Hank Daumann was born in Brooklyn, New York. He enlisted with the Navy after graduating high school. He served stateside during the Korean War as part of a Navel Training Squadron that towed aircraft for training/target practice. Though he volunteered for service in Korea, he was subsequently transferred to a Patrol Squadron that hunted for submarines during the Korean War. Since the war he has participated in the Korean War Veterans Texas Lone Star Chapter program. He was able to visit South Korea and speaks of the wonderful people and their gratitude.
Stateside Service During the War
Mr. Daumann describes his role and duties during the Korean War. He explains that since he intended to enlist with the Navy eventually, he decided that he would enlist directly after high school graduation in 1951. He asked to be involved with aviation and thus was given the rating of Aviation Metalsmith and his rank was Combat Air crewman, a gunner. He explains that he attended boot camp at Bainbridge, Maryland and was transferred to Quonset Point, Rhode Island.
The Forgotten War?
Mr. Daumann explains why he believes the Korean War is referred to as the forgotten war. He explains that the veterans who returned after the Korean War were not greeted with grand receptions or parades. They were treated as one would be treated upon returning home from school. He goes on to explain the importance of younger people knowing about the Korean War and the work his Chapter does with the Veterans and school education programs.
Impacts of the War
Hank Daumann explains that though he did not directly participate in the war, his experiences with other Veterans left their mark on him. He explains that his was a training squadron and they flew targets for ships and planes to practice shooting. He later joined a patrol squadron where he became a gunner.
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Hank Daumann: My name is Hank Daumann. I was born in New York.
H: And went through school there. I, when I graduated high school, well before I graduated I had intentions of joining the Navy, enlisting in the Navy, but when
the war started, I moved that up to right after I graduate to enlist.
I: When the Korean War started?
I: So, you had already–you had already been aware of what was going on in Korea?
H: Oh yeah.
I: How did you know?
H: Well, it was in the papers at the–but I had a girlfriend–well that’s another story. [laughing]
H: She was an avowed communist. And her father was a big time surgeon in New York.
I: Were they American?
H: Yeah. And they wanted me to–she wanted me to joint eh communist party and I said no, no good. But I used to pick her up on a Friday night and I went to a–went to where she was having a meeting and they had a– a big thing about the Korean–the North Koreans building some big power dam and that’s how I knew where Korea was.
I: I see, but before this you had no idea where Korea was?
H: Not at all. I mean the same with 90% of the–
H: of the country, so.
I: Right. So, what did you think about what was going on in Korea, the–the hostility and the–the war the out–the outbreak of it?
H: Well, I think it wound up to be a very terrible war. I mean, all wars are terrible, but this was more than terrible.
There was no quarter given and since I had intended to–to enlist anyhow, I enlisted. And I asked for aviation and they gave it to me, so I was involved with aircraft.
I: Can you tell me a little bit about what your responsibility was?
H: Well, my rating was aviation metal smith and my rank was airman. But I was also ranked as combat air crewman, which is a gunner. So I was a gunner in a–in an aircraft so…
I: Oh okay, so
so you never went to Korea. So when did you actually enlist?
I: 1951. So, you were stateside. Where were you being stationed?
H: Well, I went through boot camp at Bainbridge, Maryland. And then I was transferred to Quonset Point, Rhode Island.
I: Did you stay there the entire time during the war?
H: Well, we had, we had the flights in different places.
We went to war games in Puerto Rico, I was there for four or five months. [Agencia], Newfoundland. But that’s about it. My home base was Quonset Point.
I: Sorry, excuse me.
So, how did your family react to–to you enlisting? Did they–were they nervous? Were they scared for you? Were you nervous?
H: Well, you have to understand when the Second World War started, the FBI came and arrested my father as an enemy alien and put him in a concentration camp.
I: Where was your father from?
H: Germany. And they did that with a whole bunch of Germans and Italians. You know, they advertise about the Japanese being interned, but the Germans they put them in a concentration camp. And when the finally released him, at the end of the war, it kind of left a mark on him, you know.
Of course, he didn’t–he didn’t do anything. He was a superintendent in an apartment house. And then, when I told him I was going to enlist, he wasn’t too happy, but he didn’t say no.
I: So, you remember this pretty well? Your father going through all this and your family going through this.
H: Oh yeah.
I: So this had a big toll on your life and–
H: It’s burnt in my mind.
And then, one month after I enlisted, my older brother was drafted into the Army. So, there again, within 30 days or 60 days, both of us were gone from the house. And my brother was stationed
in Alaska, so.
I: Dur–during the Korean war as well?
I: During this period. Was he stationed in Korea at all? Did he ever have to go to Korea?
H: No, he went–
I: He was–
H: in fact, he took his boot camp in Maryland, which was almost across the road from where I was taking boot camp and when I got a–got a liberty I went over to visit him.
He was in Aberdeen. And from there, he got shipped to Alaska and stayed there for –for his enlistment.
H: His was only two years, mine was four, so.
I: Were you ever–did you ever engage in any sort of combat at– in any place?
H: Mm-mm. [Nodding head no]
I: No? You’re one of the lucky ones.
H: We went–we went looking for submarines.
I: During your duty, did it impact you in any way personally? From–so you were at– you
were there ’51 and when did you get out in four years so, ’55?
H: Well, ’54, I got out early.
I: Did it impact you in any way? What was going on in Korea?
H: That what?
I: With what was going on in Korea and what you were doing stateside?
H: Well, you know, there was a–a marine detachment at Quonset Point
and I got to now a bunch of them and they were Korean Veterans, but personally no, there was no impact. Because I just did my job and–and… I tried to get transferred to a squadron that was going to Korea, but they wouldn’t–they wouldn’t take my transfer.
I: Why is that?
H: [shrugs shoulders]
I: Just for whatever reason.
So, what were some of the main contributions you made to aid the war going on in Korea?
H: Well, the first squadron I was in was a training squadron, we used to fly targets for ships and planes to shoot at. And then I went into a patrol squadron, where I became an air crewman, a gunner. So, that was my contribution. The first one
was considered a training squadron, so.
I: So, have you ever visited Korea at all?
I: Have you ever been to the country? When did you visit?
H: Last year.
I: Last year? For the first time?
I: Wow what did you think of it?
H: I think it’s a wonderful country. They–if the people know that you’re a Korean veteran they treat you so well, they really do. I mean people stop you in the street and thank you. But they do that here in this community too, so.
I: I’ve noticed that. It’s a really great community.
I: I said I’ve noticed that. It’s a very good community here.
I: Very humble people. So, the Korean War was kind of considered a police action? What is your opinion on that?
H: That’s a bunch of bull. [Laughing]
H: If it’s a police action, you know, after the –when the war ended the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the VFW, wouldn’t accept
Korean Veterans. They said it was a police action. And that left a lot of–a bitter taste in a lot of guys because they said well, tell that to the 50,000 guys that aren’t coming home. But, that’s it.
I: Well, why in your–
I: I’m sorry–
H: They finally changed their policy and did us a favor and let them come in.
I: Why, in your opinion, is the
Korean War often referred to as The Forgotten War?
H: Well, when–when the Korean War Veterans were coming home, you know, like when I came home, even though I wasn’t in Korea, they thought I was in school. Nobody, you know, you came home and went to work. You a job–or hopefully you had a job. But there was no parades, there was no celebrations
or anything like that. Everybody just came home and became civilians.
I: DO you think it’s important for younger generations to understand and know of the contributions and sacrifices made?
H: Oh definitely. We have–the group we have a couple of guys in my chapter that go around to schools and tell the kids about the Korean War.
I: Is it through the Tell America Program?
H: Excuse me?
I: Is it through the Tell America Program? Do they–
H: No, it’s–it’s the Texas Lone Star Chapter Program.
I: Ah! Okay.
H: We’re–we’re an independent organization form the–The National Korean War Veterans.
I: I never knew that. How is it, can you–can you kind of explain to me why are you all separate? Why is it a different organization?
H: We didn’t like the way they were–we felt that the money that we were sending there could be better–better
put to use in our own programs, so. In fact I just met the new president and the first thing he wanted to know is, well why can’t we get together? So, I said, I don’t think that’s possible. So… we’re very–we’re very independent, but I–I guess we like the way things are going, right now.
I: How many people do you have in your chapter?
H: We have 340 on the roster, but there’s only like 50 or 60 that are active.
I: Wow so many. What do you think the legacy of the Korean War Veterans and the Korean War are?
H: The Legacy?
H: Well, you know, a lot of them, at this stage, a lot of them joke about it being the Forgotten War and forgotten. But otherwise, they support–they supported the war, they support the Korean communities and the Korean–the South Korean government.
H: but other than that, you now,
they–we–we are very well involved with the Korean community in Houston. And we feel that we should be part of their celebrations. So, we go there. And we have a Consulate General that is General–Consulate General Park
is a real gentleman and he–he is just leaving. His tour is up here in the Unitized States, but he has–he has come to every one of our functions, so, him and his wife.
I: Wow, sounds like a great guy.
I: Do you think its important and necessary what we’re doing here, trying to conduct these interviews and to reach out to Korean War Veterans?
I: Why do you think so?
H: Because nobody else is doing it. [laughing]
H: Except for what we do, you know, we go–we go to the memorial services at the VA cemetery here in Houston and we have our own, in July we have our own ceremony at Bear Creek Memorial Park.
I: Is there any messages you would like to share with younger generations? Any tips or anything at all you’d like for them to know or?
H: Not particularly.
I: Not particularly.
H: The–I feel the– the younger generation they don’t know anything about the Korean War and they really don’t know anything about the War. I mean, if you consider Iraq and Afghanistan, they don’t know anything
about it. So, they’re pretty naive.
H: But then I think, so were we before the war started. So, I mean after the Second World War everybody thought no more wars and nothing will happen. So, I think they’re pretty fortunate that they don’t have to go.
I: Okay. Well, is there anything else you would like to share? Any memories or messages?
Anything at all?
H: I didn’t have a–an impo–an important contribution to make.
I: Every person’s contribution was important. It was–important entirely.
H: Well, that’s my feeling, you know. Because I’m–I’m in the chapter with the real heroes and the real veterans and to hear some of their stores and I say well, I slept in the bed every night and I had three square meals a day and these guys lived in the mud
and froze and–so. They’re the–they’re the real heroes and they’re the ones that should be honored.
I: We want to honor you, as well. Well, thank you so much–
I: for coming here and talking to me. I really appreciate it. It was great to meet you.
H: Well, thank you for having me.
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