John Barrett was born in New York City and grew up in Dobbs Ferry, NY. He was drafted and was anxious to go to Korea. However, even though he had great infantry training, his assignment was as a clerk/typist on the military base in Kentucky. Due to the regulations, he is officially designated as a Korean War veteran and received the benefits to help him go to college. He recalls losing two friends from his hometown. He also shares some stories that soldiers told him about their experiences. John Barrett is very proud of his military service and participates in veteran organizations today.
Losing Friends from Home
Although John Barrett himself did not go to war, he talks about two friends who lost their lives in Korea. One of them died shortly after the Armistice and one right after he got to Korea. They were also from Dobbs Ferry, New York.
John Barrett got to hear a lot of the stories of soldiers returning home. He remembers one solder who explained how they felt safe with the Scots on one side and the Turks on the other side. He said that they got to spend a lot of time together once the Armistice occurred.
My name is John K for Kenny K-E-N-N-Y Barrett and my eighty years old at the present time. And my background is I am first generation American. My father and mother came from Ireland many, many years ago. And I end up I was born in New York City and I grew up and I was very angular. And I when I first went to Champlain college for a while and then I dropped out and went into the military. I got out of the military and I went to Niagrian University and then I went to work in New York City for a while and then I had a opportunity to take over a job upstate New York at Pastin, Albany. And I was in Albany for maybe five years and then I was transferred here to Saraqs and that’s how I got to Saraqs I got here with the U.S. Brewers Association.
Interviewer: So, you are actually at war this past three at the very beginning at right after the Ventry training programs. But later you went to Korea or how long did you stay there.
No, I never did get to Korea although I was actually Anxious to go there, and it ended up that I ended up my mother and sister there like take typing in high school because her son Kenny was gonna go to college and it ends up that even though I had all this great enfatry training I ended up being a clerk typist for
Interviewer: So where were you going and become the soldiers in the airborne U.S. airborne.
Interviewer: and you never participated in the war
No, No I did not
Interviewer: but you are officially designated as a Grim War Veteran
Yes I am
Interviewer: The could you explain why you were designated as a Grim War Veteran even though you never been to Korea
I was in the military during that the war period and the Im not sure what the date was the cutoff date was but I was in the military during that conflict period before the armistice and there were I come from Dabs ferry New York and there were two young friends of mine that lost their lives in Korea Jimmy McCoy and uh a fellow by the name Harry Storms and uh they uh I’m not sure what probably Harry Storms uh got killed on uh shortly before the armistice and Jimmy McCoy got killed very soon after he got to Korea
Interviewer: What was two
These are friends of mine from Dabs ferry New York they were young people that I knew and of course it was just uh of course even if I did get over there it would probably be after the armistice. But it’s still there were you know still problems taking place over there at the time
Interviewer: There should be a reason why you were designated as a War Veteran because I know from the document from the banners office that they actually extended the career uh of Brim War Veterans from 1953 to the general of 1955 for the uh for the make benefits available for the soldiers but I don’t think that every American soldier were designated as a Grim War Veteran because they served during the War period so we need to find out why you were designated as a Grim War Veteran because originally you were this uh supposed to be dispatched to Korea. Right?
I was pipelined for Korea once I finished up basic training and I guarantee they probably were going through those 201 files and they found out I could type, and the military needed people that could do read and write.
Interviewer: So, you told me that you saw many soldiers returning from Korea during the war and then they were dispatched again to the Korea so any stories that you heard from them about Korean War. Anything you are reminiscent of.
As a matter of fact, I heard some great stories about the various countries that participated from at 34th parallel as a matter of fact the uh I’ll never forget a story that I heard that this American Unit on one side was a Turkish outfit and on the other side was a Scottish outfit. And the uh the Scottish guys would play their bagpipes and it would scare the blazes out of the uh the people from the uh the North Koreans and apparently those Turks the North Koreans were scared stiff of them so this fellow was toying with them we were sitting really good position because the Scots were over here and the Turks were over here and I shared and I they shared a lot of things together but during the apparently they had the arm was they had the armistice and they had a lot of time to spend with each other.
Interviewer: So how did you come to know about this project I mean interview and try to have a digital clearing house of the odiarks x arts fix belongs to war veterans
Well what ends up happening is the end up calling me from the 105 chapter and ask me if I wanted to help them out with this program that you people are putting together and I said heck yes, why not. I’ll help If I can
Interviewer: Can you share your thoughts about the importance of this object having a prominent clearing in house so everything that talking about Korean War Veteran and why it is important for the future generations.
Oh, absolutely we don’t want to forget that a lot of people tried to uh sweep the Korean War under the rug no way we lost a lot of people there and it uh and hats nice about it is the South Koreans are phenomenal friends of ours
Interviewer: Have you been to Korea
No, I have not
Interviewer: Are you following up about the recent battle the economic battle
Oh Yeah, I follow up pretty good
Interviewer: So, what do you think about the legacy of Korean war Veterans on this prospering Korea
What do I think about
Interviewer: yeah what is the legacy of Korean War Veterans
Well I’ll tell you one thing about the Korean People the South Korean people. They love us and it’s amazing what they have not only contributed to the Veterans Groups but they invite them back the Chi eyes back and they host them to I thought that was pretty nice really nice as a matter of fact
Interviewer: Could you talk about the GI Bill that you received and how it actually helped you after you retired from the military
Oh, Absolutely the GI Bill was the greatest thing that ever happened and I would have probably still gone to college someplace but I would have never had the opportunity again to go away to college. I would probably have to live at home and day hop some place. But I ended up going to Niagrian University which is up in Niagra Falls and I spent four years up there and I came home with a degree and the GI Bill was very good for me.
Interviewer: What else does the GI Bill provide for you?
At that time, we had uh I think we got about uh if I’m not mistaken it was about 600 dollars a month.
Interviewer: Did that pay tuition or I do they pay you at the university or how would it work?
They would send a check to us on a monthly pace I’m pretty sure and we would in turn just walk the check over to the uh controller’s office over by the admissions office and turn it in so all I had to do was supply my uh you know I could work summers and uh I even toward the end there I work weekends and what not waiting on tables and I was able to earn my own keep. Rumen Board type situation but the tuition was basically taken care of basically by the GI Bill. Thats pretty much how it worked out back in those days
Interviewer: How much was the tuition can you remember it.
Barret: That’s pretty much how it worked out back in those days.
Interviewer: How much was the tuition, do you remember?
Barret: Well I think that at that time, I think the tuition was maybe $1200 a year. Something like that. We got so much a month and whatever that was we would give to the school and that covered the tuition. Well I feel it’s very important to belong to associations and groups that are relative to the military and whatnot and I ended up being a uh…I’m in the Korean War Veterans, I’m in the American Legion, I’m in the 104–uh–the 11th airborne division association, and of course I’ve contributed to quite a few of the military groups that, uh, they sponsor, you know, looking for money and whatnot. But it is, I feel, very important to be part of the Korean War Veterans Association because I was basically, uh, my life was interrupted for a while when I was drafted, but I was a little different than a draftee. I was a requested draft, because I dropped out of college. This is in 1953, I dropped out of college early in 1953, and I had to report to the draft ward, that’s when the draft was going and the only way at that time that you stayed out of the military, or out of the draft, was if you stayed in college, went to law school, went to medical school, got married, went into the priesthood, things like that, that’s what kept you out of the service. And uh, but I was very interested in going into the military, I thought it would have been very nice to do, and I ended up requesting draft and I was, uh, went to, uh, from – I grew up in Dobbs Ferry, New York by the way down close to New York City. And uh, what ends up happening, I left college, at that time I was at Champlain College, up at Plattsburgh, and I left college and they advised me to check with my draft ward as soon as I got home. So I went to the draft ward, and immediately when I went down to the draft ward, I wrote a letter requesting draft. And within a week or 10 days I was in the military. And I went to Fort Kilmer, and then Fort Dix, and then they sent me to Fort Campbell, Kentucky for basic training.
Interviewer: Basic training, how long was it?
Barret: My basic training was 16 weeks. I had 8 weeks of light infantry and 8 weeks of heavy infantry weapons, and all through that period of time all I heard was “You’re going to Korea. You better be prepared. You are going to Korea.” You didn’t nap or sleep while you were at those classes on weaponry, on what was going on in Korea and everywhere else. And it was a very, very stringent training program. I mean, they really had to push those people. Because a lot of people didn’t want to go in, of course, but I, I don’t know, I joined up, I requested to draft, so I was gonna make the best of it. And it ends up I finished up my 16 weeks of infantry training, and I had 30 days leave because I had to go back to the replacement company at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. And I was gonna be shipped to Korea, I was pipelined to Korea. Went home for my 30 days and everybody was saying prayers for me, and wishing me good luck, and we had parties and everything else. I’m going on to Korea, the whole bit. I went back to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and all of my buddies were there that I went through basic with, and we all went back, and everybody was going to Korea. Well I sat around the replacement company, everybody else was leaving, I sat around on replacement company for about probably 2 months, maybe even longer. And I was waiting for my orders to come through to go to Korea. These other people were leaving, and they were going to Korea. Well, what happens to me? I get my orders, and what was it? Division headquarters company, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, as a clerk typist, and that’s what happened to me. So I went up to Division Headquarters company, and I worked in the typing pool, which was very boring. Probably 50 people working in a room typing orders for people going to Korea, going to Japan, going to Europe, you name it. So then, what happens was I had an opportunity to go to Fort Benning for Jump School. So I went to Jump School at Fort Benning the fall of 53, and came back from jump school at Benning, and probably 3 or 4 months later, I had an opportunity as a corporal to go to jump master’s school, so I also went to jump master’s school. While I was at fort Campbell, Kentucky, a lot of the troops were rotating back from Korea and Japan, and one of the groups that was very active in Korea was the 187th airborne unit. And they were a lot of those fellas who that came back from Korea. They were coming through our unit there for retirement, or reassignment, or even some of them went right back. They came in and they stayed in the United States for maybe 6 to 8 months and then they request assignment back to Korea or to Japan or wherever it was. So that’s basically how I ended up being involved and then when I got out of the service, it was very fortunate for me, I had the GI bill because of the Korean War. I got through college, and then I continued my life, and I got married, and I had three children, three beautiful, beautiful children. So that’s basically my connection to Korea, and of course Korea’s a great, great neighbor and friend of the United States. Well for one thing, in the Korean War era, we made some great friends over there in that part of the world. Matter of fact, I don’t even really understand how we initially got in there, but apparently there were American interests there in South Korea before we got in there right? Going to war? Must have been right? But I hope that our friendship can last as long as I live, and my family, because it’s been a great, great friendship, and it just goes to show you what can happen when two groups get together and work together and look what they’ve got. They’ve got a great country over there, and of course we’ve got a great country here. It’s very nice, and I enjoy doing what I’m doing now. You know, giving back a little bit if I can.
Interviewer: Any stories you want to share with us all? Anything related to Korea?
Barret: Yeah I can remember some of the fellas that got back from Korea when I first went up to division headquarters company which was right after the armistice. They fought pretty hard, some of those guys, I’ll tell you, some of the people who were there training me were veterans returning from Korea. And that was no picnic, but we were able…together they pulled off a nice, I think, a very good victory. But it was not a cakewalk. It was not a cakewalk, I’ll tell you that. And I’ll tell you what was interesting to me, I was up at Niagara, and it was probably 57 maybe 58, and I got notified that within 30 days, I could be called back for Vietnam. And that’s when the French pulled out of French Indochina. That was because basically, I think, the airborne MOS, they call it, was very important at that time for some reason. And was designated to a unit in Staten Island in New York, even though I was up in Niagara Falls, as a reservist. Anything else?
Interviewer: Great! Thank you very much.
Barret: Well I enjoyed it.