Howard Ballard was born on July 25th, 1930, in Argyle, Wisconsin. He was one of ten children in his family. He quit high school to secure a job when his father passed away in order to help support his family. At the age of seventeen, he joined the U.S. Army in 1947 and was sent to Korea where he was assigned to train Korean Army Officers. Upon completion of his first tour of duty, he re-enlisted and was sent back to the United States for training. During his service in the Korean War, he participated in the Battle of Pusan Perimeter as well as battles with the North Korean and Chinese forces at the Yalu River.
Howard Ballard discusses being trained to serve in Korea from 1947 to 1948 with the 57th Field Artillery Battalion, 7th Division. He recalls leaving Korea but returning later after re-enlisting. He remembers landed at Pusan at night to fight the North Koreans at the Pusan Perimeter on August 2, 1950. He recalls how he saw North Korean soldiers slaughter entire South Korean villages which made it difficult for him to speak about the war.
Training ROK Officers and Korean Culture in the Late 1940s
Howard Ballard recalls training officers for the Republic of Korea (ROK) before the start of the Korean War. He remembers how the ROK hated the Japanese because they had taken everything of value back to Japan during the Japanese occupation of Korea. He recalls training the South Koreans to become officers, shoot Howitzers, and become leaders before the Korean War began (1948). He describes aspects of Korean culture, noting the attention to respect and the practice of purchasing wives through the use of pigs.
Fighting at the Battle of Pyongyang in October and November 1950
Howard Ballard recalls leaving Pusan after fighting there in August of 1950 to fight the North Koreans all the way through Pyongyang, North Korea, and up to the Yalu River along the Chinese border. He describes fighting the North Koreans at the Battle of Pyongyang in October of 1950, noting there was little resistance. He remembers seeing Chinese captured in November 1950 at the Yalu River despite General MacArthur telling President Truman that the Chinese were not fighting in the war.
Fighting at the Yalu River and Surviving a Land Mine Explosion
Howard Ballard discusses soldiers sustaining injuries while fighting in the Battle of Pyongyang on Thanksgiving Eve 1950. He recounts how U.S. troops headed for the Yalu River down very narrow roads and fought the Chinese until the U.S. troops were pushed back to the 38th parallel. He recalls how a land mine exploded near him and how he experienced temporary paralysis. He shares that he was sent to a MASH unit following the explosion but was soon returned to his unit.
[Beginning of Recorded Material]
HB: My name is Howard L. Ballard, and that’s spelled out H O W A R D and B, I mean Ballard is B A L L A R D.
I: B A L L A R D.
I: Right. What is your birthday?
HB: My birthday is July 25, I was born in 1930.
I: 30? Where were you born?
HB: I was born in Argyle, Wis, on a farm
in, outside of Argyle, Wisconsin.
I: Could you spell it? A?
HB: A R
I: Um hm. G
HB: G L E.
I: Okay. Argyle
HB: a farm, I was born there.
I: Yeah. And tell me about your family when you were growing up.
HB: Oh, my family?
I: Uh huh.
HB: Well, I had, there was seven of us boys
I: Seven of you?
I: Oh my goodness.
HB: Seven boys and three girls.
I: You got 10 siblings?
I: Including yourself?
HB: Yeah. No, I had, I’m in with the seven boys.
HB: But, I’m the only one living now. All, all my brothers and sisters are passed away now.
I: So did your parents work on the farm?
I: You have your own farm?
I: What kind?
HB: Dairy farm.
I: Dairy. So you have a lot of cows?
HB: No, not a lot of cows. We had a lot of chickens, though
I: Um hm.
HB: And we had, we only had two cows, but we milked those cows, and my momma churned the butter from the cows and, and
we always raised a small calf from one of the cows and butchered it in the Fall so we had the meat. But she raised all of her vegetables and stuff at home.
I: So you didn’t have any problems during the Great Depression era, right?
I: You didn’t have a shortage of food.
HB: We didn’t have a shortage of some things, but, and the things that they gave us, it wasn’t very good.
HB: I, my mom would just make me a shirt
over so I could go to school in the morning.
I: Oh, she made by herself.
HB: Well, the shirts were all school. Once fits all. One size.
I: One size fits all.
HB: Yeah. One size fits all.
HB: Same with the pants. The pants were all made over, you know, so that we could, you had to cut them down and stitch them up so they would fit us.
I: It was difficult time, isn’t it?
I: It was a very difficult time.
HB: It was a difficult time.
I: Yeah. So compared to these days, it’s
HB: Oh yeah. Yeah.
I: What school did you go?
HB: I went to a one room schoolhouse in Loyalty School.
I: Oh. How many students there?
HB: Oh, 25.
I: And all different grades, right?
HB: Well, every grade. Yeah. Every grade. There was, I was the smartest boy in my class, but I was the only one.
I: [LAUGHS] You are the smartest, but you are the only one.
I: I like that joke, huh?
I: I like that joke.
I: So how is it to be in the one room with so many different grades and learning. How do they teach all those different?
HB: Well, I’ll tell you what they do. There was even mice in that room. The mice were at one time running up my pants leg, and he jumped out the collar of my shirt.
I: You’re not joking.
HB: No, I’m not joking
I: You sure?
HB: Yeah, I’m sure. That’s the honest truth. And then when the, I was only in the second grade, and the guy, and behind me was a seventh or eighth grader, and he, he stepped on that mouse and killed it.
I: Oh my goodness.
HB: And I went to a , I, I always go up to Blanchardville, Wisconsin to Homecoming, and I walked in there a couple years ago and, and, and this lady, she, she was she
was older than I was, and she said “you know, I recognize you. I, I know who you are.”
I says “how do you know me?” She says “you’re the guy that a mouse ran up their pant leg”. That’s how she remembered me.
I: So, when did you graduate high school?
HB: Blanch, I didn’t graduate high school.
I: You didn’t graduate.
HB: I started, and then my Dad died, and my Mom didn’t have no money, so she told us we had to go out and work.
I: Uh huh.
HB: So I did go out and work.
I: What did you work?
HB: My oldest brother
had a, he was a foreman on a Bell telephone line, and he kept those clean. So he asked me one day if I could climb a tree and I says “you bet I can climb a tree”. So I worked for him with me and my other, my older brother did, so we could get money so Mom, Mom could have money.
I: How much did you make at the time?
HB: Well, less than a dollar. I remember that. But
I: Less than a dollar per day?
HB: Well, [Inaudible] you’re asking me for, per day?
HB: Well, I really can’t remember.
I: How about month? How about month? How did you make the money?
HB: I don’t remember that, either. See, I, I,
I: Roughly, roughly. Like how much, ten?
HB: Well, let’s see. I, I really can’t remember. See I’m, I’m a disabled veteran.
I: But anyway, don’t worry about it. So, when
did you join the military?
HB: When I was 17.
I: Which is ’47?
I: 1947 you joined the Army?
I: Did you volunteer?
HB: I did.
I: And, where did you get the basic?
HB: Basic training, at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
I: Fort Knox, Kentucky.
HB: And, what was your MOS, rifleman?
I: Rifleman with, my MOS was 531,
I: Um hm.
HB: That’s the Infantry Basic. I says, “Is that 3rd Armor Division is in Fort Knox, Kentucky.”
HB: And I was, took basic right there.
I: So what did you actually, when did you leave for Korea?
HB: Right after basic, and we had 13 weeks basic, then I went to Korea in, I landed in Korea in 1948.
I: Oh, so you were there before the War?
HB : I was there before the War and, and, and with the War.
I: So in 1948, where, did you go straight to Korea or did you stop by in Japan?
HB: No, I went straight to Korea, and I was stationed in Seoul, Korea. Seoul.
I: Seoul. In 1948, where did you leave from? Where did you depart from?
HB: San Francisco.
I: How many?
HB: How many?
I: Soldiers in the ship.
HB: Oh, I don’t know. A couple, about, a couple, three thousand.
I: And what was your unit division?
HB: Well, I didn’t have a unit until I got to Korea.
I: What was it?
HB: It, I was with the 57th Field Artillery Battalion.
I: 57th Field Artillery Battalion, and they were attached to the 7th Division.
I: Um hm.
I: So you were, tell me about the Korea you saw in 1948. Where did you arrive, in Pusan?
HB: Yes. Yes. We, then we took a troop train to Seoul.
I: So tell me about those, the Korea that you saw, remember.
I: Tell me. Describe detail.
I: People, house, buildings, street, anything
that you can describe.
HB: No highway hardly at all. They were all, there were no blacktop highways, and they didn’t have a sewer system in there, either. And, and, and we were not, everything was off limits except there was a main road all the way up to our PX. That was where we got our food, and they, they didn’t want us to go in any restaurants because they, they didn’t, for certain reasons,
I don’t know why. But they, they didn’t tell us. They just, they were all off limits to us.
I: So there were no sewer systems, so that smelled bad.
HB: You know what a honey wagon is?
HB: They had a lot of those.
I: What is it? Explain it.
HB: A honey wagon is, it’s human waste in there, and they would take that honey wagon and load it up, we had, even from our barracks, you know, it’s a big old 50 gallon drums, and they would put it down in their honey wagon, and
They’d take it out to the fields, and they would, had a big hole there in the ground, and they kept it where they kept it, and when their plants got growing, they would put it on the field.
I: As a fertilizer.
HB: Oh, fertilizer. That’s what it was. Yes.
I: It smelled bad, right?
I: What about people? Do they live good or bad?
HB: I guess there were some good ones. Real, they lived pretty, they lived good, but not very, not a lot of them.
I: They were poor, right?
HB: They were poor, you bet they were poor. They, they didn’t have very many, I’ll tell you a story.
I: Um hm.
HB: I was training, what I was doing is, I was training the South Korean men, about 12 of them, to be officers in the, in the Artillery.
HB: And I had a, there, I was teaching them how to send out fire commands to the FDC, Fire Direction Center.
HB: And they were going to become officers, okay. So every morning I’d walk up on that hill. I was only 18 years old
HB: And they would, they, there was a brigadier general, I remember that. He, He was the only officer in, in the Korean Army then.
HB: In the Korean, he was in the Korea, see, the Korea didn’t have an Army then because they were governed by Japan
for 40 years or something like that, and they hated the Japanese. They didn’t like them. But Japanese didn’t treat them well, right, either. They took away everything of value and took it back to Japan you know.
HB: So they didn’t like that.
HB: And I don’t blame them. They, they were, so anyway they would have to salute me. Every morning I walked up that hill, they would salute me. Well, and this one morning this one guy, one of those guys didn’t salute
me, and that brigadier general saw that, and he made him went around that parade field with his pack on till he fell. I thought that was, it wasn’t good. But it was very strict discipline.
I: Korean brigadier general, you talking about Korean?
I: Korean general?
I: What’s his name?
HB: I don’t know. But I got a big plaque at home, I, a piece of paper with his name on it that they gave me
after I got done training him.
I: [Inaudible] Peck? Peck. Peck. Last name Peck.
HB: That sounds familiar.
I: Yeah. Anyway, so the Korea was miserable at the time, and what happened? What, where did you stay?
HB: I stayed in a barracks.
I: In Seoul.
HB: Yeah. We had a barracks there.
I: And what did you do there? Training Korean people?
HB: I, I got to train the, the,
the Korean, the officers.
HB: They weren’t officers yet.
I: Um hm.
HB: But they, and then I took them out to the firing range and learned them how to direct fire, you know.
I: Um hm.
HB: So they knew how to direct fire with an ampule of 105 Howitzer.
HB: Yeah. That’s what I did. I didn’t have to stand in inspections. I, I could go to his mess hall when I wanted to and, that was pretty, I thought that was pretty nice.
I: How much were you paid at the time?
HB: Well, I went in,
when I went in the Service, it was $75 a month.
HB: But I was, I took allotment check out. I sent, was gonna send it home to my Mom, and then they put, they put money in with it, the government did, and I got, I draw, only drawed $13.50 over [Inaudible]
I: Were there any PX there in Seoul?
HB: Yeah, but you didn’t
need nothing, no money. [Inaudible] you didn’t need no money. Everything was given to you anyway.
I: Did you know any Korean people at the time?
HB: I got to know some. I got to know this one guy that was, I was training to be an officer,
I: Um hm,
HB: And he told me he had two wives. Yeah. He, I, I said “how, how do you take, I can’t take care of, wouldn’t take care of one wife, [Inaudible] two”.
He says “well, if you got the acreage, if you had a, a, he had a, a kind of control over a acre and a half of ground. Well, you can, he said that he took a pig over to this farmer and gave him that pig for that, for his daughter.
HB: And then he said he kept that daughter for two weeks, and if he didn’t like her and
couldn’t get along with her, he could take her back and get his pig back.
I: Oh my God. Are you sure? Cause you heard from him?
HB: Sure. That’s sure.
I: Oh boy. So that’s how Korea was at the time.
I: So when did you leave Korea?
HB: Well, Syngman Rhee was President in Korea at that time. Syngman Rhee.
I: Yeah. In 1948 he was elected. Yes.
HB: Yeah he was. And so in 1949, first part of ’49, he wanted everybody out of,
all the soldiers out of Korea. He sent the 7th Division to Hokaido, Japan to be, and, and we went, we was out on the ocean. We didn’t know where we was going.
I: Um hm.
HB: But, so it’s finally one morning we, they wouldn’t tell us, either.
I: So you went to Hokaido.
HB: I, I went, I went to Hawaii.
HB: I went to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
I: Huh, very nice.
HB: Oh, they had
beautiful, it was beautiful there, yeah.
I: So you stayed there?
HB: I stayed there for, I even, I reenlisted while I was there so I could stay, I, for one year. If I wouldn’t have reenlisted, I would have missed Korea. That war in Korea.
I: So when did you go back to Korea?
HB: Well, I was on my way home, 10-4 discharger,
and when I, and I was out in the Pacific Ocean, and we heard over the loud speaker that the Korean War started. The North Koreans came across the Yalu, I mean North Korea came across in the 38th Parallel, and there were, they were at war. But you know, they actually didn’t start that War.
HB: You, Who do you think
started that War?
I: North Korea.
HB: No, they didn’t, no.
I: What do you mean?
HB: It, they didn’t, they did, They had to get permission from Russia.
HB: Russia wouldn’t give them permission for a long time, and finally Russia said well, we’ll give you the tanks and the ammunition, but you have to fight it yourself.
HB: They wanted to make it one Korea, and if Russia wouldn’t have gave them permission, there would have been no War.
HB: That’s the way
I: How did you know that?
HB: Oh, I knew that.
I: How? How did you know?
HB: Because I knew Russia controlled all the Communist countries.
I: How did you know that?
HB: That’s the way it is.
I: Yeah. So you were on the way to your home, and you was in the Ocean in the Pacific
I: And you learned from it.
I: So what happened?
HB: So I said “I went all the way to San Francisco”
HB: And, uh, the 4th Replacement Depo there, they
were going to reassign me, and, they said, when I walked into there, I, they asked me my name and my serial number and what my MOS was. I said” My MOS is 521”, and they said “Oh, we got a place for you”. I said “You have, huh?” “Yeah.” “I don’t want to go back to Korea” I said. And, but then he said “That’s where you’re headed”. So the 2nd Infantry Division
was in, was in Washington, Seattle, Washington, and they were training to go back to, to, to go into Korea.
I: You mean, the Seattle, Washington?
I: Yeah, Seattle, Washington. They were training me to go back to Korea. So I walked into the headquarters, put down my bag and the Captain looked at me and said “How long you been in the service, soldier” and I said “Three years”.
So he says “I got a job for you”. He said “You take over the 2nd Platoon”. He said “Put your stripes on”. He had made me a Corporal, and so I had to have them on by morning. So I went back to my barracks and started sewing my Corporal stripes on, and I took over the 2nd Platoon. They were all young kids. I was the old man in the bunch, and I was 20.
I: So you relocated to 2nd Division,
and you become like a leader there.
I: So when did you leave for Korea from there?
HB: Well, we, we trained for about three months.
HB: At, combat, combat training, how to knock people down with the butts of your rifle and how to survive in an assault. Then about the, we landed in, we went back, our whole division went, the whole 2nd Infantry Division,
HB: And we landed at Pusan. There was a Pusan Perimeter they called it
HB: And we landed there, and around the 1st of 2nd of August of 1950.
I: I’m sorry?
I: So 2nd or 3rd of August.
HB: 2nd, yeah, of August of 1950.
HB: And then, the North Koreans were only about 35 miles from Pusan
at that time, and, so. It was, we, we came in at night, and I don’t think they knew where we, that we were whole Division coming in there. They didn’t know that. But what happened, the next morning when it got light, they dropped the 82nd Airborne in behind these North Koreans. So they were trapped between the 2nd Division and the 82nd Airborne.
So they couldn’t go either way, and there was a slaughter for three days. We, we, we just, we, they, our Infantry just slaughtered.
I: You were there?
I: You fought there.
I: How was it? Coming, I mean, were you scared to death, or what happened?
HB: Scared to death, I guess I did. I was. Everybody was scared. Kids,
we were all kids. And I was Pop, 20 years old. So what, so we were scared. But, but we, that’s what we had to do. I was a mortar, I had charge of the mortar platoon.
I: You saw many people dying there,
HB: Oh yeah.
I: Being killed right away.
I: How did you feel about it?
HB: I, I, I was scared. I was just, I, I know that the North Koreans didn’t pick up their dead.
I: Did you talk to yourself that why am I here?
HB: Yeah. I, I said that one, a few times, but I said
The, our government sent us here, and I was gonna, I was gonna fight, yeah.
I: How many people did you see just being killed there, so many, countless or
HB: Thousands. Do you know what the North Koreans did when they came into a village in the, in the, in South Korea?
I: Um hm.
HB: They killed everybody they could, and then they dragged them up on a hill and left them on a hill. That was terrible.
I: Um hm. I know.
You went through all this.
HB: I sure did. And, you have to grow, grow up in a hurry.
HB: Yeah. I couldn’t, I couldn’t talk about this 20 years ago, but I’ve been giving, I’ve talked to a couple times to, at Rock Valley College. I’m getting better at it.
I: Do you have a PTSD?
HB: I had it when I, I had it when I first come back.
HB: Yeah. I did.
I: You still have a flash those
HB: It’s not, not no more. I don’t, I, I, I dream sometimes on it, but it, it isn’t that bad. So, yeah.
I: How did you think that you survived that
HB: How did I survive it?
I: Yeah. How did you think that you survived it?
HB: Well, well actually I shouldn’t have, I shouldn’t have been sent back to the front line. See, I was hit by a landmine.
HB: 1951. I got hit by a landmine.
I: Where were you? So after Pusan, where did you go?
HB: All the way to the Yellow River.
I: Okay. So you were,
You were not in the Inchon Landing, but you moved north, right?
HB: We, we, we moved north, yeah. We, we went all the way to, to Pyongyang and all the way up to the Yellow River.
I: And tell me about when you entered into the Pyongyang. When, when was it? When did you go into the Pyongyang?
HB: Right, that was in, that was in
November, I think it was around, around Christ, around
I: October, late October.
HB: I think it was around Thanksgiving time.
I: Thanksgiving time?
HB: of 1950.
I: Yeah. And how was the battle when you entered the Pyongyang? It was already
HB: Well, they turned a bunch of rats on us. They were a lot of scientists up there, and they said they, we captured a white Russian.
I: So there was not much resistance from North Koreans, right?
HB: No, no.
HB: But if they were smart because the Chinese, Chinese came in and, see they, the North, the North Koreans went in to, into China and, and Mongolia, and, but that, and our General said that the war was, MacArthur said
You’re, the war is over. He said we had no resistance for over a week and a half, and we just kept moving on, no resistance.
I: So you thought that you won the game, right?
HB: That was, that was a fake.
I: And MacArthur told you guys that you’re going to have a Christmas back home.
HB: Yeah. They did. They said we, that’s why they didn’t issue us no winter clothes. They, we spent the whole
winter in summer clothes.
I: So did you see the Yalu River?
I: How big was it?
HB: A pretty good size. I know it, it was froze over, and they were coming across on the ice, and see, our Truman, I mean MacArthur wanted to bomb that ice, and Truman said you can’t bomb that ice. You’ll, the Chinese will come right into the war. Well, the Chinese was already there.
I: Already there.
I: They had, they were smart, those Chinese.
They set up OP’s all over that whole observation post.
I: Did you see them actually in your eye?
HB: Well, we had captured some of them.
I: Did you?
I: Did, by yourself?
HB: No, not by myself.
I: Did you see any Chinese soldier captured at the time?
I: You saw them?
HB: I saw them captured, sure.
I: In your eyes?
I: When was it, in Nov, early November or late October?
HB: Around, it was November.
HB: Yeah. Around Thanksgiving time.
I: So you knew
the Chinese were there?
I: But the MacArthur didn’t really
HB: They said they weren’t there, and he told Truman that, too.
HB: And Truman, so, Truman didn’t want to the war. He didn’t want them in the war. So, but they were already, they were smart. They handed, they were, they set up OP forces all over North Korea.
I: So what happened? I mean when did you see the Chinese encounter you?
HB: When did I see the Chinese what?
I: Encounter. I mean, when did they begin to attack you guys?
I: Tell me about that story.
HB: Oh, I had, okay, I had a platoon, and I had to some ROC soldiers hit it because we weren’t fully equipped.
HB: I had, I know I had four ROC soldiers in my platoon, on my squad, in my squad, a nine man squad and, and I had four ROC soldiers in it, and it was,
It was Thanksgiving evening, or, yeah.
I: Um hm.
HB: I think it was Thanksgiving, but anyway, we were on a hill, our platoon was on this hill and they start, I, we started getting incoming artillery, but it wasn’t coming from the enemy side. It was coming from our own side, and I,
I said to myself, I said why are they firing on top of us? Phosphorus, white phosphorus, and you know what white phosphorus does. You ever see white phosphorus? It’ll hit you here, and it’ll come out down here, you know. There’s one way you can cut it off is cut the oxygen off of them. That’s the only way. And, and they were firing on us with white phosphorus shells. Okay. So it was getting dark, and you could hear
these bugles being blown. You could hear t hem. And these, these ROC soldiers, they told us that no, no, no North Koreans, I said well who do you think they are? He says Chinese, and I, I turned around, and they ran away from us because they were just, they were young guys, too, you know. And I, the only way you could have stopped them was shot them, but I, I didn’t, wouldn’t do that, wouldn’t have done that.
So anyway, that night I sat two guys down, lack of communication was a very problem over there because we had UN forces, Australia, and then British and us and much, much, a lot of them there was, and they didn’t communicate very, they didn’t even communicate with their own platoon because we, we shouldn’t have been on that hill. And so I sent my coordinates
back to the company, and they said we was in enemy territory. That’s why they were firing on us.
HB: They were, shouldn’t have been put on that hill at all. So I sent two guys down the hill to tell the 1st platoon that we were up there, and they opened up on us with a 50 caliber machine gun, and shot, shot one of my guys right in the leg. So, I told my guys, I said we have to get out of here.
We have to get out of here. And so I laid the guy in, in a, in a ditch and covered him with leaves and covered him with little branches and then I put a tourniquet on him. I told him every once in a while loosen it and then tighten it back up again. So. I said we’ll be back and get you in the morning, I’ll promise you that. I said if you can make it through the night, we’ll be back and get you. So, I walked in, I walked them guys all night, and
just as it’s getting daylight, we came to Baker Company, or Charlie Company, one of, I’m not sure, and anyway, I told them the story and then we counter attacked that hill, and we found our, my guy, and he was alive. He was still doing what we told him to do, loosening and tightening his, his. But it was so cold that night that his leg, the blood clot. It clotted, clotted. So he, he didn’t bleed much.
So that was good for that.
I: So from there, how, where did you go? You withdrew, right?
I: You withdrew from there.
HB: We withdrawed, and we, we, we would, headed for the Yalu River. See, the roads were very narrow over there at that time, and two, two, two cars couldn’t pass each other on the road.
I: Right . You said that you were about from the Yalu River and then we, you withdraw, right?
HB: No, not. Well, I said I was, we went to the river. We, we were at the Yalu River
HB: when the Chinese were coming, coming across on the ice.
I: Um hm .
HB: Yes, I was there.
I: And then from there, where did you go?
HB: Well, RO, Colonel Daily, I remember that, Colonel Daily came down the road and he says we had to get out the best way we could.
HB: Well, we had a two or three thousand guys there.
We could have put up a heck of a fight. And we were backed up against the mountain there. But I told, called my guys together and I told them, I says what do you want to do, get killed here or get, they had a machine gun that’s set up down below so we couldn’t get out. They were smart. They let us go in, but, and we had to go out the same way. But they, so they had a bigger machine gun that he, that set up there, and if it wouldn’t have been for the good Lord,
We all would have been dead because I told the guys it is better to try to run that, that machine gun that was, that stayed where it was at. And when, but he, with you, you might not believe this, but every time I tell that, they, they shake their heads. We went, we went down through there with our ¾ ton truck, and our ammunition was in a trailer behind us, and that’s where we were with.
So we went through that, oh, it’s all done?
I: No, no. Keep talking.
HB: Oh. But what we did, we walked, drove down that way, and there was not one shot fired at us. We walked right through that machine gun nest, and not one shot fired at us. And we went 40 miles that night .
I: To where?
HB: Well, wherever that road took us.
I don’t know where we went. I really don’t know where we stopped. We stopped and had a nap. So, well, some of us napped, and some of us didn’t. But
I: So you came down to Seoul again, right?
HB: Well, we was heading down toward the, that way. We didn’t make it then.
I: So where did you go?
HB: We can only go so far, and they made us stop. They had MPs there stopping us after we went about 70 miles
I: Um hm.
HB: They stopped us and put us
In a big field. They wouldn’t let us go no farther.
I: Yeah. So when did you leave Korea?
HB: I left Korea in ’50, ’50, the last part of ’51 I think it was. Now, that, I think, I, I’m pretty sure that’s what it was.
I: So where were you then? Where were you relocated after you withdraw from North Korea?
HB: You know, let’s see. Well, we was, we were, we were below the 38th Parallel.
HB: Some place.
HB: That, that’s, that sounds familiar.
I: Um hm.
HB: But I did, I don’t know, You’re, you’re driving these, I, I didn’t know names at the time.
I: Yeah. So what did you do there? It was Chinese all the time that as your enemy you had to fight against them? What did you do after that?
HB: Well, after, after Kunu-ri
I: You were in the Kunu-ri
HB: But see what happened is that I
didn’t, I had broken my dog tags, you know what dog tags are,
HB: And I couldn’t wear them around my neck no more or they’d fall off, so I carried them in my pocket, and one, when I carried them in my pocket, one day a Lieutenant saw me without those dog tags around my neck, and he busted me. So I wasn’t in charge with my men no more, and so I volunteered to be a forward observer. That’s directing
fire for the mortars,
I: Um hm.
HB: And that’s when I stepped on a landmine.
I: Oh. Where was it?
HB: I don’t know. We, I, I was, I was had been on a, off, off that, I mean on de, offense work. Two weeks, and I was getting relieved. So I, the Captain told us that field down below us was all mines. He says go way around that field to get out of here.
So he says I need some liter bearers up here.
I: Um hm.
HB: He said, we had eight or ten people who were wounded, and so I was, I took an Infantry guy down with me and my radio operator and me, and my radio operator must have stepped right over it. He was, he was ahead of us, and that Infantry guy stepped on it, and I was right behind him, and I got, got blowed, I got blowed away like a Superman,
You know? And I got, I was paralyzed for a long time. I couldn’t move or nothing. That concussion will, will kill you right like that. Concussion, that must have been a concussion mine or something under there.
I: So you didn’t step on the mine, but somebody else did, and then
HB: I got all the concussion
I: Push you down, okay.
HB: He blew a hole like that in his rear end.
I: Oh boy. Were you wounded?
HB: Who, me wounded?
HB: I was wounded, but not, not like a bullet or anything, you know.
I: Right ,right.
HB: I was paralyzed, and they flew me down to a hospital.
HB: Some place.
I: In Korea or Japan?
HB: No, in Korea.
I: In Korea.
HB: And they, I stayed there for quite a while
I: A MASH unit?
I: MASH unit?
HB: It was sort
of like that, yeah.
HB: You’ve seen MASH.
I: Yeah, and then what happened?
HB: Well, I, after I don’t know how long because I don’t remember it, I started moving, and then after I started moving I started walking, I, I could sit up and I don’t know how long it took me to go, be able to walk. But once I started walking, they told me I had to go back up to my unit, and I didn’t even know what my job was up there. I don’t remember, see.
I should have been sent to a, I should have been sent to a mental hospital, what I should have been. I, probably Japan or someplace.
HB: I don’t, but I don’t know. But then I got up there, and all the people that I came over there were rotated out.
I: Um hm.
HB: They’ve gone home, and nobody knew who I was. They said well who are you? Well I said I’m one of the forward observers that, [INAUDIBLE] then call them back for fire. You a forward
Observer? Yeah, I was, I said. Well, you have to train your own replacement they said. I said,
I: Give me a break.
HB: I didn’t even know what it was.
I: Ah, that ‘s
HB: I didn’t know. So I told the Captain I can’t do that. I don’t remember. So, I still don’t remember that. I don’t remember, I, I probably could, could, it would probably come back to me once I did, you know. I don’t know.
I, All I wanted to do was get out of there.
HB: I wanted to come home.
HB: Yes. And I was a, I was able to, I had enough points to come home long before that, and I, I, I volunteer, I, I went home shortly after that, well, I tell you; I, I had, I, I just couldn’t get home.
I: So have you been back to Korea since then?
HB: No. But I seen it, I seen pictures of it on tv
HB: And it’s nothing like when I was there.
I: I mean, you know now Korean economy and, and democracy is very prospering
HB: Yes it is.
I: Strongest nation
I: What do you think about those things?
HB: I think it’s wonderful.
I: Can you believe that the country you fought for 70 years ago, completely destroyed, you so many people being killed. You were in, in those situation, and now the, that country is not anymore. What do you think about this?
HB: Well, what do you mean the country ain’t
I: The Korea is now, it’s a very
HB: Yeah, yeah. I, yeah.
The Korean Ambassador came to, to our, one of our meetings one time and gave us all a cell phone.
I: So what do you think about this whole thing, that Korea become now 11th largest economy in the world. What do you think of the whole thing?
HB: Well, I think it’s good for and wonderful for the Korean people to have that, you know? That’s something they would not have had.
I: You are big part of that. Your, your
service there and your sacrifice, without it, there is no Korea like that. Do you, you understand, right?
I: Yeah. You’re a big part of this whole, whole transformation that nobody really, really expect to be happening there.
HB: Well, the Korean Ambassador told us they would be a Communist country now.
I: Yeah, if you didn’t,
HB: They wouldn’t have the, they wouldn’t have the economy that they’ve got now, you know?
So you should be proud of yourself.
HB: Yeah. I suppose I should be, and I’m proud of what I, what I did for our government, you know. I did. But
I: Is it too hard?
I: Is it too, too, too, too, too much to deal with?
I: Your memories
HB: Yeah, it’s bringing back some, it ‘s bringing back a lot of memories. But I have to deal with it.
I: Um hm.
HB: I know. I have to deal with it.
I: But that’s why we are doing this because you really didn’t talk about this, and not many people know about your story, and we don’t teach in the classroom about this.
HB: I, I told this story to, that story to Rock Valley College one time.
I: Um hm.
HB: Yeah. And it’s a, it’s a situation where, that a, that a seven a 20 year-old child as I call them. But it’s not a child anymore. But you grow up in a hurry and
You just do. You do what your, what the commanders tell you to do.
I: Yeah. That’s why we are doing this interview, and this interview, the students and teachers will be able to use it on and listen from you, and they will learn from you, okay? That’s why we are doing this.
HB: Yeah, oh I see.
I: Have you been back to Korea? No.
I: Do you want to go?
I: Do wanna see that
completely transformed country?
HB: Well I’ve never, at 80 years old, it ain’t easy. I seen it when they even got a superhighway there.
HB: But I, I couldn’t have imagined that.
I: It’s not just about the superhighway. We, we have more than 20 bridges over the Han River.
HB: You do.
I: And it’s all sky, sky rocketing buildings and, we have 11th largest economy in the world.
HB: I know it.
I: I think you have to see them.
Don’t you want to go back?
HB: I ain’t got nobody to go back with.
I: You can go by yourself. I mean, your friend, Gebhardt, he wants to go.
HB: Well, I wouldn’t mind going if, yeah.
I: Korean government pays for everything and, except the half of the airfare. So if you have, you know, you just pay half of the airfare, and everything will be taken care of by the Korean, Korean government.
Do you want to go? I can arrange that.
HB: You can?
HB: I wouldn’t mind going, if it, yeah, I, I, wouldn’t, It would be different than, than when I was there before. I know.
I: You have to see how Korea became the one of the advanced country in the world, and you will not going to believe in your eyes that what you are going to see there.
HB: Yeah. Did, Did Charlie, Charlie want to go back?
HB: He would.
HB: He hasn’t been back, huh?
HB: He hasn’t been back, has he? He has, Charlie didn’t go, hasn’t been gone, hasn’t been back.
I: No. No. He wants to go back.
HB: He was a, he was at Ch’ongch’on, Cho
I: Yeah, Chosin Reservoir, yes. Yeah. I think two of you will make a good friends and go back to Korea and see how Korea
has changed. You will love it.
HB: I probably will.
I: Yeah. So I will recommend your name to Korean government so that they can contact you, okay?
HB: Uh huh. I got a, I got a certificate of award from the Korean government signed by that General, Brigadier General, and that’s, I’m happy about that.
I: Um hm. Howard, I am so sorry that you had to go
through this very painful memories again while you’re telling me about this. But I think it’s a good, healing process. You talk to me, and you let it out, and you get over with it.
HB: Well, you ask, they told me I had to let, get it out of my system, and it’s, can you imagine 60 years, over 60 years now.
I: You need to get it over with it, but in order to do that you need to talk about it, otherwise it’s not going to come out of you, right?
HB: Well, it’s better now than I used to be because I never used to be able even talk about half of what I just talked to you about.
I: Um hm.
HB: So it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s getting better.
I: Yeah. I hope that you feel better.
HB: I probably won’t never live to be 100% because I’m 68 years old, 67.
I: No, no, no. You
I: [LAUGHS] You wish you want to be 67, right.
HB: I, I’ve been, I’ve been, I’ve been taken for 68.
HB: But I, I’m gonna be 67 in July now.
I: Yeah. You
HB: I keep saying 67.
I: Yeah. You look like a 67.
I: You look like you’re 67.
HB: Yeah. Well I
I: You are, you are the one of very few who were in Korea before the war.
HB: Yeah I was.
I: So I really want to recommend you to go back to Korea
HB: Yeah. I was there. I know what it was like.
HB: Can you imagine I’m, I seen the, I seen a ¾ ton truck when, now this is before the war. He hit a dog, and do you know how many people grabbed, went out and got that dog?
I: See, that’s how poor Korean was at the time. They had something to eat
HB: Yeah. They were, There was a big hole in, in it the size of this hill,
you know Kujiama,
HB: You know what Kujiama is? They lived in there.
I: And now we are giving money to other country.
I: Can you believe that?
HB: A little boy, really little boys used to say, chocoletto, chocoletto
HB: And I, and we would all give them candy. That’s, they wanted candy, yeah. They, choco, I mean, Kujiama, that’s sort of a thief
I: Yeah. But now
HB: I learned to talk in a little Korean.
HB: I says, and I, I want to say it, but I want to say it right, you know. I can’t, haven’t said many words in a, quite a long time. I know, I know how to say thank you very much. Kumasifedah
I: Kumasifedah, yes. Very good
HB: Yeah. Yeah. I used to have to talk it because I had, was trying to learn, to learn them South Koreans do understand what I was saying, and I learned a little of their language, too. So.
I: Howard, it is my great honor and pleasure to meet you, be able to talk with you about your very hard services, I mean the, the difficult situations that you had to deal in Korea, and I want to thank you for, I want to thank you for sharing that story with me. And students and teachers will listen to you in the
Internet because it’s going to uploaded to the Internet. We not going to forget what you did for Korean people, and that’s why we are doing this, and on behalf of Korean nation, I want to thank you. Thank you for your fight. And I really, really want you to go back to Korea and see what’s been done based upon, based on your fight for us, based on your sacrifice and honorable service. So I want to thank you.
And remember Korean people never forget, okay? Yeah. So that’s why Korean government running this Revisit Program.
HB: I’m afraid that, I’m afraid now that North Korea is so wild they are going to try it again.
HB: I think so.
I: But we have a strong military there with the U.S. Army there, 2nd Division still there
HB: I was in that.
HB: Yeah. That’s, that’s one thing I,I’m afraid of it right now, that, that guy up there in North Korea, he’s, he don’t know.
I: Yeah. Alright, thank you.
HB: Yeah, thank you.
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