Frank Zielinski was born in Staten Island, New York, and joined the United States Army at the age of seventeen. Trained as a machine gunner, he fought at the Incheon Landing, Chosin Reservoir, and at Old Baldy. As an infantryman, his unit joined the United States Marines in heated battles. One of his fond recollections while serving in Korea was being Father for a Day to impoverished Korean youth. Frank Zielinski fought in Korea for three years, leaving in September 1953.
Surrounded on "The Frozen Chosin"
Frank Zielinski trained as a machine gunner and landed at Incheon with General MacArthur. One of his friends drowned clambering over the side of the ship to go ashore. Another died in Incheon when North Koreans attacked their encampment as they slept. The soldiers lived in trenches on the front lines, sometimes without proper equipment. At times, his division was surrounded by North Koreans and Chinese.
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The Hell of Living in Trenches
Frank Zielinski was stationed at Old Baldy when the Armistice went into effect. He remembers the danger of living in cold trenches filled with water. The enemy would attack at night, so soldiers stayed awake to guard their positions. With no hot food available, C-rations included pork and beans, cookies, cigarettes, and instant coffee. Soldiers would leave part of their rations for the children living in nearby villages.
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Frank Zielinski describes the use of Korean "house boys" by various officers, though he himself did not take on a house boy. KATUSAS brought food up the paths to the front lines to feed soldiers. At Thanksgiving, the KSCs delivered much-appreciated turkey. Korea taught Frank Zielinski to respect and protect others.
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Father of the Day
Frank Zielinski has taught his grandchildren and great grandchildren about his service in the Korean War. He is proud of his service in Korea, particularly his interaction with Korean youth during R and R (Rest and Recuperation). Soldiers would play Father of the Day, adopting up to ten boys at a time to ensure they received something to eat, if only for that day.
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Zielinski: My name is Frank Zielinski. I was born in Staten Island New York. I was a farmer
before I went into the service and then when I came out of the service I worked for Mobil Oil as a maintenance man. I just came out of high school. I was just quitting high school at the time because my father needed help on the farm and uh when I got out of school the army said well there’s not gonna be any work when
Zielinski: You come out so you might as well join the army. So there’s no all I’m only 17 so I don’t need to join the army now, but they said well we’ll draft you anyway if you’re 17. So I went in at 17. Well we went to Hokkaido Japan we stayed there for uh six weeks training ski training
Zielinski: So then I said uh oh Korea is next didn’t expect it but that’s what happened we wounded up in Korea in 1950.
Interviewer: What was your uh basic unit and specialty?
Zielinski: 45thdivision Oklahoma National Guardsfma
Interviewer: And what was your specialty?
Zielinski: I was an air-cooled 30 machine gunner.
Interviewer: machine gunner
Interviewer: Could you tell me about your training of this machine gun?
Zielinski: Yes Sir
Interviewer: Did you receive that in Hokkaido or?
Zielinski: Well, I carried it in Hokkiado. I had the 45 and I had also the machine on the air called
30 so I would be a 30 caliber system
Zielinski: machine gunner so when we landed in Incheon with Macarthur is when we lost a machine gunner so automatically I took over the gun
Interviewer: Anything before and after picture Incheon landing?
Zielinski: No. When I had got into Incheon, we went over the side of the boat over
the rope ladders. I lost one friend, he fell off between the rope end of the
Zielinski: ship and he drowned with his pack. So uh that’s where we lost him, but he did and then from there when we landed in Incheon we had this hero tent city and the first night we were there the North Koreans invaded and killed one of the fellas sleeping in his sleep and then we
were alert from that time on and from there we we hid in Incheon. Incheon was
Zielinski: leveled off there was nothing. There was nothing but rubble so that’s how we kept going until we got further out. Then we came into the Chosun frozen with the Marines. I was in the infantry and the Marines were surrounded and then we got surrounded when the lake froze we were surrounded.
Zielinski: We were surrounded by the Chinese they came over the frozen lake when the lake froze
Zielinski: overnight not not right off in when we went a little further from Incheon and that’s when we ran into trouble. That’s when we start hitting it. What happened? We ran out of ammunition. We were on the end of the supply line. We had no winter clothing. The weather hit us about 40 below zero. We had start to start in on an advance. We wrapped it around our legs.
Interviewer: Did you have a Mick Mouse at the time?
Zielinski: No. Mickey Mouse didn’t come out
Zielinski: until July
Zielinski: that’s when they gave’em to us in July that’s when we wounded
up with trench foot because the more you sweat. How do you figure? We used the North Korean shoes and we used the North Korean cut uniforms under our uniform the jackets came up to here on us so we had to cut the shoes our toes stuck up about that far out of the shoes because
Zielinski: we’re on the end of the supply line they came so fast that you didn’t even realize it because there was so much power firepower that you were aiming for them and they were falling all around you
Interviewer: How close were you?
Zielinski: Well we came pretty close where you almost had to use the hand to hand
Interviewer: And you survived it without any
Zielinski: No wounds
Interviewer: No wounds, you are lucky man.
Zielinski: Uh I had buddies behind me.
Interviewer: How many, how many uh
Zielinski: Well you figure you had two
Zielinski: riflemen behind me they brought the ammunition when we ran out of it so they watch my back and I watched theirs, scared yes.
Interviewer: How many days you were there at around the lake of Jhungen?
Zielinski: about three days until we had uh reinforcements and our reinforcements came
Interviewer: and then what happened? That you withdrew.
Zielinski: We pulled out.
Interviewer: Pulled out.
Zielinski: We helped the Marines to get to help the Marines at that time
Interviewer: Well but when you finally withdraw from that region and you
Zielinski: And everybody was pulled back and the replacements took over
Zielinski: Because that’s a fresh troop
Interviewer: So when did you leave Korea
Zielinski: When I left Korea it was 1953
Interviewer: Well you were there for three years
Zielinski: Yeah from 50 to 53. I came out in
Zielinski: September 1953
Interviewer: So you were there when the armistice was signed
Interviewer: Where were you?
Zielinski: I was on Old Baldy
Interviewer: What it, where is that?
Zielinski: I uh don’t remember the hill and the number but that was right where the north where the north was you can see them walking they would just stand walk around the top of the mountain just to see if you’d shoot at them but that was a peace treaty then
Interviewer: So there was a west-side of it?
Zielinski: See they were dropping these
Zielinski: 500-pound bombs and we thought they were duds but they didn’t go off until midnight then all hell broke up
Interviewer: What was the most dangerous moment that you remember during your service?
Zielinski: Uh you know in the trench when I was on the line when we got hit midnight they hit us at midnight and uh that’s when a machine
Zielinski: gun and all started firing then you had to make sure the other guy would stay awake sometimes you’d hear them snoring on God there’d be snoring you throw rocks on him to wake him up so they wouldn’t sneak up behind you
Interviewer: What was like living in that time?
Zielinski: Was hell you had water in a trench there was no way you can keep warm until we had the bunkers then finally we built our bunkers and we
Zielinski: Were able to keep ourselves warm
Interviewer: So there was no stove or anything like that
Zielinski: No. we made our own stoves.
Interviewer: Your own stuff.
Zielinski: How? We made out of ammunition cans and tomato juice cans. We made the chimney and then they do a delivery of five gallon can of gas. And we made a rubber hose from the gas can put our clamp on it, put a little piece of tubing in so it would vaporize the gas and that’s how it would heat the
Zielinski: Yes we had well you had a figure one hot
Interviewer: How about food?
Zielinski: Food was C rations.
Interviewer: C rations?
Zielinski: Pork and beans.
Interviewer: So there was no hot food.
Interviewer: Not at all.
Zielinski: Only on Thanksgiving is when the KSC’s brought it out to us.
Interviewer: What was the best part of the C rations for you?
Zielinski: Well the C ration is with the cigarettes and the cookies and the uh instant coffee. Fact we left a lot of it
Zielinski: For the kids. There’s a lot of children there that were left alone and we would leave, take for what we need for today and we’d leave the rest for the kids so they’d have something to eat.
Interviewer: They were Korean villages around your base?
Zielinski: Yes. There were villages around.
Interviewer: Huh. Tell me about it please. And what was?
Zielinski: Well the only thing I can remember is it was a grass house with a concrete floor and when he used to make the fire
Zielinski: Underneath to keep warm that was to it the only thing I remember about it, I was more worried about keeping my skin
Interviewer: Uh is your unit have household boy, Korean boy, the bus boy?
Zielinski: Some did. The officers, sergeants, lieutenants
Interviewer: Not you.
Interviewer: Have you had any experience with working with the crane KATUSA?
Zielinski: Just a KSC’s when they
Zielinski: Brought the food up to us.
Zielinski: We wondered how they did it. I used to carry that stuff heavier than them and they’d bring it to us.
Interviewer: What was the most rewarding moments in during your service?
Zielinski: Most rewarding is when I came out with the turkey.
Interviewer: When was it?
Zielinski: That was around Thanksgiving.
Interviewer: You were really missing Thanksgiving holiday.
Zielinski: Well the chicken and stuff you know. Things that you didn’t have.
Interviewer: So there was the happiest moment.
Zielinski: That was a happiest moment that’s when you forget about everything no matter how dirty the food was you still ate it. It was good.
Interviewer: What is the overall impact of the Korean War in your life?
Zielinski: In my life it taught me a lot to respect others, protect others and that’s what I try to do today.
Interviewer: Today. So after you coming back from Korea what
Interviewer: Did you do?
Zielinski: I had to learn everything over again it was hard to get used to having somebody tell you brush your teeth, comb your hair, get a haircut shave you had to do everything for yourself
Interviewer: But that’s what you used to do before the war.
Zielinski: Naturally, yeah, right. We were told to do it
Interviewer: About what I meant was what kind of job did you have? Did you just continue to work as a farmer?
Zielinski: No, when I came back uh I put in for a
Zielinski: maintenance man job and I worked for Mobil Oil as a maintenance man. I used to do the fireballs and party East Brunswick New Jersey so I used to repair the gas station
Interviewer: Mmm. So while you carried out all of your jobs were there anything that you think you got from the Korean War Service?
Zielinski: Yeah it taught me how to protect myself
Zielinski: Discipline myself yes.
Interviewer: Mmm-hmm. Have you been back to Korea?
Zielinski: I was back to your last two about three months ago
Interviewer: Three months ago?
Interviewer: That was the first time?
Zielinski: It was my first time since
Interviewer: Tell me all about it. How did you feel?
Zielinski: Well when I went to Incheon I was looking to see where we landed. I couldn’t find it because it was bigger than New York City everything was changed different. I
Zielinski: thought I was back in New York. People were different the food.
Interviewer: What other place did you go?
Zielinski: Well we went to the museum and somehow I got the bug that night and it made me very sick. I was rinsing my mouth I guess after I washed the teeth and I got very sick from it.
My wife was also sick. My son’s a doctor he came with us and uh he enjoyed himself. He’s teaching the
Zielinski: Korean students today.
Interviewer: Hmm. So oh your son is in Korea?
Zielinski: No he’s here in the United States but he teaches the Korean students in Jersey
as a doctor.
Zielinski: He’s his students are Korean students.
Interviewer: So when you go back to Korea and find that it’s so different how did you feel about your service and your um….
Zielinski: I couldn’t believe that after all
Zielinski: we went through to see the country change as much as it did there. Even when I went to the DMZ I couldn’t believe it. It was a big change.
Interviewer: So how did you feel about your service?
Zielinski: I felt that I did my job.
Interviewer: Overall how do you describe the legacy of the Korean War and Korean War Veterans?
Zielinski: Korean vets
Zielinski: We stick together we watch one another even today.
Interviewer: Even today.
Interviewer: Yeah and why that some people call it as a Korean Conflict or some people say substantial
Zielinski: The forgotten war.
Interviewer: Or the forgotten war. Why? And how can we overcome that?
Zielinski: That they wouldn’t even put into the history books. Half of the kids in this country don’t even know there was a Korean war unless when we go to the schools and we talk to the
Zielinski: Children about it. We take the helmets we take the canteens we show the children
Interviewer: You’re talking about tell America Program?
Interviewer: Umhmm. How many grandchildren do you have?
Zielinski: I have five.
Interviewer: Five. How old they are?
Zielinski: I have a 23 he’s a policeman I have a 25 year old he’s going to be a policeman I have a granddaughter that’s a schoolteacher and I have two one seven and one five
Interviewer: What even seven-year-old?
Zielinski: seven-year-old, five year old.
Interviewer: Great-grandchildren right?
Zielinski: No. Grandchild
Interviewer: Oh grandchild.
Zielinski: And he loves the American flag because I had brainwashed him
Interviewer: Have you talked to them about your service?
Zielinski: Yes we do. The children know.
Zielinski: They go to the parades, they watch they see, grandpa out there. I just when I go back to Korea I see a lot of these young fellas I mean they were children one
Zielinski: When I was were there. When I was there and I see. They come over thank me for what I’ve done when I was over there and it makes me feel proud. Because it could been one of those child children that I played the father of the day with when we could were in R&R; rest and recuperate they called it. We had like ten boys and we were to make sure that they would eat for that day and we’d act as their father. Most of the Korean vets did that.
Unknown person: proclamation of ambassador for peace.
Unknown person: Mr. Frank Zielinski. Here it is.
Zielinski: I thank you.
Unknown person: Yeah.
Zielinski: Thank you very much.
Unknown person: Thank you. And I also have a medal for you.
Zielinski: Thank you very much. It’s my honor. My honor Sir.
Interviewer: Thank you Sir.
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