Joseph Horton was born in Brooklyn, New York, on September 23, 1931. Growing up in a big family, times were tough. His family moved to and from different tenement houses throughout his childhood. While working for a brokerage firm in 1952, he was drafted by the United States Army. At the time, he knew there was a war but knew little about Korea. Once in Korea, he was active on the front lines. Serving in the trenches, there were times he was face-to-face with the Chinese Army. Once the Armistice was signed, he was relieved and returned home to work at the brokerage firm. He openly admits he struggles with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and that it has negatively impacted his life. He is proud of his service and is in awe of how the Republic of Korea has become an industrial power.
Joseph Horton recalls the two occasions he revisited Korea. He shares how he revisited in 1998 and then again in 2000. He expresses that South Korea was breathtaking and applauds the Korean people and government for the transformation.
Trench Fighting and PTSD
Joseph Horton describes his experience fighting in the trenches. He details the close proximity of the Chinese troops as well as the nervous adrenaline he felt in combat. He speaks candidly about dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after returning from Korea. He highlights his bout with depression, alcoholism, and losing his family on a few occasions.
KCOMZ and Christmas Hill
Joseph Horton details his work as a guard at a Chinese POW camp. He recalls serving there there for seventy-three days until being moved to Christmas Hill. He describes combat at Christmas Hill and shares how he served there on the front lines until the truce was announced.
The Punch Bowl
Joseph Horton describes his experience trying to hold a line against North Korean forces. He recalls his first real combat duty and seeing wounded and killed soldiers. He describes how his job was to extricate the wounded from the battlefield.
Deployed to Korea
Joseph Horton describes being drafted and not knowing he was going to Korea. He talks about going to Arkansas and California where he proposed to his wife on the phone, not knowing he was going to Korea. He discusses sailing to Korea in September of 1952 and explains that he landed in Incheon in October of 1952.
South Korean currency
The front of a S Korean bill worth 5 Won
South Korean currency
The front of a S Korean bill worth 500 Won. This bill was issued in 1952 during the presidency of Syngman Rhee.
South Korean currency
The back of a S Korean bill worth 500 Won. This bill was issued in 1952 during the presidency of Syngman Rhee.
Military Payment Certificate/ Military Script
The front of a US Military Script/Payment Certificate worth 10 cents. Payment Certificates were used to prevent US currency to be in the hand of the opposing side.
Military Payment Certificate/ Military Script
The back of a US Military Script/Payment Certificate worth 10 cents. Payment Certificates were used to prevent US currency to be in the hand of the opposing side.
South Korean currency 1000 Won front
The front of a S Korean bill worth 1000 Won, issued during the presidency of Syngman Rhee.
South Korean currency 1000 Won back
The back of a S Korean bill worth 500 Won. This bill was issued during the presidency of Syngman Rhee.
South Korean currency 1000 Won front
The front of a South Korean bill worth 1000 won, issued in 1952 during the presidency of Syngman Rhee.
South Korean currency 1000 Won back
The back of a S Korean bill worth 1000 Won, issued in 1952 during the presidency of Syngman Rhee.
Back of Pay Data Card
Pay Data Cards were to keep track of how much eaech soldier would be payed.
Front of Pay Data Card
Pay Data Cards were to keep track of how much eaech soldier would be payed.
Front of General Information Card
This card showed the general orders, each company letter, and the phonetic alphabet.
Back of General Information Card
This is the back of the informaiton card.
A little calendar from October of '53 to March of '54 to keep track of time.
Injury and Care Card
This card showed how to take care of bug bites, and tips and reminders for any other injuries.
Geneva Connections Identification Card
Geneva Connections Identification Cards were the only information given to the opposing side if the owner of the card was captured.
Certificate of Service
Horton's Certificate of Service during the Korean War.
Notice of Classification
Horton's Notice of Classification.
Back of Notice of Classification
Back of Notice of Classification.
Selective Service System. Registration Certificate
Horton's Registration Certificate
Back of Selective Service System. Registration Certificate, with Registrant Information.
Horton's overall Information
Letter from Sea Woo Lee to Mrs. Horton
A letter from Sea Woo Lee (written by interpreter) thanking Mrs. Horton for sending gifts and goods to him and the fellow KATUSA's. Written in August 9th, 1953 in Korea.
The letter used to send Sea Woo Lee's letter to Mrs. Horton. The letter was sent in August 9, 1953.
Summons to Surrender to UN Front
The front of a flyer spread by airplane encouraging the North Koreans to surrender to the United Nations. Horton obtained it in December of 1952 while staying in the frontline position.
Summons to Surrender to UN Back
The back of a flyer spread by airplane encouraging the North Koreans to surender to the United Nations. Horton obtained it in December of 1952 while staying in the frontline position.
KATUSA Registration Letter Front
The front of a letter written to Koreans interested in becoming a KATUSA and help the 45th division. Horton obtained the letter in November of 1952.
KATUSA Registration Letter Back
The back of a letter written to Koreans interested in becoming a KATUSA and help the 45th division. Horton obtained the letter in November of 1952.
A picture of Joseph Horton when he was 21 years old. Taken in the Yangjin Army Reservation in the Iron Triangle Area during August of 1953 after the war.
KATUSA's Taking Apart a Machine Gun
KATUSA's taking apart a machine gun. Kyang Be Kim, kneeling in the center, was killed in December 5, 1952. Picture taken in August of 1952.
Chang Soo Jin and Joseph Horton
Chang Soo Jin kneeling with Joseph Horton in a picture in front of their tent. In the background is three boxes of beverages provided from army rations, including Coca-Cola. Taken in August of 1953 in the Yangjin Reservation near the Iron Triangle.
Sea Woo Lee
Sea Woo Lee posing for a picture. Taken in August of 1953 in the Yangjin Reservation in the Iron Triangle.
Chang Soo Jin and Fellow Soldier
Jin standing with fellow soldier in the Yangjin Reservation in the Iron Triangle Area. Picture taken in August of 1953.
Horton in the Yangjin Reservation. Picture taken in August of 1953.
Chang Soo Jin and Lee
Jin, in white shirt, posing with Lee in front of their tent in the Yangjin Army Reservation. The picture was taken in August of 1953.
Chang Soo Jin
Jin smiling for the camera in front of his tent. In the background are three boxes of beverages, one being a box of Coca-Cola. Taken in the Yangjin Army Reservation in the Iron Triangle area in August of 1953.
Soldier with Knife and Bayonnet
A soldier showing a Chinese bayonnet from WWII(on right), and a Chinese knife obtained from fighting against the Chinese, who left many weapons behind in attempt to flee. Both were obtained in July of 1953. Picture taken in Yangjin Army Reservation in August of 1953.
KATUSA in Yangjin Reservation
A KATUSA standing for a picture in the Yangjin Army Reservation near the Iron Triangle. Picture taken in August of 1953.
Jin, Horton, and Lee
Jin and Lee standing with Horton, who was the leader of the Weapon Squad. In the back is Horton's tent. Taken in the Yangjin Army Reservation in August of 1953.
[Beginning of recorded material]
I: Joe, thank you for interviewing with us. I think I met you at the annual convention
J: Thank you.
I: of your Korean War Veteran Department at Saratoga Springs this May, right?
J: That’s correct, sir, yeah.
I: What were you doing there?
J: I, I was the, uh, I’m the treasurer for the Department of New York and, uh, we were in charge of the 50-50 money
J: and, and also the, uh, hospitality room, uh, myself and the President, Sal,
uh, made sure that it ran properly and all the money for, accounted for and, uh, uh, we did pretty well on it this year. So, uh,
I: Good to see you again.
J: I’m glad to see you.
I: Yeah. That’s the Museum of sale.
J: Uh, I, I know.
J: It’s a little much but, uh,
J: Not many people have it, you know
I: I’ve never seen anything like this.
J: This extent.
I: Why do you think it’s a good idea to have a website like the Korean War Veterans Digital Memorial?
J: Well, uh, because it, it is a, uh, it was once a forgotten war and, uh, it still is a forgotten war with the, uh, uh, the young Koreans and also the Americans, uh. There’s not many people that know too much about it and, uh, most veterans don’t talk about it, uh.
I: Why not?
J: We don’t share with our families, or we don’t, I don’t speak to other veterans, uh, uh. I keep it inside.
I: Why do you keep inside
I: and you don’t talk about it?
J: Uh, maybe be, it’s, maybe it’s part of the, uh, uh, post-traumatic stress, uh, syndrome
that you alienate yourself from your, your family and, uh, talking about any, anything that, uh, uh. You remember it, but you don’t want to, uh, orally say it, uh. You know, all the, uh, situations that you went through in the, in, during the war and, uh. Others don’t appreciate it, uh,
as we, we do and uh, whether it’s, uh, it’s your makeup, uh, I just don’t like to speak about it.
I: So why do you think that the Korean War Veteran Digital Memorial will
J: Oh, I think it’ll be, uh, it, it’s time for, uh, us to come out of the closet and, uh, let people know just what, uh, what it was like over there and
the, uh, what we saw and what the country has become today, uh, the friendship, uh, between the Korean and I think American people, uh. Most people don’t, uh, realize the, uh, America was, didn’t murder GIs and Koreans, uh, have such a bond, uh, that no other country in any
of our wars have ever reciprocated to any, any extent, uh, as much as Korea.
I: Um hm. That’s an excellent point, excellent point.
J: Un, it’s, it’s, it certainly, uh, we don’t have much in the libraries and it’s not much taught at school of, yeah, we have our Tell America
J: But, uh, whether they really get anything about it,
uh, who knows? Uh, but it, it’s a start and, uh, it, it should be done more than it is, but it’s hard to get into, uh, schools unless you have a, a willing participant in the, in the teacher side of it. But, uh, anyway, it’s, uh,
it’s good, good that it’s being done. Uh, maybe someday somebody will, uh,
I: Have a chance to look at it.
J: have a chance to look at it and, uh, they
I: Um hm.
J: I have five grandsons and, uh, I think maybe only one has any interest at all. As a matter of fact, he wrote an essay for the, uh, uh, the, uh, for the Korean Health, uh, thing.
He, he wrote an essay and uh, and uh, we’ll wait to hear sometime this month, I guess, it would be easy winner. But, uh, and uh, he’s a, an assistant district attorney
I: Um hm.
J: out here with a Dr. Oh
I: Um hm.
J: and his daughter and his son-in-law is a district attorney here in Suffolk County, uh, and my grandson
is, works with him.
I: Would you introduce yourself, your name, when was born
I: and so on?
J: Yes. Uh, my name is, uh, Joseph John Horton. Uh, I was born in, uh, Brooklyn, New York, Kings County, uh, and uh, on September 23, 1931,
I: You born
J: Uh, the, uh, we lived in the, uh, Brooklyn section, uh, most of my, uh, teenage life, uh, in tenements, uh. We never owned a home, uh. We had six children and, uh, my mother was, uh, of Irish descent, uh, that immigrated. My grandfather immigrated from Ireland,
and, uh, uh, we were, uh, living in the Cypress Hills area of Brooklyn
I: Uh huh.
J: when I, uh, was drafted in, uh, 1952, January of ’52. Uh, I was working at a firm in New York City, a brokerage firm, uh, under the name of White Weldon Company which, uh, after I returned from the service I went
back to them and, uh, uh, we were sold to Merrill Lynch which is, uh, quite well known, and anyway, uh, I was, uh, 20 years old when I, uh, was drafted in, uh, January 18, 1952. I had basic training in, uh, uh,
I: Were you aware of Korea at the time, where it, it is?
J: No, no. We had no knowledge of, uh, we knew it was going on from
look, seeing pictures and, uh, uh, newspaper articles, but we had no idea where it, Korea was or, uh, what was going on, uh, our involvement and, uh, we were too busy playing basketball or baseball and being a teenager, uh.
I: What was your first reaction, honest feeling, that you were drafted to fight in the country where
you were, never heard of?
J: Well, before, well, um, we, we really didn’t have any, uh, uh, knowledge of, uh, what was ahead of us, uh. We knew we were going through basic training which is, uh, uh, a format of, uh, military service. but we had no idea that we would be going to Korea, uh. You’d have a chance of maybe going to Germany
or staying in the States or, or going to Korea, uh, uh. No one knew their destiny, uh. I was at, uh, in Arkansas, and then I went to California and, uh, in July of, uh, 1952 I had been going with my, uh, wife who was, uh,
I: Oh, you were married at the time?
J: Uh, we were going steady for about two years. I met her in 1949 and, uh, I proposed to my wife from California on the phone and, uh,
I: Before you left for Korea?
J: Before I left for Korea, and we were married on July 26, 1952.
I: She accepted it?
I: Knowing that you are leaving for Korea?
J: Well, we, we had no idea I was going to Korea at that point.
I: Oh, you didn’t know.
J: No, we, I, I had no, no idea. Uh, we had a church service, uh, and a small, uh, reception, uh. I returned to, uh, California and, uh, I was there maybe two or three weeks and I got my orders to ship out for Korea. So I, I was, uh, we were given a leave,
and then, uh, we had to report back to, uh, uh, uh, I forget what we, Camp Stoneman in, uh, in Washington I guess it was and, uh, we stayed there for about, uh, um, five or ten days until all the people came in. Then we, we sailed for Korea on, uh, I think it was September 20, 1952.
I: What was like being in that ship? How did they teach you?
J: Oh, it was sad.
I: was, what was the utmost fear among your people?
I: going into the battle ground?
J: Well, uh, we were, we headed for Japan, uh, I guess Camp Drake, uh. While on board, we were there, I think about a, we, we, uh, we sailed on September 20, 1952 and arrived in, uh, Japan
I think on October 5, uh.
I: So about two weeks.
J: The condition, the conditions on the ship were God awful. I think, uh, I don’t really know how many men were on the ship, or boys, uh, but I think 99% of them were sick, seasick
I: Uh huh.
J: and the stench was unbearable. It was all over the ship.
Uh, the first night, uh, I was in my bunk and, uh, about 4:00 the, uh, cooks came around recruiting dishwashers and food handlers and, uh, we worked all day. Uh, we, scrubbing pots and washing floors and, and uh, that was the last time they caught me in my bunk. I was up on, up on deck.
I never had KP again, uh. The one day was enough anyway, and, uh, we got, we got to, uh, Korea about October 5thand, uh,
I: Where did you land?
J: Uh, we knew, were, in Camp Drake I believe, in Japan, and then they, uh, they, uh, I think we got to Korea on October 10, uh, Inchon we landed.
And you were Army, right?
J: Army. U.S. Army.
I: What was your specialty?
J: Uh, 45thInfantry Division, 279th, uh, Regiment, uh, uh, Company A. Uh, we, uh, they had just come back, uh, off of the line, uh, in Chorwon Valley and, uh, they were, uh, getting new equipment and, uh,
uh, and getting rest, uh. We went back up on the line on, uh, November 24, up at what they call the, the Punch Bowl.
I: You mean east side.
J: I, on the east coast, yes. It was, uh, two very large, uh, mountainous, uh, hills they, hill 854 and hill 1012 which was Luke’s Castle, uh.
They were the two, uh, uh, sticking points in the truce negotiations, uh, the, uh, the North Korean or Chinese, uh, wanted this included because we were in North Korea up on the east coast, and they, they were very, they were about wanting that territory, and the United States wouldn’t give, or the South Korean government wouldn’t give, uh.
So we, we got up on, on the line with a, uh, a, we relieved the 8thROK Division on the, the night of November 24, uh. Before the night was over, we sustained an attack, uh, maybe, they, they say two battalions of North Koreans, uh.
They announced welcome 45thDivision, uh. They knew exactly who we were and, uh, before the night is over, they, uh, alerted the 8thROK Division to, uh, get ready to come back up in the hills to, to reinforce us in case they, uh, they got into the trenches. Uh, we didn’t need them. We, we held, uh,
it was quite an awakening, uh. We’d move up in the dark and so we don, we don’t know when, where anything is and, uh, it’s quite scary, uh. That passed, and, uh, November 5 was my first, uh, really, uh, combat duty, um. The daylight patrol of four men were down in the valley, uh.
At this time, we had the snow parkas, snowsuits on, uh, jackets with hoods and, uh, uh, gloves, the whole bit white to blend in with the snow. Uh, the four- man patrol got caught that, and one of the fellas got a buddy, he destroyed the radio, and he, he got up to the mainline of resistance and, uh,
he alerted, uh, Abel Company and uh, by this time, uh, many hours had passed, uh. 12:00 we started to move down to, uh, rescue them, uh. A first guard of the Abel Company and second guard of the 3rdplatoon went down, uh. When I got down there, uh, I found one, uh, GI shot
through the neck, uh. I guess they took, they, one step and he went down, uh. Another fella by the name of Walker off to the side. He had, I don’t know, two or three slugs in the stomach, uh. Another one was shot in the leg, and both of them were still alive. We had one killed in action,
and, uh, our job, uh, the first squad went after the ambushes, uh, they got two of them, two out of the six and, uh, our job was to ex, extricate the, the wounded and the dead up the mountain. Well, from 1:00 the last man went in, crossed into our lines at 7:35 at night, uh.
It took us all day to go up the, uh, with the stretchers and, uh, that was, uh, I still remember that as it was yesterday and, uh,
I: Oh, you have a such a memory.
J: It’s, us, sad. The one fella that was shot was, uh, the name of Harold, uh, Schaeffer, uh. They used to call him Lucky.
J: And, uh, after I came home,
I remember the incident, and I remember the exact position they were in, but I couldn’t remember their names. And in 1995 we went down for the dedication of the, uh, Korean monuments in Washington, and I met somebody down there from Baker Company, and he, he was tel, telling us that he had lost a good friend on December 5, uh, by the name of Lucky.
Lucky Schaeffer, and it all came back. I remembered his name. I remember the other kid’s name was Walker and, uh, it’s, uh, and it’s, it’s still fresh as it was yesterday.
J: And then, uh, we continued. We went out on patrols and, uh, were, uh, uh, reconnaissance to find out where they were or see if we could make contact
with them and, uh, on December 24thwhich is Christmas Eve, uh, the North Koreans started shelling us and, uh, we ran into a bunker, uh. I came in and was a, a bunkmate with Carmel Wyatt, I sat on here and, uh, a good friend of, uh, mine who went to school with my brother-in-law up in Waterbury, Connecticut come in,
and he sat down on the box next to me. I told him come up here, uh, he sat there, and we had a young, a young Korean boy, a katusa, in my squad, second squad, and he was, uh, repairing his, uh, air mattress and, uh, he was standing in the doorway so that he could get light to see where the holes were, and, uh, wouldn’t you know it, uh, we got a direct hit, uh.
The fella next to me had over 50 pieces of shrapnel in his legs. The young Korean boy, uh, who was torn to pieces. I think he probably saved our lives and, uh, there was, uh, uh, one, the boy, the one Korean boy killed in action, and there was four of us wounded.
And, uh, I went back in the ambulance with, uh, my buddy from my squad from Waterbury, Connecticut and, uh, when I got there, uh, I wasn’t wounded that seriously enough to be evacuated, uh. They gave me a couple of shots and, uh, I, I returned, uh, to our lines, uh,
and, uh, after a couple of days, uh, I, I received a, uh, piece of shrapnel in the left eye and, uh,
I: I’m sorry. What?
J: In the left eye. There’s a piece of shrapnel in there.
J: Came in through the eyelid and, uh, it wasn’t serious enough. It, it, it scratched the cornea, and it’s embedded under the eye.
J: But the whole eyelid was split open
where it went in. And, uh, the eye closed and, uh, was almost like a, a black eye and, uh, uh, I also had some shrapnel in the back and was, uh, which, uh, was just pieces. It was no, you know, we, we just went back to work because there were so many people, uh, from our squad, uh, that were
wounded and, uh, after that, we had some, uh, rest and recuperation and, uh, and, uh, at the end of January they returned us up, back up front to, uh, uh, Heartbreak Ridge and, uh, we stayed there for about 28 days. The, the
first hill we were on, we were up at 36 days without a shower. We had one change of clothes but, uh, when it was my turn to go down to take a shower the, the, uh, the machine was broke. So we never got to take a shower. We, we changed our clothes, our underwear and went back up and, uh, Heartbreak Ridge was very, uh, testy, uh. The, uh, mortars came in every, every
lunch time, uh, because the, uh, the GIs are known to take off their jackets and crawl once upon the top of the hill with the, uh, the, the white t-shirts and the, uh, the silver mess kits. So every, every, every, uh, lunch time, uh, there we saw foreman and the mortars and we learned that every 15 seconds you get up and run a little further up until you get back into your, your, your bunker.
I: Uh huh.
J: And, uh,
I: That’s horrible.
J: I got, got through that and then in, uh, I think it was May of ’53 our, our division was ordered to, uh, Jeju-do under the what they called K Comz. It’s the, um, uh, guards at a prisoner of war camp,
the Chinese Prisoner of War camp. I, I know today it’s a, uh, a luxury resort
J: but, uh, back end of 1953, it was a, a prisoner of war camp. Uh, we stayed there until, uh, oh, I guess about 73 days, uh. We were either at, a guard at the day, uh, the double barbed wire fence, uh, with no weapons, just the, uh, guard and,
standing and the stationary guard at, at that war up in the, uh, machine gun tower, uh. I, I had my first, uh, uh, acclimation to Mayday, uh, during the Chinese, uh, celebrated, uh, they let them, uh, build a boat, and they let them take it down to the ocean and, uh, uh, and sail it for a while, uh. But, uh, every, every other
couple of days they would, uh, have a, a bucket brigade with half a, half of a 55-gallon drum, and they carried the waste down to the, uh, down by the ocean. And, uh, after that, uh, uh, June 20 was the exact date. They moved us up to, uh, uh, I forget where it was now, I forget the name of the, uh, right, right off the bat.
But, uh, we stayed there for about 10 days.
I: From where?
J: Uh, in the east coast.
I: East coast.
J: It was, uh, we fin, they moved us to, uh, a place called, they called Christmas Hill and, uh, we were there until the, uh, the end of the cease fire, uh. We moved off the line on July 29
I believe. But, uh, on July 7 and 8, uh, Charlie Company was on the finger, and Abel Company was up on the top of the mountain in the trenches.
I: Um hm.
J: Uh, Charlie Company had an outpost and the, uh, the Chinese, uh, mortared it, uh. They, uh, killed two Koreans,
South Koreans, and there was, uh, one American still left and, uh, every time they went out to, uh, get the men, they would pour in the artillery in the mortars, and they wouldn’t let them go out and get them, get the, uh, bodies, uh. On the night of the, uh, July 8, two battalions of Chinese attacked, uh. By this time,
uh, the Charlie Company was down to 53 men out of 200 and, uh, the Chinese got into the trenches and, uh, us, uh, we were directly in, uh, where the entrance was to go down into the finger. Our job was to go down and clear out the Chinese out of the trenches. Uh, we went down and, uh,
make sure the, uh, the Chinese were either dead or out of the trenches and, uh, at this point, uh, I, I was an assistant, uh, uh, squad leader on a machine gun, uh, position, uh. I had a 45, and I also had a small handgun with 32 Belgium automatic
and, uh, the one that I shot happened to be, uh, in the face.
I: A Chinese soldier.
J: A Chinese soldier. Uh, he fell back down the, uh, the hill. He was standing up. I, I guess he was trying to get away and, uh, uh, I think it was maybe
a week, week and a half later we went out looking for them and, uh, two of the, uh, uh, katusas came up and said they had, saw a body down there. We went back down to get it, uh. At this time, Abel Company relieved Charlie Company. We were down now on the finger. Uh, they, they, they wouldn’t
go near him. So the Americans had to go down and help them, uh. This time his face was gone and, uh, there was nothing but magnet, maggots and they were deadly afraid. So I broke off some branches and put it over his face and, uh, they would, they took the, uh, the hand that was on the stretcher to bring him up and, uh, and then, uh,
the war ended. Well I, uh, I spent my first anniversary the day before the Armistice and, uh, it seemed like they were, the Chinese just were trying to unload all of their ammunition because they, uh, they pounded us, uh, relentlessly. I always remember that day. Just looking up for the kitchen sink to come. And, uh,
luckily, uh, I managed to get out and get home.
I: When did you depart Korea?
J: I left Korea about, uh, October, I guess October 18, some where’s around there.
I: Could you describe the day that Armistice was declared? What was the feeling? How did you react to it?
J: Uh, it was,
uh, a funny
I: Where were you?
J: Because, I was up on the front lines, up on the Christmas Hill, uh, the finger of Christmas Hill and, uh, it was very still, very quiet and, uh, we had a, a, I think he was from Puerto Rico, uh, and he heard noises that evening,
on the 27th, and he wanted to throw hand grenades. I said, you know, and, uh, no. You don’t do that. But he was, uh, I think a little afraid that the Armistice wasn’t real, that, you know, Chinese were coming at us. Uh, you know, it really didn’t sink in that it was really, really, finally over.
I: Um hm.
J: It was still un [INAUDIBLE]
I: They couldn’t believe it.
J: Yeah, yes. You, you were still on alert. So. But, uh, then I got rotated home and, uh,
I: No, no, no. What is, what was your reaction? What, how did you feel about it? Be honest.
J: Oh, I was very relieved that, you know, I finally, you know, wouldn’t have to, uh, uh,
I: What did you do on the moment that was declared?
J: Uh, gee I, I, I don’t really remember, uh. I guess I was very thankful that the shooting war had stopped, uh, you know. This way I know I’m gonna go home alive, uh. It was, it was, uh, every, every day you’re, you’re, uh, they used to say well, today I didn’t have any bullet or any bomb with my name on it
because the, uh, uh, you would have guys up there one day, and the next day they’d be gone. Uh, I guess it was just, just the luck of the draw that, uh, whoever came home survived, uh, was lucky, uh, It, uh, it was quite humbling, believe me. I, and I, I
used to tell myself, I said, being I was married, I said geeze, will we ever have any children? I, I know he, he’s not gonna have to do this, but, uh, I know now that was false being we went into Vietnam and all the other wars that are going on now.
I: You were in the trench war, right?
J: I was in the trench war.
I: So that in the, there should be a case where that the Chinese were
approaching to you, and you had to defend them, right?
I: How close in any, the closest sort of cases?
J: Oh, like where you guys sitting.
I: Yeah. You’re looking at Chinese soldiers?
J: Yes, when they
I: From a 2-meter distance?
J: Oh, [STUTTERS] normal positions no. When they got, when they attacked us
I: Right, right.
J: it was very close.
I: Very close.
J: Very close.
I: What did you think?
J: Uh, I guess then uh, uh, the adrenaline started kicking up from all the, uh, previous lead, shellings and, uh, all the dealings, uh. You were scared, but you went ahead and doing, like when we had to go down to clear out the trenches, uh, my knees were just shaking. All I had was a 45. I didn’t want to go down with
I: What do you mean 45?
J: A, a pistol. Uh, that night, uh, our lieutenant was a young, young lad I guess, from West Point, the second lieutenant, uh. Our, our machine gun position was here, and the, the, there was a bunker here with just a, uh,
burlap bag, uh. You could hear crying going on, and he was the only one in there, uh. Our, our platoon sergeant went in, and I heard him smack him and the, the crying stopped, and then we, we went down, and we spent the whole night there, and next morning we went, came back up, he was gone.
After I came back, uh, we didn’t have the information from our own, uh, country as to, uh, what they term now, uh, PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. It was battle fatigue or, uh, they had different terms for different wars, and we, we just, uh,
uh, shell shocked, uh, from all the, uh, dealings with the, uh, either with mortars or artillery shelling, uh. It, it, uh, gets to you after a while. Uh, and not known to us, uh, we, we dealt with different anxieties in life, uh, problems
with, uh, alienation from your family, drinking, uh, marital spouts, uh, my left, my wife left me about three times with the children because of drinking and, uh. It was not until 1998 that I started going to the VA.
J: From 1953, uh, I didn’t have a car. I didn’t even know where the VA was. But now, uh, it’s well publicized so all the returning Iraq or Afghanistan veterans that they, they have, uh, post-traumatic stress, uh. It, it, uh, almost cost me my marriage and my family.
I: You survived it.
J: I survived it.
J: And, uh, uh, I’m getting a disability, 50% from the VA for post-traumatic stress and, uh, it, it, uh, at times you have a, you might be just watching a picture. It doesn’t have to be a war picture and, uh, something’ll trigger and, uh,
you’ll start crying like a baby. Uh,
I: You woke up in the middle of night.
J: Uh, middle of the night, uh, a lot, lot of people talk about, uh, having dreams, nightmares. I never had a nightmare or a dream, uh. In the middle of the night, I would wake up, and I would sit up on the bed, not knowing what it was, uh.
It, it just, like you’d be laying prone, and all of a sudden you’d sit up and not thinking of anything, but it would be instant reaction to something, uh. I, I, I, I don’t get them as often as I do, uh. They give you medication to try to, try to solve your, to this day,
As a matter of fact, I have a 1:30 appointment with the VA today with my wife for counseling. So I’m still, still in treatment. It, it’s, uh, uh, everybody has their way to handle it and, uh, I’m, I’m just, uh, well, uh, July 26thof, of this, uh, a week away, next Thursday will be my, our
60thwedding anniversary. So, uh, we managed to stick it out and, uh, work things, uh.
I: Wonderful wife you have.
J: Yeah. And uh, and, uh, we first started going to the, the counseling must be about three years ago, uh,
uh, and she started, uh, discussing with the counselor, uh, how many times she left me with the children. I, I had forgotten or I wasn’t aware of it and, uh, did I do that? It, it was, uh, you know, you needed the, uh, the liquor to
pump you up or forget or something.
J: That’s, uh, I guess part of, uh, all the problems that we carried back with us from the war.
I: What did you do after you returned to home?
I: Did you get a job?
J: Yes. I, uh, I had a job because I was working for a, uh, small brokerage firm.
I: Yeah, right.
J: And I left
J: and, uh, I, I started in, I think, December of 1949, so I had a, a year or two in with them, and my job was waiting for me, you know, in the same
I: That’s good.
J: department that I had left, and, uh, it took me a while to, uh, come around, uh. I, I went back to work in January, uh,
and I was like lost. I didn’t know where to go. And, uh, I, I’d like to share this story with you. One of the fellas that were with me, uh, on that, uh, December 5thencounter that we, uh, extricated the men, uh. The fella that was, received 50 shrapnel wounds
I: Uh huh, uh huh.
J: in his, in his leg, he was married on January 1stof 1953.
I never saw him again. He went, sent to the hospitals, and then he returned to the States and so forth, and, uh, my sister lived in Waterbury, Connecticut and, uh, she kept in, in contact with his family and, uh, they, he sent me an invitation to go to the wedding. So me and my wife went up to the, uh,
uh, the wedding and, uh, we walked into the wedding, and we got there very late because it was January 1st, and the train schedule was, I didn’t have a car. We had to take the, the, the trains up. Joe, I’m sorry I bugged out on you. That’s, uh, when we were
carrying the wounded and dead up, halfway up him and another fella went back up to the lines. It was extremely cold and very tiresome. He went back up. He says Joe I, I can’t take it anymore. I said go back up, you know. Rest. I, I stayed there until we got back up, but he, I guess he had a guilty conscience that he
I: I see.
J: That he left me, and I remember
him in the ambulance calling Mary, Mary. He was in such pain, and Mary was the girl he married. So I said you must be Mary. She said yes. And, uh, but I’m I, I never forget that he wouldn’t talk to me because he felt that he, he bugged out on me, and I never felt that way, you know.
I knew he was tired and cold and, uh, I guess some things stay on your mind as you, you think you done wrong and you really didn’t. But, I’ve, I’ve made contact with his son up in Waterbury, Connecticut through the computer and, uh, he wanted to know about how his father was wounded,
and I said well, I’m, I was sitting right next to him, and I can tell you exactly what happened to him. But we’re, to this day never gotten together. One of these days. But,
I: You have such a unbearable experiences.
J: It, I’ve
I: and has haunted you even after you coming back.
J: It, it was, uh, they never t rained us to deal with the cold. Uh, we had good clothes
and good boots, the rubber and mickey mouse boots and, uh, they did check our feet, uh, by the medical officers, uh. They kept after that. it was, uh, hard living in, uh, uh, we used to go into the, uh, uh, what they used called bunkers or, uh, hooches they used to call them, and get inside your sleeping bag which was the wrong thing to do because
there weren’t any enemy guns in the, the, the trenches that could, that could want to stick you with a bayonet. You could feel the rats running over you.
J: And I, one incident, uh, when the war ended, when the cease fire ended, uh, we had a, a, a, a bunker, and two of the Korean boys, katusas,
we knocked it in, knocked the bunker in, and the, then we rode and went out, and one of them picked up a rock and went after him and got him.
J: And that’s uh, uh, I guess the, uh, that bothered them, too.
I: Um, have you ever been back to Korea?
J: Yes, I have been back.
J: In, uh, 1998 and, uh, uh, I think 2000.
I: Hm. What do you feel?
J: Oh, that, that, it was breathtaking. I couldn’t believe it. Could not believe it. When we left, it was, uh, in Seoul there was, uh, a military PX and some stores, a lot of people. But, uh, uh,
nothing really, you know, uh, like it is today. I mean, condos and, uh, just absolutely, uh, a fantastic credit to the Korean, uh, government and Korean people, uh, to, uh, turn themselves around.
I: We couldn’t do it without your
J: I, I realized that. But, uh, it, uh, you know. I mean, we had, when
we were there, I, uh, maybe one or two bridges out of six bridges, you know, uh. It was, uh, neon lights almost all night I mean, uh. We were by almost Olympic Park. In Olympic Park there’s a, uh, thumb sticking up, uh. We stayed in the, uh, uh, the church building. They, they used to call it the Glass Tower
or the Glass Building and, uh, Reverend Kim, uh, but, uh. I mean the highways are six, six car lanes. I mean just, uh, uh gee, you know. I was part of this.
I: Did that help you some?
I: I mean to get out of that trauma?
J: Uh, I guess for a, for a bit. But, uh,
you’re not thinking about any, anything other than the development of the country and, you know. It’s just so awe inspiring. You take it all in and, u h, but, uh, you, you, you, uh, you, you get a sense of, uh, you know, pride that you were there, you know. Only like
uh, we had a, a gentleman by the name of Mr. Park. I don’t know if, uh, he’s from down here, and he took us up to the, uh, Inchon by subway,
I: Um. [LAUGHS]
J: I mean, couldn’t, could not get over it, the subway, you know. When we, we got the, uh, uh, card and ran it through the machine and
up and down levels and I said, you know, I said this is the first, our people would, uh, got heavy and couldn’t do much and then I would just take the high ground, take the high ground, you know. I urged them to go up and down the steps. But, uh, uh, so long ago.
I: I have several questions to ask you.
I: First, you know, Korean War is between north and south. But at the same time, the more I have interview with Korean War veterans, the more I realize that it was between U.S. and China.
I: What do you think about that?
J: Well, I, you know, the, you know, the, the very first, uh,
uh, front line duty I had, uh, was against, a, I found this out later, much later, against we, our, ours was the 45thInfantry Division. It’s a National Guard outfit from Oklahoma. We were facing the 45thNorth Korean people’s Army. Can that, and that’s, what a coincidence. 45thagainst
I: Uh huh.
J: And then in July we were against the Chinese.
I: Were there any battle 45th?
J: No. But they knew who we were.
I: Um hm.
J: Uh, it, uh, they were, had the, uh, the uh, uh bugles on the loudspeakers. Nobody ever taught us are they coming?
Is that just, uh, over the microphone to scare us, uh? Christmas time they would have, play music, uh, GI, what is your family doing now? What is your sweetheart doing? [LAUGHS] You know, uh, trying to get you, uh, uh, to not sympathize with South Korea or just leave
it there and go home.
I: Go home.
J: And uh, of course it didn’t work, but, uh, uh, we had our, uh, our, uh, black sheep you might call it, um, that, u h, that day on the, uh, December 5 where we went down to retrieve the bodies, uh. We had a, uh, a black soldier, uh,
as a medic. They just handled band-aids, bandages, uh. They’re not real doctors, uh. On the way down, he was sitting on the side of the hill, on top of the hill and, he was down on his backside, and he had his foot up, and I said Smitty, what happened? He said I got shot. I said you got shot? He said I got shot in the foot.
And we were hurrying to get down. Once you start going down a hill, uh, you go down pretty fast, and you have to break yourself by grabbing on trees that, uh. Time passed, and we found out he shot himself in the foot with a 45 be, I guess because he didn’t want to go down.
I: So you feel like it was a war between China and U.S..
J: Oh, it, it was, uh. But it was between North Korea. Uh, I, I don’t know, uh, it was between north and south, uh, and north and, uh, the United States, uh. I mean, it was just not the United States about the a, a, with the Chinese because, uh, I feel that way because at one point, I was fighting the North Koreans, and the
second fight I was fighting the Chinese Communists. So I, I know where you’re going. Uh, uh, it it was just between the United States and, and China. But it was, wasn’t our country. It was, I was fighting with South Korea, uh.
I: Do you know how by next year it ‘s
going to be 60-year anniversary
I: of Korean armistice.
I: What do you think about that? Do you remember any war that lasted more than 60 years after an official cease fire
I: in 20thcentury?
J: Not, why do they always say the, uh, the Vietnam War was the longest. But, uh, uh, that’s not so. They signed the cease fire, not a peace agreement. It was technically still that war and,
uh, people don’t realize that. Uh, and the thee year span, I think it was the bloodiest war of any of our wars including Vietnam, uh, that. They don’t wanna know.
I: Would you do sign the petition if there’s a petition saying enough is enough and let’s do some replacement with the peace treaty? Even though there are some matters to be resolved, but
J: Oh yes.
I: from the, from the, uh, Korean War veterans
J: Well, I, you know, I’m here. I’m home with my family. I have all the liberties, the freedoms, uh. I know there’s still hostilities between north and south Korea, you know, and
when it’s like us or, uh, a war between the states never ended, the north and the south. Uh, we have gone through that and
I: The US and North are still [INAUDIBLE]
J: To, to this, to this day, uh, we’re still rednecks. I guess there’s no middle ground, you know what I mean?
I: Um hm.
J: They want it their way,
they want it their way, and there’s no, there’s no middle ground.
J: Uh, no, nobody wants to, to give an inch, uh. It’s unfortunate that so many people are affected by it. But, uh, maybe in, sometime in the future, uh, it’ll come together.
I: You, you are the most legitimate voice, wounded, going through all those traumatic experiences
and saying that we know there are problems. But, uh, I want to say to you that enough is enough, and let’s do work on it.
J: Oh yes, yeah.
I: Would you say that?
J: Oh yes,
I: And sign that?
J: Yeah, sure. Yeah.
I: Any message to the younger generations about the war in general.
J: About the Korean War?
I: Korean War and, but at the same time the war that US is involved right now,
J: Right now?
I: in general
as a person who went through all those years.
J: I feel for them, uh. I have, we, we had one tour, uh, they’re having these people, whether it’s voluntary or in, in need of men, they’re doing two, three and four tours over there and, uh, you can’t ask a man to press his luck that far, uh.
Hopefully it’ll, it’ll all turn out that, that our troops will come home one day, uh. But, uh, you just feel you can’t, uh, give, give, make people do or act like we do here at home, uh. Uh, they have a lot of work to do, uh, and it’s been their
religion or their way of life for so many years and, uh, they still think of us as enemies [INAUDIBLE], you know. It, it’s not a thing if, if you go in and conquer a country, it’s yours. But we didn’t. We said here, this is your country. Try to fix it up. But, uh, to the young people as, you know, I hope they feel that, uh,
in any of our wars, uh, we’ve done good. We meant good and, uh, if they have to do, that, that they will do well. Uh, and I, I, we, uh, we really didn’t get going, uh, in our organization till much later on.
I think it was in the 80s, uh. I think we learned a lot from the Vietnam veterans from the protests and the, uh, determination to get their monument, uh and, uh, uh, it’s, it’s, uh, I think there’s a certain brotherhood between the Nam vets and the Korean veterans, uh, that we had no, uh, parades coming back
and, you know, uh. You met somebody, one of your buddies, where you been, on vacation? But and so, it’s the way it is. We, how you play your hand is, uh, up to you.
I: Um hm.
J: But I have a, a daughter with four boys and a son with one boy, and, uh,
it, it turned out alright. Even though, uh, I don’t have that much rapport with them, uh, It, you sort of back off. You don’t talk as much, uh.
I: Thank you again for having a chance to interview you, and I want to thank you for your sacrifice and service.
J: It’s been my privilege.
I: Koreans never forget.
J: I know that.
I: Thank you, sir.
J: Thank you, sir.
You do the best you can.
[End of Recorded Material]