Korean War Legacy Project

Clifford Townsend


Clifford Townsend was drafted into the Army in 1951 and served in Korea during the war.  He shares that he discovered his exceptional ability at radar detection during basic training at Fort Bliss and adds that his ability to distinguish between a variety of colors helped his radar outfit demonstrate accuracy many times during the thirteen months he spent on the front lines. He provides an account of a radar operator’s duties while serving and details the living conditions on the front lines. He recalls his return home and shares that soldiers were not warmly welcomed. He is proud of his service and of the life lessons he learned while in Korea.

Video Clips

Radar Operator Description

Clifford Townsend details the duties of a radar operator. He comments on the challenges of using old equipment and shares that the radar team sat as close to the front lines as possible. He shares that his full color vision worked to his advantage as a radar operator.

Tags: Basic training,Chinese,Front lines,Pride,Weapons

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Living Conditions Near the Front Lines

Clifford Townsend recounts spending thirteen months on the front lines near the Imjingang River and the Iron Triangle. He describes the sleeping conditions, stating that he and other soldiers slept in tents during the summer and bunkers during the winter. He recalls eating in shifts and comments on the food offered.

Tags: 1952 Battle of Triangle Hill, 10/14-11/25,Imjingang (River),Food,Living conditions,Pride

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Return Home and Forgotten War

Clifford Townsend recounts his return home following his service in the Korean War. He shares that soldiers were not warmly welcomed back. He vocalizes his opinion on why the Korean War is often referred to as the Forgotten War.

Tags: Front lines,Home front,Pride

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of Recorded Material]

C: My name is Clifford Townsend jr. C-L-I-F-F-O-R-D  T-O-W-N-S-E-N-D J-R

I: Jr. 

C: Jr. 

I: What is your birthday? 

C: August the 12th, 1930

I: So you were born one year after the Great Depression. 

C: I bet you are right

I: Where were you born? 


C: Lincoln Nebraska 

I: Lincoln

C: Lincoln, Nebraska

I: Nebraska

C: But I lived in Victoria County since 1933, I was three years old when I came down here. 

I: Uh

C: My family is Victoria County residents

I: Tell me about your family, your parents and your siblings when you were growing up.


C: Ok, I have no brothers and sisters. That’s wonderful, you don’t have to put up with that. (laughs)

I:You are the only child?

C: The only child. But, my parents were separated before I was born. 

I: Oh

C: It’s fine. That’s their, uh, why would I try to say something about something I know nothing about.  My mother brought me down here because she couldn’t take care of me and work back in the 30s, in the Depression.  


C: I came down here. I lived on a farm and worked on a farm until probably 1950.

I: Where, I mean, So, you were living with your mom?

C: No, I lived with my grandparents.  My grandmother and my aunts and uncles.  My mother stayed up there and worked, and I guess she sent money home and what have you because those times were hard. 


I: Mm-hmm. What do you remember the great Depression? 

C: I remember one thing; you read all the stories and what have you, lived we lived on a farm and we were never hungry.  

I: hmm 

C: We didn’t have any money.  I was three years old growing up and things kind of begin to fall into place, about the time we were I was seven or eight years old, you can start  37 38 you can start remembering how things were

I: Mm Hmm 


C: But I,we never, we didn’t have any money, we worked every day, but we were never hungry.

I: That’s a good thing that you were in the farm, because in cities, in urban areas, their people really suffered. 

C; Right, right, we have people come over there to work, to, work a whole day, for a meal 


I: Hmm, so they worked for you? 

C:  well how’d you know for my family, for my aunts, my grandma. My my grandmother owned the place, and she had four children staying out there, and we all worked, but they would come to the farm hungry, and would work all day if you would feed them a decent meal.  There was a colored high school in Victoria and one Catholic school and one high school and that was Patti Whelder High School 


C: just like P-A-T-T-I W-H-E-L-D-E-R, I think that’s how you would spell it. It’s, you can see it, it still in the books there. 

I: So it’ P-A-T-T? 

C:  Patti. It was named after Patti, the Whelder family because they put the money up for the school 

I:When did you graduate? 

C: I graduated in 1947

I: And then what did you do then? 


C:  I went to college for one year. 

I:  What college? 

C:  Victoria college. It was in the same building as the high school was.  

I: Hmm. 

C: Well that’s all, ever, if you drive, I don’t know if you do any driving in Victoria, do you know where the victoria patty well I mean Padawan Junior High is? 

I: Mmmm

C: That ok, when you go down our street, yeah, so that was the high school, the gym, the college to junior high, the whole works was right there.  I’m sorry. 

I: Mmm you better stay there

C: Okay, and then I couldn’t afford to go to school anymore.  

I:  Mmm Hmm


C: I’d been working on a farm for a while, then I went to work as a rough carpenter at hollow fields tearing buildings down in 1951, then I got my draft notice, and I turned in my resignation to the man, and I was drafted November the sixth, 1951. 


I: You knew that there was a Korean War that broke out? 

C: Oh yeah. 

I: How did you know? And, what did you know about it?

C:  Oh well, you know, this was in the fifties, we still had radio and what have you. And we talked about it, we would talk about it. 

I: Did you know anything about korea? 

C: No I’m not sure I still know anything, (laughter). No, No,  All I knew is that it was it was a country. And then. 


C: After the war you know the problems that came up, I’m not sure the problems have been solved enough.  But, it’s there, you know, that’s not for me to say. and that’s how. But, I was working, and then I got my draft notice, and I said well, at that time they were drafting for two years, I said well, all it, well let’s say this,


C: When I went to Corpus, that’s where I was inducted, in Corpus, we went to, from Victoria by bus, and we were inducted into the service, in Corpus. I made a pretty good score on that, on all those tests, they gave test back then, and um, so then I went to basic training out at Fort Bliss and for we went we went.


C: And there we lived in little five-man huts, out there, that some of them didn’t even have one window in them, but that’s beside the point. And um, after basic training. I 

I: What was your specialty?

C: In basic training nothing just. 

I: Just after that?  

C: Okay, I went into the, they put us, put me on a radar outfit, we were assigned, all my military service was in a radar outfit. 


C: I was, when we first started out at Fort Bliss, we trained to track, they would send the little, little guided missiles, by little airplanes, by and we would track them and then the group that we was anti aircraft for Terry, well, but they didn’t have any.  Okay, then, when I got, they offered me a chance to go to leadership school, and I asked him how much time will I have to add to my time. 


C: Do I have to have more duty? And they said yep, I said I don’t want it.  When I got out of when I finished up the radars to my head of become Far East command took 30 days leave we head to Yokohama

I: when did you leave?

C: We left out of spokane washington on a ship

I: spoken 

C: yep


C: Washington 

yeah when well let’s see we backtrack I got turn may let’s say somewhere probably in April, all april, or early because when I went on a troopship I went to japan. I was in Japan about seven days, I was on a another ship and they spread they spell Pusan when I was there it was started with a penis you

8:27know but when I noticed that on earth at

8:29other it started with a be yeah I went

8:32to Pusan


I:  when when did you arrive in Busan? 

C:  night in May, I can’t I cain’t jaga the exact day early part of me how was it was on at the time that when you arrived I was nothing but military you know ships and people and and poor Koreans trying to get any hey you have to feel sorry for the people i did because the kids were starving to death 


C: and they are just ok they then had to push down they had to push all the way back and they were right getting close to the 38th parallel when I hit Pusan we went to then they we got on the train and went to Seoul and then when we left Seoul we went to head straight to the foot to that first radar site which was on the interval been at the MGM


C: Ganga river I was a radar operator and we what unit did you belong 30 35th CMR that’s 35th counter martyr radar 30.  Ernie’s live 35 counter martyr radar counter at motor radar radar attached to the 39th Field Artillery Battalion 39


yeah theater battalion of the 3rd Infantry Division and they’re not always part of a torment but we were attached this was this was an actual unit the 35th cmr was an actual army designation military unit so what is the exact job description as a radio operator 


I:what did you do?  you do what kind of equipment 

C: well what do we do yeah ok this was an old descent was so old that it was ahead of serial number of 37 it was an old Zenith early warning set for airplanes they converted it to track or two mortar rounds it had it about a 22,000 yard range and we would scare it sector scan and then we would pick up a blip on the earlier one


C: had to remember where the blip was so that you could tell on that RadarScope where it was so you knew where it came from and then they would turn it in to the fire control and fire control would put a fire mission on it and then just sit there and watch the shells go back to the same place now we set on the first hill between us 


C: If the Chinese were on that hill we sent behind this one because that’s it was as close to the front line as you could get it and I spent 13 months right there and then about six months after we were there they got a new set this was a Cadillac

  1. you sit there and you sector scanned you picked it up you put that range marker but put that dog back there when that next round came you flip switch attracted and to all the way in on paper


C: and when they put it back down its accuracy was plus or minus a yard that gun if that mortar was in that piece right there and they said we couldn’t do that so we did one of our own what time they’ve said you can’t get that close and after we did that they they shot everything we but I don’t want to sound like I’m better than most anybody on


C: what I went through Fort Bliss when that God did the cult hill they always do this color do this color thing and he flipped it in pages and hovering them and then he said but one thing about it you can’t read this last page he flipped it over and I told him exactly what it was he said you can’t read that I said well I said well I just did he said you’re the only man that’s come through here that’s ever touch that and when I was in Korea 


it showed up because I was one of the firkin see that streak of a 122 rifle cannon vs I had a full colonel stand behind me one night and I didn’t do was just back there and he and they were going to hell knocked out of them and I picked it up and I flipped it on and I didn’t know he walked in there and he said what are you doing I said I just got that I got picked up round up you better not shoot again because I’m gonna be ready and when he


C: did I flipped out automatic switch on he said I didn’t see nothing I didn’t turn it around you know I’ve got a job to do I want to work and he said I said you can’t see it I said you can’t see well then I turned around and he’s got them chickens on his shoulder I said I’m sorry but you can’t see he said well how come you can I said if you look at my records I’m the only man it came to Fort Bliss up to that time it’s got full color vision so i can see it what their training is Charlie


 we were there when


C: they had the big battle for White Horse Mountain the first time and i should say this but I with the first time the Chinese stole the ROK division off of there like they were babies running back croston three months later when that rock division went by comfort as they throw dem Chinese off that hill that was what wish I went back there were so many shells in there we couldn’t even read and run the right horse set then we went


C: back till 105 howitzer outfit and uncrated 105 howitzer shells for 24 hours there was so much brass laying in front of the guns and we had to go out there and kick it out of the way so I think it keeps you now was it you know the line had settled down but their fruit until they really had armistice it was it was a little bit let me put this way, the poor bastards and went to the yellow river had hell and we didn’t have it we just had the opportunity to get it


C: that’s all tell me about the life are there in engine river where do you just live what is he okay you and in Korea during the summer when we were there you could not sleep in Bunker’s because of the hemorrhagic fever I was good but whatever we slept in big tents I had pig can’t put up everybody was intense I right next to that bun


C: was a spock so and we lived in them in the summer and in a wetter time we built bunkers and we lived in the bunkers

I: mm-hmm what did you eat most of the time?

C: from what about when the river was flooded we ain’t c-rations because there was no food then when we got to char want the city of chore one then we were able to go by shifts back to a field mess hall


C: and we would go back there and eat when nothing was going on and while we were in the Iron Triangle with it when we would go back and he and we would we would go far away in the morning and since we worship and shift we’d read six or seven guys would go first and then hey guys would go the next time and we would do the what do you call it we if we got there the mess


C: sergeant knew who we were and they put us to the front of the line because they knew another crew had to come up and we did this for 4 for 3 or 4 months now I’ll say this once they got squared away we’d better than you need over here in cafe because our mess sergeant had been the head shift in a New York cafe and he was in service and asked him one day


C: I said why do you serve this kind of food? He said I served the best food I can put on a plate it don’t give a dot on give a damn whether I’m in New York City, Lawrence North Korea North Korea 

I: You didn’t know Korea where it was you serve there and you saw total devastation gumby and and now creo is one of the 30 largest economy in the wall what do you


see how do you put that into perspective it well let’s put it this way and maybe I’m and I’m not being facetious about this America is always American country has always gone and helped build back what’s been tore up if you look at Japan you look and I think I believe that was also in Korea I think this I think that and I don’t see anything wrong with that I


C: I think we what I think is wrong is when we help countries that hate us you know I mean and we know that’s I’m going back to my time in Cory hyped I have to tell you one little story we were there and we had a young Korean house boy and nobody else got heavy but since we were 15 men after ourselves 


C: nobody knew we had him so he stayed with us all the time he got everything we did of course he’d wash our clothes in when we went somewhere he went with us we go down a church he’d go down with us in Sunday morning and he was and he was just an aiesec young kid as you ever want to see and we pay him we’d give him money and then they switched that currency from Han to one or one of them and


C: we had to go down and change the money because he has way too much money and they come up and checked us to see if we were doing black market money up there and then they were told my God look this is under your hat we got this kid we change this money for he’s our boy but he always had a statement he we’d always we’d always say well how do you feel about got over there he’d step well this six months in


C: a hospital and this one is have enough left loved you might have brought him home if I the grub dinner older man and cook what was his name Kim hog one and a hawk a hog but his name was Kim ha Kuan or something like hey you know 21 year old boy don’t you give Tony one year …I was …you don’t care what you’re doing and when you’re 21 years old you you attend


C: our church yeah what if we go down it there’d be a we go back yeah we’re sitting on the ground on your helmet with a rifle / unit we go back sometimes it’d be a Catholic priest some time there’d be a rabbi sometimes it’d be a pastor I’ll tell you what you don’t have many atheists over there what was the most difficult thing during your service in Korea that most difficult a first of


C: all you have to remember out in volunteer okay good or bad that’s there beside the point getting used to I really didn’t have trouble getting used to the regulations the stupid things have everybody outside bag and baggage ready to go and sit there for 18 hours


C: now that to be in the phone in enon is it to me that it’s just showing that we can do what we won’t do and that’s where is not everything mm-hmm maybe yes maybe now I was fortunate I never got a scratch how much were you paid I drew a huddle when I was over there I guess


C: after I made corporal I got a hundred and five dollars a month and forty five dollars a month combat pay forty hot what forty five dollars a month combat pay because we were shelled a minimum of six times a month what did you do with that money sent it home to a played poker always lucky playing poker well it’s all a beer and toddy did stuff


C: I bought with their money and I sent all of my money on to whom mother your mom was a singer boyy you know mother had my car I’ve sent it all her and told her to put it in the back 

I: what do you think about the us-korea relationship now? 

C:  well of it yep okay all you’ve got is the news what are you but basically it looks to me that our relations are as there isn’t it nothing


C: wrong with their relations I mean you hit you have problems over there before the fools you’ve got fools in every country we got them over here but is a general I think the people over there realize what it would have happened if the we hadn’t been over there I might be wrong but this is my feelings about it I. 


C: I but this way if if you had to give me a choice of going to Korea are going to Vietnam I’ll go to Korea any day I don’t want no I went I wouldn’t want to know no go part of a country that I knew we weren’t gonna try to do anything for I’m sorry maybe them diplomats don’t like what I just said but the hell with Korean War was very important because the stalin and franklin roosevelt they were kind of allies 


C: because they had to fight against japan japan and germany during the World War two but after the Korean War we will clearly see that the Russia is the Communists and enemies of the United States and the Korean War was the signal of this cold war sure despite such importance korean war has been forgotten in in the United States why is that nobody wanted to admit that it


happened the you can’t believe how we were treated when we came back off the bulk tell me about it no it’s really people didn’t would have nothing to do with you I can I guess you know you’re not supposed to remember every I came off that gangplank in San Francisco and there was a Red Cross down here with coffee and an officer telling you to put a dollar in there for that


cup of coffee when when when you come back and this troop ship had nearly everybody was rotate he’s with three or four points that means they were all up close to the front line and to pull a stunt like that tell you the country people in this country didn’t give it him you can edit that out if you won’t do but that’s my feelings there why 


Why didn’t they give attention

 it because they still in my opinion there were still had the revulsion about World War two and they were fighting again and they just didn’t want to see we’re getting into that

I: so what is the legacy of the korean war and korean war

25:22veterans do a legacy of the korean war there won’t be any in another 10 years there won’t be any left i know 

but what are the importance of Korean War veterans


 well um I i think that uh we those had volunteered those who were drafted serve their country honorably I would assume because they wouldn’t let us out except this lady is looking at you all the time anyhow uh she left it is just that that just has to be the word

0:26:00 how did your service affect your life after you returned festering that ever

26:11happened how I Despres to you um 

C: I worked at the plant or plant Union Carbide what does that do okay most most people will never disagree with the man above them after my Simon a service I have a respect for you I respect for you and your job but not all your opinions plant manager wrote a letter one time  about we had a man get killed and he wrote a letter and you will not do this thing again and when we had a meeting that night I SAT right across the table from him and told him you can’t we can’t


C: go while your letter because you can’t do that you will kill all of us and after a 45 minute discussion the next day he changed a letter so it doesn’t hurt to express an opinion but do it civilly and of course it costs about guarantee my 32 years at carbide 


C: and my years of the supervisor calls me cost me from ever getting a promotion because I broke up too many meetings with you people don’t know what you’re talking about and when it was over it was over the meeting was over they go back to doing what is done of course I’m the rabble rouser but the main thing that doesn’t bother they taught me these little you hear people oh I got this I got that there is nothing important


C: enough to get upset about unless there’s two things happening that guys coming at you with a rifle or he’s coming at you with a band at the rest of that don’t mean a damn thing learn to work around it I don’t take I’m 84 years old I’ve got my first day to be in a hospital I’ve never been cut on never been 


C: and part of that is stress stressful kidding as I told you crea is very strong now in economy and the mock democracy we were able to pull that out because you fought for us you didn’t volunteer but you came and you fall for us and so we want to thank you and that’s why we want to do it keep the record okay of your service and what


I: happened to you 65 years ago and how did that come out you know so I want to thank you but do you have any other story that you want to share with me that I didn’t ask you to?

C:  not really wheel you know there’s a camarada when you work okay there’s a little difference and when you in a large outfit we had 15 men always together by


ourselves nobody else around so therefore we got to be we knew one another and we’d help one another and you got to where they were all brothers it wasn’t some places you don’t have that because you’re here today and gone tomorrow except those are rotated out we we had this crew there until you rotate it out without the same people and we didn’t have military regulations like


you do down at the base camp when we were there our lieutenant with heroines isn’t he wasn’t lieutenant Owens and he wasn’t sergeant O’Neill there were O’Neill and Owens first name outfit all the time whenever the big brass came yes sir her lieutenant Owens and yes sir sergeant because we understood that they was making it easy for us and we can want them to get in trouble


beautiful thank you very much for your story and you’re not many going to get that many in 13 months how what is that that’s all the ribbons plus two Bronze Star how did you get it from the White Horse Mountain and Iron Triangle what would you do we were in that right off right behind that hill yeah and them shells us flying everywhere so you supported that combat medal I’ve got to my record shows two Bronze Stars 


And accommodation from I’ve got a letter accommodation from when we left but that’s water under bridge you know what I can take those two Bronze Stars over here to Ramsey’s and for two dollars on getting me a cup cold