George Enice Lawhon Jr.
George Enice Lawhon Jr. was born in Queens, New York. His military service was carried out from August 1951 to July 1954. During his service, he was stationed in Taegu and Seoul. He served in the 605th Tactical Control Squadron as an Airman 2nd Class and Radio Communications Technician. For his commitments, he received a Korean Service Medal, UN Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, and National Defense Service Medal. After returning to the United States in 1952, he served in the USAF at Goodfellow AFB and Patrick AFB. After being discharged from military service, he worked at Cape Canaveral for Boeing Aircraft and Martin Marietta.
Preserving the Legacy of the Korean War
George Enice Lawhon Jr., was president of the Korean War Veteran's Association until 2014. The Korean War Veteran Association's Tell America Program is the "single most effective" effort to educate current and future generations about the Korean War. The program provides resources to students and teachers for use in the classroom. The program also sends Korean War Veterans to classrooms to engage with students.
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Radio Transmitters, Ghost Towns, and Orphanages in Seoul
George Enice Lawhon Jr.'s job in the US military was to fix a BC 610 (a Collins radio Transmitter). When he arrived in Seoul, there was not anyone there and it was a ghost town. Sadly, some old and young people found in a rice field shot and bayonetted. He had a Chaplin in his group that started an orphanage for Korean children because there were so many that were left alone.
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PTSD on Korean War and War on Terror Veterans
George Enice Lawhon Jr. was assigned to the Korean War for one year because the US government knew that men couldn't handle the mental stress of warfare. He recognizes the strain on present-day veterans when they are sent back to war zones over and over again because they'll need mental help. George Enice Lawhon Jr. and his wife knew that the veterans' hospital is going to need to take in a lot more veterans to make sure that they can handle the transition back to civilian life.
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George Enice Lawhon Jr. felt the impact of the Korean War on his life with a lot of tears. He felt that he did his job well as a communications officer during the war, but there are still problems with the relationship between North and South Korea. George Enice Lawhon Jr. identified the need for the North Korean government to speak to its people to find out what would be best for them and then there might be a chance for reunification of the Korean nation.
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[Beginning of recorded material]
G: Uh, my name is George Enice Lawhon, Jr.. Um, I was born in New York City in, uh, Jamaica Queens at, uh, Mary Immaculate Hospital on August the 8th, 1932. In 1942, I think it was, we moved from Brooklyn, New York to Jacksonville, Florida. This is in the middle of World War II. When I got of high school and graduated, uh,
I was forced to work, very low wages at the time. I had, uh, cut wood. I, um, I, uh, what else did I do? I, I got a job as a roofer. I worked for a roofing contractor who, who also painted houses. I was paid $.75 an hour. This is 1950. And, uh, somewhere that summer between
there and August the 1st, I decided to join the service. [abrupt start] When I was in Leon High School, they had a vocational program there, and I, so I went half a day to Leon High for my, uh, uh, I guess you’d call it academic classes, class curriculum. And then I went half a day to, uh, a vocational school in, in, um, uh, Tallahassee there, and I went half a day, I took back in my Sophomore and
Junior years I took, studied cabinet making. But I was interested in airplanes and
G: uh, I decided to go, uh, change my curriculum to, I went to Aircraft Engine Shop. I wanted to study to be an A & E mechanic. In t hose days it was called A & E to now it was A & P mechanic. And, uh, um, instructor, his name was Dick Weeks, had, uh, taught Primary Flight back in World War II, had 5,000
single engine hours when World War II started, uh, took me up in an aircraft one day. It was a, uh, I think it was a Piper, uh, I forget which type it was. But I just fell in love with it, and I, you know, I wanted, I want to learn how to fly. So he said, uh, I’ll teach you, and I said well, I can’t afford it. I’m, you know, and he says no, no. I’ll, I’ll give you, you rent the aircraft, which we did.
I did. I paid for that and the gas. That’s where I learned to fly when I was like 16, and I enlisted on August the 1st
I: August 1st.
G: 1950. So, um, once I joined, uh, I went to Panama City, uh, by train I think it was, to Lackland Air Force Base where I went through basic training, and my basic training over, I went to, um, I had tried to get into
uh, the, the vocation of Aircraft Engines, but they sent me to Communications and Electronics School. So up I went to, very close to here, uh, Scott Air Force Base which is over by East St. Louis, Belleville, Illinois, not far from here. And I, uh, my, my, my, uh, studies at the Air For, at, at Scott Field was 36 weeks,
um, six days a week, eight hours a day. Now, when that started, I, I could turn on a radio and that was about it, alright? Uh, in fact, I knew more about turning on an aircraft radio than I did a regular. so, um, while I was in, I had a chance to apply for as instructor. But obviously they needed an MOS,
uh, the job description that I was learning at Scott more than they did [abrupt end] When I reported for duty to my first assignment, I went to see the, I was sent to go see the Comm. Chief, uh, the Comm, charge of Communications. And so he said to me, uh, are you the new guy? I said yes, sir. He said don’t call me sir. I’m a Sergeant. I said yes, sir. So he got kind of angry with me.
But I tend to be literal and, uh, so he took me out, well he asked me first did I, was, did I know how to repair a BC610 which is a Collins Transmitter. You may not be familiar with it. But it’s about that tall, that wide, and about that deep, uh. Today you can probably hold the same electronics in your hand. And he said um, um, come with me. We went out to where
the antenna farm was and the equipment, and in a van was the BC610, and he says it’s in there, fix it, and walked away. [abrupt end] We landed at Kimpo, and we got out to a weapons carrier that was set there leaving for us, and there was no one in Seoul. There was not a living human being in Seoul
G: anywhere. I’ll never forget that. We’re driving around this, evidently, you know, a large population in this town. I’d never been there before, and, um,
it was, uh, uh, I have a term for it, but it’s, it’s a little gross. It was
I: What is it?
G: You just couldn’t, you could smell the people there.
I: But you couldn’t see anybody there.
G: There wasn’t anyone there.
I: All evacuated?
G: Um, let me put it this way.
I didn’t, shortly after that, there were some people found, old people and young people, in a rice paddy. They were all dead.
G: Bayoneted, shot, whatever. Um, I didn’t see that, but I saw a picture of it. [abrupt start] I remember [KOREAN PHRASE], and I
I: [KOREAN PHRASE]
G: says come here, right? Uh, and even that might be Japanese and [INAUDIBLE] not sure, see? So, um, but
it, trying to remember something personal. Uh, we had a chaplain who had in our outfit organized an orphanage of Korean kids. Anyway, uh, those, uh, how can I put it? I can’t speak for other people,
but by circumstance I encountered, um, personally Koreans very, uh, very little. Not too much.
I: Very what?
N: Not much contact.
N: Uh, because most of my work was in the fields with the equipment and what have you. Uh, so you could probably interview a thousand guys, and you’d get a thousand different stories. I don’t know what you’re, how’s it going [abrupt start] At that time, uh,
I guess because of World War II, a lot of crazies came back and were loading up the hospitals with mental problems. So Congress, I don’t remember when. They must have done it when I was sleeping, you know, in high school there. But they made an absolute one war, one year, and you’re out of the Theater cause they didn’t believe you could take it. In my experience it was a wise thing to do. Since then, in our political system,
uh, people who had to suffer with that, uh, thought well now we can send the same guys out three, four, five times, and if you were to talk to my wife who’s sitting right over here, years ago I told her it’s gonna backfire on them. They’re gonna come back like that. They’re gonna commit suicide. They’re gonna do a lot of things to themselves and their loved ones because these people needed, uh, people. So, and, and I believe they were learning that now.
G: All, all of a sudden
G: it’s gonna, you know, we gotta do something. Now the VA hospitals are loaded, um. What can I tell you? [abrupt end] Well I was there a year, and I left and came back, and I was, uh, sent to, uh, San Angelo, Texas, Goodfellow Air Force Base where I worked until I was transferred to, uh, Florida, to, uh, Patrick Air Force Base where I worked till I got discharged.
I: When was that?
G: I was discharged on July the 31st, 1954.
G: Um hm.
I: So overall, what is the impact of your service in the Korean War upon your life, rest of your life after you come back? How did you describe it? What was the impact of the war to you in your life in, back in the United States?
G: Not much of it to laugh about. A lot to cry about. And I can only tell you that as a human being. I’m not speaking as an Airman.
I: Um hm.
G: I think I did my duty. I think I did it very well, uh, whether it was studying to be a communications technician or working as one or being a service man.
Uh, to tell you the truth, if there was anything I did in Korea that I’d be ashamed about, I wouldn’t tell you. But I can almost assure you there wasn’t anything I’d be ashamed about. [abrupt start] Uh, pretty late in life, I’m 80 now,
G: Uh, but pretty late in life I started collecting all the writings that I’ve through the years and I, I’ve, uh, written several books, and, uh, and, and, what it is it’s kind of like
sweeping up the stuff that you’ve written about and, you know. The book I told you about, “A Citizens Manual For Amending the United States Constitution,” came from an essay I had to write in, uh, American Government class. I didn’t start college until I was 33 and, uh, uh, uh, a professor asked us one day, American Government class, to do an essay on one of the branches of our government. I chose Congress, and I chose the Amendment which is
a very rare function for that Congress. There’s only been 27 to date, and when I got, I got an A on that which is unusual. I usually got more than Bs and A- s. It was the first A I got, and he told me at that time, you could make a Master’s, uh, out of this certainly, uh. Maybe even work in a PhD program. I said well, I’m not interested in that, and I wasn’t. But one day I’m driving across the country back from Florida to
California, uh, and, talking to my dog. It was in an RV we owned at the time and, uh, I’m sorry. I was in an RV at the time with my dog when I just, conversation with him. I said you know, I want to write a book, and I remembered that essay.
G: So the book started with that, uh. I’ll, I’ll give you a copy. I’ll send you a copy and then you can decide for yourself, was meant to be as a source material book for students in
high school Civics, uh, American Government in college or law students. It’s meant to be a source material for them studying politics and government. Uh, uh, it wouldn’t be of much use in Korea I don’t think.
I: Um hm.
G: But, but at least it would give you a pattern, and I recommend some amendments in, in the book. [abrupt start] that, uh, uh, you know, when I watched the Olympics that were there and I tell people that what
you’re seeing is a lot different than when I was there. It wasn’t that many years ago. And you hear that the people in North Korea which are kin to the ones in South Korea as far as I hear, uh, families here, in both ends. Like I have family all over this country, and I’m sure it’s the same in Korea. So there is some of the family, if you want to call it one family, starving to death.
G: And, uh, and, and the other’s not. So
that’s what I mean when, uh, it’s to weep.
G: It’s, uh, of course, you, you’re in the middle of it personally. You’re, you know, involved and I could ask you that question. But right now, uh, it appears that, uh, well, I don’t know what it appears. The new leader up there might be a little more, how can I put it, ready to soften up on, uh, on the people, uh, you know. I would think that, and
I don’t’ even know if they’d shoot him if he tried to do it, you know. But to say why don’t we have a meeting between the two and try to get some, you know, feedback, uh, about industrial development and how to feed people. But, uh, that’s, uh, you know. Uh, I feel about, I just don’t know how to feel about that.
I: How long have you been serving as a national director of the Korean War Veterans Association?
G: I think it was 2008 when I, uh, I ran for director and got elected, and I ran again, uh, last year. So I, till 2014, June the 25thor whatever it is, I’ll be, uh, director.
I: And you know the average age of Korean War veterans about 82, and, uh, so what do you think is the most important topic for this Association, Korean War Veterans.
What are the most important thing that you think this Association has to really press on?
G: Well, uh, he’s heard today that I, I’ve written a, an item where we can try to get the House of Representatives to move on that. There’s a bill called HR49, 5903 which, uh, the representative from Texas, Sam Johnson,
I: Um hm.
G: who flew a fighter aircraft over your country, has got that bill written in, uh, to change, uh, somewhere along the line nobody connected the fact that, uh , there are serviceman, what they call service veterans, is, uh, uh, are not war veterans. Well, I don’t know how many people have died over there since the Armistice, but it’s more than a few. And they’re just as dead as the guy that died on June 15, 1950.
And their parents had suffered just as much a loss. So to me, this organization, by the very fact of, uh, uh, as people die off, uh, pretty soon there won’t be any, we won’t be able to accept charities because of that damn IRS write up. Well, IRS can do whatever, but, however they’ve arranged that.
Ah, um, if I had to say one of the most important things, that’s it. That’s it. But it’s a, um, you know, until you got it. If you want to know how many bullet it takes to guarantee it in Congress, well there’s 450 members, right? That means you have to have 218 to ensure the vote, right? Uh, right now that vote had five co-sponsors, sponsors. That’s the reality. So that’s what we’re trying to deal with,
although some people say oh, it’s surely go, well, I don’t know, you know. We’ll see, you know. Um, so that’s the most important thing. But let’s just assume that there is a, um that goes through. The House comes, the new House comes in, you know. I think it’s going to be the 113thCongress, when they come in they said oh, here’s something we really have to pass, they do it. IRS says oh, they changed their rule. Let’s just say that happens.
Then the present for us is correct, we need more members. And for whatever reason. Now, if you want to know more about me, if you look back through the issues since 2008 of the Gray Beards, you’ll find out I’ve written quite a few articles. So that will acquaint yourself how I feel about the Korean War Veterans Association and its’ goals and, uh, I urge you to go read those.
The last three words in almost every article is duty, honor, country. [abrupt start] My first marriage, uh, ended after 17 years, okay. Well, we separated and then, uh, it ended a few more years of that. Um, my first wife and I separated in ’69, so that meant that, um, my first child wasn’t, well, my, my,
my oldest child at that time, uh, was born about 20. Not then, no, but, I’m sorry. Uh, ’60, he was born in ‘’54, so 14 years old, 12, 13, 14, and we never had a conversation at all. Uh, I’ve not had any with my granddaughter’s, either. And my grandsons because, um,
They never asked. And so what I think about the program that you [INAUDIBLE] I thought, I, Larry Kinard who runs Tell America, that’s where it’s been most effective. In my opinion, that is the single most thing that this organization has done to advance what you’re talking about which is to acquaint most generations with it.
So, if I were putting my money, it would be on a, an, an expansion of the Tell American program, not the, uh, so cause my, I can tell you, um, I’ve given my, some of my books to my granddaughters, and they’ve never even acknowledged it. So maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s just what happens in my family, but I’m saying that, uh,
I think, like I said, what would be better is to find some way to expand, uh, Tell America, uh, maybe, you know, more or less in a different direction. So I don’t have much confidence in what you are doing about that.
I: What is your message to the future generation about the Korean War if there is any?
G: Well, the message is pretty clear. Uh, um, it just didn’t get fixed the right way, uh, whereas the message is pretty clear. Uh, after World War II, we went into a country, and we conquered them. We didn’t conquer North Korea. So we can’t do a George Marshall plan, right, which worked. We actually put our own people to work fixing Europe.
That’s the way Capitalism works the best, right? So we put them on their feet, and we put South Korea on its’ feet. Unfortunately, half the families in South Korea have family up in North Korea. That complicates it right there. When you’re trying to win the whole, starting, and there are people that are still wanna be Nazis in Germany, but not too many. Not, not enough to make the problem a real problem. So Germy, uh, Germany has become a, a,
I won’t use the word super power. Uh, technical wise, you could say that, and so is South Korea. I mean, the examples is right there. Uh, if, if I was a novelist, I’d write a story about a guy who goes in with a small pistol and takes out all the people in South and North Korea, and it’s over. But that’s a fantasy, see. But it would work, you know. So. You’re asking me to speculate, and I’m speculating.
I: Uh, next year will be 60thanniversary of Armistice.
G: Um hm.
I: And this is the war lasted 60 years after an official cease fire in 1953.
G: Yes, cause as far as I’m concerned, we’re still at war.
I: Yeah. Technically at war. Would you be willing to sign if there’s a petition to replace this Armistice with a peace treaty?
G: You don’t need a petition from me.
All you need is Congress to act on that and a President that would do that.
I: You know, to let them move around, I think we need some voice from the people like you who actually fought.
G: I, I, you know, to be truthful, um, I’ll take that idea into my head, and if I feel like I can write something, I’ll let you know. But I, that, that’s like, you know, we’re talking high level stuff, and, um, I don’t run around the street
with a petition, uh, you know. I, my feeling is I put my
I: No, I’m just talking about the idea of it.
G: Well, you asked me would I sign a petition, and I politely told you probably no.
G: And I politely said I’ll, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll write you an article about what I think about that. I mean, I’ll write you a letter, me to you, okay? And, uh, you may not like it or you may like it, but, uh, I do, I mean, I, I do go to
sleep every night not worrying about what I’ve said.
I: Um hm.
[End of Recorded Material]