Clifford Allen joined the Navy Reserves and soon found himself called to full deployment carrying bombs across the Pacific Ocean, from San Francisco to Japan. He describes his life aboard a supply ship, recounting a pleasant experience. He continues by offering a story of the methods the Chinese used to drain American soldiers of ammunition. He shares his thoughts on why the Korean War is referred to as the forgotten war as well as the legacy of the Korean War. He is very proud of his service in the Navy and considers it to be one of the most significant experiences in his life.
Inside the Supply Ship
Clifford Allen describes his life aboard a supply ship as surprisingly very pleasant. He shares that quarters were quite clean, and the bunks were 4 beds high with roughly 80 men to a compartment. He adds that he had no complaints about the food aboard ship.
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The Unarmed Chinese Decoy
Clifford Allen shares his second-hand knowledge of the Korean War. He details a story he heard from another veteran involving the Chinese. He explains that the Chinese would send up unarmed Chinese decoys to make American forces waste their bullets.
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The Legacy of the Korean War
Clifford Allen shares his thoughts on why the Korean War is referred to as the forgotten war. He explains that he felt the United States had a duty to go and put up a defense against communist ideas. He also describes the legacy of the Korean War and the people who will never forget it.
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C: My name is a Clifford Allen. C-l-i-f-f-o-r-d A-l-l-e-n.
I: What is your birthday
C: November 24th1932
I: and where were you born?
C: I was born in Oakland California
I: uh right here
I: So please tell me about your family when you were growing up. Your parents and your siblings
C: Um, I was the youngest of three siblings. My mother and father always lived in Oakland. My father was a successful automobile salesman, so we always lived in a very nice home.
I: Oh, and tell me a about the schools you went through.
C: Oh, I went to Oakland high school and I went to Freeman high school in east Oakland.
I: When did you graduate?
I: So, when you graduate, there was a [inaudible] did you know about it?
C: Uh yes, I, I got to be in the army and I chose to be in the navy. Cause I experienced sailing on the ocean. And I like that
I: Wow, uh you have experienced sailing?
C: Yes, I sailed on a yacht from Los Angeles to Hawaii in 1949.
C: So, I have some experience at sea, so I wanted to be in the navy.
I: Was it your own volt?
C: No, it belonged to a doctor I was on board with 5 other boys.
I: How long did it take to get to Hawaii?
C: Uh, bout 17 days
I: were you in a storm or anything like….
C: No, no we didn’t have any bad weather.
I: So smooth sailing?
C: Smooth sailing, except for a squall come up once in a while.
I: Yeah but it’s a squall so it stopped, right?
C: Uuhh no, we would sort of veer off and let a, not try to beat it, but uh avoid it, not try to change course, besides those, smooth sailing yes.
I: Did you fish?
C: No we didn’t fish, it was a yacht race so we didn’t have time…..
I: It was a yacht race?
I: Did you win?
C: Well we never hit any kind of great wind, we uh had fairly smooth sailing and I remember as we got close to Hawaii there was a coastguard airplane , it was a b-17 actually. And they came out and checked on us and they flew over and took our picture and things like that.
C: It was quite a thrill.
I: Did you know anything about the time you were graduating.
C: Yes uh, I knew there was a war going on it started in 1950, and uh I knew that I would probably be involved in that so I chose to uh join the navy, reserve in san Francisco, treasure island, I went to meetings then I did receive a draft notice and in 1953 and I went right over to treasure island they sent me to San Diego for basic training in the navy.
I: um I don’t understand, you said that you joined the navy in 1950?
C: 1951 actually.
I: You enlisted?
C: Enlisted in the navy reserve.
C: So with an application to serve two years in the active navy.
I: then you were called on active duty in 1953?
C: Yeah I was called to be in the army, and I didn’t want to be in the army. So, I went over to my navy reserve, at treasure island. And they said, “Okay just go to San Diego for basic training and leave tomorrow.”
C: It was approximately some time in 53 early 53. So I was activated for military service right towards the end of that war that ended, I guess it ended in 53.
I: Yes, it ended 1953, July, but there was extended officially into January 31st 1955, so you are the preamble are veteran right?
I: So what was your specialty?
C: Well it was a yollman, but I started out as a ordinary sail man, we worked on deck mostly then I get a chance to become a yollman, I could type and things like that and work in the office other duties.
I: In the ship or in-?
C: In the ship, yup.
I: So, tell me about the ship you were on.
C: The ship I was on was an ammunition ship uh USS Paricutin.
I: USS para…?
C: Paricutin, P-a-r-i-c-u-t-i-n. Which ammunition ships were named after volcanoes and uh so I uh was got on board in 53 and the duty was to go to Japan, then we would before that we would load the ship up with bombs up in port Chicago, there we delivered the aircraft carriers.
I: In Japan?
C: Yeah we had port Chicago is in north bay of San Francisco the ship was loaded when we went across Japan and we had a whole port there in Sapsago and then about uh the first part when the war was going on , just before I got there, when the ship would be at sea about 3 weeks out of the month and it was very cold and very hard work there, do that deck work. We transfer these bombs to carrier and it also destroy the other side of our ship, it was very interesting for me. I never did a task force like that it was amazing when I went on deck. There were destroyers all around us maybe 25 destroyers and we come along side an aircraft carrier and transfer bombs and a net over to the carrier it was a great experience.
I: Any wars that related to Korea while you were in Japan?
C: Uh I never went ashore in Korea we just operated between Sapsago Japan and the sea where the task force would be.
I: So it’s between Japan and Korea?
C: Occasionally an aircraft carrier would come in and acre at Sapsago, Japan the big bay there a lot of American ships would acre. When the aircraft carrier came in there might be an acre there for one-day, next day, then leave before dawn 3rd day. Their target, US navy didn’t want another pearl Harbor incident, that was kind of interesting to me. I enjoyed the tour of duty I had in the navy I have no regrets about that. So it was very interesting for me to be a part of that.
I: how big the uss paracutin was?
C: how big is it? I got a picture of it here ill show ya
That’s your ship?
C: yes it was.
Uh huh, and how long did you stay in that ship?
C: I was on that ship for probably about a year and nine months
I: in that ship alone?
C: On that ship yes. I was released from the navy when we were in the Philippines and they sent me home
I: How difficult it was to live inside that small ship inside?
C: Inside it was good quarters, I was in a compartment with say 80 men. And uh it was no discomfort
I: Not at all?
C: Yes not all. It was quite pleasant
I: No smelly?
C: No it was clean, you know, a clean ship, clean clothes, clean quarters
I: Was it bunk bed like a hammock? Or was it-
C: I had that it there was 4 bunks high and about 80 of those. And uh we each had a locker for clothes.
I: Was it comfortable in the-?
C: Yeah it was very comfortable
I: Really? So much space between the bed
C: I was the second bunk from the bottom so it was easier getting in than out I didn’t have to climb up any bunks
I: Good for you. A hot shower?
C: Yah it was two showers to serve all the men in compartment.
I: How was food?
C: Food was uh it could’ve been better it was tolerable like it would on any ship and yeah I had no complain about the food the food was very good
I: And how much were you paid?
C: Paid? I think I earned I think was about 115 dollars a month as an ordinary seaman.
I: What did you do with that money?
C: Well actually I didn’t spend much. When I was released from the navy I came out with maybe 7 or 8 hundred dollars in cash and there was another 2 couple hundred dollars for being released I went home and bought a car with it
I: Any story that you heard from other soldiers about the Korean war?
C: Uh yes we went on an r and r cruise up the east coast of japan and we stopped at a place called taboo I think it was and there was an army base there and the soldiers that I experienced there they were back from Korea they did in combat there and they did in short and they had uh boxing matches there and there was ten of them. Ten boxing matches. And only one sailor on our ship lasted for a tie we were all beaten cause these guys were all tough combat soldiers there.
I: Oh I see so there was a boxing competition between the navy crew or in japan and that soldiers that came differed from Korea
C: Yeah they came from Korea. I could tell they were battle hardened and real tough. I could tell we didn’t ever want to get in any trouble with those guys I think that’s just natural combat guys they come out their battle hardened they’re tough guys
I: What were you thinking when you saw them coming from Korea
C: we just went short taboo there we had this incident with them and my ship was uh port there was sapsago so we didn’t see the army there but when I went ashore on this little trip up the coast of japan I did see a lot of soldiers there a sort of a camp there they looked kind of tough I didn’t wanna get in trouble with those guys
I: that’s right. Tell me about what you know about the Korean war
C: well I uh I know about uh MacArthur brought the troops all the way up border china almost , cold up there I knew a man at home he was in the army and he served in WWII and Korea and Vietnam and he said that they were up there at the reservoir ching chon reservoir chosen reservoir and he told me about the Chinese fighting for that area up there and the uh the Chinese would uh they would uh try and get the American soldiers shooting down on them they would run out of ammunition they would do this by sending up 100 Chinese soldiers how they got them to do that I don’t know but it was quite brutal to be a guy in that situation and I understand it’s a I think a there was 24 thousand American soldiers casualties at war and I glad that it was over president Eisenhower I think he made negotiate with the Koreans-the chinese yeah it would be a ceasefire he was not going to tolerate that war anymore. So that was very hapyy when it ended
I: why do you think the Korean war has been regarded as forgotten?
C: In what?
I: As forgotten
C: Forgotten, I think that uh I of course don’t forget it I think we had duty to go there and do that in defense against communist ideas and it was forgotten because people didn’t pay much attention to it like they did in the Vietnam war and ww11 but I think it was necessary and um I don’t believe in communists and I think it was a worthwhile fight but glad I wasn’t a casualty
I: Do you know what Korea looks like now in terms of economy and democracy?
C: I think that the south Korea has a very good economy I was in the insurance business most of my life and I did insure some south Korean people in northern California and they were very prosperous they were industrious and they had business and uh a they had two clothing stores and I admired them for their ingenuity and uh things like that they were very nice people.
What is the legacy of Korean war and Korean war veterans?
Well it’s like you say it’s sort of a forgotten war. It seemed like to a lot of people it was insignificant but I don’t think it had those kinds of casualties compared to Vietnam. I think they of course protested that and finally ended. You know I could imagine it is now a forgotten war but it wasn’t forgotten by the people of war who fought bravely did their duty and people lost sons over there in the war they’ll never forget it. All the people involved they fought bravely. its communist
Interviewer: Are you proud of your service?
Veteran: Am I proud of my service? Yes I am I love the navy I wish I had stayed in and made it a career that was one of the most significant experiences in my life that I enjoyed very much.
Interviewer: In what sense, why was it so important to you, what did you like about the navy?
Veteran: I think that I liked being at sea I crossed the pacific back and forth a couple times and I like the navy life
Interviewer: Any other story that you want to leave to this interview?
Veteran: Um I don’t think I think we would go down to the Philippines a couple times and that was a nice experience to go over there and go up to Tokyo I went up there it was interesting for me to go there and think about what went on there at the end of World War II. That was interesting. Where else did we go? (laughs)
Interviewer: What did you think about Japan when you went to Japan and knowing that Japan was the one that attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. What was your thinking and image of Japan?
Veteran: I think, uh, I think that, uh, the Japanese people were very accommodating and pleasant people, however I know that the Japanese people treated our prisoners, were very cruel to them. But they seemed to be when we were there in this era, they were very a very nice culture, Id say. I didn’t have any bad experiences at all.
Interviewer: All right thank you Clifford
Veteran: Thank you sir.