Korean War Legacy Project

John Naastad


John L. Naastad was born in 1936 in Minnesota. John Naastad was a newspaper boy during his school years and says that helped him know about events related to the Korean War. After high school, when a job in Arizona fell through, Naastad enlisted in the Army. John Naastad did infantry training at Fort Ord and arrived in Korea in May of 1956 assigned to the 7th Division.  Shortly after arriving in Korea, Nastaad’s office skills led to him being assigned to the G1 office as a clerk typist at Camp Casey near the DMZ.


Hiring locals to get out of KP duty

John Naastad describes what KP duty is and why this work was often done by Korean locals. He discusses military pay and how soldiers had the resources to hire locals for daily kitchen service.

Tags: Dongducheon,Food,Front lines

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John Naastad describes what it was like to be stationed near the DMZ in 1956. He discusses reports of troop movements and tensions along the line. He also recounts a trip he took to see the Bridge of No Return.

Tags: Dongducheon,Fear,Front lines,North Koreans

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Then and Now

John Naalstad describes the state of Korea during this time. He recounts a local Sunday school service he attended and the rough state of the church. Later, he contrasts that image with his pride in what Korea has become today.

Tags: Dongducheon,Civilians,Food,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Modern Korea,Pride,South Koreans

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Video Transcript


[Beginning of recorded material]

J:         My name is John Naastad.  I’m from Bemidji, Minnesota, July 1, 1936 and, uh, I joined the military when I was about 19 years old, 19 years and three or four months. I am the youngest of six children. My, uh, and my dad was 40 years, 39 years old when I was born, and my mother was 40 when I was born.  Uh, the oldest sister I had was 18


when I was born, and there was two years to the next one, two years to the next one,

I:          Um hm.

J:         and five years between the last three of us.

I:          I see.  How about the school you went through?

J:         I went to, my education included, uh, 12 years of, uh, basics, uh, school, uh, grade school and elementary school and high school.

I:          What high school did you graduate?

J:         It was all in Northwood, North Dakota High School.

I:          When did you graduate high school?

J:         I graduated in 1954.


I:          So did you learn anything about Korean War in, in the class in your high school?

J:         In, in school?

I:          Yeah.

J:         Uh, no.  Uh, um, I don’t think they taught much about the war that I remember.  Most of it was out of newspapers and stuff.

I:          Um hm.

J:         And, uh, when I was, when the war, uh, was brought in before the war broke out, I was a newspaper boy, so I had, uh, access to a lot of newspapers.  So I was able to keep track of the war pretty well.


I:          So even though the war was ended in 1953,

J:         Yes, sir.

I:          you still were in the high school

J:         Yes, sir.

I:          and the high school history teacher didn’t mention

J:         Oh, they, I mean, it, there was talk about it. But basically uh, uh, I think my high school teacher when I was in high school mainly it was, uh, uh, early American history that they were teaching, so they didn’t go into the [INAUDIBLE], in Social Sciences, yes.  In our Social Studies we, we had, we’d be talking about the war and stuff, yes.

I:          Um hm.


What did they, do you remember anything that you heard?

J:         Not particularly, no.

I:          Not particularly.

J:         Uh, I mean, I remember the, uh, the war breaking out, how the, uh, North Koreans invaded, uh, how they went all the way down to the Pusan Perimeter, uh, then the, uh, Chinese Army came in and, uh, caused problems after they were, uh, after we’d gone in there with the landing at Inchon

I:          Um,


J:         and, uh, they would, they come in, and I, I remember bits and pieces of it.  But I, I might be a little confusing with that with what I have been able to read cause I’m a great reader, and I’ve read a lot of stories about

I:          That may be the case.  So, but you sure that they talked about it in your high school?

J:         I would say yes, uh.

I:          Okay.

J:         I don’t see why they would not.

I:          Um hm.  Um hm.

J:         They had done a pretty good job of education, a pretty rounded.

I:          Okay.  And when did you enlist the



J:         I enlisted when I was 19 years and about three months.

I:          When was that, 19

J:         When I was 19, uh, October 27, 1955.

I:          October 27, 1955.

J:         ’55.

I:          Reason that you enlisted?

J:         Oh, the main reason is I had had a job in Arizona that I was promised when I went out there to go to work.  It wasn’t, didn’t turn to, out to be and, uh, I couldn’t seem to get a job of qualified, a good job

I:          Um hm.


J:         oh, as a non-military because of the, uh, obligation of being Selective Service.  So I thought well I would enlist.  They’d either take me or call me F4,

I:          Um hm.

J:         and either way I don’t have to worry about the military.

I:          Um.

J:         Well then, the Army did accept me.

I:          Oh.  So where did you go to get the basic military training?

J:         I went to Fort Ord, California.

I:          Fort

J:         Fort Ord, O-R-D.

I:          O-R-D, California.

J:         Yes.

I:          And what kind of training?  Infantry?

J:         I had, uh,


I had infantry training and heavy weapons infantry.

I:          Oh.

J:         I had eight weeks of each.

I:          What kind of heavy, heavy weapons?

J:         Uh, oh, uh, recoilless rifle, mortars, the different size mortars, machine guns

I:          Um hm.

J:         Uh, let’s see.  There was, uh, four or five other ones that I remember, but I can’t, a pistol.  I remember we had even a 45 pistol we worked with.

I:          Um hm.

J:         Light and heavy were two different types


of recoilless rifles, the, uh, 105 and 1, no what is it?  I can’t remember what gauges they were now.

I:          Yeah.  Have you imagined that you’d be sent to Korea?

J:         I had no idea what I was going to be getting when I, when I went in there.  I just, uh, they were, they told us about the end of basic train, or training, that, uh, it would either be Germany or Korea, and you didn’t know till about the day before you left, uh, Fort Ord which


one you were going to go to.

I:          Um hm.  So what happened to you after the basic military training?

J:         Basically, we got on a, uh, air, uh, on a train. They transported us to Fort Lewis, Washington.  We stayed there for about two weeks and, uh, then after that we were, boarded a ship.

I:          To go to Korea?

J:         Cal, right, well, yeah.  We went to Korea.  General A. E. Anderson as I remember it

I:          Um hm.

J:         and


I:          Do you remember the date?

J:         No, uh.  It was

I:          Month?

J:         It would have been April sometime, early April.

I:          Of ’56.

J:         ’56, yes.

I:          Wow.  Did you stop in Japan, or did you go directly?

J:         Yes.  We stopped for a 12-hour stop at Yokohama

I:          Um hm.

J:         and then we transported over to Okinawa and spent a 12-hour stop there.

I:          Um hm.

J:         So we spent about 23 days aboard the ship getting to Inchon.


I:          Finally to the Inchon.

J:         Um hm.

I:          So it’s gotta be in May of ’56.

J:         Uh, I would guess early May, maybe like the 5thor something, May

I:          Yeah.

J:         we would arrive in

I:          Did you hear about your mission in Korea,

J:         Di, I didn’t, I

I:          what you was, what you are supposed to do in Korea?

J:         Well, all I knew is I was trained for heavy weapons and light infantry training.  So I figured I was gonna be with an infantry, uh, company somewhere in Korea.


I:          Um hm.  By the way, what was your unit?

J:         Well, uh, when I went to the repo depot there, and then they sent me up to the 7thDivision

I:          Um hm.

J:         Replacement Depot

I:          Um hm.

J:         and, uh, when I was there, they, there was a call one day for anybody that had had typer experience, typing experience. Well, I had had it in school and such and, uh, had done some office work as a typist, so I, I put my hand up, and they marched about 50 of us over to this area,


took, uh, so four of you guys go there.  Two of you go there, around we went.  And, uh, I ended up, uh, going to this office.  It was a G1 office

I:          Um hm.

J:         and I was one of the, uh, persons selected to be there.

I:          Uh huh.  So you were still 7thDivision, right?

J:         It’s always been 7thDivision, yes sir.

I:          Um hm.  So from Inchon, where did you go?

J:         We went north to Camp Casey, uh, uh, by Dongducheon.

I:          Ah.

J:         You know Dongducheon.

I:          Yeah.

J:         [LAUGHS]


I:          Dongducheon.

J:         Yeah.

I:          Yeah.

J:         And (Kosan-ni) was up the, up the valley from us.

I:          Um hm.

J:         Yeah.

I:          So tell me about the typical day of your duties. What did you do?

J:         Well,

I:          Where and what did you do?

J:         Well, basically I worked in G1.  It was, uh, an office work, uh.  I, uh, there would, Reveille would be 6:00, uh.  You’d have a message and breakfast mess at 7:00.  8:00 you’d be, uh,


maybe fall out for, uh, a little close order drill or something, and then you’d go to your, uh, assigned offices.  I worked as a G1 which is a, uh, administrative office

I:          Um hm.

J:         for the Headquarters, and I worked there as a, um, uh, clerk-typist some, and then I went to being a, uh, a, working with the sta, Statistics in the Division as to who was assigned to what unit, what branches of


service and stuff they were trained at, and then I went to the War Room and posted that information on that for, uh, for the, uh, Commander’s information.

I:          Yeah. What was the situation in the DMZ?  Was it really volatile, very dangerous, every day?

J:         Yeah, it was.  We had, uh,

I:          Tell me about those situations.

J:         Well I wasn’t, we were about 20 miles or, it was supposedly 15 miles south of the DMZ


I:          Right.

J:         where we were.

I:          Yeah.

J:         But I do know that, uh, several times, uh, that, uh, the, uh, G2, the Intelligence

I:          Um hm.

J:         would come in at night and they’d say uh oh and then we’d say what’s wrong, and they’d say well, there’s 15,000 troops amassing 10 miles or five miles north of the DMZ, and like they’re gonna charge the DMZ. We don’t know if they’re coming or not.

I:          Hm.

J:         And, uh, next morning you find out that no, they didn’t come.

I:          Um hm.


J:         But, uh, several times we had a scare like that that hey, you know, they could be here at our camp at 4:00 in the morning if they come in on a foot, on a regular march, fast march.

I:          Um hm.  So ’56 still the DMZ line was unstabilized.

J:         [Abrupt Start] And I did take a trip up there one time as a, as a special trip.

I:          Um hm.

J:         But the, uh, trip was just a, a Sunday outing, and we went up there, uh, on a bus, on a truck I should say and went over, what’d they call it,


Freedom Bridge I think it was, and, uh, went up to Panmunjom

I:          Yeah.

J:         and, uh, toured the, uh, offices there and stuff that were there.  Uh, some of the military people from, uh, North Korea were standing guard at different buildings, and we walked over to, uh, the Bridge of No Return as they called, told us it was,

I:          Right.

J:         and, uh, so I got a picture down that, uh, of a jeep coming across and, uh, it was, it was, looks like it was kind of a high tense area there at Panmunjom I would say


because the, uh, everybody seemed a little bit tense.  [Abrupt Start] So when I got there at, uh, Camp Casey, I was assigned to what they call a squad tent, the eight men inside the tent.  Well, that was in early May.  Coming toward that fall, about three months or so there, I got, somebody rotated back to the States.  I was able to get into a Quonset.  [Abrupt Start] Six to eight pe, uh, eight, six or eight hundred people that were in that Headquarters area was gonna take their showers there.


And, uh, that was part of that.  We, uh, the food, I, I’ve always thought that the food was pretty well done.  It was well prepared by, that we had good cooks and, uh, that was, we had a lot of, uh, Koreans that we, uh, we hired in there, uh. We had the choice of either doing KP or, uh, hiring it, and we all

I:          What is KP?

J:         Kitchen Police.

I:          Oh.

J:         That’s, uh, working in the kitchen and helping clean pots and cook,


mix up food and all the stuff, whatever goes with getting, uh, meals ready.

I:          Um hm.

J:         So we didn’t do any of that because we paid, uh, we each paid like three or four dollars, I can’t, I think it was $3.00 a, a month.  And so they would hire

I:          Three dollars a month?

J:         Yes.  Uh,

I:          From each soldier.

J:         Each of us, yeah.

I:          Got it.

J:         And then, uh, then they would, uh, pay the, uh, kitchen help there out of, with that, and they were, they would come seven days a week, walk up to our, uh, go in there and, uh,


and, uh, do the meals.

I:          Why didn’t military pay that?  Why do you have to pay your own?

J:         Well, it was our duty as a military person to, to do that, to, kit

I:          I see.

J:         And so it was our choice to either hire somebody to do it or, uh, or, uh, do it ourselves or hire somebody to do it.

I:          Were they any soldier or the officers who went through the Korean War working with you at the time that you were there?

J:         Officers?

I:          Yeah.


J:         Oh yeah.  That was, a lot of officers were where I was at, yes.  Most of

I:          Uh, no, no.  What I’m saying is those people who fought during the war

J:         Yeah.

I:          still working there, remain and working with you?

J:         No.  Most of them had rotated back, uh,

I:          Okay.

J:         by the States

I:          Um hm.

J:         by then because your tour of duty was generally like, uh, 12 – 16 months.  You, you didn’t stay

I:          Um hm.

J:         there for three or four years.

I:          So you, you were not able to hear anything about the Korean War from, directly from the soldiers who fought.

J:         I don’t remember.  There, there


might have been a couple that I talked to that were there that were, uh, there during the Korean War and come back for a second tour. But I don’t, I can’t recall any of them there, being there for that, no.

I:          Did you sense that the Korea was heavily developing and reconstructing and trying to modernize at the time?

J:         Not at that time.

I:          Did you see any signs?

J:         It was, it was.  Yeah, you gotta remember that, uh, at that time, it was just a year and a half or two years after the war

I:          Um hm.

J:         and they were just basically trying to get enough money to, or enough, uh, stuff growing to have


food and stuff at that time I think.

I:          Um hm.

J:         I mean, there weren’t, they weren’t having much of a chance to build, uh, decent houses or, uh, anything like that, uh.  The business places were, uh, not fancy buildings or anything.  They were pretty basic.  I know one time we, I went, I got an opportunity to go into Dongducheon, uh. Our church group there in, in the camp, went down there for a, uh, trans, uh, church program by the, uh, by the Sunday school


I:          Yeah.

J:         for Christmas.

I:          Yeah.

J:         And so we went into the church, and it was, I remember dirt floors, and they had, uh, kind of like blocks of wood or something with, uh, planks between them, and that was your pews and, uh, it was, a couple of laid, a couple of sheets of, uh, plywood in the front for their, uh, stage should we say, for the program, and it was, but it was, uh, pretty well done I thought, you know,

I:          Um hm.

J:         for what they had to do with.

I:          Do you know what happened to Korea


after you left?

J:         Oh, [LAUGHS]

I:          until

J:         they did fabulously developed it, uh.  You’ve got your cobbles there that have developed into super businesses, uh.  All the cars companies you’re making.  You’re building ships.  I mean, what are you, the third or fourth, uh, biggest industrial company in the world now?  Or country?

I:          No, 12th

J:         Sixth.

I:          twelfth largest economy in the world.

J:         Twelfth largest economy, okay.

I:          Yeah.  What do you think that this U.S. forces in Korea after the war contributed to?


J:         Well, I think it, uh, made the, uh, the North Koreans and the Russians, uh, take a second thought about trying to evade, uh, invade into, uh, South Korea again.

I:          Um hm.

J:         I would, uh, I don’t think they wanted a, a second dose of what they got. [LAUGHS]

I:          Hm.  What do you think about the relationship between U.S. and Korea now?

J:         I think it’s excellent.  From what I understand, there’s, it, it’s a, it’s an excellent relationship, uh

I:          Why?


J:         Well, just, uh, we both want to have developments. We want to improve our countries, uh, uh.  We’re both democratic, you know.  It isn’t like in Afghanistan or Iraq that we went in and helped and, uh, they have their problems now that are, uh, they don’t have the, uh, uh, religious wars, shall we say, that they have over there and stuff.  You, uh, uh, and you’re much more sociable.  [Abrupt Start] Yeah, it, uh, uh, my guess is it just the money spent there by the soldiers and


stuff that have been there have stimulated the economy to, to go out and, uh, develop it because there’s a demand from the American soldiers, and when they’ve got it there, they’ve shipped it to other countries that want the same thing.

I:          Very good point.

J:         You know, like your, your cars, your Kias and stuff like that.

I:          Any other message that you want to add to this interview?

J:         Well, other than thank you for your hospitality, uh, here this week at the, this place. I think, and I’m sure if I get a chance to go to Korea, I’ll be seeing just as much hospitality there.


[End of Recorded Material]