Harold Huff was drafted to serve in Korea in 1953. From New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, he did not know anything about Korea prior to being drafted. He attended his basic training and radio repair school at Fort Gordon in Georgia. He sailed on the U.S.S. Mann from San Francisco, California, headed to Korea but was rerouted to the Japanese city of Chofu. There, he worked on Army reconnaissance aircrafts such as the L-3, L-17, and L-23, repairing the aircraft radios that came back from Korea and taking many bullets out of radios in the process. He recalls stories from others that war time in Korea was very cold and dangerous.
From Draft to Deployment
Harold Huff recalls being drafted, discusses his training in Georgia, and comments on his deployment and duties in the war. He shares how tough it was to leave his new bride and child behind. He remembers being pulled off of the ship and stationed in Japan where he repaired airplane radios coming back from Korea.
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A Typical Day
Harold Huff discusses his workload in Japan. He recalls working on an old zero base, in the middle of a hydroponic farm. He shares that the farm was sending produce to the front lines in Korea. He recollects stories of Korea from soldiers who witnessed it firsthand, saying it was cold and dangerous.
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Harold Huff discusses what it was like for soldiers in Japan when they had time off. He recalls how, on the weekend, soldiers would catch trains into Tokyo for massages and hot water baths. He remembers there being a swimming pool beside their barracks they could also took advantage of. He recognizes his luck in placement during the war.
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The Effects of War
Harold Huff speaks about the effects of war on him as an individual. He cites his time in the military as a time of true growth. He shares how he learned a greater respect for the world and gained a greater perspective. He says that the experience helped him grow up and that he will never forget his time during the Korean War.
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Changes in Korea
Harold Huff discusses the differences seen in Korea before and after the war and compares the two Koreas today. He remembers hearing about the turmoil experienced in Korea prior to the war and recognizes the benefits Korea has amassed due to democracy. He talks about the hunger and sadness many North Koreans face in comparison to the fortunes of the South Koreans.
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00:00:00 [Beginning of Recorded Material]
I: It is November 2, 2021. Beautiful City of Villages in Florida. My name is Jongwoo Han. I am the president of Korean War Legacy Foundation. We have about 1500 of Korean War Veterans interview, not just from the United States, but other 21 countries that participate in the war.
We are doing this for the special occasion of the 70th Anniversary of the breakup of the Korean War,
supported by the MPVA, Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs of the Republic of Korea, to preserve your memory, first of all, because it’s been a long time; and also, honor your service. But at the same time, we are doing this to educate our young generations to come about the legacy of the Korean War. So this interview will be analyzed by the teachers that are working for my foundation and will be written as lesson plans and modules and so
on, the curricular resources, for the educators to use in the classroom to talk about the Korean War. It’s my great honor and pleasure to meet you, sir. And thank you for coming for the interview.
Please introduce yourself. What is your name, and spell it for the audience, please.
H: My name is Harold Huff, H-u-f-f.
I: And what is your birth date?
H: March 13, 1933
I: ’33. So you are now 88?
H: I’m 88, yes.
I: You look great, sir.
H: Well, thank you. I play golf four days a week, trying to stay young.
I: I am also playing golf.
H: All right.
I: I’m in love with it.
H: It’s great.
I: What is your average?
H: Well, it depends. I play mostly the executive courses and nine-hole courses. The 18-hole course, about hole 15, I get tired, so I don’t play them as much any more.
I: Do you walk or riding?
H: Of course I ride.
I: Where were you born?
was born in New Wilmington, Pennslyvania.
I: New what?
H: New Wilmington, W-i-l-m-i-n-g-t-o-n.
I: In Pennsylvania?
I: And tell me about your family background, your parents and your siblings, when you were growing up.
H: Okay. I was the oldest of four.
H: My father was never in the military —
H: — unfortunately. He tried to go in, but — during the Second World War, but he was
too old. So he didn’t get in. But I did. I got drafted then. My brother was also in, who is — now lives in Las Vegas. But he missed the Korean War. Of course, he was too young for it.
I: So you’re born in Wilmington, New Wilmington. And where did you go to school?
H: I went to school at New Wilmington High School. Then I attended Youngstown University.
I: So tell me about the high school name.
H: New Wilmington Greyhounds.
I: New Wilmington.
H: Right. Greyhounds was their mascot.
I: Great what?
H: H-o-u-n-d-s, uh-huh.
I: Yeah. High school. When did you graduate?
H: In 1951.
I: So when you were in high school, did you learn anything about Korea?
H: I did not.
I: They didn’t teach anything about Korea?
H: No, they did not.
I: Why not?
H: I have no idea.
I: And so you didn’t know where Korea was, then, in the map?
H: I did not, until I got drafted.
I: Oh, my goodness.
So now you are the Korean War Veterans —
I: — right?
H: Yes, sir.
I: So what did you think about it? You didn’t know anything about Korea. Now you are a Korean War Veteran.
H: Well —
I: How did it happen?
H: Well, as I said, I got drafted. Of course, I went to Camp Gordon, that’s now Fort Gordon, Georgia. I went through basic training there and then through leadership school,
and also radio repair school.
I: When were you drafted?
H: I was drafted in 1953.
I: Oh, so you already knew that the Korean War broke out?
H: Oh, yes, I knew.
I: What did you know about the Korean War at that point?
H: Well, I knew it was bad. I knew that we were losing a lot of soldiers.
H: And I was ready to go. Unfortunately, I was married and had a child. But I went anyhow, drafted. Of course, I couldn’t take my wife with me when I
went to — I was stationed in Japan.
I: So you were married at the time?
H: I was married.
I: When did you marry?
H: I got married in ’53, February.
H: Went into the military in April. I got my draft notice in December for a Christmas present.
I: So you knew that you are going to be drafted —
I: — but you still married?
H: Yeah. Well, we had already set the date.
H: So I didn’t have much choice. She said, “You’re getting married.”
I: Wasn’t she afraid that she might lose you in the war?
don’t believe so.
H: We had gone together in high school for three years.
I: So high school —
H: High school sweethearts.
I: — sweethearts. Oh, boy.
What’s her name?
H: Her name was Nancy.
I: Nancy. And is she alive?
H: No, she died in 2006.
I: I’m sorry.
H: That’s all right. I’ve been remarried in 2011.
H: So it’s all — life is good.
I: Life is good.
So when you left for Korea, how did she respond?
she was upset, of course, but what could we say? I mean, I had to go, and that was my duty, to go. So I went. I was on trip — troop ship USS Mann, going over.
I: USS what?
H: Mann, M-a-n-n.
I: From where?
H: From San Diego.
I: San Diego.
H: I’m sorry, San Francisco.
I: San Francisco.
H: Went under — went under the Golden Gate.
I: Uh-huh. When did you leave from Korea — USA, San Francisco?
H: Now, you’re asking a question, I’m getting
old, I forget dates.
I: I know you can tell me. What month?
H: I went over there in — I left April. It was just a year after I’d gone in.
I: ’53, you mean, or ’54?
I: ‘4. And where did you land in Korea?
H: I landed in — actually, I didn’t go to Korea. I went to Japan. I got pulled off the troop ship in Japan —
H: — at Yokohama. It was on its way over to Korea. I was going over as a platoon leader. I had gone through leadership
school, so that’s what they were doing with me.
I: And why didn’t you go to Korea?
H: Well, because they pulled me off the troop ship.
H: My orders got changed while I was underway, apparently.
H: So and then I got TDY’d to Chofu?
I: What is that?
H: That was an Army Base, a North Zero — Japanese Zero Base.
I: Could you repeat that, T-D?
H: TDY, Temporary duty station.
H: I was stationed, actually, out of Yokohama —
H: — at the headquarters company down there, *SiGMA Core. Transferred up to Chofu.
I: In Japan?
H: In Japan.
I: Okay. And what was your unit?
H: I was — actually I was attached to the headquarters company.
I: Of what?
H: Of what?
I: Division or battalion.
H: Division, yes.
I: What division?
H: Honestly, I do not remember.
was just glad to get home.
I: So then what was your specialty?
H: Radio repair.
I: Radio repair?
I: So what did you do in Japan? You’d never been to Korea, right?
H: I have not been to Korea, no.
I: Yeah. So what did you do in Japan?
H: I worked on radios, Army aircraft radios, reconnaissance aircraft.
H: Reconnaissance aircraft *.
I: Recon aircraft.
I: So tell me about it, some more detail about your duties
of doing it; what kind of work that you did?
H: Well, I worked on radio repairs. Chofu, we — radios were sent back from Korea —
H: — along with some of the planes. In fact, pictures I have show the planes have been shot up, where the reconnaissance planes fly low, looking for troops, and they had been shot up. I’ve *flipped bullets out of radios, many of them.
I: Oh, so you repaired the Army reconnaissance aircraft
H: Aircraft radios, correct.
I: — that was in Korea?
I: And you brought it back and repaired it.
I: So how was it?
H: Well, it was terrible seeing radios shot up like they were. But we did — we fixed them.
H: There was six of us.
I: What kind of aircraft was it?
H: Well, we had L3s, L17s, L23s, light aircraft. Most of them were, you know, single-motor ones.
H: The L23 did have two —
— it was Queen Air type of aircraft.
I: So what was, like, the workload? Every day?
H: Every day.
I: Every day.
H: Every day, we had something to do. I also worked on the Omni Station, which was the — at the end of the runway — we had one single runway. It was an old Zero Base. And we worked on the Omni Station, also, which
sends out a Figure 8, showing the aircraft how to come into the air strip. So we did that as well as — maintained that as well as. It was in the middle of a hydroponic farm, actually, where they grew the vegetables for all the Korean Veterans.
H: They sent the food over to Korea from Japan.
I: What did you hear about the Korean War at the time?
H: Well, what I heard about it was bad. It was dangerous. I mean, I met several
of the veterans that had been over there.
H: So they told us a lot of stories —
I: Tell me about it. What did — what did they tell you?
H: Well, they told me how bad it was, how cold it was in the wintertime, particularly how cold it was. How dangerous it was. You never knew, really, whether you were going to make it through the day or not —
H: — basically, is what it boiled down to. It was just — how do you describe war?
I: But you were lucky.
H: I was very lucky.
I: *That’s right.
H: I was very happy I got pulled off the troop ship.
I: So what was your rank at the time?
H: I was a PFC, Private First Class.
I: And PFC.
I: And tell me about the routine and the life there in Chofu.
H: Well, of course, we got up and went to — we had tomatoes every day for breakfast, noon, and dinner.
I: Why? Why?
H: We was in the middle of a hydroponic farm, so they had plenty of tomatoes. So they grew tomatoes. So rather than go bad, they sent — we had them for breakfast, every meal.
H That was — we used to —
I: Did you like it?
H: Oh, I love tomatoes.
I: Good for you.
H: So they were good.
I: You are lucky not to go to Korea, and you were lucky to have a tomato every meal.
H: Every meal, that’s right.
I guess that’s the best way to put it. Yeah, it was — it was a very interesting duty.
It was something I’ll never forget. It was something that — well, after I got out of the military, I did — I traveled all over the world doing work for the Navy in radios, telephones, primarily.
H: So, uh, it was an experience. It was an experience that I’ll never forget. I’ll always cherish, actually —
H: — even though it was a bitter time.
I: So even
that gives you the career path, and you’ve been all over the world —
H: Oh, yeah.
I: — doing the same thing.
H: Oh, yeah. Yes, I was working basically on telephones after I got out —
H: — in a telephone industry type thing. And then I went to work for a government contractor and traveled all over. I’ve been to Philippines. I’ve been Diego Garcia. I’ve been to Italy, I don’t know how many times; to Ireland, England, Spain. So I’ve been all around.
are a lucky man.
H: Well, I was very lucky in that respect.
H: I’ve done a lot of traveling. I’m glad it’s all over though. I’m happy now. I’m settled down.
I: So how was Japan at the time? It was in 1954, right?
H: It was in ’54, right. It was a whole lot different than it is today, I understand. Of course, I haven’t been back, but I understand it’s different. We would catch — a weekend, we’d catch a train into Tokyo. We were about 20 miles out of Tokyo,
near what we called the Japanese Hollywood. So we did see some of the Japanese movie stars on the train. But we went — every weekend, that was our weekend to go in and have a massage. The massage parlors were fantastic.
H: Made me those hot-water baths and that, oh. Come out of there, felt like a noodle.
H: So that was our weekend. There was four of us who went every weekend, did the same thing, so it was fun. We had
a full — an old Army Zero, or Japanese Zero *attack gun, in placement, they made into a swimming pool for us, right at the end of our barracks. So we went right out the door in the swimming pool.
H: I mean, we had, basically, the good life, if you can say that during war.
I: Yeah. Why not?
H: Why not, right.
I: Yeah. It’s not you made a choice, but it was given to you.
H: It was given to me, that’s right.
I: That’s what we call luck.
H: That’s right.
Maybe you did good things before the — the life.
H: Well —
I: Past life.
H: I hope so.
I: So when did you come back from Japan?
H: I came back in ’55
I: And what did you do?
H: After I got out of the military?
H: I went to work for AT&T, a long line repeater station.
H: That’s how I got in the telephone industry. So I worked —
New Castle, Pennsylvania, which was nine miles from New Wilmington.
I: Um, remembering all those — the service that you did for — during the Korean War, you are the Korean War Veteran.
I: And think about it. How did your service make yourself different, if there were any — any contribution from that experience?
H: Well, it made me grow up, if nothing else.
I think any — I think — I have a feeling that everybody should have to spend at least a year in the military.
I: Hmm. Why?
H: I think it teaches respect.
H: It teaches to look at what’s happening around the world and in your life. It makes you grow up, is the easiest way to put it.
H: And it helped me, I know.
I: Any episode you want to share during your service in Chofu?
Anything you remember related to Korea or anything else, but you still remember it?
H: I’ve forgotten so much. [Laughs] I’m getting old. I forget a lot of things.
H: I can’t think of things specifically, other than it was an experience that I’ll always have with me.
I: Any dangerous moments during your service in Chofu?
H: Well, I didn’t have any dangerous moments in Chofu. I
had dangerous moments going over —
H: — because a typhoon, tail end of a typhoon —
I: I see.
H: — put a lug foot crack in the base of the ship. They had to send *divers over to —
I: That must be awful.
H: That was a little scary.
H: But other than that, I — I can’t think of any specifically.
H: I mean, I hated to see those planes come back all shot up, type thing, knowing that they were still shooting at us, even after, supposedly, the truce had been signed.
I: Uh-huh. Why do you think that Korean
War is known as forgotten war? Why is it forgotten?
H: You know, I’ve often wondered that myself, as to why. I can’t answer why it was forgotten. But people just didn’t take it seriously, as serious as they had — did the Second World War, or as the Vietnam War. I don’t think they took it as serious.
H: And I don’t know why. I’ve
never understood why.
I: So even though you were not on the Korean soil, I mean the theater —
I: — but still, you know how Korea has been changed, right?
H: Oh, yes.
I: Do you know —
I: — anything? Do you want to share that with —
H: Well —
I: This interview will be listened by the children, school children.
I: So tell me — tell me — tell them.
H: Well, the — the turmoil they were in before the war, and then they went over to try and help
satisfy, create a different democracy type thing for them, where they would know the better choices of life, as opposed to what they were prior to the war.
H: From what I can understand — I’ve never been back to Korea, or to Korea — but I’ve talked to several Korean people that are here —
H: — in the States. They said life is so much better than it was prior to that; that their parents had suffered drastically.
So they were so appreciative of the war *being and taken care of. Look at what North Korea is still going through.
I: What do you know about North Korea now?
H: Well, not a whole lot, because you don’t hear a whole lot.
H: But the people I see in the paper, just recently, that they have to cut back on their eating, even, to this day. Now, that’s — that’s —
— should never be. They should have what they need. And South Korea, fortunately, is a complete opposite of that right now.
I: Isn’t that interesting, right?
H: It’s very interesting to me, that — the difference of one little country, that 38th Parallel, what a difference between the South and the North.
H: Now, here in the States, the North and the South is pretty much the same, or East and West, whichever
way you want to go.
I: Yeah. Uh-huh.
H: So we’re fortunate.
I: Very fortunate.
I: Yes. So what do you want to say to the Korean people in — in the 70th Anniversary of the breakup of the Korean War? What would you say to them?
H: Oh, boy. Enjoy life, I guess is the simplest way
I can put it.
H: Enjoy what you have, because you didn’t have it before. You do have it now.
I: Excellent point. Yep.
H: So that the best way I could put it.
I: Uh-huh. Are you proud of yourself as a Korean War Veteran?
H: I am. Even though I wasn’t in Korea, I’m very proud to have served.
H: And I’d do it again today, if I was called.
I: Rather than playing golf?
H: Rather than playing golf.
I: Yeah. Any other story that you want to share with this interview?
H: I can’t think of anything specifically. I mean, there’s a multitude of things probably. I’m pleased with my life, the way it’s turned out. I’m pleased that I’m still here. Uh, God’s good.
H: Best way I can put it.
H: I am.
I: Excellent. All right. Unless you have anything else to share —
H: Well, I can’t think of anything other —
I: Thank you, Harold.
H: I brought some pictures.
MALE VOICE: I’m going to scan your pictures right now.
I: So thank you very much again for your service, honorable service, and thank you for coming for the interview. Thank you.
H: Thank you. I appreciate it very much, and I appreciate what you’re doing.
I: Thank you, sir.
[End of Recorded Material]
This is a photo of Harold Huff on the day of his interview.