Korean War Legacy Project

Desmond M. W. Vinten

Bio

Desmond “Des” Vinten served in South Korea from June 1951 to July 1953, leaving the day the truce was signed. Acknowledging the expertise of the Chinese enemy, he recounts two occasions of engagement. Due to the distress and destruction in South Korea, he originally did not want to return to South Korea. Beyond combat, he describes his time in a military prison. As the National President of the National New Zealand Veterans Association, he has visited Korea four times since his service in the Korean War.

Video Clips

Dispatch Rider

Desmond Vinten initially lied on military documents to enlist in the military at nineteen. He arrived at Busan in June of 1951 and remained until the Armistice. He served as a dispatch rider based in the headquarters of the Forward Maintenance Area. He left July 27, 1953, as the cease fire came into effect. He has returned to Korea four times since his service.

Tags: 1953 Armistice 7/27,Busan,Daegu,Seoul,Front lines,Home front,Impressions of Korea,South Koreans

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRtQpoUprxk&start=352&end=609

War Zone and Road Conditions

Desmond Vinten describes the fighting in and around Seoul and how the line shifted three times causing great destruction. Buildings were uninhabitable and citizens evacuated. As the center of the country, Seoul suffered war zone traffic. Road conditions on the routes to Seoul, Incheon, Daegu, and Yeongdeungpo were horrible with a speed limit of fifteen miles per hour. The First British Commonwealth lay four or five miles behind the front lines.

Tags: Daegu,Incheon,Seoul,Yeongdeungpo,Chinese,Civilians,Communists,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,North Koreans,Physical destruction,Poverty,South Koreans

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRtQpoUprxk&start=612&end=894

Never Wanted to Return

Desmond Vinten left Korea with the intention of never returning. Upon arrival in 1951, he could smell Busan from thirty miles out at sea. The total war zone was so intense that he did not think South Korea could recover to become what it is today. After all, the main goal of the United Nations was to keep the Communist Chinese out, not to rebuild South Korea.

Tags: 1953 Armistice 7/27,Busan,Daegu,Chinese,Communists,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Physical destruction

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRtQpoUprxk&start=1320&end=1546

War is Hell, Winter is Worse

Desmond Vinten describes spending twenty-seven days in an English military prison. His charge was "firing on the Queen's enemy without the Queen's permission." His sentence reflected the reality that sometimes shooting at the Chinese created more danger due to the Chinese soldiers' skill at firing mortars in retaliation. Besides the challenges of engaging the enemy, the heat, cold, and dust left him with the understanding that "war is hell, but winter is even worse."

Tags: Daegu,Seoul,Chinese,Cold winters,Communists,Fear,Front lines,Physical destruction,Weapons

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRtQpoUprxk&start=2110&end=2450

"The War That Never Ended: New Zealand Veterans Remember Korea"

Desmond Vinten displays the book he published about New Zealand veteran experiences in the Korean War. The book provides interviews and photographs of twelve veterans. He is proud of his service and has served as National President of the New Zealand Korean Veterans.

Tags: Seoul,Impressions of Korea

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRtQpoUprxk&start=2458&end=2810

Video Transcript

[Beginning of recorded material]

D:        My name is Des Vinten.

I:          Um hm.

D:        And it’s spelled D E S, that’s my Christian name, first name, um. And my last name is Vinten, V victory, I N T E N.

I:          Your middle name?
D:        Middle name’s, uh, Max, M A X and William, W I L L I A M.

I:          Um hm.  Great.  What is your birthday?

D:        Twelfth of August, 1931.

0:00:30

I:          Thirty-one .  So you are now 80

D:        Eighty-eight.

I:          Wow.  You look great.  You look great, sir.  And I saw your picture that you still riding bike.

D:        Yes, I do, yeah.

I:          Wow.  That’s, so where were you born?
D:        I was born in Featherston.

I:          Could you spell it?

D:        Featherston is F E A T H E R S T O N,

0:01:00

And it’s just over the Rimutaka Hill from  here.

I:          So it’s not far from her.

D:        No.  It’s, it’s just on the other side of the Rimutaka, um

I:          Wellington, right?

D:        Yeah. no, no, no.  Uh, Wairarapa.

I:          Wairarapa.

D:        W A I R A R A P A.

I:          Okay.  And you are, what is your title right now in New Zealand KVP?

0:01:30
D:        I’m the Chairman of the, uh,

I:          Of?

D:        I’m the Chairman of the Wellington Region Korea Veterans.

I:          Korea Veterans.  How many members do you have?

D:        Um. members that turn up regularly, 13.

I:          Thirteen.
D:        Yeah.

I:          That’s all.

D:        But, uh, we’ve got 34 members, uh, on the books.

0:02:00

I:          On the books.

D:        Yeah.

I:          And do you know how many New Zealand soldiers participated in the Korean War altogether?

D:        Six thousand.

I:          Six thousand, yeah.

D:        That’s roughly.

I:          Roughly.

D:        Yeah.

I:          Yeah, so

D:        Well, [STAMMERS] Let me correct that.  There were 6,000 New Zealanders

I:          Um hm.

D:        uh, went to Korea.  They were predominantly Army, uh, predominantly gunners in the Army,

I:          Um hm

D:        And, um

0:02:30

there was Navy, uh.  We had, uh, ships up there all the time, um, from the very beginning

I:          Yes.  So about 6,000 vigilant soldiers

D:        Yeah, it was a bout 6,000 in total, um

I:          Yes

D:        over the period of time from 1950, that was when the Navy went up there.  They were the first people

I:          Yes, right after the

0:03:00

war broke out because they were around Japan.

D:        There were actually, the, the Navy had a ship on the way to Korea

I:          When was it?
D:        when war was declared.
I:          That’s right.
D:        And, um, then from there on out, um, the military, and I’m talking about, um, Army

I:          Army.

D:        now, um, were going up, um. Everybody who went up there were, were volunteers, uh, and they signed

0:03:30

up for three years, um.  And they did us out of 18 months because, um, the most anybody ever spent in Korea during war was 18 months, um.  But we actually signed on the dotted line, um, when we volunteered to do three years service.

I:          So the 18 months regulation is for Army only, or does that apply to Navy and

D:        No. Navy, Navy weren’t volunteers, uh.

0:04:00

They were, um,  the crew of, of, um, the warships that, that went from here

I:          Yes.  So you been back to Korea since you left Korea during the war, how many times?
D:        Four times.
I:          Four times.  When was the first time that you went to Korea?
D:        Um, the first time I went up there, oh,

0:04:30

uh, I couldn’t tell you what the year was, uh.

I:          Was it in the 2000 or before

D:        No.  Um, it was, uh,

I:          Let me ask you this.  What, what year was the la, latest one that you visited/
D:        Oh, um, this year, no last year.

I:          Last year.

D:        2018.

I:          Eighteen.  You were invited back to Korea, right, by MPBA, right?

D:        Yes.

I:          So why were you there?  Why did t hey

0:05:00

invite you back?
D:        Uh, because I was the national President of the New Zealand Korea Veterans.

I:          Wow.
D:        Um, and that was the whole, the whole idea.

I:          Um hm.

D:        In the days when, when there was a national Korea Veterans Association, we had something like, uh, 500

I:          Um hm.

D:        five hundred, uh, members.

I:          Um.

D:        And, uh

I:          Five hundred members.

D:        Five hundred

0:05:30

financial members of, of the New Zealand Korea Veterans Association.

I:          Right.

D:        But over the years,  you know, the years roll on and, um, the, the national body got smaller and smaller, uh, because the Grim Reaper was there getting rid of, uh, some of the older ones, uh.  In fact,  it’s interesting, I find it interesting, that when I went to Korea the first time,

I:          Yeah

D:        It was 19.

0:06:00

I:          Nineteen, yes.

D:        No, it was two years under, under the, the age

I:          Um hm

D:        that, um, enabled me to go to Korea, uh.  But I made a, a false statement, and when I’d go

in [INAUDIBLE] and, um,

I:          Had to be 21, right?

D:        Yeah, you had to be 21.

I:          Yeah. Yeah.

D:        But they found me out before I left New Zealand and, and, the, the Army rang my parents and, um,

0:06:30

I have a feeling that my dad said let him go.

I:          Good father or bad father?
D:        Oh, good father, yeah, yeah.

I:          Okay.

D:        Very clever man actually.  But,  uh, yeah.

I:          So when were you there in Korea?  When did you arrive in Korea?

D:        I arrived in Korea, um, June, June of 1951.

0:07:00

I:          And where did you arrive?

D:        Where did we arrive?
I:          Yeah.  Pusan ?
D:        Pusan.

I:          Pusan.

D:        We went  from New Zealand to Australia, um, by commercial ship, and then in Australia we, we were, uh, put in a, a camp, um, waiting for One Battalion Royal [INAUDIBLE] Regiment to finish their training. And then we went from, uh, Sydney

0:07:30

I:          Um.

D:        uh, to Japan on the, uh,

I:          Yes?

D:        Am I doing

I:          Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

D:        We went from Sydney to Japan on the, um, Royal Air Force Troop ship Devonshire?

Um, and that took us from Sydney, uh, you want me to look at that?

I:          And so,

0:08:00

and when did you leave Korea from the war?
D:        Uh, I was in Seoul on my way home the night the cease fire came into effect.

I:          Ah.  So you were there until July 27 of ’53.

D:        Yes.

I:          So you were there about two years, right?
D:        Well, it was under two years actually.

I:          Yeah, under two years.  And you been back to Korea four times?
D:        Yes.

I:          Tell me.

0:08:30

What is the Korea you saw in 1952 and the Korea you saw on your revisit to Korea?  How different?

D:        Well, in 19

I:          Give me the detailed description of the  differences between those two Koreas.

D:        I was closer to, uh, to Seoul, to an outfit called the Forward Maintenance Area as a dispatch rider.

I:          What is that?

D:        Um,

0:09:00

riding motorbikes

I:          Uh huh.

D:        uh, but there weren’t any motorbikes, uh, because motorbikes were out of the question at that, at that time.

I:          Right.

D:        Um, we got into, um, Seoul, and into that building that I showed the picture of.  And, and, uh, I became a dispatch rider, um

I:          Dispatcher rider, oh, I see.  I see, yeah. Yeah, yeah.

D:        I drove a Jeep

I:          Yeah, okay.

D:        cause you couldn’t ride motorbikes.

0:09:30

And Seoul was, uh, and we were right in, in the center of Seoul, and you know where we were cause I showed you the picture.

I:          That’s the Headquarter of, what is it, your, your Headquarter, right?

D:        Yeah.  Well that was the Headquarters of the Forward  Maintenance Area.

I:          Fourth Maintenance

D:        Forward

I:          Forward.
D:        Yeah, forward, maintenance area.

I:          Um hm.  Yes?
D:        Everything went through, keeping right on the way tom um

0:10:00

the war zone.

I:          And that’s now the Pullman Women’s or Girl’s High School.

D:        Yeah.

I:          Yes. And tell me, yes.  So tell me about those differences in Seoul.

D:        Um, in, in those times, it was less than a year, I was sent to [INAUDIBLEL] over not once but three times.  And then backwards and forwards.  And, um,

0:10:30

You don’t need that much imagination to imagine what it looked like.  It was just a, a, trouble was most of the buildings were destroyed, um.  The conditions, uh, of the roads, um, were almost non-existent, um. And, um, it was a war zone.  There were very few, um, people, um

0:11:00

citizens of Seoul there because they’d all, um

I:          Evacuated.

D:        evacuated, yeah.  And it was, like I said, a war zone.

I:          Um hm.

D:        And the, there weren’t that many, um, buildings that were, uh, habitable that we saw.

I:          Um.

D:        that were habitable, um, for the central reason that the

0:11:30

Chinese and North Koreans had been [INAUDIBLE] on the way to Pusan.

D:        Yes.  Then the Americans went up, uh, through Seoul because of where Seoul is, it’s t he main sort of t trunk if you like between, uh,

I:          The center of the country.

D:        Yeah.
I:          Yes.

D:        Yes, yes, it’s obvious Seoul.  Uh, places like, um, Taegu, uh, Yong Dong [INAUDIBLE], um,

0:12:00

Uijeongbu, where village, where, small settlements in their own right in those days, um.  To go to Inchon from, from Seoul, um, you’re looking at about four hours to drive from Seoul to Inchon.  Same thing going South, um, to get to Taegu or to get to, um,

0:12:30

yeah, to get to Taegu, um, there, down[INAUDIBLE]

I:          Um hm.

D:        main supply route, you can get away ¾ of the day because the  roads were, uh, pretty rough

I:          Yeah.

D:        And in the, the speed limit is hard, hard to imagine it now.  But the speed limit everywhere was 15 miles an hour.

I:          Fifteen?
D:        Yeah, 15.

I:          Wow.

D:        One five.

0:13:00

But, uh, you know, a little later on, uh, when, um, I’d been in Seoul for, um, four months that stage of it, and, um, uh, I was then posted from Seoul to, uh, up to the Imjin, uh, where we, we were under canvas, uh

I:          What was your unit?
D:        My, my unit

0:13:30

in, in

I:          Korea.

D:        in Korea

I:          Yeah.

D:        Uh, was, if you made it Southward and then when they posted me to, um,  the District Regiment, um, one, the first British Commonwealth Division

I:          First British

D:        Commonwealth

I:          Yeah.

D:        Division.  One Com Div.

I:          Uh.

D:        Um, and One Com. Div. had just been formed at that stage from the three brigades, 27, 25 and,

0:14:00

uh, [INAUDIBLE] um, had Infantry there, the Brits had Infantry there, and the Americans, um. well, um, English, Canada, uh, and Australia, um, were all on the frontline.

I:          Um.

D:        And the [INAUDIBLE] was the controlling, uh

I:          Imjin area

D:        Headquarters of the whole lot of the British Commonwealth Division which was made up of

0:14:30

Australians, Canadians,

I:          Um hm

D:        and, uh, Brits, English.  So, yeah.  And that, and that was, um, that was sort of just behind the front lines, um.  We were about maybe four or five miles behind the front line.  The rest were out in front of it.

I:          But when you go back 2018, how different Seoul was.  Tell me those details.

0:15:00

D:        Oh, it, it, it’s, it’s hard to imagine what it was like in 1951 when we first got there, hard to imagine, uh.  Now, of course, it’s, uh, uh, I started to say, places like Uijeongbu, Taegu, um, Yeongdeungpo which were all small suburb, um, towns

0:15:30

outside of Seoul are not part of Seoul, and Seoul is, is, uh, not one city.  There are 68 cities.

I:          Satellite cities attached to it, yeah.

D:        Yeah, [INAUDIBLE] and, and there’s nothing in between.  You, you leave Seoul, and you’re in Uijeongbu for instance or Yeongdeungpo, um.  And they’re all right there, uh.  And I couldn’t have, I couldn’t have found my way around

0:16:00

the place, uh, now cause anyhow, the population, I think’s, about eight million, uh, all told.  I don’t

I:          Where, in Seoul?

D:        Yes, Seoul now.
I:          It’s more than 10 million, and but metropolitan area is more than 25 million.

D:        Yeah.  Well, like I said.

I:          And you, you have a population of how many here?
D:        Um

I:          4.9 million?

D:        Oh yeah.  About 4.5 million.

I:          Total, total population of New Zealand.

D:        Yeah.

I:          Yeah.

D:        Four and a half.

0:16:30

Oh a[lot of it] more than 4.5 million.  And it’s not that long ago it was only two million.

I:          Right.

D:        But, uh, you know, you, you couldn’t compare the two Seouls.  Seoul is a war-torn city, um.

I:          Was.

D:        Yeah.  Um, As a worn-torn city, um, you know, most of the roads were impassable.  Most of the streets were impassable, um, thanks to, um,

0:17:00

the Americans and their tanks and artillery and the Chinese with their infantry and what have you, yeah.  It’s just so different to today.  Places in Seoul when I, that I knew, um, because we used them as landmarks, the Southgate, for instance

I:          Yes.

D:        On the way South out of Seoul down into K16 and, um, Kimpo

0:17:30

I:          Um  hm

D:        K16 was the combat cargo airfield which is, uh, I, I found that this time when I was up there by going up [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Um.

D:        Yeah.

I:          Um.

D:        Yeah.

I:          Yeah.

D:        And by going up, uh, up [INAUDIBLE] I mean to get to the top of [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Yes.

D:        and just look out and there’s what used to be K16, uh, the combat cargo airfield

I:          Yeah.

D:        And Kimpo is over there, uh,

0:18:00

which was the fighter air strip.  That’s where the, uh,

I:          That’s now International Airport.

D:        No, it’s not.  Not anymore. Uh,

I:          No.

D:        And [INAUDIBLE] Inchon, uh.

I:          I mean, Inchon is International but also Kimpo is becoming, be, became International

D:        Oh, it it?
I:          Yeah.  We took a flight from there to Japan.
D:        Yeah.

I:          It used to be Domestic.

D:        Yeah.

I:          Um.  So you are the witness, living witness, of those drastic difference

0:18:30

between the Seoul in 1952 and now.

D:        Well, I wouldn’t have thought of it like that.  But yes, I guess I am, yeah.

I:          So what do you think about the transformation?  What did you feel when you see it?
D:        Well, uh, I think I know where you’re going with this.  It, um, hard to, hard to

0:19:00

put it into words.  There is no connection.  There is no comparison between Seoul in 1950, 51

I:          Um.

D:        to Seoul in 2000 and, and whenever I first went back there on a revisit, um.  There is, you can’t, there is, there is no comparison.  The only, the only thing that, that I would

0:19:30

say is that, um, the way we  get treated when we, when we go there is just too much.  It is too much.  You can’t walk into a marketplace, for instance, and, and because we wear New Zealand regalia, uh, when we were up there, you walk into a marketplace, and it’s like the parting of the waters, you know, the crowd that’s moved aside, and people want to shake your hand, give you

0:20:00

a hug, thank you for saving our country and, and, and that sort of thing.  And that is the single, um, most memorable experience, uh, that you have, that our guys will have if they’ve never been there before.

I:          Um hm.

D:        that have never seen Seoul in peace time.  And it’s just really it’s, it’s, it’s embarrassing. [LAUGHS]

I:          In some,

D:        Yeah.  Some respects it’s embarrassing

0:20:30

Here in New Zealand,

I:          Uh huh

D:        I can walk down the street and, and I would shoulder my way through the crowds, you know.  I’m a veteran, um, and the government treats us, um, with some disdain, um.  Not, I’m not saying that the Veterans Affairs Organization which is the parallel to MPVA

I:          Yeah

D:        In, uh., Korea.  They do a good job for us.  Um,

0:21:00

But in Korea, everybody does a good job for us, you know.  And, and we’re treated like conquering heroes, uh.  I keep telling people for goodness sake.  I just drove a Jeep, you know.  Um, that was what I did for 18 months.  All I did was driving a Jeep and delivering mail, delivering dispatchers and that sort of thing really.

I:          But you said, as you said, it’s a incomparable those two Seouls in the minds of Korean people

D:        Yeah.

I:          And we

0:21:30

were able to  rebuild our nation because you fought for us.  So I, in my opinion it’s so natural for them to thank you.

D:        Yes, I suppose, yeah.  Um, that’s true.  But then I’m a Kiwi.  I’m not a Korean.

I:          So let me ask this question.  You left after the Armistice.  When you left Korea, had you ever imagined that Korea would become like this today?

0:22:00

D:        The last thing I’d seen, uh, as I was climbing on board a, a, an RAA Dakota to go back to Japan to our base camp and be returned to New Zealand,

I:          Yeah.
D:        I looked back over my shoulder as, as I, as I arrived at the aircraft, at the door of the aircraft, and I, and I looked back at the sight of K16

I:          Um hm

D:        and I, and, and this is a truth as I sit here,

0:22:30

I thought to myself if I ever come back to this place

I:          Um hm

D:        Uh, I’m sorry.

I:          Yeah, go ahead, go ahead.

D:        If I ever come back to this place, no, uh, If I never come back to this place

I:          Uh huh

D:        again, it’ll be too soon  Yeah. that, that, those were my thoughts on it.  If I n ever come back here again, it’ll be too soon.

0:23:00

I:          Too soon.

D:        When we arrived in 1951, we went from Japan to, uh, Pusan in a landing craft, uh, tank, LCT

I:          Yeah.

D:        across the land, sea and what have you, and you could smell Pusan from 30 odd miles out to see, you could smell it, uh.  And

I:          So bad, right?

D:        It was so bad, uh, huh, and for all of my 18 months up there

0:23:30

and, and I drove a lot of miles, um, around the area up there from, from the Imjin back to Taegu and Pusan, uh, yeah.  And that’s, you just couldn’t describe it.  It was, like I keep saying, it was [INAUDIBLE[  And that’s my total experience, um, of Korea.  The first time was, uh, it was, it

0:24:00

was war, um.

I:          And

D:        But, uh, I just, just quick, to answer your question about my reactions, uh, on leaving the place were, uh, as, as honest as I said earlier, you know.  If I never come back to this place again, it’ll be too bloody soon.

I:          Um hm.  So you actually, you didn’t think that Korea become like this today.
D:        No.  I. well nobody ever, ever

 

0:24:30

really thought that, uh, apart from keeping Chinese, um, out of South Korea

I:          Yes.

D:        um, which is obviously what, what they, uh, South Koreans wanted.  They did, the, you know, um, nobody wants their country to be occupied, um.  And if, if, if you’re brutally honest about it, um, that was, uh, the number one goal for

0:25:00

United Nations was, was to return, uh, part of Korea, uh, because it was one country at one time, return part of Korea back to, um, the right way it should be, you know, not the way the Chinese would have it.

I:          Exactly.

D:        Uh, yeah.

I:          [INAUJDIBLE] you made a great point.  That was the first time that U.S. and U.N Forces actually fought against the Republic of China,

0:25:30

the Communist China

D:        Yes.

I:          in 20th century

D:        Well that’s what we’re into.

I:          and that war never ended.  So we are still at, technically at war.

D:        Yes.

I:          And that’s why there are so much problem in East Asia, you know?  So, but because you are national leader, let me, you once was the President of, uh, National Chapter.  Despite such great transformation from ashes and total devastation to

0:26:00

11th largest economy in the world.

D:        Um.

I:          New Zealand history textbook doesn’t talk much about the Korean War.  Why is that?

D:        New Zealand

I:          History textbook here.

D:        [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Yeah.  Not talk too much about it.

D:        Because, uh, the general sort of feeling in those days were, um, it was a police action.  Uh, it wasn’t a war. It was

0:26:30

just a police and, uh, yeah.  And it’s been characterized as the war, uh, that never ended.

I:          Um hm.

D:        It, it was a stalemate, um.  If you could go to, um, Pam, Panmunjom, um, to the, the peace village, the, the DMZ

I:          Hm.

D:        um, and see the way the two opposing forces, um, stay and fight each other,

0:27:00

um, it, it, it, if for no other reason, uh, the, the, uh, the situation, um, became a standoff

I:          Yes.

D:        Um,, and that was the start of, um, what their President, um, KimJong-un and, uh, yeah, um, he is now faced with having to come to grips

0:27:30

with not, not just the United Nations but predominately America.

I:          Yes.

D:        And, and I for one, um, everyday when I, when I watch CNN news and what have you, uh, I can’t believe that the, it’s gonna be that easy.  And it’s not gonna be.

I:          No.

D:        At all.

I:          No.  Um, did you know anything about Korea

0:28:00

before you went to Korea for the war?

D:        Not really.

I:          You didn’t know where it was, right?

D:        Not really.  I knew where it was.

I:          Oh really?
D:        Yeah, well most of us, um, not withstanding what other people, other countries say about us.  Um, most of us are pretty well versed with what goes on outside of our own, un, backyard.  And I knew that, um, because we had, we had people in Japan in those days, you know, from

0:28:30

uh, the Japanese Occupation Force.

I:          Um hm.

D:        And, um, we had a lot of New Zealanders in Japan.  In fact, the very early volunteers, um, for Korea and, and I was one, um, but that’s another story.  Um, yeah.  And most of them had spent time in Japan

I:          Yeah.

D:        with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force.

I:          Um.  But now you once served as a

0:29:00

Nat, President of National chapter.  You’ve been back to Korea four times,

D:        Yeah.
I:          You have a very close relationship with the MPVA there.  How do you put that into perspective?  You didn’t know anything about it, and you said that if I never come back, it’ll be too soon.

D:        Yeah.

I:          You saw total destruction.  Now you see Korea completely changed.  And now.

D:        Now I can

I:          You have a special relationship.  How do you put that into perspective?

D:        Uh,

0:29:30

well, I keep, um, in the, in the Korean Embassy here, uh, and me, uh, have got a very close relationship, um.  Since I got involved in, because, um, something that you haven’t really touched on is the fact that, that, uh, on a Korean soldier or I was a Korean soldier

I:          Yeah.

D:        uh, well it’s been

0:30:00

23 years in the military, um, starting with Korea, starting with Kforce.

I:          Um.

D:        And I never really, uh, got out of the military way of doing things.  Um, and I have this relationship with successive ambassadors, um, right back to, I’m trying to think of the name of the first ambassador that I know.

I:          Um hm.

0:30:30

D:        No, it wasn’t.  It was, uh, [INAUDIBLE] But every ambassador that we’ve had here for years now, um, have sort of gathered me up, uh, being, aide of the, uh, I started off as a North Island Vice President of, of [INAUDIBLE] North Korea vet. And I ended up as, uh, the National President of Korea vet.  And that kept me in touch with,

0:31:00

with the Koreans, um.  At the, um, ambassador [INAUDIBLE] and, and, and that goes on today I, I’m the ambassador’s go-to man, uh, if anything crops up that, that needs, um, you know, Korea, Korean, uh, diplomat in, and veteran to get together.  We have a meeting coming up, in fact, which you’re probably not aware of.  Twenty-seventh, we’re going up to Otaki to

0:31:30

present, um, the, the Korean Ambassador is presenting 100 bicycles to the primary school in Otaki where we meet every year

I:          Um hm.

D:        [INAUDIBLE]  And, uh,

I:          So what is Korea to you now personally?   You didn’t know anything about it.  What is Korea to you personally?

D:        Well, um,

I:          What is Korea to you now?

0:32:00

D:        Um, they’re my friends.  They are my friends, and I mean that, uh, genuinely.  Witness, uh, every time I go back now.

I:          Um hm.

D:        I end up having, uh, lunch or dinner with the, um, the Koreans in Korea who have been, uh, in the Embassy or in New Zealand.

I:          Um

D:        Um, yeah.  They don’t forget their friends, and I

0:32:30

don’t forget my friends, you know.  That, that’s the way it is.

I:          That’s the way it is,  yes.

D:        For instance, when I, when I greeted you

I:          The interview?

D:        Yeah, when I greeted you just now yeah.

I:          H.

D:        In Korean, and that was a, yeah, those in, in [INAUDIBLE] every day [INAUDIBLE] uh, that I, that I use.  I use because, uh, I know that it pleases,

0:33:00

uh, people that, uh, I’ve taken the trouble to, to learn.

I:          Um hm.

D:        every day [INAUDIBLE]  It’s, uh, hard with them.  I, I spent, um, three years of my life [INAUDIBLE]  And, uh, I never really, never really bothered to, to inspect my life and.  But

0:33:30

but the Koreans it’s different, you know.

I:          That’s why we going to make this interview as a curricular resources, so that teachers in the classroom in New Zealand can talk about the war that you fought for and others fought for.

D:        Yeah.

I:          And we going to, we talk about it with the VA office here, and we going to make it as a lesson plan book so that teachers can use even for tomorrow to talk about the Korean War.]

D:        I think if you’re lucky, you have, if that gets any really general acceptance in the educational system of New Zealand.

0:34:00

I:          I am pretty lucky actually.

D:        But yeah, seriously.  Um, yeah.  The New Zealand system, um, education system, and I was involved in that after I left the Army, and

0:34:30

the, the, it’s not, seems to be not a lot of interest in that.

I:          Um.  We will make it interesting to them, and we’ll make sure that your legacy will be transferred.  Uh, any episode during the, your service in Korea that you want to share with us because most of the question about was sort of historical and, and kind of political.  But I want to get some of your story during your service as

D:        Obviously, you  heard a story about me.

I:          I don’t.  Tell me please.

0:35:00

Talk to young children, yeah.

D:        Well, that’s, ha ha,

I:          What episode would you want to share?
D:        Not the sort of thing you talk to people about.   But, but, um, I was put in prison in, in Korea, in the military prison in Korea charged with an offense, and the offense was firing on the Queen’s enemy, yep, the Queen’s specific permission.

I:          Ah.

D:        Um, I’d been an on deck day, um, in the  front line with, with three Royal [INAUDIBLE] Regiment, uh.

0:35:30

A couple of guys, three RIR

I:          Yeah

D:        Were actually Kiwis, from New Zealand

I:          Yeah

D:        And, uh, on deck day, we all get together, the New Zealanders and Australians, [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Yeah.

D:        for.  Don’t really have to tell you that.  But, um, uh, I ended up, uh, shooting at some Chinese in a crawl trench

0:36:00

400 meters away from where, where we were.  And, um, that caused the Chinese to retaliate and, um, with, um, three or four rounds of 4.2 mortar.

I:          Uh huh.

D:        on our position.  And, and we could have got people killed, uh.

I:          That’s why you were put into prison?

D:        That’s why I was put in prison, yeah.

I:          Ha.

D:        But, uh

I:          How long were you there in prison?
D:        Twenty-seven days.

I:          Oh, it was a vacation

D:        Twenty-seven days [LAUGH]

0:36:30

But, there, there, that charge, firing on the Queen’s enemy over there, the Queen’s specific permission, uh, is a unique military charge, uh, in New Zealand.
I:          Yeah.
D:        I don’t think there’s too many other people have every been charged, um, uh, under that.

I:          So kind of honor to you.

D:        [LAUGHS]  Yeah.  But don’t don’t make  me go through that story because it’s, it’s well known.

I:          Oh, is that right.

0:37:00

Um, any other occasion where the, you were in danger to be, you know, to lose your life, you might have

D:        [INAUDIBLE] as a dispatcher rider, um, driving a Jeep all around the division area, and I mean all around the division area, the three brigades and the vehicle, uh, and behind them, um, on occasion, um, we always carried [INAUDIBLE] with us

0:37:30

and another driver, and there was always two of us in, in the vehicle.  And, uh, usually there was a shotgun guard with a, a signaler, and he didn’t drive and.  But, uh, there were places, um, that we used to have to drive through that were, um, camouflaged roads, they’d camouflage on each side of the road.  You weren’t allowed to go more than five mile an hour

0:38:00

underneath because of the dust coming out through the nets and the Chinese could see the dust carpet coming up through their nets, and they’d drop a couple of mortars in.  And anybody tells you that mortars aren’t an, a, an aerial weapon, uh, don’t know what they’re talking about.  The Chinese ,  uh, had the art of mortar fire down to a fine art.  And, and they could drop rounds within feet of, of where they intended them to go

0:38:30

and, um, you went through there anything more than five mile an hour at your own risk, you know.

I:          Yeah.

D:        If you, if you did that and the Chinese saw dust coming out through the camouflage nets,

I:          Um.

D:        uh, they’d drop a couple of mortars on the road just so to let you know that they, they, they know where you are.  But yeah.  Generally speaking, um, the worst part of being a dispatch rider was the weather.

0:39:00

I:          Weather?

D:        Yeah.  It, it

I:          Why?

D:        It’s either bitterly cold

I:          Um hm.

D:        Or boiling hot, and you, you’ve got snow and mud at  one end of the spectrum, and at the other end you got dust, um, in the summertime.  Uh, and in between you got the wet season, and you, and you’re driving on roads that are a little bit of a farm tracks.

I:          Um.

0:39:30

D:        And uh, you had to deal with traffic with a bunch of centurion tanks moving on, on, on what was the road, and, and you had to be, uh, very careful when you were out on the roads.  And, and we had priority, uh, because we were dispatch riders, we had priority on the roads, and we’d put up our sign on the front  of their vehicle that said, um, signal dispatch service.  Do now delay, and we’d

0:40:00

they’d open all the roads to us.  Um, but, um, when we, when we first arrived in Korea, we had no one to get.  We were wearing New Zealand battle dress, uh, and we had a, a New Zealand gray coat uh.  And then, that, that was our sort of walking out dress at home.  Um, and we walked straight into winter, um,

I:          Must been so cold to you, right?

D:        It was cold.  Our ve, vehicles weren’t winterized,

 

0:40:30

and we had open Jeeps

I:          Open Jeep.

D:        Yeah, open Jeeps.
I:          Even during the winter?
D:        Yeah, no roof in a,

I:          In the winter?

D:        In the winter, yes.

I:          Oh  my goodness.

D:        And, and, you know, uh,

I:          Bloody cold.
D:        War is hell.  But winter’s even worse.

I:          Could you explain about this book?  Show it to the camera first of all.

0:41:00

D:        This book

I:          Yeah.

D:        um, is, um, the stories of various Korea veterans.

I:          From New Zealand.
D:        From New Zealand.  All New Zealand.

I:          And show

D:        And, and that’s me

I:          Who’s this?

D:        Nineteen years of age.  And, in fact, I was sitting outside the Court Martial room when I got 27 days.  That’s where that photograph was taken.
I:          Just got out of there or you were just about to go in?

0:41:30

D:        I’d just been sentenced to 27 days in the Canadian Field [INAUDIBLE] Barracks.

I:          But you look happy.

D:        I didn’t have much choice, did I?

I:          You look happy.

D:        Yeah.

I:          Wow.

D:        Anyhow

I:          Handsome young man.

D:        Yeah, this, those are the veterans

I:          Um.

D:        I don’t know if you can get that.

I:          Yes.

D:        Because those are the veterans whose stories are in this book.

0:42:00

I:          So only 12 people?  Only 12 people there.  Yeah.

D:        Yeah, 12, 12, yeah

I:          And tell me about these pictures.

D:        You’d be lucky to be able.

I:          Put it closer, hold on.  Just put it up, hold on, yes, that’s your Jeep.

D:        That’s my, that’s one of Jeeps, yeah.

I:          Um hm.

D:        I had three Jeeps in the 18 months I was there.

0:42:30

I:          Beautiful.  What else?

D:        Oh, well this, this was, the visit before last.  [INAUDIBLE] Prime Minister.

I:          Of New Zealand?

D:        Yes.  That’s, uh, Sire John Key.

I:          Um hm.  And then when you were the National President?
D:        When I was National President when that photograph was taken.

I:          Yes.  That’s an honor.

0:43:00

Real honor.

D:        And just recently

I:          Um hm

D:        Um, I had lunch with President Moon.

I:          Oh.

D:        In Auckland.  He was here in New Zealand.

I:          He visited.

D:        Going home from, uh, the G20

I:          Um.

D:        And, um, I got an invitation to, uh, go to the [INAUDIBLE[ in Auckland, uh, and I sat on the talk table.

0:43:30

I:          So I think we need to wrap this, uh, interview.  Tell, please, what would you say to the Korean people, your friends, in the context of 70th anniversary of the break out of the Korean War.  It sounds ridiculous.  Broke out 70 years ago, still going on.  But what would you say to the Korean people?
D:        Well,. let me correct that.  It wasn’t 70 years of, since the break out, um,

0:44:00

of the Korean War.  Um, that 70 years anniversary and the North Koreans are doing the same thing at the  same time because their militaries all came about, um, at the  same time, North Korea and South Korea,

I:          Um hm.

D:        and it was, it was a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the formation of the Korean, uh, military.

I:          Yeah.

D:        So, uh, yeah.  But, but, um,

0:44:30

I was there for the 65th anniversary of the, um, commencing of the Korean War 24th of July, no, 20, 27th of June, not July.  Up here’s [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Twenty-seventh, July 27th.

D:        That’s the start of the Korean War.

I:          No, no, no.  That’s June 25 of 1950.

D:        Thank you, yeah.

I:          Yes, yes.

D:        I was in Korea for that, um, uh, particular day

I:          Yeah.

D:        Sixty-five years since the war started and, um,

0:45:00

over there, uh, for, um, the celebration marking the, whatever it was and whatever year it was of the cease fire.

I:          Yeah.

D:        um, so, yeah.  Um,.

I:          What would you say to your friends in Korea for the  70th anniversary of the break out of the Korean War.

D:        I would say [INAUDIBLE]

0:45:30

I:          [INAUDIBLE]

D:        Stay strong.

I:          Remember?

D:        No, no, stay strong.

I:          Stay strong.

D:        Yeah.  That’s, that’s all I could say to them.

I:          Um hm.

D:        [INAUDIBLE] back here again tomorrow.  And hopefully I will get them to take when they go back.  But, um, yeah.  [INAUDIBLE] which is merry and, uh,

0:46:00

basic language of New Zealand, uh, indigenous people, and it means stay strong.
I:          Ah.

D:        So yeah.

I:          So we will get back to you when we edit this, and if we going to publish as a curricular resources, I may have to invite you back to talk about your stories in the  school when we publish the curricular resources together.  And

D:        Cause I’ve been back to Korea [INAUDIBLE]

I:          No, no.  I’m going to invite you back to Wellington or Auckland.

0:46:30

But when we do that, we going to invite lots of History teachers here.  So that’s the best way to transfer your legacy into the classroom.  That’s why

D:        Yeah.  One guy coming here this afternoon who lives in [INAUDIBLE] um.  Uh, he’s the  father of, uh, the lady that cuts me hair for me.  She told me about it yesterday.

0:47:00

I:          Okay.  So great to meet you, and it’s my honor to hear from you about your story and your leadership, and we going to edit this, and we are going to make it as a curricular resources.  Thank you again, sir, for your story.
D:        Thank you.

I:          Thank you, sir.

 

[End of Recorded Material]