. So that would be like a, a MG would shoot down an airplane. But anyhow, uh, they finally brought in more people. Where we started out with 12, we end up with 96. They brought them from any
I: Twelve to 96.
C: Six, yeah. Six. One for 8 roughly. But, uh, it cut down, but it, we also increased the flights because the B26 had 14 50 caliber guns forward, and that was a good any, most of the B26 work was anti-personnel
C: or anti convoy work, trains and things as such. In fact, one of the pilots we’d lost was a Lieutenant named Van Fleet whose father was in charge of the whole Army over there.
I: Wow. Van Fleet. General Van Fleet
C: Van Fleet’s son was killed flying a B26 during that war.
I: And you knew him.
C: I knew him as a pilot coming out to get aboard the airplane.
I: Was it in Gunsan?
I: So you met him, pilot?
C: I met the, you, you meet, meet the air crew while they’re loading the planes. They come out, they get ready to take off.
C: But they, you can imagine today what kind of headlines that would make, you know, if the General in charge’s son was killed.
Then you hardly hear anything.
I: How, how, how was he killed? What was the accident?
C: The, the plane was shot down or else he
I: Shot down.
C: Yeah. Or he run into a cable. What they would do is run cable between the mountains knowing they’re coming in low, and they would hit them cables.
C: Yeah. And North, uh, Vietnam must, or North Korea. I get Vietnam and Korea mixed up because those are both wars.
I: Wow, in Gunsan.
C: Yeah. Uh, from Gunsan they flew.
C: But when where he crashed was up in the, in North Korea.
I: And he was B26.
I: I know General Van Fleet well because he is, you know, very famous guy and, you know, and we know that his son is killed, but I didn’t,
I: I didn’t hear it from the soldier who used to work there, right there with him.
C: Yeah. He was, he was a pilot, and he was flying. But, uh, you know, it’s a sad thing
when the General in charge. But the, uh, when that, once they brought all the other ammunition people in, we still didn’t get new munitions. We still were working with the old bombs from World War II and the old parafrags. In fact, when I was loading butterfly bombs, they were little anti-personnel bombs with wings on them. They’d drop in a cluster, and then they’d spin.
I: Yeah. Spin.
C: They would give me the prisoners from the base, military prisoners to load butterfly bombs
because they were too dangerous for the regular people. But to be fair, half the prisoners were old ammunition people once they built up, they were a little on the wild side because they work in ammunition. So they would be locked up for 90 days or whatever, six months for something, and they would bring the prisoners out from the guard house, and I would make them assemble these butterfly bombs.
I: But wasn’t there any sabotage?
C: No, no. There was more
internal sabotage by people trying to steal and resell the stuff than there was external sabotage.
I: Sell to where?
C: They would sell it to the local people, like
I: You mean the bomb?
C: Not the bombs, but the parachutes out of the bombs
C: You’d take that parachute, you could make a nice long dress or whatever out of it. And also, the 50 caliber rounds for some reason they were selling them whether they were taking the powder out and using it for something or
using the brass. They could be using the brass, you know.
I: Oh. My goodness.
C: Yeah. But they
I: So a lot of thefting,
C: Yeah, a lot of because we had a big Army gonna tour with us and engineer unit.
I: Um hm.
C: And, uh, their feeling about the war was a little different than the Air Force feeling was.
I: So, these prisoner of war, North Korean prisoner.
C: No, these, these prisoners were Americans that were locked up for not following orders.
C: Okay. They were American prisoners kept in the guard house on the base. And every day they’d bring them out rather than use ammo troops because when you’re assembling these butterfly bombs, it’s a kind of dangerous, okay, because if one of them gets loose and spins, it’s armed.
C: And there was three type of fusing, impact, 10 – 20 second delay or 24-hour delay. So after they hit the ground, you’re not sure which it is.
I: That’s why I asked you
because I thought that you were using North Korean
I: prisoners to, to
C: No, we weren’t choosing North Korean soldiers, no.
I: Yeah. That’s why I asked you were there any sabotage there.
C: No. I would, if they were using them, I wouldn’t have been the one
C: [INAUDIBLE] But when they brought these other prisoners out, they didn’t bring guards, you know.
I: Um hm.
C: They, they just signed them out there for the day.
I: So how long did you stay in Gunsan?
C: I stayed in Gunsan till, uh, February of 1952.
C: So total time in the Korean War would have been 21 months, 20, yeah.
I: Wow, that’s a long.
C: Well, in the Vietnam War, I had four years.
I: So when did you leave Korea?
C: I left Korea then end of Feb, end of February, 1952.
I: And then where did you go?
C: I went to, uh, I, I went home on a ship. I went to Japan then caught a ship home, but the ship going home wasn’t like coming over. Heh. It was more like a cruise, you know.
You had your own bunk and everything, and we went to Treasure Island which is a Navy base out by Yerba Buena Island and, uh, then I went to McCord Field, McCord Air Force Base today up at Tacoma, Washington.
I: And then when did you leave for Vietnam?
C: I moved around quite a bit, and then in 1969 I went to Vietnam.
I: As what?
C: As a EOD person.
C: Yeah. Explosive Ordnance Disposal. You take care of
C: Explosive Ordnance Dis
C: Yeah. Disposal. They’re the people today that take care of all these booby traps
I: That’s very dangerous, isn’t it?
C: It’s a very dangerous job, and I made 30years of that without, with only getting blown up twice. So
I: Only twice.
C: Only twice.
I: So what kind of, give me an example. What did you do?
C: I’m, well,
C: EOD. If a plane
came back or took off with munitions in it crashed in the runway and caught fire.
I: Um hm.
C: okay, if the firemen could get anything control of the fire, we would go in and try and diffuse the weapons before they would blow up. If the guy brought back up on that he couldn’t release and he couldn’t land, he would land in the belly, and this bomb’s sparking down the runway, the Wing Commander says hey Charlie, what are you gonna do with that, you know.
But anyhow, there was a lot of hairy time, but it was a job where nobody bothered you.
I: Absolutely. So, my goodness. What kind of equipment did you use to, do, diffuse it?
C: Uh, yeah, you use every, at the time, you have x-ray machines to x-ray the weapons. You have things where you can withdraw and try and put a slug through the fuse to knock the fuse off the bomb. You can trebanand steam,
use acid to get inside the weapon and then steam the explosive out. A lot of things are time consuming. But today, I, I get out of this military in 1978, so I’ve been out, uh, what’s that, 40 years, yeah. I was in for 30 and out for 40.
I: Did you have your own protection?
C: Have our own protection? Today it’s really a modern trade.
I: But at the time, what was it?
C: We would have a, a, a, like a, what I want to call it,
a piece that fit like your underwear, okay, that’s lead plated.
I: Um hm.
C: And, uh, if something went off, your legs get peppered or whatever. But there’s
I: So it’s a iron?
C: It was heavy, but it was more, uh, lead
I: Uh huh.
C: Yeah. Today, they have it, uh, more modern.
I: Yeah. Do you remember any episode that you felt like you going to die but, any episode that you were doing that, EOD?
C: I could, I think the worst one was the, an F4 sliding home
C: F4 airplane
I: You mean The Phantom?
C: Sliding home on the runway
C: In Ubon, Thailand with two racks of six 500 pounders each, and they came loose and started sliding down the runway.
C: And my main thing at that point was to break the team into people and not work too close to each other. In other words, if one’s over here, you work on that. But don’t have the other because if one goes off, you don’t want to lose the rest of your team. That’s a, a hard part. The, uh, another part was I was working in Laos clearing mine fields
I: You were there?
C: Yeah, working in Laos, working in civilian clothes, grew a beard, wasn’t supposed to look like a GI, hehe.
But anyhow we were clearing, uh, mine fields, and the fella that was working about 20 yards from me, a 105 Improvised Explosion went off and killed him.
I: Um hm.
C: And till we got over to him, I had the medic behind me, he was dead. The piece went in and came, in his side and came out his neck, and, uh, then we tried to call in a chopper, and the trouble with choppers is they’re coming in low, spinning, and we’re, we’re right in the middle of a mine field
and, uh, with that air coming down, that air pressure is enough to activate, you know, what’s left there because they have drawstrings on them and wires.
C: So that wasn’t what I’d call my happiest day.
I: Wow. How much were you paid for that job?
C: At that point, you got $55 extra a month. Today they get it at according like flying.
I: Well regularly, how much were you paid?
Altogether, how much?
C: Oh, you mean my total? Well, I ended up as a Chief Master Sergeant.
C: Yeah. So then my total pay would have been, back in, uh, I’m trying to think at the pay because since you got out and got progressive raises. I would guess it would have been about $900 a month.
I: $900 month.
I: And, when you do this all EOD now, did EOD?
C: Yeah. We, we usually had about 15 manned units.
So you’re, and you were just constantly busy.
I: That’s too little for, for the job that he’s been doing. Come on.
C: Well, we’re talking back in the 70’s. We’re not talking 2018.
C: Yeah. Today they’re making a lot more money. A Chief Master Sergeant today is making, uh, probably pretty close to $90,000 a year.
I: But what I’m talking about is EOD, you know.
I: That, you should have a special bonus for that.
C: Well, you did then, but, today it’s progression.
Back then it was just a flat $55.
C: But today it’s progressive, like flight pay. Flight pay’s progressive
I: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
C: by your rank.
I: When did you go back to Korea?
C: I went back to Korea during this period in Vietnam, I was shipped back to Japan, and in Japan they put me in 5thAir Force Headquarters. That would have been 1970, and part of my job there was inspect the units in Korea, the EOD units, okay. And at that point, Korea had nuclear weapons.
I: The tactical nuclear weapons, yes.
C: Right. They had tactic and nuclear weapons, and that nuclear also came under our job.
I: Ah ha.
C: We’re under nuclear safe as long as we’re under. So Ulsan and Gunsan were both tactical bases at that time.
C: And then I would inspect, uh, Taegu, Qwanju, Suwon, uh, Osan, Gunsan and, uh, then there was, uh,
ranges set off of Osan out in the, uh, Yellow Sea there, the bombing range. We would spend time out there seeing how the people would react under certain incidents.
I: My father was F pilot.
C: Oh, he was? F4.
I: Yeah. He, he flew F86, F5A, F4D.
C: In Korea.
I: In Korea, and he was in charge of Taegu squad Halting.
C: For a Korean Air Force.
I: Yeah. Korean Air Force.
C: Where did he take his training?
I: He did, uh, two years in Korea, and then he did, came and sent in, in the United States.
I: So he spent his junior and senior year in the Air Force Academy, and then he went back Korea, and then he’s been there.
C: So he went to the Air Force Academy in the United States.
I: Yeah, for two years.
C: And then where did he take his pilot training?
I: Pilot training back to Korea.
C: Back to, back in Korea.
I: But he also in, in Lackland Air Base in San Antonio and so on.
C: In, yeah. And then like he might have went to Del Rio or Sheppard or one of them bases
C: where they teach fly, or Randolph.
C: They all teach flying
I: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
C: So he, he, he flew the F86, the, the, uh,
C: F5A. That was a Tiger. Yeah, and
C: the F86 was the, yeah, and the, yeah.
I: And he’s the one who did, uh, Air, Air show with F5A
C: Oh yeah?
I: for the first time in, in the world.
I: He was the first one.
C: Yeah, that, that, that was quite an airplane. And they sold a lot to a lot of countries had F5s.
I: Um hm.
C: Yeah. Cause when I was up at Taiwan
I: So you, oh I’m sorry. Go ahead.
C: When I was up at Taiwan, the Chinese had F5s. The, uh, the Chinese on the good side.
I: Um hm.
C: Yeah. They were flying F5s. But anyhow, Gunsan and Osan both had tactical weapons, yeah.
I: Uh huh.
C: And part of our job when we go inspect was should they get overrun, how, how are they set up to get rid of these weapons?
So as a last choice, you’re gonna blow them up. But you’re gonna blow them up HEwise, not nuclear wise.
I: Um hm.
C: And that, that was part of what we would test them for. And also how quick can they get rid of all their info they have in the weapons, you know. Towing their barrel and throw a thermal grenade in or what have you.
I: And how was it when you got, went back to Korea in 1970?
C: When I went back
I: How was it
different from 1950 that you saw Korea?
C: When I went back from 19, when I went back in 1970 from 1950, it was like a different world.
I: Tell me the detail because children will listen.
C: Yeah. I mean when I left Korea, there wasn’t such a thing as one bridge over one stream and one highway. Every bridge was knocked down. There, the whole time I was over there, I never seen one clean sheet no matter where I lived. I never had a clean sheet
except one time I went through Taejon, and that’s where General Deem was captured at Taejon.
I: Taejon, yeah.
C: But the Americans had a hospital there, and I spent the night there and on the way out I took the sheets with me so I had clean sheets when I got back to Gunsan. But anyhow, everything was so modern when I got back to Korea. It was just unbelievable, you know. The bases had golf courses. Everybody, the, the local Koreans all worked on base, had a job if, if you
went in the PX, it was all Koreans, you know, working in there, um, and, uh, Koreans were happy people at that point, you know, compared to the refugees all moving south when I was over there first time. And their highways they built were outstanding. The highway that ran from Taegu up to, uh,
C: Seoul, they widened it out enough so in emergency you could land an airplane on it.
I: My father used to train those.
C: Is that so they could land right on the [INAUDIBLE] country.
I: Have you been to Seoul at the time?
C: Yeah. I went to Seoul but not just in and out because, uh, Kimpo was a base there, but Kimpo wasn’t a tactical base. Uh, we, we were more in the tactical side.
C: Yeah. Kimpo was a people base.
I: Um hm.
C: And that was more
I: Were you able to tell the difference of Seoul City?
C: I, I could, I can tell the difference of the cities like Suwon and Osan, but I, Seoul I didn’t get into enough to see the modernization.
I: How was it, Suwon, Osan because my father was in Suwon and also Osan.
C: Well, you had homes, and you had people living there, and you had people that were healthy and you had meals. I mean, transportation, everything was there, yeah.
I: Um hm.
C: And it was so sad when you were there before, you know. As it wasn’t only sad for the Koreans, it was sad for the Americans, you know. If you would move up, you had nothing with you. You moved back, and the same thing, but it as just, uh, it just made the world see
what good Harry Truman did when he said hey, we’re going, we’re gonna get involved in this, and you see the results.
I: Um h m.
C: And today people just don’t appreciate them things. I know the Koreans do because being a member of the Korean War Veterans Association, I know the Koreans are really happy with what we did.
I: Uh huh. Wow, you, you had a, quite a career there.
I: And thank God that you are still in one piece
dealing with this. [LAUGHS]
C: But they, the, the funny thing is that, uh, I’m still alive
C: and I’m still healthy, you know. It’s amazing when I look back at it because most of the people that I worked with and knew, I ended up back at the school where they train, training people. I was a senior list advisorthere for a while. Most of them are all passed away.
I: Maybe it’s a power that your body likes it.
C: But I’ve, um,
I: Gives you power.
C: I had the, in Northern Thailand, we had a B52 accidentally drop 108 bombs. Eighty-four 500s internally came out, and 24 750s on the wings.
C: And they
I: Do you care for water?
C: No, I don’t, Esther might. But anyhow, they, it was about 50 kilometers above our base, and Thailand’s not too modern when you get over towards, uh, Laos.
So we ended up there that night. It was a B52 out of Udaipurnot realizing how much was dropped, and in a 10-mile area, about a quarter mile wide was nothing but craters, and the lucky part was it was only two people hurt from all them bombs dropping in four different little villages, and they were all about five kilometers apart. And the one lady was pregnant. So the Americans put her in a chopper, she never been in a
plane, probably never been in a truck, and through her back to Udaipur, the American hospital which is quite a way off, and she came back with a baby while I was still working up there. We ended up working up there for five months, cleaning up them bombs. And you know what she named the baby? Bomb. See, over there, it’s a Bomba, Bomba.
C: Yeah. They put the Ba on. And they, I went to the, uh, Christening when they pass around the little hut, and they were all drinking rice wine, and they’d
see whether it was a boy or a girl, they’d pick up the little diaper and pass it on. So [LAUGHS] there’s, there’s humor in everything, you know. And I felt so good for her because she made it back up there, you know. But uh, yeah. We had, I had quite a, quite a life.
I: What do you think is the legacy of the Korean War and your service? What is the legacy of the Korean War?
C: I don’t know quite what you’re looking for there. What do
I: Whatever you
C: Yeah. I think it just proved that by helping one country helping another country at the right time, it makes the world a much better place.
I: Excellent point. I agree, Charles. Yeah. And you really risked your life all the time to diffuse this, you know, the bombs and explosives and
C: Now, now people look at me and say who’s that old man over there? [LAUGHS]
I: [LAUGHS] Now people now from knowing you because this interview, they will know. They will know.
C: Uh, you have, I’m on camera. Oh that’s right. There he is, the gentleman right there?
I: Yeah, it’s all in video tape,
I: And it’s going to be published in the website, in Internet. So everybody will be able to see it, and from, from that point, they will know Charles, what you did during the Korean War.
C: And here’s my EOD badge.
C: See this? This little badge right there?
I: Uh huh. Yep. Korea Vietnam Veteran with the badge of EOD.
C: And see this t-shirt?
I: Yeah, what is it?
C: That’s Master Blasters. That’s the organization of retired EOD people.
I: Um hm.
C: From Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
I: You are proud of EOD. Yes. Any other message you
want to share with this interview? Anything that you remember but you haven’t told me yet?
C: No, I had, I can’t think of anything else. You have any more questions?
I: I don’t know. Do you want to join?
FEMALE VOICE: No?
I: No? [LAUGHS]
FEMALE VOICE: [INAUDIBLE]
I: Um. Charles, it’s my great pleasure and honor to have some time talking to you about your experience as Korean War veteran. Obviously you really played very critical role in this war with explosives, and you, I mean, I am so amazed by your, you know, whole thing and still very healthy, in one piece
C: Yeah, in one piece.
I: And I want to thank you on behalf of Korean nation that your career and your service really made a difference, and you gave us chance to rebuild our nation. We are 11thlargest economy in the world, 7thlargest trading partner to the United States, and by 2030 we’ll be ranked number 7 in the world. Can you believe that?
C: Who, who you, who you gonna pass up?
I: Ah, France and Brazil.
C: Oh, okay.
I: We’ll be, Brazil will be 8th, and France will be 9th.
I: The first will be the China and then United States, and then India
I: Japan, Germany, UK and then Korea.
I: Can you believe that, that small country you fought for becoming 7thlargest economy in the world. What do you think?
C: Unbelievable. Unbelievable.
I: Thank you, Charles.
C: You’re quite welcome.
I: Yes, sir.
[End of Recorded Material]