Korean War Legacy Project

Donald Clark


Donald Clark served in the Army for twenty-three years, eventually retiring as a Major. When he first joined the military, he went to basic training in Hawaii with false expectations. He discusses his experiences as a member of the Radio Operation team and the unique experiences that they had during the Korean War. He describes the cold winters during the war and how being on duty as a radio operator was actually a benefit. He is very proud of his service and how much Korea has modernized since his time there.

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Basic Training in Hawaii

Donald Clark describes his naive expectations of basic training in Hawaii. He and two other young men that he had just met had thought that the colorful posters on the wall in the recruiting office were signs of what to expect. Unfortunately, shortly after arriving at basic training, he realized he was in "fourteen weeks of hell." He quickly learned that he would be going to Korea.

Tags: Basic training,Civilians,Fear

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Life as a Radio Operator During the War

Donald Clark describes what it was like to serve as a Radio Operator during the war. He explains what members were on the team and what it was like in the radio truck. He mentions the only moments of combat they experienced while they were set up next to a river and the bridge was bombed- they quickly moved to a new location!

Tags: Fear,Living conditions,Physical destruction

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Cold Winters as a Radio Operator

Donald Clark describes the cold winters in Korea. He explains that the men would fight over who would get to serve the midnight shift because the radio truck was much warmer than their tent thanks to the BC10 transmitter and other equipment. He recalls a time in Seoul when they had to cut cardboard boxes to cover the holes in the tent and block the cold winds.

Tags: Seoul,Cold winters,Fear,Living conditions

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of Transcribed Material]


D:        My name is Donald Clark, originally from Oklahoma, a small town in Oklahoma.  I was born in 1932.  So, I’ve been around for a while.  I left Clayton where I was born,



small town in southeastern Oklahoma when I joined the Army in March of 1951.  At that time, there as an option open for taking basic training in Hawaii at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.  So, the fellow in front of me in the line and the fellow behind me



looked up on the wall and here was this poster, and of course there were palm trees and a beautiful view of the ocean, the beach.  Enlist for a while.  Well, one of the guys said I’ll do it if you do it, this kind of thing.  So, here we go.  Okay.  The three of us decided okay, we’ll do it.



I’d never met these fellows before then.  But nevertheless, we joined up with that option.  We were regular Army Infantry.  And going through Infantry basic in Schofield in Hawaii.  So, we got to Hawaii.  We went first to San Antonio reception station, and they further shipped us on a troop train out to San Francisco.



We boarded a ship by the name of USS Pickaway, and it certainly pickaway, five days to get to Hawaii.  But when we finally got there, of course we docked, and here’s the hula girls and a band playing and everything.  And I looked at the fellow on my right and my left, same fellows.



This is not gonna be bad at all.  Until we got to Schofield.  And then it was 14 weeks of Hell getting us ready for Korea, even though they promised us, or said anyway, they didn’t promise.  But they said no, this is not a steppingstone to Korea.  But it was. And the General let us know right away



when we got there.  Or should I say the Colonel in charge of the battalion.  So, we went into training with the knowledge that we were gonna go over to Korea as Infantry.  So, we went through and graduated from basic and got another ship and went to Japan



to the Camp Drake Replacement Depot.  At the Repo Depot, every day we would gather out in front of the barracks that they placed us in, and the Sergeant would come out with this clipboard.  There was a great huge rock



sitting in front of the barracks.  He even had a ladder to climb up on the rock.  And he’d get up on the top of the rock, and then he would begin calling out names.  Seventh Division, so and so names.  Third Infantry Division so and so names and kept going on through.  There were 1,700 of us gathered around the rock in the beginning.   Well, it kept



decreasing and decreasing each day until the final day when he called out the final Infantry replacements.  And there was 34 of us left.  Of the 34, I didn’t notice them being any different than anyone else.  Just luck of the draw I suppose.  But the Sergeant said you’re going to Etajima



Specialist school to train as a radio operator.  We need radio operators in Korea.  And so, we looked at each other, and we said okay.  So, we went through something like 12 weeks of code training.  And then a Sergeant from Korea came to my class.


And he said we’re in dire need right now of trained radio operators in CW, Continuous Wave radio who can operate our ANDRC26, Angry 26 we called it.  The angry 26 radio truck.  And we are,



We have teams all over Korea at all the air bases as well as with the American divisions, American units and the ROK, the ROK units also.  And we’ll be handling close air support for whatever unit we’re assigned to.  We’ll be sending messages for them ordering close air support for the unit.



So, we spent three weeks more in Etajima training on the ANGRY26.  And then we enmasse, got on a ferry, went across to Pusan.  Of course, at that time the line had more or less stabilized up north.  We got into Pusan by overnight ferry.  And then they put us on a train to Seoul.



And we went to the compound in Seoul, and they bedded us down.  And then the next day, we were assigned to different units.  My assignment was to remain in Seoul at the Headquarters communicating for 8th Army.

I:          What was the date again that you arrived in Korea?

D:        This was in November of ’51.



November ’51.  Yes.  November ’51.  I came in the Army in March of ’51 and then had the training and then arrived in Korea in November of ’51.  Well, at that time, I had a desire to get into what they call a four-point zone.



Korea was established on certain lines, certain zones or certain units.  If you were assigned to a combat unit or a unit on the line, then you could get four points.  If you were behind the line, you got three points.  If you’re back in Seoul and Pusan, you get two points a month.  And of course, the allotment, I think, was something like 44 or 48 points before you could rotate.


So, I decided well, I want to go up in the four-point zone.  And so, I applied to the company commander, and he sent me out on the next truck. I was assigned to one of the ROK units, the 2nd ROK Corps which had the 6th ROK,



Capital ROK and the 3rd ROK Divisions under it.  This was in the center part of the line.  I don’t know if you’ll be able to see this on the map.  But here’s the black line, the line at the time that I was there.  And this area right here in the center part



is the area where they sent me.  Our job was to send messages ordering TOTs or Time on Targets, target missions, for the Air Force to come in and bomb or straight the line.  The sequence would be



the commander on the ground, and the ROK unit would require a mission.  We had an officer there that decided yes, this was an American officer, and then he would send a message to us, and we would then transmit it on back to Joint Operations Center, JOC in Seoul



Who then would in turn send it to the Air Force base, and they’d order a flight of fighters to that particular area.  The TOT, the Time on Target, was an established time because we knew exactly how long it would take for us to be able to transmit all this through the sequence.  We’d done it time and time again.  So, it was very fast.



And there was what we called a mosquito plane which was nothing more than a Piper Cub, Cessna type small airplane piloted by an air observer to direct the flight into the particular target that required an admission.



And the mosquito plane then would receive the flight.  They would communicate, and he would tell them where the target is and sometimes put smoke on the target if it wasn’t too apparent, a particular mountain, a particular fortification or something of this sort that was giving the ROKs problems.  Or maybe it was an attack on a particular position, and they wanted a mission in that situation.



And then after the action is over, the mosquito pilot had released the fighters, and they’d gone back, he in turn transmitted his observation to the American officer, the air officer, and he’d prepare an after action report, and we would communicate that back down to an Operations Center as to what transpired and what the estimates were



for the damage.  And that was basically it.  This went on time and time and time again.  I don’t remember too much about the particular battles that were fought in my area. I do remember one. I seem to recall that it was Capitol Hill.



I’ve forgotten what Division’s area that was in.  I believe it was the 6th ROK Division, in their area.  And we kept pushing them off, and they kept pushing us off and things like that to the point where it was very difficult to maintain.  And we put a lot of effort into trying to keep that particular hill.



It was for strategic purposes, tactical purposes actually.  So, my radio team consisted of some, we had three operators, a radio repairman, a team chief, and we had a squad tent



which we lived in.  It was all mounted on a 2 ½ ton truck along with a power generator hooked onto the back, and we would travel different places and dig in.  We didn’t travel too awful much.  We didn’t have to move our position too much. I recall one time that we had set up beside a particular



river.  I’ve forgotten the name of the river now.  I can’t remember it.  Anyway, either we or the Chinese at the time had knocked out any bridges that were on that river except one.  Unfortunately, we set up our truck,



our position, near that bridge.  And they kept lobbing in shells trying to knock out that bridge.  So, I recall that that was one of the times that we moved rather quickly and got out of there and moved to another position.  That was about the closest thing I came to in the way of,



way of combat.  And that was on the receiving end.  What I basically did was send messages.  And at the end of the tour, I forget, let’s see. I left there a year later.  I believe it was.  Either November or December.



I forget, of ’52 I left there and rotated to Japan.  And I was on my first three-year enlistment at the time.  And so, I said I wanted to spend my last year in Japan as opposed to rotating back to the States.  So, I spent that tour in Japan for one year.  Then I got back



to the U.S.  I was out of the Army for a little while and then came back in.  And eventually spent 23 years and retired from the Army.  When I went to Korea, I of course, was a private.  When I left Korea,



I was a corporal.  And I made sergeant, three stripe sergeant, equivalent today anyway, E5.  I made that in Japan on my one-year tour.  So, when I decided to come back in, it was within 90 days, so I was able to retain my rank.  And from there on,



I spent 23 years. I got promotions on up to E7.  And then I was fortunate enough to receive a warrant. I was a warrant officer.  And I stayed in that position for maybe a year or two, something like that.  And then I got a direct commission to first lieutenant.



And I retired as a major.

I:          What unit were you a part of while you were in Korea?
D:        Oh, I forgot that.  The Air Ground Liaison Company, 8075th Army unit.  It was a unique operation because in the 2nd World War, the Marines had their own air force and their own close air support.  When they went on amphibious landing,



they had the airplanes and the wherewithal to strafe and take care of their own.  And they had their own communications.  Everything was self-contained.  They proved that they could do it.  The Army did not have that.  Every time anybody wanted anything in the Army, it was go through a hell of a procedure



trying to get some air support.  Anyway, in Korea, they came up with the idea that we should have teams with the major units all over Korea and provide that close air support and on a very, very quick basis. I forget how long it took us from the time we received the order till a flight



was actually leaving the air base.  And the air base might be any air base in Korea.  Whoever was closer or had the fighters available, that’s the one that they sent.  And they would come back and tell us what time they were gonna be on target.  And our mosquito pilot then would be there to receive them and direct them onto the target.  Now, that’s basically what the Marines do.



And they did it back in the 2nd World War.  But the Army did not.  We didn’t do it until Korea.  But we were doing it interservice from Army using Air Force planes, Air Force pilots.  Whereas the Marines, they controlled everybody that was in the operation.  They were a Marine, air or on the ground.  So, it was different that way.



We had to coordinate with the Air Force and set up a system in which there would be speed.  And it was a necessity as soon as we got the order to get that message onto the airbase.  And the fighters then go into the area directed by the mosquito and knock out that particular target.  So sometimes it was attacks.



So, an attack, you need it now when it’s called for.

I:          Can you tell me more about what your duties looked like while you were there?
D:        We had three or sometimes we had four radio operators.  And we would take shifts, 24 hours a day in the radio truck.



Both receiving messages and sending messages.  And of course, in the wintertime, it was warmer than our tent.  So, everybody fought for the midnight shift because you could stay warm all night right there in the hut because the transmitter was about the size of a



refrigerator.  And I can remember [INAUDIBLE] BC10 was the transmitter.  And of course, we had receivers and all kinds of other equipment in there that was creating heat and didn’t’ have to have a heater so you’d stay warm.



But in the tent, no.  We had a pot-bellied stove, and it would get roaring red in the evenings.  And in North Korea, you’d really have to circle that stove and get close to it to stay warm.  And then you’d only bake one side.  And pretty soon you gotta turn the cake over



and get the other side warm, too.  I do remember the cold of that first winter. I left before the second winter got too bad.  And I recall that in November when we finally got into Seoul,



we joined the Company in Seoul from Japan, from school.   It was something like around 3 or 4:00 in the afternoon when we arrived at the company.  They put us into a building that, it’s hard to call it a barracks because you could see outside.


The boards on the walls were like this, and there was no insulation, no nothing, just some boards sticking up there.  So, they gave us a bunch of cardboard boxes and said if you wanna sleep as warm as you can tonight, then you get those openings in the walls covered up to keep the wind out.  And this was November, so it wasn’t the worst part.  But it was cold.



And so, we went to work cutting down these big cardboard boxes and tacking them up on the walls all over the barracks till we got it covered.  And we slept that night.  We sleep in mountain sleeping bags.  And you could stay reasonably warm with the mountain sleeping bag.



I do recall the coldness.  And of course, the heat in the summer was something else.  I remember we used to enjoy showers now and then.  There’d be a shower truck coming through.  We were kind of satellited on an artillery unit that wasn’t too awfully far from us that we could go to and once in a while get an American meal.



Otherwise, we would eat rations that we would bring from Seoul, depending upon our position.  But I recall in the summertime, once in a while they’d have a shower truck come around.  And of course, there was about three or four showers on each side of the tank.  And there’d be a bunch of guys stripped off naked,



out in the open completely taking showers.  And that was the only time that you got to clean yourself so to speak.  And of course, we didn’t expect to be in the hotel accommodations.  But it was a welcome sight when we saw the shower truck coming by on the road.  We’d flag him down and take a shower.



Otherwise, it was out of your helmet.  And we would make what we called beer runs to Seoul, back to company headquarters.  We’d get rations.  And each man got beer rations also and cigarette rations. Used to think it was terrible if you had to buy a pack of cigarettes.  I think they were around



ten cents a pack back in those days, a dollar, 90 cents maybe in the PX for a carton of cigarettes, 10 packs.  Well, we got them free.  They would be Lucky Strike, Camel, or Chesterfield.  That’s the ones I remember. You just took your chances as to which brand you got.  But for the people that didn’t smoke, they would pass it on.



So that was one thing.  And of course, on these beer runs, we’d go down and spend the night down in Seoul.  This was different guys on the team would make the run.  Two men would go down and make the run.  And usually, it would be the shift operators because they’d be the ones that were free.  It’s pretty hard to let your radio repairman go if something broke down.



You wouldn’t have communications.  So, he didn’t get to go very often.

I:          What kind of friendships or camaraderie did you build?

D:        Hardly any.  We were real close knit while we were in Korea.  But once we left Korea, I never saw these guys again on my team.  That was the problem



with the system of Repo Depos, individual replacements.  Since then, they’ve gotten a little smarter, I think.  For example, in the Iraq War, they sent units where the guy on the right and the guy on the left is the same guy you went through training with.  You know his capabilities.  And you can depend on him, or you can not depend on him, you know.



It’s just a much better system.  But back in those days in Korea, we were individualized.  Oh, you made friends while you were in Korea.  But you didn’t see them again after that, or I didn’t.  Now after I left Korea and got assignments various places, of course, you establish



friendships then that are lasting, that go from country to country, assignment to assignment. And every assignment you run into, you run into somebody that you knew before at some other assignment.  The Army’s kind of close knit that way.  And so, it was a pleasure that way.  But in Korea, I think the fault was the replacement system, the individual replacement system.



You just couldn’t establish long lasting friendships.  And as I understand it in the Infantry, they didn’t want to get too close.  But that wasn’t my situation.  I remember a couple names, a fellow named Botini that was one of our operators.



That’s about it.  The names I can remember.  It’s only been what, 60 odd years, something like that.  A little difficult to remember such things as that.

I:          What was the date that you rotated home?
D:        You mean from Japan or from Korea?

I:          Yeah.  When did you



leave Korea, and then when did you rotate from Japan?

D:        One year later.  I left Korea in November of ’52 and then stayed until, it was longer than a year, yeah, because I came in in March ’51.  So, I was discharged in March of ’54.



So, it was after that. I must have stayed in Japan maybe 13, 14, 15 months, something like that.

I:          When you got home, what was the reception like?

D:        No reception.  It was by ship coming back.  And we docked



in Washington State.  I don’t remember the post.  Washington State.  And then we were put on a train to go to Fort Carson, Colorado to be discharged.  And I remember in Great Falls, Montanna,



They stopped the train, and they had some weather or something that stopped it, and they were gonna be there for a few hours.  So, they let us off the train.  Well, me and some buddies, we had to get a beer down in Great Falls.  And so, about the best thing that I can remember about that situation was



the guy I went with to get a beer, I never knew him before.  But he met everybody, everybody he met he wanted to call them Sam.  He’d go in the bar, hello Sam, and so on and so on.  And everything was Sam for some reason.  And that stuck with me for all this time.  And I remember him for that thing.  That’s rather unusual



to meet someone that has that kind of approach to people that he doesn’t know at all.  He just called them Sam.  And that was it.  So, we got to Fort Carson, got discharged.  And I’m getting back to Oklahoma to my mother and my brother.  And I was completely undecided about what to do



at that time.  And so, I thought about going back to school, going on the University.  That wasn’t appetizing to me.  And before my 90 days were up, I was at the recruiting office again signing up for another three years.  And I also did it on my sixth year.



I did the same thing.  I went out, messed around for a while, a few weeks, still can’t decide.  Just stay in the Army or make it some other way.  And I ultimately decided to stay in the Army.  And then from then on, there was no question.  I liked it.  I liked the regimen of it.  People talk about oh, mess hall chow.



You don’t want to eat that Army food. I loved it.  I thought it was a heck of a lot better than I got when I was growing up.  Except my mother was a very good cook.  But we came from a very poor family.  And we were lucky to get food period.  My father died when I was eight years old.  So, it fell to my mother to raise the children.  So, a penny was conserved as much as you could.



As far as food’s concerned.  Anyway, I loved it.  I thought it was great.  I remember the first meal in San Antonio at the reception station when we got there.  They took us over to the mess hall.  It was around supper time, and they had liver and onions.  I’d never eaten liver and onions before.  And I thought it was pretty good.



Strangely enough.  You don’t think about something like that as, but it’s something that stuck with me.  Of course, there at the reception station, they give you a haircut, the normal things, a haircut, flying 20, cosmetics.  You know what I’m talking about by flying 20?

I:          No.



D:        Okay.  Well, you don’t have any money.  They can’t count on everybody 100% of the people having money in their pockets.  So, you’re authorized to take $20 from Advanced Pay, and that’ll take care of buying cigarettes and buying cosmetics or toilet articles and things like that so that you can present yourself properly.  So, we got the flying 20.



I remember one guy.  They must have pulled this trick, it wasn’t a trick.  It was a profession. Two sergeants came into our barracks.  Of course, we’d only been in the Army about three days.  We were in the process of getting haircuts and the flying 20 and the different things that you get when you, uniforms etc.  It was in the evening hours,



And we’d all settled down in the barracks, and here comes two sergeants.  And they wanted everybody to gather around.  Now here’s what you’re gonna face when you’re in the Army.  You want to stay out of trouble.  You want to make sure that one small thing doesn’t lead to more things.



So, take care of all your small things, all the details.  Be especially careful of your brass on your collars.  The copper and brass that they wear, enlisted men.  Of course, we were all young, 18 years old type things.  And all of them regular Army, just off the farm so to speak.



So come to find out what they’re selling.  He was selling, it looked like a cigarette paper in a little book of paper, little tissues.  And this might have 25, 30 sheets of this tissue in this little, about the size of a cigarette



for rolling cigarettes.  But in each of these little pieces of paper was two little holes.  Those two little holes is where the hole on your brass go when you stick it through and clip it on the other side.  Now you put this up there on your shirt collar, and it’ll fit right on with the uniform, and you put it there, and you stick the brass right through those two holes, you’re gonna get it correct every time.



He was only selling them for $1, I think it was $1.  So, it was cheap from that standpoint.  We had that flying 20 in our pocket, burning a hole so to speak, and nobody wanted to get in trouble.  All of regular Army.  So, we didn’t want to get in trouble from the start also.  Many of the guys bought these $1 cigarette papers



To take care of that, take care of the brass, make sure it was put on properly.  It was a scam.  It was taking advantage of young guys.  I remember that distinctly.  I didn’t buy it luckily.  I wouldn’t admit to it anyway.

I:          What is Korea to you now?



D:        Remarkable.  Was it last year?  I think so.  Last year I went on the Revisit program to Korea and also took a five-day trip to Beijing.  And when I saw Korea today,



It was just completely foreign to what I’d been accustomed to.  For example, the city of Chunchung, when I was there, we passed through.  And it was nothing but rubble.  I remember a column sticking up out of the ground, concrete column, where it was a corner, just sticking up with nothing else attached to it.  Just a concrete column was sticking up out of the ground.



And that was the only thing that was left.  And you look around, and that’s all that was there.  And people were living in caves, dug out on the side of a mountain.  Funny thing, when I was up there, of course in Seoul it might have been different. I don’t remember any.



But I never heard a dog bark.  Now, that to me, I thought about it later and said well, they’re not available because they’ve been eaten.  And the civilians, they were in real bad shape, the refugees.  They simply don’t



They’re just not built for that kind of situation that they face, they were in.  And very seldom would you see any kind of town or city.  Once in a while, the further south you get on the MSR, the main supply route, then the more people you would see, and the more inhabitable houses



And to some degree would be.  But on further up, no, almost nothing.