Henry T. Pooley
Henry T. Pooley, also known as Harry, joined the Royal Australian Army in 1951. He served in the valley of the Imjin River fighting in the hills outside Seoul. He survived intense shelling by Chinese forces on Hill 355. Henry T. Pooley has spent years since his service researching Korea and is proud of what he did and what South Korea has become today. He hopes to see Korea reunited one day.
Henry T Pooley describes when he was shelled in his bunk near Hill 355. The Chinese artillery attack left him dazed and two comrades wounded. Henry miraculously wasn't wounded.
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First Patrol and the Chinese
Henry T Pooley describes his first patrol near Hill 355 on the front lines. He describes the geography of the area including a nearby minefield. He discusses the respect shown between the Chinese and the Australian soldiers on the battlefield.
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Revisiting Korea and Memories
Henry T Pooley remembers his return to Korea in 2000. He recounts his amazement at the progress and compares it to his time in 1952. He shares his memories of the destruction and his hope that Korea reunites during his lifetime.
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[Beginning of recorded material]
H: My name is, uh, Henry Thomas Pooley – P O O L E Y, but I’m commonly known as Harry – H A R R Y, Harry Pooley.
I: And what is your birthday?
H: My birthday is the thirteenth of the, November, 1930.
I: Could you repeat what is your birthday?
H: The thirteenth, the eleventh
I: Um hm.
H: That’s November, 1930,
which makes me 89 my next birthday.
I: You look great. What is the secret?
I: Work? What do you work?
H: Well, I always reckon that the body is a machine, and God designed the machine, and we’ve designed machines after God. And machine is made to work. If it doesn’t work, it deteriorates, falls apart at the, say for instance a car
chemical action, the motor deteriorates then dies, batteries, everything. So a car is now good.
H? Beg pardon?
I: You are retired now, right?
H: Uh, I wouldn’t say I retired. I’m still doing all the repairs around my house. I’m, a bit of a handyman I, uh, um, built my house. It’s a six bedroom cavity brick home and, uh,
I: You just did? You built it? You build your own home?
H: Uh, yes. I was a subcontractor. My trade is a mechanic, diesel mechanic feeder but, uh, I might as well start at some point. Where would you like me to start?
I: Um, oh. I have a series of questions. Well, tell me, where were you born?
H: I was born in Brisbane here in 1930 at what was then the,
uh, Lady Bowen Hospital
I: Um hm.
H: which now, I believe, is Anzac House.
I: And when did you graduate high school?
H: I didn’t go to high school. I went home to my hometown which was Tenterfield, New South Wales and, uh, from there, my father was a, a ganger on the roads and actually worked with Errol Flynn, the actor. But he wasn’t known so well as an actor then.
And Dad was a salesman for Chrysler, and he traveled around a bit and, uh, they shipped him down to Brisbane. But while he was down there, he married my mother, uh, Mary Ellen Pooley and, uh, that was about 19, oh, it was at 1928. He was an ex-serviceman
from the British Army and then the Merchant Navy. And he left the ship in 1920 in Australia
H: signed off
I: Um hm.
H: And, uh, he, um, he ended up, um, he, uh, he settled down in Brisbane and, uh, as I said, he was growing tobacco at one stage, too. And, uh, I was, when I was born in 1930, I shifted
around a lot, and he was always either rich one moment, had a beautiful home where we had four homes, and during the Depression years in 1930’s, sometimes it was very hard because a man to retire in a job, uh, he had to go from one town to another town. And then he’s draw rations like sugar, flour, tea, and Sargent would say Roy, you’ve got your rations.
Now tonight I want you on the train to the next town because he never got no more rations till he’d get to the next town.
I: Yeah. It’s a very difficult time to live.
H: Oh, it was terrible time.
I: Yeah. So when did you join the military?
H: I joined the military when I was in Brisbane here on the 15th August, 1951.
I: And was Army?
H: Army, yes.
I: Um. And where did you get the basic military training?
H: Uh, here at [Anaugraw] We spent, uh, three months at [Anaugraw], and then, uh, we went from here down to Victoria which was [Pakapanul] and, uh, lived in tents. Uh, we did graduate to a tin shed once.
I: Um hm.
H: and cold running water from the [Golwin] River in the winter and, uh, we, uh, trained until May 1952.
And then we were flown by Quantus, and we stopped at Hong Kong, and actually we went as tourists, uh by Quantus, uh. We stayed in the best hotel in Hong Kong which was Peninsula Hotel
I: Yeah. And when did you arrive in Korea? When did you arrive in Korea?
H: I arrived in Korea, uh, after training in Japan, uh, I trained, they found out
I’d done an, a signals course in Australia and, uh, I was on draft to go to Korea, and they found that the, there was three signals that were my two mates and myself, and they had to make [INAUDIBLE], and they didn’t have mines, see. And I told them I’m going in the morning. Gonna be hard to catch me [INAUDIBLE] and both my mates looked at each other and stepped out of the ranks and said Pooley’s his name, Sargent. You’re not going anywhere without us, see. So he said I have to go back,
and we have to do another, uh, run over on a refresher course as a signaler and, uh,
H: In Haramu, right, in Japan
H: And that was at the Battle Training School which was a pretty hard school. They, uh, used to use live ammunition all the time to lay off a percentage of casualties, you know. And, uh, we did our training, and then we had to go back to Hero which was the base camp,
and uh, in Japan. And, uh, we went on, once you went on draft, and I got to Korea in, either late August or early September in 1952.
I: Where did you arrive in Korea?
H: Uh, that’s, uh, around late, late August, early September.
I: Where? Where did you arrive?
H: Oh, uh, Pusan.
H: And, uh, that was my first introduction to Korea.
I: What was your unit?
H: My unit was the First Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.
I: Um hm.
H: It was part of the first Commonwealth Division.
I: And what company?
H: I was in, uh, Headquarter Company first as a signaler.
H: Uh, signaler, yes, radio, you know, radio man, signals, repair the wires if they got knocked out and, uh. But at the time I was working, uh,
my job was working a switchboard. And I didn’t find it very exciting.
I: Um hm.
H: And I got myself transferred to a rifle company where one of my friends was in D Company. But when I got there, he was in 12 Platoon, and I got sent to 10 Platoon, one section, and we had h ad four people in that because they’d had quite a few casualties, and we were down to four people. So, uh, I went there and, uh,
when I, my first patrol we went down, and we were being briefed, we were going on [INAUDIBLE] and, uh, the Sargent comes to mind on me and says oh Pooley, and I said yes Sargent, he says you’re our next [INAUDIBLE] . I said yes, Sargent. I knew what was coming.
I: Um hm.
H: So he said here’s the radio. Go and get the codes and, uh, get that ready. And that was my first introduction to
I: Where was it?
H: Uh, that was, I, I first joined Korea at, uh, it was a place called Yongdong. [INAUDIBLE] Samichon Valley, uh. It was a big valley that ran due South, and it was the main attack route for Genghis Khan, all the armies in the past, you know.
I: Was Imjin River around?
H: Yes. The Imjin River went around in front of us, and where we were in Yongdong, we were on a hill,
and we looked straight forward, and you could see the river going through, around. It was a huge mine field
I: Um hm
H: And on the left hand side of us, we had the American First Marine Division, and on the right hand side of us, we had the Royal Fuseliers, were on a hill they had, somewhere at about 159 I think it was. Anyway, uh, we spent about three weeks there before we joined the Battalion, and we went in,
uh, joined the actual Battalion on the, uh, first of November, uh, when, just after Princess Patricia got badly knocked about on the hill, no, not Patricia. It was the RCR’s, Royal Canadian Regiment. They got badly over it and not really good at overriding. And, uh, and all the defenses were blown and everything and, and we had to find out own way out into the minefields, and we los quite a few people
with stepping on mines because, uh, the British and Australians were using pretty explicit, if you laid a mine field, there was a map of it. But the Americans and the Canadians sometimes, they just laid them indiscriminately, and they’d have a gap serve them. But if the shell fell out, they knew where the gap was because you’ve been in one position for a while and they had it zeroed in to,
within a meter, the Chinese, and the Chinese were very good artillery men and very good mortar men. And, uh, they were very good fighter sakes, you know. We got on, believe it or not, we had a lot of respect for them, no respect for the North Koreans I’m afraid. But we had a lot of respect for Chinese because some of them didn’t’ want to be there.
I: Um hm.
H: And, uh, we had sort of an unspoken, uh, truce with them that we wouldn’t fire on their stretcher parties, and they
wouldn’t fire on ours, you know. Whereas with the Americans, that they used to fire on the, the Chinese stretcher parties. So we gained a bit of respect from the Chinese
H: the fact that
I: That’s very interesting to know.
H: Well, it was, it was just like sometimes when it comes down the man in the frontline, and you’re the one who’s gonna suffer. And when you go day after day for two months in one spot and you’re being shelled
at night time, mortared, sometimes you’d be under attack, you’d been going out, uh, we were on a hill called [Owocsan]. It was, uh, the British called it 355. Three five five was the, the heighth of it, and it was called Little Gibralter.
H: Uh, it was, it was something similar that the British thought to, the Gibralter and these states, in the Mediterranean.
I: So you were there around?
H: Uh, we were heading, uh, we were on top of a hill, and
I: What hill?
H: the, on top of this
I: Three five five?
H: Three five five
H: And the trenches, the main trench, was nine feet deep.
H: You couldn’t climb out of that unless you went up into a firing step where the little weapon pits were. And that’s where you stood duty, you know. And we joined them in the winter, and we still had summer boots. And I got put on a charge for
wearing winter boots. They said you shouldn’t have worn the boots. And sometime during the day, this is before we went on the hill, we’d have to go back and dig, dig the fortification to a second line of defense and, uh, we were in the shade, you see, and there was a bit of snow there. My feet were like ice. So the feet cold, warm boots, put them on. And the officer put me in a chart because he said the Army didn’t make it, it was winter yet, you gotta wait until a certain day.
The Army says winter gets here the 15th of September, you can have, wear them. So I wore them anyway.
I: So you must have, uh, involved in a lot of different kinds of battle there?
I: The kind of battle that you fought.
H: I haven’t fought much in the way of battles at all. I whether I thought I was unlucky, I never made contact with the enemy. I saw them. we walked in around the Chinese lines at night time. But
the Chinese had a lot of respect for us, and they didn’t attack us much, especially D Company. D Company had a very good reputation.
I: Um hm.
H: And we’d go out and sit there for four hours waiting for, to ambush the Chinese, and that, I used to be down in the hill 227 in front of us, see. And, uh, so I went out on a number of patrols, uh, listing patrols, standing patrols. But it was only about a fortnight after I
got there, and we were on the right flank of Hill 355, and next to us was the, uh, Republic of Korea Capital Division. That was the, the President’s Division. And they were on the right flank of us right along side us here, and on the left hand side was, uh, who was on the left hand side now, uh, I’m trying to think, uh, I think it was Second Battalion had joined us there. No, Third
Battalion was there, that’s right. Third Battalion and, uh, we stayed there for, well, I stayed there. I got hit with a shell, uh. My bunker was on top near the skyline, you know, and I had a centurion tank dug in here. There was a Canadian tank for, the Sherman, and then they replaced it with a Centurion from one of the British [INAUDIBLE], you know. And they got a, they were trying to get a, hit this tank, and our bunker was to the right
hand side of the tank, and about 30 meters back, and this day we just walked into it, three of us, and one man was sitting there, and one man was sitting there, and I was up about two furlongs around because I came near the fifth man there, and there was no room. So I had to shift all the packs out of this little hole here
H: and make my bed in there and actually, thinking back, it
saved me because I was sitting on there just putting some stuff under my bunk, and the next minute the ear just, I didn’t hear any noise. I just felt the ears compressed as if somebody hit me under water, punched me, and I got slammed down on the floor. And when I looked up, I was buried, you know, half buried except for a little tiny bit of daylight.
I: You must have lost your life.
I: You might have lost your life there.
H: Oh, well the shell only
hit about four meters away from me, four feet away from me, no more than two meters.
I: Were you scared?
H: No, no. I’m a pretty practical sort of person. I was scared before hand. But I was not[INAUDIBLE] rather die, you know, because the thing was so, a 5” shell, a 122, close to being 5”. Like a forward gun on a destroyer. And uh, anyway, I headed over to the hole. I couldn’t anything wrong with me.
But I headed over to the hole and I could hear a voice crying out for help. And I went to get out through this hole, and where this chap remained sitting on the bank, I looked down and there’s a, the first thing I saw was a white sealant. And I took my hand down, and I look and I put my hand where his head would be, but his head was gone. It blew his head off, and the force of the explosion
must have seared the jugular and everything. There was no blood, just the, the, the sealant was pure white. Anyway, I crawled over him to go to help with this other, I couldn’t do nothing for him
I: What was his name?
H: Uh, his name was named Gulad. I never ever got back to talking to his parents cause I didn’t know him a lot very well. And I didn’t like the idea of, I thought it was better that his parents didn’t know that, uh,
he died many, you know, he lost his head. And so I just kept it quiet to myself. The first time I called anybody. And uh, he, uh, I thought it’s bad enough from now on they’ve lost their son. He was a fine young man actually. A lovely man. He would have gone a long way. But he never got a chance. And the chap on the left hand side, Mickey Lynch his name was, Mickey Lynch, yeah. And he got one ankle
blown off. Comes from down Victoria. I don’t know if he’s still alive.
I: But you were not wounded.
H: Beg pardon?
I: You were not wounded. You were not wounded.
I: You were not wounded.
H: I don’t know. I, I didn’t feel nothing. I looked, there was no blood on me. Uh, my, my ears were ringing like mad, and I went outside, and I could see Mickey here and he was going up to help, all the timber was lying down,
and I was trying to pull it out when somebody come in and grabbed me and took me out. They took me outside, and then they found me wandering along the skyline afterwards asking to be shot for a sniper, but I didn’t. They didn’t. Anyway, uh, I was evacuated that night about 12:00 at night by a Jeep that come up the back of the, uh, the hill, the mountain. It
couldn’t move up there near the day come because the Chinese could see parts of it. And they, uh, uh, [INAUDIBLE] The chap that took me out was actually my mate that I was waiting for at the Signalry, and when he got there, there was no more, they didn’t want signal. Instead they made a driver out of him, and he ended up driving the ambulance. And I don’t remember him at all taking me out. But Dave’s body was on that stretcher, but there, no head. Couldn’t find it.
Anyway, and I was on this stretcher, and they sent me out for a rest because our section had been very, very badly hit before, and we were working a lot more hours, you know, trying to fill in to cover it, the other men, and you didn’t get much sleep, about one, two hours sleep at night. And after a few days, you know, we had, uh, we got the, beginning, this was about
my birthday was the 13th. It must have been the 17th of November because I survived my birthday when I got hit. And I went out, down for a rest, and I, they never even took my shirt off for anything. I just, they just said how are you? I said I don’t [INAUDIBLE] I’m not hit cause I can’t see anything. And, uh, anyway ,uh, I went down to Inchon which was just a little fishing place,
and you come down the hill, you know, into the fishing village, and I spent a week there, no money, and they said you can get drunk
I: Where, where did you stay, un MASH unit or in the hospital or
H: Uh, non, no, no. When I, a rest camp. A little
I: Rest camp.
H: A little rest village. They sent me up for a rest
H: It was called a rest village where they had, had a wounded soldiers that’d come out of hospital
H: and I went down there. And then before you went back to line. So I spent a week there.
And then I went back, and I had a job in the [INAUDIBLE] store
I: I’m sorry?
H: I had a job in the Quartermaster store at [INAUDIBLE] I forget which. Anyway, uh, I used to issue clothing to the troops when they come out of the line. So it was a very safe place. And I put my foot up in front of the Canadians, they would love leading our patrols, no ambush, nothing. No shelling.
H: And I spent about two weeks I think there. And, uh, or over week, and they, uh, they said to me, uh, they couldn’t send me back up, I wanted to go back up to my unit. And, uh, they couldn’t send me because I had no winter gear. There was a shortage of winter gear, no waiting for it to come from Japan. Anyway, when it turned up, uh, I said I’d go, and they said oh, we’ll, look, we’ll promote you to a Corporal here. You’re doing a good job.
You can stay here if you want to. And I had to make a decision then. I, I, I didn’t really want to go up, back on that hill again. But I thought well if I don’t um, I’ll, I’ll, uh, regret it in lots of ways the rest of my life. And I said to him, uh, no. I’ll, I think I’ve got to go back, and he said I think you’ re bloody mad. Anyway, I went, and when I got up there, as soon as I joined my unit and went in,
they still put us up there. You had a chance to get out, you know. I said to him, anyway, I went on for about another till the, uh, that was the first time, the 15th. That was November. December the 15th, uh, a friend of mine, a, a chap I met it up with, we’re both reinforcements you see. I didn’t know the other men at all in the Battalion because they’d been there from original, and we were what
they call K Force. We only joined for two years cause they couldn’t get enough people to join the Australian Army
H: And we were very short handed. So they dropped the recruiting age, we joined for two years, you see. And we’d [been a year away to here], getting there, and when we, uh, am I talking too much?
I: No, no. Where, when did you leave Korea?
H: I left Korea, I was just getting to that, uh, uh, this day, uh
I was just come back from having lunch, [what’s the other word] kitchen, the back, and you come up, and there was an observation post, on OP we called it, just to the right of my hoochie here. The main trench went along, and there was a trench come in here and turned, and it was a little hoochie, whatchi, the Japanese word, I think it’s Uchi, they called it Hutchi now, it was just a few [raptures], you know.
And a door had been hit by mortar, and the sand used to drizzle, so I didn’t like it much. I didn’t want to be buried again. And Don, he lived just outside in the forward trenches up against the wall. Anyway, him and I were there talking and, uh, they come in, it was a bang just outside, and I thought it was a, a self-pulled hell gun they had in the tunnel in 227 which was when we walked out of our Uchi at night time, we had to pull
blankets down so it wouldn’t let any light out because [INAUDIBLE] straight, is flying straight out on the 227 where they had an observer. And, uh, we thought it was an SP because they have [INAUDIBLE] right to you now, and you don’t hear the thing go off, you know. You’d be able to hear it, and there’s still a lot of people who don’t hear it, and we did. Anyway, uh, one shot come in, and in between the Sargent turned up with three reinforcements. And there was five that was in this little area here, see.
And he said righto, Pooley. He said you can show them the ropes. He said I’m off. I gotta check the others. So he left, and I looked at Don, Don Dillo and, uh, anyway I said to him, uh, look. I think it’s safer if we go out. We’ll go out in the trench, and I took first man out, turned right, second man out, left, right, left, right. Spread out along the trench. Here we’ll get some, if something
happens and we get five men. Anyway, we went out there. I said well, let’s go, and Don stepped out in front of me. And when we got to where, right in the main trench line there, Don turned right, I turned left, and the next shot from this, turned out to be a rocket launcher, 5.7 rocket launcher. It hit the wall just above his head there and went off, and it blew me sideways. I picked myself off the ground here, and I, he was laying on the
trench floor. And I went around, he was completely dead. He was [INAUDIBLE} the blast had just killed him outright. So even though my examination said he was dead, but I was a bit dazed, and I went to get a medic. I just told the others keep, keep separated, you know. And I got the medic, and then, uh, I think, [INAUDIBLE] must have got a bit hysterical then because I was very tired, and I just wanted to, I remember saying I wanted to get at
the nine-mile sniper. That’s who they are in Korea. I was sick and tired of being hit by guns and not being able to fire a shot at them, see, even though we weren’t looking for them.
H: And, uh, anyway, uh, they gave me, they come and they gave me a morphine needle to settle me down. And anyway, I went back on duty again, and the trouble was the next patrol I went on, the, I started to suffer a lot of pains in the, the legs here. And if I’d lie in an outpost for say
three hours, you couldn’t get up. I couldn’t walk. There was too much pain in the legs. And I was becoming a liability to my section and to myself. So I decide to go to the RAP and see if I could get some pain killers. So I walked down off the hill, and when you go out on a patrol, you got 50 rounds and three grenades and a barley colver hat. No [INAUDILE] no vests. I never
wore a vest in my life.
I: Um hm.
H: And anyway, we
I: Yeah. So what happened to you? Did you leave Korea then?
H: Uh, no. They, that, well I did. They sent me back, uh, when I got down there, the first day they said that I was to come back tomorrow. And I got rather abusive because, uh, I said I’ve gotta walk up the hill again with all the gear and walk back again. And anyway, uh, I said I don’t think I’ll ever [INAUDIBLE] And they go to Sargent and said what did you say.
And I turned on her and I said you heard what was said. And I wasn’t like that normally.
I: I mean, we need to concentrate on the major events. So I want to, when did you leave Korea?
H: Uh, when did I leave Korea?
H: I left Korea just before Christmas. I went back from, I was evacuated from
I: When did you leave Korea, ’52 Christmas?
H: Uh, ’52 Christmas, yeah, 1952 at Christmas.
I went about the 22nd, 23rd,
I: Um hm.
H: and I went, I was evacuated to Seoul and to the [INAUDIBLE] Field ambulance before that and into Seoul and then to, uh, General Hospital in Korea, in, uh, Japan.
I: Uh huh
H: And I
I: Were you wounded at the time?
I: Were you wounded?
H: No, no. I never, I was lucky I never got a mark on me.
I: Yeah. But why were you in the hospital?
H: I was in the hospital because I couldn’t walk.
I: Oh. What happened?
H: No, my leg
I: Because of the pain
H: Well, they said, when I went back the second time, when they told me to come back the next day,
I: Yeah, yeah.
H: when I left, I walked out to walk up the hill, and I was at exhaustion, I woke up four hours later, I was sleeping [INAUDIBLE] been sleeping just lying down
I: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
H: fell asleep while I was walking.
I: So luckily you were not wounded, but you were not able to, you had, uh, serious pain so
that you discharged.
H: Had my ears blown out, but unless there’s blood. if a stone flies up and cuts you and you’re wounded
I: Yeah, yeah.
H: doesn’t have to be a bit of metal.
I: So you were very lucky.
H: But you don’t see, uh, you don’t see those wounds
H: And when I got flattened out, it, it, something in my spine they said that, they said that it, uh, they evacuated me. It was a sprained spinal column.
I: Um hm.
H: and pierced eardrums. So later on
they changed that definition to wounded.
H: See, but anyway, I had a lot of trouble with the VA when I come back. They, they said they’d lost all my records, the Dept. of Veterans Affairs and, uh, it wasn’t till 1978, the the Freedom of Information come in and I, uh, I applied through that, and they found all my records, you know. They just miraculously turned up.
I: So have you been back to Korea after that?
H: Yes. I went back
I: [INAUDIBLE] when, when was it?
19, oh, let me think, uh, trying to think back. Must be, I’ve been back twice, no, three times. I went back once, uh, that was about, must have been 15 years ago.
I: Yeah. So it was 2000.
H: Two thousand, yeah.
I: Twenty-first century, right?
H: Yeah because I made that thing I n 2003,
and I’ve been to Korea then by 2003. So it’s around about 2000, and I, uh, I went over there , and we, uh, we had, our box was next to the President’s box in the, where the stadium is, you know, big stadium? I don’t know when that was built.
I: Yeah, yeah.
H: But it was brand new and, uh, we spent, uh, three weeks there, and I was amazed because
I: Three weeks?
H: Not three weeks, a week, sorry. A week, uh, five days because well, I remember now. We went from province to province
I: Yeah, yeah.
H: every night, we went to a different province.
I: Right. When you went back to Korea in 2003, how did you feel?
H: Well, I was actually amazed because when I left Korea, there was one bridge over the river, and it was busted.
When I went back, then they had six, no, they had 18 bridges or something and six tunnels, and I couldn’t get over how, and I already knowing how you’d, you know, followed you a bit because being in the Veterans Affairs, Veterans Organizations here, and I, I’ve got quite a library at home on the Korean War. And so I, I know a bit about the fact they have a few reach the great heights in the world’s industrialized nation. And you did it while under a thread running about
20 miles away over. A madman. And I thought it was actually amazing and, uh, on how you went on with your lives so, uh, complacently, you know, put it that way. And, uh, I ‘ve been amazed ever since. And since I, the, uh, Korean veterans down the Gold Coast have been so good to our organizations that I think I could, I can never repay the gratitude or feel towards, uh,
South Korea, you know, because, I mean, so they keep thihking that they owe me [INAUDIBLE] I think that, uh, [INAUDIBLE] other foot sometimes because I appreciate very much what the South Korean government ‘s done for the Australian veterans here in Australia. I really do. And a lot of our veterans feel the same way. I think I’ll just speak for them on that. But, uh, you know. It’s a, but it was a terrific war because when I went to Pusan
the first time, I, when I landed there, the first thing I say in the streets was, there were, we went down the streets and just little shops and all the rest was wreckage and a slum. And there was mud on the beach. They, and mud flats we crossed, you know. And, uh, anyway, I saw a little girl, and she was about 3 year old, and all she had on was a little singlet, white singlet, dirty. And on her brother, back, she had a brother,
and she was sitting down amongst all the, and she had a, a, a big cardboard carton that the Kelloggs Corn Flakes used to come for the American Army. It was a big, like that square and that high. And she was sitting in there, and she had two old ration cans and, of course, on the truck and we went path, but that’s what I saw, and it stayed in my memory and I thought I hope to God I never, ever see that situation in our country because I think the refugees
suffered so terribly, you know, uh, children didn’t know who their parents were, uh, where, if they’re alive. Well, they still, a lot of you still don’t know, uh, your sisters and brothers can’t talk to you. And I’ll be very happy if I live long enough to see unification of Korea in peace because I think that, I know your history, a lot of your history, back to, uh, 4,000 years ago.
and, uh, there was a king you had, and he was a very, very, uh, um, uh, good man. And he set up all your [INAUDIBLE] governments and that, and he
I: Yeah, huh.
H: What was his name again? He
I: And, uh, let’s focus on the war that you fought for. Had you thought that, had you imagined that Korea would become like this today when you left Korea in 1953?
H: Well, I don’t
think that we’re, a lot of people say we never won. My answer to that is that look at South Korea.
I: I mean, did you think that Korea would become like this today when you left Korea?
H: No. No. I didn’t know. We just, uh, I didn’t see much of Korea except for trench line. And the time we went around the Chinese lines, not down across the river and that. But I didn’t see anything apart from when I came back from the rest camp and
I saw the refugees and [INAUDIBLE] with his big hat on and, and, uh, sitting by a little chair, little fires on the side of the road, and we were frosty and cold and, uh, I remember people, there’s a book I read and made a very big impact on me. It was written by an English journalist called Reginal Thompson.
I: Um hm.
H: And it was called Cry, Korea. And if you ever get a copy of that, read it. You’ll see what Korea was like really,
and it was an Australian, uh, correspondent, Harry Gordon. And Harry Gordon was a member of our club.
I: You said Cry Korea?
H: Beg pardon?
I: What is the title of the book?
H: Cry, C R Y, you know, cry
I: Uh huh
H: That’s the title. And name of the author was Reginald Thompson.
H: British correspondent for one of the British papers.
H: And they, they,
they went up, and with the Battalions and with the, the British Division, Common, wasn’t a Commonwealth Division. It was, uh, it was a, uh, a brigade that later on become a, Commonwealth Division with the Canadians, too and everything.
I: So next year, 2020, it’s going to be 70th anniversary
I: of the Korean War. It never been replaced with a Peace Treaty.
H: I know.
I: We are still
technically at war. What do you think about that?
H: Well, I think that the world is very, uh, slacking in knowledge of the Korean War. They really are because you talk to young people now and they say, I was, I, I forgot to tell you. I joined up again in the Reserve Forces in Australia in 1975, and I served 15 years
I: Um hm.
H: in, uh, Royal [INAUDIBLE] Electrical Mechanical Engineers because I was a full on mechanic then.
And, uh, I, I think that, uh, you know, the, uh, we don’t do enough here, a lot of people might disagree with me, but we are too lax. We, we, we too, too easy, to relaxed in lots of ways, and we don’t, you’ve got to be a little bit harder sometimes because you’re dealing with a hard, hard enemy. I don’t like the way this situation is handled because it looks to me as thought Russia
I followed them a lot. Russia is doing a lot of work in the background down in Africa,
I: Um hm.
H: South America, and they’ve got conferences going on now, uh, China and North Korea, and they’re getting a lot pallier, and then they fly young, they fly to Russia. So I think myself that, that if America gets much weaker, they will make another push.
H: I really do.
It bothers me because, uh, I hate to see it break out in another world war.
I: So you, uh, have done a lot of research about the Korean War. What about here in Australia? Do they teach about Korean War in the high school? In History class?
H: I don’t think so.
I: Why not?
H: As I said, well, I never went. I, I, I went to work at 12, so I never, I did Junior English when I was 30, 39. Thirty-nine just be, when I got married I did Junior English.
And I did Mathematics because I studied
I: Why we don’t teach about it?
I: Why we don’t teach about Korean War here in Australia?
H: I don’t know, uh. I don’t know. Actually I must check my, my son-in-law, not my son-in-law, my grandson, uh, he didjn’t know much about it. And when I was in the Army Reserves, that’s what I was gonna say, sometimes on Anzac Day when I’d wear my ribbons, and he’d say what’s that for? I said it’s the Korean War. He says when was that? And I said 1950 it started.
I was there ’52. Oh. He said I wasn’t even born then. And they don’t know. And they’re either ignorant or the fact, too, that how the inerts played a very, very, from a small group, we distinguished ourselves in front of the whole world, the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force, particularly the Air Force cause the Air Force stopped the North Korean tanks
with the rockets.
I: Um hm.
H: They, they wiped them out.
I: So you didn’t know much about Korea before. And now you are, you been to Korea three times. What is Korea to you personally?
H: Uh, Korea’s a beautiful country. Uh, I didn’t see none of that. As I said, all I saw was a, a, a, 227 in front of me every morning, and it was just not a blade of grass on it, no trees. just pulverized hill.
It was plowed up, and we didn’t move around much at night. Daytime we were either, we would come back home from patrol, we cleaned out any damage from shell fire in the trenches, and some of us were detailed to go back and dig or reinforce the, the rear positions, you know, the next line of defense. Uh, we didn’t get a lot of sleep and, uh, we got one hot meal a day if you did. But most people couldn’t be bothered with the mail. I just said all I want to do is go to sleep.
And, uh, after a couple months, you get really, really, you’re getting like a zombie to a certain extent, you know. You’re tired, you’re very tired. Uh, we were, I’m not speaking for the whole unit because I’m only speaking my section because we were undermanned. And that’s why I went back that time, cause I didn’t wanna leave another man go on and two more. That left that section with practically nobody.
I: But my question is what is Korea to you now,
H: Personally, uh, in what we do I like Korea?
I: Whatever you think way.
H: Oh, it’s my Korea. I really do. I admire the Korean people. I think you’ve got a lot of stamina and a lot of work in you and, uh, I just wish that you could have more peace there and not have the threat that’s hanging over you all the time. I often wonder if we had the same threat, like somebody in Bribie Island
Who was threatened to drop a bomb on us, how we’d react. But we don’t know here. We don’t, apart from the Japanese bombing Darwin, the stuff in cities, not now. And the children and that, today, don’t know. We don’t have any commitment like you have in, uh, Korea where each young man does two years and young ladies do two years. And when I was in Korea, I couldn’t help but notice that all your people all sleep because you work hard.
Here, people don’t work as hard as they used to in my day. I was always getting called, what, what are you trying to prove, Harry? I don’t know. I had it when I went to work, and I said what do you mean? He said well you worked twice as hard as any other man. I said I don’t think so. I said I just enjoyed doing my job. It’s a challenge. I want to get finished, and I want to go home. I don’t want to knock about.
And, uh, I really think that’s what I admire most in the Korean people is their work, work ethic. And that’s not a way, as I said to my grandchildren, study. Get the knowledge and worry about the fun and games afterwards because if you have the fun and games now, the world will go by and leave you.
I: So tell me about the impact of war
upon your life after you come back from Korea.
H: Well, it didn’t, it didn’t worry me in the fact that I had bad dreams. I, I remember things. When I remember them, uh, the first time I had a bad dream was actually about fortnight ago.
I: Four nights ago?
H: For, fortnight, two weeks.
I: Uh huh
H: Two weeks ago. Apart from that,
I: That was first time for you? Tell about that.
H: Yeah because my, I’m, I’m a bit of a, I believe that if you come to a road and it’s got a bridge that’s been blown out or broken, don’t walk around with a go down, actually before you get there, you want to know whether you can go down another road. So when you get there, you go down that road. [INAUDIBLE] when, and my ex-girlfriend said, uh, oh, you know, that, uh, things were different, I just said oh, that’s the way it is.
You know, I traveled 12,000 kilometers, uh, miles, and uh, I just said oh well. That’s the way the cookie crumbles. And I said I’ll see you. And I went to walk away, and she, she talked to a mate and she said when am I gonna see you again? And I thought this is crazy. But I, coming back to, I think, your main question was on Korea, was, I just, left Korea
when I saw the way you’re still teachers. Bring all the children
H: to the cemetery, Pusan, and they tell the children about the history of the Korean War and how the men that died from different nations came from long way over the sea to fight for Korea, and we, um, another good friend of mine, he lives in [INAUDIBLE] he’s still alive, one, one of my mates, he was a signal bloke that carried me out,
uh, Dora Spanatelli and, uh, he’s the sort of bloke that, he, he’s like me, you know. And he loves to say you’re a good man, Harry. I said well, you’re a good man cause he looks after his wife, and she’s got Dementia.
I: Um hm.
H: See. So, uh, there’s good men, and in the Army, there was good diggers and there was bad diggers. You can’t say every digger’s a, a hero or, or anything like that. And I never wanted to be a hero.
Uh, heroes get you killed. I wanted to survive and come home. So I didn’t, I just put it out of my mine. Everything else but the fact that men are just, get this thing finished and, uh, I didn’t get a chance to get it finished.
I: Um hm.
H: The only shot I fired, now this might sound very embarrassing
I: Um hm.
H: but I wrote about it in my book because it was true, and you can’t beat the facts.
H: was I lifted the toilet seat on our toilet from the hill, and I find about 3 out of 3 down there that makes it work after two weeks, and it worked.
So it just, I noted it, and I knew I’d have gotten fired.
I: I’d like to wrap this interview with your special message to the Korean people. Do you have any message to them?
H: I just thank the Korean people, I thank you very much for all the, uh, the gratitude you’ve shown to,
uh, particularly Australians. I can’t speak for Americans. But I know that you do. And I think that, uh, just be assured that we really appreciate having, being of some service to, uh, to keep your country, at least you never lost a war, never, Never say you lost the war. You won it because I’ve got a photograph in a book there
of the Australians leading the victory parade in New York.
H: That’s what the Americans thought of it. We led the parade. As a, they got a soldier [INAUDIBLE] I’ll show you after if you want.
I: Do you?
H: In New York,
I: Korean War?
H: We led the parade for the victory parade.
I: Victory parade for what?
H: For victory in Korea.
H: Yeah. Because we went into Korea initially
I: Uh huh
H: to throw the North Koreans back from the 38th Parallel which we did.
So therefore, we achieved what we went to do. We didn’t stop the North Koreans from being there. But we achieved the mission that we had, and MacArthur made a lot of mistakes. It could have turned into a bigger mess than, than, uh, what we wanted. But, uh, you needed a lot steady heads and, uh, a little bit of diplomacy. But I say, rest assured that I personally think a lot, and I love the people of Korea a tremendous lot because
you, as I say, your work ethic, and that with me goes a long way because I’m still working.
I: You shouldn’t stop. Thank you so much, Henry.
H: You’re right.
I: It’s a great interview, and thank you for sharing your stories.
H: I hope you enjoyed it.
I: Thank you. Oh yeah, absolutely.
H: And if you want any more bits of it, I have a [INAUDIBLE] you can say to them people in Korea can have a look on the archives, [INAUDIBLE] Australia
H: Henry Pooley, 1020 and, uh, I’ll probably get bored.
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