Korean War Legacy Project

Delbert Tallman


Delbert Tallman was born on June 30, 1935, in Dearborn, Michigan. He had plans to attend college after graduating from High School, but was drafted into the United States Army in May of 1955. He received training as a machine gunner and was sent to Korea in November of 1955. Upon his arrival in Korea, Delbert Tallman was assigned to drive a truck supplying the line batteries with their needed supplies of rations, water, ammunition. and other necessities. He shares what it was like in Korea right after the war. He completed his service in Korea in late December of 1956 and was discharged from the Army on 11 January 1957.

Video Clips

Food, Entertainment, and Money

In this clip, Delbert Tallman describes the food he had while in Korea. He also talks about going to a British run club during his time of service. He also shares how he sent money home.

Tags: Food,Living conditions

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Letters Home and Christmas in Korea

Delbert Tallman describes staying in contact with home, leaving around the age of 20. He talks about being in Korea for Christmas away from his family. He shared that it was very hard being separated.

Tags: Home front,Letters

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Suwon in 1955

Delbert Tallman remembers that there was not much left in Suwon in 1955. He shares that there were very few houses left, describing one house that was better than the others. The countryside at that time was “pretty much barren.”

Tags: Suwon,Living conditions,Physical destruction

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of Transcribed Material]

D:        Delbert Tallman.  I was born in Dearborn, Michigan.

I:          Um hm.  When?
D:        In 1935, June 30, 1935.

I:          June 30, 1935.

D:        Right.
I:          Oh.  And?

D:        I retired from the Ford Motor Company now. I worked for Ford before I went in the Service.  But I only had 60 days there. So, I lost my seniority.



My father worked for the Ford Motor Company for 45 years.

I:          Um hm.

D:        He was a gate attendant or whatever you want to call it on the gated Fairlane Estate for Henry Ford.

I:          Um hm.  D
D:        And he worked for the Baumler plant in, I guess that was in (INAUDIBLE) They made the B24



At that time.  And my mother worked for the Ford Motor Company, too, but for just a short time.  I graduated from Clinton High School in 1954.

I:          Nineteen fifty-four.

D:        I was gonna go to college.  But the government had different ideas.



So, when I got drafted in Afco, I was drafted in 1955.  I went in on April 5 of 1955 and got out the 11th of January in 19957.  Coming home, I had

I:          You were drafted into the Army, right?

D:        Yes, I was in the Army.

I:          Uh huh.  So, what kind of basic training did you receive, and what was your specialty?



D:        Well, I was trained for the Quad 50s.  Well, a twin 40.  That was automatic weapons self-propelled.  But when I got to Korea, they put me driving a truck.

I:          Uh huh.
D:        So, I drove a deuce and a half and a five-ton.  For pretty much the whole time that I was there,



I worked in the Motor Pool in Headquarters Battery of the 50th Artillery Automatic Weapons Self-Propelled Battalion.  And this gentleman here straightened me out on it. I thought I was in the little town of Chuwon, but it’s Suwon just outside of, actually I landed in Inchon.

I:          Um hm.


D:        That was an experience right there.  The tide comes in and goes out so quick.

I:          Yeah.

D:        We really had to get off the ship in a hurry. But other than that, well, the brakes went out on one of the trucks, and I wasn’t brave enough to write it down.  And I jumped out.  And I got a few pictures of it.

I:          Before we talk about your service



in Korea, when did you leave for Korea, from where?
D:        I left for Korea from, I was in Fort Lewis, Washington for two weeks.  I actually took basic training the second eight weeks in Fort Bliss, Texas.

I:          Um hm.

D:        And then I was in Fort Lewis, Washington for two weeks.

I:          Uh huh.



Then we sailed for Korea from there.

I:          When?  Do you remember by any chance?  What month was it?

D:        I think it was in November.

I:          November of 1955?
D:        Yes.

I:          Okay.
D:        But I don’t remember the day that we arrived there.


I know that it was cold.  But I went over on the General HB Freeman.  It was a slow ship.

I:          Did you stop by Japan?

D:        No.

I:          Was it direct?
D:        It was direct.

I:          From Washington to Inchon?

D:        Yes.

I:          Okay.



D:        I got to Japan on R and R.

I:          Okay, R and R.   So, you arrived in Inchon.  And you drove the truck, right?
D:        Yes.

I:          Yes.  In Suwon?
D:        Well, from Suwon out to the line battery.  We had four line batteries.  At that time, they called them A, B, C and D batteries.

I:          Okay.

D:        But I drove the deuce and a half.  I drove rations



and water and ammunition out to the line batteries.  I mean, at that time they called them line batteries.
I:          Okay.  So, you arrived in Korea after the War.
D:        Yeah.

I:          Tell me about life there.  What was it like being in Suwon in 1955?  What was the scenery?  Was everything devastated?  Tell me about that please.



D:        Well, there wasn’t much there at that time.  There were only about six or eight houses at the very most.  And I remember one house and it seemed to be better than the rest of them.
I:          Uh huh.

D:        Is usually the way I put it.  But I mean,


When I got in Seoul, there was only one house like the house that I’d seen in Seoul.

I:          Um hm.

D:        So, other than that, I don’t remember much about the countryside.  It was barren.

I:          Um hm.  So, nothing much was



left there.

D:        No.

I:          Um.  How about the people there that you saw, the Korean?
D:        I’d never seen people crowd on a bus like they did.  They were sitting on top and hanging on the back.  And they’d throw all their belongings on top of the bus.



And it was kind of comical to see them.  You could smell the honey bucket wagging long before you could see them.  But other than that, I don’t remember much.

I:          Oh.

D:        My memory has really gotten bad.



A lady friend of mine said I should have wrote it down.  But I didn’t.  I wrote some things down in my scrap book.  I got about six or eight pictures of the countryside and of the motor pool and that.  I remember one time they tried to blow the gate on the motor pool.

I:          Um hm.



D:        But we don’t know who it was and that.

I:          Um hm.
D:        Other than that, I can’t tell you much more.

I:          Um.  Ivy Bell.  She is the great-granddaughter of Bill Baker who was a Korean War veteran and also POW.  She’s sitting with me, helping me tape your interview.



And I happen to know that you are from the same place.

D:        Yes.

I:          My goodness.

Female Voice:  Yes.  We were saying we don’t even know each other.  But now we’re acquaintances.

I:          So, I created KWV Youth Corp.  It’s like a Peace Corp created by President Kennedy and continuing your legacy.  And I thought that she would help me bring more interviews from her place and the region.

Do you have any questions, very general questions,




Female Voice:  Very general.

I:          Whatever.

Female Voice:  Alright.  Let’s see.  You say that they tried to, okay.  What is the 82nd motor pool?  What is the motor pool?

D:        It’s where they park all of the trucks.  The jeeps

Female Voice:  Um hm.

D:        And semi-trucks, deuce and a half.  That’s a two-ton truck in case you didn’t know.

And that’s where we park them.

Female Voice:  Um hm.

D:        At night.



It was all enclosed in barbed wire.  And you couldn’t come and go as you pleased.  We had ID guards you might say that was on the gate 24/7.

Female Voice:  Um hm.

D:        So, you had to have a pass to get out.  You had to have a pass to get in.  Nobody could come and go as they




Female Voice:  Instead of a truck driver, were you an equipment hauler or what exactly did you have to do?
D:        I drove an S4, that’s Supply.  And I hauled ammunition, water and rations.  I went to the ration points and through rations and that mainly for the Headquarters company.



But sometimes we took them out to the line batteries, too.

Female Voice:  Um hm.

D:        I made it up to the DMZ a couple times.  One of the boys I grew up with in a small town was stationed up there, and I was able to take a jeep and go up and see him.



And it was kind of surprising.  I met him at the Supply Depot, and we were all parked in line to get rations and that, and we had to wait quite a while, and I got out and stretched my legs and walked up and down and I saw this here kid I grew up with in one of the trucks and that.  So, I was able to go up and see him and that.  Other than that,



The DMZ, they didn’t have anything up there that I cared to see.

Female Voice:  Right.  There wasn’t much of anything just yet or

D:        It seemed strange.

Female Voice:  What did you think about it?
D:        What’d I think about it?
Female Voice:  Um hm, your impression.

D:        It was a good place to be away from.

Female Voice:  Yeah.

D:        You could sit there, and you could see them watching them binoculars, watching our side.



Of course, we did the same thing.  So, I guess you can’t really complain too much.

Female Voice:  Um hm.

D:        But I do remember a couple raids across the border.  They denied it.  But we knew that they were doing it.  But it didn’t do any good to complain



because I remember just shortly after, I read that a Sergeant and Corporal and a truck got ambushed and that just shortly after I left.

I:          Um.

D:        And that.  I made two or three trips to,



what do they call the, ROK soldiers or

I:          Yeah, KATUSA?

D:        Yeah, Katusas.  Well, we had a Katusa ride with us all the time in the truck.

I:          Um hm.

D:        To, you might say as an interpreter.

I:          Um hm.

D:        And like that.  I never learned much of the language and that.  But I learned enough from the



KATUSA that I rode with all the time.  And I met one Korean officer, and I wish I could remember his name.  I’d like to see if he’s still living today.  I had to go and pick up some Katusas and that from their company to bring back to ride shotgun, we called it, in the truck.



Maybe one of these days it’ll come to me just what his name is.  But then, I have no way of contacting anybody over there to find out anyway.

I:          Um hm.  Let me ask you this question.  It’s a little bit softer side of it.  You were there since 1955.  Were there any dangerous encounters where you might have lost your life?



D:        No.

I:          No.  Okay.
D:        It was pretty

I:          Settled, right?

D:        Settled.

I:          Yeah.

D:        At that time.  There was several conflicts going on.  But not near where I was.

I:          Okay.  What was your rank by the way?
D:        Well, I made PFC, and I lost PFC.

I:          Why:


D:        Well, I was going places I wasn’t supposed to go.  And then I got my rank back, and I threatened to put zippers on it.
I:          Uh.

D:        Because I kept getting it and losing it.  Other than that, though, I mean I was PFC most of the time.
I:          PFC, okay.  How much did you get at the time, monthly?  Do you remember?

D:        Ninety-seven dollars a month.



That was overseas pay.

I:          And what did you do with that money?

D:        Send it home.  There was nothing to spend it on there.
I:          You were able to gamble.
D:        I mean.

I:          Or drinking or go out to the town, right?
D:        Well, yeah.  But I mean, I kept some money.  But most of it went home.

I:          Ah.  So, who



kept that money?

D:        My dad.

I:          Your dad.

D:        I’d send it home to him.  He’d put it in the bank for me and that.  So that way I’d have a little bit when I came home, although I did spend quite a bit in Japan when I went there.  I was there for two weeks.

I:          R and R.

D:        On R and R.

I:          Yeah.



D:        I flew out of K14 at that time.

I:          Um hm.
D:        That was an experience in itself right there.  When I got to Japan, I spent two weeks over there, and it was bad weather.  So, I couldn’t get back in time.  And so when I did get back, they overloaded the plane,



And the pilot had to make three tries to get off the field.  And when he did get off the field, they had him trim the leaves off the top of the trees. I was willing to get off and lighten the load.  But he, they had to get us all back.

I:          And how was life there?  Where did you sleep?  What kind of



food did you eat?  You can ask follow up questions about the soft side.

D:        Well, the food wasn’t top grade as far as I would say, although we got a good cook in when I was halfway through my tour.  And then it got a little bit better.

I:          What did you eat?  Tell me the menu?

D:        The menu?



Mashed potatoes and SPAM.  We had steak once in a great while.  We had a lot of lamb or mutton.  The Army was famous for serving mutton.

I:          Uh huh.

Female Voice:  Is that something you can eat today?

D:        No, ma’am.

Female Voice:  Mashed potatoes?

D:        Oh,



I still like mashed potatoes.

Female Voice:  SPAM?

D:        I like SPAM.

Female Voice:  You just got through with the mutton.

D:        Rice, I can take it or I can leave it.  I went to a meal at the ROK soldiers compound, and that, and they served fish heads



and rice.

I:          Um hm.

D:        And to this day, I can’t stomach that.
Female Voice:  Yeah.

D:        No reflection on you.  But I mean, fisheyes doesn’t get it.

I:          I understand that completely.  It’s not in your culture.

Female Voice:  What did you do for



entertainment to keep you occupied when you weren’t busy.

D:        Go to the club.

Female Voice:  Go to the club?

D:        There was a British club about a mile and a half away.  And we used to hitch a ride down to the Limmies club to go to their club.  It was livelier


there than it was at ours.  So, I spent quite a bit of time down there.

Female Voice:  So, the money that you kept went towards down at the club.

D:        Yeah.  At that time, you know, let’s say I think I got $89 actually.

That was with overseas pay.

I:          Um hm.



D:        And if I remember correctly, I kept about $29.  And at that time, we didn’t use our own money.  They had script.  Every three or four


months, they would change the script.  And so we’d have to trade in all our money that we got, and then they’d issue different script.  If you used greenbacks, it went on the black market.  So, whenever they paid us, They paid us in



script.  When we were over there, we had to sign up to what we wanted to send home.  And then they just issued whatever money that you planned on keeping there on your person.  And they encouraged to keep much for yourself.



Female Voice:  Why was that?

D:        I remember I had a mamasan do my laundry and that.  And I had a hard time talking her into not putting starch on my underwear.  She always wanted to starch my underwear.

I:          Yeah.  You don’t need it.

D:        No.

Female Voice:  Can it make you comfortable?

D:        No, it’s not comfortable.


That was one nice thing.  We didn’t have to do our own laundry.  Mamasan came up to the gate, and she’d do it for a couple of packs of cigarettes a month.  I know the cigarettes went out on the black market.

I:          Do you know what mamasan is?
Female Voice:  I don’t.  That was gonna be my next question.

D:        It’s the women.

I:          Korean ladies.  That’s how they call it.



Mama means it’s like a mother.

Female Voice:  Uh huh.  Okay.  Thank you.

D:        She was a mother, too, because she had four little ones.  Sometimes she would come to the gate to pick it up, and then she’d pick up five or six guys’ laundry.  And I remember the little ones would carry it.  And I could never figure out how a



papasan would have an A-frame.  And he could put so much on that A-frame and carry it around.  It was heavier than our backpacks.  But yet, he could pick it up and really kind of (INAUDIBLE) with it.

Female Voice:  You were about 20 whenever you were drafted, give or take.

D:        What?
Female Voice:  You were about 20 years old whenever you were drafted, give or take?



D:        Yeah.  Nineteen, 20, right around in there cause I was married when I got back, and I was 21.  So, that’s about 19 or 20.

Female Voice:  You weren’t married then whenever you were drafted?  You married when you came back?

D:        Yeah, I married after I came back.

I:          Did you write back to your family?



Write a letter?

D:        Oh yeah.  She wrote all the time.

I:          Your mom?

D:        Well, my wife, and I was going with her before I went overseas.

I:          I see.

D:        And I wrote them both.  And our company commander insisted on us writing home at least once a week.



So, I mean, in order to stay in good frame, you did as you were told.

I:          But it must have been very hard for you to live apart such a long distance and working in a very dangerous part of the world.

D:        Oh yeah.  It was no picnic.



And come Christmas, it was very hard.  Of course, I come from a family of a sister and two brothers.  And we were fairly close.  And so of course, I was only away for actually two Christmases.



But the second trip, the folks left a Christmas tree up for me till when I got back.  And I got out on the 7th of January.  And the folks left the tree up.  So, therefore, I had a little Christmas of the second year.  But the first year Christmas, I was in Korea.

I:          Um hm.

D:        And



I was on guard duty Christmas Eve.  So, it wasn’t very enjoyable.

I:          Yeah.

D:        Of course, in Korea, we didn’t celebrate Christmas.



And I don’t think the villagers didn’t even know what Christmas was.  So, I mean, we mentioned a mamasan or papasan, we’d see them, and they didn’t even know what Christmas was.  So therefore, there was no such thing as a



Christmas tree over there.

I:          Um hm.

Female Voice:  Do you have any pictures or anything from your station in Korea?
D:        What?
Female Voice:  Do you have any pictures or anything from?
I:          Yeah.  I’ve got a picture of some of the guys that I was with.



I spent the last two weeks trying to locate them with no avail.

I:          Um hm.  Okay.  So, anything that you want to add to this interview about your service in Suwon, Korea? Anything you particularly want to mention and leave it to the interview?”



D:        Not that I can think of anyway.

I:          So, you left Korean January 11 of 1957.
D:        No.  I left the Service then.  I had 2 Christmases here and New Years’ Eves leaving Korea.

I:          Really?  So, then you

D:        I crossed the International Dateline.  So,



I ended up having two New Years’ Eves.

I:          Oh, I see.  When did you leave for the States from Korea?
D:        December 25 or

I:          Um hm.

D:        Or 26th.

I:          Um hm.

Female Voice:  The day of Christmas or the day after?

D:        Yeah.



Actually, I left Korea a week early because the guy ahead of me went AWOL.  And so, they moved me up, and I had to really hurry around to get everything back and that, to get over to the Repo Dept,



Ascom City, to ship out.

I:          So, ’57, right?

D:        Yes.  That was in ’56 that I left Korea.

I:          You left in ’56?

D:        In ’56, yeah.

I:          Okay, um hm.

D:        Then I got out in January of ’57.  I spent a week getting mustered out.



And then I landed in San Francisco on the 4th or 5th of January.

I:          Um hm.

D:        I remember that distinctly because Elvis Presley had a concert in San Francisco.

I:          Did anybody ask



where you had been when you returned to your home?

D:        Oh yeah.  All my classmates wanted to know where I’d been and that.
I:          But basically, what that means is that they didn’t know where you were.

D:        No.  When I left town, I lived in the small town of Clinton, Michigan.
I:          Um hm.

D:        Population about 1, 200 people.

I:          Yeah.
D:        When I left, I knew everybody in town.

I:          Um hm.



D:        When I came back, I didn’t know a third of them.

I:          Oh, okay.

D:        You’ve been gone for two years and that, well things really changed.

I:          Yeah.  Have you been back to Korea since?

D:        No.

I:          No.

D:        I see they’re offering a trip.

I:          Yeah.

D:        To Korea.  But the price is a little steep for me right now.



I’d love to go back.

I:          Um hm.

D:        Just to see how it was or is.

I:          Um hm.
D:        But it’s just a little bit out of my price range right now.  They’re asking $2,500 a piece.

I:          No, that’s not true.  The Korean government is providing you the airline tickets and so on.  You need to pay $500



just if you are going to go through some kind of travel agency, KWVA.  But otherwise, you can go free.

VOICE:  Four hundred fifty here, printed.  (INAUDIBLE)

D:        Well not


D:        The one that they sent me, a flyer, and they had $2,500 a piece.

I:          No.

VOICE:  And they have something else in there.



For extended (INAUDIBLE)

D:        Well, the flyer

I:          Going through to China and Japan maybe.

VOICE:  Yeah, all those kinds of stuff added up to it.

D:        Oh.  Well, I


D:        I didn’t do anything in Japan.  I don’t care to go back to Japan.   I just joined the Korean Veterans chapter about three months ago.



And the lady friend, a guy that talked me into joining it,

I:          Um hm.

D:        He just got back from Korea and that, and he said that he wouldn’t know the place now.

I:          Exactly.

D:        But I’d really like to go back to see how it is now and how it was then.



They confiscated my camera when I took a picture of the DMZ.

I:          Um hm.

D:        And Porkchop Hill. And they took it away from me.

I:          Who do you mean by they?
D:        They didn’t take the camera.  They took the

I:          What do you mean they?  Who are they?
D:        The MPs.

I:          MPs, okay.  When you were in Korea?



D:        Yes.

I:          So now, Korea is 11th largest economy in the world.  There was nothing, right?  You remember honey pot?

D:        Oh gosh, yes.

I:          And mamasan and everyone trying to steal, right?

D:        Yeah.
I:          Now Korea is the size of Indiana.  It’s a very small country you know.

D:        Yeah.

I:          And just South Korea is 11th largest economy in the world.  And we are the most


free democracy in Asia.

D:        Is that right?

I:          How about that?  Tell me about it.  What do you feel about that?

D:        I’m amazed.  Of course, when I was there, the people were really destitute is usually the way I put it.

I:          Why?  We were there like that.



D:        And everyplace they went, they walked.  These little buses like I got a picture of here, people were on top and hanging out the windows.  And if the bus wasn’t full, they had chickens in crates inside the bus.  And it’s hard to believe that they’ve come so far,



Although I realize it’s been 50 years, although it don’t seem like that long.  But it’s been over 50 years since I’ve been there.  As far as that goes, it’s 60 years.

I:          Yeah.

D:        But it’s just hard to believe that the economy has come that far, though.

I:          Unbelievable, isn’t it?

D:        Yes, it is.



I:          And we were able to do that because you protected us and fought for us.
D:        Yes.  But we fought Germany, and they haven’t come back that much.  Of course, that was World War II.  But it’s hard to believe that the economy in Korea has gone that far.

I:          I’ll let you know how you can go back to Korea,




D:        Yeah.

I:          And you have to see what’s been done by the blood and sacrifice of the Korean War veteran.  So, we Koreans never forget Korean War veterans.  And that’s why I am doing this interview, okay?

D:        Well, that makes me feel better because in this country, Korea is a forgotten war.



And even though I was there, I haven’t forgotten it.  But yet the rest of the people have.  And it makes me feel good that Korea has come back and has been thinking of us, you know what I’m talking about?  So, it does my heart good



to hear that.

I:          Um hm.

D:        So, it just blows my mind that they’ve come that far, especially after what I’ve seen over there.

I:          Yeah.

D:        And is Seoul really that big now?
I:          It’s one of the 10 biggest metropolitan cities in the world.  It’s bigger than New York City.



D:        Is that right?
I:          Oh yeah.

D:        Oh, come on.  You wouldn’t put me on, would you?
I:          No, come on.  I’m a Professor in Syracuse University.  It’s much bigger than New York City.

D:        I hope it’s better than New York City.

I:          It’s really big.  Any message you want to leave to this interview as a lesson of your service to the young generation or anything that you want to leave?



D:        Well no. I think I’m gonna leave it alone.  I’m glad that Korea has come back and is a whole lot better than it was.  And I’m glad that Korea is an ally now.



But just between you and me, I think we should have finished the job when we were there.  That’s only my opinion.  Now it isn’t shared by all.  But I think we should have finished the job when we were there.

I:          Yeah.

D:        Instead of, but Congress seen fit to go the other way, same way of Viet Nam.

I:          Yeah.
D:        And they made a mistake in Viet Nam.



I think they made a mistake in Korea, too.

I:          Yeah.

D:        I think South Korea would be a whole lot better off if North Korea was, how should I put it, civilized?
I:          Yeah.

D:        As South Korea.

I:          Yeah.

D:        But I could get in trouble by saying that I know.  But just



don’t let it go too far.

I:          Korean nation never forgets your service, okay?  And we’ll keep doing this so that your memories and service and sacrifices will be kept forever in the website.  And your interview will be uploaded to the website where you can see it.