Korean War Legacy Project

Donald Haller


Donald Haller was born on September 20, 1930, in Gay, Michigan. He and his family moved to Detroit early in his life. He graduated from Cass Technological School in 1948. He recalls only learning about Korea from a friend’s older sibling that was stationed there after World War II. After high school, he attended the University of Detroit and joined the US Navy Reserves. Six months after signing up for the Reserves, the Korean War broke out and he was drafted. After brief shooter training, he was sent to the Philippines were he flew in PBM5 seaplanes as a part of Unit Sea Plane Squadron Patrol VP731. In the Philippines, he would fly up to Formosa (Taiwan) and back to locate illegal shipping and notify the Nationalist Chinese government. His unit was later assigned to monitor the Korean coastline and the Yalu River. He shares how his unit occasionally landed in Korean harbors to drop off soldiers or gather supplies but never landed in combat areas. He finished his service in December of 1952 and revisited Korea with his family in the 1980s.

Video Clips

Revisiting Korea

Donald Haller recalls revisiting Korea, along with his family, in the 1980s. He shares how vastly different Korea was from how he remembered it in the 1950s. He remembers how poor Korea was in the 1950s, lacking basic infrastructure such as proper roadways and bridges. He remembers the Koreans as both honest and hardworking. He comments he is not surprised that the Korean economy is now booming.

Tags: Busan,Seoul,Civilians,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Message to Students,Modern Korea,Pride,Rest and Relaxation (R&R),South Koreans

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Prior Knowledge of Korea

Donald Haller recalls not learning much about Korea in high school. He does remember that an older brother of his friend was stationed in Korea after World War II and shares how he learned a little bit about Korea from him. He comments on his uncertainty about where Korea was on a map but notes how confident he was that the war would be over in just a few months. He realizes just how wrong he was. He mentions how much he enjoyed the service as he had not traveled outside of Michigan before the war. He shares how he joined the Navy Reserves so he could finish college but ended up being called to Korea in 1950.

Tags: Home front,Impressions of Korea,Message to Students,Prior knowledge of Korea

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War Speciality

Donald Haller recalls never attending boot camp due to the short time between his signing up for the Reserves and his being drafted. He explains he was a great shooter, so he was assigned to the Navy ordinance as a gunner. He shares how he flew as a gunner in a bow turret located in the front of a seaplane. He remembers never feeling unsafe. He adds that before flying in Korea, he was stationed in the Philippines.

Tags: Basic training,Front lines,Weapons

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