Korean War Legacy Project

Donald Clayton


Donald Clayton was born in Prosser, Washington in 1935.  After graduating from high school, he joined the United States Marine Corps and did his basic training in San Diego, CA.  Once in Korea, he was in charge of mortar transport and also worked driving a dump truck, and as a carpenter.  While he did not see much active combat, he noted that even after the Armistice was signed, skirmishes at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) were common.  He is proud that the Republic of Korea has done so well economically since the war.

Video Clips

Dump Truck Driver

Donald Clayton shares about the time he was supposed to drive a dump truck of gravel. He explains how he was set to head to the DMZ. He shared his Company's location during this time as being between Liberty Bridge and Freedom Gate Bridge.

Tags: 1953 Armistice 7/27,Front lines

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Demilitarized Zone

Donald Clayton discussed the Armistice. He discusses how the DMZ was still the site of skirmishes even after the Armistice was signed. He shares how the infantry was on an island between two bridges on the Imjingang River where there was continued action. He shares his concern about leaving gravel in the middle of the road.

Tags: 1953 Armistice 7/27,Imjingang (River),Front lines,North Koreans,Weapons

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Korea Then and Now

Donald Clayton shares that he knows how South Korea has changed. He compares the devastation and destruction he saw in Seoul in 1954 to the modern city he has seen in pictures today. He was astounded by the process South Korea has made.

Tags: Seoul,Physical destruction,Prior knowledge of Korea

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of Recorded Material]




Donald Clayton:         My name is Don Clayton.  C-L-A-Y-T-O-N.


Interviewer:                What is your birthday?


D:        28thFebruary 1935.


I:          Uh-huh.  You are young.


D:        Absolutely.


I:          Compared to other Korean War Veterans.  Where were you born?


D:        Prosser, Washington.


I:          Could you spell it?


D:        P-R-O-S-S-E-R.


I:          Is it–




how is it? Close from here? Port Angeles?


D:        It’s in Eastern Washington.


I:          Tell me about your family when you were growing up, including your siblings.


D:        I have two sisters, and I have a brother who is 15 years younger than I am.


I:          So, you are the eldest?


D:        I am the eldest and–


I:          So, two boys, two girls?

D:        Yeah.


I:          uh-huh.




and what about your parents?

D:        My father was the–Union Pacific Railroad section foreman and we always lived way out in the country.


I:          [laughing] what’s there, right? And tell me when–what school did you finish?


D:        I graduated from




Hermiston Oregon High school.


I:          can you spell it?


D:        H-E-R-M-I-S-T-O-N Oregon


I:          When did you graduate?


D:        1953.


I:          Wow, so you knew abou the breakout of the Korean War, right?

D:        Yes.


I:          How?


D:        The newspapers.


I:          Newspaper.




D:        In those days, we didn’t have TV so, it was newspapers. And the way we got newspapers was the railroad trainmen would toss out the newspaper as they went by. We lived–because we didn’t have telephones or anything like that.


I:          Did you know anything about Korea, at the time?


D:        No.


I:          What happened to you after the



graduation of your high school? What did you join the Army or what?

D:        I, in, let’s see, 4 May 1953 I skipped the senior sneak in order to go with two buddies to a little town called Walla Walla and enlist in the Marine Corps. I’m the only one that enlisted in the Marine Corps ever–. I reported for active duty




8 July 1953.


I:          Mm-hmm.


D:        Of course, the two started 20– July 27.


I:          Why Marine? Not Army or Air Force or Navy?

D:        I have no reason for that.


I:          Okay.


D:        Other than the fact. Was




something about the Marine Corps.


I:          What is that something? Did you like it?


D:        Pride.


I:          Pride.  So, where did you go to basic military training?


D:        I’m a Hollywood Marine. By that, I mean San Diego.


I:          And tell me about the basic military training did you like it or was it difficult? How was it.


D:        It was difficult.  Was




most things were bearable. There were certain things–


I:          Mm-hmm.


D:        that the DI’s did that they couldn’t do today.  But we–we accepted them.


I:          So, what was your MOS?

D:        I started out as 3500, which is motor transport.


I:          3500?


D:        Yeah.


I:          Okay.


D:        And, when I got to Korea,




To Charlie Company first engineer battalion.


I:          Hold on, Charlie Company, and first battalion.


D:        First engineer battalion.


I:          Engineer. Engineer.


D:        1st– 1stMARDIV.


I:          And that belongs to what division?


D:        First Marine Division.


I:          First Marine Divisoin.


D:        Yeah. I was assigned to–this was




after–I got there the last three days of 1953, which means essentially that the war was supposedly over.


I:          When did you arrive where in Korea?

D:        Incheon


I:          Incheon.


D:        About December 28th, 1953.


I:          How was Incheon?




What was the first image, impression that you saw there?


D:        I really didn’t pay–a lot of attention to what was there, because they were telling us get here, get there so we didn’t have time to look around. We rode the, two days later




we rode the train from Incheon, Ascom City to a point where they unloaded us and our battalions picked us up and took us to our companies.  So,


I:          Were you relieved that the war was over?


D:        I guess I really didn’t think about it?


I:          You were too young, right?


D:        Nothing happens to an 18 year-old. New Year’s Day 1954, they issued my M1 rifle. They took us out to a range and fired for–




what do they call it, Jerry?


Male Voice:    [a fake and firing]


D:        [laughing]  Famil–


I:          Yeah.


D:        Fam fire, to make sure that you had your sights set right. Then,


I:          Mm-hmm.


D:        I was assigned to motor T.


I:          Mm-hmm.


D:        Not for long, what happened to me was




they said you drove truck, I said yes, they said have you ever driven a dump truck? No. We want you to take this dump truck, get a load of gravel, take it to the DMZ road, right outside the DMZ fence, and spread it




on the road. Not having operated a dump truck before, I dumped it in one big pile and just drove off and–


I:          Where was it? Where was it?


D:        Right out–


I:          Ascom?


D:        It was just south of the DMZ fence.


I:          Was it in the middle or west or east?


D:        What?

I:          Do you remember the camp name




that you belonged to?


D:        [Moon saw nee]


I:          Moon–


D:        we were between, my company was between Liberty Bridge and Freedom Gate Bridge and I have a map pages out of a book that shows exactly where my company was and–


I:          You were a Charlie Company, right. So, how was




the DNZ in 1954? Was it pretty much stabilized or was it still lot of dangers? Skirmish? Or tell me the detail.

D:        Well, they said the shooting is over.


I:          Uh-huh.


D:        As far as I was concerned, it had not.


I:          Really?


D:        We watched and




participated in actions once in a while. Not too often, but– so, it was interesting, to say the least.


I:          So every day what they there were there a skirmish?

D:        Yes.  And there was a big island, the Imjin River–


I:          Yes.


D:        makes a big bend right there between




The two bridges.


I:          Yeah.


D:        There’s an island out there and there was a lot of shooting going on on that island all the time.  And the infantry was out there looking for infiltrators.


I:          So it must been really dangerous for you to carry the dump truck and then unload




and upload all these things, right?


D:        It–I thought it was, to a certain extent, but my major concern was, I left this big pile of gravel in the middle of the road.


I:          Uh-huh.


D:        Well, I said, it’s in a pile.  They said,




I think we’ll make you a carpenter, not a truck driver. [laughing]


I:          [laughing]


D:        So, I became a demolitions guy and carpenter.  1373.


I:          Ah-ha 1373 is a carpenter MOS right?


D:        uh-huh.


I:          Where did you sleep? It was after the war so it should have been not in




the fox hole or the bunker right?


D:        No.


I:          Was it a bunker?


D:        We–we were about two or three miles from Panmunjom and we of course, had to stand watch




probably at least twice a week, at night. And they told us, don’t load your rifles, however, as soon as you got on watch, [loading sound] because we wanted to be ready, just in case.


I:          Mm-hmm.




Were you work with other people like Korean people or other–


D:        No. at that time, in that particular area, there were no Korean civilians, I’ll take that back–there were like you were–like Harold was telling you, house boys and that,




of course, I was only PFC so, we couldn’t afford a house boy.


I:          Yeah.


D:        We did our own.


I:          How much were you paid at the time, do you remember?


D:        Probably about $75 a month.


I:          What did you do with that money?


D:        I never saw it. I think it went home to my wife because-

I:          Were you married?




D:        Yes. When I graduated from boot camp, I called my then girlfriend and I said to her, we’re getting married and she said okay!


I:          [laughing]


D:        I borrowed $4 from my father to pay for the marriage license. [laughing]


I:          [laughing]


D:        Got married, then I told her, I’m going to Korea.




I:          When did you leave Korea?


D:        About the end of February 2000–


I:          ’54?


D:        ’55.


I:          ’55.  And when you left Korea, had you any thought have had any thoguth about the future of Korea?


D:        Not very much.




When we were there, it was very primitive and after seeing the pictures and listening to Jerry talk and I would like to go back, but I can’t convince my wife to get on an airplane. I–I didn’t give up on the Marine Corps.




I joined the–after my initial four years, I joined the reserve. I was in a reserve helicopter squadron for 13/14 years. I did a total of almost 42 years.


I:          I want to ask this question because you are in a unique position not–I never seen any Korean War Veteran who




also participated in the war with Iraq.  So I want to ask this question, what do you think, what is the difference between the Korean War and the Iraq war and the outcome.


D:        The difference is, in my opinion, the people who are running the war in




Korea knew what they were doing.


I:          Mm-hmm.


D:        The reason they were fighting and pretty much so when it came to Desert Storm.


I:          mm-hmm.


D:        The, I think, personal opinion, of course I’m only a warrant officer so,




that really doesn’t mean anything, but I thought–think they completed the job. We gave up to–or we ended too soon–we didn’t give up we just ended too son.


I:          You mean in Iraq?


D:        Yeah.


I:          You think that we should have stayed there longer?


D:        Yes.


I:          Okay.


D:        And and–


I:          Because–because




this was 1991, we’re not talking about the war with Iraq in 2003?

D:        No.


I:          Right so–oh that’s a good point. Maybe that could have changed the whole situation now, in Iraq. Do you agree?


D:        I think so.


I:          You know what happened to Korea after you defended us, right?


D:        Yes.


I:          What is it? What do you know about Korea now?


D:        I remember Seoul




going through it.  We made one run down there and it was essentially devastated.  This was in 1954.


I:          Yeah.


D:        And now, you look at the pictures and big buildings and cars and roads and everything.


I:          mm-hmm.




D:        And it’s just fascinating the progress that was made.


I:          Isn’t that wonderful?

D:        Yes.


I:          Something very good came out of your fight, right?


D:        Yes.


I:          Do you think you can see that from Iraq too?


D:        I have my fingers crossed.


I:          Yeah.


D:        But




with the present leadership, no.


I:          No. what other difference then why? Why not? Why not from Iraq but from Korea?


D:        Because our top leadership has said, essentially,




We can’t do anything.


I:          What about the difference between Korean and Iraqs–Iraqis?


D:        the Koreans were ambitious, they were resourceful and willing to work.  The time I spent in




Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and those places,


I:          Yeah.


D:        Not so much.  I think they were just passing time. That’s not a good statement, but–


I:          Do you want to go back to Korea but because–




D:        I would love to go back and if I can convince my wife to go. I have a 53-year-old son who would love to go.


I:          Oh yeah! So please. What do you think about U.S. Korea relationship right now?


D:        As far as I’m concerned, it is very good.




Politicians are politicians with the–general attitude between the two peoples are very good.


I:          Okay. Any other points that you want to share with me in this interview? Anything you didn’t tell me? Any dangerous moments




or things that you hated during the Korean service?


D:        Well.


I:          Things that you really make you feel rewarded or anything else? Please tell me.


D:        I was really kind of interested in what happened to the young kids, like we had a




8 or 10-year-old boy who was kind of picked up and lived in our company area.


I:          Mm-hmm.


D:        And I would like to find out whatever became of him. And we also had listening to Harold Beck




about the house boys, we had them, but they–or the officers did. But–and I have pictures that I can’t find right now of them in–


I:          So you have some memorabilia at home?


D:        Oh yes.


I:          did you take a pictures by yourself?


D:        I took a few pictures, yes.


I:          Would you be willing to share that with me?




D:        Yes.


I:          Any other points you want to leave to this interview?


D:        Not that I can think of.


I:          Don, I really want to thank you for your fight for the Korean nation. Without your fight there is no Korea, that’s for sure. And that’s why Koreans never forget and that’s why we still inviting Korean War Veterans back to Korea, the country you never knew before, but has accomplished unprecedented




simultaneous development of economy and democratization.  And that’s why I’m doing this so that we can have your record permanently available for our young generation. I want to thank you for your fight again, and I really enjoyed talking with you today.


D:        Well, thank you sir.


I:          Thank you


[End of Recorded Material]