Korean War Legacy Project

Clyde D. McKenrick


Clyde D. McKenrick was born in Clinton, Iowa in 1929. After high school, he attended Cornell College before working on a farm and later a local sash and door factory. He was drafted into the US Army in early 1952 and attended basic training at Camp Crowder, Missouri and cryptography school at Camp Gordon, Georgia. He was sent to Korea and was assigned to the 931st Engineering/Aviation Group (Kimpo Air Base) where he worked as a personnel clerk for 11 months until he was rotated back to the US in October 1953.  He finished his service at Fort Walters, Texas and was discharged from the Army. Today, he lives in Illinois and is active in the KWVA.

Video Clips

What is Cryptography?

Clyde McKenrick describes the job of a cryptographer. This is an older version of coding. He explains that a cryptographer encodes and decodes information, allowing for secure communication between units. This allows enemies to not access confidential information.

Tags: Suwon,Basic training

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"What Kind of Trouble Are You In?"

Clyde McKenrick tells an amusing story of when he was called into the office of an alarmed personnel director because the FBI had been asking questions about him. He had no idea why the FBI was interested in him. He explains that the FBI interest was because of the security clearance he needed to become a cryptographer.

Tags: Suwon,Basic training,Fear

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Half-Brothers, Meeting for the First Time in Korea

Clyde McKenrick tells the remarkable story of reconciliation of two soldiers in his unit. The two men were half-brothers that had never met until assigned to the same barracks in Korea. He talks about how their relationship went from an uneasy beginning and evolved to a close friendship.

Tags: Suwon,Pride

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A New Mess Sergeant

Clyde McKenrick talks about his duties as a personnel clerk in Korea. He was responsible for assigning new personnel to appropriate units. He tells the story of assigning a corporal to the duties of mess sergeant and the fortuitous results that happened.

Tags: Suwon,Food,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of Transcribed Material]

C:        My name is Clyde McKenrick.  I was born in Clinton, Iowa. I grew up on a farm.  And I graduated from a consolidated high school. And I also did a year and a half in college at Cornell College in Cedar Rapids.  After that, I came home and worked on the farm,



a farm, for about, let’s see.  I came home in early April from college.  And then I worked on the farm, a farm, until I, till the following March.



And I went to work in Clinton at that time at a sash and door factory.  And I became an Inventory Control Clerk.  And my typing experience is what put me there.  And I had been there, that was in 1948.  And in 1952,



I was drafted.  And I went into the service.  I was drafted from Clinton, Iowa.  And I was, took my swearing in ceremony in Des Moines. And then I went to Camp Crowder, Missouri where I took my training, the test that I had to



take, and the sent me then to Camp Gordon, Georgia.  I was to go down there and become a Cryptographer.  I assumed it was because of my typing skills that got me that far.  And when I got to Georgia, I went through Crypto school.  And then we were to be assigned to overseas duty.  Some of my



classmates in crypto class went to Europe.  But there were five of us in my class there.  I and four other of my soldier buddies were sent to Korea.  We were to go to Korea.  All five of us were sent to the same base in Korea.



By the time we got there, I mean we had been through Japan when we went over on the boat.  And we landed in Yokohama and took the train to Iwakuni Air Base in Japan, then flew from there to Kimpo.  And I have it written down there that landing at Kimpo was a real experience because



we, the pilots, I think did it on purpose, they headed right into some of the buildings, and you could see the shell marks and everything.  And for us farm kids, it was quite an experience.  I got sent, or all five of us, got sent over to the 931st(INAUDIBLE) Aviation Crew, which is a



well, lack of a better word, a bastard outfit because we were Army, but we were attached to the Air Force.  We were an engineering group, but we were crypto people.  We were an engineering group.  So, when we got to 9331st, all five of us were interviewed individually.



I was selected to stay at Headquarters.  The other four were parceled out to the four battalions that were under us at different airfields. So, that’s where we were.  And I was crypto of course, but I did not do any crypto work.  In fact, the five of us,



all five of us, became clerks.  I was a personnel clerk at Headquarters.  One of the guys was a postal clerk at battalion Headquarters.  One of them was a courier, and one was a motor clerk.  I mean, he was with the Motor Pool, but all he did was, he was clerical.



And the same way with the last guy.  He was a cleric.  He was company clerk.  And so all five of us, though we went through crypto school, none of us became crypto operators.  The radio operators that were with our units were the crypto people because it was just the basic crypto machine that we had.  And I was there for 11 months



and three weeks.  And when we went to return to the States, I still had time to go.  I was, that was in July, and I had time to go till October before I could be discharged.  And so, I was assigned to another air base.  And I became



a legal clerk at this air base for the company that, the battalion that I was with at that time.  And if I remember correctly, it was 435th.   I can’t swear by it, but I think that’s what it was.  And I was the legal clerk there.  I did not take shorthand.  But the captain in charge said that’s alright, Clyde.  He says if you can’t get it down in longhand,



we’ll have them repeat it.  So, I took well, well, I was there for what, I got down there in the first part of early August, and I was discharged in early October.  And I had about four trials a week that I had to take



testimony in that I took in longhand.  And then went back and typed it.  And the captain that I had had in Korea happened to come by in early September.  He had been rotated back, and he was in another unit in that place. He happened to come in to talk to the



officer in charge where we were.  And he walked by my desk, turned around, come back, shook my hand and said when are you scheduled for discharge?  And I told him.  And he says tell you what.  Re-up.  You’ll come over to my unit and you’ll be a Sergeant.  And I said sir, I can’t do that cause I says I want to get out.



He says ok.  I gave you the chance.  And he turned around and walked away.  And then I worked there until the middle of, or the early part of October when I was discharged.

I:          Can you explain for younger generations who will watch this about crypto?  What does that mean?

C:        It’s Cryptography, coding in, to be able to communicate in code between



units.  And there were several different machines that you would use like if you look in the newspaper, there’s a cryptogram in some of the papers. I do those every day.  I keep track of that.  That’s what a cryptographer does is he encodes and decodes what people want to, what



one unit wants to send to another unit.  And so that they have complete communication without being intercepted by the enemy.  So that’s what I did.  When I was coming home between the time I graduated from crypto school till I was being sent overseas, I had my



leave of absence.  So, I went down to the place where I had been working, and I walked into Personnel so I could sign in, so I could get to the other places and talk to the people that I had worked with there.  The person who was the Personnel Director saw me walk through the door.  He came out, grabbed me by the arm, took me in his office,



closed the door and said what kind of trouble are you in?  And I looked at him and I says I don’t think I’m in any trouble.  He says the FBI was in here asking questions about you.  What kind of trouble are you in?  And I said, I laughed at him, and I says, his name was Paul, and I says



Paul, I says I have a security clearance.  And he sat down real hard in his chair, and he says I couldn’t get out of my mind what did he possibly do?  He says I couldn’t see you doing anything that would get you into that kind of trouble.  So that was one of my stories.  Another one that I think is rather interesting



is when we were overseas.  We had, our barracks was alphabetized all down one side and down the other.  And we had a couple of people with the same last name.  And one was a courier for us, and one was a mechanic



in the Motor Pool.  They were right side by side.  They had the same last name.  One was white.  One was colored.  They came from the same town.  They had the same father.  They were half-brothers.  They knew that they were half-brothers.  They had never talked to each other



because their mothers had raised them separate.  And the one would not come in the barracks until the other one had either gone or gone to sleep.  Then he would come in and go to bed.  And then he would usually get up early in the morning and get out of there until one time well, about a week after this started,



Paul, the white soldier, woke up when Steve came in and he got up out of bed and he says Steve, I know you are my half-brother.  He says we have no control over what our father did.  But we can at least be civil to each



other.  And so, they were.  They were best buddies after that.  And that’s one of the stories that I have, that I think an awful lot of.  I used to go into Seoul once a month because of my position as clerk.  I had to go in and get the company payroll.  Well, I got the



enlisted payroll.  And the Lieutenant who was my boss at that point, he rode along in the jeep with us, and he would get the officers payroll.  And then we would come back from Seoul and make the distribution.  But it was interesting the fact that the Lieutenant would sit behind.  I would sit next to the driver.  The driver would have a



pistol.  I would be sitting there with an M1.  The Lieutenant behind me was sitting there with a carbine.  Why, only because we were carrying script because they didn’t want us to be robbed otherwise.  I did that for 11 months once a month.



I:          Can you paint me a picture of what was your job like?  What did you see?

C:        What did I see?  What I did over there was I was an enlisted clerk.  And any of the enlisted people that were being brought into our units would come to, the Headquarters unit was where I was stationed.  They would come in there, and we would


determine where, which one of our sub-units they would go to.  That’s another story that I’ve got that I can tell.  In my duties there, I was instructed to go through the Form 20’s of these soldiers and determine where they would be best situated because I knew what each of the battalions needed cause they had listed what they needed.



And we were losing our Master Sergeant who was our Mess Sergeant.  We were losing him.  He was being transferred back to the States. I mean, his term, his time was up.  And I happened to look through at the Form 20’s of these Corporals, Privates and Corporals and Sergeants who were coming through, and I found a Corporal from



Minneapolis.  And his civilian duties had been, he grew up working in his dad’s bakery.  Well, I called him in, sat him down and I said I see here that you used to work in a bakery.  I said what did you do there?  He says I did everything.  My dad was getting older, and he was gonna turn it over to me.  He says it’ll be mine when I get back.


And I said we’re losing our Mess Sergeant.  Would you be interested? And he looked at me, and he says man, would I ever.  I would get out of the Motor Pool, wouldn’t I?  And I said yes, you would.  He says I’ll take it.  And so, he came in, took over the Mess Sergeant’s duties, had time to spend, about a week with the Mess Sergeant, get located



there.  A week later, he came to the captain of the company there and he said sir, he said, if the enlisted men will do without sugar in their coffee at the 10:00 coffee hour, he says, they can have cake and cookies with the coffee.  (INAUDIBLE) looked at him and says you men you could make



cake and cookies if they don’t have sugar in their coffee?  The Sergeant or the Corporal said yes. He says the officers will do without their sugar, too.  And so, we all had coffee and cookies, cake and cookies then after that.  But that’s one of the things that you find out when you look at a Form 20 and you see what they did in civilian life.  And he was a great, great cook.  I mean,



we had, I mean, the cakes he would make. I mean, it was just, of course, he used to bake the big pans.  They were just, they’d melt in your mouth.  At least they did over there.

I:          Um hm.  You said you were drafted.  What does that feel like to be drafted?

C:        Well, there were, the draft was in effect.  And I remember on well, it was December 7,



1951, that I got my first notice.  My friends and neighbors had decided that I should be a soldier, or I should be in the service.  And therefore, I would go to Des Moines for a physical on, I don’t know, it was the 20th of December.



And so, I did.  And then on the 7th of January you know, in two weeks, I was back out in Des Moines being inducted into the service.  So, it didn’t take long to get me in.

I:          Before you went, what did you know about Korea?  What did you think about going to war at the time?
C:        Well, at the time, I mean I was reading the newspapers and all that.  And I was married.  And I used to think uh,



what a horrible, that’s the best word I can use, what a horrible situation.  And I had friends. I had a family, relatives that had been there earlier.  And so, you know, I was, I knew that Korea was there.  And when I got my notice, my draft notice, it didn’t surprise



me because I was that age.  And I was 21, 22.  Which was it?  Yeah, 22.  And so I knew that I was eligible to go.  It didn’t surprise me.  And I didn’t try to get out of it either. I didn’t go to Canada.



And so otherwise, I went because I was called to do it.  And it was just, that was what we did.

I:          When you got there, what was it like?
C:        When we went over, we went over by boat.  And the boat we were on was, there was



numerous of us that were in one section that were both Army, Air Force, Navy, I mean, we were a varied group.  The rest of the ship was all Marines.  Those poor buggers had to stand out on the deck every day with their rifles and do calisthenics and all of that stuff.



Then they had to go back in and take the salt air out of their weapons.  And we felt so sorry for them.  We were, those of us that were in that one group, the Air Force, the Navy, the Army people, we were on KP mostly.  And any, we did most of the,



well, the Marines were there training.  We weren’t.  We were there actually being transported.  But we did the stuff that had to be done, you know, mopped the latrines and, I was fortunate.  I was assigned to what they called dry storage.



I mean, that was where all the candy, cake mixes, cookies and stuff was stored, would go into the galley.  And that’s where I, that’s what I worked on for the 11 days that we were aboard ship.  Of the guys that were in my unit and worked in the Personnel Office that I was in, we have one guy



left, and he’s in a nursing home in Chicago.  It was, that’s a story outside of the military that I won’t get into here.

I:          What kind of friendships or comradery did you build through the Service?

C:        Very much, very much.  This fellow that’s in the nursing home in Chicago right now, he was,



he sat right next to me, in a desk right next to me.  He too, was a typewriter, typist.  He knew shorthand. I didn’t.  But he was the officer’s clerk. I was the enlisted clerk.  And we got along famously.  We come home, you know, transferred back here.  I got sent to



Fort Walters by Fort Worth.  And he was sent, I think, to Shenoot Field where he was released from the Service.  About a year, a year and a half later, my wife’s cousin was getting married.



So, she was in Chicago, and her boyfriend was in Chicago.  And they were coming out, and we were gonna meet, talk to them.  We were gonna meet him because we knew the cousin.  And we got to the house. I walked in, and here’s my buddy.  He’s the best man.



And we didn’t know it.  Neither one of us knew that the other one was gonna be there.  And it was just a real, and that’s, I kept in contact with him ever since.  But he and my wife’s cousin’s husband were great, were big buddies and they communicate hot.  And so, of all the people when I was over there, he’s the



only one that’s left that I know of, that I ever kept contact with.

I:          What was it like to come back?  What was it like to transition?
C:        Uh, it wasn’t too hard because I had been three months in Texas. It wasn’t as though I was coming back out of combat zone.  It was



just a military base.  And that’s, it was a military base.  The radio operator that we had in Korea was from that town.  And he wrote his folks that I was being transferred there, and why don’t you help him find a place to stay?



They did.  They came out to the base where I was, Walter’s Air Force Base and talked to me and he said you know, Marvin told us that you were coming.  Why didn’t you come down to the, they had a store in downtown Walters.  And why didn’t you come to the store?  Well, we figured we ought to get settled



first.  Well, where are you at?  Oh, they said, that’s too expensive. So, they said we’ll see about getting you a little cheaper place.  And they did.  They got us a three-bedroom apartment instead of a five-bed, or a three-room apartment instead of a five-room apartment.  And it was about half of what the other was.  We got to, he even made sure that the


people that have the five-room apartment knew that we were going to be moving out, and we could move out at any time, and we’d get out money back.  So, that’s one of the advantages of knowing some people I guess.  But otherwise, it was, there was nothing exceptional about my service other than I found I had some good friends.



And found some good friends.

I:          And have you had a chance to revisit Korea at all?
C:        No.  I don’t, it’s, when the Korea Reborn book just dumbfounded me, to think that South Korea has grown so much.  And when we went to the 60th Anniversary



there in Chicago, to see the Korean people have, I don’t want to say matured, but grown so much.  They’re just, it’s beautiful.  And I think it’s wonderful.  But



no, I haven’t, I’ve done the Honor Flight, and I was impressed with that.  And, but I have not been to Korea again.  I don’t know if I really want to.  I like to remember what I saw there.  And then I can look at the book and see what a tremendous job they’ve done.   Otherwise,



I’ve not really made any, I have no real desire, I don’t think, to go to Korea.

I:          How does it feel now as you get to see the book and where they’ve come?  How does it feel to have been a part of that way back?

C:        Oh, it’s unbelievable to see how far they have grown.  It’s amazing.  It’s just



absolutely amazing.  I mean, I remember seeing the people walking down the road with their basket of stuff on their head.  And then looking across the road at the huts that are over there and seeing the fish drying on the roof, on the thatched roof.



I mean, it’s just, there’s, that’s not there anymore.  And it’s wonderful.  I think it’s great.  I’m very glad that the U.S. had the opportunity to go in and assist the South Koreans in defending themselves against Communism.

I:          Your time in the Service, how has that impacted your life?

C:        It made me appreciate,


I think, what I had here or I didn’t take it for granted after then.

I:          Is there anything that you would like to impart to the younger generation or wisdom that you feel you gained?

C:        All I can say is if you’re free, fight to stay free.

I:          How has, you know, your time in the Service, how has it made you feel towards war or military service?



C:        I appreciate military service immensely.  War is a necessity at times.  I don’t like it.  But war is a necessity at times.  We must stand firm if we intend to remain free cause there’s too many.



I don’t want to call them people, but too many individuals that want to take freedom away from us.  And I hope they never succeed.  They haven’t yet.