Korean War Legacy Project

Joe C. Tarver


Joe C. Tarver graduated high school in Bowie, Texas in 1946.  Following graduation, he attended North Texas State Teachers College in Denton, Texas for two years before enlisting to join the United States Naval Reserve.  He was called upon for active duty in July 1950, trained in San Diego, California, then found himself departing for the East Sea in March 1951 aboard the USS Boxer.  Aboard the aircraft carrier, his squadron was in charge of supervision and maintenance of incoming aircraft that had been deployed to the Korean Peninsula.  When he finished the time allotted for being aboard ship, he decided to go back to finish college.  He earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business education, became a school principal, and later worked for an international printing company.

Video Clips

Keeping the Aircraft Going

Joe C. Tarver details the responsibilities he was given after receiving basic training in San Diego, California. As an aircraft captain assigned to a squadron aboard the USS Boxer, he was to conduct maintenance inspections on incoming aircraft. He explains how important proper coordination efforts were on deck, so that the incoming aircraft could land safely aboard the aircraft carrier.

Tags: East Sea,Basic training,Front lines,Pride

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Danger Aboard the Aircraft Carrier

Joe C. Tarver describes the danger involved in maneuvering the large "Sky Raider" planes on the cramped flight deck, often in unstable weather conditions. The aircraft had large bomb loads, which was a consistent reminder of how meticulous airplane maneuvers had to be. He explains how one of the men he was stationed with accidentally got blown into a running aircraft propeller. Additionally, regular practices aboard the aircraft carrier were conducted to prepare to shoot at enemy fire if necessary.

Tags: East Sea,Fear,Front lines,Weapons

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Life at Sea

Joe C. Tarver explains that most of the men he was stationed with aboard the USS Boxer were part of a reserve squadron. The ship was almost nine hundred feet long, and had places to do laundry and take regular showers; it also had a post office and gas tanks. He explains that enemy fire never came while he was aboard the aircraft carrier because other ships were in the same area for protection.

Tags: East Sea,Food,Front lines,KATUSA,Living conditions,Rest and Relaxation (R&R),Weapons

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of Recorded Material]

J:         Joe C. Tarver. J-O-E T-A-R-V-E-R.


I:          What is your birthday?


J:         October the 23rd, 1928.


I:          Where were you born?


J:         [LAUGHS] Cross Cut, Texas.


I:          Tell me about your whole family when you were growing up. Your parents, your siblings, anything you wanna mention.


J:         Well, my —




J:         my father was a World War One veteran. I was the oldest child, and then I had three sisters —


I:          Mm-hmm.


J:         the youngest one was 14 years younger than I. We lived in Texas all our lives,




J:         but we were. . . in — well, I was born in Cross Cut, Texas, my dad was in the oil business — oil field.


I:          Oil field?


J:         Oil field business.


I:          Mmm.


J:         We had moved. We spent several years in [Wink], Texas, and I went to school there until the —




J:         I guess it was the junior year, and my dad moved to Bowie, Texas, up north of Fort Worth.


I:          Mm.


J:         And I graduated from school in Bowie High School in 1946.


I:          1946? What high school — could you spell it?


J:         B-O-W-I-E.


I:          And what did you do




I:          after the graduation?


J:         I went to North Texas State Teachers’ College in Denton, Texas for two years.


I:          Uh-huh.


J:         In 1948 I was a sophomore there in Denton, but they began to register for the draft again that year, so I did that, but I




J:         went with a number of people from the North Texas State College down to Grand Prairie, Texas to the Naval Air Station and join the United States Naval Reserve.


I:          Mm-hmm. That is 1948?


J:         1948.


I:          Mm-hmm.


J:         During that summer, I went to work for




J:         Consolidated [Vultee], which was putting together the B-36 aircraft in Fort Worth, Texas.


I:          Hmm. And then — when did you actually leave for Korea?


J:         Well, I had worked a couple of years, [unintelligible] at the aircraft — deal,


I:          Mm-hmm


J:         and




J:         then I worked as a — in the wholesale grocer business,


I:          [LAUGHS]


J:         and then I got a telegram in July of 1950


I:          Mm-hmm.


J:         to report to NAS Dallas.


I:          Mm.


J:         I discovered that I was in the VA-




J:         702. . . Squadron, and we were going to San Diego pretty quickly. That was about three weeks after the conflict started in Korea.


I:          That’s right. So what did you do in San Diego?


J:         Well, when we got there we didn’t have anything, so we got everything that it took to —




J:         for a squadron to be ready to go to Korea.


I:          Mm-hmm.


J:         My particular job was what we called the plane captain, which meant that I — when the plane was on the ground, I was — I took care of it.


I:          What do you mean by taking are of it? Did you repair it, or did you — what —


J:         Well, I just stayed with it.


I:          And do what?




J:         Well, when they’d come in, I’d clean the windshield, and put all the gas and. . . whatever needed to be done. If there was — needed anything — mechanically or [unintelligible] —


I:          Did you repair?


J:         I didn’t do it. We had other people that did it. I just took it to the others.


I:          So it’s like the plane is yours when it’s landed, right?


J:         That’s right.


I:          That’s right.




J:         And the pictures that I showed you, I —


I:          That was your plane.


J:         [LAUGHS] That was me in that airplane, just — at the time, but — [LAUGHS]


I:          Was it F-80 something, or BA-72 — what is it, the aircraft?


J:         Oh, the aircraft was an AD.


I:          An AD?


J:         An AD.


I:          What do you mean by AD?


J:         Well, that was a Douglas. . .


I:          AD?




J:         AD-4.


I:          4? And that’s the Navy aircraft in the aircraft carrier?


J:         That was on the aircraft carrier.


I:          Mmm. So when did you leave for Korea from San Diego?


J:         March the 2nd,


I:          Mm-hmm.


J:         1951, which happened to be the State of Texas — Independence date.


I:          Mm-hmm.


J:         March 2nd.


I:          And you — you left for Japan?


J:         We left for —




J:         well we went — we stopped at Honolulu —


I:          Uh-huh.


J:         on the way, but then we went directly onto. . . Sea of Japan.


I:          It’s the East Sea.


J:         Huh?


I:          It’s the East Sea.


J:         The East Side, yeah.


I:          No, it’s — the name of the sea — you just said that — Sea of Japan. It’s the East Sea, for Koreans.


J:         Okay. [LAUGHS]


I:          Okay?




I:          So — so you went —


J:         We thought it was the Sea of Japan, [LAUGHS] so that —


I:          That’s what Japanese think.


J:         Yeah, well, [that’s] —


I:          The Koreans think it’s the East Sea.


J:         Well, you’re right. That’s — we were there for the Koreans,


I:          [LAUGHS]


J:         [yeah].


I:          Anyway, you went through Honolulu, and then you went through Japan or Korea?


J:         Well, we went — immediately went to Korea.


I:          Korea?


J:         Yeah.


I:          So what ship was it, that you were in?


J:         U.S.S.Boxer.


I:          U.S.S.Boxer.




I:          Tell me about it — is it aircraft carrier?


J:         Yes, it’s a CV. . . 21 was the number on it, the U.S.S. Boxer.


I:          Mm-hmm.


J:         That was — in those years, it was — the Fly Deck was just– [up and down], [LAUGHS] forward and [aft] — we didn’t have any angled flight decks at that time — so —




J:         when our planes were going on missions, all of the planes that were on the flight deck would be aft, and the ones that were going on the mission would take off, and when they took off, then all of our planes moved to the bow of the flight deck, so that when those planes came back then they landed,




J:         and for the most part always stopped before they hit the [punch at] the front. [LAUGHS]


I:          How many aircraft were in that U.S.S. Boxer, do you remember?


J:         I don’t know how many —


I:          Approximately.


J:         . . . It’s been so — I don’t know. We had 17 in our squadron.


I:          Mm-hmm. And your squadron was VA-752.




J:         VA-702.


I:          Yeah. 7–02?


J:         02. Zero.


I:          Okay.


J:         Now, our group was a reserve squadron. It was actually a new squadron, I’m assuming, that was made up so we could go to Japan, I mean — Korea.




J:         There were also five — the air group that was on the carrier that year was made up wholly of reserve air squadrons from different parts of Texas. We had one from Louisiana, from Memphis, Tennessee — I don’t remember




J:         where all they were,


I:          Mmm.


J:         but that whole bunch was made up of folks just like our group. It was all — reserve squadrons.


I:          How big was this Boxer?


J:         Well, this — it was 180, I mean 880 feet long. It was the




J:         same type of ship as the Lexingtondown in Corpus Christi.


I:          Mm-hmm.


J:         The Lexingtononly has, you know, later on in its lifetime, it received the angled deck, but as far as the other part of it, if you took off the angled deck, it was the same size as the Lexingtonin Corpus Christi.


I:          Mm-hmm. Must be




I:          huge, right?


J:         Huh?


I:          Must be huge. You could be lost in that ship, right?


J:         Well, it’s pretty good size, yeah. [LAUGHS] It’s — [what] nearly as big as they are today, but it was a big one.


I:          What are the facilities inside of the ship? What kind of facilities?


J:         I’d say we had everything in there.


I:          Like what? Tell me.


J:         We had a post office, we had laundry, we had




J:         . . . gas tanks, places to put the ammunition that was gonna be taken over in Korea to help the fellas out. We had. . . just about everything.


I:          Did you have a theatre there?


J:         We. . .




J:         had a place that we could go on the hangar deck, which was under the, you know, where the, under the — [which is a] big, empty spot, and they could hang a —


I:          screen there.


J:         I don’t recall ever seeing a movie. There was what they called the “D-Dunk” where we had different stuff that you could get, though. I mean — candy bars, cigarettes — cigarettes, as a matter of fact, then were, like,




J:         50 cents a carton.


I:          Mm-hmm. . . . And — what did you do when you were off-duty?


J:         The only time — oh, you mean on the ship?


I:          Yeah.


J:         Well — I either slept or. . .


I:          do nothing?


J:         Well. . . actually. . .




J:         I guess we slept,


I:          [LAUGHS]


J:         and ate. You know, about every fourth day, we had to re-supply things: the gas and the artillery, I mean the — things that the plane was gonna carry over and drop on South Korea — or North Korea, wherever




J:         they needed to do it.


I:          Mm-hmm. Had it been attacked by the enemy airplane?


J:         We were not touched. We had — in that group, there were three aircraft carriers. We were one of them.


I:          So you were not touched?


J:         And there were a lot of other. . . ships there to take care of that — group.


I:          How was life inside it? How did you — where did you sleep?




I:          What did you eat? Things like that. Tell me the — soft side of your service.


J:         [LAUGHS] I was just thinking that. . . we had a compartment there where we had — I won’t say hammocks, but we had —


I:          Bunk beds?


J:         bunk beds that folded up, and we had. . .




J:         on the pole there were three of them. There was one on each side of the pole, and we slept — foot to face. [LAUGHS] I mean we didn’t sleep facing one another. I don’t recall. . . sleeping was not. . .




J:         it was at night for the most part, but I don’t remember spending a whole lot of time in that bunk.


I:          Were you able to take shower? Hot shower?


J:         Oh yeah.


I:          Mmm.


J:         Oh yeah.


I:          You have enough facilities? Shower [ones]?


J:         We had plenty of water and plenty of food.




J:         I’d say we ate well.


I:          Good to be in the Navy.


J:         It was. . . we were blessed to be there,


I:          [LAUGHS] Right.


J:         because we knew what was going on — on the land, and we were trying to help the folks that needed help. Our ADs, [which was called, which was] . . . Sky Raider was what they called it. It was larger




J:         than the fighter planes, and it would take off from the deck with a bomb load the same as a — B-17. Had one pilot.


I:          How dangerous is it — you know, operating in the deck, and — you know, having all this airplane taking off and landing — it’s pretty dangerous, isn’t it?


J:         Oh yeah.




J:         They’re parked very closely together, and with the jets and the engines back in those days — with the engines turning — you had a lot of wind, and sometimes — occasion — well, once I know that one of our men that was on the deck got blown into




J:         a propeller. He was — injured,


I:          Mmm.


J:         so you had to be very careful about. . . everything was very tight.


I:          This aircraft carrier fired cannons and artillery toward the land?


J:         No.


I:          No.


J:         No. We had practiced




J:         in case we were. . . planes came in, and, you know, we had some practice on the firing for. . . thing that they pulled the chute at, you know. We never had anything that seemed to be. . . well, there’s so many airplanes there that another airplane would be —




J:         have to have a whole lot of help, and it just didn’t happen. . . and I’m not sure — we were probably sometimes 50 or 100 miles maybe from the shore.


I:          How much were you paid?


J:         To tell you the truth, I do not remember.


I:          [LAUGHS] You don’t need any money inside of the aircraft carrier, right?


J:         Oh, we got




J:         paid. I mean, we were paid. When we went to Japan, we went into [Yakuska], about every six weeks,


I:          Mm.


J:         because, for — some maintenance and everything, and we’d be — there for a couple of weeks, then go back for. . . [and then we just] took — the ship, the — carriers




J:         took turns.


I:          Yep. You have to replenish all the supplies.


J:         Yeah, and a lot of things you needed to be done on the shore that couldn’t be done —


I:          So when did you return to the United States?


J:         It was in October. . . in 1951.


I:          Mm-hmm.


J:         When we were called in from the Naval Reserve, I had already had two




J:         years, and so they extended my contract [LAUGHS] with them to — for — some time, but I was just in — that wa– I made the one trip to Korea, and then I was. . . well, not discharged, but released —


I:          Mm-hmm.


J:         at the end of two years. That was my




J:         time on active duty.


I:          Mm. You were not in the land, but you knew that Korea was completely destroyed by the time that you left, and now Korea is one of the most prospering country in Asia, and the world, too, actually. It’s the 13th largest economy in the world. What do you think about your service during the Korean War, for the Korean War, and [the] —




I:          Korea now.


J:         I think that you’re the. . . South Korea, anyway, is probably the only place that Americans have gone that they were actually — you all have been very, very — good to the veterans. I mean —


I:          How do you know?




J:         I know because — I’ve went to one of our — some of our. . . reunions, and people would be there. We had, in 2003, which was, like, what, 50 — 50, I think that was the year of the 50th —


I:          anniversary?


J:         anniversary, but the squadron that




J:         was called in, VA-702 — after a couple of years, it was no longer a reserve squadron, but it was made a regular squadron, and it was changed to VA-145. The folks who served in those squadrons over the years, we had a reunion at




J:         Grand Prairie that year, and the folks, the Korean — neighborhood in that area, they came and they — they were great, I mean they were very. . . and there was a guy from Atlanta who was — he was, well actually he was




J:         born — I guess — I [know what], it was the day that the armistice was signed. Anyway, he was — he called himself “the peace baby.”


I:          Mm-hmm.


J:         He would, he came and [unintelligible] with us that year, and — well, he was very nice. We have a — the squadron has a memorial —




J:         thing in the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.


I:          Mm. Very good. How did your naval service affect your life after you returned from Korea?


J:         Well, basically, I went right on. I finished — I was able to get — enough — GI Bill




J:         to finish my bachelor’s and master’s degree in Business Education,


I:          Mmm.


J:         and. . . .


I:          What university?


J:         It was — North Texas State College, I think, when I graduated.


I:          Uh-huh.


J:         When I started there, it was North Texas State Teachers’ College, and then it was — now it’s the University




J:         of North Texas.


I:          Wow.


J:         Big school.


I:          Business Administration, so — you did run your own business after that?


J:         No.


I:          You worked for what, company?


J:         Yeah. I had all of the credentials for teaching school. I taught school for two years, then — for




J:         three years, I was principal, and [they] just. . . the salaries were not enough to. . . stay in that business, so I went to work for [More] Business Firms, which was a large international printing company, and worked there for 30 years and retired in 1990.


I:          Very good.




I:          I want to thank you for fighting for Korean nation. Because of your fight, we had a chance to develop our economy and achieving substantive democratization in 20th century, and we were able to do it because you came and fight for us, so I want to thank you. Is there anything that you want to leave to this interview that you didn’t mention yet?




J:         Actually, it’s a blessing to see that — what has happened with the Southern —


I:          South Korea.


J:         Korea, compared to what’s up there now. I mean, that is a. . . terrible place to live.


I:          Thank you very much!


J:         We good?

[End of Recorded Material]