John B. Winter
John B. Winter was born in St. Paul, Minnesota where he also went to high school and college. He attended Macalester College for three years until 1950 when he was called up from the Marine Reserve to go to Korea. While in the reserves, he received training in Radar Detection and Early Air Warning and eventually became a Buck Sergeant with the Marine Ground Control Intercept Squadron, 1st Marine Air Wing. He participated in the Inchon Landing and explains what it was like on the ship during a typhoon. He also shares what it was like coming back from the war. He expresses his pride in his service and the legacy of the Korean War.
Lessons Learned in Korea from WWII Veterans
John Winter discusses his interaction with WWII veterans he served with, and the lessons he learned from them. He recalls a specific conversation with a Marine from WWII in the mess hall. He expresses how important it was to learn from these men.
Training in the Reserves
John B. Winter was in the Marine Reserves while attending college. He explains what they learned in the two weeks of basic training in the four summers before he was called to Korea. He remembers coming home from basic training and receiving a post card calling him to active duty.
Typhoon During Inchon Landing
John Winter participated in the Inchon Landing in September 1950. He explains that they met other ships near Japan before moving towards Korea. He describes what it was like on the ship since there was a typhoon occurring.
[Beginning of Recorded Material]
My name is John Winter, W-I-N-T-E-R. I was born in St. Paul, Minnesota.
I: St. Paul, Minnesota.
J: January 22, 1930. I attended grade school, high school and first three years of college
J: in St. Paul.
I: What’s what high school? The name of the high school?
J: The name of the high school was Humboldt High School.
I: Could you spell it?
I: Ahhh. That’s German. Humboldt.
J: Von Humboldt was
J: the person it was named after. [laughs]
I: Yeah yeah. I actually I was in the Humboldt University in East German.
J: Yeah he was, he was an explorer my understanding.
J: Alex Von Humboldt. We, we looked it up one time [laughs].
I: Is Winter, does Winter have any ethnic origin name?
J: Any what?
I: Any ethic, ethnic origins. The Winter, the last name?
J: Well it’s, it goes back a long way and it’s actually Holland Dutch.
J: Mm-hmm. And I recently, I came upon a, a family tree that dates back to 1791.
J: And it follows all of the ancestors down through that time. It was actually almost, there was two families that were parallel because the, the
lady that was more or less our ancestor, she was married once and had, what, three children I think it was and her husband died and then she married a man named Winter and they had several other children and so the, the, it was a blended family, but it came right down into the, this century and just person by person-
J: I could tell,
although they mostly settled in Holland, Michigan.
I: I see.
J: And then spread out from there.
I: Tell me about your parents and your siblings, when you were growing up.
J: Well my, my father at first, being 1931 and ’32-
J: ee was unemployed in the Great Depression. My mother was able to go back to the job she’d had and supported the family
for about, ohh, roughly about six months to a year she did that and-
I: She was lucky to have a job.
J: well that’s right, yeah, she was she was trained for it and so she, it was the job she had before she married.
J: Technically, she, the company that she worked for didn’t hire married people, but somehow or other she slipped through. [laughs]
J: [laughs] And then she continued working on and off there through the 1930’s
and my dad was finally, he, he got employment with Cleveland Wrecking Company and Cleveland Wrecking Company was his employer up to World War II and then he went with the Office of Price Administration, a government job.
J: And he was there through the war until the war was over. Then went back to Cleveland Wrecking and he was then appointed, the
supervisor of the wrecking of all of the surplus buildings at Treasure Island, California in the
J: San Francisco Bay.
I: I see.
J: And while he was there, he did some straightening out of their local store out there so the, the owner of the, of the Cleveland Wrecking store there told him he should stay there so [laughs]
J: so, the whole family moved to California, but I was in my second
year of college so I stayed through the third year and, and then that was when I was called into Korea.
I: I see. What did, how about siblings?
J: I have two brothers and a sister. They, my sister is about a year and a half younger than I am.
J: My next, my brother the, they’re, they’re both younger brothers and
I: So, you are the eldest?
J: I was the oldest one.
my first brother was, is eight years younger than I am. My second brother is 16 years younger than I am. [laughs] So he was still a little guy when they, when they moved. [laughs]
I: When did you graduate Humboldt High School?
J: I graduated in 1947.
I: And you directly went into college?
J: I went to college right. And
I: What did you study?
J: I was a kind of sidelined you might say.
J: I signed up in the Marine Reserves
at age 17.
J: We had to have our parents sign the, sign the application, but they did and I signed up then. I was in the Marine Reserve about three years before 1950.
I: While you were in college?
J: While I was in college.
I: And what did you study in college? What is the name of college?
J: The, the name of the college was Macalester, spelled M-A-C
I: Ohhh Macalester.
I: That’s a good school.
J: Well [laughs]
J: Yeah, it’s, it ranks real high I think
J: in the, in the rankings. It’s pretty well-known internationally too.
J: The, they’ve had some rather note-worthy graduates. [laughs]
I: I know some of them, actually,
I: who graduate from Macalester
I: in, in Korea, actually.
J: Oh yeah.
I: Yeah. So, what did you study?
J: I studied to be a history teacher and-
I: So your major was history?
J: My major was history.
I: Ahh. By the way, did you learn anything about Korea while you were in high school?
J: No, but I did know about Korea.
J: It, it’s, it’s kind of a irony I guess. I had, when I went to Sunday School when I was real young-
I: Uh huh.
J: there was a man that had been a missionary to Korea and he came and talked to us, all of the Sunday School kids and after, after he was done with his regular presentation, I went and talked to him individually and, and he said, well, he said, you should be a missionary and he said, you should be a missionary to Korea. [laughs] That I, that was hardly my upper-most thought [laughs]
and, but he, and then he made a prediction, he said, you’ll go to Korea someday. At least I knew where Korea was when the [laughs] when the Korean War started.
J: [laughs] I probably-
I: So, you learned something about Korea-
I: from him?
I: Do you remember his name?
J: No, I don’t.
I: Was it in the St. Paul?
J: I was in St. Paul. Yeah.
J: Yeah. He had, he had come back, he had done a missionary in, in Korea for several years and, oh, he told me, he told me
about his adventures. One time there was a group of bandits or something that captured him and they were trying to decide whether they should eliminate him or whether they should let him go and so on and, well he, he just kind of told all of his stories and, and told about Korea and showed us where it was in the, on the world map and so on and so.
I: He should have told you that you gonna be a billionaire [laughs]
I: Rather than going to Korea.
J: [laughs] Yeah well, he, he was very intent on getting everybody lined up to go to Korea as missionaries [laughs].
I: Ahhh. So how you stayed in Macalester?
J: I was at Macalester for three years.
I: Three years?
I: Was that three years at the time? The-
J: It’s a four-year college.
I: Four-year college.
J: Mmm right, but in
J: in August of 1950, I was called into the Marine Corps.
J: That was right after the war started.
I: There you go.
J: So, there I went.
I: You’re destined to be in Korea [laughs]
I: By this missionary. [laughs]
J: My fourth year was a, was a real education. [laughs]
I: So, when you were in Marine Reserve-
I: How, how many times have you done kind of training? Two weeks in the summer, right?
J: Two weeks in the summer.
I: What kind of?
J: Well, the first, first time,
the training was not much more than to learn how to march and, and follow orders and things like that. Then, the, it was in addition to that we, we had a little practice at taking the rifle apart and putting it together.
J: And, they showed us how to do it, and, and we’d practice it ourselves. A lot of that first training session was also a movies and films,
some of them as instructional, some of them just more, more entertaining than anything else. But that, that that was the first two weeks. The second, second time we went out, we actually got into operating the radar sets. And we, that’s what we were was ground radar unit. Part of the first Marine airwing and it was supposed to be
an airwing squadron, but, but our squadron was also a, a earlier warning for the first Marine Division so we were, our job was to be close so to provide the earlier warning for the Division and then at the same time, we were to direct fighter, fighter cover and so on, on the aircraft. And we, we learned how to, how to operate the
equipment that was there at the time.
J: And the third, third summer that I, that I went it was the same thing. We again operated the equipment and did pr- pretty much a, a routine like that and, and then the fourth summer, which was just a, it was two weeks before I was called up for active duty, again it was operating the, the equipment that, that was available and
then when we were called up, in fact I’ve got [laughs] a copy of the postcard I got when I got home from the, from the two-week training, there was a postcard in the mailbox that said to report on August 1st
J: for mobilization. [laughs]
I: Was a, 1st of August?
J: Right. 1st of August, 1950.
I: By the way, did they pay you when you were in Reserve?
J: Yes, we were paid the equivalent
of four days’ a month for the meetings that we attended.
I: So how much did you get?
J: I think, I think I got $5.00 a day, so I, see now it wasn’t that much. Well-
J: pretty close though.
I: So $20.00 a month? Every month?
J: It was, no it wouldn’t have been 20. The, the base pay I think for a private then was around
75 or something like that and so if you divided that by days, it would probably be about maybe $6.00 for each time we went out there and we’d probably get maybe 18 or $20.00 every three months. Something like that.
I: Every three months?
J: Yeah we’d, we’d get the check in the mail. [laughs]
I: What, what could a dollar buy at the time?
J: Oh, gasoline was
maybe about 20 cents a gallon. That, that’s probably the best measurement. The, a loaf of bread was sometimes two for 25 [laughs] and when I was, I worked in a grocery store part-time and the, a roll of toilet paper now is, it’s a dollar for a roll of four and then it was five cents, but every once
in a while we’d have a special on it. It was three cents a roll.
I: So it w-, wasn’t too bad, right?
J: [laughs] No it wasn’t bad. [laughs]
I: Alright. When you were called on the 1st of August,
I: 1950, did you get any more additional military training?
J: No. On the 1st of August I reported in and we were issued rifles and some, some, and, a,
actually, everything that we would need in the way of a knapsack, haversack, helmet, the, let’s see what else was it. I’m trying to remember all of the things but bas-, the basic things and then of course we had our sea bag full of clothing, uniforms and so on and so we, we were just issued the things that we would, would need,
some of the basic things we would need. And then, then we were flown to the west coast to California.
J: And that was, that took place on the 5th of August.
J: Then in, once in California, we were assigned to what they called a casual company
J: and there was about four of five hundred reservists that had been called
in from all over the country and we were then issued, well let’s see, first, first off they, they separated us and they would call off names and they would say you people fall in over by the flagpole and then, then they would be marched away. And then they would call up some more names and, and they, you people fall in over, over by the truck over there and then they would be marched away and,
and gradually these people were taken, taken groups at a time [laughs] and left, left this one, this one casual group was still left and, [laughs]
I: You’re one of them?
J: I was one of the ones still left and the, we had, a friend of mine and I had gone three years to Macalester and, and
J: he, he had been there too and [laughs] so we decided well gee we got three years of college we, maybe
we should be officers and, and we should go and apply for that so we went to the office squadron, the office of the sergeant that was-
J: in charge of everything and just said sarge we, we thought we’d, we’d like to go to OCS we’ve got three of college and that would be a good fit for us. And he said, well let’s see, what, well tell me what your names are and he went [laughs] he went down his clipboard he’s, gave him our names
and he said, well there’s one, yup here’s, and yup, here’s the other one. He says you’re, you’re slated for OCS, over choppy seas now get out of here. [laughs]
J: [laughs] I guess that was, that was his joke. [laughs] We, we were then the, the remaining casual group were, were issued everything from, including, believe it or not, a gas mask and I don’t know why, but they gave us this gas mask.
I: Was left over from the World War II.
J: Well, everything, everything we had was left over
J: from World War II.
J: Yeah. Everything was the same. Then we, we, a couple of days after that, with all of our stuff packed up, we boarded a train and the train took us from Eltoro Air Base, the Marine, Marine air base, to San Diego. The train stopped inside the fence next to the ship-
J: and we climbed on the ship, the U.S. N.S. William Weigel,
that was the name of the ship that
J: we went over on and, and then we spent two weeks on the ship and went to Kobe, Japan.
I: Kobe, Japan.
I: How was two weeks in the ship?
J: Well I’d never been on a ship before.
I: Did you throw all over?
J: The first half hour the, the rolling was a little bit, made me a little woozy, but then after a couple of days I got kind of used to it and
then finally the second week that I was on it, they assigned us to mess duty and, and having something to do was, was, was pretty good at least it, it kinda of kept your mind off a lot of things. [laughs]
I: What were you thinking, on the way to Japan and from there to Korea, that you were told you that were going to be a missionary in Korea,
I: and now actually
you are heading to there
J: [laughs] Yeah, yeah, I’m headed there.
I: and, and, it’s the war.
J: Yeah, I, I think, I, I, can’t, it’s hard to say what, what I was thinking. I, I guess I was as much concerned about the, the, war situation, because we got a little newspaper that came out every day from, from the captain’s area, I guess, his office and, it, it just published telling what was going on, and
what the 1st Marine Division was doing and, and the Pusan Perimeter. We were concerned that that would hold before we got there, and I guess, more than anything, we were kinda concerned about what was happening. When we arrived in Kobe, I was kind of interested, being history major, I was interested in what it would look like and the buildings still, still had some marks from World War II.
J: Machine gun
J: bullet holes, things like that. And there were, there were some, in the outlying areas some buildings that were still kinda crumpled. But all in all, Japan made a fairly fast recovery,
J: I would think.
I: When did you leave for Korea?
J: Well, then a, a part of our job was, was loading ship and we, we left for Korea on the 10th of September. And, that, that was, get my second ship ride. [laughs]
I: So, you’re belong to 1st Marine?
J: It was the, it, it was Marine Ground Control Intercept Squadron 1.
I: What is the Division? What, what this
J: It was actually
I: squadron belongs to?
J: 1st, 1st Marine Airwing is, is the,
J: 1st Marine Airwing.
J: Now, and, and that made us, some, somewhat of a, an unusual situation because every time we would, we would move, we would move with the 1st Marine Division. Every time we would sit still, anywhere, then we would report to the Air Wing. So, [laughs] it was, it was kind of back and forth a little bit, and
J: we. And our job was really to provide early air warning for the 1st
Marine Division and for the Marine troops and then there also to operate at whatever airfield they had available to, and we directed fighter intercepts, if there were any en-enemy fighters coming in and any enemy aircraft. And we also directed the commercial, not commercial, but the loaded aircraft coming from Japan after the invasion.
I: So, at the time, was your specialty related to the radar detection and so on?
J: Right, mm-hmm, yes.
I: And you were able to do that because you were trained during the Marine Reserve?
J: That’s it.
I: That’s it?
I: What kind of radar did you use at the time?
J: The radar?
J: Well we had a, a they called it a CPS5 and it was a,
a, ssa,- right now you’ll see pretty much the same thing as ant-, big antennae that will turn around and around and around. And, the cathoray tubes would, would then give us the picture of what was out there and we could, we could see when the radar hits the aircraft it, it bounces back and leaves a little blip on the,
J: on the scope
J: and we’re able to see where they are.
I: So, when you left for Korea, you had that radar
J: Yeah. The unit that we joined in Japan, we j-, the MGCIS1, we were, we were only casual company and, and assigned to MGCIS1 once we got there. And they already had all the equipment. They were already there 30 days ahead of us. We, we were just to reinforce ’em.
I: So, were you part of Inchon landing?
J: Yes, yeah we participated in the Inchon landing.
I: So, September
10th, you left Japan and went to Inchon.
J: Right, yeah. And, and we met other, other ships while we were sailing to Inchon. We sailed through part of a, a typhoon that was coming through there.
I: Yeah, it delayed it, right?
I: Delayed your plan, right?
J: It really didn’t delay anything, the Typhoon Jane did. They thought it might, but it didn’t.
J: And, and as far as the one, there was another typhoon that came behind Jane and that’s the one that our ship was, was going through, or just the edge of it. And, it was it was rough seas though. Never having been on a ship before, it was really a, a, an exciting situation because we would, we were in such rough seas that, you know, you’d, the ship would go down, the nose, the
prow would go down and, and the back end, the fantail would, would go way up in the air so you, you could be standing on the fantail, look around and not see anything in any direction, except
J: except air, and the next minute, the prow would go up and the fantail would go down and you’d be standing on the fantail and you’d see a mountain of water that was almost as high as the ship behind you. [laughs]
I: [laughs] I assume or guess that
because you were in the radar team that you didn’t, that you were not the first soldiers that landed
J: Oh no, no.
I: in Inchon, right?
J: Our, our designation was to the, the Landing plus two days.
I: Two days.
J: Right. And on the second day, we, we, we landed and it was-
I: So, must be September 7, 17th?
J: About the 17th, right, yeah.
J: And it was, the, of course the first thing I did was catch guard duty. [laughs]
J: And, so I, again, new experience for me, I had to crawl out to the, my guard post because there was still firing going on in, in the city
J: There were-
I: Inchon city?
J: In Inchon city.
I: City of Inchon, right
J: Yeah, right. And the, the reason there was still firing, there were some snipers and things like that, so it was necessary to crawl out to my guard post and,
and I spent, I had a four hour stint then.
J: And then the next, the next morning, first, first morning ashore you might say, we loaded up the trucks and started up to Kimpo airfield. And,
I: So, you moved to Kimpo?
J: Moved to Kimpo.
I: Mm-hmm. And set up your radar squadron
J: we ha-, yeah, we had a temporary set that we could put up. It was a small one, and at least we could start operations
with that, then we, the bigger one came later, maybe a day or two behind us. I was on the first truck going up there, so we were the ones putting up that, that first set. And I, I’m [laughs] I found out after the war, long after the war, that there was still some fighting for the airfield on the other side from where we were and the 1st Marine Division, whoever was there, was, was still fighting for that, that side of
the airfield and I’m standing on a ladder, putting these cables together. [laughs]
I: Mmm. But, you know, the air, in terms of air power, there was not many of North Korean
I: aircraft. No Chinese in the beginning.
J: No. And,
I: Not much,
J: no what
I: so actually, you didn’t much things to do.
J: Well, technically, that’s, that’s about it, yeah. We, which is why I think we moved so often. We
were there not quite 30 days and we were packed up and we were back on a ship again.
I: And then?
J: And then we went to Wonsan.
J: And landed there.
J: And we spent roughly about 30 days at Wonsan.
J: We were perched on a hill above the airport at Wonsan and we did our, our radar direction from there. We were out in
the, you may, out in the woods you might say, but
J: and we had we had infiltrators would come into our area at night but whether they were people trying to steal things or whether they were enemies, I, I have no idea. But, we did have ’em, and as a result, we had to carry our weapons every place we went, even on, just on the small hill. Then we were at Wonsan about 30 days and then we moved by truck up
to Hungnam. Hamhung, Hungnam.
I: Hungnam, yeah.
J: And there was an airport there called Yangpo
I: Uh huh.
J: and we set up our equipment there and we were probably, well, I could always tell when we were going to move, because when we were going to move, that’s when the tents get a frame
J: and then they, the crew that did the tent floors, they
would put a down wood floors. And as soon as we got that, then it, then it’s time to move. [laughs]
J: So, what happened there, we got to that point at Yangpo, and that’s from, from my standpoint, you know, you never know more than what’s going in your immediate three feet, but, we did keep track of some of, of the other things that were going on from the news reports. But anyway, we, one of our, couple of
our trucks were loaded up with equipment to go up to the Chosin Reservoir.
J: And, they, they were about to start out and they were told to forget it, the Chinese blew the bridge and you can’t get there. So, what happened then was, the 1st Division was surrounded, and their job was to get out of there and they, they managed to give us a job of, of
helping to load out the equipment and what have you out of Hungnam.
J: So, we spent several days in Hungnam, loading ships and what have you, and, and, and then we were evacuated,
J: along with the rest.
I: to Pusan, right?
J: To Pusan.
I: So, you were in that ship, from Hungnam to Pusan?
I: Tell me about it. How many people?
I: How many Korena refugee? How
I: they looked and
J: ours, ours was just loaded with equipment more than anything.
I: Ahh, so it was a separate small ship?
J: It was an LST.
I: I see,
J: a small, a small LST
I: I see. Huh.
J: And, it was, and it was rough, rough water, I mean, the, but the day that I, that I went aboard the ship, I had, I had started loading at 7:30 in the morning, and
it was about 4:30 the next morning when I finally, the sergeant says, well you better go find a place to, to sack out and in the ship there. So, we, we found places to sleep in the ship, actually it was the, what they called the spud locker.
I: I see.
J: And, and we went, went to bed about 4:30 but then we didn’t wake up until about 1:00 the next afternoon. By that time, the ship was
at sea. And it was, it was rough. A friend of mine, motion sickness was, was something that he was always suffering from. And the poor guy, he just, oh, he, he couldn’t quite do it. [laughs]
J: But we were only on there for, I think it was a couple three days, was all. And, then we landed at Pusan. And at Pusan, they took us by truck out in the middle of a rice paddy and, and said, ok, set up here, so all we could do was
Take whatever cots we could find and mattresses and sleeping bags, and lay ’em right out in the, in the rice paddy, and, and spend the night. [laughs]
I: Must be very cold?
J: It was cold, yeah, it was very cold. I, I did freeze my feet on one, one occasion up there, but.
I: Do you still have frostbite?
J: Do I what?
J: Well, I, I’m still bothered by it some, but we go to California every
winter time, so the cold weather doesn’t bother me as much. [laughs]
I: Good for you.
I: And then what happened?
J: Well, then we, we were at Pusan and we were then moved up to a hill right over Pusan, called Mt. Changsan. We were there for about six months, I, I al-always kind of felt that they didn’t know quite what to do with us, because the
1st Marine Division was, was engaged in, in strictly trench warfare by that time. And,
I: But that was in the front line. You were, you were around the Pusan area, right?
J: We were in the Pusan area, yeah.
I: What was your main mission?
J: The mas-, main mission then, we had two. One was early air warning, that’s always been our mission. The other one is, we had some airplanes that were damaged and coming back to
K9 which was the airport at Pusan and K1 was the one that was at Masan.
J: And if they were coming back there and needed help, I, I can recall one time we had a fellow coming back and he had a, a B26 and the front end of his airplane had been shot away and his bomb-, bombardier was gone and he was looking for help and we, we steered him back and got him into a position where he could land at K9.
I: The Changsan is right around the shore?
I: Beach right?
J: Mm-hmm its,
I: High in there?
J: it’s, it’s, yeah, it’s high, I think it’s the highest mountain there.
I: Yeah. But it’s not that high.
J: No, it’s about 3,700 feet. And the, the lower hill is, has no vegetation on the top, but Changsan had all trees and what have you, and our tents were in the trees up there and our radar set was up on top. And we had
another radar set on the lower hill and the radar set on the lower hill, well you know what happens when you’re, when you’re behind the lines and nothing happens for a long time, you, you get kind of complacent and we were down to where we had one guard on that hill, patrolling, more of a fire watch more than anything else. And, then guerillas hit.
J: And, they fired a burp gun through the supply tent that was there,
killed one of our people and, and then they attacked the radar set that was down there but the guys were able to, to keep them from getting in. And, and then, then they melted away and the next night, there was a, intelligence that came to us that said that there was a group coming up, headed up toward our way and, and that
was back when they had the North Korean guerillas were marauding all over the place. That night, we, we went down and I was part of the contingent that went down to the lower hill, and we cir-, kind of cir-circled on the top of the lower hill. And then on the upper hill there was another guard, we were made into guard companies, and there was a guard company up there. And during the, that night, I heard some firing but I didn’t,
didn’t pay much attention because when we were at Wonsan, there was firing all the time, I, you, it’s just, [laughs] you kinda got used to it [laughs]
J: so, we didn’t pay much attention, but it turned out in the morning that two of our people had been killed on the upper
I: So, even though it wasn’t in the front line, but still there are
I: are a lot of danger
I: because of the guerilla left
J That’s, yeah, that’s the thing.
J: And, that was as much anything as an unfortunate accident but, but it
why, it did happen. And, one of the guys’ name was Sumner and, and then, when they told the guys on the, on the lower hill where I was, they, they said the fellow’s name that got killed was Sumner. And these guys didn’t know anybody named Sumner, but they said you, you must have it confused, you mean Winter. [laughs] So,
J: so, in the morning, when, when it started to get light, the sergeant
came around checking everybody and I was laying there in the position the I was in and, and he, he looked at me twice and then he lifted up my helmet,
J: and he said, you’re supposed to be dead. [laughs]
I: You’re still alive. [laughs]
J: Yeah. [laughs] I said I don’t feel that way. [laughs]
I: [laughs] Do you remember how much were you paid? When you served in Korea?
J: It was around $85 a month. I made b-, as soon as I was there, they promoted me to buck sergeant, and so and it was about $85 a month,
if I remember right.
I: It wasn’t money, it was script, script?
J: Well, it would have been, if I was in the United States, it would have been American money.
I: Yes, yes
J: If I was in, in Korea, it was, it was the script. And, and then of course, we could exchange it for Japanese or Korean money, whatever we wanted.
I: What did you do with that money?
I: In Korea.
J: Didn’t, didn’t need it. [laughs]
I: So, did you send the money back to
J: I s-
J: I sent, I sent some home.
I, I still had a bill to pay at McAllister’s, so I sent them 50 bucks a month. At first, at Kimpo, we were strictly on ration food.
J: It’s concentrated food. And, of course, being a grown youngster, I ate like I did with fresh food, and as a result I gained about 20 pounds on c-rations. [laughs] The last six months that we were in, that I was there, on
Changsan, the, the food was pretty much fresh food all the time.
I: Mm-hmm. What was the most difficult thing, during your service?
J: We kind of referred to it as on the job training. We, we didn’t know beans when it came to, to doing anything, so we just had to learn from the guy next to us.
J: There were a lot of people on, in that were World War II veterans. And, they would teach us as we went along.
And, we, we’d learn things about, you know, how to disguise your fox holes, how to avoid having anybody pick out where it is. And, and such things as, as fire discipline things like that. We learned all that. One of the, one of the sergeants in the unit that I was in, was captured on Wake Island at, at the beginning of World War II. He spent his entire war
I: By the Japanese?
J: mmm, right. He spent the entire war
in a Japanese prison camp. And, I, I remember specifically the, the day that we heard that the 1st Marine Division got surrounded at the Reservoir. I was looking, I was on a, a truck convoy, running back and forth as a guard on a truck convoy, from Wonsan to Hungnam, and that night I was looking for a place to sit down and eat, because I, I had my mess kit and so on. And, I walked up to this tent and the, this, this man was
sitting inside, and he says, come on in Sarge, he’s says come on in and sit down. So, I went in there and sat down with him and I remember specifically saying, well, it doesn’t look good, but Marines have been in tough spots before, they’ll come out okay. And he said, you bet they will. [laughs]
I: When did you leave Korea?
J: I left in the early part of October 1950. ’51, I’m sorry, 1951.
J: And I took, we went first to Japan, and then boarded ship in Japan, the William Buckner, I think was the ship. And, took us 22 days to get back to the United States.
I: And when were you discharged from the military?
J: Well, I, I was reassigned to, from San Francisco, I was reassigned to North
Carolina, to Camp Lejeune, and I was there then through,
I was, I was assigned there December January and about the middle of February there came an OMAR releasing all the Marines that had been called to active duty in 1950.
J: And, releasing us to the reserve station again. So, I was, in effect transferred back from active duty to reserve.
J: And, I reported back
to Minneapolis Naval Air Station.
I: What did you do after you returned to the United States.
J: Well, they hadn’t yet, when I got out of the Marine Corps, there was no GI bill, it hadn’t been passed yet.
I: Ah ha.
J: So, the idea of going back to school, I would have had to pay for it myself. So, I, I took
I: Oh, that’s too bad, because many of actually benefited from
J: Yeah. Well, I was just too soon. [laughs]
J: [laughs] I was first there and first out. [laughs]
J: So, I took a job with a hearing aid company and the hearing aid company employed me for about two to three years and then they started to go downhill. They, they were a pioneer in the transistor hearing aid, but they spent an awful lot of money to get that thing running the way it should, and as a result, they went broke.
J: When I left there, then
it was a question of what, what do you do next, so I, I talked to some people that probably had more wisdom more than I had, and one of them said get a job in sales because in sales, you can write your own ticket, you can earn your own money and nobody will, will have any control over whether you are working or not working. So,
I: You should have talked to your missionary. What is my
I: next destiny?
J: [laughs] Yeah. Well, then I, I went to work with an insurance company as an agent. I spent two, three years there and then I, I left that company and started my own agency. And
I: Your own insurance agency?
J: Right. And, then I, I had my own insurance agency until I retired.
I: Since you are very few who actually had a college education before you went to Korea,
I: and especially with a history major. What do you see? What is the importance of the Korean War? What is the Korean War in, in
I: your personal knowledge and perspective and as well as in American history. What is it?
J: Well, I think the, the one thing, of course, it, it’s lost now in the history books. For some reason, the Korean War is, is not made much mention of. The
history books are really deficient in that area, the, the ones that the kids are using now. What we were up against, we had a monolithic communist society in, in Russia that was bent on, literally on absorbing the world. And, when the Korean War started, even though there were probably mistakes that led up to it and mistakes that caused it, it was still probably the best thing that ever happened
was, was standing up to the Russians, standing up to the communist horde or menace, whatever you want to call it, and, bringing them to a standstill. I think that was, in reality, looking back, the Korean War was the beginning of the end of the communists’ world. And, even China today, they, they are communists from the standpoint that’s their government, but they are not communists from,
from the standpoint of their economic system.
I: Right. Let me ask you final question. What is, do you think is the legacy of the Korean War and the Korean War veterans?
J: Well, the Korean War veterans, I think, are probably a, a, a group that should be given a good deal more recognition than they got. Many of them were World War II veterans as well as Korea, and they went willingly, even after having spent two, three, four
years in World War II, they went willingly to, to Korea to fight it because Uncle Sam needed them. The, as far as the legacy, I, I think creating in South Korea the strong, economically strong, and physically strong county that, that’s there
is, is the greatest thing we could ever have done.
J: And I am not saying that we did it, the, the South Koreans did it, but at least if nothing else we, we cultivated the plant a little bit. And, and that’s a, they call it a bastian of the Pacific, as far as history is concerned. That’s, that’s, that’s about it. [laughs]
I, I absolutely agree with you.
I: I’m, I’m teaching about how Korea was able to accomplish simultaneous development of economy and democracy,
I: and, and we were able to do it because we were able to do it because we were given the chance to do it. And we did it our own way.
I: You know the state and society working is quite from the United States. Very nice meeting you and thank you very much for your time.
J: Well, thank, thank you.
I: Sharing all this stories.
I want to thank you on behalf of Korean Nation that you did sacrifice for,
I: for the Nation.
J: it, it’s something I would not have missed at all.
J: At, at the time, you know, you, you don’t feel very happy about being away from home and so on, but, but when you look back on it, why, it, it was well worth it.
[End of Recorded Material]