Joseph Dunford, Sr.
Joseph Dunford, Sr. volunteered for the Marines as a senior in high school in 1948 since he looked up to his neighbors who fought in WWII. After attending basic training in the Carolinas, he was flown to Busan and fought in the 2nd Battle at Naktong Bulge (Battle of Pusan Perimeter). Soon after winning this battle, he participated in the Inchon Landing and fought his way to Seoul. During the Wonson landing, he headed north to fight the Chinese troops and participated in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir until the end of December 1950. After suffering from frostbite, he spent time in naval hospitals to recover, worked Naval guard duty, and signed a waiver to go back to the infantry.
2nd Battle at Naktong Bulge/part of Battle of Pusan Perimeter
Joseph Dunford, Sr. shares that his first battle in the Korean War was the 2nd Battle at Naktong Bulge. He explains how the North Koreans broke the lines and he fought to push them back. He shares how responded using his training. He knew his role was critical.
Joseph Dunford, Sr. participated in the Inchon Landing. He describes his objective was to take Observatory Hill (also known as Cemetery Hill). He explains how he and his regiment did this at 5:30 PM and took the hill once it became dark. He explains how the North Koreans were fighting lightly. He shares all he could see was the dead and fires around him.
Battle of Chosin Reservoir
Joseph Dunford shares how he participated in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir which is known in Korea as the Jangjin Battle. He explains that there were so many Chinese there that he couldn't even count. He explains how he had to sleep on the ground without a sleeping bag since they were told to burn everything except a few C-Rations and weapons. He shares how the lack of food, proper shelter, and other necessities made survival difficult.
[Beginning of Recorded Material]
JD: My name is Joseph F. Dunford, D U N F O R D Sr.
I: And what is your birthday?
JD: November 27, 1930, and to do the Math, I’m 86 years old.
I: 86. You look great. You look great.
JD: Hanging in. Two feet from the deck.
I: And you born one year after the Great Depression.
JD: Yes, I was.
Where were you born?
JD: I was born in Boston.
I: Tell me about your family when you were growing up, your parents and your siblings.
JD: My mum and dad had five children, and I was the 4th oldest in our family. I have two sisters
I: Two sisters.
JD: And two brothers. And
We were blue collar, typical blue collar for that age, and we got along very well together. We stayed close to each other all of our lives.
I: You remember those hard times of the Great Depression even though you were very young?
JD: We did not attach being poor with being well off. We lived our life
in retrospect some might say we were average for that time. We were not poor. We certainly were not rich. But we never thought about it. What we had, we had and we lived with.
I: Does that hard times of the Great Depression, I mean overall, all Americans were affected by that, and does that affect you in any way in your life?
JD: Just in
Your lifestyle we tend to be more conservative. We don’t tend to be wasteful. If something, the old saying if something ain’t broke don’t fix it, and beyond that, and of course I compare how I’m living today and as all of America and all of
society has, we have improved our level.
I: So tell me about the school that you went through.
JD: I went to, I graduated from South Boston High School.
I: South Boston High School. When?
JD: 1948. June of 1948.
I: And let me ask this question. Did you learn anything
about Korea when you were in high school or any part of your education up to that moment?
JD: Not that I can remember. I knew about Korea only because the young men in my neighborhood who were over there.
I: Even before the War?
JD: No. This is, sorry, this is after the War.
I: After the War.
JD: I mean, before the War, but after
World War II.
I: After World War II.
JD: These were men on occupation duty.
I: Yes, that’s right.
JD: from my neighborhood.
I: From ’45 to ’48, there was a military occupation in the Korean Peninsula.
JD: That’s right., yeah.
I: What did they tell you, anything about Korea? Do you remember?
JD: No, no. Nothing really. There were so many of the young men in our neighborhood who throughout World War II and immediately after were in the Military. Generally, most of them did not talk
I: So the Korea was nobody’s land at the time in any young Americans mind.
JD: No more than any other country in Europe or South America.
JD: I mean, we had our own little nest. We were very cloistered if you will.
I: So, what did you do after high school?
JD: I graduated in June, and I was in Paris Island,
South Carolina as a Marine in July.
I: Oh, so you joined the Marines right after that.
JD: Yes. Yes. Actually, I enlisted maybe two months prior to my graduation.
I: Why Marine Corp.?
JD: Again, I have to look at the formative years that I spent during World War II, you know. I was 11 years’ old
when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and it was a total war effort. All of the older kids, the big kids on our block, they were going off to war, and a couple of them in particular were Marines, and the Marine Corp. just, to me, it looked like if I’m gonna go, that’s where I want to go. And I did.
I: So tell me about the basic training there in Paris Island. How was it? Did you?
JD: It was an eye opener, let’s put it that way.
JD: Well, all of a sudden you’re thrown in with another 70 young kids. Of course, the first day we all had our heads shaved, and that first night we’re standing in front of our bunk
and you can’t look around. You can only look straight ahead. But I peaked, and I looked at all these other guys with shaven heads and I said what did I do? And
I: [LAUGHS] You made the obvious choice.
JD: I did. I made a choice, and I never complained about it and never turned around and looked over my shoulder and said I should not have done this but I did exactly the right thing. Yeah.
It was a, we went through boot camp or basic training as many might call it, and I think it was 10 weeks in those days.
I: Ten weeks. In Paris Island.
JD: In Paris Island, yeah.
I: What was the most difficult thing during that training? If I ask you one
JD: One, I suppose standing at attention in the sand pit and
having fleas buzzing around you and not being able to move because if you did, you knew not a good thing.
I: Right, guaranteed.
JD: That kind of stands out.
I: So after 10 weeks of basic training in Paris Island, where did you go?
JD: Then I went to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and I was assigned to the 8th Marine Regiment. I
was in a rifle company.
I: And that’s first Marine Division?
JD: No, 2nd Marine Division.
JD: Eighth Marine Regiment, Second Marine Division.
I: And did you belong to battalion or
JD: I was in Charley Company
I: Charley Company
JD: Second Battalion
JD: Eighth Marine Regiment. Now in those days, normally there’s three companies in a battalion. After World War II, they were
reduced to two companies in a battalion because overall, the Marine Corp. was maybe 68 – 72,000 men.
I: And your MOS was rifleman?
JD: 0300 and then I stayed with that and I progressed to 0311 which is advanced rifleman. And that’s where I was.
I: And that’s still 1948, right?
JD: That was
- I stayed at Camp Lejeune until, I think it was February of 1950 and
I: What did you do there?
JD: In Camp Lejeune?
JD: I was in a rifle company and rifle platoon, and we trained, trained in tactics
I: So you were training for yourself for the War actually?
JD: That’s all Marines in rifle companies do. They train. They train for war. And that’s what we did.
I: So when did you know, and how did you know the breakout of the Korean War?
JD: In February of 1950, I volunteered for a guard detachment in Yorktown, Virginia
and in June of 1950 when the War started, almost immediately, I would say within a week, two weeks, they brought the command at Yorktown together, and they asked for volunteers to go to Korea, and we had a relatively large detachment for guard company, about 150 I think.
I think everybody in the detachment probably volunteered. They selected 25. I was in that group of 25.
I: Did you volunteer?
I: Did they ask you guys to volunteer or did they just ordered?
JD: They said we need 25 men, and so many men raised their hands, want to go, and they all volunteered.
I: You knew that this was War, not training.
JD: I knew. I knew.
I: And you volunteered.
I: That’s another obvious choice, right?
I: You were not scared? Not afraid?
JD: Not at that point. You don’t really get scared until you hear that first round go off. Then you might contemplate it.
I: So, what happened after that? When did you leave, and where?
JD: We left, I left Virginia where
we got on a troop train which crossed the country, and at most of the major cities we stopped, took aboard other Marines from other Marine guard companies, and there was probably 800 or so on this troop train. We got to Camp Pendleton in California, and we were assigned to units, unnamed units at the time, and received several
days of t raining awaiting transportation. And, because of the lack of transportation, I flew over to Japan in a civilian, Pan-American Strata Cruiser which is
I: That was a trip.
JD: Well it was a treat. They even had hostesses, girls probably left their positions after that trip. But anyway,
we flew Pan-American Strata Cruiser to Japan, stopped in the Yokosuka. At that time there was Marine barracks there, stayed overnight, and then we flew over to Korea in C47s.
I: So you’d been flying all the way down to Korea.
JD: Right to Pusan, yeah.
I: Do you remember when, the dates of your arrival in Pusan?
JD: I’ll shoot from the hip on this.
I want to say somewhere around August 12, maybe a little before, yeah.
I: And now you are in Korea. You never knew anything about Korea, and suddenly you’re in Korea. Could you describe the image or the scene, the people, the look? Could you describe it? How was it
and could you come up with the adjective that you can describe your emotional feelings about the Korea that you first saw?
JD: You know, the first, from Pusan we boarded trucks and were taken to Masan which is where the First Marine Brigade was set up. We had little interaction
with the Korean people. On the way to Masan, we saw some of the small villages we went through, some people were still out in the field or the rice paddies. But no interaction.
I: No interaction.
I: What were you thinking when you see the Korean landscape and so on? Be honest.
JD: Hard to say, Doctor. I saw, first Korean woman I saw dead in the street, and one in the village. Of course, at that point there’s a realization that this is what war is, and but again, just seeing the people, not talking with them but looking
at them, and as they’re looking at us, you know. That was it.
I: So from Masan, where did you go? What did you do?
JD: Masan we, the North Koreans broke through somewhere along, up in the Obongni Ridge. It was along the Naktong River. We went up there
and engaged the North Koreans.
I: That’s the first battle, right?
JD: This is the second Naktong. I missed the first battle, yeah.
I: But it’s the first battle to you.
JD: Oh yes. The first battle.
I: How was it? I mean, at the time, you were 20-year-old?
JD: I was 19.
JD: You know, you just respond to your training
and to your orders, and you do what you’re supposed to do. People are shooting at you,
and they’re trying to break through the line, and you respond by your training. Afterwards, you become a little frightened of what was going on. While it’s going on, there’s no time for that.
JD: Before obviously from that point on, any time before when I knew we were going on, it’s frightening. Frightening.
I: Looking back all those years, that was the last Marzino Line, that’s the last port that we were able to protect. If we lost that, there’s no Korea. What do you think about that?
And you were being part of it.
JD: Well, we knew it was very critical that we stop the North Koreans, and we did.
I: What was your rank at the time in Masan?
JD: I was a Private First Class.
JD: That was it.
I: What about equipment? It’s August, right, so it was during the summer, and
What about equipment, your uniforms and ammunitions and guns and everything? Was it well prepared, or did you have enough?
JD: Basically what we had, the Marine Corp. had during World War II, at the end of World War II. We had, of course Infantrymen carried the ammo and rifle, Browning automatic rifle in the squad.
It was adequate. We had sufficient ammunition, provisions. Yeah, beyond the, we just got the 3.5 rocket launcher. What they had prior to that was not able to stop the Russian T34 tanks that were in use. But the 3.5 was able to do that.
But beyond that, we were equipped. We had what we had to do.
I: Were you in the trench?
JD: No. Obogni Ridge we didn’t have time initially to, to get in, to dig a foxhole. Initially we were right at the crest of the hill. But obviously as we were there, you want to dig pretty low
It’s a talent you acquire quickly. But for the most part for Obogni Ridge we weren’t dug in.
I: So the Naktong River was the kind of demarcation line between North Koreans and U.S. Marines there, right?
JD: At that point, yes.
I: How close was it? Were you able to see North Koreans moving around?
JD: When they were coming toward us, yes.
JD: Yeah. And we saw their weaponry over the hill. It was opposite us, on mountains, what would you call it.
I: Other than Marines, were three any U.S. Army or any other
JD: There were other troops. When you’re in a Marine rifle company, your home is the rifle squad. You don’t see
I: Anybody else.
JD: Much of. There’s no company formation.
There is no platoon formation. There’s no squad formations. So you don’t see a lot. I’m sure the Army was to the left of us and probably to the right of us, as there were some ROK troops. But I didn’t see them.
I: From Masan, where did you move? Did you
JD: From Naktong, we went back to Pusan
and prepared for the Inchon Landing.
And we pulled a ship from Pusan, landed at Inchon on September 15.
I: Right. And were you instructed anything about this Inchon Landing, amphibious landing? Did you know where you were headed and what you are going to do?
I: Oh. Tell me about it.
JD: We had, prior to demarcation, or to
to landing, prior to us leaving the ship, we had platoon and company meetings whereby we were told what beach we’re going to, what the objective, what the company objective is
I: Do you remember specifically?
JD: I remember something about I think Observatory Hill or Cemetery hills as we called them.
That was our company objective.
I: So you were in Naktong Perimeter, Pusan Perimeter, and also Inchon Landing. Oh boy. So tell me about Inchon Landing. How was it?
JD: Well, Inchon we had, because of the sea wall and because of the tide conditions there, we had ladders that were, ours happened to be wood. There were some metal, I didn’t see them. We landed in
LCVP, Landing Crowd Vehicle Personnel. Each LCVP had a scaling ladder. Idea is when the craft beaches, you throw the ladder up to, men were designated who’s going to hold the ladder, who’s going first. All these things we know, and fortunately or unfortunately, the boat I was in, we hit the wall, and the wall had
been shelled. There was no wall, so we went over the side and into the town.
I: Was there any real resistance from North Koreans?
JD: Not a lot, no. We were getting There were some mortars, there was machine gun fire.
I: And that’s all? Did you see any casualties on your side?
JD: Uh huh, one or two. Bearing in mind we
landed at 5:30 in the evening. It got dark very quickly so it seemed. It almost seemed as, before we got out of the town, it was, Inchon itself to get to the hills, it was dark. So there was nowhere to watch [INAUDIBLE] flames, buildings were burning. I saw some people dead. Don’t know who they were.
I: The Inchon Landing is the,
It’s a kind of transformation of the whole Korean War in the early phase, in 1950. That actually cut off the logistical line of North Korean Armies. So it’s a historical event, and it’s one of the big history in the U.S. Marine Corp. battle history, right?
I: But were you aware of that when you were landing there?
I: You didn’t have any idea?
JD: No, none.
We knew why we were landing there.
JD: Obviously was to relieve the pressure on Pusan and to cut off any fleeing North Koreans.
I: So what do you think now, looking back? The moment that you were landing there and it is the history, the history.
JD: You know; you really don’t think a lot. Honestly. You don’t.
I knew I had to either get up the ladder or go over the gunnels as it turned out, and I knew my squad was going to move forward, and I was going to follow them. That’s what we did.
I: That’s the Marine
JD: And we got up, took the hill, deployed and dug in.
I: And from there you went up to Seoul, right?
I: Yeah. Tell me
about those on the way to Seoul. I think I heard from other veterans that there was some resistance. There was some
JD: There was.
I: And, tell me please.
JD: We, we went heading towards Seoul. First we went to the, saw the airport then continued on to Seoul. There was some resistance. We had to take several hills and
then we crossed the Han River, we crossed in amphibious [INAUDIBLE] and then on into Seoul eventually.
I: How was Seoul? Did you see the Seoul how badly or destructive? Could you describe that?
JD: Again, let me just qualify what I can describe because when you’re there, you know, people
are shooting at you, and you move quickly. You don’t really take in the terrain. You take in your little bit or wherever someplace you want to head out to that might save you. But I really didn’t look at the city. I knew there were destroyed buildings. It was fire, you know, shelled often. But we went through Seoul, and we made it.
I: Have you seen the modern picture of Seoul Metropolitan city?
JD: Yes, I have.
I: Oh you did. How?
JD: I did. I read magazines, newspapers or film clips on the news.
I: So you have a pretty good comparative picture of those Seoul in 1950 when you were recovering that capital city and now.
JD: Well, yes. Of course when you’re looking at photographs now or news film
you’re looking at a panorama. When you’re fighting and going through a city, there’s no panorama. Really. I mean, I’d be an absolute liar if I told you what Seoul looks like because I don’t know. Again, we were restricted in our zone, and that’s what we do. And we never had time to, after it was over, to sit down and look back and
go anywhere because we had to get back to Inchon.
I: Oh, you did?
I: And then?
JD: Then we boarded ship, and we were going to go to Wonsan on the other coast, and we were on a ship a lot longer than we were supposed to because they could not land at Wonsan due to the heavy mining in the harbor.
So we went back and forth on the, on the coast for maybe, probably eight days or so.
I: Eight days.
JD: That’s, again I’m shooting from the hip on that. It could be 10. Somebody said it was 12, could be.
I: And did you know what you were doing there?
JD: Yes, we knew we would be landing at Wonsan, and initially it would have been an
amphibious landing. However, because of the delay in getting there, the North Koreans had retreated up to that point, and they, actually it was a safe landing for us.
I: So there was no resistance at all when you landed in Wonsan?
JD: No. No.
I: Do you remember when you landed there, November?
JD: No, it was the last week of October.
I: October. And from there, where did you go?
JD: From there, we headed North and some resistance, very little. Sometimes we could see there’s turn of Chinese troops up on the adjoining ridge, and
I: Oh, did you encounter Chinese on your way up?
JD: We didn’t know there were Chinese.
I: But there were Chinese?
JD: Yes, and we proceeded through Hagaru, went up to Chuam-ni
I: You went up to Chuam-ni.
JD: Yes. And on November 27, the Chinese attacked in force.
I: So before we go into this battle against Chinese in Chuam-ni area, it was decision made by General MacArthur that they would split the Marines and the Armies, East and West, and actually the Chinese flank in between those. You didn’t know about that at the time, but are you aware of that, right?
I: What do you think about that decision?
JD: Well, I think the only one who made a right decision up there was General O.P. Smith, the First Marine Division Commander, and it was because of his decisions that we were able to fight and withdraw because if the General did what he was supposed to have done, it
would not have been a good thing for American Forces.
I: And there was 10 corp. Army, too, led by General Olmsted, right?
I: So now we’re talking about the Chuam-ni Battle. Are you aware that it’s Ch’ongch’on in Korean pronunciation?
JD: No I did not at the time, yeah.
I: But you know now.
JD: Oh yes.
I: And Chosin is Japanese
pronunciation of Chinese character which we read Ch’ongch’on, and he was chosen, so there were some debates about the names of the monuments in Marine Corp..
JD: Well, the maps that the Marine Corp. had, or the American Forces have, were old maps to begin with. They’re not, from what I understand later, they were not accurate in many cases. And bearing in mind how long
the Japanese had occupied Korea
JD: many of the villages were different names.
I: It was made by the Japanese, the map that you saw, and that’s Chosin. But in Korean, it’s Ch’ongch’on, so we had negotiation with
JD: That’s a very sensitive point, I know that.
I: Yes, yes, with General Olmsted and Richard Cary, we talk about those and then finally we’ll put together
On the day that you saw Chinese, surrounded by Chinese, tell me about it please.
JD: We, My company, we were in a valley. We were at the foot of a hill, a mountain I later learned to be 1240, we were, we got there, it was dark. We were not dug in, probably couldn’t have dug in with the ground anyway.
We were mortared. I know my squad lost four men before sunrise, I mean that night, two killed, two wounded.
I: It was a sniper?
JD: No, mortars. Because we were at the base of Hill 1240, and I believe Dog Company 7th Marines
were on the hill. We went up the next day and settled in there, the 7th Marines moved wherever they went to. I don’t know. That’s where we stayed for a few days anyway, maybe we went to another hill very much like the one we left, maybe a little bit higher.
I: Yeah. Too many hills there.
JD: You know. Then some time in, I guess December or so, the first few days in December, they told us that we would be withdrawn, and the Company Commander said we’re going over land some 68 miles,
and we got rid of all of our old, any equipment. We had what they called Field Marching Packs, but we burned everything with the exception of our personal weapon, ammunition, and some C-rations, and we set out, down the main supply road,
and we marched out, went to Hagaru, stayed there for a day or so then went on to, where did we go next,
JD: Yeah. First Regiment went there, yeah. Kodori.
I: So from you then went to Hanau, how many times were you in contact with
JD: Well, the Infantry companies would, normally wouldn’t have, column was going down the road and we would be, there would be ambushes set up all along. We would leave the column and walk into the hills and, as flanking guards. The only problem the terrain was such you could not keep up with the column. So we would
neutralize whatever the enemy had geared up for the column, and then rejoin the column.
I: Do you remember the first attack of Chinese to your squad or unit?
JD: After leaving the mountain you mean?
JD: Well, the first, they
hit us on November 27. The first attack was November 28 in the morning.
I: How messy was it? Did you see actual Chinese?
JD: You’d see them.
I: How many?
JD: You’d see them. Let me describe it in detail. A lot.
I: Thank you.
JD: And you can take that to the bank. You see what’s, again, what’s in your
vision of because those are the ones you want to worry about. Really, I couldn’t, I couldn’t tell you if we got hit by a company, a battalion, a regiment. I just don’t know. There were a lot.
I: You promised to be home by the time of Christmas, that you’re going to spend your
JD: Somebody didn’t.
I: Yeah, somebody did that, right?
JD: Yeah. We smothered in rumors.
We didn’t put too much stock in that.
I: So, at the end of November and all of December, where did you sleep, and what did you eat?
JD: We ate cold rations if you could put them inside your parka to keep t hem so they won’t freeze. We didn’t eat a lot, didn’t seem like we were hungry that much, either. We slept where we were.
JD: On the ground or on a hill.
I: Did you have a sleeping bag?
JD: No. We burned the sleeping bags before we left.
I: You just slept there?
JD: We slept on the ground. No, I don’t remember sleeping on the ground actually. I mean, I don’t remember sleeping because, it was a blur. We were on the road. And then they say ok, Baker Company hit that ridge, and you know, your company leaves the column, do what has to be done and then you come back.
I: So you don’t remember really slept.
JD: Not really, no. I’m sure I did. I mean, I just don’t remember.
I: Did you have a winter jacket?
JD: We had parkas.
I: That’s it?
I: No Mickey Mouse boots or anything like for the winter?
JD: No, we had shoe packs. Those were shoe packs where they gave us two sets of inner soles, one in the boot of course, one you’d keep inside your clothing
and the theory is that you change frequently. Well, I didn’t take my boot off from Chuam-ni to Hagaru was the first time I took my boot off.
I: Oh my goodness.
JD: Yeah. And then, that was it. When we stopped,
if we’re not under attack and we’re not on the line, you’re with your squad, your patrol, and you stop and you close your eyes I’m sure.
I: Don’t answer to this question of very cold. How cold was it?
JD: It was bitterly cold. It was bitterly cold. You
We had gloves or mittens with the trigger finger in then. But the problem, it was very awkward to pull the trigger. So a lot of times you would, you’d take them off for a very brief period of time. You couldn’t leave them off, but the only way you could shoot accurately was by taking that mitten off. It was cold.
I: So from Hagaru to Kotori,
I think still the Chinese engaged very intensely, right?
JD: Yes. Oh yea.
I: Any episode that you want to share?
I: No episode?
JD: None. Oh. Just a dull walk from one place to another.
I: The last leg of great generation which has another name, Silent Generation. [LAUGHS] So, so from Kotori, what happened?
JD: From Kotori, we went to Hungnam, which is the port of debarkation. Boarded ship and left and went down to Pusan, yeah.
I: Did you see many North Korean refugees along the line that you were withdrawing?
JD: On a couple of occasions when we were closer to the rear of the column, we did see them, and obviously we were trying to keep a distance from them to us only because the Chinese had infiltrated the civilian population, and we couldn’t tell Chinese from the civilians.
I: Yeah, yeah. Actually, that’s very dangerous because you cannot kill them because it’s a
refugee, but you never know they are Chinese spies mixing.
JD: It’s a risk that we had to air on the side of caution. We did not ever even contemplate shooting into civilians. That was against our grain. We couldn’t do that.
I: So, in your boat, were there any refugees mixing with the units? Or is it purely only for the Marines?
JD: Not on the ship that I was on. There were no civilians
that I knew of. Now bearing in mind, the ship is probably so overloaded, I mean, we did not have any place. We didn’t have sleeping quarters, at least my company. Maybe we missed out on it. But I slept on the, in a companion way, there was coiled rope, and that was our pillow. Three or four of us kind of snuggled on that. But there were no civilians aboard to my knowledge.
I: You know there are about 100,000 North Korean refugees were evacuated from there, and that becomes the big story. Korean president landed in Washington, D.C. I think yesterday or today, and he is laying wreath to the monument that we saw together.
JD: Oh, really?
I: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Because he was one of the evacuees.
I: Incredible, yeah. So from Pusan, did you go up again or, what happened to you?
JD: Went back to Masan, and the medical corpsman came through the Company and inspected, examined our feet, and I had
yeah, another big hoof there really. But they examined us, and I had frostbite.
I: You caught?
JD: Yeah. Well, I know I had patches of gangrene on the, well I knew it going out. We all knew it. I mean when you walked, it was, you know, like we would classified as walking on pins and needles.
That’s what it felt like. And then after while you just got so that you don’t pay any attention to it. You just, If you’ve seen any photos of a column coming out, you see many of them hobbling. So at any rate, I was examined and was sent to a hospital. I went to the Naval Hospital.
Yokosuka or Yokuska.
I: So, that’s where you left Korea?
JD: I did. I did.
I: Thank God in one piece.
I: You were not wounded at all?
I: That’s amazing. That’s amazing. Did you pray to God, or what happened?
JD: I always pray.
JD: I always pray. Yeah. Yeah.
JD: Which is Christian of course.
I: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Wow, that’s amazing because so many people killed and wounded.
JD: There were.
JD: There were. We lost like 36,000 men, dead, and that was a relatively brief period of time.
I: Yeah. So the intensity of the casualties compared to any other war, Korea outstands there. I mean it’s just unbelievable.
But still, not much known about this War, and that’s what we are going to talk soon. So you left Pusan around early 1951, right?
JD: No. I left Pusan December, just before Christmas. Maybe 23, somewhere. I know I left. That was the important thing.
JD: The date was irrelevant.
I: Thank God. And from there, how long did you get the treatments for your frostbite?
JD: I was flown back to California. I was in the Oakland Naval Hospital. Then from there to the Chelsea Naval Hospital in Massachusetts. The idea was to get the troops closes to their home. So I stayed in the
Chelsea Naval for, I don’t know, maybe a week or so. There wasn’t an awful lot they could do for the frostbite. They cured the gangrene. That was antibiotics for that. But for the frost bite itself, there’s not too much they can do.
I: Do you still suffer from frostbite?
JD: It’s very sensitive.
JD: Very sensitive. But suffer, no.
I: When were you discharged from the Marines?
JD: I left the hospital, and they put us in the Marine Barracks Boston Naval Shipyard, and this is a classic. They asked us, they did not want us to go back to the Infantry. We couldn’t go back
because of our condition. So we could go to a Guard Detachment. So they asked me to name three Guard Detachments that I would like to
I: What is Guard?
JD: Guard, yeah. Naval annexes, Naval shipyards, Naval munition depots
I: And guarding there?
JD: Guarding, yes. So I went to a place, Marine Barracks, Naval Ammunition Depot in Hastings, Nebraska.
And I got to Hastings and looked around at the tumbleweed, and I said, it was good duty. But I requested to go back to the Infantry.
JD: And I
I: Another obvious choice, huh?
JD: and I signed a waiver, and I went back to the Infantry, and I went back to the 8th Marines as a matter of fact.
I: And until when?
JD: Until July of 1952, and then I was discharged.
I: So you’re finally done with the Marine Corp..
JD: Yes. Physically.
I: Physically, ok.
JD: We never leave.
I: Oh, right. Dumb question, right? What did you do after you were discharged?
JD: Oh, I came home, and my father had died when I was in Korea. So my mother, my younger brother was still in high school. So that year on the beach I was going to take didn’t take. I went and, I ended up in the Boston Police Dept. anyway.
I: Police Department?
I: And, let’s go back to the War and its’ aftermath. You’ve never been back to Korea, right?
I: Have you followed up with the developments that’s been taken there and have occurred in terms of Korean economy and Korean democracy and its relations with the United States?
JD: Yes, I have.
I: How? And what are you can you share with me about that?
JD: I think that if ever there was a war fought that was justifiable, I think it was the Korean War.
JD: Because of what the Korean people have been subjected to, not only many years leading up to World War II but for the occupation by the Japanese for 10 years anyway,
Those people were not a free people, and I think what we did, what America did, what the United Nations did at that point in time, was justifiable, and I think it was well worth the effort let’s put it that way.
I: Yeah, liberated from Japanese [INAUDIBLE] control for 35 years, and then Communist attack from
from North, that’s what you did.
I: Yeah. And remember the Korea that you were there in 1950 and now in 21st century, how do you put that into perspective, such big transformation?
JD: Light years away in the development and the prosperity in Korea.
I: And Korean government has a program called Revisit program. They invite Korean War veterans back to the country where they fought but didn’t know much about it when they were there, and when they go back, they take them to DMZ area so that they can see the mountains there that they ups and down, and then they take them to Seoul
Metropolitan area and the Han River that you told me that you crossed the Han River, right?
I: Were there any bridge there? Do you remember?
JD: We crossed the Han River in amphibious tractors which are buttoned up. They put the cap on it. So we don’t see. You get aboard, you cross the river, the ramp goes down, and you run out. I didn’t see the River; you know?
I: Didn’t you see the bridge? You don’t remember that?
JD: If I saw it, I don’t remember.
I: Did Korea War veterans who visiting Korea, and they are in the bus, you know, and driving along the Han River, and they were doing this. Can you guess what they were doing that for?
JD: No idea.
I: They were counting the bridges
in the Han River while they are driving along the Han River, and they say there was only one bridge completely destroyed. They are saying now I’m counting 23, 24, and that’s when I, you know, interfered with them about it. And they were almost crying
I: That, oh yeah, yeah. They were really. Many of the interviews that you can check from our website, at the end, the veterans
the veterans really, really high emotions about what happened in Korea, and they’re almost crying, and many of them actually wetting their eyes because what they saw in 2011, they couldn’t believe their eyes.
JD: Oh sure.
JD: Yeah. It’s a drastic transition, there’s no question about it.
I: I think I asked you a question
about that, but are you interested in going back?
JD: No. No.
I: Any particular reason that you say
JD: No. No, I think I have the utmost respect for the Korean people, the nation, what they’ve accomplished, and they didn’t need me to accomplish it, that’s for sure. But no, I really don’t.
I: I’m not sure you are aware of this, but American History textbooks in our K-12, especially in the middle school and high school, they don’t really talk much about the Korean War. It’s a very dry description of one paragraph, one third of the descriptions of the Viet Nam War, and they start with the Communist attack, and then MacArthur everywhere with the pipes, and then say
it’s a forgotten war. What do you think about that? The war that you fought with a very concrete outcome of Republic of Korea, out of the ashes and devastations.
JD: I think, from what I understand and I really shouldn’t talk about it because I don’t know enough about it, but my understanding is there’s not a great deal of history taught in schools today.
Again, I don’t know that. But I think it’s sad, not only for the Korean War but for the Viet Nam War and for any other War our nation has been engaged in.
I: And why is it known as the Forgotten War? Do you have any idea? What do you think about that?
JD: I’ve heard the theory that after World War II,
the world was tired of wars and didn’t want to think of them anymore. Because they don’t think of them, they don’t happen. Somebody else, it’s not unlike today if you look at the percentages or proportions of any nation in the United Nations, how many of them are
serving in the Military and why are they serving in the Military. What are we doing? Very little of that was understood.
I: Yeah. And when you left Korea, now Korea is the size a little bit bigger than Indiana State.
JD: It is, yeah.
I: We don’t have drop of oil, we don’t have much natural resources. All, everything in Korea is in North Korea. So North Korea used to be better off than
South Korea until 1970’s. Actually, they lived better.
JD: In North Korea.
JD: I might debate that one with you.
I: Until 1970’s because there were industrial infrastructure already laid out there in North Korea, not in South Korea.
JD: Yeah. Because in the occupation, as you know better than I, Russia occupied
North Korea, and one of the first things Russia did when they went in to North Korea was strip it of any available piece of equipment that could be utilized. So I don’t know what conditions the North Koreans were living under, you know.
I: Right now, it’s uncomparable. I mean, it’s too obvious.
JD: Well put.
I: So now, the Korea is 11th largest economy in the world, in the world. Had you thought that Korea would become like this when you left Korea in 1950?
JD: No. No. Something like that not even on your radar so to speak. You know what I mean? You just couldn’t contemplate something like that, you know?
I: What do you think
we should do to make this War as not forgotten but something that we need to talk or we need to educate, we need to teach to our young generation?
JD: Well, we, theoretically we teach History and Social Studies. What’s wrong with including wars that a nation has had, any war they may have had, would it be internally or externally?
To talk to people, this Korean war. This is why the Korean War started. This is Vietnam. This is what happened there. I think it’s basic.
I: In July 11 – 14, my Foundation, The Korean War Legacy Foundation is hosting teachers conference, History and Social Studies teachers conference.
We invited around 90 – 100 teachers with the veterans there, and we want to go over many different presentations and lectures about the Korean War, and now many teachers are very, very interested in the legacy and the lessons of the Korean War because of Republic of Korea and its’ close alliance to the United States. Yeah. So, if you’re interested, I can invite you with your family and be there
with the teachers.
JD: Thank you, sir.
I: What do you think about the U.S. Korea relationship including military alliances now? What is the importance of the U.S.?
JD: Korea is one of the strongest allies in that part of the world, in Asia. I think more than ever we need each other
and I think it’s a strong alliance, and I think it will survive. Periodically issues may come forward, but overall it’s to the best of our interest. It’s in the best interest of the Korean people.
I: Any other episode that you want to leave to this interview, anything that I didn’t ask or, yeah, there are many, but
JD: No, you plucked me dry, Doctor. [LAUGHS]
I: Can I invite my daughter to ask you some questions?
JD: Sure. Absolutely.
I: It’ll just be a few questions. So the first question for you
JD: It’ll be a quick answer. [LAUGHS]
I: It’s often said that things happen for a reason in people’s lives, certain memories or opportunities, moments, decisions really shape a person/s outlook or approach
to relationships or family matters or life outcomes. So for you in your service in Korea, how did that in any way shape your future life afterwards?
JD: Well, I think Military service in and of itself would tend to shape a person for the rest of his life only because he’s subjected to an environment that he normally would never have been
exposed to, and I think that environment is one where you realize that people are different, but we’re all doing the same thing, and that’s what I carried away from the Military. I think it’s worth more than the history lesson, okay.
I: Having real life experience in it, having real life experience in it you mean?
JD: Yes. Yes. Absolutely.
I: And my other question for you is as a Korean American, I focus a lot on not only American politics and government but also Korean society and Korean relations in Seoul and how that country relates itself to its’, you know, brother, sister country North Korea, although it’s strained relations currently. As a Korean War veteran, how do you see, or do you see
even a future for unification?
JD: In the Peninsula itself?
I: Um hm.
JD: Reunification, that would have to be done by the Korean people, nobody else. Nobody else. Nobody else. We could give you aid from now until doomsday, or you could give us aid, the case
might be, no. No outside force can do that. I don’t believe.
I: And, last question. For a Korean War veteran as yourself, do you think that there are unique aspects of the War that give you and your other fellow veterans and colleagues just
just an understanding of American society or American relations to other countries such as Korea?
JD: I think Korea may be unique because I don’t know of another war excluding World War II in some cases, where a nation has developed and progressed the way South Korea has.
I: Got it. Thank you very much., Those are all the questions I have.
I: Not done yet.
JD: I knew you’d get me.
I: I want to wrap up this, my portion of this interview. What do you think is the legacy of the Korean War?
JD: I think it’s a legacy that says
if war is bad, it can be good.
I: What does that mean?
JD: I think it means that war is a horrible thing, and nobody, we should never have wars. But we always have wars. So if we must have a war, what’s the result of that war? And the result of the Korean War is we have a free nation in South Korea. It can mean no more than that.
I: Thank you so much, and can I just join Mike just for a little bit?
I: You stay there. You stay there, and you can just hold it, that mic. Sit closer. Great. Yes, yes.
I: Would you please introduce yourself?
M: Sure. I’m Mike Dunford. This is my Dad, Joe.
I: Oh. So how many brothers and siblings do you have?
M: There are three other. I have three other brothers. There’s four of us.
I: Three other, so four brothers? Uh huh. And obviously one of your brother is Chair of the Joint Chiefs Staff, right?
M: He is, yeah. My oldest brother Joe is the Chairman, yes.
I: He’s the eldest?
M: Yes, he’s the eldest.
I: And did your father tell you about his war experience in the Korean War?
M: You know, I would say we grew up with him as a Marine and pictures of him being in the Marine Corp., but it was only in recent years where we’ve actually started to talk and he shared much more about his experience, specifically to the Korean War. We
We didn’t grow up with stories of it. It was much, we knew he was a Marine, you know. Joe became a Marine, I became a Marine, we
I: You did, too.
M: I did as well, and we did that because of the example he had set for us. But, but it was less about the War and more about service and being in the Military.
I: So he was successful to put all of you
M: A couple of us anyway, yeah.
I: It’s a Marine, oh my goodness, yeah. So what, when did you serve?
M: So I was in from
1980 – 2001, retired from the Reserves. Spent some time in South Korea.
I: You did?
M: I did.
I: So you are then, you were serving there?
M: I went there for about four months in 1986.
I: What did you do?
M: I was stationed on Okinawa, Japan, and so they have two major operations each year, Operation Team Spirit which is the winter exercise
M: I was stationed in Pohang on the pier, and we stayed, I was there
For about four months, and it was a great thing for me, and it was probably an awakening in some way because when you drive through the streets of Pohang, there were signs and banners across the street, we love U.S. Marines with the American flag. And it was probably my first time starting to dig a little bit into the Korean War and my Dad’s role in that. And then my brother subsequently went as well as most Marines end up over there at some point, and he actually took his battalion, and
they walked the battlefield, The Naktong, right?
M: Yeah. When they fought the second Battle of Naktong, he did a Military education class with his officers, and they walked the battlefield at the Naktong River.
I: Could you say your unit again?
M: I was with the, try to remember now
I: What is your unit, Marine Corp., what division?
M: I was in the Second Marine Division, and then when I was in the Pacific, I was with the Third Service Support Group.
I: And what was your MOS? What was
M: I was a combat engineer.
I: Combat engineer. Oka.
M: Then I became a transportation guy, Logistics.
I: The Pohang is known for the world’s biggest steel and iron there. We didn’t know how to make those things, but we were used to be the largest, steel and iron. And that is part
your father’s legacy. What do you think about that?
M: I mean, it’s incredible when, even in the 80’s to be able to see the progress in a port like Pohang. We would bring the Maritime Pre-Positioned Ships from the U.S. to Pohang and off load the equipment as a logistics exercise, and that facility would not certainly have existed, and I would guess that today, you know, it’s more advanced than it certainly was back then.
I: And so four months you were there.
M: I was there for four months. And I’ve been back for business to Seoul.
I: Oh. So first of all, you are qualified to be Korea Defense veteran.
M: Yes, I am. Yes.
I: So you will
M: I have that award actually. I proudly have that award displayed, yeah.
I: Because it’s very important. After your father fought for the Korea, there has been U.S. forces there since 1955.
M: That’s right.
I: And now we have about 28,000. Yeah. Including all the forces.
M: I think I would credit him for identifying the award because he started the VFW Magazine when it first came out, the Korean Defense Medal.
I: You started VFW Magazine?
M: No, he told me about the award, that I was eligible for.
I: Ah, so you got it.
M: I did, yeah.
I: Very good. So tell me about what was your business, and how many times
you’ve been in Korea.
M: So, after I was in the Reserves and then worked in a medical device company.
I: Medical device.
M: Yeah. And we had a very successful business headquartered in Seoul, and I think I’ve been there about three times.
I: Three times.
I: When: When was the last time?
M: So as recently as 2013 I think.
I: See, now he has not been back to
Korea, but instead you’ve been back to Korea, and your brothers all aware of what happened in Korea.
I: So now we have two lenses here. The ’50 that he saw the Korea and 21st century Korea.
I: Can you put that into perspective and explain it to me?
M: Well, from my perspective,
I: What is the Seoul that you saw, and what is the Korea that you saw?
M: The size and scale of Seoul is larger certainly than
any U.S. city. I’ve been to Beijing and Shanghai and in those large Chinese cities. Seoul I think sees that from a population perspective. And so what I’ve described it to people is when you’re in Seoul, all you see is Seoul. As far as you can see is the city which I know is not that way in 1950, you know. And then the skyscrapers and the quality of life and the amenities and the
things that exist in Korea today, it’s as comfortable as any city I’ve traveled to in the world.
I: That’s the Seoul that your father saw in 1950, September 28 when he recovered the Capital city and was completely destroyed mostly with a little bit of exaggeration, and that the Seoul that you saw is amazing. Wow.
M: Dramatic, dramatic change.
I: What do you think
about that? I mean despite such successful outcome, we don’t really teach about those things.
M: No, but I think that, you know, you’re talking to a Marine, and so there isn’t a Marine that you will meet that doesn’t know about the landing in Inchon and movement through Seoul and of course the Chosin, Chongjin Reservoir, you know. The disappointing thing is when you talk to non-Marines, they won’t know what we’re talking about, you know, and I think that’s disappointing.
I: It’s not just about the Marine,
but non-Marine, but it’s in the school textbook.
M: That’s my point, I think, is that if you don’t know somebody who had some connection to that historical event, you don’t know the story, you know,
M: because you don’t get it in the schools, and I think it’s disappointing because I do think the story line is that there’s, like Dad had said, I mean, there’s success that can come from something so horrible, and I’ve seen the success that comes from that, you know, because I’ve been to the city. So.
I: It’s like, you know, do you remember, if you read the Bible, there is a verse in John Chapter 1 and verse 46 I think. It’s Phillip is introducing Jesus to his friend Nathaniel who was under the fig tree meditating, and he said there is a rabbi, the Jesus, and Nathaniel said what good can come out of Nazareth? What good can come out of Nazareth because
it was Northern Israel, Jewish didn’t see it as Orthodox, and it’s a barren Gentile. But out of there, Jesus came out of it. The Korea you saw, the Seoul you saw in 1950 and the Seoul you saw in 2013, is something like that. Do you think that metaphor applies to your experience?
JD: Oh, I would say definitely, yeah, yeah, definitely, definitely.
I: Wow, this is good to, good to know you, Mike because you’re the Korean Defense veteran. Maybe I have to make another appointment with you for another interview.
M: He’s got his notes.
JD: Dress appropriately.
M: when you were fighting for a ribbon, you know?
I: Yeah. So any of your brothers, obviously your eldest brother Marine and any other?
M: No. My other brother, one’s an educator, and one works in television and communication.
I: I see, I see, yeah.
Any other story that your father
didn’t share with me, but shared with you, kind of secret or anything?
M: No, I think he provided, you know, as good a detailed retelling as you’re gonna get. [LAUGHS] No, it’s just great for him to be able to share, I think, for all the reasons that you’ve said since the beginning of the discussion. The education piece and the lack of appreciation for what has happened and what it has become is why we’re doing this.
When I met you in Quantico in May, it was very, I said yes before I whispered it to him because I just know, you know, and I said it on the ride over, the importance of, you know, not allowing revisionists of historians to kind of change what we know to be fact and what we know to be true, And the best way you can get that is from the first hand retelling of what actually happened, and so this is, you know, the interviews you’ve already done
And this interview is just, supports all of it.
JD: And that’s how he got me here.
M: That’s right.
I: So I was in the right person.
M: I’m the right one. That’s right. I’ll tell you a very quick story. When we were at the monument in May and so before the event actually started, we went over to see the monument, and my other brother Paul was with us, and there was a gentleman from Korea with a camera taking pictures, and he asked if
First he asked if I was a veteran. I said no, I’m a little younger. But he is, and he was, his mother was one of the 100,000 that came down from
M: Evacuation, and so for him to stand there that morning and say I wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t done what he did, I think for me and my brother Paul, that set the stage for the day, you know. When you think about why would you commemorate one battle on a long list of battles. But it was because of what he
Said, you know, that the fact that he physically would not be alive and be there if his mother hadn’t been part of the 100,000. That was pretty powerful. And I think it becomes, you know, an important lesson for why sometimes the United States does what it does.
I: Yeah, I think we need to set up another appointment. Yes.
JD: You should do it, Mike. [LAUGHS]
M: No, he got everything out of me. Like father like son.
I: Alright. It’s been a great honor and pleasure to be able to talk to you and to
JD: It was good to see you again Dr. Han.
I: to learn from you about your experience. He is the Marine. He’s the great generation, and
M: And a 40 year Boston policeman.
I: Again, this is my great honor and pleasure to meet you, sir, and on behalf of Korean nation, I want to thank you for your fight, and that’s what Korea is right now, that the Korean people never forget what U.S. did, and I hope that our relationship takes forever and go together.
JD: I’m sure it will. I’m sure it will.
I: Thank you, sir.
[End of Recorded Material]