Gustave Gevaert was born in 1933 in Belgium. Growing up in Belgium, his parents were printers who owned a printing factory. After graduating high school in 1948, he joined the Belgium Army, and in 1951, was sent to Korea. He finds many comparisons between the Korean War and the war efforts in Belgium during World War II. After arriving in Pusan in 1953, he traveled to Seoul and then onto the front lines where he was wounded twice. He reflects on the forgotten nature of the Korean War as well as his return to Korea in 2016.
Prior knowledge of Korea
Gustave Gevart discusses what little he knew about Korea prior to entering the military. He recalls seeing it on a map but never learned anything about Korea in school.
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Joining the Military
Gustave Gevart joined the Army for his normal military service in 1951. It was upon entering the Army that he heard about the war in Korea. The war in Korea reminded him of the resistance in his home country of Belgium. In the winter of 1953 Gustave Gevart traveled to Japan and then by boat to Pusan.
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Seeing Seoul for the first time in 1953
After arriving in Pusan in 1953, Gustave Gevart traveled to Seoul where he spent two days before heading to the front lines. Gustave Gevart recalls Seoul being completely flat except the "old gate." The city was destroyed with few tall buildings. This image reminded him of Germany in the 1940's.
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Gustave Gevart reflects on the idea of a Peace Treaty in modern Korea. Gustave Gevart believes it is a good idea to see Korea united but also is cautious of the idea. In 2016 Gustave Gevart visited Korea for the second time and remembers it as "a miracle."
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[Beginning of recorded material]
G: My name is Gevart. G-E-V-A-R-T.
I: What is your birthday?
G: Gustave. Six, 16/7/1933.
I: So you almost forgot your birthday.
G: That’s right.
I: Right. You’re still young. One of the young category of the Korean War veterans.
G: Thank you.
I: Tell me about, did you know anything about Korea before you left Korea?
G: I saw a map from the world with all the countries, and I saw Japan [TREE EYES] and I saw a little bit of Korea.
But that’s all. I know nothing about before. But I saw it on map.
I: Um. So in the school, you, you never learned anything about Korea.
G: No, never.
I: Um. Okay. Tell me about your family background briefly, your parents and your siblings.
G: Well, um, at home, we have a factory, a printing factory which we are printers and, uh, yeah.
My father was a, a volunteer in the first War I. Um, and he, after the war in 94, 1918, he was going to France, and he was coming back and start a factory also. And I am born with the machines.
I remember when I was young when the big machines [INAUDIBLE], my bed shuffled [INAUDIBLE] over. Yeah. Okay. That’s sort of and, uh, the schools, I [INAUDIBLE] normal high schools as you say.
I: When did you graduate?
MALE VOICE: When did you graduate?
G: Well, uh, in, uh, [INAUDIBLE] That was
50, uh, 40, nine, yeah, 48, 49.
I: Okay. Did you know then, so you said that your family was in printing business
I: And, did you know that Korea was the first country that invented and used the iron moveable type? Did, did, do you know about that?
G: No. I think it was the Germans, but maybe I’m wrong.
I: Yeah. You talking about Gutenberg, right?
G: Gutenberg, that’s right.
I: Two hundred years before Gutenberg invented his moveable type, Korea invented it.
G: In, In, In, uh, it moved.
MALE VOICE: Was it?
I: No. It was iron.
G: I didn’t, I didn’t know it.
I: It’s called
G: First time I heard of that.
I: See? It’s called [INAUDIBLE], and it was invented long before Gutenberg. It’s called [INAUDIBLE], and it was invented long before Gutenberg. That’s why Korea is truly digital technology.
G: That’s true.
I: Um hm.
I: When did you join the military?
G: No, before, yes, I, I joined, uh, the
Army, uh, for my normal service in, uh, 50, 51. And, uh, it was there I heard for the first time for the War in Korea. And, uh, before I pretty much and, uh, I read some books about, um, [INAUDIBLE]
and, um, I never forget the [INAUDIBLE] liberty, and I never forgot it. And, uh, then I heard that North Korea was falling in South Korea. I remember the wartime we are grieving at home because [INAUDIBLE] and, uh, I guess the force coming two times at home.
We fight Northern because we are warning before. But, uh, you may believe we are not so, not so frightened. And there was my own boy. And, uh, then I heard the war in Korea, I was going to my Colonel. He, he, he asked me because he heard about that I want to go to Korea, and my Colonel
says my God, don’t do it. Don’t do it. You don’t know what means war. There’s a story about [INAUDIBLE] I said no, not at al. I, I signed, and I have to go. [INAUDIBLE] They have a good job for you over here if you stay. I said no. I’m going. Of course, first because I signed and because I think we have to go help
With your, with your permission I heard a few time ago our President from the Veterans, [INAUDIBLEL] of Veterans saying that we are a very strange people and that we are [INAUDIBLE] of being adventurers. And that gave me a shock.
Maybe like everywhere, you’ve got some maybe. But you had also other people and thinking otherwise. That was [INAUDIBLE] only. That’s what I’m going to say you can go with a mine, and can go as adventurer. I go with the mind. And then, yeah. I [INAUDIBLE] Commander.
But then we take the train and go all around the world. First was Japan. First after, different places in Europe and Asia and then we go to Japan and then from Japan we go on with the boat to Pusan.
I: When did you arrive in Pusan?
G: Uh, on February ’53. Yep, in the winter.
I: Must be cold.
G: [INAUDIBLE] Believe me. It can be cold in Korea.
G: Yeah. And, um, then we go with the boat to Seoul two days.
I: So you were in Seoul two days?
G: Two days, yes.
I: Tell me about the Seoul you saw in 1953.
G: Oh, [STAMMERING] only the one thing I see was seeing, it was the gates, the old gates. All the rest was flat.
I: Nothing [INAUDIBLE] is standing there?
G: Oof. Only a few and very, very destroyed, you know. No, uh, windows.
No, no [INAUDIBLE]
I: How were people? Did you see any Korean people there in Seoul?
G: No, in Seoul, no. Yeah, yeah. Just the people I seen was starting to [INAUDIBLE] eat. [INAUDIBLE] ready, ready for American Army and, uh, they served, uh, this, uh, they served dinners and, uh, yeah.
I: So when you saw those total destruction, what were you thinking in your mind?
G: Well, uh, I made a comparison with Germany in 40, 45. It was just the same.
I: Um hm. And from Seoul, where did you go?
G: There were some, they take and getting them in a truck. The only mode of [INAUDIBLE] was truck, a GMC, open, and we have always, um,
marriage agreement. You, you go in Korea, and it was snowing and freezing. We have very, very, very cold. And then we come to, after we know, [INAUDIBLE] us, it was the first station that’s just behind the front line, and we stay one day to take American, uh, equipment.
I: Where was it?
Was it Chorwon of Chorwon?
G: Maybe it was Chorwon?
G: Um hm, I think so, yes. And from there, we leave at night and going to the front line, and I remember for the first time I heard it. It was, it was, it was an attack, and the shells, these flown just behind my head
over the trench. Was that oh, in black night you see nothing. You don’t know where you are, and the shells buzzing over, oh, I was afraid. I was, it was the first night on the front line. I was very afraid. Two, three days, three, two, three days after [INAUDIBLE] already, you know it was.
I: It was a welcoming fire for you.
G: Yes, directly, directly.
I: And then?
G: And then, yeah. Uh, on duty in the trench, it was one or two things I remember. There was [INAUDIBLE] trench. We, we can walk in. One place there was a rock on the ground, and nobody taken away. And when you come in there,
everyone can see you because you’re going so, and I remember early in the morning, I saw our ground on the back is falling down. So in the afternoon in the same place again. And I understood somebody was shooting at me. Next time I was come over there [INAUDIBLE] cause, uh, it was too dangerous, yeah.
And then the second time I remember it was very, very difficult situation also. Uh, we were on patrol. They ask our, uh, somebody want to go and they ask for, uh, volunteer, yeah, [INAUDIBLE] from the Army. They got so much volunteers. We say okay, we go, we go, we go,
I was going to several times. But one time I was very, very, very mad because, uh, we met, I don’t know if it was North Koreans or Chinese and, uh, yeah. It, not at night, and there was shooting all around, all around, and one moment I turned around, I was the turk man on the patrol, and I turned around and I say
no more, nobody outhands me. Everybody was gone. I was alone. Yeah. Uh, After we [INAUDIBLE] we run into some Koreans, North Koreans or Chinese, I don’t know. But, um, once we going back to the same place. But when we coming up to go on Listening post [INAUDIBLE] uh, on the, on the, on the way on the trip there was a, a mortar shell
that was not exploded. And the first man say, uh, attention. Mortar shell not [INAUDIBLE], and everybody walk over and, uh, okay. When we going back to the company, he says attention, attention. Mortar bomb not exploded. And the guy after me says don’t worry.
I put them away. He, he, when he heard it was a mortar bomb on the, on the ground and it was not exploded, he [INAUDIBLE] just take and put it away from everybody. The wind was enough to, to explode [INAUDIBLE] That’s what I remember one of the things.
G: And then, the 13 of us and that, you know, uh, talk today to my friend here before, he was on the same place as I was.
He was talking over, on the, on the blinker was an American tank, and I said the officer on the tank twice a day come looking with the bicycles, bicycles,
MALE VOICE: [INAUDIBLE]
G: Thank you. And, uh, you say something. Then boom, boom, boom. Three times. And then he keep going back after they were in a mountain. And one day, he
was coming back every day and afternoon, huh, and three shots and then he was gone. And I was in the trench, and we had just taken clothes, clean clothes, and I was completely nude, and I hear [NOISE] Boom. A mortar shell on the corner from the, from the bunker. I duck. Boom. On the ground, [INAUDIBLE] Yeah, hospital.
They have seen a Jeep, and then a helicopter. And so to the, uh, first initial on the hospital, and yeah, [INAUDIBLE] And me wounded twice. I know my neck and my shoulders and my, my back. A second time [INAUDIBLE] and then, uh, falling on my spine and trala. That was it in Korea.
I: So you wounded twice.
I: And did you
go to Japan or did you go to MASH unit?
G: Uh, first MASH and then Japan after.
I: Oh. For how long?
G: Uh, the first time, the first time, uh, I think it was three months, three months, yes.
I: And then you came back?
G: I come back on, on the front line again. And then it was also [INAUDIBLE]
And then, uh, making a bad fall. And, uh, I was to MASH through Japan, back to Japan. And then, then I was in Japan, and just when I was to coming back to Korea, I heard it was [INAUDIBLE[
I: So you were wounded twice, and you didn’t know much about the Korea, and you were there wounded twice, and what were you thinking? Did you think that why am I here?
G: No. No. I, I know why I was over there because, uh, when I was going it was in my [INAUDIBLE], uh, just like Germans, the North Korea following in, in the country and the, the poor people, what have to, what they have to do, and we [INAUDIBLE] and that’s, that the, are they always mean, uh. After the war, it wasn’t out of mind.
G: Uh, you always say, certainly when you have been warned and you say [ALA, ALA] uh, why? Why? Because we are, and now, and I’ll always stay angry. So all the time. We are on the winning hands. And then you have Armistice, and we have to go back. That’s,, that’s always
staying back of my mind.
G: No, no. But that’s politics. And, yeah.
I: You made a good point because think about the war, any war that lasted more than 70 years after cease fire, after official cease fire. Do you know of any war in 20th century history that lasted more than 60 years after the official cease fire?
G: Uh, first of all, if you h ad been me in Korea, the war, you’ll never forget it.
It’s always staying in your mind.
I: Um hm.
G: Yes. And okay, uh. After Korea, there have been wars all, all, all the countries, up, down, all, all part of Europe have been in war, and I’m also wondering, I’m also wondering. Was that the question?
I: Well, do you know of any war that lasted more than 60 years?
MALE VOICE: [INAUDIBLE]
G: [INAUDIBLE] I don’t know of another one, no. It’s, it, sure. It’s difficult to understand it, that,
uh, you are so close me. You are not so far away from, from each other. But, uh, yeah. Okay. It was very difficult time.
I: Um hm. Now the Korean government trying to end the war, replace the Armistice with a Peace Treaty? What do you think about it?
G: Maybe, I’m a strange guard. But, uh, I wasn’t happy about
- It’s a good thing.It’s a good thing. Much of, many people going, have the occasion to see it together again. That’s fantastic. But, um, it depends what’s gonna be the conclusion.
I: Um hm.
G: And, uh, my personal idea about it is watch out. Watch out.
I: Um hm.
G: Uh, when they come into you, they don’t ask you if you are ready to receive them. No, you, you have to fight. And, uh, I don’t know what’s gonna be happen now. But I don’t trust them. That’s all.
I: That’s what history tells us, right?
I: Have you been back to Korea recently?
G: Uh, yes. I’ve been going to Korea for the first time, uh, for the second time, uh, in, uh, ’16, ’16, yeah.
G: 2016 for the first time. I heard about several of my companions have been several times over there. But for me, it was the first time. And now I hope I can wait three years more and I can go back because it’s like [INAUDIBLE] 75 years.
I: So you were invited by Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs.
I: Tell me about the Korea you saw in 2016 compared to the one that you know, you knew, in 1950.
I: Yep. Well, uh, I told you, uh, I saw Korea first like Germany had been after the war. And I never seen, uh, movie or films of, uh, on the tv about Korea,
and I coming back and it was so many, a miracle. I said that’s New York. We have been there several, several times in New York, but it’s just the same. Says what’s happening here? Yeah. It’s fantastic. Yep.
I: And why the Korean War has been know as Forgotten War? Why? Do you know?
G: [INAUDIBLE] We know all, and we forget all. Um, I remember when I was coming back from Korea and I was always in my battle dress, and I had some troubles with people because I was so as they say, a Korean. Yeah. I fixed it up, you know.
I was a strong guy at the time. But, uh, they’ll fix it up. But, um, that’s right. They, they didn’t understand what we had been doing over there.
G: But it was already like always political money. But, uh, the first time I heard [INAUDIBLE] around, that was when, uh, King Phillip had been on the first [INAUDIBLE], and there were we,
we Koreans, we have the first from opening the [INAUDIBLE] And, uh, for the first time, I Hs people crying [INAUDIBLE] for Korea. And it’s, [INAUDIBLE].
I: What do you think we have to do to change that, uh, reality, you know, the, in Belgium school. They don’t teach about the Korean War.
I: And people know that war, remember that war as a Forgotten War. How can we change that reality?
G: Well, I have to go back to, in the, in 1945, when we were out of school. The teacher teaching all the national [INAUDIBLE] from all the countries who have been, been the allies, and, and it shows on the map also all the countries have fighting with the Americans, the French and Persians and all kind of people against the, the, the, the Germans.
They never, they never talk about, um, about the Korean War. I think it’s, might add, I think it’s, it’s, they’re never gonna do it all in the most, becoming a change in the minds. That they don’t talk about oh, what’s the Belgium Army are doing from 1945 till now.
Cause, uh, we have some people we, uh, we send them, um, in, in, Africa. We send them to, uh, the battles
I: Um hm.
G: Everybody, nobody told,, told something about it, uh. No. I think that must be a tradition in Belgium. Now I heard the last time yes, uh, are, are talking on the tv, uh, from the revolution, 18, 1830 in Belgium we fought.
That’s how I heard about it but nev, never become the whole Korean War.
I: That’s why my foundation is doing this, and then we are publishing books on the Korean War and modern Korea using these interviews, okay? And that’s what we want to do here in Belgium, too. Would you support for that?
G: Sure. Absolutely.
I: Okay. So I got your vote, okay?
G: Yes, you got it.
I: Um, even there’s nothing other than, uh, if there is any other story that you want to share, I want to ask this question. By 2020, we will commemorate 70th anniversary of the Korean War. Do you have any message to the Korean people and Korea?
G: Yes. Just try to do what they’re doing. Don’t ever [INAUDIBLE]
You’re doing very good. Believe in [INAUDIBLE] I think they try to do it good, too. But what I want to say to the people that I wish they never gonna have a war of a complicated situation again because maybe the young people in Korea
didn’t know it, same as over here. But I met some older Koreans when I was over there and, uh, they haven’t, didn’t forget it. And they always afraid it can be gone. And as I say hope, courage and [INAUDIBLE] And love each other.
I: Thank you so much, um. On behalf of Korean nation, I want to thank you for your honorable service
G: Thank you.
I: And you went through the severe wounds, but still you like Korea, and we are here because you fought for us and all other, uh, veterans from 20, 22 countries. Thank you again.
G: Thank you.
[End of Recorded Material]