Korean War Legacy Project

Duane Hatleli


Born in Minnesota in 1932, Duane Hatleli was drafted into the military in 1952. Before this, he had very little knowledge of Korea, just some images of soldiers in freezing conditions. When he left, it was fortunate that his father was able to take over the truck driving business. While he has not returned to Korea, Duane Hatleli has seen films and read books about the progress the country as made. His emotions are a testimony to both his pride, but also the hardships he experienced during the war.

Video Clips

Knowledge of Korea

Duane Hatleli explains that he didn’t know much about Korea before getting drafted. He remembers vaguely seeing it on television, including the freezing conditions the soldiers were enduring. When he received his draft notice, he knew that he had to go serve and had to give up his job.

Tags: Prior knowledge of Korea

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Impressions of Korea Today

Duane Hatleli has seen films about what Korea is like today. He mentions that he has a book from South Korea as a thank you to the soldiers. He describes the trains that they used to ride during the war, a stark contrast to the Korea of today.

Tags: Impressions of Korea

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Video Transcript



D = Duane Hatleli

I = Interviewer

I2 = Interviewer 2


D: I’m Duane Hatleli. I was born in Albert Lea, Minnesota in 1932.     {0:00 to 0:09}

Umm, I was born in a house and I wasn’t in a hospital to be born.   {0:09 to 0:21}

Umm, the fact is that I was born right here on the corner of Osborne and Bridge. {0:22 to 0:31}

And, I lived, um, we lived in town for a while.     {0:32 to 0:44}

And then my foster grandparents, grandpa, he died so we moved out to north of Hayward. {0:45 to 0:57}

Four miles north of Hayward. And I lived there for many years.     {0:58 to 1:06}

Until I got my draft notice to report on December 3rd, 1952, no fifty.., yeah 52. I’m sorry. {1:07 to 1:27}

And, then I was, we were sent to Indian Town Gap, Pennsylvania for my basic training. {1:28 to 1:46}

And uh, spent 16 weeks there and come home for further on and from there on I was {1:46 to 2:01}

We were headed, to a, to the West Coast {2:01 to 2:14}

and I don’t remember the name of the, of the {2:14 to 2:19}

I: Fort Lewis {2:19}

D: I don’t think, I don’t, I don’t know. Maybe it was {2:23 to 2:28}

Fort Lewis was open for just a few days and then {2:28 to 2:33}

And we were on a ship in Seattle and spent 2 weeks on the water and we stopped at uh {2:33 to 2:50}

I forget the, I forget the name of it {2:50 to 2:58}

Well in Japan anyway, we, we spent the night there and got rid of our Khakis and our got our uh {2:58 to 3:13}

Um, fatigues and a name one riffle and the next morning we sailed for Inchon, South Korea {3:14 to 3:25}

And they didn’t have any uh, doctors, so we had to go on these lannygraphs, as we, with our duffle bag and {3:30 to 3:42}

Then I was, after we got, and then I I {3:43 to 3:50}

Ohhh it’s been a long time {3:50 to 3:54}

I: Can you describe to me a little bit more about the landing in Inchon? What did it look like? What, how did you go and land? {3:55 to 4:01}

D: On these landing craft, on the front of the landing craft goes down and with our duffle bag and and {4:01 to 4:18}

Then we was processed and then I ended up going assigned to Company A 223 Infantry Regimen 40th Division {4:20 to 4:34}

And I was there until um about the first of July 1953 and um {4:37 to 4:51}

Then early on that morning on about the first of July um {4:55 to 5:01}

Korean Outfit Command took over for us and he marched us back of the line for one night {5:03 to 5:11}

And then we, we just stayed back there for that day and then next morning they loaded us on trucks and we took us up to Heartbreak Ridge {5:12 to5:28}

And that’s where I ended up until July 30th when the cease fire was called {5:30 to 5:37}

I: What was the date that you went into Korea? {5:37 to 5:40}

D: 28th of May 53 {5:41 to 5:50}

I: And what was your unit? {5:51 to 5:52}

D: Company 223 Infantry Regiment 40th Division {5:52 to 5:58}

At breakfast we’d go down to the Mess Hall and of course we had to spread out on the, on the road just in case we got, in case a round came in 5:59 to 6:15}

And then I remember so well and on {6:16 to 6:22}

July 30th when the cease fire was called in the morning they, they told us to start carrying ammo out of the trenches {6:23 to 6:36}

So it was about, I would guess 11 o’clock and I was coming with two, two uh, ammo what-a-you-call-em {6:37 to 6:53}

I can’t even, huh? {6:54 to 6:55}

I2: Boxes? {6:56}

D: Well ammo…, but anyway I got out of the trenches and just going back to the trucks and {6:58 to 7:08}

Zzzzzooooooooooooo and and here was a a mortar on it coming at us and fired and I can still see that it landed on or it went over my head and landed on in the, on the road the engineers had cut out so you could get tanks up there or cars or vehicles {7:09 to 7:39}

And I dropped my two ammo, what do you, can’t think of, my two ammo things and I got in a, in a real good bunker there for a while and {7:40 to 7:59}

And then seemed like it was calm out there so I drived, brought the two ammo, oh I can’t remember this, but {8:00 to 8:16}

And they uh, and then we just kept on, kept on carrying ammo out of the trenches and we didn’t have anymore problems or {8:17 to 8:27}

And the next {8:29 to 8:31}

I: So what happened when the mortar round hit? {8:32 to 8:34}

D: It hit the on the road right down below little while and a piece of shrapnel hit me right in the right side but it never, never drew blood or glood blood {8:35 to 8:52}

So um but I think it was a couple years then I felt it you know where that shrapnel hit {8:52 to 9:04}

One of them days before the cease fire I was in the bunker in the morning trying to get some sleep but two other buddies were there and we heard this clunk {9:06 to 9:22}

And we knew right away it was a round but it was a dud and the Communists had a lot of duds {9:23 to 9:31}

And then a couple of nights before, before um, the cease fire, I can’t remember um, but anyway {9:34 to 9:51}

I was, I was elected to go on patrol with, I don’t know how many guys, 5,6,8 guys I’m not sure {9:52 to 10:02}

And we was supposed to make contact patrol but and I don’t remember if it was sergeant first class or second lieutenant that told us {10:03 to 10:15}

We’re not gonna go up and make contact, what they do is make contact, fire, and then log out and um {10:16 to 10:27}

Um, so we spent all night out there in front of the line and uh {10:31 to 10:39}

Then the next morning we came back up and their leader, I don’t know if sergeant, sergeant or a second lieutenant {10:40 to 10:52}

But they said run through this creek there go and make sure you get um get wet so they can’t sneak you down {10:53 to 11:11}

I: So from the time you landed in Inchon, can you kinda tell me what was your journey, where did you, were you stationed at one specific place the whole time or did you move around? {11:12 to 11:21}

D: No, we went to the punch bowl and was assigned there and then about the 1st of July we uh {11:22 to 11:30}

We march, march back and Korean Outfit took over for us {11:32 to 11:37}

And then we was back of the line one night then then we, the next day they loaded us on trucks and took us up to Heartbreak Ridge {11:38 to 11:48}

And that’s where I was when cease fire was called {11:49 to 11:52}

Ad I got, I got a lot of, lot of respect for um presid, preside, President Eisenhower {11:54 to 12:05}

Cause he negotiated cease fire and he’d only been in office since January {12:06 to 12:13}

But then when we come, I’ll tell you when, when we uh, come back on a ship, um {12:15 to 12:24}

Towards Seattle and hardly any of us got sick you know sea sick or anything {12:25 to 12:33}

We just toughened in I guess {12:35 to 12:39}

While we was, the guys were, were so um, upbeat we thought we had negotiated or no {12:40 to 12:57}

Thought it had set the communists back a lot for not letting them into North Korea or South Korea I mean{12:58 to 13:08}

But anyway then we landed at Seattle and then we went home then I spend my last months in a Fort Carson Colorado {13:10 to 13:30}

And I even had a, went home and gotta a car and we went into Colorado Springs and someone, some people was with me they drank to much and got sick {13:31 to 13:58}

But that’s about it {13:59 to 14:02}

I: Can you tell me more about your time at the punch bowl? {14:03 to 14:06}

D: The punch bowl was well was was little over a month so {14:10 to 14:16}

But I was so glad to get out of there cause our, our bunkers were falling down because they weren’t {14:17 to 14:24}

But then we got, I was so glad to get out of there and um {14:27 to 14:40}

Heartbreak Ridge we had good bunkers but they had, didn’t have any uh rocks and stuff to put on top of your so {14:41 to 14:56}

I: What were the rocks for?{14:57 to 14:59}

D: Well so when the rounds come in they’ll detonate quicker and then you’re a little bit safer in the bunker. That’s what the rocks are for. {15:00 to 15:12}

I: At the punch bowl, what were your duties? {15:13 to 15:15}

D: About every week or so then your time would come up and say you got to go on patrol {15:16 to 15:26}

We, we went on, I remember on daylight patrol that we went on lucky we did not run into any, any uh, Communist soldiers {15:27 to 15:40}

But we stayed out there all day and then come back in {15:41 to 15:43}

I: And when you switched to Heartbreak Ridge were your duties the same or did you have new assignments? {15:46 to 15:53}

D: We had another guy in our squad was a bazooka gunner and he was up firing one day and a and a {15:54 to 16:11}

A snipper got him and we had flackjacks on flackjackets and I think they told me he got when he was firing he got a snipper got him right through this on the right side {16:13 to 16:31}

And so they shipped him back to Japan I think and and I uh I was next in line to, so I ended up bazooka gunner {16:33 to 16:51}

Then I have to have an assistant and I only fired it once after the cease fire and then I didn’t need it {16:54 to 17:02}

I know the the sights on the bazooka were hard to adjust you know but they say round if you get close enough to a tank you could knock a track off the tank but that never happened for me {17:06 to 17:32}

I: Can you describe to me how you operate a bazooka? {17:34 to 17:36}

D: A baz, a bazooka is two tubes and they snap snap together then your assistant uh helps you and then the assistant hooks up the wire and then you adjust your sights and pull the trigger when when you wanna {17:37 to 18:07}

After the cease fire we practiced and we shot one round {18:08 to 18:15}

But lucky it was a cease fire and I didn’t need it {18:17 to 18:23}

And, and like uh, like I said before here, I’m so grateful that President Eisenhower was able to negotiate {18:25 to 18:36}

Otherwise I would probably been dead or or uh wounded real bad{18:39 to 18:47}

The guy before me I was so sorry for them but they had to fire and try to get the Communists off the hill and a lot of them died {18:51 to 19:07}

At that time they called police action, you just sit on this hill and the Communists were on the other one but they didn’t clash {19:11 to 19:21}

Except for the, like the Communists um fired their um mortar shells or maybe artillery I’m not sure. {19:24 to 19:38}

One, one day it was having breakfast I remember and and we could hear these mortar shells but our own artillery didn’t put enough charge on it or whatever. I don’t know how they do that but {19:43 to 20:08}

And, and it landed short but we on the road that we were spread out on to eat {20:10 to 20:22}

I: What did you know about Korea before you were serving? {20:24 to 20:27}

D: I didn’t know much but in basic training I remember that’s when one guy he uh, all I know, I’ve seen it on TV I suppose or at the uh, you know before me {20:28 to 20:58}

They were trying to fight in the winter and there were people who were frozen limbs and and just plain cold and didn’t have proper uh, proper uh clothing {21:00 to 21:20}

I: So when you were drafted had you heard very much about the war in the news or what did you know at that time? {21:21 to 21:27}

D: I, I didn’t know very much at that time {21:28 to 21:32}

I: So what went through your thoughts we you had your draft notice? {21:33 to 21:35}

D: Well I have to go serve at that time I was driving a truck and lucky my my dad and I were job so he took over for me for two years {21:35 to 21:59}

And then I come back and I didn’t work very long until I done something else {22:01 to 22:08}

I: So when did you rotate home from Korea? {22:09 to 22:11}

D: Well I had to be in uh May, May of 1954{22:12 to 22:24}

I: So on the day that the Armistice was signed can you describe to me more what was that day like and what was it like kinda later in the day when you guys got the news? {22:26 to 22:33}

D: All I can was happy and able to load on trucks and they took us back to where we was gonna stay for the rest of our time over there {22:34 to 22:48}

I: How did you personally feel when you heard the news? {22:49 to 22:51}

D: Glad that that mortar shell didn’t hit and you know when you’re that close to getting not getting wounded I didn’t, I was happy {22:52 to 23:12}

So we as crazy as I was at that time when I got out I was a new ranked corporal and uh, Korea after the cease fire got home and uh er where we were stationed in one of these big tents and then and uh, {23:18 to 23:46}

Pretty good place to eat and she got the picture there{23:51 to 24:04}

I: What was it like following the signing of the Armistice? {24:05 to 24:08}

D: Well uh, I was uh, Syngman Rhee was the president of South Korea at that time and I remember we um, {24:09 to 24:24}

The 40th Division colors were going back to the United States but a lot of us didn’t have our time in yet, I think it was 12 months I was supposed to have {24:27 to 24:41}

No 11 months maybe but anyway we had a big parade we were able to march in front of a lot of brass and Syngman Rhee {24:43 to 24:59}

During that time we after the cease fire we all loaded on trucks and said we are gonna go and see, see uh Marilyn Monroe {25:00 to 25:14}

And so she was on stage in the middle of a rice patty somewhere and I never knew what it was but anyway we got a picture there of but we was quite a ways away from Marilyn Monroe but {25:16 to 25:39}

I: So what was your date of discharge from the military? {25:40 to 25:42}

D: December 3rd, 1954 at Indian, Indian Town noooo, Fort Carson, Colorado {25:43 to 25:55}

I: And what was the reception like when you got home? {25:57 to 25:59}

D: Nothing, I don’t think a lot of people even know what happened {26:03 to 26:11}

I: What have you done since then? {26:12 to 26:14}

D: Well I worked at driving a cream truck for a few months and then I worked at Desoto Produce for I don’t know how long and then I got a job at qu quee King Sealy’s Thermos Company Queen and I worked there for 20… 23 years I think {26:15 to 26:51}

Until I locked it over to move south, I think your grandpa worked for Queen’s for awhile {26:53 to 27:05}

I don’t think he was in charge when when I started there in 1966 {27:06 to 27:15}

I: And what is Korea to you now? {27:16 to 27:18}

D: Well I’ve seen films of South Korea and they got skyscrapers and everything and then I got a book from South Korea thanking the soldiers for keeping their freedom where North Korea was just in shambles {27:19 to 27:54}

I: And how does it feel to be a part of, you know, you saw what it looked like when you left and what it looks like today and how does it feel to have been a part of that? {27:54 to 28:05}

D: I’m proud of, of uh, serving! And I served to help out {28:06 to 28:18}

I remember shortly before we left we got on a troop train with a steam engine and wooden seats in there and and I forget how long I was on there but today now they got high-speed trains and that I’ve seen on film {28:25 to 28:57}

Quite a change from uh the old steam engines and wooden seats and cars {29:00 to 29:09}

I: How do you feel your wartime experiences affected the rest of your life? {29:10 to 29:14}

D: Well it just, I’ve been proud to serve {29:15 to 29:22}

I: Do you feel like you learned through your military service?{29:23 to 29:26}

D: Well respect for other people or {29:27 to 29:34}

I: Do you have any piece of wisdom or a message that you could pass on to younger generations? {29:35 to 29:38}

D: Like the, I think they had t-shirts here that said uh, “Freedom is not free” {29:40 to 29:50}