Edward A. Walker
Edward A. Walker was one of eleven children in a New Zealand farming family. He left his hometown of Te Kuiti to enlist in the Army in 1951. While serving as a truck driver for the Army, he transported troops, ammunition, and food to locations near the Imjin River. He wrote letters and sent film rolls of Korea home to his girl, Shirley. Many fond memories are recalled when he describes his interactions with Korean civilians in Seoul and near troop encampments.
Shipwrecks and Truck Drivers
Edward Walker experienced a rushed basic training so that his regiment could quickly join troops fighting in Korea in 1951. His transport ship struck a reef on the way to Korea which required rescuing seven hundred soldiers by an oil tanker. Upon arrival in Korea, his duties involved transporting troops to a variety of military stations. He also used parts from an abandoned US Jeep to create a generator for their unit.
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Rolls of Film and a Girlfriend
Edward Walker took photos of the Korean boy he hired to cut his hair and of Korean women carrying their babies on their backs. He sent rolls of film home to his girlfriend, Shirley. Shirley joined the interview and said she missed her boyfriend so much and she cried while he was away. Shirley also noticed that textbooks in New Zealand did not feature much content on Asia, so many people did not know where the men were fighting.
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Truckin': The Relative Freedom of Army Truck Drivers
Edward Walker experienced relative freedom as an Army transport truck driver. On one trip, his truck separated from the convoy to take a shortcut recently built by the Americans. Another memory involves the excitement of transporting rowdy Welsh soldiers to the front lines at night.
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[Beginning of recorded material]
E: I am Edward Arthur Walker, and it’s spelled E-D-W-A-R-D A-R-T-H-U-R W-A-L-K-E-R.
I: Um hm. What is your birthday?
E: Seventh of the second month
I: Uh huh. What year?
E: Oh, it was in 1929.
I: Twenty-nine. So you born in the year of Great Depression.
I: And where were you born?
I: Could you spell it?
E: Yeah. T-E-K-U-I-T-I.
E: Tekuiti, yeah.
I: Tekuiti. And is it far from here?
E: No, uh, it’s south of here.
I: I see.
E: Uh, what would be 30 miles.
I: And tell me about your family when you were growing up, when you were child?
What did your father and parents do, mother and siblings?
E: Uh, my grandparents and their siblings came from England in 1940. And, uh, they left England because they had eight boys and two girls, and they had a business there. But they came to New Zealand because there was more opportunity for eight sons.
E: And, uh, they came out, and they lived in the back country and developed land as farmers. And, uh, three of the sons went to the First World War, and when they came back, one of the sons took over the farm in Mokuiti.
I: Mokuiti, um hm.
E: And uh, then they moved to Tekuiti on to another farm.
And that’s where my father grew up.
I: How many animals did you have?
E: Oh, they milked cows, and they had sheep to go with them, uh. They had about 30, 30 cows and sheep because, uh, through the king country, ragweed was a problem because sheep used to eat it.
I: Hm. So you know how to take care of those.
E: I had to what?
I: You know how to take care of those cows and sheep p.
E: Yes, we were farming, too.
I: Um hm. Tell me about your siblings, brothers and sisters. How man?
I: Ten ?
E: Uh, well, uh, one was a twin and she died at eight months.
I: I’m sorry.
E: And I lost a brother
and a sister. So I lived.
I: You were the eldest?
E: No, I have a sister older than me.
I: Ah. But eldest among boys.
E : Yes.
I: Good. And tell me about the school you went through.
E: We went to Tekuiti School, and we lived three miles from Tekuiti, and we were taken to school by a school bus, even though it was close.
I: Yeah. Why?
E: And, uh,
I: You liked to walk.
E: That, that wasn’t the problem. My father was, uh, compared these others to put on a school bus of children.
E: And, uh, you know, and he took an interest in our education. So, uh, uh, and I was the first year when they started children under five years old.
My sister was older than me, she started when she was six. So I caught her up in schooling.
I: Were you good student or bad student?
E: I did very well at school.
I: Very well?
I: Oh. That’s good. Tell me how good you were.
E: Oh, well I got school certificate and that [INAUDIBLE] uh, in the junior schools, from,
well I missed form 1 and so from form 2. I was usually in the top 10 bracket.
I: Very impressive. So when did you graduate high school?
E: Uh, it, I finished high school in 1945.
I: Nineteen forty-five. And what did you do then?
E: Well, then I went to Mercy College for one year.
I: Where is, spelling please.
I: E-Y. And what did you study?
I: And then?
E: Then I came back to Tekuiti, and my brother and I did, uh, agriculture work. And we went on to be shearers and fencing and that.
I: So did you run some kind of business,
E: No we didn’t. People used to bring us, uh, when they wanted work done, and we had to organize it from there.
I: Uh huh. So, but you were able to run your old farm.
E: No, we didn’t have a farm at that stage.
E: I never, we never got farming until after the return from Korea.
I: I see. And so when did you join the military?
E: Uh, 1951.
I: Uh huh. What did you join? Army or
E: Well Army, yes. And they wanted us, uh, to go to Korea quickly. So we didn’t. we only did the basic military training in New Zealand, and we were, uh, we started off on the Y and E, this one.
E: Then we got north of Australia
and, uh, it crashed on a reef.
E: And we were lucky. There was an oil tanker nearby, and over 700 of us. And the [INAUDIBLE] was on such a keel
I: Um hm.
E: they couldn’t lower the life boats on one side.
I: Uh huh.
E: And the other ones are clinker boats, and they hadn’t been in the water. So they dropped forward and they sank because of the water.
But the tanker had steel life boats. So they managed to, it took them all day and no change to the oil tanker. But we had hobnob boots so we had to walk on the steel deck. And so we were all on the, uh, crew’s quarters, the area which wasn’t, so, and then they took us back to Darwin. And from there, they flew us to, yeah, to Japan
and then across to Korea.
I: So when did you arrive in Korea?
E: Oh, I’m not sure what date it was.
I: Nineteen fifty…
E: Nineteen fifty-one.
I: One. And was it summer or
E: No, I can’t remember.
I: Was it winter, cold? Was it cold or hot?
E: When we got there, it wasn’t cold. But it did get cold
and they never had the clothing for us.
I: Right. So was it during the summer that you arrived in Korea?
E: No, I’m not sure.
I: Okay. And where did you arrive, Pusan?
E: Yeah, Pusan. And they wanted some of our drivers to replace others that were already up, uh, were up in South Korea.
I: Um hm.
to take the train the other, rest of the company in [Chuktoy], and we went up there to replace 30 of them, and they came back, and we carried on there.
I: Where was it, in the north?
E: Yeah, in the north.
I: Was it hill 355?
E: No, before that, uh. All around that area.
I: Ah. So you don’t remember where you were?
E: Not exactly.
I: Not exactly. But anything
E: Yeah, Toktong.
I: And, yeah, go ahead.
E: We caught a lot of stuff from the Toktong railway.
I: Yes. And then?
E: We came, just carried on with what we were told to do.
I: Um hm. So what was your specialty?
E: Truck driving.
I: Truck driving.
And what was your unit?
E: Uh, well, it was 10 Company,
E: Ten, 1-0
I: 1-0 company
E: And, uh, uh,
we, we, we carted mainly ammunition and food. And then they started movement of troops, we moved troops, too.
I: Yeah. So the ammunition transportation, you know, you, you, you carry those ammunition, and that’s very dangerous, isn’t it?
I: Were there any incidents or dangerous moments?
I: Nothing happened to you.
E: Uh, my mate’s truck got hit with shrapnel, but no, no trucks.
I: I see. Do you remember any special episode, accident happening during your service in Korea? Nothing happened?
E: There were a lot of vehicle accidents. And, uh, that, one I can remember in particular.
E: Americans had a jeep.
I: Uh huh.
E: And they went up the road into a thing and their mechanics hopped in quickly, towed it home and took the motor out of it and got a generator. So we were the only unit that had electric power.
I: So did you help them?
E: Yes, we helped each other.
I: Very good.
And, so you been moving around.
I: Yes. And so you must been in many different locations, right?
I: Yeah. You don’t remember any, like a Kansas line or Little Gibralter? Do you remember any location?
E: Not really.
I: No, not really.
E: Cause some place we [INAUDIBLE] moved.
I: And at the time,
you were not married, right?
I: No. And did you write letters back to your family?
I: So what kind of letter did you write?
E: Oh, telling them what was going on.
I: About the battle?
E: No, we weren’t, no. Mainly about our unit.
I: I see. Any, anything you remember you wrote in the letter?
E: I wrote to Shirley.
I: So you had a girlfriend.
I: So what did you write to her?
E: I had to keep the relationship going.
I: How can you do that in the writing? You say I love you?
E: Yeah, course I did.
I: So you must have missed her a lot.
I: Yeah. What about the soft side of your service? Where did you sleep? What did you eat? How often were you able to take a shower,
things like that.
E: In, in, in one of these albums
E: uh, it showed a shower that we rigged up in our platoon, uh, you know, had to heat the water up. And, uh, and I don’t know just where it is. In here it explains how we had to shower. But we usually, we had pot belly stoves,
and they were, we lived in tents, four-man tents.
I: Um hm.
E: And we would heat water up and, uh, you know, uh, bathe from, uh, we had a big dish and we bathed from there in the tent. And we had one bloke came from Japan joined our unit. And he hadn’t, we hadn’t seen him ever shower or could wash. For the first week he was there,
someone made him [olderbark] and he said we got him, actually he hasn’t washed today so we got to his, um , clothing bag and got clean underwear out, and Herb said to him Green, you, you will have a shower today, and he become obstinate and didn’t want to. So we grabbed him and took his clothes off and gave him a scrubbing.
I: So you guys improvised.
I: Kind of shower system, right?
I: Yeah. How was the food? What did you eat?
E: Well, being transport company, we had access to food.
I: Yeah. So you must have a lot of good stuff there , right ?
E: That ‘s true. Sometimes these boxes actually, they broke. So we had
I: Accidentally broke, right?
I: You didn’t do it . Accidentally broken so that you have many different varieties of
I: C rations, you had C ration.
E: No. We came under America.
E: And we, uh, oh, what you call them, but it wasn’t all tin food. And, uh, we, you know, we had, Korean boys came and, uh, we gave them some food and, uh, some of them cooked our food. We had two boys.
I: Were you able to go to Seoul, the Capital City of Korea?
I: Oh. So what, how was it, the Capital City? I mean, describe detail, how Korean city was at the time.
E : Uh, the City of Seoul at the time we went there was bombed out, and things were an absolute mess.
I: Um. Like what?
E: The old buildings were flattened and, uh,
uh, cause we went to Seoul quite often for, uh, with our trucks. And then we also took troops to Inchon for leave and collected and brought them back.
I: How was it, city? I mean, how was Korean economy at the time? How was Korean people look to you? Tell me the details.
E: Oh, they were very hungry.
They didn’t have food, and they had no buildings. And how they survived, we could never understand because, uh, we were long way better.
I: Keep going.
E: Uh, but it didn’t make them want to rebuild some places to live and that. But we went further north so we didn’t see them this time.
But, uh, uh, some parts of the railways still operated from Seoul southward.
I: How about children? How did they look?
E: Uh, when they were clean, under the conditions we couldn’t get over because the women folk washed their clothes in a stream, uh. There were no, no facilities whatsoever, and they used stones to get them,
them white. They got them real white again and that. So, uh, when we had the opportunity if there were women close that wanted work, they would wash our clothes for a very small amount. But, uh, they were happy to do it, and we were happy to give them payment for that.
I: Um hm.
E: And, uh, oh, well, some of them, we had one boy.
He was before I got there and these others had him. And he used to tidy up our tent and do err ands for us, and he was a very good boy.
I: Very good.
I: And so you paid them, right?
I: Yeah. Um, have you been back to Korea?
I: Not at all?
E: No, not at all.
I: Do you follow up with what’s done in Korea, economy, current economy?
E: Uh, uh, yes up to a point,
but mostly from tv programs.
I: Um hm.
E: And, uh, we feel that, uh, South Korea has done very well. The people we have taken up things, and I think the Americans were a big help to them because it was a bit more than that. They wanted them to be strong so that North Korea didn’t come back again.
E: And, uh, you know, it was marvelous how they recovered.
I: Do you know the rank of Korean economy now in the world?
E: No, I don’t
I: The biggest economy in the world is China, right?
I: And the second is United States
I: Third is Japan. Fourth is Germany, and we are, the Korean economy is 11th, number 11 in the world. Can you believe that?
E: Uh, yes.
after speaking to the Korean people when we were there, I can easily understand that because they were brilliant people to talk to.
E: And, uh, and they, uh, got the help from the Americans, and they made good use of it.
I: Uh huh. Very good point.
E: Uh, they actually improved better than New Zealand.
So what do you think about this transformation, from the Seoul you saw, Inchon you saw in 1950, ’51, and now they are one of the top economy in the world. What do you think about this whole transformation?
E: Well, it’s been marvelous, hasn’t it, because, uh, they’ve got, uh, these, uh, big building things,
and they’re building motor vehicles equal to the best anywhere in the world. And you see a lot of them come to New Zealand. Most farmers have got the [INAUDIBLE] built in.
I: So are you proud about that?
I: Uh huh. Do you wanna go back to Korea?
E: Oh, I don’t think I could tolerate it. I’m 90 years of age.
I: Just 90.
FEMALE VOICE: Just 90.
I: Just 90. So you can go back, but, um. You brought this article, and that was the incident before you went for Korea, right, at the,
E: That was on the way to Korea.
I: Yes. Could you show that to the camera? Could you show that to the camera? And what is about it again? Explain it please.
E: Uh, we were on the ship Wahini on our way to Korea
E: And in the Timor Sea,
early hours of the morning, I was on the top deck. There was a big crash, and I got up, and we were on the reef.
E: And the island, island was directly in front of us. So somebody was at fault not seeing it.
I: So you had a war before you went to Korea, huh, so that you are immune. I see. So that was the ship?
I: The big oil tank?
E: Uh, one was the oil tank. Another was the Wahini.
I: Yeah. Thank you. And you brought a lot of pictures.
I: I looked at it, and there are a lot of good pictures, and you promised me that and also show it promised me that one of your grandchildren will scan it.
FEMALE VOICE: We will do our best on that.
I: He’s not answering my question.
E: Well, I’m not sure if any of them got the equipment to do it.
FEMALE VOICE: They have.
FEMALE VOICE: Yes.
E: Oh, they have. Shirley knows.
I: Or I can ask them to buy, and I will reimburse it. So he, they can have their own scanner, okay?
E: Oh yeah.
I: So, could you show those pictures, some of those pictures, just, just open up there.
E: Oh, that was, that was when we went to the, joined the Forces.
I: Can you show it like that and then you can just
Yes, flip one by one.
E: This was us leaving Tekuiti to go to the camp for training.
I: Um hm.
E: you know, in ’51. Oh, that was [SUE] training. Oh, this was in, uh, we called in on Australian place. Oh this was when we left Wellington. And this is Australia
I: Um hm. So you have a lot of pictures like that. Did you take pictures by yourself?
I: You had a camera?
I: You were in the War. You took camera with you?
E: Yes, I did.
I: Very good. And if you do not scan this and sharing with me,
it’s going to be in your closet forever, right?
I: Not many people will be able to see those. So again, Edward,
I: Are you promising me that you going to let your, one of your grandchildren to scan it?
E: Yes I will.
I: I recorded it, okay?
E: Yeah. This was in, uh, Darwin.
I: Show me some pictures of Korea.
This is how we want to make sure that you are not forgotten, okay?
E: This is the boy that worked for us.
I: Ah. The Korean boy?
E: Yeah, Korean boy.
I: Yes, I see that, yes.
E: We had [INAUDIBLE] Company cut our hair.
I: Um hm.
E: For a very small amount.
I: Are you having haircut there?
E: Yeah, haircut.
I: Yeah. It’s a Korean salon.
E: That, uh, railway way in the, and being blasted with shells, but it was still useable.
I: So Edward, I really want to have those pictures be available for many other people who don’t have any idea of Korea looked in 1950’s, okay? So show me. You are the one. I’m trusting you, okay?
I: Alright. So, oh, that’s the boy?
E: That’s a Korean woman with a baby on the back.
I: That’s how we used to carry our babies, on our back.
E: You used to carry a lot of other things.
I: On top of head, right?
E: No. With these A-frames.
I: A-frame, yes.
E: And that, uh, can we tell them some of the certain loads they carried, too heavy for us to carry any distance.
I: Um hm. Okay. Here we go. We have another guest here, and would you please introduce yourself?
S: I’m Shirley Walker.
I: Um hm. And
S: Wife of, uh, Edward Arthur Walker.
I: When did you marry him?
S: In 1954.
I: Nineteen fifty-four. So right after he came from Korea.
S: Um, soon after.
I: Uh huh. Did you know him before he left Korea?
I: So you were girlfriend?
S: Um hm.
I: When did you meet him?
S: Nineteen fifty-one [INAUDIBLE]
I: Fifty-one? How did you meet him?
S: Um, he came to work in our valley next door to us.
I: And looking for girlfriend?
S: Looks like that.
I: Why did you like him?
I: Was he handsome?
S: Oh he was, yes he was quite handsome.
I: And he is handsome, too. And so when he left
for Korea, how did you feel about it?
S: I was very young. He worried about us, yes.
I: Because he might be killed.
S: Yes, exactly.
I: Yeah. Did you cry?
I: Okay. You had a very good girlfriend, and when he was in Korea, he wrote, uh, many letters to you, right?
I: What kind of letter? Can you reveal some secret?
S: Um, oh, um, he’d explain what sort of things they’d been doing, driving, here or there or, um, and, of course, always said that he loved me so.
I: Did you know anything about Korea before?
I: Didn’t your school teach anything about Korean history?
I: Not at all.
I: What about Japan or China?
S: No, not really.
I: Not really. So you didn’t know much about Asia.
S: No. I didn’t know much about Asia, no.
I: So after he returned, you married.
I: Did he talk about the War that he fought for in Korea to you ?
S: Yes, he did, yes.
I: What, how?
S: Um, well he just [INAUDIBLE] incidents that, that happened. Um,
and then to have the Korean people help the, um, Army ones.
E: I also sent back rolls of film, and Shirley got them developed.
I: And that’s how you got this album?
I: So you are responsible for that album. And, do you ever talk to your grandchildren
or children about the War you fought?
E: No, not really.
I: Not at all. So your grandchildren really don’t know about the War that you fought for.
E : Uh.
I: No. Do you know our New Zealand History textbook talking about the Korean War or not?
S: Not really.
I: Not really, yeah. Has been covered some of it but not much, okay.
I: So that ‘s why we are trying to do this.
S: It’s a good idea.
S: It is.
I: Yes. I have some good ideas
and we are not just preserving your memory in the form of, uh, interviews. But at the same time, we are analyzing this interview, and teachers are listening. And I’m trying to connect with the History teachers in New Zealand who wants to do those jobs. And then we want to make a History book like that so that they can talk about the War you fought for.
I: Yeah. And there, your pictures will
be used. Many young students will look at those pictures and they will be surprised to see how Korean women carry their baby in their back.
I: The A-frame and the small bus boy working for you
I: Things like that.
I: What do you think about that?
S: I think, I think it was, it was, it’s a very good idea.
I: So would you promise me that one of your grandchildren, again,
to scan these things and send it to me.
S: We will do that.
I: Great. It’s important to do that, right? Otherwise it’s going to be just kept in one of your closets, and in 10, 20 years, nobody will
E: Do you just want the photos scanned, uh, and you’re gonna judge what they are from that?
I: Yeah. But you can scan those pictures related to Korea
I: And you have a lot of,
uh, postcards from Japan. But that’s not
I: doesn’t have to be. So let’s do that, okay?
E : Yes.
I: Yeah. I think that’s very good, and grandchildren, they know how to do those things much better than me. So it’s not going to be a difficult job, okay?
I: Yeah. Um, what do you think your legacy as a Korean War veteran? Why is it important?
What did you do importantly for Korea now?
E: Well, we, we felt that North Koreans were giving them a very rough time. And when the Army called for volunteers, we volunteered.
I: Um hm.
E: But the artillery section in New Zealand went before us. They trained, they trained and we took the artillery pieces to Korea.
I: Um hm.
E: And it, it was pretty serious when they got the, uh, North Koreans had the advantage, and they were getting south nearly to Pusan.
I: Um. That’s your legacy, right?
I: Now the Korea, that Korea used to be very poor is, became the country that offering economic aid to other countries
I: Yeah. [INAUDIBLE] needs. So that’s a great transformation. You are big part of it.
E: We only thought we were doing what we could at the time cause it didn’t look very good at times. We might have got chased out, too.
I: Um hm. And next year, 2020, it’s going to be the 70th anniversary of the Korean War. What would you say? Do you have any special message to the Korean people, Shirley.
S: I think they’re doing a wonderful job. And, uh, I would like to continue.
I: Continue, right?
I: Yes, that’s very important. How about Edward?
E: I feel that they have come, recovered from what the War had done to them and proved to the world that it can be done if you’re progressing ahead.
I: Um hm. That’s right. So any other special episode
that you didn’t share with me, anything during the War?
E: We were in a transporter whenever there was in the, uh, people go over there to entertain us. We always used to go to the [INAUDIBLE] driving. They said we could do the work after that.
I: Yeah. You had freedom because you are the truck driver. So you can
have access to the good food and place.
E: Well, the platoon over, uh, ASC, Army Service Corp were there before us, and they developed a different system. If, if they had two loads to do, they quicker they got them done, it was the end of the day. So we joined
uh, what didn’t go into train the rest of the Company,
I: Um hm.
E: And so we did the same. But, uh, when the rest of the Company came, we had to go in, uh, oh, what do you call it?
S: Convoy .
E: In convoys. And anyway, I can remember soon after these others arrived and they put us in the convoy.
And the Sergeant was taking out [INAUDIBLE] maybe 10 trucks, and he was in front of, I’d been there quite some time, and the Americans had built some new roads, and one was shorter than the others to get back to the railway. And I took the shortcut because I was behind, and everybody followed me. And the Sergeant wasn’t very happy when he got to us.
I: Yeah, right. So you have those fun and good memories, too.
I: Yeah. It’s important to preserve those memories. And, yes, go ahead.
S: What about the Welch?
E: Oh. When we were taking the Welch up to the front line
E: From the rear camp. They sang all the way and, you know, if we were doing, if it was night. But we didn’t want any extra noise because it would have been an attract the big guns on us.
E: It, uh, that’s the attitude of them when they were in the War. They didn’t care.
E: They were gonna be, they were gonna be hit, but we didn’t want to be that way.
I: That’s the spirit.
I: Yes. Again, this is my great opportunity to meet you and be able to hear from you about the stories and with Shirley, especially and so that we can preserve your memory.
I: And especially those important pictures, okay?
I: Great. Thank you so much. Thank you.
[End of Recorded Material]