Korean War Legacy Project

Donald J. Zoeller


Donald J. Zoeller was born in New York City during the Great Depression. He joined the ROTC in college at Fordham University expecting to never have to serve in a war. Unfortunately, in 1951 he was sent to the Korean War, or as he remembers it being called, “a conflict.” He recalls what it was like in a combat zone, including a trip in an airplane over the enemy zone. He recalls being in a battalion closes to the MLR and being involved in trying to stop the Chinese from seizing the city of Seoul. He also tells the story of a young boy who was orphaned and how he helped them. While he did not anticipate being sent to war, Donald Zoeller is proud of his service.

Video Clips

Adventures at the Battalion

Donald Zoeller describes some interesting events that happened while he was stationed near Chuncheon. He describes walking into a minefield with his commander and their duties while in camp. He also remembers an airplane trip he took over enemy territory.

Tags: Chuncheon,Fear,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions

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Edge of MLR

Donald Zoeller describes the battalion which was located close to the MLR. One time they were even in the 'no man's land' zone. They had to build bunkers on their own by cutting down trees designed to hold up under artillery.

Tags: Front lines,Living conditions,Pride

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Defending Seoul

Part of Donald Zoeller's platoon was sent to Seoul when the Chinese tried to retake the city. He describes how his colleague "fell apart" and he was asked to take over leadership. He describes living in a foxhole constantly hearing shrapnel and was called upon at times to open fire.

Tags: Seoul,Chinese,Front lines,Living conditions,Pride

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Helping a Korean boy

Donald Zoeller says that he did not get to know many Korean people as he was always outside of the cities. However, he remembers a little Korean boy who was orphaned and slept with prostitutes. He invited the boy to stay with the soldiers and later brought him to an orphanage.

Tags: Civilians,Impressions of Korea,Orphanage,Poverty

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Revisiting Korea

Donald Zoeller states "No people anywhere are as grateful to the American troops as the South Koreans". He is incredulous that the South Korean government pays for veterans to visit. He says the legacy is that they saved the country from being under the grip of a terrible dictator, and now the country is one of the leading industrial nations. "I benefitted greatly by contributing to that war," he says.

Tags: Impressions of Korea,North Koreans,Pride

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