Korean War Legacy Project

Daryl J. Cole


Daryl J. Cole was born in Britton, South Dakota in 1931.  After graduating from Columbia High School in Columbia, South Dakota in 1949, he worked on a farm in South Dakota and for the timber industry in North Dakota and Minnesota.  In 1951, he decided to enlist in the Army after many of his peers had already been drafted or enlisted.  Although he was trained as an infantryman, he was transferred to a field artillery unit while in Korea.  Upon returning home he took classes in Agriculture at South Dakota State College (later SDSU) and was married.  The tremendous success of the Korean people in the Republic of Korea is a source of great pride for him.

Video Clips

Impressions of Incheon

Daryl J. Cole describes the destruction at Inchon and his transfer from infantryman to artilleryman. He explains that the war torn city of Inchon had been thoroughly devastated by the time he arrived. He recalls the civilians hauling the "honey buckets," the refuse from the toilets to fertilize their crops. He goes on to explain his hasty transfer from infantry to artillery overnight, unbeknownst to him.

Tags: Incheon,Civilians,Impressions of Korea,Physical destruction

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"People needed us."

Daryl J. Cole describes his motivations while in battle. He explains that his position was only two or three miles away from the front lines and all the while he was continuously thinking the war needed to end. He explains feelings of great sympathy for the South Korean people whose entire lives had been reduced to rubble.

Tags: Civilians,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,Physical destruction

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Living Conditions

Daryl J. Cole describes the living conditions he experienced while in Korea. He describes living in a basic canvas tent with a cot and sleeping bag and a small stove in the middle of the tent. He recalls always having a good, hot meal, being able to take a shower about once a week and the foot fungus he brought home after the war. He goes on to recount his correspondence back home with his father.

Tags: Food,Front lines,Letters,Living conditions

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Video Transcript


Daryl J. Cole:              Daryl J. Cole D-A-R-Y-L J. C-O-L-E


Interviewer:                What is your birthday?


D:        6/18/31


I:          And where were you born?


D:        Britton, South Dakota.


I:          B–


D:        R-I-T-T-O-N


I:          Britton, South Dakota. And tell me about your family when you were growing up, your parents and siblings when you were growing up.


D:        Dad was John L. Cole and mother was Francis M.




Marie Cole, Callaghan Cole.


I:          Mm-hmm.


D:        And I have two sisters, one Hazel, since deceased, and Evelyn is lives in Sturgis, South Dakota–Piedmont.


I:          So you are the –you were the only boy.


D:        I’m the only boy, the runt of the family.


I:          Hm.  Tell me about the school you went through.


D:        Went 12 years to Columbia High School in Colombia South Dakota




and then four years of college in South Dakota State College, at that time, now University. Plus other educational courses with combined with banking and insurance and such.


I:          Mm-hmm. And when did you graduate high school?


D:        1949.


I:          What is the high school name?


D:        Columbia Independent High School.


I:          Columbia?




D:        C-O-L-U-M-B-I-A


I:          Dependent High School?


D:        Independent.


I:          Independent High School. Let me ask this question, did you learn anything about Korea from the school?


D:        No never heard of it there.  In ’49 we never heard nothing.


I:          Did you know where it was?


D:        Nope.


I:          You have no knowledge about Korea?


D:        None.


I:          Had you imagined that you’d be




and live in Korea and fighting for the country?

D:        Not until the [freeka] started.  Then I knew I probably would.


I:          So, what did you do after the graduation of high school?


D:        Oh worked on farm for a year, two years. Spent some time up in North Dakota or Northern Minnesota cutting pulp wood and timber. And then come home and join the Army.


I:          When did you join the Army? Did you join it




or you–were you drafted?

D:        I joined, RA.


I:          Hm, when?


D:        1951, January of ’51.


I:          And where did you get the basic?

D:        Fort Riley, Kansas.


I:          And what–after that what did you do?


D:        for a while I was in the training with the airborne down in Camp Campbell Kentucky


I:          Mm-hmm.


D:        And I couldn’t cut that heat so I




ended up being transferred to ship out to Korea.


I:          Do you remember when was that?


D:        Must have been either September or October


I:          Of?


D:        of ’49–na–yea–no–


I:          ’41


D:        No ’51.




I:          Yeah,’41– ’51.


D:        ’51.


I:          October?


D:        Yeah.


I:          You say? Where–where did you depart from?


D:        San Francisco.


I:          San Francisco. And then, where did you go from there?


D:        Went to Sasebo, Japan.


I:          Mm.


D:        To Incheon Korea, which was after the Incheon invasion. And then by train down to Wonju and then back up to the front.




I:          Tell me when you landed in Incheon how was it? What did you see? Do you remember the scene of Incheon? People? City?

D:        It was pretty devastated.  And well, we had facilities.  One thing that everybody comes in and out of there remembers is what we called the old honey buckets.  [laughing]


I:          [laughing] Honey–


D:        And there wasn’t much there.


I:          Honey buckets what does that mean?




Explain it to people.


D:        It was Korean civilians that were hauling the refuge out of the toilets.


I:          Hm.


D:        and we called them honey buckets. They used that to fertilize and that.


I:          What else did you see? Do you remember?


D:        Well, I went to sleep I was still in the infantry, I woke up I was in the artillery.  Someone transferred along the way.  [laughing]




I:          [laughing]


D:        That’s all they’ll do is take a pile of papers and the MP’s needed so many people and the artillery needed so many. I happened to go artillery. No training whatsoever.


I:          No training at all?


D:        No training in artillery.


I:          What was your unit?


D:        780thBaker Battery 780thField Artillery Battalion.


I:          78th?


D:        7-8-0


I:          7-8-0 filed artillery.


D:        Battalion, yep.




I:          And was it detached, I mean attached to division?


D:        10thcore.


I:          10thcore.


D:        This is an 80 inch outfit.  Big cannons.


I:          Hmm.


D:        eight–Four split trail towed and one SP.  One self-propelled.


I:          What was your rank?

D:        At that time, I was a private?


I:          Private?

D:        Just private.


I:          Hmm. Your specialty was? You belonged to artillery




but you didn’t know how to do it right?


D:        Yeah, I primarily was a quadrant person.


I:          Quadrant?


D:        Quadrant.


I:          What is that?


D:         That is the instrument that is used to for the elevation of the barrel of the cannon.


I:          But you said that you didn’t know how to deal with those.


D:        You’re correct.


I:          Did you learned it there?


D:        Well, it’s got numbers [laughing]


I:          [laughing]


D:        If you could read a 28, you’re in business. [laughing] whatever.




I:          That simple.


D:        That simple.


I:          So you from Incheon you went to Wonju?


D:        By train.


I:          By train.


D:        never got off the train went back up to the front how far, how close, I don’t know.


I:          You said it’s a Wonju?


D:        Wonju, clear down on the tip.


I:          That’s where you stationed?


D:        Nope.


I:          Through Wonju.


D:        We come–come in from Japan to Incheon. From Incheon, we got on a train and went to Wonju, never




got off the train and come back up to the front.


I:          Mm-hmm.


D:        That was the only accessible railroad, I guess.


I:          do you remember any name that you were there? The–the place? Punchbowl?


D:        We were stationed just on the bottom of the Iron Triangle.


I:          Oh I see.  And what did–what did you do there?




D:        Well, helped fire the cannon.


I:          How often was it?


D:        Intermittent. At one time, we–we worked on it for 56 straight hours.


I:          56 hours?


D:        Yep we got time off to go to the bathroom and 1, 2, 3 people at a time go eat and right back on it.


I:          Oh my goodness.


D:        North Koreans were having a big push, at that time, or the Chinese which–


I:          Mm-hmm.


D:        Whichever one.




I:          Must be very difficult.


D:        It was.


I:          Hm.


D:        That it was.


I:          Tell me about it more detail when you had to shoot 56 hours in a row.


D:        Yeah it well, Usan in–invasion are charged by the North Koreans or the Chinese and you had to do something to help out the infantry and the guys in the fox holes, because they were getting in trouble so we just fired all four of our guns




there in that area where we could hit them.  Using what we called a VT fuse, which is a radio active–activated fuse which would come so close to something it would blow up by the radio waves. Devastating.


I:          Hm. You were at the rear are?


D:        2 ½, 2–2, 3 miles back.


I:          Mm-hmm.




From the iron triangle.


D:        Well, no, from the front lines wherever we happened to be. We did move a couple times.


I:          What were you thinking? You didn’t know anything about Korea ad you came to that country and you fighting there shooting 56 hours in a row. What were you thinking?


D:        I hope we get done.  [laughing] no its–people needed us it was–




the South Korean people were in damn tough shape, lets put it that way.


I:          Hmm.


D:        Their towns were gone. The little towns you’d see the cornerstone coming in and the cornerstone going out if you was on the road and that’s it. Rubble in between.  They think these earthquakes were rubble, they aint seen nothing.


I:          Hmm.  What was the most difficult thing during your service there?




D:        Well, other than the work, that was hard, I would say during–I was there most of the winter, all the winter actually, because we got in there what–September, October, left in June. Left on my 21stbirthday. And the cold.  You had to fight. You’re living in a tent, so about it.


I:          Hm. Very cold.




D:        Well, if you call 20 below, 40 below cold, yes, [laughing]


I:          [laughing]


D:        That it was. Some of those poor Southern boys, they hurt.


I:          So, did you stay there all the time until you left Korea?


D:        No, I I was a track driver also.  My MOS was a track driver and I drove the ammunition truck.




And the track went bad, truck went bad and–and then I got onto a– got transferred to a–no, that’s later on. I got TDI up onto a self-propelled Howitzer mechanism loaded on a 155 Howitzer chassis.  And we right on top of the mountains. It was called




Operation Mountain Goat.


I:          Operation Mountain Goat.


D:        Yep.


I:          Mm-hmm.


D:        And took the engineers took that self-propelled, 8 inch self-propelled cannon right to the top of the mountain. And we were right on top of it and then shoot across the valley, straight into the North Korean lines right straight into their bunkers.


I:          How powerful was that?


D:        What?




I:          How powerful was that?


D:        Well, the cannon, the 80 inch cannon will have an accurate range of about 12 miles.  You could push it to 15, but we were at 18–about 1,800 yards we were shooting like this–


I:          Downward


D:        just like with a deer rifle.  Straight in.  And using a, what we call a CP fuse, which is a concrete piercing, which would go through 8-10 foot of concrete




before it explodes.


I:          That operation might have been really, really threatening to North Korean enemies, right?


D:        Right.


I:          Yeah.


D:        All their forward observers and everything. They–they didn’t have an air force or airplanes so they–as far as locating their shots of artillery or mortar shots onto the American troops or UN troops, they had to do it from the mountain tops.


I:          Mm-hmm.




D:        Where as we had airplanes it would be our forward observers and fire directory.  So…


I:          Yeah.


D:        And this–there’s one way of taking them out.


I:          You were in the rear area so, where–what–where did you sleep? Where did you eat? Tell me about the life there except the battle there.


D:        Well, we had squad tents, which I don’t recall exactly how many troops were–


I:          Quonset?




D:        No, squad tents.


I:          Tents.


D:        No, no Quonset.


I:          Mm-hmm.


D:        Just tents.  Just a plain old canvas tent.


I:          Mm-hmm.


D:        With a sleeping cot and–and sleeping bag. Had a stove in the middle, which helped some.  Put your beer under the cot and it’d be frozen in the morning. And had a big tent to eat in and the cooks had a tent to cook in.  They were attached to each other.




Pretty good food.


I:          You got hot meal though, right.


D:        Oh yes.  Yeah, we did, yes.


I:          That’s very good.


D:        Yep.


I:          Were you able to take a shower?


D:        I think about once a week, if I recall.


I:          Once a week?

D:        we could go back. Maybe it was two weeks I–I it was too long ago I just don’t remember that stuff.  It was not v–


I:          So it must be very smelly.


D:        Not very sanitary [laughing]


I:          [laughing] and your wife told me that




You got something, fungus in your toe.


D:        Yeah.


I:          Do you think you got it from there?


D:        Yeah, didn’t have it when I got there, had it when I left, so.


I:          Yeah right.


D:        Well, you don’t have the clean socks, you don’t have dry shoes, boots probably, you know, you’re out in the snow and in the mud and the whole works.


I:          How did you take care of your uniform cleaning? Did you?


D:        You know, we shipped them out and I don’t know how




Often. Just–just fatigues no–no class A’s at all.  You see M*A*S*H* and they all got their class A uniforms and that.  Uh-huh.


I:          No way.


D:        No way, just fatigues and field jackets, helmets. We did have pretty good caps that came down over the ears, you know, with the rabbit fur and that.


I:          Hm.  What bothers you most?





D:        I don’t know. Just a little bit of everything, I think. Nothing real–nothing real serious.


I:          Mm-hmm. Were you writing letters to your family?


D:        Yeah.


I:          Did you have a girlfriend at the time?


D:        Actually no.


I:          No?


D:        Kind–kind of yes, kind of no.


I:          Hm. Did you know your wife?


D:        No.  We didn’t know.


I:          You didn’t know.




D:        We didn’t know each other existed, at that time.


I:          Mm-hmm.  And did you write letter back to your family?


D:        To my father, yes.  My mother–my mother was deceased.


I:          What did you write?


D:        Just what was going on.  Just, you know, working, firing, whatever.


I:          Did that give you pleasure? To write letter and receive letter?


D:        I gotta say yes.




I didn’t receive many. But yeah, it did.


I:          What do you think that made you go through all of this difficult times?


D:        What do you mean what made me go through it?


I:          Yeah, what made you go through it?


Female Voice:            Why did you enlist?


D:        I enlisted and that was it.  Everybody–all the young guys from home did.




Not necessarily enlisted, got drafted or joined the Air Force, joined the Navy–


I:          Mm-hmm.


D:        Whatever.


I:          So, you volunteered so that you just stick to it?


D:        Yeah.


I:          Mm-hmm. Have you seen any other parts of Korea, at the time?


D:        One time, they took a bunch of us drivers and took us up over the mountain range heading south. Picked up a




105 unit that was manned by the South Korean troops


I:          Mm-hmm.


D:        and drove them with their cannon back over the mountains. Because they–they weren’t used to driving big trucks full of stuff so a bunch of us drivers did that. Primarily the drivers form the Northern parts of the United States.


I:          Mm-hmm.


D:        It was temporary duty for, I don’t know, two three days.




I:          Anything you remember about the–the scene that you saw during that?


D:        No, not really.


I:          Hm. Have you been in Seoul?


D:        Shipped out of Seoul, yes, but that’s all.


I:          But Seoul was pretty much damaged, right?


D:        Yeah wasn’t in too good of shape, right.


I:          Can you tell me the detail of the scene of Seoul city?


D:        No, I cant.


I:          Hm. When did you leave






D:        On my birthday. On my 26thbirthday, 6/18/52.


I:          And after return, what did you do?


D:        after I returned, I was stationed in Camp McCoy Wisconsin.


I:          Is there any impact of the war upon your life after you return from Korea?




D:        College education.


I:          GI Bill?


D:        Yeah.

I:          So, what did you do?


D:        Went to South Dakota State University, or College, university.


I:          Mm-hmm.  College, and what did you study?


D:        Well, I started out as a pre-vet, pre-veterinarian work, but I didn’t have any science and that in high school


I:          Background.


D:        No background on it, other than working on a farm.


I:          Mm-hmm.




D:        And I just couldn’t–I couldn’t cut the math and the science on it, the chemistry on it, didn’t have the pre-training on it.  So, I went into General Ag.


I:          General what?


D:        General Agriculture.


I:          Agriculture.  GI Bill did that pays your tuition and some stipend right?


D:        It was $135 a month.




I:          Mm-hmm.


D:        I got married to my wife [Onnie] and that raised it to, if I recall right, $165 a month. And that was it.


I:          Mm-hmm.


D:        Otherwise, you tried to work some, she tried to work some and you depended a lot on the–what was at that time a Clarkston Fund.


I:          Have you been back to Korea?


D:        No, I haven’t.




Our daughter has been there–


I:          Why?


D:        quite often. She works with the intelligence– Department of Defense Intelligence. She knew a lot of the–she ended up in Korea quite often. She knew a lot of the Korean generals and that.


I:          Hm.


D:        Intertwined.


I:          Army?


D:        Yep.


I:          Rank?


D:        [Joel] was, at that time, was in the Air Force, I’m sorry.


I:          Air Force.


D:        When you said Army, I thought you meant me.


I:          Mm-hmm.


D:        So, no, she was in the Air Force at that time.




I:          Mm-hmm. So did she tell you about the Korea? Modern Korea?


D:        We have pictures of it and boy that is different.


I:          Tell me about that, how did you feel?


D:        Those high rises from what’s flat as that floor up to the high rises and that its fantastic is what it is. That’s been a long time ago.


I:          Mm-hmm. Anything you know




other than that about the Korean economy?


D:        No, not really.


I:          Hm.


D:        Because we were, like I say, a separate unit. We had Korean civilians working where we were– to get the ammunition.


I:          No about right now. The Korean economy now any–anything?


D:        Oh the economy, I’m sorry.


I:          Yeah, yeah.


D:        My fault. I don’t know much about it, but as I understand, it is pretty good.


I:          It’s the 11thlargest economy in the world.




D:        11th?


I:          Yeah.


D:        That’s good, that’s good.


I:          Can you believe it?


D:        No, that’s hard to believe, but of course my experience with it is over 60 years ago so… 65 years.


I:          Your daughter knows about it.


D:        Yeah.


I:          Yeah. And what kind of vehicle do you have right now?


D:        I have a Buick and a Ford pickup.


I:          Buick?


D:        And a Ford pickup.


I:          Mm-hmm.




Korea making lots of motor vehicles.  Hyundia, Kia right?


D:        Kia, yes.


I:          You heard about it, right?


D:        Oh yes.


I:          Yes.


D:        Yeah.


I:          And now, the Korean economy is very strong and substantive democracy in East Asia, the Korea.  So, after you fought for the Korea, we came out of devastation and almost ruin completely, but now the country




is very well advanced.


D:        They’re good people.

I:          But we were able to do that because you–


D:        We helped.


I:          Protected. You helped us.


D:        Yeah.


I:          that is your legacy.


D:        Yeah.


I:          But American history textbook doesn’t tell much about the Korean War.


D:        Nope. You don’t hear much about it.


I:          I mean, despite such a good outcome out of the Korean War,




D:        Yep.


I:          It’s still known as forgotten.  Why is that?

D:        I don’t know. It could be ranked up there pretty good.

I:          Yeah.


D:        But it was in the relapse between the Second World War and Vietnam, which were bigger and although there was more people lost in the Korean War than in the Vietnam in a shorter time.


I:          Right.


D:        But not the–


I:          That’s why we are doing this.


D:        Yeah.


I:          Your interview will be heard




By the students and they will know more about the Korean War.


D:        I hope they do.


I:          Yeah.  Yep. Do you want to go back to Korea?


D:        I would like to, yes, but at our age, it’s about impossible. [Laughing]


I:          [laughing] any other message you would want to leave to this interview?


D:        Oh no, I don’t–I don’t believe so, I think the




Korean people treated us good and I think we helped them a lot, which was the foundation of the thing. Because back then, us young American men, we just kind of did what we were told and could see the justification of this. Where now, they holler no, no, no, no, no.


I:          Mm-hmm.


D:        But it was justified.


I:          Hm.


D:        Lost a lot of people. I think I lost two friends there.




And that was all–they weren’t close friends either.


I:          Yeah. Yeah.


D:        But no, it’s as good as done. I wouldn’t give anything for–I wouldn’t do it again, but I–I’m glad–glad I did it once, but I wouldn’t do it again.  [laughing]


I:          [laughing] Yeah. I want you to know that Korea advanced a lot after you fought for us so we always thank you




For the Korean War veterans and you should be proud of your service.


D:        I am.


I:          Yeah. And when you go back and see, you will know better. You are not going to believe your eyes.


D:        [laughing]


I:          So, if you want to, let me know. Alright?


D:        I’ll do that.


I:          Yeah.  Thank you, Daryl. Thank you.


D:        Thank you, sir.


I:          Yep.

[End of Recorded Material]