Chong Rae Sok
Chong Rae Sok was born on May 5, 1932 in Busan, Korea. He was attending Busan Commercial High School, when, when he was recruited into the Korean Army in August of 1950. He was assigned to be a KATUSA (Korean Augmentation to the United States Army) and was sent to Camp Fuji, Japan for training where he was attached to Easy Company, 31st Regiment, 7th Division as a rifleman. He participated in the Battle of Inchon Landing and fought in Osan and the Chosin Reservoir. After being injured by a Chinese hand grenade, he transitioned to the Korean Air Force to work as a translator. After the War, he worked for the 8th Army for 25 years.
Chong Rae Sok describes becoming a KATUSA soldier at the beginning of the Korean War. He describes what a KATUSA soldier was and what he was doing when he was recruited into the Army. He tells about being sent to train at Camp Fuji, Japan where he was assigned to Easy Company, 31st Regiment, 7th Division.
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Inchon Landing and Osan
Chong Rae Sok talks about his participation in the Battle of Inchon Landing. His unit landed at Inchon on September 18, 1950 and fought their way to Suwon. One day later, he describes moving by foot to Osan and losing soldiers along the way, including a fellow KATUSA.
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The Battle of the Chosin Reservoir
Chong Rae Sok talks about his participation in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. He describes the conditions that his unit faced including cold weather, loss of communication, and little food. He talks about the fighting that took place, taking one hill at a time.
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[Beginning of recorded material]
C: My name is Sok Chong Rae.
I: And what is your birthday?
C: My birthday is, uh, actually May 5, 1932. Korea the children day.
I: And where were you born?
C: I born in Pusan.
I: So you speak very good English. Why is that?
C: Well, the conversation I learned from the American soldiers
during the Korean War. After that, retired from the American Army, I also worked for the American Forces for 25 years.
C: In the 8th Army, under 8th Army on [INAUDIBLE] for three days, and it was a useful assistant to our commanding general.
I: I see. But, uh, so you were Katusa?
I: Tell me about it. What is Katusa for audience.
C: Okay. The Katusa is a Korean
orientation to U.S. Army. That’s a Katusa. And, uh, it, the organization started, uh, 1950 around August, between, uh, Syngman Ree and General MacArthur’s agreement. Because at that time, the U.S. Forces had, there were lack of the, uh, [INAUDIBLE] So, uh, we tried to, uh, augment American Forces during the Korean War. So, uh, I
joined the Katusa Army August 15, 1950. And we, we went to, uh, Japanese, Japan at Camp Fuji. Camp Fuji was a American 7th Infantry Division was stationed there. So we joined there and, uh, we became Katusa soldier from there.
I: But you said
that you joined, uh, Katusa August 15, 1950. That’s after the Korean War breakout.
C: That’s right.
I: So what were you doing when the Korean War broke out?
C: Well, I was a student, you know, uh. So one day in the morning I tried to go to
I: What school?
C: Pusan [Commercial] High School. That’s the same school of, uh, Mr. [INAUDIBLE]
I: [No mu jon], yes, yeah.
C: And in the morning, I used to, uh,
deliver the newspaper. And after delivering newspaper, I went to the, tried to go to the school but, uh, when a Korean Army stopped in front of me, and they picked me up in there. So they took me to the, uh, the Western part of the Pusan, and when I arrived there, there were oh, maybe about, maybe 100 other people are standing right out there. So, uh, I was, uh, I was in the line.
But one of the Korean Army came in and said that you were in line go this way. So they put, uh, our line aside, and they said that you are going to Japan for training. And you will become a member of the U.S. Forces. So we thought that are becoming U.N. Forces. But, uh,
I: Did your parents know about it?
C: No. Nobody knew that. Because they only picked
I: So out of the blue, you were picked up by the American soldiers in the street.
C: Not American soldier, Korean M.P..
I: And Korean M.P..
C: Yes. And, uh, we came to Camp Fuji, Japan. That was, uh, uh, 7th Division, American 7th Division. So there was a 7th Division campus and, uh, they give us new uniforms, American uniform
C: The uniforms were so big because of, uh, the different size of Americans and Korean because, uh, so anyway, uh,
then they give me a serial n umber, and I was assigned to the, uh, Easy Company, 31st Regiment and 7th Division.
I: Thirty-first Regiment?
C: Yes, Thirty, 7th Division 31st Regiment.
I: And what company?
C: Easy Company.
I: Easy. So what was your specialty? You were
C: I wanted Infantry for
rifle man. They gave me the M1 rifle. Pretty big at the time now.
I: So what were you feeling? What were you thinking when you were picked up by the Korean MP in the street and without notifying your parents, you go to Japan.
C: Well, at that time, War time, you know, most of the soldiers became like because they don’t have a chance to, uh, talk to their parents and notify their parents because of my, my, uh, family
is living in [INAUDIBLE] side, the countryside called the, uh, Sanchung that, uh, I didn’t have a chance to, to talk to them. And, uh, so we took a train about, uh, about four weeks. Then we rode in a ship and, uh, went up to Inchon. So it took about three days to get Inchon because the ship didn’t go straight But the ship
went Pacific Ocean and around because they don’t wanna see, show the ship going to the Korea. So, so 1950, we arrive there about 19, uh, September 15. But, um, Korean Marines and American Marines landed, uh, on Inchon 15th of September. But, uh, we waited [INAUDIBLE] radio was waiting in the ship but took a couple days. And we landed
Inchon 18th September.
I: Eighteenth of September?
C: Yes. Three days after the initial landing.
C: So land at Inchon. Then we went on, go down to Seoul. And we stayed there one night in Suwon. Then next day we march into Osan.
C: From there on, we were, started
fighting North Korea.
I: In Osan.
I: Tell me about it.
C: Well, it’s a long story.
I: Yeah. Make it short. But please, uh, because many young children will listen to this in the school,
I: the high school, and they would like to learn from you how was the battle in Osan.
C: Okay, okay. So, Osan had a lot of, uh, many, uh, cornfields. So we started marching through the cornfields. And a North Korean was,
you know, on a hill. So they shooting down from the hill to us going up. And, uh, one of them cut through to us, got hit by a North Korean bullet in the chest, and he died right in front of me. So I thought, I felt very uneasy and, uh, very strange. [INAUDIBLEL] one was very so heavy usually. But when I see my friend die, [INAUDIBLE] is so light.
Extra powers coming out from your body.
I: Uh huh. You were angry.
I: You were upset, yes.
C: Yeah, upset. So my [INAUDIBLE] light started shooting, you know, continues and. Anyhow, I saw one of my American GI’s came down with, uh, some dirt on him. He, unfortunately, he fell out of the, you know, what do you call, the honey bucket, you know, those human waste because in Korean, uh, field, you just have a big hole, and the person
that went human waste
C: and to stay there about one year. So next you use that, uh
I: Using that fertilizer.
C: So fertilizer. But, uh, not much, you know, dirty smell for you then.
C: But, uh, when the bullets come, so I think he jump in it. Well anyhow, then, uh, we moved up throwing grenades and shooting and, uh, mortar coming out, our airplanes bombing, all kind of things.
So um, we lost about, uh, maybe five people for then. Then finally they got on a hill, so we had to dig the foxhole. At that time one cut the sand and one American GI always stay together. We learned a lot from American GI’s. But we were just the freshmen, you know. And, uh, first think you have to do is a fox, dig a fox, foxhole when you’re down to here. So foxhole about deep, about this high, you know,
so you can stay under there. SO every night you have to, uh, guard for, you know, maybe you sleep two hour then maybe next time the American GI sleeps two hours like that. So first, first day we lost, uh, many because, uh, North Korean were on top here. But, uh, in the meantime, the American, you know, Grumman. Grumman is a Navy airplane.
I: Um hm.
C: That’s a very good at, uh,
ground shooting because it’s, it’s very slow so that it, you can, uh, drop bombs very easy. So we start fighting there. We took about, uh, about two weeks, I think, always. And a hill, and we catch the hill. Next another hill. Next another hill.
I: So still up to the Battle of Osan, your parents were not aware
of where you were.
C: No. Because
I: You were not able to tell them?
C: No posters with them, nothing. No communication system, nothing till you phone them.
I: Were you, were you worried?
C: I didn’t worry about it because I just say don’t worry about the safety of my parents because if they were stationed, you know, way down South. But anyway uh, it’s called the Sancheong is in my hometown. And, uh, Sancheong was
captured by, uh, North Koreans. So we had to, uh, maybe American by me several times. But luckily my parents kept safe alright. So I, that, I know after the World War, I mean after the War. During the War, I never heard of my parents. They never heard of me about that. So we cleaned up. There was an area for two weeks, um [INAUDIBLE] But after that, uh, we rode
a truck, and it came down to Pusan. We thought that we were going out to South, you know, 39th Parallel. But, uh, you know, strange it is, you know, truck came down to Pusan. So you wondered what happened, you know. But they took me to the North Korea. And we landed in Inchon, at the Inchon, by the Inchon. We call it the Echung.
C: The, ah, [Ewan].
I: Ewan, Ewan.
C: North Korea.
C: Down to Hung Nam.
C: Yeah. So, uh, we landed Ewan and, uh, went up to the, uh, [Kopsod] area where the Chosen Reservoir is. You know, [Kopsod] is a, what do you call, their [INAUDIBLE]
C: [INAUDIBLE] And only came over and they, uh, very clean reservoir. It was we called the Chosen Reservoir.
I: Yeah, Chungcheong.
C: Yeah. Chosen is a Japanese [INAUDIBLE]
C: So, uh, part of our 7th Division his Division was 17th Regiment, and 17th Regiment went way up to the Yalu River. But the 31st Regiment didn’t go up Yalu. We just surrounded, uh, [MARIKOT] Marine was down by, you know, bottom of the hill near the lake. But we were just about [INAUDIBLE] set apart of the hill guarding Marines.
Seven, uh, 31st.
I: So it’s 31st Regiment was around where exactly?
C: Well, around the Chosen Reservoir.
I: Chosen Reservoir, yes, yeah. How many of you, the countryside
C: Uh, I, uh, 31st Regiment, we have, uh, consist of four, four, four battalions, you know. Our was, uh, we were the 2nd Battalion.
I: Um hm.
C: So I think a whole, uh, 4 Battalion is starting, uh, to Chosen Reservoir.
And, uh, we, we sent to, uh, our squadron sent to, uh, you know, outpost. And, uh, when we up to the hill about, uh, two miles from the main, you know, headquarters, but suddenly there was a lot of snow. So, uh, that time we didn’t have any wireless communication. We just had through the wire. But the wire broken, no contact between us and, uh, headquarters. So, uh,
for three days we didn’t eat nothing. We just wait for somebody to come up here. But from there, from [yungyu] to fight and, uh, we were fighting to [Chung nan do, Kawondo and Kingyido] always past because, you know, the Koreans are all many here. So you have to fight on the hill all the time. If you go down, down there, you’ll have to fight because you have to fight here. And you have to, you have to capture here one by one.
C: So. But it is very hard because, uh, here it not continue. It goes like this. So you have to go up again, catch it, then you have to go up again and catch it. But, take you about sometime one month, taken of two months to get one hill. So if you’re on the top of the hills are barren, no trees because of bombing, splashing. So very flat. So I think, uh, very hard. Feel almost same kind of fighting, you know, going up, down, up and down.
I: So you participated in the War until when?
C: Uh, 1952.
I: When did
C: I wounded.
I: Oh. Where?
C: August, 1952. I was wounded by Chinese grenade.
C: Here and here, both.
C: Uh, in the, near the 38th Parallel. So we called the [INAUDIBLE] trail go, you know. [Cuma and, uh, Teran and something you call Iron Prak].
C: Then we [find it, all the time], yeah. Sometime take hill in nighttime, we would throw, and second time going up again, nighttime we throw. So was, sometime one hill maybe 10 times changing around.
I: So did you go to Japan, to, to hill?
C: No, no, no. Uh, I got wounded. But, uh, not much. So, uh, I joined the Korean Air Force.
I: Korean Air Force?
C: Because they wanted me discharged. But, uh, they figured I’d pick discharge at that time. There’s no place to go, you know because, uh, no industry. You got wounded, you become the handicapped soldier, what’re you gonna do? So at that time, they are looking for some, uh, some soldiers who speak English. So they looking for the English-speaking soldiers from all, all the, you know, the army, Navy [INAUDIBLE]
So uh, I was picked up by the Air Force and
I: Korean Air Force.
C: Korean Air Force.
I: And what did you do?
C: Uh, I, since I speak English so, uh, during the War, once the airplane go up, you know, bombing coming back, they got all kind of shot, you know, like that. The plane is all, you know, got a, uh, holes, everything. So this mechanic have to repair that quick
C: so that they can fly. And mechanics that can do that, uh, they cannot get the parts, you know,
the Mustang had about 20,000 different parts. But they know how to fix it. They don’t know how to get the missing parts. So I had to do that, find out the [INAUDIBLE] no stock number and everything and write down and give it to them, and they take that to the supply room and they get the parts that go there.
C: Tell me about the Korean Air Force. At the time, it was very minimal. How many pilots and how many
I: Well, not many pilots because, uh, at that time
usually, you know, Japanese [trained] their pilots, you know. They, when the [INAUDIBLE] take on more water, many Koreans joined the Japanese Air Force.
C: …a relationship between
I: Oh, human relation was a very good because it was, you get in a better field, wherever he is, he’s a partner. He’s a life saver. If he die, I die. If I die, he’s dying because we stay all day there, fight together,
sleep together, dig a hole together. So that’s closer than a brotherhood. So now I still feel when I see the Korean holding a flag, like a brother, yeah. It seem like brother. So I cry friend.
I: Um. Do you have a Katusa identification number?
I: What is it?
C: K, K111393.
C: 11. Four one’s and 393.
I: Three nine three. Let me repeat. K11141393.
C: No, no, no. K111393. No 4. Four ones and 393.
I: What do you mean by four one?
I: And is that record kept by American government or Korean government? Do you know about that?
C: Korean government, I don’t know. The American government, I don’t know because I, Katusa is up in the air, not, not many people, you know, any, uh, consideration.
I: Are you, I mean, is it recognition, official recognition by Korean government
about the contribution made by the Katusa?
C: No. It’s, uh, usually we got a letter from the American Army. They have a Medal of Honor from the American Army, not the Korean government.
I: So you didn’t get any recognition from Korean government?
C: Recognition just sometime you get a big one or sometime you have to save the American soldiers of our troop, so many, their life. But the regular fight, they don’t have any chance at, they don’t care about.
Our sol, most times, the medal went to the American soldier, not Korean. Maybe one of ten, maybe Korean got a medal. But most times who got the medals from the American Army, then after the War, the Korean government also tried to recognize the, the honor. But, uh, regular soldiers, you don’t have many chance to get a honor, you know, because unless you die
or you were killed maybe 10 or 20 North Korean people or something like that.
I: Is there a Katusa organization?
I: What are, what is it?
C: I, I know by name card that, uh,
I: What is it? Tell the audience.
I: Katusa Veterans Association
I: Where is it?
C: It’s, uh, headquartered in Seoul.
I: How many members do you have now?
C: Oh, right now, I think, uh, I think, uh, maybe, I don’t know how many exactly.
Maybe 5,001, I mean 5,000, maybe 4,000 because every month there’s maybe a couple hundred Korean Katusas to be [time]
I: No. I’m talking, I’m talking about the, the Katusa who served during the War, in the War?
C: There are not many alive right now.
I: I know. So, that’s what I’m asking. How many?
C: I don’t know how many.
I: Do you get any pension from Korean government?
FEMALE VOICE: [INAUDIBLE]
C: Every month, they pay me about, uh, $170,00 a month.
I: Hundred seventy thousand one.
C: That’s correct.
I: Right. So it’s about $150.00.
C: That’s right.
I: Every month.
C: Um hm.
I: Uh huh. You were in Inchon. You were in Pusan. You were in Chungcheon and then stalemate, all these things. What do you think about it? How do you put all these things into perspective?
C: Well, see, well, I didn’t, uh,
I didn’t blame the Korean government.
I: No, no. What, how do you think? Why did, is it happened, and what do you think about it?
C: I blamed, uh, I blamed the [INAUDIBLE] If he was not, we didn’t have any Korean War. I was, I blamed the Chinese Forces. If the Chinese didn’t come down to, uh, Korea, [Nanook] and I, we [INAUDIBLE] 1950,
at that time, we were already unified.
I: Um hm.
C: because in North Korea, there is nobody there. So his Division, I mean his Regiment, 17th went up to the outer rim already. So, uh, almost unified.
I: Did you know him before?
C: No, I’m from here.
C: 17th are different.
I: So tell me anything that you wanna say to this interview.
C: Well, I’m very lucky to have interview with you because, uh, I have, I’ve got to have some chance like that
to talk like, you know. But nobody has a, so I wrote a book about the Korean War, yeah.
I: What is the name of book?
C: The Infantry Soldiers.
I: Just, that’s it?
I: Infantry Soldier, no Katusa or anything like that?
C: No, subtitle I said, uh, the Katusas Participation in Korean War.
C: Yeah. The memory of a Katusa’s Participation in Korean War, about this big. One in English, one in Korean, together.
So I tried to educate the Korean students to show that work, you know. Then I try dedicate to how much American soldiers they have a difficult time, how many people killed, how fight. Of course I tried to show that book to the American family, how their fathers, grandfathers, fought for the Korean folks. I said the three books, [INAUDIBLE] family and all the soldiers have died. [INAUDIBLE] But to their family, this family responded to me and the letter said, uh,
thank you very much for
I: Um hn.
C: And I sent one letter to the, one book to the, Mr. Obama. They send me [INAUDIBLE] thank you. So.
I: I think this is a great addition to the collection that we have, the Korean War Veterans, uh, interview. And I want to thank you for your fight, your own country
C: Um hm.
I: and, and your sacrifice
C: Well, the Katusa, even the Katusas who participated in the Chosen Reservoir fight, not many, very few.
I: Great, yeah.
C: Most have died, and most too old to, uh, remember that.
I: Again, great honor to meet you, and thank you.
C: Thank you very much.
[End of Recorded Material]