Korean War Legacy Project

Fred Haymaker


Ira “Fred” Haymaker is a Korean Defense Veteran who went to Korea in 1965. He had attended officers school and found himself serving as a Fort Observer along the Military Demarcation Line. However, even as a college graduate, he said that his prior knowledge of Korea was limited before he was stationed there. Among his most vivid memories were his experiences with the poverty in Korea and he recalls some of the situations he observed. Overall, he values his time in Korea and believes that the Korean War greatly contributed to the progress that the country has made since 1965.

Video Clips

Action and Duties in 1965

Ira “Fred” Haymaker explains what it was like in Korea in 1965 along the Military Demarcation Line (MDL). This was a time when the North Koreans were being “friendly” and wanted to trade cigarettes and hats with them. He describes what his missions were like as a fort observer at the MDL.

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Prior Knowledge of Korea

Ira “Fred” Haymaker shares that even though he studied political science in college, his prior knowledge of Korea was still limited. He recalls watching a television program called the “Big Picture” that showed pictures and some footage of the war. His story emphasizes how little civilians knew about Korea before, during, and even after the war.

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Witnessing Poverty in Korea in 1965

Ira “Fred” Haymaker describes empathetically how poor the Korean were in 1965. He shares a story of when he and a few other soldiers climbed on the top of the mountain and watched older men collecting twigs. Another one of the stories includes how the Koreans would risk their lives to collect scrap metal at night to resell.

Tags: Impressions of Korea,Poverty

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Video Transcript

00:00:00 (Beginning of Recorded Material)

H: Fredrick Haymaker

I: Interviewer

H: My full name is Ira Fredrick Haymaker. I r a F r e d r i c k H a y m a k e r 

I: Haymaker? (00:00:17)

H: Yes, sir. We think that our ancestors were German and it was perhaps may have sounded something like this “Haymaker.” That’s the theory that we’re going on anyways. 

 I: So your real first name is Era?

 H Ira. 

I: And Fredrick is your middle name?

H: And I’ve always been called Fred. 

I: F R E D R I C K

I: When were you born?

H: I was born September 18th, 1943 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

I: And, tell me about your family when you were growing up. (00:00:59)

H: My earliest years were doing WWII. My dad was in the FBI, he was a special agent for the FBI. And we lived in several different places including one that place that was a little unusual. It was a. It was a. I’m sorry. It was I guess what you call a h=motel nowadays. But,they were called motor courts back then. But anyways the buildings were shaped like teepee Indian style teepees. Anyways, we lived in Alabama there.. After the war, my parents  settled in Franklin, Indiana which is where my great-grandfather lived. My, 

I: um, (00:01:54)

My ancestor. I didn’t know this until I moved here to Winchester in 1980.But I have an ancestor whose named I tried to pronounce a minute ago. Settled here in Winchester in 1748.  And his name was Johann Adam Haymaker. And he was a gunsmith and we think that he had some dealings with George Washington when he was here as a young man. George Washington was here as a surveyor and then later he was also here during the French and Indian War.  So our family theirselves, there are more Haymakers here in this town than in my hometown of Indiana. 00:02:38 But anyway one of his ancestors moved down to Roanoke. There’s actually a little crossroads back up at the hills named Haymaker Town.  One of his descendants Eli Haymaker moved in Indiana after the civil war. I found out that all he, my grandfather, my father and my mother are all buried in the same cemetery near Franklin. It’s called Hopewell. And, um I talked to the preacher and he did a survey of all the graves.There were 26 Civil War veterans in the cemetery. My great grandfather was the only confederate. So, growing up in Indiana it’s very flat country. Mainly farming country.  My dad, like I said, was a small town lawyer. And Lou mentioned having a connection with Harry Truman. Of course, Truman became president in I think it was 1945. (00:03:40)

Yeah,after the passing of Roosevelt. And he served three almost four years to finish out Roosevelt’s 4th term. And he in 1948 he was not very popular with the public and it was doubtful that he was even going to run in his own right. However,my father had just entered politics in the I guess you would say organizational politics. He ran first for county chairman for the democratic party. And in 1948 he ran to be chairman for the state democratic party. And he won by one vote. (00:04:29)

I: Hmm.

H: And so he and some younger fellas He was only 32 at the time. Took over the organization. They were faced. 

I: What organization?

The organization of  democratic committee for the State of Indiana 

I: State of Indiana?( 00:04:47)

Yes, and so anyways they were faced with the situation of the fact that there was going to be a presidential election gonna be that Fall and they wanted to have some say in things. They decided to send my dad to Washington and the instructions were to just feel them out and just see what he had in mind

I: So, that was 1948?

1948 and even possibly talk to him about maybe Dwight Eisenhower might be a possible candidate for the democratic ticket. Well, my dad went to Washington and like most young people he was kinda taken in by the grandeur of the scenery and the fact that he was in the White House. Anyway, he went in to meet President Truman introduced himself and told him that he was interested in talking politics.  And President Truman said well you know he says I’m going to run for president and he says I want ,uh, your support. And of course my dad had been told not to make any commitments. But taken with the situation he said well, Mr. President we’re behind you 100 percent. So, he went back to Indiana and told him what he said. They said we told you not to make any commitments. He said well, I think that he’s going to win.  It was the first state organization to endorse President Truman. There was some you know a little bit of national news about that. At any rate he went on to get the nomination. It is now referred to as the famous whistle stop campaign. (00:06:39

I: Um.

 He was behind in the polls the whole campaign. He was running against Thomas Dewey the governor of New York. And Dewey was so far ahead that he was told to take it easy and not let the. Not say too much. Don’t make many mistakes. But in the meantime Truman was on a train crisscrossing the country and making many speeches and gathering support. (00:07:12)

I: Whistestop?

Matter of fact in June his train went through Indianapolis. Myself, my mother along with my father were  invited on that train along with my father onto that train. President Truman’s train.

I: What’s your father’s name?

Ira L. Haymaker

I: Ira L Haymaker. So, he was the chairman of the democratic party of Indiana?

Yes and ah my sisters have some photos of the train. You may not be familiar but the four airplanes and so forth that presidents normally went by train. Anyways, the name of the train car was known as Ferdinand Magellan Of course that is the name of the famous explorer from the 1500s I think. At the time, it was a famous that belonged to been used by the president train. It would have been like in the day now what is Air Force One. (00:08:22)

I: Yeah. Do you have a picture of those?

I can get you a picture or your can just google it on your computer or Truman’s Whistlestop campaign. (00:08:38)

I: No, your picture. Your personal picture on the train.

No, the picture got lost. I think my baby sister she was jealous. It got lost. She came along 13 years later. Anyways, it got lost somewhere. It’s a real shame. Anyways that story aside, Truman went on to win a come from behind election.  It was the biggest comeback victory in American politics. After that by 48 I was only 6 years old of course, but anyways I went ah. 00:09:20

I: Ah stop right there. What happened with your father and Truman? Did you father continue to work with him and rise in politics? What happened? (00:09:32)

No, he continued to be the state chairman of Indiana for a few more years. I do have a letter from President Truman at home that I can send you a copy of. (00:09:37)

I: Yeah.

And I’ve got  pictures of my father with President Truman if you’re interested in something like that. (00:09:52)

I: Yeah, absolutely. We’re going to make a page on the website for you and if you send those then we can publish there.

Okay, sure 

I: That’s the best way that people can have access to it. Otherwise nobody will know. I know that you’re not bragging about it, but still why not.( 00:10:09)

I told this story to some people at a local high school and the subject was the importance of voting and like I said my dad won this state championship, ah chairmanship by just one vote and there were probably 150 people on the committee in the convention so if the old guy that was before. He wouldn’t have gone to Washington. He wouldn’t have endorsed Truman. Now whether Truman would have been elected. Who knows?  (00:10:48)

I: Your father’s one vote really matters. See, one vote and one person can make a difference.

Right. That’s kind of the point of the story, I guess (00:11:02)

I: So where did you finish your high school?

There in Franklin. Franklins a town like Winchester only a little smaller. (00:11:13)

I: Here?

Franklin, Indiana. It’s about 20 miles south of Indianapolis.  It’s a county seat town and it’s a very typical Midwest farm community.

I: When was it? When did you graduate? (11:20)

  1. So, I’m about ten to twelve years younger than most of the fellas that were in the Korean War.

I: And what did you do after graduation?

I went to a university called DePauw D e P a u w. Also in Indiana. (00:11:47)

There’s a DePaul in Chicago 

I: Yeah, I know. 

that you may be familiar with. But this is a small liberal arts college- university.

I: What was your major?

Political science and history 

I: Me, too. (12:01)

Oh, okay. So, in um let’s see 1963 ah the draft board. I got my notice from the draft board. And ah so my friend and I went to go see an army recruiter about getting a good job.  We knew we were going to get drafted so thought well maybe we could get a better job than just an infantryman. So we actually signed up to go to Europe and be personnel clerks, but when we got to basic training we both qualified for officer school for OCS. Now my friend he was raised in an orphanage. He was an orphan. (00:12:53)

 And he had a little trouble with authority and he thought maybe that’s not for me. So I thought I’d give it a try. So I asked them what are my choices?  They said well you can go to infantry or artillery. I said, what’s the difference?Well in infantry they march everywhere, well what about the artillery.Well, they have the big trucks that pull the cannons. I said that sounds a little better. The only thing that I didn’t know is that 80 percent of artillery graduates and second lieutenant are forward observers and they’re up there walking with infantry. (laughter)  I’ll tell you more about that later on.It turns out that I was forward observer for the Turks when I was in Korea. (00:13:40)

I: Did you become an officer?Yes, I became a lieutenant. I did quite well. When they first sent me to Fort Sill for training as an enlisted men. At that time there was kind of a waiting list to get into officer school. It was before Vietnam and there was a build up. And so I had almost a year, eight months or more, so I went through enlisted men training in artillery. I had advanced training. Then I was assigned to what they call a school support unit. Well, we did firing just about every day. And I was assigned to fire direction center. So I had significant training in artillery before I was finally admitted into officer school. And because really of all the experience that I had I was able to do quite well in my studies.I was a distinguished graduate and was actually offered a regular army commission. I didn’t accept it ultimately, but I was proud that I had done well. (00:15:06)

I: When did you go to Korea?

In the spring of 1965. (00:15:10)

I: Where did you arrive?

I came by air. We came into whatever was the airport in Seoul.

I: Kimpoe

Kimpoe, that’s right. I don’t know the name of the place, but it was some kind of reception center. And they take inbound people and divide them up to different outfits. When I was there the American division was the first cav  and so I was sent to the first cav. I’m going to take out some notes. I’ll tell you the unit because I mix them up.  About four months later, the division was changed from the first cav to the second division. Okay, my outfit was the first battalion of the 77th artillery. 00:16:05

1st of the 77th artillery. It was 105 millimeters (inaudible)  in direct support of the DMV.

I: So, you joined the second division? RIght? (00:16:29)

It becomes the second division. So they took the flags from the first division from the first caand sent them to Fort Benning, Georgia. And made the second division that was in Fort Benning.

Replaced that

I: I think that they’re still there now.

Second to none. (00:16:50)

I: And where were you?

The name of our battalion then became, let’s see,  2nd of the 17th I think it was. At any rate we were just south of the MGM River. I can show you on a map. Ah, they call the area artillery valley A little further south there were some 1 5 5 units and we were just under a large mountain they called Charley block. When we’d would have an alert or some  training exercises like I said I would meet up with the Turks. I was their foreign observer. Our building position was an area called the Fish Hook. We overlooked the LIbby Bridge.

Yeah, I know that

 Okay, and um. (00:17:45)

As I would leave the battalion and the firing battery  would stay right where they were.  And I lived in the compound. In the compound were out unit was it was called Camp Saber. I was also the motor pool officer training officer. I had duties there when we were not on alert. (00:18:16)

I: So you become first lieutenant?

Second lieutenant. When I was in Korea. I made 1st when I got back to the States. 

I: 2nd lieutenant. How many soldiers under your leadership? (00:18:33)

Well, let’s see. I’d say 42.

I: What was your duty? I mean daily routine? Were there any In 1965 it was after that the North Korean guerrillas attacked the Blue House. So, around 65 there wasn’t much action around. (00:19:00)

No the North Koreans were doing well  being what they called friendly. Matter of fact after six months in the fall of 65. I moved north of the river to be with 1st of the 26th infantry.  I was called a liaison but basically I was a foreign observer also. I went on many patrol with many infantryman. I encountered North Koreans closer than we are now. They all had on class A uniforms, no apparent weapons, they all spoke good English.  (00:19:52)

I: You mean. (inaudible)

MDL. Military Demarcation Line

Right in the middle of the DMZ is the actual separation. There’s a safe lane. And both sides can go in and have access to it. It’s really just a path. We went in and we were checking out a certain thing. From some angles it looked like something that had been built.But it turned out to be the way that the grass had grown up. Turns out to be some kind of structure. It was our mission that day to get as close as we could to this possible structure. And we just came across them. They were going east and we were going west. They started talking to us. They wanted to trade cigarettes and traded hats They just wanted to talk to us in general. They told us they liked Americans. They just didn’t like American government. North Korea was a good place. North Korean people were good people. (00:21:21)


I think so. We were told to not engage with them, and just to keep on moving. Basically it’s what we did. I did get some pictures with them. After we left the MDL and got to the safe lane probably about 100 yards. I had a telephoto lens and I turned around and got some pictures

I: Do you have those pictures with you? 

Not with me.

Do you know how to digitize it?

I can get someone to help me.

I: Or either digitize or send it to me please because it’s important.


I: The main interviewees have been Korean War veterans. 


They have a picture of Korea in 1950s.  You are unique because you are in there in 1965


I:  You are unique because you are in there in 1965. That’s just when we began to develop our nation.




I:  The pictures that you have in 1965 of Korea. That gives us the comparison and contrast. Do you understand? (00:22:24)

I have some pictures that I took in Seoul, some of the local village, some when we were on military maneuvers?

I: All of it. 

Okay, I’ll sort through them and get them to you.

I: Now since there was peace time and not much action in the DMZ  area. That’s what I know. Correct me if I’m wrong. You can introduce any episodes you’d like later.You were highly educated and your major was political science and history. Did you know anything about  Korea  when you were in college or high school?

Next to nothing.

Not even in the college?

I knew where Korea was. I knew the war was had been fought. Matter of fact I can say I know more than next to nothing.( 00:23:03)

When I was ten years old when the war was on there was a program on television. We had just gotten a television in the early 50s. There was a program called The Big Picture. And they was all on film of course. I don’t know how long it took to get back from Korea and to be broadcast. But ah, they had news reports and in a way documentary type coverage of the war. 

I: What was it? (00:24:06)

As I remember it was called the Big picture and it was made by I think  the Department of Defense as a made to be broadcast to civilian audiences. As this is what’s going on in Korea type of thing. 

Just about Korea. No other countries?

Of course it was right during the war.  It was just about the war.

I: I would love to have that.

Um, I’m not sure.

I: Let me text, but please tell me about it.

As I recall there was an announcer that would come on and they would talk about this battle or that battle. You know over the last few weeks we’ve been able to advance. As far as any of the specifics, I probably will not remember them directly. Of course, I have a lot more knowledge of the war now. Having served there, having been in the Korean Veterans and being exposed to all the information. But as a child I do remember being fascinated by this presentation. I had no idea that ten years later I was going to be in Korea in the army. But it was very impressing. (00:25:36)

I: What did you see there?

They had pictures of men in combat.   A lot of times they would show artillery pieces firing. As they were explaining you know they would say things like the first cav division advanced along this sector. They were able to capture so. many people.

I: Was it about the war or after?

No,it was during the war. And certain units of the first cav were able to capture certain town or objectives. It was a documentary type newsreel type program. It was on maybe once a week.I remember 

I: was on tv?

Came over the television.

I: I would love to research it. Thanks for the information.

Otherwise you didn’t know much else about Korea. College graduate of the United States didn’t know anything about Korea. Korea was not the main focus at all.

When I was about to graduate from officer school, I wanted to go to Europe enlisted. And near the end of your training they give you a wish list. 1st, 2nd, 3rd. Where do you want to go. I put down Germany, Germany, Germany. Of course when I got my orders it said Korea, Korea, Korea (00:27: 25)

I: You were destined to be in Korea.

I guess so 00:27:27

I: and to have an interview with me.


And before I got old and fat, I was a red headed person.I had red hair.

I: I don’t see any.

Not much left.. It all turned white.

I: If I remember right the Korean people told me that a (inaudible)

I: (inaudible)

 That’s one of the few Korean words that I still remember.


I: So you didn’t know much about Korea. You know about the Korean War. Completely devastated. Right before it was under the Japanese colonial control. 


One of the most atrocious forms of colonial control. They conscripted women to work as prostitutes for their own army.  Called comfort women. Japan never apologized for it. They don’t want to recognize that they did it. One of the many issues with Japan. But anyways, so Korea was miserable. Completely destroyed by the war. Now you saw Have you been back to Korea?

I”m hoping maybe. I think they’ve opened up for the defence veteran I think so.

So, when I was there our compound was kind of up in a little- on the hillside. Everything is on the hillside. There was a creek that ran up the valley there. The people were very poor in our area. You’d see little girls washing clothes in the creek and jeez your heart would go out to them. (00:29:21)

H: On Sundays a couple of friends and I would climb the mountain that was behind us, the Charley block. And we’d see these old guys gathering twigs and A-frames. There were no trees. The Japanese had taken them all. Well they were just poor.  Matter of fact one time gosh we were up at the firing range.  And in artillery at that time, it may be a little different now but in order to determine the amount of the projectile.There’s different numbers of bags of powder that are in the canister. And you often have, often don’t use all seven of the bags. And some of them are taken out so you don’t shoot as far. And at the end of the training those bags of powder are put into a trench and set on fire and they burn up. (00:30:25)

H: There was a farmer tending his fields near where we were. And he saw what we were about to do.He was trying to explain to us to not do this. He was afraid the fire would set his crops on fire. They looked like weeds to us, but really we didn’t know. But our captain said we had no choice.  Luckily it didn’t catch anything on fire. It brings to mind another story about how poor things were. Part of that exercise was night firing. And the impact area was basically restricted area. Shoot out there and the shells exploded. Well anyway started in late afternoon. We’d just rounds as foreign observers. We’d give them coordinate. To adjust the fire. We had a break for a meal. We came back after dark, and we started back up. We had a lull in the exercise. I see all these other dots of light. Am I seeing? What are those? They’re flashlights.They are so hard up they are getting that scrap metal. They are risking their lives. We give them a little warning that we’re going to resume. Well, they have bunkers down there. They want to be the first ones to get the shells.

I: Oh yeah, that sell a lot.

H: You know how rough it is when someone risks their life for scrap metal.

And he was in Seoul in 1974. Seoul  was completely modernized and better than New York City. Now you are telling me 65 and still very poor.

H: Of course the closer you got to Seoul things were better. I can tell you a story about my experience in Seoul. Another fella and I got there about the same time. We were both second lieutenant. He was from Louisiana. His nickname was Swampy. Howard ????? We get a pass to go to Seoul. We go down there and don’t know anybody. We start out at the USO club. We hear that this is the kinda place to go and look at things and do whatever. We start walking down the street. This Korean man comes up to us and starts talking to us in English.  He says my name is Kim and I’d like to walk with you and talk. I’m trying to practice my English.I’m trying to get a job with the US government and I have to be well spoken. And we said sure no problem. Of course we had on our uniforms and had our first cav stickers on.

H:He knew where we were from. He said if there’s any place you’d like to sightsee I have time- I’ll be glad to show you around. He took us to a park. There were some young ladies. He was very pleasant. He had asked if we had heard about a certain famous shopping center where they had lots of things. Well, that’s something you go to see. He took us in to see.I have pictures of bolt after bolt after bolt of cloth and just anything you want. 

I: Bolts?

H: Bolts of cloth. We were going to get something for our mothers. And we’d say what about that. And he’d talk to the vendor. And the vendor would tell him something. They see your Americans and the price goes up. We did quite a bit of looking around. My mother has a little convenience store. Why don’t we take a break we go over there and get a coke. There was an older lady and he introduced us.

H: Tell you what I can do. Howard you were looking at such and such. And that kind of looked like. If I go there without you I can get that for 10 percent of the price they gave you. I’d be glad to do that if you’d like. He said probably $20. II’ll be right back. He leaves and heads across the street. We’re drinking our Coca Cola and looking at our watch. We start talking to his mother. And she said I don’t speak English.We walk out on the streets and try to find someone who speaks some English. We ask the stranger to ask about Mr. Kim.

I don’t know Mr. Kim. He’s not my son. Then the light went off. (00:37:37)

I: You were cheated?

H: Well, we were conned.

I: We made a pact not to tell anyone in our outfit. But I know he’s told that story many times. It was worth 20 bucks. And I have pictures with Mr. Kim.

H: And I think that pretty much cover it.

 00:38:12 (End of Recorded Material)