Homer Garrett was born in Beaumont, TX on September 22, 1942, but spent most of his life in Jacksonville where he graduated from high school. He was drafted in 1965, conducting his basic training in Fort Polk, Louisiana before being sent to Fort Riley, Kansas. This was where he joined the First Military Police Company Infantry Division earning 43 dollars per month, but he sent most of it home to his wife and two children. After deployment to Camp Custer in South Korea, he shared his story of how the Korean people were living in such horrid conditions and they believed the US helped to win the war by providing opportunities for their own people rebuild. He heard that many Koreans believed that the US increased their standard of living with the help of their own Korean government. Homer Garrett recalled the successful capture of a North Korean Submarine at the Imjin River by seizing North Korean agents, and that very same submarine now sits in the 2nd Infantry Division Museum. Homer Garrett is very proud of the Korean people and they have overcome the desolation left due to war by building roads, bridges, and transportation that rivals that of the United States. He believed that it’s a person’s duty to defend their country and to never forget those who were there fighting.
First Glimpse of the Korean People
Homer Garrett described the Korean people when he first arrived in Korea as hungry and begging for food/supplies. It was the worst the worst catastrophic area that he had ever seen and Korea really needed a lot of help to rebuild. Korea was still in ruins 12 years after the Korean War ended.
Earnings for his Service
Homer Garrett briefly described, what few kids understand, which is how little soldiers were paid for their service. When he first entered as a Private First Class soldier, he started making $43.00 per month even while having a wife and two children back at home. When Homer Garrett came home, his highest earning was $130.00 per month which was much better than when he first entered the service in 1965.
Working With KATUSA and Turkish Armed Forces
Homer Garrett protected South Korea along with the Turkish armed forces and local KATUSA. KATUSA soldiers are the South Korean soldiers that worked directly with the US forces. Homer Garrett was assigned the task of guarding the crossroads between North Korean agents and the ROK (the Republic of Korea) Military Police with his M14 and bullet proof vest in the middle of the night.
Captured Submarine & Firing at the UN Troops
Homer Garrett described encounters with North Korean agents during his service in Korea. His unit captured a 2-man operating submarine that was trapped on a sand bar which carried 4 North Korean agents. That same submarine is now located in the 2nd Infantry Division Museum. The other close call incident involved their Military Police Jeep and a lady who was standing in the road. She ran from the intersection when suddenly shots were fired piercing the radio in their jeep.
Dedicated to Improving Civilian Lives
Homer Garrett never witnessed people in such despair not want help from their government, yet the Korean civilians continued to prosper with what they had. Korean civilians had a willingness to improve their lives. Homer Garrett felt the values of the South Korean people are lessons all Americans could learn from. He appreciated what he witnessed and respected Koreans' desire to succeed.
When Homer Garrett first arrived in Korea, the only means of transportation were ox-drawn carts for the wealthy, buses, and small taxis ("red birds"). The roads were only dirt roads that the Military Police shared with the civilians to transport goods and supplies. When Homer Garrett revisited Korea in 2007, (his wife visits often since she is from Korea- met and married her there and brought her back to Texas) he recalled the highway system in Seoul rivals that of our highway system in the United States, and that there are more cars on the road there, than there are in Dallas or Houston, Texas!
Homer Garrett, Jr. Transcription http://www.kwvdm.org/detail_oral.php?no=468
I’m Homer Garrett, Jr. I was born in Beaumont, Texas in September the 22nd, 1942. We
moved to Jacksonville, Texas before I turned a year old when my dad was drafted before World
War II. And I grew up in Jacksonville, went all the way through school and graduated from
Jacksonville High School. Went one year to TJC, went to work, and shortly I got a notice from
President Lyndon B Johnson saying “Greetings, I need you.” And that’s how I entered the
service in Dallas, Texas: through the draft board.
Did you know at the time where he was going to be sending you?
At the time, uh, we went to Fort Polk, Louisiana for basic training. And then for advanced
training, went to Fort Gordon, Georgia for military police school. Went from there to
Fort Riley, Kansas to the first MP company, first infantry division. Went from there to Korea
So when did you find out that you were going to be going to Korea?
I found out in January of 1965.
Did you kind of already know where Korea was and…
I knew basically where they were. I knew about the Korean War. I had two uncles that
fought in the Korean war.
Did they ever talk about their experience?
No ma’am they never talked about their time over there.
Do you have any idea why they didn’t speak about it? Personal reasons, or…
I think it’s just like the people coming back from Vietnam. It was just a traumatic
experience they just would rather put it out of their mind and not think about the death and
destruction that they say.
So where were you stationed at in Korea?
I was stationed just south of the Imjin river. It was Camp Custer, Panjeree, the MP
station was in YanJiGo, Korea
You were drafted into the…?
So what was your unit or rank? What was your specialty?
My rank, I went over as a PFC and I made Spec 4 when I was there. And I was a military
policemen MOS of 95.1.
Can you tell me a little about what your job was as a military police officer. What were your
Responsibilities was traffic control, investigation of larcenies, investigation of fights, uh,
… The same duties as police have here, except with having to take and enforce a uniform code
of military justice.
Is that what you, uh, what area you wanted to be in or were you assigned to military police?
That was where they put me, I had no choice but after getting into here was glad. I’d
rather ride than walk.
How long were you stationed in Korea for?
Basically 15 months. I got there in early march of 1965 and I left there in June of 1966.
So what was your impression on, uh, on Korea when you first arrived?
Korea was a very poor country. The people were compared
to our standards were
destitute, and a lot of ‘em were. They didn’t have enough to eat most of the time and they had to
work or beg. And it was just a… poor, impoverished country.
Were you nervous to be over there?
Not really, not even after we had a radio shot out of one of the MP jeeps
Now how were your living conditions, as far as maybe food, sleeping, clothing, weather…How
was that for you over there ?
Not much different than here the army furnished the clothing. We weren’t allowed civilian
clothes.They fed us so…. The weather? I was there, the winter I was there they said was the
mildest they had had in over 50 years. I saw it just as cold and
actually more snow at
Riley, Kansas so …(heh heh)
Do you recall how much you were getting paid?
I can remember what I was getting right before I got out of the service.
Between my wife and myself; she had a daughter then. I was an E4 over 2 with 2 dependents;
we cleared 130 dollars a month! When I went in in basic, 43 dollars what what I cleared a
So it was definitely a pay raise. (he he he)
So, um, how were the relationships between you and the troops and maybe even the foreign
troops, Korean soldiers and so forth?
I got along good with all of em. We had a Turkish compound there and we pulled patrol
with the Turkish MPs. And we had KATUSAS, which were Koreans that were actually in the same
company I were in, and then we had Iraq MPs that had a barracks on compound with us for a
company of them. And we worked withI
had worked with Korean National police. So the only
time I felt awkward; we had a lot of known North Korean agents in the area. And they put me in
the middle of a 3way
intersection at midnight. Curfew was at midnight. And they said, “Stop any
vehicle coming through and check it out. You stand in the middle of the road.” Iraq MP was on
one side; Korean national policeman got the ditch on the other side, but I had to stand in the
middle of the road they told me to draw my m14 and a bullet proof vest. So that was a little
awkward. So there still has never been a peace treaty signed in Korea. We are still actually at
war in Korea.
What did we need to do to end, put a closure on it?
I don’t think you really and truly want that answer. [laughs] Because it would be Red
China and North Korea, basically eliminating the government of North Korea. I would not want
the South Koreans to have to go through what the people in North Korea has gone through. And
that’s what would happen if we pull out. It happened in Vietnam, so it will happen there if we just
up and pull out.
Was Korea still recovering from the war whenever you were there and if so how?
When i was there, up in the division, we had one paved road. It went from Seoul to
Moonsani, and that’s where it ended. Everything else was dirt and paint trails. And the houses
up in that area were all mud and straw walls, floor, with rice straw roof. It was a very very poor
country. And we went back in 2007, and I was astonished. There was one bridge across the
Han river in Seoul, and it went to Kimpo airport when I got there and when I left. When we went
back there in 2007, basically every 100 yards there was a bridge. Well lit. And when I was there,
you couldn’t drink the water. Now you can drink their water. And they’ve got purer water than
we’ve got. So they have we
won the war because they have improved their economy, their
standard of living so much, and I understand that actually started back in ‘68 when the
government started trying to improve.
What were the contributions made by the US military in Korea post ‘53? So while you were
there what was the military doing? Were they trying to establish peace, maintain peace? What
was their primary purpose there ?
Our primary purpose there was to keep North Korea north of the 38th parallel. And to
protect the people while they improved their military where they would be able to handle it. I was
9 miles from where the crow flies from North Korea and now that is all South Korean troops up
there. So, we were their primary protection.
Did you have to engage in any kind of sort of battles while you were there or was there any kind
of confrontation or conflict?
We were constantly aware of North Korean agents because…. It wasn’t really a battle,
but we captured a 2 man submarine in the Injin river, it ran up on a sand bar. Its crew was 2
men with 4 North Korean agents. When I left there, that submarine was across from the MP
station at 2nd Infantry Division Usin. We actually captured a submarine so….. But as far as
battles, they were normally just something that happened once in a great while: A North Korean
agent would take a shot at somebody, like I say. One of our MP jeeps saw a lady in the road.
When they pulled up a stop and got out, she jumped up and ran. And they was 4 rounds fired
and all 4 of ‘em hit the radio in the jeep. To keep from calling it in. It was North Korean agents
who set that up. Yes ma’am. You had to take and watch what you were doing.
What were some of the most difficult or dangerous, happiest, rewarding memories you had
during your duty?
Which one of ‘em you want first?
Whichever one you want to give first. (laugh)
The happiest was when I met my wife.
How’d you meet your wife?
She worked at a store over from the MP station and I stopped in and bought a pair of
sunglasses. And I thought that was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. And I would go back.
And she doesn’t want to have anything to do with me. Eventually I won her around and she said
it was because I was a gentleman. Nobody else has ever called me a gentleman. That was the
happiest. And we’ve been married, happily married for a little over 49 years and I’d like to see
another 20 at least.
And The saddest I guess would be uh, when I put her on a plane the day before I left for
her to come to the States and watch her walk across that tarmac and climb up onto the plane.
But I knew the next day I would be going to Dallas Love Field and she’d be there. So…
Why’d she leave a day before you?
I wanted to make sure she got out before I left. I had a friend in the MP company that
was married to a girl over, uh, a Korean girl, and she was pregnant and he left and certain
Korean National Policemen tried to take advantage of her and the rest of the MP company, we
watched over her. I didn’t want my wife to go through that. I wanted to see her leave before I
did. I extended for 11 months in the service just so I could take and get her a visa. Get married
and get her a visa and get out of there. So…
That is so sweet. [laughs] What was the impact of the war even while you were stationed there,
your time there. What was the impact on your life being in Korea, apart from of course meeting
I have never seen a country or a people that were that poor and not want the
government to help them out. The Korean government didn’t have the money even if they
wanted to but they took the responsibility for their families and themselves upon themselves and
they did what they had to to survive. It was the poverty of the country, and the poverty of the
people. But the desire that the people had to improve their lives is something we could take
lessons on here in the United States.
Have you been back to Korea?
Went back in 2007, my wife and I did. She’s been back several times.
Umhm. Has it grown a lot since you’ve been back?
They have a highway system that rivals our interstates. They have tunnels through rock
mountains that the United States could learn from. They have high speed rail over there. When I
was there it was just basically little cart roads where military vehicles went over them and then
the ox drawn carts that some of the richer people of Korea had. And that tells you how poor they
were when they had oxcarts. They had taxis and busses; they had two sizes of busses. They
had what we always called “redbird” taxi because it was a little Japanese vehicle. And when we
went back, there was more cars on the streets of Seoul than there are on the streets of Dallas
or Houston. I’m serious.
That’s incredible. Um, why in your opinion do you think the Korean War is called The Forgotten
Because the federal government, President Truman did not want a third world war. It
was a police action by the United Nations. That’s what they called it: a police action. But
anytime you send military personnel and they are engaged in fighting, it’s a war.
But they did not want to call it that and for several years congress wouldn’t call it that. It
was always a police action. Well, we lost a lot of soldiers in Korea and if it was like the
politicians had wanted it, we wouldn’t have known how many. And if they had left General
MacArthur alone when he had went into Manchuria instead of relieving him of duty, there might
not have been a North Korea, there may have been just a country of Korea. But it was a war.
You ask anybody that was actually there being shot at and they will tell you: It was a war. It was
just as much a war as WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq: all of those were called wars.
This was called a police action. But it was a war. That’s the reason: the United States wanted to
forget about it, that’s why it’s called The Forgotten War.
Was it just that they didn’t want to acknowledge or accept that there was another another war so
close after Vietnam, so close after World war II?
Well it was before Vietnam.
Oh that’s right, after World War II.
It was close after World War II and it was a war that was fought like no other. America’s
commanders were in command of the United Nations forces, but since there was so many
countries over there fighting All
the other countries called it a war. But it was fought by United
Nations personnel So
the US I just don’t think wanted to acknowledge that they had gotten into
another war, especially one that did not come about by the United States being attacked.
Do you have any types or sort of messages that you would like to tell younger generations. Do
you think it’s important for them to know about Korea and what happened?
It’s important for them to know the true history from the Revolutionary War to the present
of it. There’s a lot that has been left out of history books that are not taught anymore
because it might offend this group or that group. And political correctness is killing the United
Is there anything else that you would like to share as far as maybe your occupation, your
responsibilities or any memories or messages you would like to share to preserve your legacy?
I just think that we ought to go back to the draft so that we will have a military. Right now,
our military is decimated and if we were ever attacked we wouldn’t have enough trained
personnel to repel it. So I just think that all of our younger people need to know our
need to know that we cannot stand anymore by ourselves. We have to have countries that we
are friends with: true friends, not just so-called
friends. If war started, I believe South Korea,
Israel, would probably be our main two allies. Our European allies, I just don’t believe they
remember what was done for them during World War I and World War II. The people have
forgotten about it. In South Korea, they have not forgotten about it. So they would stand with
us. Israel would stand with us. But basically, that’s our only two allies, so we need a stronger
military. And we need the wars that we are fighting right now to be fought by the military, not the
Do you remember the last war we lost?
Um Hum. Vietnam. Why? Because the politicians tried to run it instead of turning it over
to the military. That is the exact reason. You cannot draw a line in the sand and say “I’m not
going to step across that there but if you step across I’m with you.” They’re going to come
across. You got to be to where you can defend. You’ve got to have to have the military strength
to defend you own country. And our politicians can’t agree on anything. [laughter]
Do you think that it’s important that the Korean War Veterans memorial that we’re here doing
interviews is important and necessary?
I think it is because it’s still a forgotten war. We need to keep it in front of people and let
them visualize and see what happened over there and how South Korea has evolved in their
economy and uh….if we don’t it’s not going to be in the history books. So we just need to keep it
in front of the public.They need to know it. Like our medal of honor ceremony that we had last
Saturday. That has to be done every year and we have to publicize it. Used to, all the media
around here the first two or three years were out there, all the TV stations. This year there was
One or two newspapers and that was it. So we need to honor our military personnel. We need
to hold them all in high regard. One of these days it’s
just like law enforcement you
I heard that, too. [laughter]
Oh good, they’re doing all that banging. I’m like “What’s going on?”
[laughs ] Oh, next question.
I really think that might sum it up for me on my end. So if there is anything else that you would
like to share, a story, anything at all this is the time to do it.
Ok. God bless you. God bless the United States and God bless South Korea