Veteran John Goldman grew up in Texas, joining the Navy upon graduating high school. He originally planned on joining the Marines but after seeing a returning veteran from the Marines and the damage he sustained, Veteran Goldman changed his enlistment to the Navy. He discusses his experience in basic training, the harshness of wartime Korea, and living conditions aboard a naval ship.
Arriving At Boot Camp
Veteran John Goldman describes taking the train to San Diego for boot camp, hearing the worst language in his life, and being given baloney sandwiches.
The Sight of Korea
Veteran John Goldman describes the cold and harshness of Korea in wartime, different than its reputation in modern times.
LIfe in a Storage Locker
Veteran John Goldman describes living conditions for soldiers aboard the naval ships at war.
[Beginning of Recorded Material]
J: John Goldman. Do you want my whole name?
J: John William Justus Goldman
I: John William Justus Goldman
J: Justus with a U.S.
I: Where were you born?
J: Victoria, Texas on Goldman Hill
I: You were born right here. On Goldman Hill?
J: On Goldman Hill
I: Named after your family?
I: Tell me a little bit about that. I’m kind of curious
J: Well, my grandfather, who I inherited his name from, most of it anyway, migrated
to the United States at the Civil War. He was living, after coming from Germany, he had settled in Minnesota. Leaving Germany at fourteen in order to come to the United States at the insistence of his mother because she wanted to keep him out of the military, the mandatory German draft at the time. Um, he came over and was going to stay
with a brother of his in New York who was a Lutheran minister and after about six months over here his brother died of pneumonia so he drifted around the north part of the United States and ended up in Minnesota, in Leroy, Minnesota, around Preston, Minnesota where he farmed and during the Civil War he joined the Union Army for one hundred dollars but he was sent West to fight the Indians where he was wounded by an arrow.
Coming back he had a cousin living in Victoria, [Art Goldman] by the name of Adolph Goldman who encouraged him to move out to this area and he settled a lot of land south of Victoria and in this land was a hill that forever became known as Goldman Hill
I: Ah. So is it on your property?
J: Yes. We still have it
I: Cool. Well that’s exciting, a little family history there. So you were born here in Victoria on Goldman Hill.
I: And you were raised here in Victoria?
J: I was.
I: What was the school you attended?
J: Well, the last school where I graduated was [Patty Wilder.]
I: [Patty Wilder]. Was that your high school?
J: It was.
I: And when did you graduate high school?
J: ‘51. Excuse me, July ’51. Actually it would be May of ’51.
I: So what did you do after you graduated high school?
J: Well, there were three of us buddies that we all agreed during our junior
or senior year that we were going to join the Marine Corps because all of our contemporaries and football friends that were seniors, about fifteen of them joined the Marine Corps when they graduated in 1950 and ah, so we had made our mind up that the three of us we were going to join. But after visiting the Marine recruiting office and seeing one of our
classmates come in not knowing him because he was so terribly shot up and so terribly wounded and exposed to such tremendous hardships that all three of us changed our minds not to join the Marine Corps and we decided to join the Navy. So, we left the third floor Marine recruiter and went down to the second floor and joined the Navy that same day.
I: Were a lot of the people that you were with being drafted at that time?
J: I’m sure some of them were going in the Army and what have you
And being drafted into the Army, but the three of us volunteered for the Navy.
I: Mm hm. So you decided to enlist?
J: Yes, we enlisted and was immediately bussed to Houston and trained in San Diego where it was probably the furthest I’d ever been without my parents was Houston. And, when we arrived in San Diego we were like almost a cattle corps
it was like it wasn’t much, it was a pretty rough train ride but we were welcomed into the real world. I’d never been talked to with so many abusive words and with such rough language. I’d never heard such language in my entire life. When the drill petty officers came aboard to herd us off the ship, excuse me, off the train, and probably we got to the base probably about one or two
o’clock in the morning and they gave us baloney sandwiches and let us lay on a bed without mattresses, just the springs for about two or three hours, until about 4:00 or 5:00, and then they roused us out and we started going through all of the [pre doctrination] of vaccinating and clothing and all indoctrination and what have you. Pretty simple. Pretty much what happened in boot camp.
I: Right. So at this time did you know that there was a war going on in Korea?
J: I did.
I: I mean, and that’s because of your buddy who came back?
J: Well of course knowing that news from the papers and everything about Korea.
I: So there was a lot of news coverage?
J: I was exposed to the military quite a bit because during WWII we had two military bases here in Victoria. One on one side and one on the other side, Allen Field and Foster Field, of which, uh,
my parents, my dad was in World War One where he was shot up pretty badly, machine gunned, gassed, loss of hearing and sight in one eye and uh, so he went like almost to like a USO, and we had all these servicemen who would come and stay at our house and I was constantly involved with service people during World War Two and I guess I looked forward to join the military.
I: So, did you know what you were getting yourself into? What was to come?
J: Well, you never know what you’re getting into. You can’t watch the movies and you don’t think it’s a shooting war. You don’t see the gore or blood or headless people or corpse or what have you so you kind of, you don’t really know what you’re getting into. That’s where they want to tell you, where a young person, when they tell them to charge a
machine gun nest, that they charge, they don’t think that they’re going to get hit or shot. You tell an old person, they’ll say, “let’s think about this. I know there’s an easier way to get to a machine gun rather than running out there and attacking.” So, older people tend to think a little bit ahead. They reason. Young people never reason.
I: So, after basic training, what happened?
J: Well, they split us up. I went directly to AKS4
U.S.S. [Pogs], which was an attack cargo supply ship. It was based there in Oakland, California, resupplying. And what we did, we followed, mainly followed the seventh fleet around, resupplying. We stayed over, and then we had, uh, there was a sister ship, the Castor and the Pollux. We were on the Pollux. Which was named after the stars. And they would resupply us overseas.
We would take on resupp.., we would stay in the forward area with the SM attack cargo supply ship and we would supply everything from nuts and bolts to cigarettes, candy bars, whatever, to the other ships that would come in. They would send their M boats or LSTs over to us and we would have big nets and where we would have lifted the nets over the sides and they would load up the, whatever supplies they needed. But we would follow the fleet around.
Wherever the fleet went, we would follow.
I: And, where were you being stationed at?
J: Well, the ship, I went aboard the ship there in Oakland, California. That’s over next door, next to San
Francisco. The Navy had a big facility, a big storage center there where they stored all the supplies. And, that’s where we would take on, and then when we came back we went to Mary Island which is also where we went for dry docks
and that was in Mare Island. But anyway, when we left Oakland as soon as I got aboard ship, we were almost finished, then we went straight down, cruised down to San Diego, on a shakedown cruise and immediately, after about a week we went overseas. Over to Korea.
I: Okay. How many days did it take you to get from San Diego to Korea?
J: Oh, it took probably about a week to get to Hawaii
and probably eight days probably from there, I guess. I don’t remember all of it. It’s just routine, and then I became a storekeeper when I first went on. I was on the deck force and then I applied for storekeeper, and I was granted storekeeper.
I: While on the ship?
J: While on the ship. It was the number five hold, which was the high security hold on the
On the [gee] duck hold, the ship store where you kept the stuff you used, more or less when you go to the drugstore or what have you.
I: So, when you found out you were going to Korea, you had just seen you friend come back. What was going through your mind at this point?
J: Damn glad I wasn’t going to get on the land. No, because it was so darned cold, I’ve never seen such cold, the cold weather in Korea was probably the coldest place I’d ever been.
Had to use axes and what have you. Anything to break the ice off the structure, off everything. To keep the ship from being top heavy. So much… Korea’s a very cold country. Not a very pretty country.
I: You say “not pretty,” what was your first impression upon arrival? Besides the weather.
J: Probably the worst looking country I’d ever seen, from a distance. I only looked at it from a distance, I never did get
on the shore. I didn’t disembark on the shore.
I: What was unpleasant about the sight?
J: Just a desolate looking… just hills, mountains, shrubs, and it didn’t appear like nothing friendly as a country, whatever houses, they were huts. It just looked like a backward area. Much different than what it is now.
I: So, you never stepped foot on land at all? You stayed on the ship?
J: Well, that’s not really true. I went on shore, but I didn’t get in depth in the interior.
I: Right. So tell me a little bit more about what your duty and your responsibility was.
J: Well, being a storekeeper, it was just maintain the supplies. As we’d get a list of what supplies, like a carrier would come in depending on what enterprise, whatever carrier would come in and they would send over a list of supplies and it would range from
like I said, we had so many cigarettes. At that time, you know, when you were overseas, cigarettes cost five cents a pack, fifty cents a carton. That encouraged people, if you didn’t have anything to do, you did a lot of cigarette smoking. I never was given to cigarettes. I liked to smoke a pipe. Wish I could still smoke a pipe. But anyway, that’s basic. We just worked in there. We would go on high lining
we would be, you’ve probably seen where they shoot these lines across from one ship to the other while they’re underway and they use it to send supplies across or a few would be sent over to us. We’ve in time we’ve seen some carriers where we took, the people reach out to grab these nets as they went across and the ships would be rocking and they’d pull them out and they fall out and be sucked into the screws.
They didn’t even bother stopping to pick them up because there’d be nothing to pick up.
I: Do you remember about what time you arrived into Korea?
J: When I arrived? It would have probably been about August, September ’51. 1951.
I: Do you recall how much you were getting paid?
J: Yeah, 70, 72.50 or something I think.
I: What’s that?
J: Seventy two dollars and fifty cents I think. Which was a seaman first class which
was like a corporal in the Marines or the Army.
I: That’s a lot more than I’ve heard some people say. Some people said thirty dollars.
J: Well, we got, I think it was 72 dollars or something like that. And, I know, it didn’t go very far.
I: Did it cover everything that you needed it to?
J: Not very often.
I: Yeah, so did you ever encounter any sorts of dangerous or difficult situation
J: Well, we were in Choson harbor every time and we had, had the Russian planes, or I guess they might have been flown by the Chinese. Migs they would sometimes fly in and strafe the harbor. I remember we being on our five inch gun. We would have it would like manual operated
by the time you would get, you would run the barrel up to where the plane was coming, it would already been passed over us. So, it, manually controlled weapons, not very good for when you’ve got high speed jets flying around. But that’s all. Like I said, they did some strafing, in the harbor as far as I never got any wounds, war wounds.
I: You’re one of the lucky ones.
J: Yeah. I really was.
I: So, how were the living conditions? Living conditions, as far as food.
J: Oh, we had a small compartment. It wasn’t much bigger than this I guess, about eighty men in one compartment. A little longer, about what is this room, about half again as long and about half again as wide. We had eighty in that, the storekeepers, cooks, and what have you.
I: Oh my goodness
J: We had tiered, three-tiered racks, you know double racks and they’d run down with a row on each side.
J: It was double. It was two or three rows of racks were there. And you had a little, for three, everybody wants to know how I keep, why I’m so organized, well I spent three years aboard a ship where I lived out of a two by two by two compartment. Two foot square, two foot high, two food deep. All possessions I owned was in that storage locker.
So that’s the reason why I keep my, well, I’m pretty organized.
I: That’s something good you were able to take from your experience.
J: Right, right, yeah.
I: So, were you able to exchange letters and kind of keep in contact with your family back home pretty easily?
J: I did. I was requested the whole time to write. My mother would request, I think to the Red Cross that I would write occasionally and let her know what was going on.
I: Do you still have some of those letters?
J: I, after my mother passed, I went through them and I kind of got rid of some of that stuff. It was personal, I guess, between my mother and I.
I: Yeah. That’s understandable. So, I guess, tell me a little more about while you were in Korea. Maybe some of the situations, or memories that you have. Anything at all. Did you ever meet any civilians?
Or encounter any situations with foreign troops.
J: Well, like I said, being in the Navy, we didn’t really have really contact, like front line soldiers or Marines
J: Um, we had special, sometimes we’d have a special detail maybe we’d be handed out weapons and what have you, but it was, you know, I’ve never fired in anger. Oh, I take it back, we had, ah,
we did sink. My crew we did sink like a, I guess you might call a PT boat, a North Korean PT boat. So, the gun crew I was on, so, other than that, that’s the only contact we ever had with somebody like that. And that was from a distance.
I: And how long did you stay in Korea?
J; Well, I actually, I left Korea for the last time in, would have been probably June of 1954. May of 1954.
I got there in probably August or September of ’51 and I left there permanently with my discharge, would have probably been May of ’54.
I: Now when you say permanently, would you come home?
J: We would come back occasionally for resupplies, we would come back maybe once a year or once eighteen months, whatever. When we came back, I think
Maybe two times when I was over there.
I: Did you ever get sea sick?
J: I can’t say that I ever did. I know one time when I first went aboard ship, I became friends with two of the cooks aboard ship one was a boy from El Paso. A Spanish boy from El Paso. The other one was a white boy from Tennessee. And, they took me to Tijuana. I was just turned eighteen, never been in a bar
Never knew what, never ordered mixed drinks. They proceeded to get me pretty soused up and, so, well, that’s about the extent, if we came in, these guys, they were really good friends, but when they started drinking, they were pretty much enemies of each other
I: Did you ever encounter any typhoons?
J: Oh we did,
Actually we did, you’ve got to realize on a cargo ship, that has no water tight territory, our ship was composed of five, holds, what I call holds, big compartments in the ship that go from the deck all the way to the bottom of the ship and each hold was composed of whatever supplies you might have that needs to be off loaded onto the ships that come in for resupplies
Well, we were in such a huge storm that we were taking, the ship would come up and was crashed down into the waves, a lot of time, in the middle. There was getting to be a real concern that it was going to break in two. The fact is, we were alerted to be prepared to abandon ship and make certain all the life jackets were on because as I said, they thought it was
Certain that we were going to break in half. And, it was pretty bad when the water was crashing up to the bridge. The whole front of the ship going up into the water. It was scary. You didn’t really want to be outside of the enclosed areas because you could get swept over the side. We lost one guy for being swept over the side.
I: So what kind of supplies were you taking back and forth?
J: Just whatever needed, ship store stock, steel wire, rope, steel plates, whatever the navy operates on, whatever the ship operates on. As a supply ship, we would supply whatever necessary items
J: We just had a general store you might call it a general store. We had a little bit of everything, from toothpaste to razors to whatever.
I: So what were the sorts of contributions that the navy had during the Korean War? What was it that they were doing? Personally, I’ve heard a lot about the army on the front lines. What was the Navy doing?
J: Well, we were supplying the people on land.
Well, the Navy was doing, the Air was flying missions and bombing and strafing and blowing up bridges and whatever, the Navy wasn’t quite exactly like World War Two because the Chinese and North Koreans didn’t have a Navy like the Japanese did, so we weren’t quite as involved as it was as the land troops, but we tried to do our part.
I: Did they ever come to you guys to try to get some supplies?
J: Did we ever get any supplies?
I: No, did the army or anybody ever try to come to the navy ships for supplies?
J: Oh, well, we liked the Army, we liked the Marines. The Marines, you know, is kind of part of the Navy. We would offload to whatever troops that was necessary, but they had to have requisitions or requests because whatever needed. A lot of time when we were getting ready to come back.
What was left would be dumped over, deep sixed. I mean you can’t imagine the stuff that we would toss over the side of the ship, just to clean the ship up to come back in. I mean, unbelievable the amount of waste of taxpayers’ money.
I: So, when you finally got word that you were coming home, obviously that was a sense of relief. You had your family back home. Did you have a girlfriend back home?
J: Well, I had tried to have more than one, but I didn’t get to keep them. I wasn’t around and there were other ones that were around, so I had to start fresh when I got home. Which, there was nothing wrong with that
I: So you returned home in ‘54
J: I got my discharge in ‘54
I: Right in ’54. Okay, so you returned home.
J: The fact is, I left the ship and went to Yakuska where we were put in a holding pattern. All of our paperwork was tied up, all our pay…we had no pay, no order, anything. So, we just existed for about three weeks there at Yakuska naval base, which was a large Japanese naval base during World War Two. And, we flew back on MATS which is military air transport. Four engine planes, and when we flew back
between Hawaii and Japan, we lost two of the engines. Two of the engines on the airplane cut out, so we landed at Pearl Harbor with only two engines, and flew into Treasure Island, and again we waited about a month at Treasure Island for our paperwork to catch up with us, and again had no money, had nothing. We couldn’t do anything except lay around the base or go on work details. Then we got
I got my discharge papers. It was actually separation papers because I stayed in the inactive reserve until 1959. Because I got in ‘54 active and stayed until ’59 inactive.
I: What do you think is the legacy carried on by Korean War Veterans and the Korean War?
J: I think all service personnel
Felt that they contributed something. I think all service personnel felt they gave part of their life to have a better world. And, it doesn’t seem like it does much good. It seems like every generation has another war. I don’t know, I mean, is that the legacy you’re asking about?
I: Perfect answer. Um, so, when the armistice was signed in 1953,
It was just a cease fire, so technically we are still in a war, or I should say, they are still in a war. What do you think needs to be done to end the hostility and to put closure on it?
J: [Shakes head]
I: Do you think it’s even possible?
J: As long as North Korea is unwilling to work with South Korea. You know we had North and South here in the United States.
We ended hostilities to a certain degree…I think there’s still a certain amount of hostility, but I think that Korea should be able to work together, I think the Communist leader still in North Korea who is supplied and funded by Russia, I think until you cut those strings, I don’t think it would ever happen.
I: Would you support a type of reunification
I: if it were possible, of North and South Korea?
J: Well, yeah, I think so. I don’t think South Korea would do that. I don’t think they would take away what they’ve accomplished in order to go back to what it was before, unless they would have a democracy where both countries could work together.
I: If there was anything you could take away from your experience, maybe a life lesson, or something
That maybe kind of changed you in a way. What would that be from your time of duty?
J: It was an experience that certainly matured me. I tell you, I went in there as a seventeen year old kid and came out when I was twenty-one. I came out probably as a person that felt like I had changed, I was no longer a juvenile I didn’t feel like a juvenile.
I had my mind set to go to college. I had my mind set that I was going to become successful, be married, raise a family. I had those high hopes and I achieved them all.
I: Congratulations. You went in a boy and came out a man
J: Well, that’s basically what it is. I mean I think it’s good for all young people to have some military
experience. It certainly changes your outlook on life, it makes you understand. You’ve got such liberal liberals to where they don’t understand what’s going on. You need some conservative values. It’s all right to take care of other people if they need help and what have you. But, you’ve got to understand that the good Lord should only help those that help themselves.
Is that good enough?
I: That’s good enough. Thank you so much.
J: Thank you, I enjoyed talking to you.
I: The pleasure was all mine.
J: I hope I haven’t been boring
[End recorded material]