Korean War Legacy Project

Harry Burke

Bio

Harry L. Burke was born February 27, 1929.  He was born in Detroit, Michigan and moved to Minnesota one year later.  He had a father who served in the army during World War 1 and several uncles who served in World War 2.  This prompted him to enlist in 1948 after he graduated from high school.  August 19, 1948 he went to Camp Pendleton to begin his training for the Marines.

Clips

Incheon Landing

Harry Burke is describing his first days in the orient. He was surprised with the odor and stench in Japan and Korea. The initial landing on Incheon happened on the 18th, but he arrived on the 21st to see the devastation that had taken place three days before he arrived.

Tags: 1950 Inchon Landing, 9/15-9/19,Incheon,Fear,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,Physical destruction

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=/f4kI-zb-EdY&start=298&end=376

My Most Difficult Days

Harry Burke is describing how eight men were killed and 12 were wounded is his company. After experiencing this, he was sent back to Incheon and went around from the west side of Korea to the east side to Wonsan. Here he is describing their days in the war.

Tags: 1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir, 11/27-12/13,Incheon,Wonsan,Fear,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,North Koreans,Physical destruction

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=/f4kI-zb-EdY&start=384&end=570

Entrapment by the Chinese

Harry Burke describes how the Chinese knew where they were on the morning of November 3rd. Their entire division was attacked and suffered tremendous losses. He did have some injuries as well.

Tags: Aprokgang (Yalu River),Chinese,Front lines

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=/f4kI-zb-EdY&start=603&end=759

Video Transcript

[Beginning of Recorded Material]

0:00:00

 

Harry L. Burke, Jr.:

 

My name is Harry L. Burke. I’m what you’d call Junior, but I don’t go, now that I’m 87 years old, I don’t call myself Junior any longer. [laughs]

 

Interviewer:

 

[laughter] Well, oh, when were you born?  What’s your date of birth?

 

H:

 

February 27, 1929.

 

I:

And where were you born?

H:

I was born in Detroit, Michigan, like Island Park, Michigan–

00:00:30

H:

–but we moved back into Minnesota a year and a half later.

 

I:

 

I see. When you then enlisted into the Marine Corps, were you in Minnesota?

 

H:

 

I was in Minneapolis, Minnesota, yes.

 

I:

 

What brought you to enlist?

 

H:

 

Well, my mother, my father was a World War II, World War I Army Veteran. My mother had four brothers.

 

00:01:00

 

H:

 

And three of the oldest brothers all were Annapolis Naval Academy graduates. They’re all in the U.S. Navy, of course, all during the second World War.  She was a par-[laughs], a parole, a military person too.

 

 

I:

 

I see.

 

 

H:

 

Albeit the fourth one was an enlisted man, but the first, with the oldest, they’re all Annapolis graduates.

 

00:01:30

 

H:

 

I was, I was, I got to know all of them and respected them very, very much.

 

I:

 

So, it’s kind of like in the family, growing up, you kind of felt–

 

H:

 

Yes. She had, she had military terms that she had heard her brothers, from her, three of her brothers were older and then the youngest one was younger than her, but yeah, so she, she knew the military naval terms–

 

00:02:00

 

–that she used and she was–

 

I:

 

I see. What was her name?

 

H:

 

Ida Iverson was my mother’s name.

 

I:

 

Ahh. Okay. Then when did you, where were you for training?

 

H:

 

Well, I, I was, uh, when we called, of course, I always figured that, well the war ended, you know, I was 16, 17 years old–

 

00:02:30

 

–that is World War II, I always figured that I, I’d join the Marines, when that, if I had to go in to. So, [laughs] at that, in 1948, I joined the Marines Reserves.  I was a high school graduate in 1947, but this was a year later.

 

I:

 

Then, were you working or were you just?

 

H:

 

I was working, I was working in the Ford plant–

 

I:

 

Oh, oh yeah.

 

H:

 

–assembling Fords.

 

00:03:00

 

H:

And that was, you know, a good paying job for a young, young boy, young man.

 

I:

 

Do you remember when you first heard about Korea, and that there’s a war there?  What were your thoughts?

 

H:

 

Well, on the 25thof June, we were, I was with three other men, we were returning from a training session out in Little Kirk, Virginia. And on a Sunday–

 

00:03:30

 

–and there was, and we heard on the radio about Korean War, we, we all knew what that meant, so it was, and the 19thof August we were activated to active duty.

 

I:

 

Mmmmm. Then is that when all, when you arrived in Korea, 19thof August?

 

H:

 

No, that was when we were activated to active duty to more, more extensive training–

 

00:04:00

 

H:

 

–and we were shipped off to [laughs] Camp Pendleton, out to military San Diego and Camp Pendleton and organized part of the, we were a new company, with Fox 27 at that time. And September 1stwe got onboard ship and were off to Korea.

 

I:

 

September 1st.

 

H:

 

Yeah.

 

I:

 

Ahh, I see.

 

H:

 

We landed on the 21st.

 

I:

 

Oh.  Wow. Where did you land?

 

00:04:30

 

H:

 

At Inchon Landing.

 

I:

 

Ohhh.

 

H:

 

We spent a day in Kobe, Japan, before this, we got, we took 18 days to get over there and then [unintelligible]

 

I:

 

Oh, I see.

 

H:

 

Just a short, got off the ship for four hours.

 

I:

 

Oh. What was your first impression of Korea? What do you remember seeing?

 

H:

 

Well, uh, even huh–

 

00:05:00

 

–back out to when we first got to Japan, we could smell the, the dead fish area. And the, even the land you could [unintelligible] it was the odor of the Orient at that time. And of course, that was, if you, you got, you know, anyway, you got accustomed to it, that odor of, in, in Korea as well.

 

00:05:30

 

I:

 

I see.

 

H:

 

But, the, the [unintelligible], the, an, the landing on Inchon initial was on the 18thand we were there the 21stso, the big part was the, the difficult landing on Inchon itself was, it was secured by the, by the farther, Marines. But, I could see that, they could see the all, this all wound into island–

 

00:06:00

 

H:

 

–where we, f-first, first hit the Korean and that, that island was blown all to nut, to, to nothing, you might say.

 

I:

 

Oh.

 

H:

 

Hardly anything on it was burnt up and, and that’s where the initial landing was in the morning of the 18th.

 

I:

 

The, one of he most difficult moments during your time there?

 

H:

 

Well, this is, like I mentioned, this mortar barrage that, that happened was something that–

 

00:06:30

 

H:

 

–really uh . . . . it’s hard to, hard to, that is, (inaudible) lost the first, really, really felt dan-dangerous and that I was, that I was not part of it, they didn’t, they weren’t real close to me, those rounds, but they were, they had, we had about eight men killed and about 12 wounded from our company.

 

00:07:00

 

I:

 

Mmmm.

 

H:

 

That was, I think that was the count.

 

I:

 

Yeah.

 

H:

 

But shortly after that, you know, they, when everything was secure, most of the, this was the, the North Koreans were getting back, tried getting, retreated back into North Korea, what, what their goal was at the time.

 

I:

 

Um hmm. And I know you went to Chosin Reservoir, right?

 

00:07:30

 

H:

 

Well, then, that’s right. [laughter] That’s why I, why you guys are here I guess. This is all to show the reunion.  They, we were put on, we were sent back to Inchon, we got onboard on LSTs, landing ship tanks. Small landing ships. And went around to the, from the west around to the east side of Korea to (Lameka) Landing–

 

00:08:00

 

H:

 

–at a place called Wonsan.  And that was a nice beach there but the North Koreans and the Russians expected that to us, so we were delayed about five days there at Wonsan, we didn’t go right off in it, so that, that turned out, that was not a combat landing. It was an administration landing.

 

00:08:30

 

H:

 

[laughs] But we went on the am tracks off the LST. The Korean army had been up there and had secured that area before us and there was an air field right there too. The, our Marine air wing were already there and the day before we landed on the, Bob Hope had been there with his–

 

00:09:00

 

H:

 

–his show and so they, they entertained the South Koreans mainly and the Marine, Marine air wing. We didn’t get to see him. [laughs] Bob Hope had left. We, they had been there the night before we got there [unintelligible] the visit. It’s kind of ironic situation.

 

I:

 

Yeah.

 

H:

 

But it was, the North Koreans weren’t as, were not in a, a good, they were trying to, to get away from the fighting.

 

00:09:30

 

I:

 

Mmmm.

 

H:

 

But we were intent, that McArthur’s intent now to go up there and then to go up, just keep walking, just walk and run up, right up to the Yalu River and it would be over. That was his, was his theory or his plan, but our General Smith knew better, and we uh, [unintelligible] once we move, we–

 

00:10:00

 

H:

 

–well, if you know the story of that the, the Chinese, that had, borders North Korea at the (Jeju-do River), and they didn’t, they were concerned about McArthur’s ambition and that, that he may went, he might want to keep right on going into China. That’s what–

 

00:10:30

 

H:

 

–so, anyway, he was saying that Chinese, but the Chinese were already coming across the river, they, in the early stage and we knew, they knew that we knew the, that there were signs of that happening. They would do it mostly at night and then moving into positions.  And then they’re trying to–

 

00:11:00

 

H:

 

–entrap us.  That was what, that was their, their, their goal, but General Smith, our General Smith, knew to be much more cautious than McArthur. So, we, he slowed us down. We didn’t go as fast as McArthur wanted us to go.  And, but they, and then they, they, they–

 

00:11:30

 

H:

 

–the, on the morning of November 3rd, the Chinese attacked our, the whole, the whole division. They seemed to know, they had been there waiting for us and they, they knew about where each company would go to a different hill at night. They knew where we were and they attacked the, the whole division on the morning of the 3rdof November.

 

00:12:00

 

H:

 

And there again, we took, our company took a lot of casualties that night, we were, although we suspected that they were there, but they, they still attacked us at night, early morning, and killed a number our men and a lot of wounded. I uh, it could have been, at least been, it could have been up to 10 men killed–

 

00:12:30

 

H:

 

–and 15-20 of them wounded in our company. And that was pretty universal for all the other companies as well.

 

I:

 

How about yourself, do you have any wounds from Korea?

 

H:

 

 

I-I got, I got wounded on the 8thof December, from a hand grenade, concussion grenade and some shrapnel. But I was very, very fortunate that it wasn’t as serious as, as a lot of them were.

 

00:13:00

 

H:

 

I carry a little shrap, a little piece of shrapnel right under my nose, it’s still there.

 

I:

 

Ahhh, wow.

 

H:

 

I had some very serious cuts right up, right here at the eye, and if it would’ve, small pieces of shrapnel about 1/8″ away, would have, would have lost the eye.

 

I:

 

Right. Wow.

 

H:

 

But, so I, but I was fortunate, completely, completely fortunate [unintelligible]. Uh, my luck was better than most [unintelligible].

 

00:13:30

 

I:

 

Were you treated just in Korea, or were you sent to Japan and you came back?

 

H:

 

I went to, I was sent to, I was sent to Japan.  That was, this was on the 8thof, and [unintelligible], the 8thof December, and, uh, on the break of, we called it, and I, I, I thought, you know–

 

00:14:00

 

H:

 

–when this happened, I was, in fact I was semi-conscious, I-I was, I was okay. And I thought, well I, I bet, now I won’t have to climb up any more hills. We were, we went up a place that was then titled the Foggy Ridge, because it had been snowing and you get up that high, that higher el-elevation, it was foggy, they could hardly see 30 feet.

 

00:14:30

 

I:

 

Yeah, anything else that you want to share, or are you, we can close, I mean I don’t want to–

 

H:

 

[laughter] Well, I don’t want to go, I could go on and on about some other horror stories too, but–

 

I:

 

[laughs]

 

H:

 

–that’s enough. [unintelligible] the closest calls to my body.

 

I:

 

Yeah. Wow. And are you healthy now?  Do you have like?

 

H:

 

Well, other than the, I have, I have arthritis, my hands are–

 

00:15:00

 

H:

 

–in bad shape, my feet are in bad shape, I’ve had two mechanical knees, two, both knees have been replaced.

 

I:

 

I see.

 

H:

 

But I can, I’ve had successful operations and I can still get around.

 

I:

 

Yeah.  Wow. This, this war, Korean War, that caused so much close calls and hardship and everything.

 

H:

 

Yeah.

 

I:

 

When you came back, did you feel different, like were you matured or?

 

00:15:30

 

H:

 

Oh, I, well [laughs], yes. That uh, that experience makes a man out of you. [unintelligible]

 

I:

 

Yeah. And you were still so young, even when you came back.  Early 20s still, right?

 

H:

 

Yeah, I, I was 21. Which is young, but most, well, most of my, most of them were younger than me. We had a lot of–

 

00:16:00

 

H:

 

–18 and 19 year olds, younger than I but uh.  Um. Our officers, most of them were, you know, World War II Veterans. That, that, that one Lieutenant was not, that got killed.  The others had a little more experience than this particular guy, but um [unintelligible].

 

00:16:30

 

I:

 

Well, because of what you did, seriously, I’m here. I’m, I was born in Korea. My parents are from Korea. Their, my grandparents are from Korea, so.

 

H:

 

Are they in Korea now?  Are they living?

 

I:

 

Yeah.

 

H:

 

Are they still alive?

 

I:

Yeah, my parents are still alive.  Only my grandma is alive, not my grandparents, but they were. They survived the war. Um.

 

H:

 

Um hmmm.

 

I:

 

It’s, just soooo [laughs], yeah.

 

H:

 

Yeah.

 

I:

 

Yeah.  Soooo.

 

00:17:00

 

I:

 

That’s what, like, keeps me going with this project.

 

H:

 

This Poon Moon Kim, he was our leader, I know him quite well in Korea. He’s um, he’s a, he’s got a PhD, he’s an educator. He’s retired now but he was, he was um, in age-wise, I think, um . . .

 

00:17:30

 

H:

I think he was about, about 10 years young than us, than me, I think. But he, um, he was very apprecia-he appreciates, for, his life to, he shows it to all the time to us, us veterans, that got back to Minneapolis.

 

I:

 

Yeah.

 

00:18:00

 

H:

 

I met another lady that used to, a Korean lady, who used to work in our drug store. (Oon Sak Park) was, is her name. And her husband was, an engineering tech degree and worked for Univac, but I met, met him through her that, she used to work in our drug store.

 

00:18:30

 

H:

 

She has, they have three sons and two of them are medical doctors and the other one is a, is a law, law degree. They got, two of them got into, into the U.S. Navy, and they got their training from the Navy. But, it’s a lov-lovely family.

 

I:

 

Drug store in your hometown right now?

 

H:

 

Yes, it’s still, yes, they. The Parks live just about a mile from me.

 

00:19:00

 

I:

 

I see.

 

H:

 

I used to see her, see them often. But she used to work in the, she’s retired now, but she, [laughs] I don’t see her as much. I used to see her there daily at the drug store.

 

I:

 

I see. Yeah.

 

H:

 

Yeah.

 

I:

 

Same here, even right now, there’s a movie out that’s about the Inchon Landing and so often I hear about the, the different organizations doing things for Korean War Veterans and I think that kind of passes down to me too.

 

00:19:30

 

I:

 

Like, I know how important it is. I of course, can’t fathom how it really was and everything, but it, I know it’s really important to show appreciation and I want to. Like, I also want to, because it’s true that I won’t be here if it weren’t for you.

 

H:

 

Well, that’s where the, the Parks and the Moon, the Moo, the Kim family, they treated the, this will be about the–

 

00:20:00

 

H:

 

–12thyear that they’ll have this picnic that he’s, that the Kim, well, Kim and his family and other Koreans and he has of course, he’ll have Korean musicians. He likes, he likes music. I sing in a, a group called Augsburg Centennial Singers.  It’s a senior men’s chorus and he comes to that chorus, every

 

00:20:30

 

H:

 

[unintelligible] and he likes music, so he comes to it and I’m, I’m glad he does show up for that, for one of our concerts.

 

I:

 

Yeah, wow.

 

H:

 

Yeah.

 

I:

 

Alright, well, I think we should close now.

 

H:

 

Okay

 

I:

 

I want to just thank you so much for–

 

H:

 

Well, it was a pleasure to talk to you.

 

I:

 

Yeah

 

[End of Recorded Material]