Charles Walther was born on November 12, 1932 in Chicago, Illinois. After graduating Constantine High School in 1949, he worked in a factory until he was drafted into the US Army in 1953. He was sent to Fort Riley, Kansas, for basic training and heavy weapons school. In September 1953, he was deployed to Korea as a part of the 40th Infantry Division which was based near Uijeongbu. He transferred to the 55th Military Police Company in Seoul in late 1953 and spent the next year serving as a MP. He rotated back to the US and was discharged in January 1955. He has been active in the KWVA.
"They Liked Us, We Liked Them"
Chuck Walther speaks about working with and being around native Koreans during his time serving in Korea after the Armistice. He describes that they had a good relationship with each other. He shares the only thing that was hard for him to adjust to was Korean food, particularly kimchi.
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Orphanage in Seoul
Chuck Walther tells a story about when he and several of his fellow soldiers went in search of an orphanage and what happened when they found it. He shares they often contributed donations to the orphanage; however, he and fellow soldiers wanted to see the local orphanage they were donating to. He details how they bought gum and candies and delivered them to the orphanage.
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Charles Walther describes interacting with other United Nations troops. He recalls interacting with Koreans, Turks, Greeks, and Canadians. He remembers that with the Koreans, Turks, and Greeks, he ran into language barrier issues as it was difficult for them to understand one another.
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[Beginning of Recorded Material]
C: My name is Chuck Walther. Charles, and my last name is spelled W A L T H E R.
C: Walther it is.
I: And what is the ethnic origin of this last name?
I: German. I thought so.
C: There is a pistol called a Walther Pistol that, uh, James Bond used.
I: Oh, I see. What is your birthday?
C: November 12, 1932.
I: You are pretty young compared to others. [LAUGHS] Where were you born?
C: I was born in Chicago, Illinois, uh, but lived in, moved to Michigan when I was a young boy.
I: Um. But please tell me about, we met, right, we met in 2015,
I: 15, in Washington, D.C. because you were there with your
grandchildren who was participating, attending my Foundation’s Korean War Veteran’s Youth Corp. Convention where that many teachers actually joined us together, right?
I: So please tell me about that. How was, how was it?
C: Okay, first of all I’ll tell you my grandson who was 16 years old at the time, uh, he didn’t know anything about the Korean War. I sent him a DVD that I ordered,
uh, you know, concerning the war, you know. It was a DVD about the war, and then, uh, first got him to sign up and, and to attend, he lives in Portland, Oregon. I live in a suburb of, uh.. St. Louis. So it was a little coordinating to do. Anyway, he, he learned a lot. He enjoyed it. In fact he said I’d like to go back again.
I said I think you’ve had your turn, but anyway, he
I: He can return.
C: Yes. He did a, uh, he, he, he enjoyed it, and he, and one of the things that happened that I had mentioned to you that when we got to the Convention, to the meeting, we went down to get something to eat, and we sat with three teachers
at a table, and they introduced themselves, one from Texas, uh two of them were from Florida, and, um, they were very anxious to be there, and they started to tell me about, uh, well my question to them was, you know, how much do you have in the, uh, in your textbooks
I: About Korea.
C: About Korea and the Korean War. And so one of them told me, uh, I had one paragraph, and the other one said I have half a page, and the other person, I, I can’t remember, but I think it was about a half a page or something. So I was really surprised, and one of the questions that I had for them was why don’t you ask the publishers, the educational publishers, the people that
publish the history book to put more in there, and they said oh no, it doesn’t work like that. We, we don’t, individuals don’t tell them what to do. But our, our State or our, uh, local
I: District, yeah.
C: tell them what they’d like to see in there. But he said we, we can suggest, but it doesn’t happen.
I: Um hm.
C: I thought that was really interesting, and, uh,
I: That’s how it works.
I: So the best way for address, for us to address that problem that, uh, our current History textbook doesn’t tell much about the Korea War is to make alternative way to teach, and this is how we going to use your interview, to make a digital history textbook on Korean War.
C: I think it’s a great idea.
I: Yeah. I think so.
I: Do you agree?
I: Um hm. I should have asked you to talk about, if I knew you were here, when I was making report to the Board of Korean War Veteran’s Association and also the members this morning. I make a, you know, about 20- minute report, right?
I: And you were sitting there, right?
I: Oh, you should have told me. Oh my goodness.
C: No, I, I’m not telling you.
I’m just, you know, I’m just, I’m reitting, reitrerating what other people have told me. But I congratulate you because you’re doing an excellent job.
I: Thank you very much, Charles, because we have, uh, 90 teachers from 25 states in Orlando this year. So lot bigger than 2015, and next year we going to have around 200 teachers.
C: I’m, I’m trying to think of a teacher that I know, uh, from college that I could talk to and see if they would be interested in, you know, applying, uh.
I: Absolutely. You let me know, okay?
C: I will.
I: Alright. I mean, this is amazing. I, this is in very rewarding because you already saw what we’ve been doing last year with your grandchildren, I mean grandson and
other teachers, and you are the living witness of, about the impact of this whole thing, teachers’ conference, and my Foundation is going to do MUN, Model United Nation, next year exclusively about Asian, uh, issues. So I am honored to working with you, you know, the Korean War veterans and also Association. So let’s go back to your story. Tell me about your family when you were growing up, your parents, your siblings.
C: I have two sisters that are younger than I am. I was born in Chicago, um, lived, my, my father was a truck driver, and my mother, uh, had, had worked as a, um, I believe as a secretary or, um, you know, in, um, in a job similar to that for a while, and then she became a full time,
uh, mother, housewife.
I: Um hm. Housewife.
C: Um, we moved to Michigan in, when I was I think 13 years old,, ,uh, and so I went to my second, third and fourth year of high school in Michigan, um. We, we lived, actually, on a farm, but my father still was a truck driver, and we did not farm.
We had somebody farm the land for us. Um, and my life was sort of uneventful until, uh, I was, um, I guess 19 years old and, and, uh, well, lI was out of high school, and, and gone to work in a factory.
I: What high school did you graduate?
C: A high school called Constantine Michigan.
I: Um hm.
I: When did you graduate?
C: Uh, 1949. I was 16 years old.
I: Um hm.
C: And, uh, then I worked in a, uh, in a factory until, uh, the Army called, or I got drafted. I, so I, I was drafted when I was 19.
I: When was it?
C: Um, well, it would have been in 19, uh, 5, well, I got my
notice in 1952. I actually went into the service in 1953.
I: Okay. And let me ask this question. When you were in high school, you learned about the world history, and you were, um, you knew that the Korean War broke out. Did you know anything about Korea? Did you know where Korea was? Did you know about the history of Korea?
C: No. I did, I knew absolutely nothing.
I was very familiar at, as a young boy. I was, I was interested in World War II, and I had my, my father was not I n the service, but I had, uh, uncle and, and, uh, cousins in. So I, I followed World War Ii, and I had a lot of interest in it. When I went into the service in, in 1953, I,
I, the only thing I knew about Korea was that a friend of mine had been wounded there, a young man that I knew, you know, um, had been wounded there, and, um, that was it. I did not, for a long time I did not know where it was located. I mean, the Far East, yes. But
I: And you were in Korea?
I: And you know what happened now Korea, the Korean economy and so on?
C: Yes, absolutely.
I: What do you think about this? The country that you never knew before, you fought there, you served there,
I: And, and you, you didn’t, you didn’t have any idea that how Korea will come out, and now it’s one of 10thbiggest economy in the world. What do you think about whole thing?
C: Well, I. I, I’ll preface what I’m going to say
by saying that I went back to Korea, not a, you know, my, my wife was, was in a internation, she was an international rep, and so she had the Far East. We had, uh, uh, Hong Kong and she had Korea and Singapore and, and all, all the countries, Japan. So I went with her because I wanted to see Korea again
I: Um hm.
C: I went back, and I could not believe it.
I: When was it?
C: It was 1992 or 3.
I: Um hm.
C: And I have not been back there since. But I, I would like to take that Korean, you know, seeing Korea again. The, but seeing Korea in 1953, 54
and seeing it in, you know, in, not even 40 years later
I: Um hm.
C: I could not believe the progress. The automobiles. They had expressways, you know. I’m trying to keep out of Seoul, um. It astounded me, and you had previously had the Olympics there. So there were some things that were built specifically for that. But I was,
I was absolutely amazed at the progress, and now you jump ahead another 20 years, and it’s even better. So that was, the other, only other thing I was going to comment on when I went over to Korea, I happened to have a Captain, a company commander, that got us together and told us
why we had fought in Korea, what happened after World War II, why it was divided, and most of the people that were over there did not know that. They were totally unaware of it.
I: Um hm.
C: Um, and I would say most of them never knew where Korea was until they stepped foot on it, on the land.
I: So what do you think about it? You are big part of this whole thing, whole history. What do you think about your service?
C: Oh, you know, I, I, I don’t think of my service as, as causing the Korean economy to be explosive. But I think it, it is, um, it, it’s certainly something to brag about.
There’s no question about that.
I: Um hm. Are you proud?
C: Absolutely. I am. And that’s why I’m a member of the Korean War Veterans Association, and then I have another group that I also belong to, a smaller group, and we were all in the military police in Korea, and, um, our group is getting smaller now. But, um,
that was, uh, you know, I, I belonged to that group, also, and we meet every year in a different location.
I: Um. So, let’s go back to when you were drafted. It was 1952
I: ’53, and where did you get the basic training, and what was your MOS, and what was your unit?
C: Okay. Uh, I got my basic training in Fort Riley, Kansas.
I: Um hm,
C: Now, remember I lived in Michigan, and they sent me to Fort Riley, Kansas, um, and they never built Army bases in beautiful locations, but, um, it was the 10thInfantry Division
I: I’m sorry?
C: Tenth Infantry Division.
C: Yeah, it was, was there, and that’s where I had my basic training through them, and I was
a, um, my MOS was, uh, uh,1812. I was, heavy, I’m trying to think if it was heavy weapons, I believe it was 1812, and then I went to Leadership school,,and so I became 1812L
I: Um hn. And then, what happened? When did you leave for Korea?
C: Well, after Leadership school, I left for Korea, and I, I believe it was either September or October of 1953
I: Um hm.
C: The truce or the war had, was over, and it was, uh, we went to Japan by troop ship, and then from Saesabo to, uh, I think we landed in Inchon.
I: Um hm.
C: I was assigned to the 40thInfantry Division. So they moved me immediately to the DMZ
I: Where? Do you remember?
C: Um, north of Chorwon, um. It was, uh, north of Uijongbu
I: Umn hm.
C: And that, that, kind of a straight shot north of Seoul, Korea.
I: I see.
C: So I, I was in the 40thInfantry Division. I had a infantry MOS,
um, they gave me an opportunity. They had some openings in the military police, gave me an opportunity to go into the military police.
I: Um hm.
C: And that’s, uh, and that’s what I ended up doing. I stayed in the 40thInfantry Division for, um, a good part of 1954, and then they
moved the 40thDivision, they moved the colors back to California. It was a National Guard Division. So they, they moved me there. We all went to different locations. I went to the 55thMilitary Police Company in Seoul, and, uh, stayed there till almost the end of 1954, and then the 55thmoved
someplace, and, or disbanded, I can’t remember which, and they moved me to a military police company in Uijongbu.
I: Um hm.
C: And, and that was it . I came back at the end of 1954, and, uh, was
C: No, I came back to the States in 1950, at the end of 1954. I was discharged in January of 1955.
I: I see. So tell me about the situation around Chorwon and Uijongbu when you were serving as a military police. How was the situation there? It was, the war completely ceased, right?
I: Yes. But were there any still dangers or any skirmish or anything?
C: There, we, we never had any problems, and we had a, a ROC soldier with us on patrol the whole time,first
as an interpreter and secondly, uh, if anybody, if we caught anybody, but he was the one that looked for people who didn’t have papers, registrations [INAUDIBLE] and we sometimes picked them up and took them back, and he, we never, you know, we called them line crossers. That’s what they were. And we,
we didn’t do anything with them. They were, the Korean government
I: Um hm.
C: took care, I, I have no idea what their disposition was.
I: Um hm. What was the main duties of your service?
C: It was making sure, well, you know, that in, in the military police, it was patrolling and, and
making sure that, uh, everybody was authorized, you know, when there were checkpoints, and we would go between checkpoints. Sometimes I’d be assigned
I: Um hm.
C: to a checkpoint and make sure everything was okay and nobody had any problems, and that was, that was basically it.
I: What was your, uh, rank?
C: I got out as a Sergeant.
And how about the Korean soldiers? How about, interaction with the Korean people including civilians and, and other Korean, soldiers? How was it? How, how did they behave?
C: Well, we had, we had very good relationships with the Korean soldiers, um. We had, um, and then when I went to Seoul, uh, where
we also had patrols in, in stopping fights and things that happened, had no problems. We, uh, always got along very well with the, uh, Korean people. And, uh, they liked us, and we liked them.
I: Did you like Korean food?
I: No. Thank you for being honest.
C: No, I, you know, to this day I cannot eat Kimchi.
Cannot eat Kimchi at all. I don’t, and, and when I went back there is 1990 and my wife was, had a distributor in Seoul, and he said oh, I want to take you out for a Korean meal. Well, I liked rice and things like that, but
I: But not Kimchi.
C: I still do not eat Kimchi.
I: Yep. It’s kind of explosive to you.
I: Um, any other, what was the most difficult thing during your service in Korea? If I’m asking you, pinpoint one thing that it was really bothers you or it was really difficult?
C: The language problem. That was, uh, you know, we, we worked with uh, um, some of the Korean soldiers who could, you know, had just piece meal English, and we had piece meal Korean,
C: And we could kind of communicate. But it, that was a, a difficult part of it. And then we worked with the Turks, and we
I: Were there still Turks?
I: In 1954?
I: Oh, okay. I didn’t know about that.
C: Yep. And there, you know, there were still Australians and, uh, and some Canadians, um. Of course that was not a language problem. Turks were a language problem.
C: Koreans were a language problem. And, uh, we did some patrols with some Greek soldiers.
I: The Baker was in the only phase of the war who is watching this interview behind us, and we going, I’m going to do another interview with him, and he found a full of Kimchi when he was bombarded by the North Koreans and, you know, everybody wanted
to just, just take that out because it was so smelly strong, right?
C: Oh yes.
I: Yeah. It is funny. It is funny. How much were you paid at the time?
C: You know, I don’t remember. It, it wasn’t very much. I do, I do remember it’s something, you know, I brought that album. One of the, one of the really, uh, one of the really
memorable things about my service when I was in Seoul in the 55thwas that every year at the pay line, there was a little bucket for an orphanage. And so people, you know, the soldiers would go out and they’d put something in there. Some of them didn’t. Most of them did, and then one day I was on patrol with, and there were like four, four of us in jeeps
and we said do you know where the orphanage is? And nobody knew. So we found out, we knew the name of it. We found out where it was, and the first thing we did was to go downtown and to, to Seoul, and we picked up
I: Um hm.
C: We, we picked up some gum candy, and I remember they, they, the, uh, Sergeant that ran
the PX said oh, you can’t, you can’t do that because you’re gonna sell it on the black market. I said no, we’re going to take it to, um, the orphanage, uh, that we support them, and we were all in, in military uniform. We were all in our MP helmets and 45s and, you know, all dressed. And finally he said okay. So that’s what we took over there, and that was,
and I have some pictures in there I can show you.
I: Yeah. I want you to hold it and show it to the camera, and I wonder if your grandson, where, where does he live, uh, St. Louis?
C: Portland, Oregon.
I: Oh, Oregon. I would like to scan your, uh, picture so that we can use it for history textbook, but I don’t have machine with me here, you know?
I: So can you scan it and send it to me?
C: Uh, the, the picture, which pictures do you want?
I: All of it. All of it.
C: All of it?
I: Yeah. It’s all Korean War, right?
I: And the documents and everything.
I: Yeah. I want that. I mean, that’s a good historical record that we can use to teach our young childrens.
C: Okay. Um, the, these are
the pictures from the orphanage.
I: Show, show it to the camera please.
C: And the orphanage, orphanage
I: Just hold it. Hold it
I: To the camera. And, let’s see what I got here. It was, uh, when I look at this, it still is emotional. But,
this was when, with all the little, little children.
I: And you took that picture?
C: Yes. Well, I, you know, I, I, I’m in one or two of the pictures, so obviously I
I: Not all of it, but you had your camera, right?
I: Yeah. That’s why it’s, it is important. If you cannot, I
wanna take it and scan it and return it. I just had, uh, so much of the letters that I receive from one, uh, veteran from South Dakota, the Hot Springs.
I: We scanned it all, and then I Fed Exed it back to him. So either one of, please do that, okay? Either you can scan this thing and send it to me, or somehow you trust me and give it to me.
I: So I want you to decide at the end of the interview, okay?
I: But, so the orphanage, where was it?
C: It was some, some place in Seoul. I could
I: South of Seoul or was it inside of the Seoul?
C: Oh no, it was inside because it was our patrol area that, u, we covered, and we covered all of Seoul City. So it was there, and I have the name of it.
I: What is it?
C: Well, it’s
I: It’s in the picture?
I: Let’s talk about that later.
I: Think about those kids
I: Let’s say they are 10, 10-year-old, okay?
C: No they’re not that old.
I: Okay. Let’s say five, right, 1955, five years old. Now is they are 45, 55, 61, almost like a seventies.
I: In their 70’s.
I: And now they
live in a completely different world.
I: Can you believe that?
C: I can.
I: See, that’s what you did. When you give them gum and candy, you gave something to this people, the children who really need those. So you did it. Like, uh, what Jesus said to us that you did it, whatever you did, you did it for one of the least of my
brothers, and that’s why you are blessed, and we are blessed.
C: Yeah. I, I believe it. I, as I said, I still get emotional thinking about that because they, you know, they never saw any male, the orphanage was run by, um, not, not a religious organization, but by women, and they did a wonderful job. But these
children were not exposed to, to males, maybe some Korean males. But, uh, when we got there, they were so excited, and they, and I had a little boy that, you know, we had billy clubs, and we had, and he hung onto that thing and just followed me wherever I went
C: And so it, that’s what I said. I still remember that.
I: That’s what you did for those who really need it.
I: The love and care with even one gum, you know?
C: Oh sure.
I: Oh yeah. Alright. You should be proud that now Korea is 11thlargest economy. We don’t have openings like that, no. So
how do you put all this into a perspective? You went to a country. You experienced such, um, very devastating experience about how a country could be devastated, right? And now it’s, uh, we are meeting her for annual reunion of the Korean War Veteran’s Association knowing things been changed there. What do you think?
C: Well, I, you know, as I told you, when I went back I was, I was amazed, um. You know, it was 19, as I said, 1992, and, uh, I’m back there, not in uniform, just sightseeing, looking and, and, you know, and I’m thinking it was absolutely astounding what they did because I remember
the, the buildings, you know, bombed out buildings and, and I have pictures in here of that, too. And
I: So such contrasting imagery, right? 1950 and now. Why don’t we teach about this successful American intef, uh, involvement in Korea? Why do not teach about this things? Why has it been forgotten?
C: I, you know, I have no explanation. But I didn’t know that it was not in our history books. I didn’t, I thought
I: It, it is. But it’s too small.
C: Yes. A para, I mean, you know, a paragraph’s not, not enough. I mean you can’t explain a war in that amount of time. So I have, you know, I was not even aware of that. In fact, I wasn’t aware of it until I talked to the teachers, you know.
I: When you met last year, right?
I: Yeah. Yeah. So that’s why we are doing this, and any other story that happened during your service in Korea that you want to share with me?
C: Uh, no. I, I, you know, I, I think we pretty well covered, um, it, you know. The, the, the problem that we had was a
I: Um hm.
C: Uh, the orphanage, uh, you know, was, was, uh, like I said, very emotional to all of the soldiers, to all of the MPs. We all said exactly the same thing when we left there. Wow.
I: Um hm.
C: Wow. Put more money in the bucket at the end of the line.
C: So, um, we’ll, you know. That,
that’s basically a, a, an, in the U.S.. The Korean I’m sure are equally proud of what your country has accomplished.
I: Absolutely. That’s why I wrote the book about Korea, and I used to teach about it, but, um, it is good to, good to know that you are in a position to be able to compare things that happened to Korea and now, and
would you continue to help my Foundation to, to identify the teachers who are interested in this project, the History teachers’ conference and
C: Absolutely. I think it’s a great thing that you’re doing.
I: Um hm. You are in St. Louis?
C: Uh, in the suburb, yes.
I: Uh huh. Do you have a many Korean War veteran there, right?
C: Yeah. We, we do, I don’t belong to one of the chapters. We have, I thing, three or four chapters there. When I joined
the Korean War Veteran’s Association, I just sent in my application and my money to join because I, I had read Great Beard magazine, um. One of my friends’ had it, so I didn’t join a chapter. But we have, uh, we have uh, a lot of veterans there. There are, as I said, three or four
I: Would you be willing
to talk to them and organize a series of interviews like this? Don’t you think that they need to speak about their experience, too? And we can use it in the com, school?
C: Yeah. I, I think that they should plan on attending the annual meeting.
I: Um hm.
C: as one of the
I: Yeah. If you can organize, we can go there and do the same thing for them, okay? Alright?
I: Okay. Any other things that you want to talk to me?
C: No, I think that pretty well covers it.
[End of Recorded Material]