Clyde Fruth was born in Marissa, Illinois on August 10, 1931. After graduating from Marissa High School, he went to work as a butcher in a local grocery store. In 1951, he joined the Army National Guard and completed basic training at Camp Cook, California afterwards completing Radio/Telephone Operator’s school. His unit was activated in 1952 and arrived at Incheon late that year. He was assigned to the 90th Field Artillery Battalion, Battery A, 25th Division as a forward observer and spent the next year on the front lines calling in artillery rounds on enemy forces. He left Korea in July 1953 not long after the armistice was signed. Today, he is lives in Illinois and is active in KWVA Chapter 150.
"You Can Take Your Purple Heart..."
Clyde Fruth describes the mission and the dangers of being a forward observer. During one instance, rock shrapnel bounced off and hit his arm. His Lieutenant advised him to seek medical attention and that he could probably have received a purple heart but he refused.
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"Up to the Hill"
Clyde Fruth describes the daily routine of an Army forward observer. He spent most of his time on the lookout, observing through binoculars at the enemy. He details the type of technology he used as well. He couldn't look too high because he didn't want to be hit by a sniper. He also describes his living conditions.
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Snow and Supplies
Clyde Fruth talks about the most difficult times he had in Korea. He describes deep snows forcing traveling by foot to his mountain forward observer post. In this predicament, they had to carry all their food, supplies, water, and weapons that were heavy to carry in the cold.
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Day by Day
Clyde Fruth talks about the dangers he faced as a forward observer from incoming artillery and snipers. He details about an enemy unit that was always prepared to attack them and would sneak up through the trenches. He describes always have to keep his eyes open for the enemy.
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What it was Worth
Clyde Fruth talks about the gratitude of the Korean people that he experienced during his revisit in 2010. Every person he met in South Korea bowed down to him to thank him for his service. It was a very emotional experience for him.
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[Beginning of Recorded Material]
CF: First name is C L Y D E, Last name is Fruth, F R U T H.
I: F R U T H.
I: Wow, It’s like a fruit plus truth.
I: Does that have an ethnic origin?
I: You’re German-American?
CF: Yeah. My great-grandfather was from Germany.
I: Alright. What is your birthday?
CF: 8/10/31. I’m an old duffer.
CF: A lot of them that age was in the Korean War.
CF: My age.
I: Where were you born?
CF: Born in Southern Illinois.
I: Southern Illinois.
CF: Yeah. The name of the town was Marissa. M A R I S S A.
I: And, tell me about your family when you were growing up. Your family, your siblings, your parents.
CF: Okay. Well, I was born actually on a farm near Marissa, and my dad was, of course, a farmer, and we still lived on the farm when I was… up to when I was 13 years old. At that time,
my brother was called for the Korean, not the Korean, World War II, and so when he left, my dad was unable to farm by himself, and so with no help, we moved off of the farm, and he got a different job.
I: So you have only one brother?
I: No sisters?
CF: No sisters.
CF: I was the sister in the family. [LAUGHS]
I: When did you graduate your high school?
CF: That was the Class of ’49.
I: Which is 1949.
I: What high school?
CG: That was Marissa.
I: Marissa. What did you do after that?
CF: I started working in a grocery store learning to be a butcher.
And that’s what I was doing when I was called to go in then
I: So mostly butchering cows?
CF: Cows, pigs, yeah.
I: You need, sort of knowledge, a lot of knowledge to, to do that, right? You have to know the parts, and you have to exactly put out those parts, right?
CF: Right. Yep. That’s what it’s all about. Cutting the steaks, cutting the roasts, making sausage, the whole works.
I: What is your favorite part from the cow?
CF: From the cow? Probably good steak.
I: Good steak?
I: Where do you get the most good, the best one?
CF: The best steaks? Since I moved up here, that would be
I: No, from the cow. What part?
CF: Yeah, that would be the rib eye steak.
I: Rib eye steak.
I: So that, those are between the ribs?
CF: Yeah, in between the ribs.
I: I feel hungry already. [LAUGHS] So let me ask this question. Did you know anything about Korea at the time that you were graduation and working in the grocery store?
I: Any other country that you knew in Asia at the time?
CF: Japan probably
CF: Because of World War II and everything, talking to some of them. In fact, my brother drove a duck taking the Infantry guys on shore in the islands in the South Pacific,
And, excuse me, that’s why I knew something about Saipan Island. That’s actually where he was at which was under the jurisdiction of the Japanese.
I: But you didn’t know anything about Korea, right?
CF: No sir.
I: What do you think? You are the Korean War veteran now.
You, you were there in Korea, right?
CF: Oh yeah.
I: So, the country that you never knew, right,
I: And now you are Korean War veteran. How do you link the thoughts? What do you think about that? Why did it happen to you?
CF: Well, it happened to a lot of them at that particular time.
I: But to you.
CF: To me?
I: How do you put it into perspective?
CF: A good way would be that they tried to kill me,
but I made it home alive.
I: They tried to kill you?
CF: Well yeah, the enemy.
CF: Every day. Every day Artillery and mortar rounds coming in on us.
I: The country that you saw in 1950 in Korea and the country right now, do you know there is
CF: I know how it is.
I: Tell me.
CF: I went back over there in the year 2010. I took my son so he could see the lay of the country and the mountains and the hills and stuff that we had to climb,
CF: And it was fabulous. There’s one, one little sector close to our hotel that they left three or four blocks long,
they left all the old buildings there, the grass huts, all of that, and then you look over a block from there, and the hotel that we were in 53 stories tall, you know. Unbelievable. Unbelievable. And the, and the Capitol Building. I think that’s 78 stories. That’s,
I’d have never believed it if I hadn’t gone back.
I: What was there when you were in Korea in 1950?
CF: Grass huts, mainly grass huts. That was a way of life, that’s all, you know.
I: You were in Seoul in 2010?
I: When you were in Seoul in 1950’s,
did you see Seoul?
CF: No, I never got to Seoul.
I: Where were you?
CF: Further North.
I: Further North.
CF: Yeah, right on the MLR, Main Line Resistance.
I: What would you tell to the American people who believe that the Korean War is forgotten war? What would you tell them?
CF: To some degree, that’s true
CF: Because it was,
it was put in between, it occurred in between World War II and Vietnam. So it was kind of lost in the shuffle.
I: But as you just told me that there has been unbelievable transformation took place in Korea.
I: So why should it be forgotten?
CF: Well, I think that’s a term of the past now
because it’s, I don’t think it’s as forgotten as it had been, and a lot of it because of men like you, just like when I was there in 2010, they assigned a Sophomore girl to ride with me in the same seat, and she picked my brain the whole time we were on the tour, and
then she had to turn her paper in to the classroom, I think she was a Sophomore, and later I got a letter from her, and she ended up getting an A on her report. So she was happy.
I: So that’s the term of the past, forgetteness, right?
CF: No, we relive it around here. We still relieve our chapter
pretty well because we do things to make the people see what’s going on. We have a float that one of our members pulls in the parades, and it plays patriotic music. Of course it’s got our signs on it and everything. It’s, it’s something to draw the people’s attention, and they stand along the parade route,
you know, thanking us, and we go to eight different parades during the year, during the summer, and it’s tear-jerking. A lot of the members who was likely went through some rough times over there, they just can’t believe it’s happened, that we’re getting all the thank you’s that we do. So it’s not forgotten anymore.
We’re making them think about it.
I: So our history textbook in the school only talks about one paragraph, and Vietnam has much more than that. How do you think that we can correct that problem?
CF: Well, alertness, that’s what you’re doing, and that, that, that seems to be working,
and the fact that we’re out, and I think a lot of the other chapters have either march in the parade or they’ve got a car they ride in or truck or whatever it might be. Excuse me. I think, I think that’s what’s bringing it back to people’s minds.
I: So tell me about when you joined, joined the Army.
CF: Ok. I weighed a whole 132 pounds I think it was. That’s all. I wasn’t very big. My brother was 6’3”. He ate everything away from me.
I: [LAUGHS] So when did you join the Army?
CF: That was, actually it was the National Guard, and they were to be activated
the following year and so that’s when they, when we got our call.
I: What year was that?
CF: That was ’52. 1952.
I: Did you get basic training?
CF: Oh yeah.
CF: Then we went to basic training, Camp Cook, California.
I: Camp Cook.
CF: Yeah. It was an old air base during World War II.
I: What was your MOS?
CF: Radio telephone operator
which in Korea meant you were going to be a forward observer which was not good.
I: Right. That’s a very dangerous mission, isn’t it?
CF: Yeah it is.
I: It’s got to be far from
CF: Every day they kept trying to kill us. Every day because, I don’t know whether you know a lot about that, but we called in the artillery,
you know, to fire and hit the enemy, and if they knock out the forward observers, there was nobody to tell the, our, our men back at the artillery where to shoot, you know, where to fire.
I: So when did you leave United States for Korea? When?
CF: That would, would have been
in., in the Fall of ’52.
I: Do you remember the month?
CF: I think it was, I think it was October. By the time we got there, it was turning cold weather.
I: So you left from San Francisco or Fort Lewis?
CF: Fort Lewis.
I: Where did you go there, from there? Did you go to Japan or
CF: Yep. We made 26 hours in Japan just to get some of our supplies. And then the next
I: How was supply? Was supply good, the guns and others, uniforms? Were they good?
CF: Oh yeah. Yeah. Quality stuff. Yeah we were.
I: And then from Japan to Korea, where did you arrive, Inchon?
CF: Inchon, yeah.
I: So tell me about the Inchon that you saw. How was it?
CF: Actually, I didn’t get to see a lot of it because of right off the ship, you know, down the, down the ladder and on to small landing craft I guess it was. And then a train ride to Chuncheon
and then a truck ride to, to my outfit.
I: What was it?
CF: 90th Field Artillery Battalion,
CF: Battery A,
CF: 25th Division. That’s this, this patch here.
I: Twenty fifth, right?
CF: Yeah, 25th Division.
I: That used to be in Hawaii, right?
I: Yeah. So where was your location? Do you have a name?
CF: At that time, it was let’s see. Let me think a minute. I think the first place we were at was the Chorwon Valley.
I: Chorwon Valley?
CF: Yeah, Chorwon Valley, yeah.
I: And, so you arrived in Chuncheon, and then you went up to North again?
CF: Yep, kept going North, yeah. That’s where the fighting was at that time.
I: So did you stay in Chorwon all the time, or did you move around?
CF: Oh, we moved around. Yeah, we moved around.
I: Any other place you remember?
CF: Well, the last place was
on the Western Front. The hills were Berlin and East Berlin.
I: Uh huh.
CF: And that was held by the First Marine Division, and we shared our observation bunker with the Marines of the First, First Marine Division.
I: Um hm.
I: So tell me about your mission and what you were asked to do and how dangerous that was, any episode that you want to share with us. Tell me please
CF: Okay. Our job was to eliminate the enemy, and, excuse me,
It was our job to locate the enemy, especially artillery, heavy equipment, anything of that nature, and, and also the enemy themselves and call in flyer missions either by our radio or telephone,
depending on which we were using at the time and call in the flyer mission and give them the location and, of course, the artillery. They did all the workings of the coordinates and the estimates and all of that, and then they would start firing in. We would give them our assessment
of what, what destruction we did and make any, any changes in, in where the, where their rounds were hitting, where the artillery was hitting. So from that point on, we’re continuing to look day and night for, for the targets,
and in the meanwhile, they were firing at us, too. Never a day went by, I think I write in one of my books, that it was an everyday occurrence to hit the dirt. Of course, we had helmets on, but still, you put your hands over there, especially to protect
your eyes and face. Actually, I was never wounded, but the artillery and mortar rounds would hit the rocks, and then the rocks, that’s what’s left of the rocks hitting my arm.
I: It’s like a rock shrapnel.
CF: Right, just like the shrapnel, yeah. But it was the pieces,
the little pieces of rock, and the lieutenant that was with us one of the days that had happened, he said you need to go to see the medics, you’ll get a purple heart for that, and I said you can take your purple heart and do this with it. I just want to get out of here with the skin
on my rear end yet.
I: How many men in your team, and what are those roles, you know? The for
C: Observer, yeah.
I: Observer, how many men there, and what are the roles, and tell me your role? What was your role? Yeah.
CF: There was a Second Lieutenant. He was always in charge. There was me. I was a Corporal,
and then most of the time there was the Private or Private First Class,
I: Um hm.
CF: And there was everyone’s role to spend some time
I: So just three?
I: Wow. So who does do coordination?
CF: Well, the Lieutenant if he’s not doing something else at the time.
The, the Private usually was running, do this, do that, whatever, doing all the oddball jobs and so on. I spent most of my time either on binoculars or don’t ask me what the verbiage is for it, but it was
known as a BC Scope, and it had like a periscope on a, on a submarine. It, It, when you looked in, but then it went up, it went out like that because it stuck up further than our, up to our opening in our amperature.
CF: The amperature of our, our hut that we were in,
bunker that we were in. So you didn’t want to be up there looking around because a sniper would get you. So, so you
I: What do you call that?
I: What do you call that?
CF: The snipers?
I: No, no. Scope. The one
CF: B, like in B, A B?.
I: Uh huh.
I: BC Scope.
I: What does BC stand for?
CF: That’s, that’s what I, I don’t remember.
I: Okay, we’ll find it out.
CF: That was verbiage that we used for that, for that scope.
I: Right. So just three. Wow, that’s a. So tell me about, you must have a lot of episodes that almost killed you, right?
CF: Oh yeah. Our, our bunker got hit.
I: Tell me about the typical day. When do you do those? Do you do that in, at night or in the early morning or, so tell me
typical day of your mission as a forward observer.
CF: Okay, once you’d get up, if we had any, any food that, usually the mess Sergeant, when we headed up there, would be up there three days as I remember, and then, no, that’s wrong. I think it was five days up there,
and then, then we’d go back in our outfit for 30 days, get clean clothes, some more supplies, some ammunition for our weapons, for our rifles, and then, then back up to the up to the hill again. That’s what we called it, up to the hill. It was always on a, our bunker
was always on a hill.
CF: Once we got there, we’d relieve the other team and of course they’d go back with the Jeep driver, and then, once we got, got in and got our change of clothes and everything put away, then we would relieve the other, other 40,
and they would, they would leave, and we’d start getting on either binoculars or BC scope, one guy on the BC scope and try to find our targets.
I: So it was mostly during the day?
CF: Well, we also did some at night, but there’s a limit in what you can see at night .
CF: You know, unless the enemy is approaching us very close.
Then it’s a whole different story of course. There was always the Infantry unit right down below us in front of our hill, and of course, they, that varied from the different units of the 25th Division. Also, for a while, the Turks were our supporting Infantry, and you don’t
find them any better than that, although the 25th Division was second, almost second to none. And a guy you had yesterday in here speaking with you, Faley, he, that’s, that was his Division, the 2nd, and he always kept telling me and teasing me that hey, we were second to none, not even you guys he’d say.
I: He was the Irish guy.
CF: Yeah, there you go.
I: I liked him very much. So tell me about what really the most difficult thing to you during your service in Korea. What really bothers you or difficult thing that’s really hard to stand?
CF: Well, one thing was really rough was on days when we had a lot of snow and the Jeep would only go so far
up the side of the hill or mountain, whatever you want to call it, and so we would have to carry what we had which was your pack, your rifle, you may, may have a bandolier of ammunition for your carbine. M1’s we didn’t have. That was Infantry.
We had M2, M2 Carbis, M2 Scorpions. And so you’d have some ammo and then you’d just, some of them would be carrying additional C-rations because after the, the mess Sergeant would always send us up with some fresh stuff. But you run out of that
after about a day or two, and then we would be eating C-rations for the, for the last four, three or four days we were there.
I: So heavy to carry, right?
CF: Right. And then the problem was that we had to we had to carry water out there. So a lot of times you’d have your whole pack and everything plus you’d have two, I guess, they were five gallon cans of water, and the last,
last 100 yards was bad.
I: Yeah, and it was very hilly and mountainous so that’s so hard.
CF: Very hard.
I: I was there. Did you write a letter back to your family?
CF: Oh yeah.
I: What did you write about?
CF: Well, I didn’t, the letters I wrote to my mother, I never talked about the real bad things
because I didn’t want to worry her
any worse than she was. But I’d write to my brother or some of my friends and give them the real story.
I: What was the real story that you tell, told them?
CF: Day by day.
CF: Day by day, you don’t know whether you’re going to survive or not.
I: You were scared.
CF: Because, yep. Every day, every day you’d have incoming rounds. A lot of times, snipers would, would sneak up there as close as they could and try to take pot shots at us. Along, along with that, there was a unit that the enemy had, had a little 45. I think it was 45 caliber or something of that nature, and
one guy would carry ammo and a rifle and the other guy would carry this, this, this little shooting apparatus that they had which was supposed to be 45, I think, caliber, and they would sneak up through the trenches as close as they could, and then as soon as they saw you they’d fire on you. So you had to keep your, had to keep your eyes open the whole time.
I: That’s really scary, isn’t it?
CF: Yes, it is.
Bad as a sniper, only that thing would have more power. Instead of caliber, that might have been millimeter, I don’t know. Either that or projectile, about that big around
I: Does that bother you still? Still?
CF: Oh yes. Sometimes.
if I get to talking to other guys and so on or sometimes I wake up and think about it, not all the time, but, you know, once a month or something like that.
I: Do you have PTSD?
I: Thank God.
I: So you were not wounded at all?
I: Wow, that’s lucky, isn’t it?
CF: Yes it was, very fortunate. Somebody was looking after me. I think he’s looking after me.
I: Wow, that’s amazing. And how much were you paid?
CF: I’m trying to think whether it was, I think it was
$45 a month.
I: No, it was more than that. You have combat pay, too.
CF: Oh yeah. I forgot about that.
I: Yeah. So altogether about $100, right?
CF: Yeah, with that, with the combat pay thrown in, yeah.
I: So what did you do with that money?
CF: And I got it, and I got it every month. Every month that I was there I got combat pay. I think you had to have like artillery guys, we had to have
like, let’s see, I think you had to be fired upon, like four, four or five times I think it is, four or five times a month.
I: And what did you do with that money?
CF: I sent it all home.
I: To whom?
CF: To my mother, and she put it in the bank. So when I got home, I was able to buy
a 1953 brand new Ford.
I: Wow, that’s good. And
CF: And that was only $2000 for a brand new, ’53 Ford.
I: Were there any Koreans working with you?
CF: At times, we had the Rock, Rock Division was, was our supporting Infantry,
Yep, and they were, they were good guys. I have, I have pictures of some of them.
CF: Oh yeah.
I: Did you bring it with you?
CF: Oh yeah.
I: Let me see it later. And what do you think about the Koreans at the time?
CF: Well, I think the y, the police action days are over with. I mean, they were not policemen. That’s what they thought they were named them to begin with. But they were, they
were good, good warriors from what I could see of them. I wasn’t sticking my head out of, out of our amperature opening that often to look, look at them. But yeah, they were, they were, soon as incoming rounds started coming in, they were in the trenches and ready to go.
I: Did, did you have a chance to go to visit Seoul or other part of the Korea at the time?
CF: When I went back?
I: No, no, when you were in 19
CF: Well, one time while I was back in Reserve, they asked me to drive a ¾ ton truck back to have something done with it, and another guy came with a Jeep and picked me up. That was my only look at Seoul. I did take some pictures of it at that time.
I: How was Seoul?
CF: Some places
pretty well beat up, Capital Building all the windows shot out of it, all of that, yeah. Not, not a good picture, not a good picture, train stations, I, I don’t know whether I brought that back with me or not. But train stations, they was pretty well riddled up and shot, shot to heck.
I: So when you go back, when you went back
in 2010, you were able to see the much difference.
CF: Oh Lord. Yeah, well, like my son, you know, he didn’t see it to begin with. So he was, man, it don’t look like they ever had a war here. He kept saying that every day. Look at that, look at that building over there, you know, and look at this, look at that. Yeah.
I: You are the living witness of those transformation made by
CF: Yeah. And I told somebody yesterday that you already interviewed, Cleland, I said, you’re a fool if you don’t go back, and I tell my guys, you know, all the members of our Chapter. You guys are missing the boat. You, you need to see what you helped do.
I: And that is your legacy.
CF: That’s it right there.
I: Right there, right?
CF: We, we helped do what there is today there. And I’m proud of it.
I: You should be.
CF: Very proud of it.
I: Yeah. When you left, when did you left Korea?
CF: Right after the cease fire was signed.
I: So it was 1953
CF: Yep, in July, July 25.
I: When you left Korea, did you think that, ever thought that Korea would become like this today?
CF: No. No. That’s, that’s too much of a transformation. That’s, that’s hard to believe.
Yeah, and my daughter lives with me, and, you know, she says I sent you to the store for three items, and after you’re there a little while, you called me back and you say I got the first two but I can’t think of the third one because I didn’t write it down. But she says you can be talking to somebody in person or on
the phone, any of your other Korean War veteran guys, and, and she says you’ll remember every little, every little detail o, of what happened. And I said well, when it’s, when it happens every day, it sticks with you for a long time. All them years from 1952 to, to now.
85 years old and still remember all them little details.
I: What would you say if you have one minute and asking you to tell about your service in Korea that you see now, what would you tell in one minute?
CF: Oh my. I don’t know what I’d pick out for,
for the most important, it would be hard to do because every, every day there was the same, same thing over and over and over.
I: I’m asking you to do it. You are the Commander of Chapter 150. You should be able to do it.
CF: Well, probably the most, something that stuck with me the most
was when we went back in 2010. Every person you met on the street stopped, bowed to you, and thanked you for your service. That was, that was tough for me, and when I think about it, it’s still, it’s still tough for me. I would have to stop and spend a little time just standing still
and looking the other, other way and, and my son would ask me, you know, do you think, do you think you want to avoid those people on the street, and I said no. I don’t want to avoid them. I said this is what is was, what it, what it was worth right here.
Kind of tough on me.
I: Yeah. The Korea in 1950 was really destroyed, miserable, poor and poorer, poorest country, one of the poorest countries in the world. You didn’t know anything about it. You went there, you sacrificed your life every day, right?
I: At risk because you are at the far front line of the and the MLR, right?
CF: Right, right.
I: Yes. And because of your honorable service and fight, Korea was given to rebuild their nation, and they are now 11th largest economy in the world.
I: It’s a miracle. I think God blessed your sacrifice and your service.
And you were actually extending your hands to the least of the brothers and sisters of Jesus, you know. So you took care of the least of the people, and I think that is the legacy, legacy of the Korean War, and we want to teach that.
CF: And that’s why that gal, little gal, little Sophomore
from the high school rode on the bus with me. I didn’t know that it was gonna happen till that morning, and then she was introduced to me by one of the other people that was lining up our tour for that day.
I: Any other detail that you didn’t share with me today that you want to leave to this interview?
CF: Well, it’s sort of a negative because some of the, some of the GI’s I think went overboard in things like seeing a Korean man with an A-frame and hauling whatever it was, straw or whatever,
for his animals, and they’d be driving along the road and they’d get close enough to where they bumped him enough to push him off the road.
CF: I, I saw that, crazy.
I: Why? Why did they do that?
CF: I don’t know, crazy. Maybe first of all they didn’t know anything about Korea or the people or anything else, the fact that they’re, they’re, not selfish,
you know. They weren’t causing us, they were our friends actually, and a lot of them, a lot of them gave us things and whatever. You asked me earlier about whether I spent much time in Seoul, no, not, not much. But I had to take the, I drove the, I was, I was back in my unit rather than up on the
forward observer position, and they asked me to drive a vehicle, a ¾ ton truck back to Korea and take these, the, we had, our cooks were, were Korean, and was supposed to haul them back there to go to the bank because they changed the, the Korean one,
and they, and they, and these KPs would have a shoebox full of money they were taking, taking in to the banks and coming out with little thing like this because all there was left. That was in that was in ’52 or early ’53. Anyway, took them
there and then the one KP took us to his home for a little, for a little food, and a little rice and something else, I can’t remember what it was. But, so we met, met his whole family, and we had a little food, and we were on our way back up to where we were.
I: What is Korea to you personally now? You didn’t know anything about Korea in 1950 and when you growing up. You went there twice. What is Korea to you personally?
CF: Heck of a good country, I can tell you that. Had to be, and the people who put this all together,
you know, fact that they are leaders in the world now rather than just another little country somewhere hidden away from, you know, because of other countries around Japan and whatever, so yeah. They did one heck of a job, no doubt about it.
I: Are you proud?
CF: Oh yeah.
Proud of the fact that I was a part of it, a small part maybe, but a part of it.
I: That’s it. On behalf of Korean nation, I want to thank you for your fight for Korean nation, and we going to use this material so that teachers and students can listen from you and learn from you about the legacy of the Korean War.
CF: Think it was worthwhile.
I: Yep. Yep. Thank you, sir.
CF: Alright, you’re welcome.
[End of Recorded Material]