Korean War Legacy Project

Dennis E. Hultgren


Dennis E. Hultgren was drafted into the United States Army in 1951 and served in the Korean War until 1953. He shares treasured memories of encounters and experiences while there. He recounts that his ability to type kept him from fighting on the front lines as he was selected for the graveyard station. Charged with transporting the dead, searching and documenting their belongings, and organizing the shipments home, he explains that taking care of the dead was the hardest part of service for him. He speaks highly of Korea and its advancements since the war and expresses that the Korean War should not be forgotten as no war since has produced such concrete outcomes.

Video Clips

Sandwiches in a War Torn City

Dennis E. Hultgren explains that a stop to transfer trains allowed him an hour or so to wander through a war-torn city. He describes a young boy who was watching him intently as he took a bite of his sandwich. He recounts that he offered the boy the rest of his sandwich, and with a deep bow, the boy accepted it and ran behind a building.

Tags: Civilians,Food,Impressions of Korea,Physical destruction,Poverty,South Koreans

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Concrete Outcomes of the Korean War

Dennis E. Hultgren speaks highly of Korea and of his respect for the country. He expresses that the Korean War should not be forgotten and that it was a successful war as opposed to others. He agrees that no other war since the Korean War has produced such concrete outcomes.

Tags: Impressions of Korea,Modern Korea,Pride,South Koreans

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Most Difficult Aspect of Graveyard Service

Dennis E. Hultgren expresses that taking care of the dead was the most difficult aspect of his service during the war. He previously shares that his duty was to transport bodies, search them, collect their belongings, and document the findings for them to then be mailed home to the deceased soldiers' families. He recounts several deceased soldiers' wounds and one disrespectful incident carried out by a soldier underneath him.

Tags: Impressions of Korea,Personal Loss,Pride

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of Transcribed Material]


D:        My name is Dennis E. Hultgren.  HULTGREN.

I:          What is the ethnic origin of this last name, Hultgren?
D:        It’s a Swedish name.

I:          Swedish?  So, you are Swedish descendant?

D:        I’m ¾ Swedish and ¼ Norwegian.

I:          Ah.

D:        My grandfather came from Sweden in 1879.  And settled on a farm.



And I bought the farm in [ ]79.  And I still live on that farm.

I:          Wow.  What is your birthday?
D:        March 19, 1929.

I:          Nineteen twenty-nine.  You were born in the Great Depression.

D:        Great Depression is right.

I:          But you were on the farm.  So, you didn’t have many problems getting food, right?
D:        We had plenty of food to eat, yes.  We just about lost our farm in the Depression because



of bad prices and the Great Depression was devastating.  My father died when I was four years old.

I:          Oh.
D:        And we had two banks foreclosing on the farm.  And my mother hired two men and kept the farm going.  We still have it today.

I:          Where were you born?
D:        I was born in the same room I still sleep in.

I:          St. Louis?

D:        Same room.

I:          What is that?  Could you spell it?

D:        ROOM.

I:          What?



D:        I was born, I think I was also conceived there.

I:          This is for PG.

D:        He’s laughing over there.

I:          This is for PG-13, okay? You are 14 rated.  So, don’t, what is your birthplace?  Not the room, but where were you born?

D:        I was born in Section 3, [INAUDIBLE] Township in the same house



that I still live in on the farm.

I:          Where were you born, the State?  Where were you born?
D:        Oh, South Dakota.

I:          South Dakota?  Okay.

D:        South Dakota.

I:          And tell me about the school that you graduated from.

D:        I went to a rural school for eight years, walked to school.

I:          Um hm.  And how about high school?
D:        Akron High School in Iowa, across the river.

I:          Akron?
D:        Akron, Iowa I went to high school.  I graduated



in 1946.

I:          Nineteen forty-six.  And what did you do after graduation?

D:        Farmed.

I:          Farmed again.

D:        Farmed, yes.  I grew up on the farm.  Then I was, I’d been farming for three years.  Then I got drafted from the government to serve in Korea.

I:          When was it?
D:        Nineteen, I was inducted August 3,



Nineteen fifty-one.

I:          And

D:        I served in general July 3, 1953.

I:          So, Army?
D:        Army.

I:          Yeah. Where did you get the basic military training?

D:        Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

I:          Fort Jackson.  And what kind of basic military training was it?

D:        Infantry.

I:          Infantry?

D:        How to shoot mortars or fire machine guns,



fire rifles, stuff like that, throw hand grenades.

I:          Were you a good shooter?

D:        I was a marksman.

I:          And what was your unit?

D:        In Korea?
I:          Yeah.

D:        I served first in Korea, I landed in Japan by airplane from Seattle, Washington.  And then I



I was sent to Pusan.  And from there, they trucked me over to Masan, Korea.

I:          When did you arrive in Pusan?  Do you remember?

D:        I think I might have it in my book.  I’m not sure.

I:          But it was 1951.

D:        Nineteen fifty-one.

I:          Yeah.  And around October or Novembre, was it winter?

D:        In October, I think.



I:          Um hm.
D:        I had my training.  I also had leadership training and [INAUDIBLE] training.

I:          So, it was 1951, right?
D:        Nineteen fifty-one.

I:          Yeah.  Tell me about the Pusan you saw for the first time.

D:        Pusan?

I:          How was it?
D:        Pusan was kind of a thriving city cause Pusan and Massan were the only two cities I was in in Korea that weren’t



destroyed or partly destroyed by battles.

I:          Hm.

D:        They were never captured by the North.  I rode in a truck.

I:          Um hm.

D:        Got off the plane, they put us in trucks and took us to Massan in Korea.  They had a big prisoner of war camp there.  We guarded prisoners.  They were mostly Chinese prisoners at that one.

I:          You were in Kojedo?

D:        Huh?
I:          Were you in Kojedo, Koji Island?


D:        This was after Kojedo.

I:          Ah.

D:        Koji, I was there.  That was a beautiful island.  I dreamed that it’s a resort place today cause they have beautiful shores, beautiful beaches and stuff there.

I:          Yeah.

D:        I tell about it in my book.  I don’t know how much time you got to read books.  But

I:          How many prisoners of war were there?  Do you remember?

D:        Oh, I’d say



a couple thousand.

I:          Couple thousand.

D:        They were the Chinese.

I:          Um hm.

D:        And they were better to talk to and easy to get along with.

I:          Did they make any trouble?
D:        No trouble at all from the Chinese.  Then I was transferred to Jeju-do.  And there we got North Korean prisoners.  And they were more trouble.

I:          Tell me about it.

D:        Well, they had demonstrations and they had



I don’t know, they had protests.  They were just different.  They were indoctrinated pretty much and learned from the north.  Chinese prisoners were very easy to talk to.

I:          Huh.

D:        We didn’t know the language.  But some of them spoke English to us.

I:          So, North Koreans were much more

D:        Much more aggressive, yes.

I:          Aggressive.

D:        That’s the word I’m trying to use.



I:          Um hm.  Did you have trouble with them?
D:        Not much trouble.

I:          Uh huh.

D:        But I, in Massan, there are guard towers.  At one time, I had to walk out in the middle to man the guard, walk right among the prisoners. I had a gun with me.  But they never bothered my one bit.

I:          Hm.
D:        But the North Koreans, we didn’t do that with them.



We didn’t trust them the same.

I:          Yeah.  That’s too bad, isn’t it?
D:        It is too bad.  The big tragedy of the Korean War is it was run by the politicians instead of the generals.  We should have united the whole country of Korea [INAUDIBLE].  But the War was fought by the, not by the generals too much.  Mostly it was by the politicians.  It was a tragedy in my book.



The North Koreans, Korean was divided.

I:          Still divided.

D:        Still divided.

I:          Yeah.

D:        And it’s a mess.  South Korea is all messed cause they’re fighting.  They’re good people, and they’re ergogenic and smart, and they made a good country of South Korea.  North Korea is totalitarian dictatorship.  They can’t even support their people with enough food.



South Korea, the United States would even give them food sometimes, so they’d have enough to eat.

I:          Um.

D:        I’m probably saying things you already know.  But

I:          From Jeju-do, where did you go?

D:        Jeju-do back to

I:          Massan?
D:        Back to the mainland.
I:          Main island?
D:        Yeah.  Then I was transferred on Jeju-do, they needed men with some leadership ability.



I:          Um.
D:        I was a corporal at that time.  I had special training.  So, they sent me to the front lines.

I:          Front line?
D:        Front lines, yeah.

I:          So, where did you go?  Do you remember?
D:        Yeah, I remember.  I went, they put us on a train at Pusan.

I:          Um hm.

D:        We were taken north on a train.  We stopped in some city north of Taegu,




I:          Um.

D:        The city had been destroyed.  Bricks laid in the streets there.  But they told us to wait there cause you had some changing in the train or something.  It will be an hour at least.  So, I got out and walked along the ruins of the city.  I don’t know what city it was.  I don’t know the name of the city.

I:          Um hm.

D:        And they’d given me a sack lunch to eat.  And I opened up the sack, I was really kind of hungry, so I



Ate my sandwich.  I started eating my sandwich.  And I observed a small young man, young boy, standing there watching me eat.  And I figured out he wasn’t watching me so much.  He was looking at the sandwich.  He was hungry.  So, I hurried up and I took the sandwich, I took one bite out of it already.  But that didn’t bother him any.  I held it out like this, and I nodded my head.  He understood.  He couldn’t speak English, and I couldn’t speak Korean.  He understood



The gesture.  He came up to me.  He gave me a deep oriental bow.

I:          Uh huh.

D:        You know Orientals bow.  They bow very deeply.  And he took the sandwich, and he held it right close to him like it was gold.  Then he gave me another bow.

I:          Um.
D:        And he ran behind a ruined building.  I never said one word to him, and he never said one word to me.

I:          Um.

D:        I talked to a friend of mine in my old home in South Dakota



From Korea.  He was working in Rapid City, and he came out to see me.  I told him I’ve never forgotten that young man. I hope he turned out alright.  I [INAUDIBLE] because he was resourceful and smart and polite.  And I’d like to think that he succeeded in life.

I:          Yeah.

D:        He was about eight or nine years old at that time.

I:          Um.
D:        And I swear I’ve never forgotten him.  My Korean friend, Mr. Hooker, I want to tell you something.  You say you’ve never forgotten that young man.



That young man has never forgotten you, either.

I:          Yep.
D:        So, it was a touching moment for me.

I:          Absolutely.

D:        Because now he’s probably in his 60’s.  I would guess he’d be in his 60’s or 70’s.

I:          What kind of sandwich was it?

D:        It had a lot of meat in it.  I’ve never had anything as big.  Two slices of bread with a lot of meat and butter and stuff in it.

I:          So, you had bread at the time.

D:        Huh?
I:          You had bread?



D:        I had it made out of bread.

I:          Oh.  Wow.  That must have been a real good sandwich for him, you know.

D:        I was next to him [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Sandwich of his life.

D:        I had another experience walking in the city at a place north of Taegu someplace.  And walking in the city, there was a church.  And only the walls were standing



of the church.  But there was music coming.  So, I walked up, I had my rifle waiting for the train again.  I walked up to the church, and the church was full of people.  And they invited me to come into the church, but I wouldn’t go in with my rifle.  And I stood by the window.  And they sang songs, and the melodies were familiar to me.  The Presbyterians



Were, the church had missionaries in Korea around there I guess.

I:          When was it, 1952?

D:        Nineteen fifty-two.

I:          Wow.  And?  Keep going.

D:        So, I just stood at the window and listened.  They were very nice to me, the people.  But that was the best building they had left standing in the town.  That church was still there.  I don’t know if it’s still there or not.  But we



[INAUDIBLE] the name of the town, but I didn’t know the name of the town.  I know some of the towns I’ve been in because of the main ones like Taegu and Pusan and Massan and Kojedo Island and Chuncheon, Chuncheon.  How do you say it?

I:          Chuncheon, yes.

D:        Yes, Chuncheon.

I:          Yeah.

D:        That was where we started to.  When I was stationed north of Chuncheon on the Demilitarized Zone now,



but then it was the battle zone at that time.

I:          Oh.

D:        The time up there, I was assigned to a combat infantry company.

I:          Where?
D:        We were waiting for the.

I:          Where, in Chuncheon?
D:        No, not Chumcheon.

I:          Where?

D:        Battle line.

I:          Do you remember?
D:        Right on the line, straight north of Chuncheon.  I had a map that



Shows where it is.

I:          Um hm.  Yeah?
D:        And [INAUDIBLE] I was, we were sitting there.  We’d been trucked up from Pusan

I:          Um hm.

D:        To that point.  We were waiting there to be transferred to the front lines.



We were sitting there watching the explosive display right over the front lines.  We didn’t know if they were our shells hitting the enemy or enemy shells hitting our soldiers. I survived, and there was an enemy shooting, attempting to kill our soldiers.  I was standing there watching quietly. I was a corporal.  I was a little bit older than some of the other recruits.



There was a lot of young men standing there waiting to be transferred.  I felt a tap on my shoulder.  It was a very young United States private.  He said will you talk to me?  I’m afraid. I don’t think I can stand it.  So I looked at him and I said I don’t want to worry you.

I:          Um hm.

D:        I said I



Want to give you some advice I said.  I sure didn’t go over and laugh at him because that means you’re grinning.  I wasn’t laughing at him.  I said you’re just chicken or whatever you want to call him. I said I want to tell you just follow orders.  Just remember this.  You’re here to preserve our own lives and your life, too.  Just follow orders and don’t be so, don’t worry about us.  Just do your job.



And he said oh, thank you, thank you.  You helped me so much he said.  I never saw him again.

I:          Um.
D:        I hope he wasn’t killed.  While we were waiting, a jeep drove up.

I:          Yeah.

D:        And a major got out.  He said was anyone here the last time?  And I said yes, I [INAUDIBLE] time.  Come over and talk to me.  He said I need somebody to work in [INAUDIBLE] station.



You know what that is?

I:          Yeah.

D:        Yes, I said.  They take care of the dead.  They take care of the dead soldiers that were killed.  He said what’d you do at home?  Was a farmer.  That’ll help you, and he took off.  He was a major.  He said how fast can you type?  I haven’t typed since I was in high school.  I was typing in 1944.  And he said how fast can you type?



Well, I said I learned on a typewriter.  If you let me practice a little, I know I remember it.  You never forget how to type.  I said I know I can type 40 words a minute.  Well, I’m gonna assign you to [INAUDIBLE] They need somebody who knows how to type.  A lot of men know they did not have computers and they learned how to type better.  But I’m already assigned to E company up on the line.  Forget that



He said.  I’m the S1.  I’m the head personnel officer for the whole regiment.   I can changed your assignment.

I:          What was your unit?
D:        Two hundred twenty-fourth Infantry Regiment.

I:          Two

D:        224.

I:          224 Infantry Regiment.

D:        Yes.

I:          And what division was it?

D:        Fortieth division.

I:          40th?

D:        40th.

I:          Yeah.  And you were in the Punch Bowl, right?  Were you in the Punch Bowl?

D:        In what?



I:          Were you at the Punch Bowl?
D:        Yes. I have pictures of the Punch Bowl.

I:          Yes.  You know, you have Matt here.  And you wrote down the Punch Bowl.

D:        I have a picture of me standing by the Punch Bowl.  There’s a lot of pictures in the book.

I:          You have a lot of pictures here.

D:        A lot of pictures there.

I:          Yeah.   I’d like to get a copy of it.  Do you have a scanned one?
Female Voice:  Uh, it could be.

I:          Yeah.  But anyway,



How was the situation at the Punch Bowl at the time?
D:        At the time, the fighting was over.  But I took care of the dead.  I did not participate in the fighting except we were subject to, we had a truck with all the dead in.  And one of our trucks was destroyed by mortar fire.  So, we could have been killed in our truck cause we were right up at the front line with those trucks.

I:          Um.

D:        So,



I got the Combat Infantry badge for it, for service, and several medals. I got one of the medals listed in the book.

I:          Um hm.  While you were there, so you worked at the Headquarters Company, right, as a clerk, typing?

D:        Service Company.

I:          Yeah, Service Company.  And you were typing?

D:        I had to type records for the, when we got a body, first thing you had to do was

I:          Yeah.

D:        Search his pockets and take money.  And we had to type,



And they had records.  We made five copies.  Nowadays they make copies.  We had to use carbon paper.  We’d make five copies.  You had to push real hard on the typewriter.  We had a manual typewriter.  No electric typewriter.

I:          Um hm.

D:        Then the next day, we usually got a duffle bag.  And the duffle bag was locked with a  padlock.  Our unit had collected keys from them [INAUDIBLE].  We kept trying keys.  One key would always open those locks.



Then we took care of the stuff he had in his duffle bag and sent that back, too.  No clothes were sent back.  We had to search the body and take rings off of the man.  They were put in a sealed bag with a typed copy inside the bag.  And one copy stayed with us.  One copy went on him.  We replaced the body to transfer.  A list of those belongings went right with the body.



I:          Yeah.

D:        The family got those things later on see.

I:          How did you feel about it?  You have to keep recording of those dead soldiers and writing about it and you know, sending it back to their family.  How did you feel about it?
D:        A lot of soldiers today, I’m sure they’re in this hospital some of them.  They came and they’ve got all kinds of problems with trauma and stuff.  I’ve never had that.

I:          Um hm.

D:        I’m a very strong person.



So, I never had a different job.  Some of the new recruits they’d get couldn’t search the body.  They couldn’t stand the clothes are bloody.  They were killed [INAUJDIBLE] But I did my job, and I think I did it quite well.  I was rewarded the Staff Sergeant.

I:          Staff Sergeant?

D:        E5.

I:          Yeah.  So,

D:        I was in a heavy unit after.


0: 22:00

I:          From Punch Bowl, where did you go?  Did you stay there?

D:        We stayed right there.  We were in Reserve for a while, then somebody else replaced us for a while.  And I got a story in my book about all the entertainers that came to entertain us.

I:          Hm.  So, I saw one of the

D:        That’s in the book.

I:          Yeah.

D:        A picture of Debbie Reynolds is in there.

I:          Debbie Reynolds?


D:        Debbie Reynolds.

I:          Wow.  How was it?

D:        Good.

I:          Huh?

D:        I went to Las Vegas for our 35th wedding anniversary.  I told her we were gonna go to the Debbie Reynolds show cause it was advertised.

I:          Did you tell her that you saw her in Korea?

D:        I talked to her after the show.

I:          Um hm.

D:        And I said do you remember what you said at that show?  There was a big gat plane, and all, four civilians sat out in front.



And I said you remember what you, there was a hill back of the stage.  There’s pictures of that someplace in there.

I:          Yeah.  When did you leave Korea?

D:        I left Korea in June of 1953.

I:          So right before the Armistice.

D;        Huh?

I:          Right before the Armistice.

D:        Yes because that was about the end of the month.

I:          Um hm.

D:        And the war was still going.  We were still picking up bodies when I left.



And they’ll still pick up some bodies after I left the unit for a while.

I:          Did you know anything about Korea before you left for Korea?  Before you left for Korea, did you know anything about Korea?

D:        Only what I read in the newspaper once the battle was on.

I:          Did you know where it was?

D:        I knew where it was cause I’m kind of history and geography.

I:          So, you’re good at geography.

D:        I knew where it was.



I:          Hm.  And have you been back to Korea?
D:        I always wanted to go back, but I never did.

I:          You never did.

D:        I thought about going back.  But I’m 87 years old.  That’s Debbie Reynolds.

I:          That’s Debbie Reynolds.

D:        She was there. I said do you remember what you said to the soldiers out in front, yeah.

I:          Show it to my camera here.  So, you met her.

D:        I met her personally.  She gave me that picture.



I:          So, that was signed for you.

D:        That was, I didn’t meet her personally [INAUDIBLE]

I:          But that was in Las Vegas, not in Korea, right?
D:        Yeah. I met her in Las Vegas.
I:          Yeah.

Female Voice:  She gave me one, too.

I:          You were there?

Female Voice:  Um hm.

I:          Watch him carefully, okay?  Yeah.  Watch him carefully.  So,

D:        So, I asked her, do you remember what you said?  The stage was set up.  There was a big stage there for [INAUDIBLE] sailors.



It tells about the whole story in the book.  There are eight pages.  I said what did you say?  There was some guy sitting with rifles on the big hill back of the stage.  And I said, and this was in Las Vegas.  I said what did you say to all the soldiers at that stage?  I asked cause those soldiers back, are they the enemy or are they friends?  Course all the guys just laughed you know.



And she remembered that during Las Vegas, what she said.  Then she gave me this picture.

I:          Beautiful.

D:        She’s still a good looker.  But she’s not so young as she was.

I:          Your wife is watching you now, okay.  Be careful.  Give it back to me, okay.  Don’t’ hold it too long.

D:        She keeps her eye on me cause I told her [INAUDIBLE]

I:          I know.

D:        She was better looking than a good looker.



I got him to laugh a little anyway.

I:          Do you know about the modern Korea now, Korea and Korean economy and Korean democracy?  Do you know how Korean people live now?

D:        It’s about the 6th largest economy in the world or something like that.  Maybe I’m making up a figure.

I:          It’s the 7th largest.

D:        I said 6.  I missed it with one.

I:          Seventh largest trading partner to the United States.
D:        Yes.

I:          But it’s the 11th largest economy in the world.  Eleventh.

D:        Okay.  They’re booming.



I:          Yeah.

D:        You know why?  Because they’re energetic and know how to work, and they’re smart.

I:          But you know, remember I quoted you Matthew Chapter 25.

D:        Yeah.

I:          Because you did it for the Korean boy and Korean people, God blessed you, and God blessed Korea.

D:        I’ve never been sorry what I did in the War.  Some people complain about their Army service.  I never do.  I still get respect.



[INAUDIBLE STATEMENT] you have to serve combat under fire of the enemy.  And it’s a special award they give for Infantry only.

I:          Um hm.

D:        And I wear it, I’ve had people in the airport come up and shake my hand and thank me for my service in combat.

I:          Dennis, you said in the beginning of this interview that the Korean War has been known as Forgotten War.
D:        Yes.

I:          Why?  Why is it forgotten?



Why has it been forgotten?
D:        Well World War II was just over.  Then we had the Korean War after that.  And they didn’t see the importance of it.  It was just otherwise forgotten.  But they still call it the Forgotten War, not just by me.  It’s called the Forever War.  Didn’t have the outcome, and we lost almost as many in Korea dead as Viet Nam.  It was close.  Almost as many American soldiers were killed



Or died in Korea as died in Viet Nam.  Viet Nam War lasted for seven years.  Korean War lasted for three years.

I:          Right.

D:        And one month.  And almost as many died in Korea as died in Viet Nam.  So, it shouldn’t be forgotten.

I:          It shouldn’t be, right?

D:        No, it shouldn’t be forgotten.

I:          Yeah.
D:        But after were ignored because we’re respected by all veterans groups and so on.  Sometimes I read in the paper about wars the United States fought.  World War II and



[INAUDIBLE] Viet Nam.  Sometimes they even forget [INAUDIBLE]  Do you.  Sometimes I even forget to put it down.

I:          You know Dennis, who is sitting here in this interview, he went to Afghanistan in 2006 to

Male Voice:  Yeah, end of 2006 till 2008.

I:          Eight.

D:        Okay.

I:          He has been there.  And U.S. has engaged in many wars after World War II including the Korean War and Viet Nam.



And now Afghanistan, Iraq and ISIS.  Name any war that came with concrete outcome like Korea.  Can you think of any other war?  No.

D:        Well, in the Middle East, we’ve had a lot of battles.  We brought United States troops to Syria.  We’re involved quite heavily in Sudan



In the Middle East.

I:          Yeah.  But my question is is there any other war that came with the successful outcome like Korea?

D:        No.

I:          No, right?

D:        No is right.

I:          Yeah.  You saw Korean completely devastated.  Tell me about it.

D:        Korea was a successful war.  My son wrote an article in my book.  The Korean War was good because we won the War.  [INAUDIBLE STATEMENT]

I:          Um hm.



D:        And the other wars had no end to them.  Middle East [INAUDIBLE] And I don’t know what it all is.  It’s tyranny and dictatorship.  They should be the richest part of the world.  They got oil to sell.  Korea doesn’t have any oil.  They tried anyway, number one.  I’ll always be kind to Korea



Because they, I always wanted to go back to Korea, but I never did.  I’ve been to Europe twice.  I’ve been to 12 foreign countries including, but I never went back to Korea.

I:          You should.  Do you want to go back to Korea?
D:        Well, I thought about going cause they have a program that Korea helps you

I:          Revisit Program.

D:        I know.



But I just never, I got busy and just never did it.  And now I’m getting too old.  But I always wanted to go back and see it because I respect Korea so much.

I:          Why:

D:        Because I had a part in Korea.

I:          Yeah.  You had a big part of Korea.
D:        I had a part in it.  And I know I’d be safe there. I wrote in my book about Kojedo.  Beautiful beaches there.



I:          Beautiful.

D:        They have black rocks out on the water near where our camp was.  We weren’t really many people there.  It’s kind of farming area.  There was people without bathing suits.  I always imagined the hotels there and tourist places.

I:          If you go back to Korea, you will be really, really respected and welcomed by the Korean people.

D:        I’m sure I would be.  I’ve talked to some



Fellow soldiers who went and they said they really were good to us.

I:          Yeah.  And Korean government pays for the hotel, meals and everything and half of your airfare.

D:        It’s hard for me to get around anymore. I’m afraid I’d be a wheelchair case.

I:          So, I want you to think about going back to Korea, the country you fought for 65 years ago, completely devastated, right?

D:        Right.

I:          It was ruined.



But now it’s 11th largest economy in the world.  What was the most difficult thing during your service in Korea?

D:        Taking care of the dead.  I talked quite extensively in my book.  We went up with our, we had a truck assigned to us.  We’d get a call on the telephone.  You have one body, six bodies, seven bodies, whatever.  [INAUDIBLE] the truck.



Take them back.  We had to search the bodies.  Sometimes they were badly mutilated.  We took good care of them.  We had to.  One time, we had one soldier that was killed in battle, and his arm was missing, the lower part of his arm, about that much of his arm.


We had to make out papers cause part of one arm was missing, you had to account for that one arm.  About a week later, a patrol found his arm.  They sent it back to us.

I:          They found the arm?

D:        They found the arm.

I:          Oh my God.

D:        They found the arm.  I already buried it cause I knew what would happen.  They already had the funeral for the young man in the United States. What do you do with an arm?  Here comes his arm.


I would rather have buried your arm.  But regulations wouldn’t let me do it.  We had to send it back the same way as we sent the body back.  The bodies were totally, one time we had a 17 year-old soldier was killed by a sniper.  He had one bullet in the chest.  That’s all he had. No other mark on him.  He looked like a high school boy.  That happened in Taiwan.



I recognize old people’s death.  Death comes in everybody eventually.  But young people’s death, it’s pretty traumatic.  They put the bodies on stretchers up on the front line.  And we took the stretchers to our truck.  One time, we come



back and then we’d cover it with a blanket out of respect.  Come back to where we had our headquarters, took off the blanket, and this body was upside down.  All you could see was the back of his head.  He had black hair.  And I blew up.  When I say blew up, I was angry.  I said I want to call that company and tell them how to properly put a man on his back out of respect.


We turned him over, and they did it with respect.  He had no face.  He had no brain.  All you could see was the inside of his skull. Then they turned him on his stomach so they wouldn’t have to look at him.  No face at all.  So that was very traumatic.  We had different, oh the arm.  I never finished the story about the arm.



They found the arm.  They sent it back to us.  One of my stupid men come with the arm and said you wanna shake hands?  Told me a joke.  I said if I ever catch you, I was in charge of the unit, ever catch you showing any disrespect in any way again, learn from this moment.  I’m gonna put in a request to the company commander that you be sent to the front line immediately.  He got very quiet


because I told him I don’t want any, that’s disrespectful to take a hand and wanna shake hands.  When he showed up, he never said any more.  [INAUDIBLE]

I:          About 37,000 U.S. soldiers were killed in action.

D:        Killed in action.

I:          Yeah.  And that’s the legacy of the



Korean War.

D:        That’s right.

I:          So many people were killed.  Now we have a very successful Korea, strong ally to the United States.

D:        Exactly.  In my book, I got it signed by one of the Presidents, the back page about one of the Presidents signed it.  Way in the back, I think it’s somewhere in there.

I:          Um hm.



Okay.  Do you have your granddaughter married in Korea?

D:        Yes. I have a granddaughter who was married in Korea, Osan or someplace.

I:          Osan?

D:        Osan.

Male Voice:  She got married in Seoul.

I:          Married in Seoul.  Tell me about it.  What happened?

D:        Well, she met a, she was in the Air Force, and she met



Another Air Force man.  They got married in Korea.  They have three sons.  She retired from the Air Force.  They live in, still in Colorado, Nancy?

Female Voice:  Um hm.  Colorado Springs.

D:        Colorado.

Female Voice:  My name is Nelda.

I:          Nelda?

N:        Nelda.

I:          Could you spell it?

N:        NELDA.

I:          Uh huh.  And how are you related to him?



N:        Well, I’m supposed to be his wife.

I:          Supposed to be?

N:        No.  We’ve been married now for 59 years.  So, we just had our anniversary.  And how we met.

I:          Yeah.

N:        I was teaching in a rural school.  I’ve taught in many schools in the country.

I:          What did you teach?

N:        I taught all eight grades, all subjects in eight grades



In one room.

I:          Perfect.  This is right

N:        I had as many as 36 in one room, one school.

I:          How did you meet him?

N:        Anyway, see I was married before.  And my first husband was wounded in Korea.  He was wounded in his hip and his stomach.



And he was sent to

I:          What’s his name?

N:        His name was John Holmenberg.  And they said he wouldn’t live any more, and he was 40 years old.  And the doctor said that was true.  He didn’t live that long.

I:          Um hm.  You told me you were a teacher, right?
N:        Um hm.

I:          So, you taught history too, right?
N:        I taught 19 years.  About 12, 14 in the country.

I:          Um hm.

N:        Rural schools.



And five in town.

I:          So, you taught history too, right?
N:        Pardon?

I:          History.  You taught history, too.

N:        Yeah.

I:          And did you teach about the Korean War?
N:        Oh yes.

I:          What did you teach?

N:        The country, you know, the way the country was and so forth.  Oh yeah.  We had a lot of history and geography.

I:          But you know that there is very small coverage of the Korean War in the history textbook, right?



N:        I know.

I:          Tell me about it.  Why?  Why is it that short?

N:        I don’t know.

I:          I mean, you married two Korean War veterans.  They sacrificed their lives, right?  The first one died, right?
N:        Right.

I:          And as you know, now South Korea is one of the most prosperous countries in the world.

N:        I know.

I:          Yeah.
N:        And I think a lot of Korea.  I don’t know what it is.



But it’s really something that they’re just,

I:          And this is

N:        I liked to tell my students that at that time, now on September 10, we’re gonna have a big rural school reunion, and I’m supposed to speak 15 minutes, and the kids are supposed to come, you know.  All the students are gonna come.

I:          Yeah.  But this is a very successful outcome that came out of the Korean War veterans’ sacrifice.  But we don’t teach much about it.  That’s the problem that I’m



Trying to challenge.  I think we have to teach more, right?
N:        I think, oh yes.  I think so.

I:          Right.  Would you introduce yourself?

Female Voice:  My name is Nancy Forsyth.

I:          Um hm.

Female Voice:  I’ve lived on a farm for 46 years.  I’m married to a man who was in the Viet Nam War.  I have three children from a previous marriage.  My son farms.  My first daughter is the one who enlisted in the Air Force.


And she is the one who was in Osan and Kumsong. She met her husband there.  She called me and told me she was getting married on June 30 because everybody else was getting married and had birthdays in July.  Well, she didn’t tell me who she was marrying.  And the funny part is she said I’m getting married on June 30, and my husband is from Texas.



And so, what we didn’t know was that when they got married on the 30th of June, they thought they had to take and have a witness with them when they got married.  So, they went to the U. S. Embassy in Seoul where they were gonna get married.  And all that happened was they had to write down their name, no witness signature, and the person that said after they wrote their name, next.  That’s all there was.  But they were married.  And there was no place for them to stay



In Seoul.  But they did find one place.  And the person that they thought they took for their witness, spent their wedding night with them.  And they didn’t know how to read Korean.  So, they ordered what is nationally known everywhere, pizza and Pepsi.  That was what they had on their wedding night, yeah.  Interesting.  I also have a daughter that lives in Sioux Falls.  So, I have two children, yeah.

I:          Okay.  Are you a teacher?
Female Voice:  Yes.



I have been teaching at USD for over 15 years. It’s all ESL and TSOL related.

I:          Okay.

Female Voice:  But mostly English grammar and writing with some literature and some poetry.

I:          Good.  You’ve been watching this interview, right?
Female Voice:  Yes.
I:          What do you think about the legacy of your

Female Voice:  Well, I think it’s incomparable to any other legacy.  He has a lot of stories.  Dad has a very good memory.



He tells it like it is.  And so, it’s very interesting.  The one thing I did want to add to this was I had one Korean student.  His name was Han.  And Han came to my parents’ farm.  He was at my house.  We took him to church events and all kinds of school events.  But I will tell you he was gone from the States for a little while.  And one year, he wanted to come back here in the summertime.  And it happened to be when they were having a farm party.



And because he had been there and he knew them, he wanted to go.  And he brought his wife and his two children.  But when he arrived at the farm party, Han was very exhausted because he said I drove 100 miles from Rapid City to get out here.  And I had a very expensive speeding ticket.

I:          I have nine teachers from 25 states in Orlando, Florida this June.



Talk about the Korean War.  What do you think about our history textbook not telling too much about the Korean War? What do you think?
Female Voice:  Well, there needs to be something in the textbooks because.

I:          There are some.  But it’s too short.

Female Voice:  It’s very important, yeah, very short.  And Han and I even had that conversation.  He said there isn’t much.  And he and his wife were living in Texas for a while.  And their children were realizing there was very little in the



Textbooks about Korea period.  There just wasn’t that much.
I:          Right.  What would you do if you were in charge of textbooks?

Female Voice:  Well, I’ve been active in teaching in other schools besides USD where I’ve had to buy books from publishing firms in order to use those in my classes.  And I’ve taught a lot of Cultural Studies classes as well.  So, I think a lot



Of, even if it weren’t in a history book, that it could also be in about culture because we learn about different cultures and how they, you know, a McDonald’s menu means something in one place.  But you go into another state or another area, another country, and it means something else.

I:          Exactly because out of those 90 teachers that gathered at Orlando, Florida, many of them were art or literature, like the TSOL program that you are teaching.


0: 46:30
So, I want you to do something about that.  And I can invite you to Mount Rushmore.  We’ll cover your expenses, okay? And could you spread this information?

Female Voice:  Yeah.

I:          To your teachers.

Female Voice:  A lot of ESL and TSOL.

I:          Yeah.  And other social or history teachers.

Female Voice:  I’m still active at USD with the Cultural Studies.

I:          Yeah.
Female Voice:  And they have dinners and suppers and just invitational things.



And etiquette banquets and all kinds of things.
I:          Yeah.  So please spread this information.  Ask them to contact me, okay?  Would you do that?
Female Voice:  Sure.

I:          Yeah?
Female Voice:  I can help you do that.

I:          Beautiful.
Female Voice:  I will tell you that the date that you chose

I:          Um hm.

Female Voice:  The 11th to the 14th could very well be a time that if I am teaching again next summer, I’m teaching during that time.  So that’s the only thing I can say about that.

I:          Summer teaching?
Female Voice:  Yeah.  I teach in the summertime.

I:          Um hm.

Female Voice:  But I edit and proofread papers



For all students.

I:          Okay.

Female Voice:  During the school year.

I:          This is a great honor and pleasure to meet your family, Dennis.  And any other message you want to say to this?  Dennis?  What would you say?

D:        Korea has an ancient culture.  There isn’t any kingdom for 100 years.  Japan invaded



In 1910 and took it over.  I don’t know [INAUDIBLE STATEMENT] and the Japanese Army

I:          Yeah.

D:        I thought they would. Japan ruled Korea from 1910 till after the Second World War.

I:          Yeah.



D:        That’s why their culture doesn’t support [INAUDIBLE STATEMENT].  But it was a hostile occupation by Japan.

I:          Yeah.

D:        Because Korea has an ancient culture.  I have books [INAUDIBLE] usually about the kingdom of Korea and the cultures that they have.  It’s a beautiful place in Korea to go back to those days that I’ve never seen but I’ve seen pictures of them.

I:          Um.



I admire Korea a great deal. I really do cause I have a figure of the pot so to speak.

I:          Um hm.

D:        It makes a difference.  [INAUDIBLE] to talk about different things.  But if you look at my book, it says, there’s pictures.  You can have whatever you want out of it.



I:          Show it to the camera please, like that.  To Korea and Back Home Again.  Author is Dennis Hultgren.

D:        Hultgren.

I:          Yep.  Dennis, thank you so much for your service for the Korean nation.  And Koreans never forget this.  And we want to use this interview, all your family interview,



In the schools.  Somewhere somebody will listen to you and learn about your legacy.  Thank you, sir.