Korean War Legacy Project

Joe Larkin


With family roots planted in America soil from Ireland in the 1800s, Joe Larkin’s brothers would lay the military foundation for him during WWII.  After fulfilling the promise Joe Larkin made with his dad to finish high school, he enlisted in 1948 and completed the required service just 6 months before the Korean War began.  As soon as he was eligible to reenlist (replacement draft), Joe Larkin would be on the first ship headed for Korea in early 1951.  His battalion was assigned to reinforce regiments fighting against the Chinese at the Punchbowl.  Joe Larkin’s MOS (military occupational specialty) was a truck driver bringing supplies to the front lines and then he would haul timber to the front lines at the Battle of the Hook to provide reinforcements against the Chinese.  He shared fond encounters with the Korean villagers and their appreciation for what the civilians had done, despite the fact that most at home on the east coast knew little about the war which upset him.  Joe Larkin remained in the Marine Corps for 25 years, having served as a Lieutenant in the Vietnam War and he retired as a Captain.

Video Clips

Harsh Winters and Ways to Detect the Enemy

Joe Larkin described the conditions on the mountains at Punchbowl were terrible including 10-20 degrees below zero weather which made it very difficult for guns to work properly. He said the oil and grease would freeze, so the soldiers weren't able to shoot their guns. They also developed searchlights that would beam off of low lying clouds so they could detect movement and see both the enemy and their own soldiers during the Korean War.

Tags: Hwacheon,Cold winters,Front lines,Living conditions,North Koreans,Weapons

Share this Clip +


"Battle of the Hook" at Panmunjeom

An outcrop of land between two main lines resembled a hook.
Joe Larkin's Marine Division was sent to Panmunjom to hold the line of resistance against the Chinese. His unit helped with reinforcements by bringing in timber that they would move at night so the enemy could not detect their movement. The outpost was attacked and both sides suffered casualties, but with the help of his division, the UN troops took over the area.

Tags: 1953 Battle of the Hook, 5/28-29,Panmunjeom,Chinese,Front lines,Living conditions,Physical destruction,Pride,Weapons

Share this Clip +


Girl In The Picture

As his battalion moved from the south to northern Korea, Joe Larkin's battalion passed through several villages coming in contact with the Korean people. The civilians were very thankful for what the US troops were doing. One little girl saw a picture of Joe Larkin's niece in his pocket, and kept pointing at the picture, but Joe Larkin didn't understand. He called over an interpreter and he said the girl couldn't believe that his niece had a flower in her hair.

Tags: Civilians,Front lines,Home front,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Physical destruction,Poverty,Women

Share this Clip +


The Korean War Armistice

Although the armistice was signed, communication from coast to coast was still limited, and Joe Larkin said the farther east he went, the less people knew about the armistice. He explained that if you wanted to call back to the east coast and you were in San Francisco, you had to pick up a rotary phone, dial 0, the operator took your number, then called you back at some point. Therefore, communication was lacking, which bothered Joe Larkin since he had been in some horrible circumstances and so few knew about the war coming to an end.

Tags: 1953 Armistice 7/27,Panmunjeom,Civilians,Depression,Front lines,Home front,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Pride,Prior knowledge of Korea

Share this Clip +