Korean War Legacy Project

John J. Baker

Bio

John J. Baker was born in Philadelphia in 1928 and grew up during the Depression.  After graduating high school in New Jersey, he enlisted into the military instead of waiting to be drafted.  Assigned to Far East Command (FECOM), he was sent to Tokyo and worked in communications while also learning Japanese at Keio University.  As early as 1948, Baker recalled understanding that war on the Korean peninsula was imminent.  Once the war broke out, he was sent to Korea in a push to weaken the communist forces in North Korea.  He explains what he experienced during the war, including interactions with local Koreans and his comrades.  It was only after the war was over did John J.Baker begin to realize that the Korean people were very thankful for his service.  At the time of the interview, John J. Baker was working on a book about the Korean War called “Waiting for Dawn,” which was about him staying with a wounded friend all night in order to keep him alive.

Clips

"We knew war was going to happen"

Because he was going to school in Japan, John J. Baker was one of the few peope who knew about Korea before the war. He explained that he met a man in 1948-1949 who told them about skirmishes that went on in Korea. He recalls General Hodge coming to Japan in 1949 to see General MacArthur, but the General would not see him at the time.

Tags: Chinese,Communists,Impressions of Korea,North Koreans

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tYoO1DssLc&start=360&end=464

Preparing for War

John Baker explains how he knew the war was coming. He remembers having a conversation about how the North Koreans were training with the Russians to prepare for war. He also shares about a message that he remember came from General MacArthur.

Tags: Communists,Fear,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,North Koreans

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tYoO1DssLc&start=583&end=665

Prior Knowledge of Korea

John Baker explains what he knew about Korea before he went there. He recalls a moment when they were digging and found a crock of kimchi. He thought that they were going to die because it was a bomb.

Tags: Prior knowledge of Korea

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tYoO1DssLc&start=1295&end=1370

Injuries

In this clip, John Baker explains why his doctor calls him the “walking junkyard.” He remembers how it was in the tent, but how cold it was outside.

Tags: Front lines

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tYoO1DssLc&start=1370&end=1398

Now What They Expected

In this clip, John J. Baker describes how the Korean people had to deal with the physical destruction around them. He shares when then men went down to the village and found food. There was an older woman cooking the food who he spoke to her in Japanese and found out it wasn’t the food that he expected!

Tags: Living conditions,Physical destruction

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tYoO1DssLc&start=2520&end=2790

Helping an Injured Comrades

John Bakers shares how they dug into foxholes and experienced enemy fire. The clip includes specific details of what happened to one of his comrades. He became this man's "guardian angel."

Tags: Fear,Front lines,Living conditions,Physical destruction

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tYoO1DssLc&start=2120&end=2520

No Longer Embarrassed

When asked what Korea is to him, John Baker gives a passionate response. He explains why he was embarrassed about what happened during the war. However, he is proud today of what Korea has accomplished.

Tags: Seoul,Impressions of Korea,Modern Korea,Pride

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tYoO1DssLc&start=5500&end=5605

Video Transcript

[Beginning of Recorded Material]

 

J:         I’m John J. Baker.  B A K E R.  I’m from Monterey, California.

I:          And what is your birthday?

J:         Seventeen September, 1928.

I:          September

J:         17, 1928

I:          28.  Where you born?

J:         Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

I:          Philadelphia.

J:         Yes.

I:          Beautiful city.  And historic city.  So tell me about your whole family including your parents and siblings when you

0:00:30

were growing up in Philadelphia.

J:         I grew up in Philadelphia during the Depression, 1930’s.  It was very, very bad.  Half the country was starving, and the other half was looking for food, and my father, he was working with a canning factory in Philadelphia, and the middle of the Depression he lost his job along with about I guess 100 others, and he had to go on Federal relief, and

0:01:00

it was very depressing because I was hungry all the time, and you could never, my mother could never buy enough winter clothing with, uh, what she got on the Welfare check. So we were, I was always freezing to death in the winter, and as a kid I hated winter, and summer wasn’t bad because you could dress for it, and I belonged to a little five person

0:01:30

gang, and we would venture at, go all over Philadelphia like, ah, experimenting at, the streets, the avenues, the parks, the buildings, etc., and this one incident we were, it was a, a building, uh, had boards on the windows, it was condemned, and we wanted to see what was inside.  We’re just kids, 8, 9 years old, and so we broke

0:02:00

off one of the boards, and we went into the building, and we were upon the fourth floor, and the, there was big holes in the floor, and you just kind of angled, and I, I fell through one to the third floor and cracked my shoulder blade on the, the chip, and I couldn’t go home and tell my parents because we were, weren’t supposed to be in that building, and it was June, school was out, so I nursed

0:02:30

my right shoulder for three months.  I never told anybody about it.  But today, in the military I had problems.  I couldn’t raise my arm up to fire a weapon properly.  So I just fired the way I knew how, and it, it hurt me all my life because it, it, I can’t raise my arm all the way up high.  But I made it through the Army 20 years.

I:          Hm.  How about your sibling?  How many brothers and sisters?

J:         I had, uh,

0:03:00

three sisters and two brothers,

I:          Uh huh.

J:         Yep.  My brother Fred, he’s the oldest.  He’s 90 years old now.  He’s still alive.  Just two of us left, one at East Coast, one at West Coast.

I:          What about the school?  What, what high school did you graduate?

J:         I went, I went to Bridgeton High School.

I:          Could you spell it?

J:         B R I D G E T O N.

I:          Bridgeton.

J:         It’s in New Jersey.

I:          Uh huh.

J:         And I went to Que University in Tokyo 1948 for language

0:03:30

I:          When did you graduate your high school?

J:         1946.  I, at June, and then they had mandatory draft.  So I, five of us joined to beat the draft.  We thought it was smart.

I:          Uh huh.

J:         So, uh, where was I?

I:          You were joined the military?

J:         We joined the military.

I:          Uh huh.

J:         And, uh, we took, we thought it was, we, in high school, we, we decided it was mandatory draft, and if you joined you’d get what you want.

0:04:00

I:          Uh huh.

J:         So I, we joined, I asked for communications and to go to Paris.  The War was over.  And I went up in the Far Eastern command, in Japan for 3 ½ years at the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo.

I:          Ah hah.

J:         They

I:          So, so

J:         They referred to that as the luxury hotel because you had 13 Generals, 11 Admirals, 80 Colonels, 40 Navy Captains from MacArthur’s headquarters.

0:04:30

I:          When was it from Japan?

J:         1947 – 1950.

I:          So what was your MOS, Communication?

J:         Communication.

I:          Uh huh.

J:         We had radios, telephone, cryptography for general staff.

I:          But you told me that you were in Kyoto University or

J:         Kio.

I:          Kio.

J:         When I was in Tokyo

I:          KO

J:         Ki, K E I O

I:          K E I O, yeah.

J:         That was, that was the U.S. Army Headquarters, uh, Communications School,

0:05:00

and he also taught Japanese in school.  So I went to it, did learn Japanese perfectly, and, and, uh, I had a, a, my professor, Dr. Satdo, was American citizen, this is strange, and he graduated from UCLA in Los Angeles.  His father sent him to Japan in 1941 January, to live with his grandmother and

0:05:30

learn Japanese culture, and, of course, the War started, December 7th, and he was inducted into the Japanese Army.

I:          I see.  But you’re pretty much well educated because you were in, in, you graduate high school.  You went to Paris, and you also in Japan.

J:         No, I didn’t go to Paris.

I:          Oh, you didn’t.

J:         I got, went up in the Far East.

I:          Okay.  And you attended KEIO University which is very good private university in Japan

0:06:00

J:         Right.

I:          So did you know about Korea at the time?

J:         1948 and ’49, yes.

I:          How?  Tell me about it.

J:         Ah,

I:          What did you know?

J:         We were getting, uh, men coming, rotating out of Korea to Japan who spent time with us before rotating back to the United States.  We had a kid named Sergeant Busker.  He was at Seoul. He knew about the skirmishes, of the North Koreans shooting

0:06:30

South Korean soldiers and Americans up on the 38thParallel.

I:          When was it?

J:         1948 and ’49.

I:          ’48 and ’49.  So there was a skirmish, right?

J:         Oh yeah, oh yeah.  Lots of them.  But the, the men who were wounded, American soldiers who were wounded on the 38thParallel never got a Purple Heart because it was peace time, and then we, 1949 January, we had, uh, General Hodge,

0:07:00

military governor of South Korea,

I:          Yeah.

J:         Flying to Japan to beg MacArthur for the 7thInfantry to bring it back, the 38th  Parallel, and MacArthur wouldn’t even talk to him.  It’s in my book.

I:          Yeah.

J:         He waited at the Harbor Imperial Hotel for two days for permission to go see the General, and he never came in.  A Colonel came from  [INAUDIBLE] headquarters to tell the General go back to Korea, make an appointment for the future, and he never did.

0:07:30

I:          Why not?

J:         MacArthur wouldn’t see him.

I:          Uh huh.

J:         MacArthur had nothing to do with Korea.

I:          Right.

J:         He only had the perimeter of Japan to worry about, and he didn’t give a damn about nothing else.  He was the Emperor.

I:          So, General Hutch is the first USA, uh, 8thArmy, the Commander

J:         No.

I:          And the Korean Commander, yeah.

J:         No.  He was Kamide.

I:          Kamide, yeah.

J:         Was not the, it had nothing to do with 8thArmy.

0:08:00

I:          Later he became the

J:         Right.

I:          Yeah.  Right, uh, so that was, there was signs of skirmish and the conflict between North and South Korea already in 1940’s.

J:         ’48, ’49, and then the War started in ’50.

I:          Right.  So what, all those years now, if you think back, okay, what do you think about those signs that you heard about this potential conflict between North and South in, uh,

0:08:30

in 1940’s?  What do you

J:         We knew it was gonna happen.

I:          You knew?

J:         I knew the war was coming.  It was just a matter of when.

I:          Wow.  That’s a, that’

J:         You gotta read, you gotta read my book. 2000 pages.

I:          What is the name of book?

J:         It’s on the back of the card.

I:          Okay.

J:         “Waiting for John”.

I:          I’m sorry?

J:         “Waiting for John”.

I:          “Waiting for John”.

J:         No.  Dawn. D A W N.

I:          Oh, D A W N.  “Waiting for Dawn”, of the war breaking out?

J:         No, no. no, no.  It ha, it,

0:09:00

in my book, I meet Harry Denopfio.  I grew up with him.  On the battlefield he’s, he’s wounded in his chest.  He’s got a bayonet wound in his stomach, and I stayed with him all night at, in North Korea, at the Yalu River, and we talked about home, well we did it, reminisce about home

I:          And waiting for dawn.

J:         Yes.

I:          Good.  I want you to talk about the book later, but I need to follow up with.  This is, is very important because

0:09:30

you are one of the very few who were in Japan before the War broke out, and you telling me that you knew the War was coming.

J:         Yes.  Yes. Yes.

I:          Tell me more about it.

J:         Uh, when we, uh, Sergeant Busker says, uh, we, we was drinking beer, okay, and I, he says John, it’s, it’s a death place over there, and I said what do you mean death, and he says the North Koreans are training for war.

0:10:00

I said how do you know this?  He says the Russians are over there.  Kyongju and Ulsan with Task Force Smith.

I:          Right.

J:         And we got a message, a message from General MacArthur, you will encounter stragglers and a few tanks.  Sixth Infantry Divisions and 150 tanks and armor was coming down the road.

I:          And MacArthur telling

0:10:30

you that you going to

J:         Everything’s fine.

I:          Uh.

J:         You’ll be home, you’ll be home, no.  The word was the 24thDivision in the rear in Japan was gonna celebrate Saturday.  It was Tuesday.  We were all gonna go back to Japan for the celebration.  It took us eight hours to fly over there, and they’re gonna get the whole, a whole unit back to Japan for a celebration on Saturday morning?

0:11:00

I don’t think so.

I:          Um.

J:         Bs. [LAUGHS]

I:          What was your unit?

J:         Uh, Headquarters Company.

I:          Uh huh.

J:         First Battalion, 34thRegiment, 24thInfantry.

I:          What Regiment?

J:         34th.

I:          Uh huh.

J:         APO24.

I:          Um hm.  Tell me about this 24thRegiment, I mean the, uh, Division.

J:         It was understrength.

0:11:30

My, uh, my Regiment was supposed to have three battalions.  They had two.  And the weapons that we had, a lot were duds.  Everything we had.  Let me give you the example.  July 5 at 2:00 in the afternoon we saw our first Russian tank coming around a little bend in the mud huts 500 yards from us.  My Lieutenant hollered at the two bazooka men, WW II equipment,

0:12:00

ready, aim, fire. They both fired.  Big explosion.  We waited till the smoke cleared.  It’s hanging right over our company.

I:          Uh.

J:         And we had, Sergeant Modell was on a little crest of a hill with a mortar.  He was gonna drop mortars on the tank that [INAUDIBLE] their guns turned around, 89 mm, WHOP.  We sent one man over there to get the dog tags.  He said they met me there.

0:12:30

That’s a big hole he said.

I:          So your MOS was Communication, and

J:         I was in Communications, but I took basic training Infantry at Fort Dix, New Jersey.

I:          Uh huh.

J:         And when the War started, automatically they checked records, Infantry training, oh sorry.  Infantry training, so I flew to, I flew to Korea from Tokyo with Lieutenant Jimmy Valentine.  He was killed the first week

0:13:00

and, uh, we had two million dollars of electronic parts in the centers of planes hide down. We had 25 men, 25 men, Lieutenant and I, and we flew over, and went, I, we, I remember there was a Colonel Callahan 8thArmy Signal Officer in Korea.  July the 2nd, 10:00 at night we landed at Pusan Harbor, uh, air straight, and he signed for the equipment, and we were told to go to the rail head, get on box cars

0:13:30

and at midnight we left for a place called Taejon.  It started to drizzle rain on us, and we went up to Taejon, we got off the, off the train.

I:          So what was your unit at the time? Was it Task Force Smith?

J:         No, no.  They were already there.

I:          They already there.

J:         Yes.

I:          And what was

J:         We got there the second.  The third we got up there.  July the third we got at Taejon

I:          Uh huh.

J:         And there were K mag trucks

0:14:00

waiting for us, and, and, uh, we got loaded up on the trucks.  They took 50% of the men to the airstrip to dig in, and we went up to Kyongju and dug foxholes.

I:          I see.  So you’re just Headquarter Company, First Battalion, 34thRegiment

J:         Right.

I:          Just went, followed the Task Force Smith.

J:         Right right right.

I:          How many of you were there?

J:         One hundred and fifty.

0:14:30

I:          Hundred fifty all of you, only hundred

J:         No, no, no.  There was just, there was other, other companies that they had, uh, we had the 34thon the right flank at Task Force Smith, and we had other, had another company on the left flank of Task Force Smith.  They were wiped out the first day.

I:          You were with Task, uh, Task Force Smith.

J:         No.  Ten miles South

I:          South.

J:         Yes.

I:          Yeah.

J:         We were what you would call reserves.  July the 4th, the day before 5 when we were attacked,

I:          Uh huh.

J:         Uh, I, 2 ½ ton truck drove up,

0:15:00

And they hollered you guys 34th?  Yes. So he said we have some equipment for you.  He pulled out a big wooden crate.  It said Opama Ordinance Depot, 75 mm gun.  So my Lieutenant went over with his bayonet, took the top off, and he reached in and took out a tag that said unserviceable.  No firing pin.  Then he threw the thing back into the box, and he, he read it to me

0:15:30

and I know he got real angry, and he, my men start, they had, had radio, SC [INAUDIBLE] radios but no batteries.  So we had five cases of batteries.  They tested one there, one there.  And five cases, two each, all dead batteries.   Kawasaki Battery Company, Japan.  And I walks over to my Lieutenant and I said to him it’s not going to get any better, is it?  He never answered me.  We knew things were gonna go to Hell fast, and,

0:16:00

Uh, the next day was July 5.  At 8:00 in the morning, precisely at 8, we, we, there was mountains on both, on both sides of us there

I:          Um.

J:         And you hear rumbling.  We thought it was a rainstorm coming in, but the rumbling did not stop.  [NOISES] And I was talking to my Lieutenant, I says that’s not rain.  That’s something else.  It, that was, uh, test for Smith.  It intersected

0:16:30

by the North Koreans. And about 2:00, about 2:00 in the afternoon we were in place because we were Reserved, a soldier walking down, str, staggering down the road, he had a big band aid on his head.  His left ear was blown off.  His arm was gone.  He had a tourniquet here.  He had a t-shirt, fatigues and boots coming down the road.  My

0:17:00

Medic, Higarashi, took a stretcher and run out, put him on there, gave him a Morphine shot, and he was mumbling they’re all dead.  They’re all dead, and Higarashi said to me, he says he’s, he’s gone.  He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  I says something’s happened up there.  It did, and they put him in a [INAUDIBLE] took him, moved him to the rear to the hospital zone and, uh, that was at 2:00. At 4:30 afternoon, we saw a first tank, and you know what happened then.

0:17:30

And then, uh, that night we were just surrounded.  We’re expecting one or two, maybe five or 10 North Koreans, and we were surrounded, and you could spot black spots, they’re injuries coming down from the mountains. We, we did not know what the hell was happening.  And I, I said to the Lieutenant, we’re gonna die here.  We don’t have enough ammunition.

0:18:00

All I was given was a Goddamn carbine with 15 rounds.  Hand grenades, a 45 on my hip.  You can’t fight off an army.

I:          That’s all you had?

J:         That’s all I had, yeah.

I:          I mean, didn’t MacArthur Headquarters in Japan knew about this thing?

J:         Yes.

I:          But that’s all you had.

J:         That’s all we had.

I:          What do you think about it now?

J:         I think about MacArthur was not a, he did not know what, he forgot the War,

0:18:30

how bad it was, and that was, well see, that was the first day.  The second day we joined up with other 34thpeople, and they, we heard that something went wrong in the South.  Ammunition will be rationed, and I said, [STAMMERING] what do you mean?  I, I didn’t get it.  I says I remember WWII rationing food.  I said you can’t issue rationing

0:19:00

for bullets.  If the North Koreans got a burp gun with 100 rounds in it, you can’t face them 10 rounds.  And food, they had, I was given a can of C-rations in the morning, eat it at your pleasure. I always ate mine at night because my stomach growled all day, and I wanted to go to bed with something in it, and then it got so bad that no ammunition, no food, still retreating, try to hold the enemy back, and

0:19:30

it, we got from Kyongju into Taejon, and most of the 34thwas grouping.  Task Force Smith, we were told, was wiped out, and I says oh my God, this is terrible.  So we were going and getting 10 rounds of ammunition coming in in the morning, and one of my men said to the Lieutenant, when I shoot 10 North Koreans, can I have the day off?  It got to be a comedy.

0:20:00

The men were trying to boost their own morale, but it wasn’t working.

I:          Geez.  So you were really well, ill equipped, right?

J:         Ill equipped, and the worst part about it I met this Lieutenant Colonel Dutch Nelson.

I:          Uh huh.

J:         He was 13thField Artillery.  He was trying to get into Taejon, but the North Koreans had already taken over Taejon, and he had three rounds of shells with him

0:20:30

on two guns, and he said John, we had to, we usually zero in three rounds.  We had the perfect, perfect shot with three rounds. We were aiming at a moving tank. The first one missed him and exploded. A second one hit the tank but did not explode.  WWII. The ammunition was duds.  Then he said the third one missed.  He says we had to, shut the ridge, throw a hand grenade down the side and boom.

0:21:00

Let’s get out. We got nothing to shoot with. That’s how it was.

I:          So North Korean attack was really sudden unexpected, but there were some symptoms and signs already there around the 38thParallel,

J:         Right.

I:          And all, at the time, the soldiers and, and everything including logistics were not prepared to, to

J:         Nothing.  We were told everything is on a ship on the way,

021:30

across the, the straits.

I:          What were you thinking?  You, did you know anything about Korea?

J:         No.  Only what I was told, I was at, he said they had a dish called Kimchi.

I:          Uh huh.

J:         Don’t go near it.  I, and then I had an experience.  We were retreating, and we came t o a, a, a farmhouse, and I [INAUDIBLE], and one of my men hollered Sarge, there’s a mine here.  I said

0:22:00

dig.  They haven’t been here yet.  And he dug, and there was a crock in your ground, and I went over with my bayonet and opened the crock, and the odor was pretty, it was ripe, and one of the men said Sarge, I’m gonna throw a hand grenade in there. I, my foxhole’s right there. Don’t you dare.  And I just, I put the cap on and I said now stand and jump on it. He says why?  I says when the farmer comes back, this War ain’t gonna last forever.  When he comes back, he’s gonna take

0:22:30

it out and eat it. He says nobody could eat that stuff. Leave it alone.  Cover it up.  Dig another foxhole.

I:          So you thought that you were going to die?

J:         Oh yeah.  I was, I got blown out of a foxhole, Russian mortar.  I got six steel pins holding my cheekbone to my skull.  I have a, in North Korea Russian steel, basically my top two ribs, I still got it there, and my

0:23:00

doctor calls me the walking junkyard, and he said my, I’ll, I remember, it was 60 below out zero at the Manchurian border, and inside that tank was 100 degrees, hot air blowers, medics, MASH.

I:          So you survived that, uh, Taejon area.

J:         Yeah.

I:          And what happened to?  Where did you go.

J:         Oh.  We would retreat all the way down to the Pusan Perimeter, and I was East of Taegu, and there was a place called Ulsan.

I:          Ulsan.

J:         And I have a bad

0:23:30

remembrance for that, uh.  I was in my ¾ ton truck with, uh, our Company Commander, an interpreter, and Lieutenant Kim, and we were driving down this dirt road, and all of a sudden there’s a, as far as the eye could see, four people tied together, black pants, black jacket, straw hat over their head down to their shoulder.  You couldn’t identify man from woman,

0:24:00

And they had Nationals Police and Korean Army on both sides, and I asked, I said, I said well what the hell’s going on?  He says Communists, and I said North Korea?  He said no, Communists South Korea.  And we had words, and I’m thinking of a democracy, and he’s thinking about the War, and we had words, and I followed the convoy

0:24:30

to Ulsan.  There was a trestle and rushing ocean water coming in there, and thee was four South Korean soldiers on one side, and four Nationals Police on the other side, shooting, they were dropping into the ocean below, and I, I guess I had a fear of democracy

0:25:00

anger.

I:          Yeah.  Because there were South Korean supporter of North Korean regime Communism in the South, and some of the North Koreans, they, they hide it, you know?  So

J:         Right, right.

I:          That’s why.  So from Ulsan, where did you go?  Did you go to Yalu?

J:         Yes.  We, after we found out that, uh, our unit was wiped out, 1,000 dead at Taejon, 800 wounded, I was one of the wounded, and

0:25:30

300 were taken POW or missing in action never came back.  The 34thRegiment.

I:          So how many left?  1 thou, 1,000 killed.

J:         One hun, no, 179 of us.

I:          Yeah.

J:         And we joined up with the 19thand the 21st.

I:          Did you join the Inchon Landing?

J:         No, no, no, no.

I:          No.

J:         That was, that was the other side of the country.

I:          Yeah.  So after Ulsan,

J:         We were East side

I:          Yeah.  East side, and where did you go from there?

J:         We went from, uh, Ulsan

0:26:00

we joined up, then we went up to Taegu to Kumchon.  We went to, then we, we got orders to liberate Taejon, 24thInfantry

I:          Again.

J:         And then we got there, and there was, uh, 7,000 men, women and children, Christians, murdered on the side of the slope of the hill, and my Commanding General called the United Nations come in. What’s going on here?

0:26:30

And the people, the Buddhists that were left there in their houses, uh, the rest they could make out interpreter, that the North Koreans gave South Koreans at Taejon a handful of rice to identify they’re Christians, and they identified them, and they just took it on and killed them.  And they, I was look, I, at the bodies, and some were behead, decapitated, and I picked up one head, there was a body there,

0:27:00

and a head over here, and I picked up the head and put it next to the, uh, I’m a Christian, okay? In Catholic school they told me that from WWI, if a body came back with parts missing, the body would not rest. So, these were Christians, so I put the head next to the body, and it rolled away so I got a rock and put it next to it, and my Lieutenant says what the hell are you doing?  I said these are

0:27:30

Christians. They believe in God.  I said he, if the body is whole, according to Catholic sister, they would go to Heaven.  But if they don’t, they’ll never rest.  So about an hour later I saw my Lieutenant [LAUGHS]

I:          Doing the same thing.[LAUGHS]

J:         Doing, following suit, and I, I, I, that’s the first time in Korea I felt something good is happening, you know.  My Lieutenant.  But then we went, and then after that we just went North again.

I:          Did you go through Seoul?

0:28:00

J:         We went to Seoul, oh, Seoul.  [LAUGHS]  It’s the, the, the bridge was blown so they h ad a platoon bridge with, uh, I don’t know, rubber or 55 gallon jugs or something under it, and we went across. But when we got on the other side, Seoul was burning, smoke.  The Marines were coming down with the [INAUDIBLE] was to meet us, and the

0:28:30

place was burning, and that’s the first time I saw Seoul was on fire.  And this Lieutenant General, uh, Choy from Marines, he says what were you think when you saw Seoul?  I said disaster.  Everything was on fire.  He says you want to see a picture of it today?  I said yeah. Just about five years ago.   And he showed me. I said that ain’t Seoul.

I:          Um hm.

J:         He said it looks like New York.  I said you better believe it looks like New York, and I couldn’t believe my eyes.

0:29:00

I never been back to Korea.

I:          You never?

J:         I, I could never travel because of my health.

I:          I see.  You should because the Korea that you fought for 65 years ago is

J:         66.

I:          Sixty-six, I’m sorry. It’s completely gone.

J:         Right.

I:          Yeah.

J:         Oh, I have a question for you.  Hah, I was thinking when I’m gone, I wanted my daughter to fly to Korea and sprinkle my ashes where 1,000 of my Regiment

0:29:30

were killed so they wouldn’t be all alone, and the, the bridge was blown, and we had to swim the Geum River to escape the Russian tanks.  And, uh, we set up fortifications there to hold off the North Koreans, but we couldn’t.

I:          Wow.  That’s a

J:         Disaster.

I:          Yeah.  So from Seoul, where did you go?  Did you go to Pyongyang?

J:         We, we went to Pyongyang,

0:30:00

up at the 6th, 100 miles from Chosang, the border, I, it was snowing, and, uh, I rush in, weapons carrier came over the hill, and I had a bazooka man with new 3, 4 and 5, Henderson.  It just, it came over the hills, Russian, and I had, Henderson, you got him?  He says got him Sarge, And he aimed at the bottom of the windshield with a Bazooka and just wow,

0:30:30

and it ran off into a side of the hill on the side, the motor still running, and I ran over and jumped down on the side of that truck, opened it up.  The driver had a filthy, wool uniform with string, no buttons or zippers, and I slid down the side.  The other guy had

I:          Was a Russian you said?

J:         Huh?

I:          Russian?

J:         No, no, no.  Chinese.

I:          Chinese.

J:         Chinese.  And, uh

0:31:00

I, I stood on the driver without a head and on, this guy had a brand new uniform on, and so I took my bayonet and cut the strings on the front, opened it up, and he had paper, and I looked over here, and he had a red star, and I couldn’t, I says what the hell’s a red star?  I wrote, in 1960’s and 70’s, I wrote the Pentagon asking them to please identify

0:31:30

the, the person that I was taking this paperwork from, and they said they were Gooks.  I, I made a phone call.  I says, it was a Lieutenant Colonel.  I says you’re no help at all.  I says they had, they were Chinese, but they had to have rank for someone to lead them, and he said they’re, as far as he’s concerned, they’re all Gooks, and I said you don’t know nothing, and I hung up the phone.  And, uh, then, oh, what

0:32:00

I get memory lapse here.

I:          Ha ha.

J:         And then I, what the hell was I talking?

I:          Oh.  You were talking about the Chinese.

J:         Oh, Chinese

I:          Yeah.

J:         And I looked down, and there was a handle.  So I grabbed it and pulled on it.  It was a sword.  My daughter’s gonna bring it up.  And, so I unbuckled him and pulled the whole apparatus out and threw it to Henderson. I says hang onto that for me, and I’m thinking Chinese, although they’re driving a Russian

0:32:30

weapons carrier, that this would be a Russ, Chinese sword, and when we were retreating from North Korea, I went in our supply room and asked my Sergeant, I said, uh, can I pick up my Chinese sword?  He looked at me, he says Sergeant Baker, how long you been over here?  I says July.  He says you, you’re a little punchy.  He said we don’t have a Chinese sword.  I said I gotta go find Henderson.  When I hand him the duffel bag, and they took everything away but this. They, they, I kept this so they wouldn’t, they wouldn’t take it,

0:33:00

and we stripped down to our short s, go through, make sure you’re not carrying nothing.

I:          So, what were you thinking?  You came to a country that you didn’t know.

J:         No, no. no.  Let me, [INAUDIBLE] idea.  In 2001, I went into World Savings Bank in Monterey, and there was a Korean girl cashier, and I was wearing this, and she says thank you for saving my country, and it caught me by surprise and I

0:33:30

says we didn’t save your country.  We destroyed your country, young lady.

I:          Hm hm.

J:         She says no sir.  You destroyed the top.  Korea’s still there, and I, it caught me by surprise.  I remember, it was, it was, everything was mangled.  I never had a smile on my face the whole time I was over there.  It was a sad, everywhere I saw bodies, dead bodies,

0:34:00

and there was never a happy occasion in Korea.  I felt, uh, this one incident.  The 25thDivision, we were on the right, left flank, and the 25thInfantry had five tanks at, uh, Kyongju, not Kyongju, Kumsha, and then you had Kunchon Valley , and the fight tanks were on a plateau, and the Captain was looking with his binoculars,

0:34:30

and a sniper in the crowd’s coming over this, between the mountains, refugees by the thousands, got shot in the head, and he slooped down.  His Sergeant grabbed him, put him aside, closed the top, locked it, he, there was four Lieutenants in tanks behind him.  He said the Captain’s dead.  I’m taking controls.  There’s a sniper just killed him.  I don’t know what all’s out there.  We’re moving forward.  All four Lieutenants told the

0:35:00

Sergeant yes, sir, and the tanks rolled by us, and General Cho, I said how many people died when the tanks went over them?  He says thousands.  But he said it’s war.  You expect that.  And I could, how can you, you, accept it?

I:          Good to have you, back, John.  Uh, we, we had to end our first part of the interview,

J:         Right.

I:          But now you are back, and let’s talk about the War.

0:35:30

Two major battles that you want to explain.

J:         Okay.

I:          Yeah.

J:         Uh, we were, we were retreating from Kwangju, South of Ulsan,

I:          Um hm,

J:         And we dug in.  There was a, forest on the side of the hill to our left, to our right, rather, and we dug in foxholes, and relaxed, and then we were gonna get attacked at a later time.  The next morning at daybreak, we got slow enemy fire from the mountain, the forest area.

0:36:00

We returned the fire, and they did it for 35 seconds [NOISES] stop.  Nothing.

I:          Um.

J:         They, 30 seconds later they just [NOISES]  no more.  They quit firing, and one of my men hollered what’s wrong, Sarge?  I said I don’t know.  Then 90 second later, we were just sitting in the foxhole, artillery dropped in, and one exploded behind me.

0:36:30

I was unconscious. I woke up.  My ear, I had something running down my face.  I went like that, blood, my ears were bleeding. I didn’t know that.  I couldn’t hear nothing.  It didn’t dawn on me, and I saw something drop from the sky. It was a helmet with a head on it, and I recognized the helmet because the kid from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania had painted a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball insignia.  He said he was gonna confuse the enemy

0:37:00

if he was ever captured, and I looked over where he was supposed to be was a machine gun, and there was a big crater, and I see dirt flying, trees flying around me, but I can’t hear nothing.  It dawned on me it’s a silent movie, and I looked over to my right, and PFC Cassio, Shreveport, Louisiana, flopping on the ground, both legs are blown off below the knee. He’s

0:37:30

conscious, screaming. I can’ hear a damn thing, and I grabbed my Thompson submachine gun, and I crawled out of my foxhole over where he was and grabbed his left leg, took off my belt, tied it tight as I’d get it so there would no more blood was coming out of it, uh, the vessels of his leg, and then I reached in to take his belt off, and he grabs me by the top of my jacket, and he’s

0:38:00

screaming, I’m screaming Medic.  I can’t hear myself scream.  I can’t hear him.  He won’t let go of me, so I punched him in the jaw, took his belt off, and put it on his right leg and tightened that thing as tight as I could get to stop the blood, put a, a loop or lock in it, and the medic come, Higarashi from Long Beach, California come crawling on all and he said something, I went [TOUCHES EARS]. He nodded, and he gave the kid two shots of Morphine, one in each  shoulder

0:38:30

and drug him away. He lived for five years.  Every Christmas I would get a Christmas I would get a Christmas card from him, and he would address it To My Guardian Angel, and five years later, 1955, I was stationed at Fort Dix, and his, I got a letter from his mother that he was in the hospital, and the doctor gave him the wrong medication, it caused a blood clot and a heart attack, and he died.  I cried.

0:39:00

He survived the worst of the War, and he was, wrong medication.  Another incident was we were in foxholes and artillery was coming in, and they stopped.  So I went from foxhole to foxhole to see if anybody was wounded, and I heard a voice to my left.  Sarge, I’m hurt.  And I followed the voice over.  It was a PFC from the Southern

0:39:30

I think it was Georgia, and artillery cut him across his stomach, and his intestines were on the ground.  He was conscious. I can’t imagine the pain he had, and I walked over and I sat on his legs, and I picked up his intestines and put them in the cavity of his stomach, and then I pulled his t-shirt and fatigue shirt down, and they both turned red, and he’s up on his elbows.  He says Sarge, why are you screaming

0:40:00

Medic for?  He was, Higarashi was killed the other day, and I said it’s a habit.  And then he, he was joking, joking with all that pain he was joking with me, and he says Sarge, we’re all alone, aren’t we?  And he grabbed me.  There’s only five, six men left, and there were no, the nearest medic was 20 miles south of us, and I said yes, we’re all alone, and let out,

0:40:30

his arms gave out. He just bled to death.  And I was so angry that time because he was 19 years old, and I couldn’t do nothing for him.

I:          Just beside you.

J:         Pardon?

I:          Just beside you there.

J:         Yeah.

I:          Yeah.

J:         And that, when I was writing that in the book, I start crying, and I, I thought I was going crazy.  So I made an appointment with a psychiatrist in the Monterey

0:41:00

Hospital, and I went to see him.  He interviewed me, and I told him what was happening to me, and he says did you cry on the battlefield?  I says no. We were in the middle of a war. He says Mr. Baker, you bottled all that up inside of you

I:          Until now.

J:         Until now, and, I’m sorry.  Wow. Inside of you,

0:41:30

and right in the [INAUDIBLE] releases all that pressure, and now, the War is inside of you coming out, and I said do you want me to make an appointment with you?   He says no.  You’re in great shape.  I said, I thought he was crazy.  I says how can I be in great shape when I’m crying?  He says the pressure is going out of your body.

I:          Now release.

J:         Yeah.  And, I, I wasn’t aware of that.

0:42:00

And, uh, when we were retreating from North Korea and the Manchurian border, we were about 100 miles north of Pyongyang, and I, I gave the guys a break.  They were eating frozen C-rations and what have you, and one of the men, uh, I guess, uh, 100 yards from us was a burnt, bu, bombed out village, but there was smoke coming out, and one of the men went down there to see what was going on, and he come back with a little, I guess it was a leaf with

0:42:30

rice and meat on it, and he said hey, hot food.  Hot food. Steak and ch, and rice, and he was eating it.  And then two, two more men went down, and they come back and they were bragging chicken and pork, and I said to myself whoa.  What’s this on the Korean menu?  So I went down there, and there was a Korean, old Korean woman, gray hair, with a pot, steel pot about this big

0:43:00

with rice in it cooking, and a, a U.S. Navy 5-gallon can of coffee empty.  She was boiling oil in there with meat, and I went to Keio University for Japanese, so I asked her [JAPANESE].  She says [JAPANESE] I says [JAPANESE]  Dog meat.  And I heard a dog, oh, I heard a dog yelping

0:43:30

and then another yelp, and t hen yelp, yelp.  Somewhere a dog was getting beaten, okay?  So I went down between the bombed out buildings, and there was an old Korean man there with two dogs tied tight to the post, and he was beating them with a bamboo stick.  And I just, I, I knew why I was doing it, and at that moment, a GI from the convoy stuck his M1 rifle to the old man’s head and says you, [USES PROFANITY]

0:44:00

I love dogs. Don’t you dare beat on them, and I pushed the M1 rifle away.  I said calm me down.  Did you see any hotels, motels, garages, restaurants, JC Penny’s?  He says not.  I said all you have is barren rock and snow.  We bombed these people back in the stone age.  This is what’s left.  Sorry, Sarge. I went back to the convoy, and one

0:44:30

of the men said what language were you talking to that Gook?  They used the word Gook.  And I said, uh, I talked in Japanese to her.  I asked her what she was cooking, and they all stopped in their snow tracks. What, what.  I said it wasn’t pork.  It wasn’t chicken, and it wasn’t beef.  They said what the hell was it?  I said dog.  They were throwing up on the side of the road.  I said you people are crazy.  This all’s left in Korea.

0:45:00

They’re starving to death.  They, they didn’t get it.

I:          Yeah.  Because it was so different at the time.  The situation was so dire and, I mean, you have to eat to survive, right?

J:         Yes.

I:          Yeah.  But I understand soldier’s perspective, too that we had to kill this animal that we live with together as a, you know, companion.

J:         I told that story in the East Coast at Fort Dix with about 200 field grade officers,

0:45:30

and one accused me of aiding and abetting the enemy.  And I says you don’t know what you’re talking about, Major.  He says I know all about the reg, Army regulations, and you aided the enemy.  I was given, I gave the old Korean woman two cans of biscuits, in enemy territory.  I wasn’t thinking about the enemy.  She was harmless to me.  She was a civilian unarmed.

0:46:00

She had, I had no danger from her, and he says you should have been court martialed for what you did.  I said you don’t know a damn thing about war, Mister.  I almost got court martialed for it.  Telling the guy off.  But it happens.  Someone who’s never been to Korea.  I’ll give you another example.  I was taking my wife to, uh, [INAUDIBLE] Pennsylvania, it was the 5thInfantry Division, and they closed the post when, uh,

0:46:30

Eisenhower became President, and we had to use the facilities at the Carlisle War College in Harrisburg, and I took my wife for the, it was just a little, just a small building for a, a medical unit, and I dropped my wife off, and I went to find a parking space, and I found one.  I come back in, there was a bunch of officers sitting, War College, and I picked up a magazine, and I’m, Time Magazine, I ‘m looking at it, and I, I, I looked up, and 10

0:47:00

Colonels had a, made a circle around me, and I says, it, did, is it okay for me to sit here? And one said you were in Korea. This is 1953.  I said yes, I was in Korea, and they were reading what I had on here, and I says July 3 I went to Korea, and Tokyo, and he says why did you retreat?  I don’t know. We had no

0:47:30

ammunition or food. We had to retreat.  We couldn’t, we couldn’t fight the North Koreans. And, and they wanted to know why we retreated from the Manchuria border.  I said Chinese.  There were more Chinese than there were Americans, and we’ve run out of ammunition killing them.  Oh, I had a, a man on a machine gun in North Korea, killing Chinese, and he

0:48:00

fired that machine gun for seven hours, and he turned to me and he says Sarge, I don’t want to kill anymore.  I’m sick of this.  And I put another man on the gun.  Actually, they get tired of killing.  That’s how bad it was.

I:          Um hm.

J:         It was, it was madness.

I:          Tell me about the Chinese soldier that you had to

0:48:30

fight in, on the way to Yalu.  Did you, did you happen to arrest some Chinese soldiers?

J:         No, they surrendered, automatically.  They weren’t firing at us.  They saw us as a group.  They just, hands up, and

I:          Why is that?

J:         They didn’t want to fight a group of the soldiers. They were alone.

I:          Uh huh.

J:         And they put their hands up, and we had Higarashi, and we had Klaus who spoke German.  We had, uh,

0:49:00

Rodriguez who spoke Spanish.  I spoke American and Japanese.  We had a South Korean, uh, Lieutenant with us.  Everyone tried language on this guy, and he didn’t respond to nothing.  That’s what my Major said.  Whoa, what’s going on here?  And they sent a message to Tokyo that we’re taking, believe, Chinese prisoners of war, and that’s when the message come back.  There are no Chinese in Korean War.  Repeat.   And,

0:49:30

good grief.  He sent another message going to release them. We didn’t know who they are, and they wrote flash message.  Maintain, maintain.

I:          That, you know, the, the, at the time the General who was in charge of intelligence in the MacArthur headquarter in Tokyo, Willoughby

J:         General Willoughby.

I:          Willoughby, yeah.  And I think he was trying to sort of calm down about this, the

0:50:00

Chinese intervention, right?

J:         He, Under the first part of the July and august and September, bodies were going out of Korea like crazy.

I:          Um hm.

J:         And MacArthur had to send them to the United States.  He had to get a hospital ship to put the dead bodies on, and they start to arrive in San Francisco, um, Oakland, all the ports in the United States.  Bodies were coming in,

0:50:30

and the news people are taking pictures of the bodies with flags on them.  What the hell’s going on?  And MacArthur’s bragging we’re winning, we’re winning.  We, as far as I’m concerned, the war was over in August 1950.   My regiment was wiped out.  The greatest Army in the world, we were wiped out.  I was, I was, while we were retreating my men said what’s wrong

0:51:00

with this Army? Why isn’t the 82ndAirborne flying in because MacArthur said everything was under control.  He was lying to Washington.  You gotta read my book.

I:          Um hm.

J:         I studied MacArthur for three years in Japan, and then I did a fantastic job of him during the Inchon Invasion and North Korea when the Chinese came in.  You see, he had already, in October

0:51:30

he stopped ordering war materials off the battlefield, back to Tokyo for a victory parade. Everything was back there for the parade.  But when the Chinese came in, God, what the hell was he gonna do?  He promised his son Arthur he could be in the first, that first car that’s in the parade.  He had to tell his wife Jeannie, we always say Jeannie was running the war.  He was asleep.  And

0:52:00

he had all the stuff lined up, and I went into his head, and he had to tell Washington what happened, and taking all the tanks, armor, etc. back to Tokyo, he said to himself, the Army needed that to fight the Chinese.  Some units, 2ndInfantry Division, packed up half their ammunition and shipped it to Tokyo.  The war was over.  We were at the, most

0:52:30

Northern part of, of Korea, and then overnight seven Chinese Armies come in.

I:          When:

J:         We, we really hit them, 27th, 28th, 29thand 30th.

I:          In November.

J:         Yeah.  I said I was away for four days and four nights killing them, and my body screamed for sleep. I was talking to myself, take five seconds, just close your eyes. Just close your eyes, and

0:53:00

finally I just walked, and I, there was a big embankment of snow.  I just fell into it.  I woke up the next morning, every bone in my body was aching. I was freezing to death, didn’t know it.  And I said get up or you’re gonna die.  And I went to move my arms, and I felt pain everywhere in my bones.  I got up, and there was three dead GIs covered with snow,

0:53:30

and I went over to one of them, and I pulled, he had a, a poncho.  So I pulled the poncho over, and he was laying on his stomach. So I turned him over, he was laying on his M1 rifle.  I picked up his M1 rifle, I pulled the bolt back.  He had one round in the chamber and one more round in the clip.  So I pulled it forward and I pluck, pluck, It worked. I could keep, I had a Carbine with one clip left, and I

0:54:00

I took his dog tag out and read his, read his name, and I gave him a Hail Mary, rest in peace, and I put it in my pocket, and I searched his parka.  He had two cans of C-rations, and I took them out, I was hungry, cold.  So I put it in my pocket, and I covered him up.  It was gonna snow that night, and I did the other two men, and when I got home, my kid brother wanted to know what

0:54:30

happened [INAUDIBLE] So I thought about this thing, and I was telling that my mother said you robbed the dead.

I:          Um.

J:         I said yes I did.  And she told my kid brother, Jimmy, take me to church.  She went and telling the priest that I was robbing the dead.

I:          Ah.  No.

J:         And I, I, she came back, and the priest came an hour later, to the house.  And I said, uh,

0:55:00

this, it was O’Brien. I said Father O’Brien, I just came back from the Korean War, you don’t want to hear it.  No.  I said it was bad.  He says I know that.  I said have a good day,

I:          Hm.

J:         And he walked out.

I:          Yeah.

J:         And my mother was going, burning candles.  She went at 2:00 in the afternoon.  She went again at night, burned candles for, I would go to Hell because I robbed the dead.

I:          [LAUGHS]

J:         And I says you don’t understand.  She wouldn’t hear nothing.  She wouldn’t hear nothing.

0:55:30

I:          Yeah.  Oh.  So on the way to Seoul back, right,

J:         Yeah.

I:          From Yalu and to, to Seoul, how was it?

J:         Eh, we had three trucks with wounded.  We had to transfer them to another truck, and we pushed the truck off the road.  I put a few slugs into the gas tank and it blew up so the enemy couldn’t use it.

0:56:00

And each time I had, then we were following on foot.  We walked, and I guess it took us 10 days.  We ate, wherever you get food, we ate, and I guess we lived without food for about five days, and we got to Uijeongbu South of Seoul, and the 3rdInfantry

I:          No, North of Seoul.

J:         South.  No, Uijeongbu’s North of Seoul, that’s right.

I:          Yeah, yeah.

0:56:30

They had field, uh, stoves inside, and all I had on me was a hat and my helmet with a wool, plow cap, and I took my helmet and liner off, threw my liner to the ground, and walked in with the helmet, and a Sergeant, Mess Sergeant says where are you coming from, Sarge?  I said the Yellow River.  Oo. SOS. He puts, he throws four slices of toast in there,

0:57:00

And dipping, dip, he says tell me when to stop.

I:          [LAUGHS]

J:         And when he had covered all of them, I says stop. I says what are you gonna eat with? [LAUGHS] He gave me a big spoon, and that was the best food I ever ate in my life.

I:          Oh. [LAUGHS]

J:         I was starving.  And I ate that and Jesus.

I:          John, why do you think it happened to you like this? You didn’t know anything about Korea. You didn’t have any relationship. You didn’t have, you don’t know where it was.

0:57:30

Why did it happen to you now?  I mean, if you think now?

J:         Well, what has happened to Korea I think is beautiful.  They could, I, I wish all, I wish the Philippines could have did the same thing, but our Congress in 1945 did a dirty thing to the Philippine Islands.  All of the soldiers that died and fought for the United States were pushed away.

0:58:00

And every American citizens by the way.  Philippines was territory of the United States just like Hawaii.

I:          Like Puerto Rico.

J:         Yeah.

I:          Yeah.

J:         And they treated them like they were foreign people that didn’t know what they were doing.  They never, good Catholics.

I:          Right. So after you withdrew from Yalu River to Seoul and then go down, right?  What happened?

J:         Oh, I was, uh, the, the Chinese

0:58:30

kept pushing, and we, of course the units were just get the hell out of there, and Hamhung was boat after boat load of refugees, and I finally got down right, and they had the 19thRegiment made it down to Uijeongbu and Seoul area.  So, and then the Chinese came down, and I got wounded at Uijeonbgu.

I:          How?

J:         Artillery.

I:          Artillery?

J:         I, I have a 9 inch scar here,

0:59:00

and I got artillery pieces.  The, the doctors told me I was in the heated tent, that I got a, it’s good Russian steel. It ain’t gonna hurt you.  We don’t want to cut out your ribs.  So we’re gonna clean you up and sew you up.  So they cleaned me up and sewed me up, and, so they, my doctor, uh, I was trying to go, uh, I want to tell him to go to the airport, no, I was gonna go to For [INAUDIBLE] Federal Building, and they had radar set up inside.  And I walked in, and

0:59:30

bells are ringing like crazy.  And they wanted me to strip.  I says no, I ain’t gonna strip.  And I says why, why, what’s this going on?  and he says you have metal on you.  I said metal, metal.  Steel.

I:          Steel.

J:         So my doctor made out a card for me, plastic, that I’m a Korean War veteran, and I have, uh, shrapnel in my face and in my chest, and I will set off all alarms.

I:          That’s how you got the Purple Heart?

1:00:00

You have a Purple Heart, right?

J:         I have two Purple Hearts.

I:          Two Purple Hearts.

J:         Yeah.

I:          Right.  And what is the others, other, what’s in the bottom?

J:         This here’s a Purple Heart, Bronze Star.  This is the Korean Campaign ribbon.

I:          Oh.  that’s the Bronze Star?

J:         This is a Bronze Star with a oak leaf cluster and

I:          Which one, which one?  That’s the V, right?

J:         Here.

I:          That’s the Bronze Star.

J:         Yeah.

I:          How, what did you get?  Why did you get it?

1:00:30

J:         I rescued one, one man, drug him to the medical unit, and I got, the men, uh, awarded me the Bronze Star for valor, and the Silver Star on top, what happened at, when I put that tourniquets on PFC Cassio, my men sent a message to the Company, our Company Commander awarding the, uh, Silver Star for bravery.

1:01:00

I:          Um.

J:         And they’ve been, and my 24thAssociation book, they, uh, they’ve been make, uh, reading the records and printing what happened, and, uh, one editor before, uh, David Valley, said that Baker was there first.

I:          Um.

J:         But I know, Task Force Smith was in front of us, and I,

1:01:30

in my book I say, uh, uh, Henry has always been my hero because he took the brunt of the North Koreans first.  Then we got them second.

I:          Um.  What happened to your eye?

J:         Oh, I get, had, blind from car wrecks.

I:          Car accident.

J:         Yeah.

I:          Oh, so that was after the war?

J:         Oh yeah.  This was 10 years ago.

I:          Okay.

J:         I’ve worn this for 10 years.

I:          Um.

J:         I went with it to the DMV, the license, I filled out the application, test, and then I went over, and I didn’t have it on,

1:02:00

and the guy, I says I can’t see with my left eye.  So he covered my left eye, and he says read all five lines.  So I read all five lines.  And he says you’re in good shape.

I:          Um.

J:         And they, as a police officer, he said get yourself a patch so the Highway Patrol will know that you’re blind in one eye.

I:          Okay.  Um, so after you coming to Uijongbu and so, how far did you go down?

1:02:30

J:         I, and this was in November, December, January, I was with the 19th, I as in the hospital after this here, and then they transferred me from 24thInfantry back to 8th, I was on loan to them, TDY.  I was transferred back to 8thArmy, and I was assigned to Taegu Military Command in Taegu, and I was introduced to the new Lieutenant, and, uh,

1:03:00

he was just got to Korea about a week before, and he said Sergeant Baker, your 45 and your jacket. We’re going for a flight, and I says we’re gonna drop leaflets that have the Chinese surrender.  They’re losing the war, heh, and I laughed.  He said what’s funny?  I said Lieutenant, we just retreated 500 miles from Manchuria. We’re not winning the war.

1:03:30

They are.  he said the Chinese are stupid.  They don’t know what’s going on.  So we got in the airplane, and we had a harness for the locks on the doors, and we would have boxes and throwing out leaflets by the hundreds or thousands, whatever, like that.  And we did over Chinese territory, this was North of Ta, of the, whatever Division was there, we dropped leaflets in front of them.  And once the Chinese got a s hot in, took out our motor, right motor, and the Captain

1:04:00

was trying to fan it out, but it spread to the wing, and the whole right wing and the motor was blazing, and he said you two guys back there, you got your parachutes on? Well, yeah.  I’m gonna fly over ally territory and drop you off.  Then I’m gonna take the plane down, make a Uiee, and put the automatic pilot, and the co-pilot and I will bail out.  Got it?

1:04:30

You’re the Captain, so it’s [INAUDIBLE], he said okay, jump.  The Lieutenant jumped on my right.  I jumped from the left, and I landed in the 3rdInfantry territory, [INAUDIBLE] area.  And I laid it in the bunch of bark, brush and everything, and I was taking the harness off, and there’s, uh, a soldier, private, with a Hamhung rifle.  He hollers who are you?  I said Sergeant Baker,

1:05:00

Military, Taegu Military Command.  He said how did you get here?  How did I get here?  I’m taking off the parachute, and, uh, he’s pointing this M1 at me, and I says raise the rifle, pull, and put a round in the chamber, pull it three times for your Duty Officer.  And he did. But he had a round in the chamber, and the safety was off.  All he did was pull the trigger, and it just scared me, and the Duty Officer came in the Jeep

1:05:30

and he walked over, he was armed, and he said who are you?  I says Sergeant Baker, Taegu Military Command.  We’ve been dropping leaflets over Chinese territory.  Okay.  How’d y in the Jeep.  We’ll take you to our Headquarters.  So they, I went up there, and I put them in Headquarters, and they put me in another Jeep and took me to Taegu Military Command.

1:06:00

That was crazy. I was more scared with that kid

I:          Um.

J:         pointing that M1 at me with the safety off.  Boy, I get, I’m getting shivers.

I:          It’s amazing.  You were in a very early stage of the Korean War.  You went through all this important battles including Taejon with the Task Smith Force, and then you went up to the Yalu, and then you had to withdraw.

J:         Yeah.

I:          Wow.  You came

1:06:30

in one piece back. You came back in one piece.

J:         I came back in one, yeah, and my mother said you’re alive.  Yeah, I’m alive.  But I, I said, she says, she showed me a picture Life Magazine, 24thInfantry with three men in it, and she said your friends.  I said I don’t know who they are.  They’re from another Regiment.  I don’t know who they are.  He says you gotta know who they are.  It says 24thInfantry.  I said I’m sorry.  I don’t know who they are.  But I

1:07:00

I found out a couple years later who he was, and, uh, I wanted to know, I said what about the other three guys and the Korean, uh, Katusa in the center?  He said they all were killed.  Two were prisoners of war.  And I said oh my God.  And we were communicating the last 25 -30 years on the telephone.  We’d call each other up at Christmas and talk, and I said you know, you’re lucky

1:07:30

to be alive?  He says you’re lucky to be alive.

I:          Right.

J:         Geez.

I:          Uh, you told me in the beginning that you, uh, you know what happening Korea right now, you know, very developed economy and democracy, right?

J:         Yes.

I:          Yeah.  What do you think about this whole thing?

J:         Today I say Korea’s on the right level and are doing beautiful.  Don’t change it.  But the first, Syngman Rhee was a, July, I think it was the second week in July, a Jeep drove up to where we were at, and the clerk had a brown envelope.  He says I’m looking for Sergeant Baker, and he had my serial number, RA on the letter.  He says I must see your dog tag, Sarge to identify

1:08:30

  1. He said this is from the Captain.I said you want an answer?  He says no.  Just deliver to you, and I opened it up, and I read it, and it said Sergeant Baker, tomorrow morning at daybreak, 5:30 A.M., Syngman Rhee, President of South Korea, will be going through your sector.

I:          Where?

J:         My sector, where we were located.

1:09:00

I:          Where was it?

J:         We’re at Taejon.

I:          You mean in July?

J:         July ’50.

I:          Oh.

J:         He was going to visit his, the South Korean troops.

I:          Yeah.

J:         We had South Korean divisions, okay, and it said going through your sector at, at daybreak. Eliminate Watski.

I:          Watski?

J:         That was his name, Captain Watski.

I:          Uh huh.

J:         And I took the letter

1:09:30

and took my cigarette lighter and burned it, and my men were there and said what the hell’s going on, Sarge?  Nothing. And I says go get me that rifle with a scope, and he brought it to me, and I checked the bolt action, and I put a round in chamber, safety off, and the next morning we were awake all night on patrol, and I was looking through the scope of the rifle, of the weapon, and I

1:10:00

saw a Jeep and old 1939 Buick, I think it was, and then another Jeep.  Both had 30 caliber machine guns on the Jeeps, one in front, one in rear with Koreans soldiers. and I, I saw Syngman Rhee, his face, in the back seat, and I followed him for 45 -50 seconds, and he went by, and

I:          That was, uh, July

1:10:30

J:         The second week in July.

I:          Second week.

J:         Yeah.  And a week later, I met Captain Watski.  We bumped into each other, and he says you could have been a hero.  I said he wasn’t shooting at me. I only shoot people that are shooting at me.  And, but, in 19, it was, 1960, Syngman Rhee boxed up all his people, the

1:11:00

United States gave him a C54 plane with pilot and so on, and he took all the gold that was in the Reserve in Korea and flew to Hawaii, and I got mad.  Oh, I got mad.  I, I wanted to send telegrams to the President of the United States, and he said he was one of the finest administrators he ever knew.  He just robbed the poor people of Korea.

I:          How do you know that he robbed the gold?

J:         It was in the paper.

1:11:30

He took all the gold that was, and put it in a plane and flew to Hawaii and declared that he was away from Korea.  Never again. And I, oh, and I couldn’t tell anybody about, I was supposed to shoot the guy because it’s supposed to be a secret.

I:          What do you mean?  I, I couldn’t understand.  They asked you

J:         The United States Army in Korea did not want

1:12:00

Syngman Rhee as President because he wasn’t following anything they said.  He was a thorn in their side.
I:          So, but you didn’t.

J:         No, why should I?  He wasn’t shooting at me.

I:          And, are you sure that you got that letter from

J:         My Commanding Officer.

I:          That to kill Syngman Rhee when he is visiting Taejon?

J:         He was visiting the Korean troops.

I:          I cannot believe that.

J:         It happened.

I:          I cannot believe it.

1:12:30

J:         It happened.  1950, and then when [INAUDIBLE] he, he exiled himself from Korea, I said

I:          But you got the letter to kill the, the order to kill Korean President.

J:         Eliminate was the war term in the letter. Eliminate.  That means shoot.  That means kill.  That means assassinate.

I:          You, you sure, right?

J:         Well, yeah.  Yeah.

I:          We are recording this, okay?

J:         I know it.  I know.  I know, yeah.

1:13:00

I:          I never heard about this before.  Wow.

J:         1950.  And I, when he exiled himself from Korea to Hawaii

I:          Could you repeat why U.S. Army wanted to eliminate Korean President?

J:         Look what he did during the Korean War.  He opened the POW camps and released all the prisoners of war.

I:          But it was just beginning of the War.

J:         No, no.  That was in 1952.

I:          ’52.  You

1:13:30

J:         They, they, uh, the, the Peace Treaty, the Peace Treaty, the meetings were going on, and he release all the Chinese and North Korean soldiers in 1952.

I:          But you were, you left Korea in 1951.

J:         Yes.

I:          But how did you,

J:         How’d I what?

I:          When did Syngman Rhee visit it?  Taejon.?

J:         9, July ’50.

I:          July 1950, right?  And why U.S. Army

1:14:00

already decide to eliminate Korean President?

J:         The word I got he wasn’t cooperating with the Generals.

I:          Wow.  [LAUGHS] I know you told me about

J:         But I couldn’t, well I couldn’t pull the trigger because he was an ally.  You don’t kill the ally.  They wanted him eliminated.  They had somebody they wanted to put in as President who would do as they say.

1:14:30

I:          Wow.  This is a shocking information.  I never heard about this before.

J:         I’ve known that 66 years.

I:          So you can swear to me that it happened.

J:         I swear to God I got a message from my CO.

I:          What’s his name?

J:         Captain, uh, Captain Watski.

I:          Captain Watski.

J:         Yeah.

I:          Wow.  If, if you eliminated Syngman Rhee at the time, the whole

1:15:00

history of Korea would have been completely different.

J:         Probably, yeah.  But the arm, U.S. Army was in command with, under General MacArthur.

I:          Oh yeah.

J:         But Syngman Rhee evidently was not cooperating with them, and you know the American politics.

I:          Wow.  Were you scared?

J:         Of what?

I:          Of all this battles that you went through?

J:         I was scared to death. I was missing

1:15:30

in July for four days behind enemy lines.  I didn’t know where I was.  I was scared to death.  I was missing with Harry at the Manchurian border.  I said, I tied Harry on my back and I said what a Goddamn target we’re gonna make.  We’re, I said we’ve been a regular Chinese ambush and boy, they use us as target practice. And I was scared because I was holding two M1 rifles and holding Harry by the hand so he wouldn’t fall backwards.

1:16:00

I:          You never been back to Korea yet, right?

J:         I’ve, ’54 and ’55. Oh I gotta tell you a story.

I:          Yeah.

J:         1954, I was, I got orders for Tokyo signed by three- star general in the Pentagon, and I got far as Fort Lewis, Washington, Personnel, going through the Personnel line, and they took my orders and, a 3HK on my orders.  And I,

1:16:30

I’m curious.  I said what’s the K for?  He says Korea.  I’m no, no, no, no, no.

I:          [LAUGHS]

J:         No thank you.  I’ve been there.  Ah, I said I got orders signed by three- star general.  He says we have orders signed by the, the orders of a four- star general, and what they were doing every non-commissioned officer, E5, 6 or 7 that would come through there, every warrant officer, lieutenant or captain would come through there, they had a

1:17:00

boat ready for us. Seven hundred non-commissioned officers and 500 hundred officers, company grade, on that boat going to Korea in 1954.

I:          You again.

J:         They called it a ze, a, a zebra

I:          Ha.

J:         Boat.

I:          How was it?  When you go back, how was it?

J:         Great.  It was a, I, a friend of mine, not a friend of mine, a, William Henry Hollingsworth from Dallas, Texas.  His mother owned the Macalisis Bank, okay?

1:17:33

And she got involved with Korea, and a [INAUDIBLE], I wrote a book about it, uh, Peanut Butter or a soup sandwich.  It’s, uh, about 190 pages.  It’s, it’s really a comedy, but it, I put some Korean stuff in there, of happenings to poor Korean people.  And it, we, we got the job of, he signed us up, four of us, for the nursery.  There were families gonna go to Japan

1:18:00

and, uh, we took care of the children, the nursery, for 14 days going over the, by boat.  And it was quite pleasant with the kids, and, uh, kids are mysterious because they’ll, like we put a string around each neck with a nametag, but they would switch.  When we’d go to find a person, oh, here he is.  No, his mother said that’s not my kid.  They, the kids were switching

1:18:30

names, and we didn’t know who the hell who, was who.  The, only the mother could identify them.  Anyway, the second trip I, I got there in first week in November ’54.  No, November, December, uh, 8th. There was snow on the ground Uijongbu, and they all, we had Koreans working the laundry shop.  One old Korean woman come in and she’s crying,

1:19:00

and we called the interpreter find out what was going on, and he said the Turks was up, two miles up the road from us, had, her son was 10 years old and working in a Turk unit, whatever, whatever they had doing, and they caught him stealing, and they took an M1 rod, cleaning rod, and stuck it through his ears and hung him in a tree to show that they don’t approve of what he did.

1:19:30

and Hollingsworth and I grabbed a Captain’s Jeep, and we drove up there, and we got to the, the Turk was, uh, at the gate.  It had one barbed wire around this high.  That was it. That was, that was all they needed. Nobody would go in there.  And I wanted to speak to Cap, Captain.  Your boss.

I:          Um hm.

J:         So, this, the Korean Captain, not the Korean, the Turkish Captain came out, broken English,

1:20:00

and I said you have a child hanging in a tree.  He said he stole.

I:          Wow.  So he, they hanged the

J:         I says you’re going to take for the mother to bury. No.  He stays.

I:          Oh boy.

J:         Well, I, I didn’t like what he told us and Hollingsworth didn’t like it.  He’s from Texas.  And I says you won’t take him down?  I said can we take him down?  No.

I:          Oh my.

J:         Stay.  Thief.

1:20:32

Ten years old for crying out loud.  So we drove back to our compound and we told the Captain we were going down to the Military Police.  We went down there to see a Major in the Military Police and tell him what happened.  He says what do you want me to do about it? I ain’t gonna go up there and, near a Turk unit?  They’re blood thirsty bastards.  I said I know that.  So we went back to our compound.  I, I told the Captain let us go to the United Nations Headquarters in Seoul.

1:21:01

They can take action. So we took rations with us, and we drove down to Seoul to the United Nations Headquarters. It was a Mr. Montgomery from, yeah, from the U, UK, England, in charge, and we told him what happened, and we told him what we wanted to do, take the kid down, and he says why are you coming to me for?  I says United Nations

1:21:30

helps the little guy. He said but the kid’s [INAUDIBLE] I said he’s 10 years as a child. He says we cannot go to the Turk outfit and tell him to take it down.  There will be an International Incident.  I said in other words, you’re gonna, you don’t give a damn.  He says we care, but we won’t interfere.  So I went back up to the Turk outfit and I took, I had a Polaroid black and white camera.  I took about 10 pictures of the kid hanging in the tree.

1:22:04

And over 50 years, those pictures disappeared.  I was showing friends, and they, they disappeared.  I don’t have them today.

I:          Oh, that’s too bad.

J:         But the, the Turks were blood thirsty.

I:          Yeah.

J:         I know why.

I:          We’ve been talking more than two hours already

J:         Oh my God,

I:          And, uh, I want to wrap this one.

1:22:30

Uh, let me think about it.  Why is it forgotten?  Why this War has been forgotten?

J:         The United States, when they start seeing bodies coming back with flags on them, they got angry because the Second World War was just five years before, and they don’t want that to happen again, and they shut off funds for South Korea, for the military.

1:23:00

When I got home, my brother greeted me, oh, you’re back.  How are you?  That was, didn’t even shake my hand.  He said you guys don’t know what you’re doing over there.  We’re retreating.  We had no ammunition.  What are you gonna do?

I:          Why did your brother react to you like that?

J:         Because he was in WWII, Navy.  He was in the one that won the war.

1:23:30

We didn’t win anything.

I:          But now it proves.  It proves that you did win.

J:         When we were retreating from, from Kinchon, I asked myself how am I gonna tell my mother and fat her we, we lost the war? I was embarrassed.  I was ashamed of myself.  My gun was empty.  I had nothing in it.

I:          So you don’t like MacArthur.

1:24:00

J:         I hated the guy.  I thought he was a, he was a hero in WWI.  He was a pain in the butt in WWII.  That was a proven fact.  And, the only reason Truman appointed him because he was there.  He was a five-star.

I:          But his Inchon landing was brilliant.

J:         That was the luck of the Irish.

I:          Um hm.

J:         General Walker wanted to come in on the East side

1:24:30

I:          From Wonsan.

J:         With no tie at all, just come in, and I started thinking.  But when the Inchon was on, we were in the mountaintop, near Taegu, and we could see flashes of, once again we thought rain storms or something.  But it was the Inchon invasion, and the next day we got word hey, the Inchon invasion is over.  The Marines had landed with the 7thDivision.  They’re going to fight their way South.  Oh great.  But I’ll tell you another incident.

1:25:00

Uh, we were at the Hoochon Plateau, and they had the Hoochon Valley where the mountains around it.  We were in there coming back, and we ran out of food, ammunition, everything, and the CO called for an airdrop.  A 10 x 10 wooden crated loaded with everything, and a case of Budweiser beer tied on top with a note, Good Luck, landed,

1:25:30

and you know the valley is 110 degrees in the valley, and one of the privates cut off the rope around the case of beer, he brought them over and he said Sarge, it’s hot.  I says go find me a zip bag and a bug bomb. He went.  Fifteen minutes later he’s back, he’s got a [INAUDIBLE] bag, rubberized, canvas and a bug bomb.  I put, filled it up with 15 cans of beer,

1:26:00

and I took the bug bomb and turned it on and broke the top off so it would spray, it would empty and put it aside, closed the rubber, and closed the canvas, and we waited for 15 minutes, and I opened it up, and a, one kid got a, a helmet with fresh water, and I took my bayonet, and I took the can out, slushed it in the water, and put it down, and I punched two holes and I hand it to one of the privates.  It was almost froze.

I:          [LAUGHS]

1:26:30

J:         The first cold drink we had in six weeks, and they said how did you do that, Sarge?  I said I learned that as a kid when I was in a lake, and there was a dump, and there was an aerosol can, and there was mosquitos everywhere on my hand, and I went, I squirted with I t, and my hand froze.  So I went to the lake and washed it off, and I said they freeze them, and when we saw the hot beer, bug bomb. [LAUGHS]  It worked.

1:27:00

I:          Um.  What is your legacy?  Why do you think it happened to you in your life about this whole thing?  What is the legacy?  What are

J:         I’m happy that Korea has survived and prospered so much.  It looks like New York City today.  I’m happy for them.  But I was given two air, airline tickets, first class,

1:27:30

to fly from San Francisco to Seoul and back as a guest of South Korea.  And I had to hand it  back to the General because I can’t fly.  My health.  And I, I would, I wanted to go, and my, after my doctor gave me clearance two years ago to fly, I was gonna fly, fly to Korea this Spring, but I was in the hospital with cancer, and I got out, and,

1:28:00

And then this past, past Spring, I was back in the hospital for nine days with blood clots. I got rid of them, and now my daughter said your, you are clear of all diseases, but I still get shots, and she said let’s plan on going to Korea in 2017.  I says okay. She says but I, I, I told my daughter I would, I wanted my ashes dumped at Taejon where 1,000 men like gave their lives,

1:28:30

and I talked to one Colonel from the South Korean Army, and he said where we were, we swam the Kru River near the bridge was blown, he said there’s all hotels.  He says you can’t see the river because of the buildings, and I told my daughter that I won’t know where I’m at with that, you know,

1:29:00

for that area because that area to me would be sacred because so many died, and so I’m, I’m gonna, don’t know what to do.

I:          Um.  I hope that you can go back to Korea.

J:         I would like to go back.

I:          Yes.  You should, and you know all these things.  You fought there, and you went through Hell, series of Hell.

1:29:30

But Korea came beautifully.  Why we don’t teach about this?  This is the most successful

J:         Yeah it is.

I:          American involvement.

J:         It’s better

I:          After World War II.

J:         It’s better than talking about 1800 in the United States.

I:          Why we don’t teach about this thing?

J:         Oh.  Heh.  I taught History of American contracts with the Indians, tribes,

1:30:00

and we, America broke 1, 100 or so treaties with the Indians so they could take their land away from them.

I:          Um hm.

J:         And to me, that’s shameful.  How can you brag about something

I:          Um hm.

J:         When you rob people of what they had?  I’m so sick of seeing John Wayne killing Indians,

1:30:29

and when he’s wounded with an arrow and he’s saying bring me more Indians.

I:          Um.

J:         It just, it blows my mind. I can’t stand to see John Wayne who never was in the service.  He chose money over country in 1942.  He wanted to go in the service, but he wanted to be [INAUDIBLE] as a Lieutenant Colonel, a Lieutenant Colonel’s rank, and they wouldn’t give it to him. So he didn’t go in.  He didn’t have to go in.  He was

1:31:00

So he did seven war movies in Hollywood and then, the funny part about it my brother came back from WWII, and he had a friend was wounded.  He belonged to the Hollywood Purple Heart Association in Hollywood, California, and they saw all these movies with John Wayne.  So they invited John Wayne to be President of the Purple Heart Association in Hollywood,

1:31:30

and he sent his Public Relations Officer to the meeting and tell them that he never, was never in the service.  Sorry. Can’t do it.

I:          Um hn.  Um, what do, what is Korea to you now personally, personally in your life, what is Korea to you?

J:         Wonderful.  I, I think

1:32:00

it’s just a gem to put on a shelf, accomplishments.  But I didn’t have nothing to do with it.  We were retreating.  I’m embarrassed at what happened in 1950.  I was ashamed to come home.  I feel like what, what’s my folks gonna say to me?  You lost the war?  What the hell’s the matter with you?  I was ashamed of myself.

1:32:30

But today, oh my God. I couldn’t believe the pictures that General Choy showed me.  He says this is New York.  I said it looks like New York.  It’s Seoul.

I:          It’s a much bigger than New York.  It’s much newer than New York.

J:         Oh then he’s, then, uh, General Choy, Choy was telling me that in Seoul, I said what happens if the North Koreans attacked again?  He said they’re in for a surprise.

1:33:00

I:          Um hm.

J:         And I says how?  He said the highway will drop.  If a tank comes down the highway in Seoul, part of the highway, 50 feet, will drop.

I:          Yes.

J:         And the tank can’t go anywhere.

I:          Right.

J:         Goes in the hole.

I:          Yeah.

J:         And I said oh my God.  All I saw was dirt roads when I was over there.  Jesus.  My God. I said it, it just

1:33:30

it’s beaut, it must be beautiful over there.  My wife says you think, my daughter tells me you think you’d get lost, and then I saw a, a modern picture, I, we went to the Japan town in San Francisco.  I got a Korean map, modern map

I:          Um hm.

J:         They changed all the names of everything in Korea.

I:          Yep.

J:         There’s no more Taejon.  It’s Dejon.

I:          Um hm.

J:         Taegu is Daegu.

I:          Um hm.

1:34:00

J:         Pusan is

I:          Busan.

J:         Busan.

I:          Yeah.

J:         And, I was, I was trying to show my daughter. We’d go down here, and then we were surrounded, and I said that’s a, my, my Regiment took a beating, and most of the people died.  She said how the hell you get out?  I said we were lucky.  We kept moving South, moving South, and shooting, shooting, shooting.  And I didn’t

1:34:30

The first week of July, when Task Force got hit, I thought I would never leave Korea alive. I thought I was gonna die over there.

I:          So many people killed there, so many Americans. You survived, and you telling us this whole horror story, and because of that, because of that sacrifice and your suffering

1:35:00

we are now vibrant economy and substantive democracy.  So your, your sacrifice and all other sacrifice never been wasted, and that’s why we want to do this.  We want to do more interview of Korean War veterans so that we can tell

J:         Right

I:          our young children about this.

J:         Right.

I:          And.

J:         Hope they understand.

I:          Because you talking to them, they will understand. But not from the

1:35:30

textbook which has only one paragraph.

J:         Yeah.

I: They not, they don’t even know what Smith Tasks, Task Force Smith is.

J:         I know.  I know.  I met Colonel Smith once on the road, and my General Dean, I saw him.  He had 25 or 30 wounded men.  He was escorting them to the rear, and the next time I saw him he was running after a T34 tank with a 45 pistol,

1:36:00

shooting it, and as, I told the Lieutenant, doesn’t he know that gun turret at 360?  He said he doesn’t care.  And I t was madness.  We didn’t know where to go.  We didn’t know where North was or South was.  We depended on the sun.  East, West, North is Communist, go South.

1:36:30

Stay alive.

I:          I, you know I’m, I’m, I don’t know what to say. You were at the worst phase, the oldest phase of the Korean War, and you survived, and you’re telling us all this, and I don’t know what to say, but

J:         Oh I got one for you

I:          thank you.

J:         Another one.  you heard of Iron Mike?  Colonel Michaelis, 27thRegiment 25thInfantry, he has a [INAUDIBLE] There wasn’t any place, we were broke down with a ¾ ton truck, and we, the muffler got knocked off the concrete, and they were fixing it with telephone wire, and a Jeep came around us, and looked at the bumper, 2725H, Headquarters.  And Iron Mike got out of the Jeep, he was driving it with three men in it, and a Jeep, uh, uh, trailer with canvas.

1:37:30

And I walked across [INAUDIBLE] and I saluted him.  I said Iron Mike, Colonel Michaelis, your reputation is preceded you.  And he said what have you heard?  I said I heard what you, he had the 27thRegiment up on a front line.  I told him that I, his reputation has preceded him, and  he said what have you heard, and I said I heard what you did to that South Korean Army Major who had an Infantry Battalion on the right flank

1:38:00

of the 25th, 27thRegiment.  And he, the Major, South Korean Major ordered all his men to go home, and, uh, Colonel Michaelis gotten word that he set up a road block on the road, and convoy came down, and Michaelis stopped it, and he, he had his Korean interpreter with him. He, he says you’re supposed to be on my

1:38:30

right flank.  Go back up there yet.  There’s a hole in the war.  And he said he ain’t seen his wife in three weeks.

I:          Um.

J:         And he’s lonely, and he’s going home.  And he told the Colonel to get the hell out of the way

I:          [LAUGHS]

J:         And they had words in Korean, person the Colonel Michaelis, and Michaelis pulled out his 45 and says turn your convoy around or I will shoot you.

1:39:00

And the Major cussed the Colonel in Korean, and gave him the finger, and the Colonel shot him in the head, and he fell out of the Jeep, and he, through his interpreter, there’s two officers in the back of the Jeep. He says what’s your rank?  He said they’re both Captains.  He says one of you come up here.  You’re not a Major.  Turn this convoy around.

I:          Wow.

J:         And they did.  Went back up on the line.

I:          Killed right there?

J:         Right there.  He fell out of the Jeep, and I said

1:39:32

You’re my kind of Colonel.  You don’t take crap from nobody, and there’s one other incident at the, we were retreating from Taejon, and the 25thInfantry was on another road at the plateau of, uh, Ku, South of, of Taejon, Kunchon

I:          Um hm.

J:         They were on a plateau, and they was two mountains and refugees are coming through, and they had five tanks, a Captain, four second Lieutenants, and

1:40:07

the Captain had the top of the tank open with binoculars looking at this mass of people, refugees, coming through the pass.  And a shot rings out, kills the Captain, he falls down inside of the tank. the Sergeant grabs him, closes one side, he closed it and locks it, he gets on the radio.  He said the Captain’s dead.  A sniper got him.  I don’t know what else is out there.  We’re moving.

1:40:33

All four Lieutenants, yes sir, and the Sergeant drove the tank, and I asked General Choy how many people die?  He said doesn’t matter.  A war is a war.  People die. I said but five Army tanks driving over human bodies.  How many? He said we now have peace.  That counts.  And I said that was wrong.

1:41:02

That was wrong. They knew the people were out there. They could see it through the hole. And

I:          So so many civilians must be killed.

J:         Yes.,  He said we have peace now.  I says, I, I, I, I, maybe I’m crazy, but I think it was wrong.

I:          Oh yeah.

J:         Too many, I have a picture of refugees, and I put the dark days, the bad days.  It was, It was bad.

1:48:39

And it was nothing you could do about it.

I:          Um, I want you to explain about this album, okay? Show it to the camera.

J:         Okay.

I:          As, and what is about it?  And tell, tell me about that, uh, sword again

J:         Okay.

I:          Because that album is about the sword, right?

J:         Uh, all the pictures in here

I:          You have to show that picture to the camera.

J:         Okay.

I:          No.  That way, the other way around.

1:42:10

I:          Can you handle it?

J:         Yeah.

I:          Yeah. Yeah.  Like that, yeah.

J:         Okay, Uh, all the pictures in here are from the Smithsonian] Institute, the 50thanniversary of the Korean War.

I:          Um.

J:         I got a phone call in May 2000 from the Dept. of the Army.

I:          Yeah.

J:         Asking me will I loan the Russian sword for the display, and I said yes.  So I sent it, and they had it for 3 ½ years,

1:42:40

for the anniversary, 3, 50 years.  And when, at 3 ½ years later they sent me the sword back and all the pictures that were at the, on display at the Smithsonian, and when I received the sword back, they, Monterey newspaper had an article on it, the return of the sword, and I got a phone call from the, an antique dealer

I:          Um hm

J:         that he offered me $10,000 for the sword along with a documentation of the Commander in Chief’s signature on the document. And my granddaughter was in high school, and I’ve already willed the sword to her and the book

1:43:30

and, uh, I asked her you want to sell your sword for $10,000?  She says no.  I wanna butter my toast in the morning with it.  [LAUGHS]  And he said, that’s okay.  In the future if she decides she wants $10,000, I have it ready, and he gave me his phone number in Salinas, and I’ve had it ever since.  These are all from the Smithsonian Institute.  Every unit that served over there in the war

I:          You have to scan this and give it to me.

1:44:00

I want to, I want to scan this thing and put it in the, uh, internet with your interviews together.

J:         Oh, okay.

I:          You know?  You have to scan this thing.  Is your granddaughter close, living close to you?

J:         She’s in Reno.

I:          Reno:

J:         Yeah.  She graduated from Mills College in Oakland, California, and they offered her a job with Caterpillar Science Jet Fuel.  She, [INAUDIBLE]

1:44:30

whatever they are. She studies micro, uh, jet fuel, the breakdown and the categories to use in Caterpillar tractors for construction.

I:          I want your family scan this pictures and send it to me so that I can publish it and be used in the,

J:         Why don’t you

I:          for this

J:         take the book?

I:          Can I?

J:         Yes. It’s insured for $40,000.

I:          [LAUGHS]

J:         This is insured for $60.

I:          Uh.  Do you have extra pictures?

J:         I have none, no.

1:45:00

I:          Pictures?

J:         No, we, you’re gonna take care of it.

I:          I will return it to you, okay

J:         I know

I:          so you need to write your, uh, address.

J:         Right.  You got it on the card.  I gave you a card.

I:          Yes.  Right there.]

J:         Right. Uh huh.

I:          Okay.  Um, we need to end this otherwise we going to go over

J:         Okay.

I:          All night.  Um, say something about your whole

1:45:30

Korean War experience, and how important that is to you and your life.

J:         The Korean War to me was a sad, sad situation because I was in the worst of it in July, 1950.  We were losing.  We were, my whole time in Korea was retreating, and I, I felt

1:46:00

that we, that we failed South Korea as a whole because we retreated 150 miles.  We retreated 500 miles, and I didn’t see any victory involved.

I:          But, but

J:         But today, I’m looking at you, and I’m, with a camera, and I’m saying we made it.

1:46:30

We made it.  And everything was not lost.  It survived that bad, dark days of Korea.  And I’m so happy about I t.

I:          We did it together.   You had to withdraw to protect us finally, eventually, and then you gave us to rebuild, the opportunity to rebuild our Nation,

J:         Right.

I:          and we Koreans did it beautifully

J:         Yes.

I:          So this is our partnership.

1:47:00

J:         Right.

I:          And, but you told us, told me lot details about, uh, aspect of the war that we haven’t heard from.

J:         Oh, I wonder why

I:          And especially from your perspective that the war was not really, um, so, not prepared well, and, uh, the leadership at the

J:         There was no leadership.

I:          time wasn’t really right.  So that’s the,

J:         General Jean fired I think four or five Lieutenant Colonels

1:47:30

Get the hell out of here.  You don’t know what you’re doing.  One Colonel was on the hill looking down through binoculars of his Regiment that were in the fighting.  He fired him.

I:          So, this is a very rare interview that, uh, I really appreciate that you are sharing your story.  I really hope to visit your area, Monterey, and to be able to meet with another Task Force

1:48:00

Smiths

J:         I’m gonna make arrangements for

I:          survivor

J:         to meet Henry, Kapotell

I:          Yes, please.

J:         Task Force Smith.

I:          Um hm.

J:         He was wounded over there.

I:          So

J:         He, he was wounded, sent to Japan, came back, spent three years in Korea fighting with the same unit, 21stInfantry.

I:          Um.  So please help me to do that, and also there are other Korean War veterans in your area, right?

J:         I know, I was invited to a, to a, a group where they were

1:48:30

giving out, uh, medals to the Korean, and there was 150, there was standing room only.  There was, didn’t have enough seats.  And I said, uh, I told my daughter Margie, I wish I could have taken the Gray Beards Magazine and waved it at them, you want to join, you know?  But I couldn’t.

I:          So you go back and talk to them and see if they want to do interview, and we will go there, okay?

J:         Right.

I:          Alright.

1:49:00

J:         Okay.

I:          So I, I don’t know how to thank you, John, and

J:         My pleasure.

I:          And you, uh, this is one of the very, uh, few interviews that, where I heard something that I didn’t know, really.

J:         Oh, you should read my book.

I:          Yes.

J:         I got more.  I could, we could spend eight hours here.

I:          So this is the Russian sword that you got on the, in around the Yalu

J:         Twenty, about twenty or thirty miles South of

I:          Yalu River.

J:         Chosan.

I:          Chosan, okay.

1:49:30

J:         Chosan.

I:          Yeah, Chosan.

J:         Sin is at the Reservoir.

I:          Yeah, right.  That’s a Cunchin Reservoir.

J:         Right, right.

I:          Chosin Few, Chosin, uh, Reservoir in Japanese. Explain please.  What is those patches mean?
J:         Uh, we were retreating and in a wooded area South in Taejon,

I:          Um hm.

J:         There was a radio truck with a Kmag bumper on it, and I banged on the door, and

1:50:00

the Sergeant came with a, this patch on his left shoulder.  He says yeah, what’s up?  I said the Commies are about two miles from us down the road coming this way.  We’re retreating.  Don’t you think we should move?  He said yes sir, and then the truck rolled away, and then, uh, this is Colonel Mike patch, 25thDivision, and we bumped into 3rdDivision when they were coming South

1:50:30

from where they helped the Marines at the Chosin Reservoir.  The 3rdInfantry went to the rescue and got them out.

I:          Um hm.

J:         And I, when we were retreating at Taejon, I knew Russian tanks couldn’t climb mountains, so we did, there’s a mountain West of Taejon, uh, so we decided, five of us, to go West rather than try to, we knew the tanks were behind us.  So we went

1:51:00

West and climbed the mountain.  On the 29thwe were on top of the mountain looking down at Taejon, and the Communists knew that Americans were all over the place.  They set fire to Taejon, and you know what the movie, Atlanta Was Burning?  That’s the way Taejon was.

I:          Um.

J:         And I met a woman, Korean woman, in, when was it, 2005

1:51:30

in the city of Monterey working in the office, and she said her mother said she was born in hell, and I looked at her and I says when were you born?  She said the 29thof July.  I says where?  She says Taejon.

I:          Oh.

J:         I says your mother was right.  You were born in Hell.  The Communists set fire to, to Taejon.  I was on the mountaintop looking back.

1:52:00

She said you were on mountain?  I said the West, Taejon is a mountain.  I was on it with four men.  And she says then my mother was telling me the truth.  I said yeah, you were born in Hell.  And she couldn’t believe I was on the mountain looking down at it.  That happened.

I:          Yeah.  You live in history.  Explain all the patches please.

J:         Oh.  this is, 8thArmy,

I:          Um hm.

1:52:30

J:         General Headquarters MacArthur.  Oh, once [INAUDIBLE] you didn’t know.

I:          [LAUGHS]

J:         MacArthur was from Virginia, and he ran the Greater Tokyo area as Virginia.

I:          As Virginia?

J:         As Virginia, like a State of Virginia.

I:          Yeah.

J:         He was from the South.  No blacks were allowed in the greater Tokyo area.

1:53:00

I:          Um.

J:         The nearest black outfit was in Chenagowa 25 miles South, and the only reason they were there, food for MacArthur’s table. I studied MacArthur.

I:          Um.

J:         Fact.

I:          And then?

J:         This?

I:          No.

J:         This?

I:          Yeah, that, that.

J:         That’s my 24thInfantry.

I:          Right.

J:         And then Japanese Logistical Command.

I:          Uh huh.  And

J:         They changed from this and this t o this.

I:          And up there?

J:         The CIB.

1:53:30

[INAUDIBLE] The word was you spend 30 days on a front line, you get a CIB.  But now you spend one hour you get a CIB.

I:          [LAUGHS]  My goodness. It’s so wonderful to talking to you and, and recollecting all your memories, and give us so much detail.

J:         You’ve got to read my book.  But it’s 2000 pages.

I:          What is the name again?

J:         Waiting for Dawn.

I:          Waiting for Dawn.  And when is going to be published?

1:54:00

J:         I don’t know.  I’m still writing on it.

I:          Oh.

J:         I’ve still got things I want to put into it.

I:          Excellent.  Thank you so much for your fight for the Korea.

J:         My pleasure.

 

[End of Recorded Material]