James Vance Scott
James Vance Scott was raised on a farm and later worked the majority of his life at the Coca-Cola Bottling Company until he retired in 1994. He took a break from his career in the fall of 1950, when he was drafted into the U.S. Army into the 45th Infantry, 1st Division, to serve in the Korean War. He was sent to basic training in Leesville, Louisiana, at Fort Polk, then attended anti-aircraft training in El Paso, Texas. He received the alert of his going to Korea in February of 1951. He describes the bunkers built for soldiers to sleep in, the grenade he was supposed to activate to stop foreign troops from taking over anti-aircraft machinery, and his encounters with North Korean soldiers who surrendered voluntarily in order to find food.
Air Support and Bunker Life
James Vance Scott describes being a squad leader and furnishing air and ground support for the infantry. He explains that they moved around many times while on the front lines and were stationed mainly in the bunkers they built to sleep in during the war. He describes the mindset of the home-front concerning the Korean War draft. He says the conditions in Korea were very unpleasant.
The Big Grenade and Surrender of North Korean Soldiers
James Vance Scott describes the grenade attached to his anti-aircraft machinery that he was instructed to activate if the troops were ever overrun. He recounts how they were also to be back-up support with machine guns. He describes the Battle of Old Baldy, including the surrender of two North Korean soldiers who voluntarily walked into the American camp starving and cold. He describes his first encounter with Chinese soldiers, as well as seeing a dead enemy civilian.
James Vance Scott describes his reflections on how servicemen are treated by the American public. He shares that the Korean War was not considered a victory because of the way it ended, which contributed to it being called "the forgotten war". He reflects on the shrinking size of his chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association because of continually losing veterans.
My name’s James Vance Scott. I was born August the 29, 1928 in Texarkana, Texas. Raised on a farm, my family was farmers. And in 1949 I decided I didn’t like farming so I went to work for the Coca-Cola bottling company in Texarkana, Texas. I worked for them for 47 and a half years, retired in 1994, and I went back, was called back to work, and worked part time two years, retired in 1996. I was a salesman for one year, I was drafted into the army on October the 3rd, 1950. I took basic training in Leesville, Louisiana, and it was called Camp Polk then, later it was changed to Fort Polk, Louisiana. I went in December 1950 I went to El Paso for anti-aircraft training. I was drafted into the 45th Infantry division, I was in Battery B, 145th AAA Artillery, and that’s why we went to El Paso for anti-aircraft. I was alerted to go to Korea in February, 1951. I went to Japan in, I think it was January 1951, spent nine months in Japan and went to Korea and left Korea for stateside sometime around the 1st of September, 1952. Went to Fort Hood, Texas, and was discharged from Fort Hood, Texas on September the 22nd, 1952. Came back home, went back to my old job with Coca-Cola bottling company and in 1954, I was changed from the Sales department to the Service department. And I worked there until 1994 when I retired, and then they called me back because OSHA had put in new requirements about Freon, and that was my primary job was refrigeration, the last two years that I worked part time. Then, after I retired, I didn’t do much of anything except garden, go camping, hunting, and fishing, that type of activity. I love the water sports, I skied the last time, water skied, when I was 75 years old. That’s pretty much my career. I married a wonderful woman, on January the 1st 1954. We had four children, I have four grandchildren, I have two greatgrandchildren, and I belong to a Presbyterian church and I’m a big church worker, I believe in Christ.
Ok. So let’s rewind really quick. You were working with Coca-Cola whenever you were drafted?
Yes, I had worked from September the 15th, 1949, until I was drafted in October the 3rd, of 1950, so, just a little over a year.
Did you know that you were going to be going Korea?
Oh, I figured I would because at that time they needed troops over there desperately, our men that were over there in June of 1950 were being mutilated, they were being overrun as history will show how the North was pushing the South Korean army and American United people south.
Had you heard of Korea before the war and the outbreak?
Yes, because I had a friend that was in the Air Force that had been stationed over there a little bit before the war broke out and he was lucky enough that he had been brought back home. He was in the Air Force and they had closed the air base.
So you kind of had an idea of where Korea was, or what was going on anyways. So you weren’t already in the military or anything, you were drafted into army or air force?
Yeah I was in the army, the 45th Infantry division, and that was an Oklahoma National Guard Unit that was mobilized. I was drafted and put in the 45th Infantry division as, they called them, fillers as you know a National Guard are just small units, and anti-aircraft Artillery company consisted of 166 people.
So, what was your primary job?
I was a squad leader.
What were you responsible for?
Well I had ten men, which was two squads about five each. And each squad had an anti-aircraft weapon.
Where were you station for the most part when you were in Korea?
I don’t know anything really about… We were up in the front most of the time, we were assigned to an Infantry company. We were furnishing air support and ground support for the infantry company. We would stay up on the front line for a while, it’s been too long to remember, I didn’t really keep any records. And then we’d go back in reserve for maybe two, couple of weeks and then we would move, we moved around three or four times when we were on the front lines.
What was your reaction, whenever you found out that the Korean War was going on that you were going to be drafted, and sent over there, how did your family react?
Well, I guess, seriously of course, my mother knew that it was going to happen, I’d had two older brothers that had been in World War II, and when North Koreans invaded South Korea they started drafting soldiers into the Infantry, into the Army as fast as they could train them really. I was just an accepted fact I would say.
How were the living conditions, as far a sleeping conditions, clothes, food, when you were over there.
While we were in Korea it was very unpleasant, most of the time when we were up on the front lines we got bunkers. Corps of Engineers helped us to a certain extent, and we built bunkers, and we would sleep in them when we could, but you had to be on guard, you know. With us being with anti-aircraft weapons, we didn’t move, we were up with the Infantry, and we didn’t move out into the no man’s land and into enemy territory like the infantry did. They went out and made contact and pulled back when it was necessary. We would advance along as we controlled the area.
Do you have any idea how much you were being paid at that time?
Started out at 65 dollars a month, and they took out 5 dollars a month for laundry. I sent home, I had an allotment at home, of 45 dollars a month. Of course, when I say 65 dollars and 5 dollars a month for laundry It doesn’t sound like I could send home 45 dollars a month, but what happened in this case, there was lots of open rank, and I was promoted, I was put in a squad leaders position from the very beginning almost, every month there for three months I was promoted and my pay increased each time I was promoted, and the reason I had an allotment home was that I had to pay for a new car I had just bought, just barely got it before I got my draft notes.
What kind of car was it?
A new Ford. Went to the bank, of course I had it financed at the bank, I went to the bank and they told me while I was in the service I didn’t have to pay for it, and I said I wanted to be paying on it, I didn’t wasn’t to owe the full amount when I got home. That was where the 45 dollars went to.
That was smart. Were you exchanging letters by any chance with your family and friends?
Were you exchanging letters with your family and friends?
Do you still have any of those letters by any chance?
How was your relationship with foreign troops? Including Korean troops or any other troops you were stationed with?
Relationships with my friends in the service?
Yes, or any of the Korean troops.
Yes, I had one sergeant that I was especially fond of, he and I went somewhere together every week, and I really missed him at first, and we were together throughout my entire service period. He was in my same platoon that I was in and he was a Section leader, we had four sections in the battery, and we had a section leader and then we had a squad leader, for each ten-man squad, or group, I should say, and we were very close, and Jack Wilson, was another good friend, and Jack Kidd that lives in Clarksville, Texas.
Do you talk to any of these guys at all?
Do you keep in contact?
I did for a long time, I’ve lost contact with all of those fellows, a lot of them are dead.
Well that’s why we are doing this. What were some of the most difficult, or dangerous, or happiest rewarding memories that you had?
Dangerous and unhappy memory in Korea?
Yeah, just some of the memories that you had, some stories.
Well, several times we were in danger of being overrun, and we had instructions, we had a big grenade on our anti-aircraft weapon, and we had orders to pull the pin and destroy part of that weapon so it wouldn’t be able to be used again if we were actually overrun, but we were supposed to be backup support with our machine guns while the infantry was withdrawing. That was pretty bad situation, you know, not knowing any minute that you could be in the situation that you had to withdraw or stay and probably be overrun.
What was probably one of the most severe battles that you were in?
I don’t know that there’s any specific one, there was one area maybe this is what you’re referring to, one area that was well know that was called Old Baldy. It was a big hill, and the enemy was well dug in it, and there was fighting went on for probably a month or more before we finally got them North Koreans and them Chinese out of them bunkers and in them hills. Air force would stray from bombing every day and at night they would pull their big artillery guns out of their bunkers and fire at us every day, and our artillery would fire back and our infantry would try to make contact, you know I did make contact, we did kind of overrun them one time, and my section captured two prisoners one morning, they just came in and gave up they were so hungry and so cold, and the poor fellows were just starving to death. They were just really happy that they gave up because they knew that they was going to be treated a lot better than they was going through. I felt sorry for those civilian people over there, losing everything, you know, and the worst experience I guess I had was coming up on a dead woman and a North Korean Officer that was in a little village that we had just destroyed. That was my only first-hand experience with actually seeing a dead enemy.
Were you injured at all?
No, I was lucky.
So what impact did the war and your fight have on your life after you returned home from war, how did it impact you or affect you?
You realize that you’re not immortal, your immortality could be lost at any time, it just… I can’t say publically what I would have done if I had in leadership, but it wouldn’t have been done the way we did it.
Have you been back to Korea at all?
No, I haven’t, I would have liked to have gone, but my wife was in bad health for a number of years before she passed away, and I just doesn’t have any desire to do anything after she passed away. I got interested again in my church, and without it I wouldn’t be here.
This is kind of a far-fetched question, kind of off topic, but in 2013, you witnessed the 50th anniversary of the armistice which was signed between North Korea and China and the UN in 7/27, what do you think we need to do to put a closure on the war, I mean it was just a cease-fire, what do you think we need to do to put closure on it?
I don’t think that this late in the date that there is anything that you can do, beyond destroying North Korea, which is what should have happened in 1951, maybe in 1950, Eisenhower would have done it if Truman would have let him, President Truman.
Do you support a kind of movement to petition to end the war officially and to replace the armistice with maybe a peace treaty?
I don’t understand the question, maybe didn’t hear it good enough.
Do you support a kind of movement to petition to end the war officially and maybe replace the armistice with maybe a peace treaty and just see it away all together, the end of just cease-fire?
If it’s possible to control North Korea, that’s our problem over there is North Korea, their dictatorship is not going to give up, what they have.
Do you have any messages that you would like to tell the younger generation, whether it’s the legacy of the Korean War veterans or the Korean War, something that you think they should know?
I think the young generation should know more about the military, I think that I would like for them to know more about what’s happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, that’s where our worst wounded soldiers are coming from, it’s a different kind of war from what we went through, we knew who we were fighting, and over there in Afghanistan and Iraq you don’t know who’s the enemy and who’s your friend. Those types of military destructive devices they have now are horrible to our men.
Are there any other stories or anything else at all that you would like to share to preserve your legacy?
No, I don’t think so.
Do you think that the Korean War deserve a memorial, or that what we are doing here is important, do you think it’s important to preserve these legacies since the Korean war is known as the forgotten war?
Yeah, in a way I think that the public should be aware of it and remember what the military did for South Korea, because they certainly appreciate what we did. Our civilian population need to honor all servicemen, from World War 2 to present.
Why do you think the Korean war is known as the forgotten war? After you departed from l Korea did you speak of your experience and what you had gone through, were you allowed to?
I kind of think because of, we didn’t consider it a victory, because of the way it ended, we are still involved over there, and I’m not happy about the way it has gone all these years, but like I stated before, it should have been… I’m not the kind of fellow that wants to kill a lot of civilian people, but sometimes that’s the way it has to be, in my opinion.
Is there anything at all else you need to cover?
What did you do before you came back home, you went back to work for Coca-Cola?
Yes. I worked for them and I got to doing a little travelling and training for Coca-Cola, and we in the service department had more than just working on Coke machines, we had a lot of special events stuff. I had 82 ice makers, we went into the ice maker business to get Coca-Cola business, we put ice makers in free of charge in all the concession stands, basketball, football, whatever, you know, and cafeterias, and that got us a lot of Coca-Cola business from the school system, and that was one thing that I had training on, we had 5 different brands of ice makers and I had training on them, and I was a service manager for a good many years, and I would go to work 30 minutes in the morning before they did, and I would do my paperwork and line up the work for my servicemen, and after I got out on a call then I would, my secretary would answer the phone and I would tell her where I was going and I would go out then and repair the ice makers, and that was the way for a good many years.
Outside of that, are you involved in a Korean War veteran association, with monthly meetings?
How many people do you have about within your association, your chapter?
You know I don’t know, we are getting smaller, we are losing lots of our veterans. The best part of our Korean War veteran chapter are our associate members, which are spouses, and without them we would be, we wouldn’t be nothing but a bunch of guys sitting around talking. There is probably 20 something members, I really don’t know how many there is.
Well I believe that kind of sums it up on my end, so if there is no other stories or comments…?
We will wrap it up right there then.