Keith G. Hall
Keith G. Hall was born in Auckland, New Zealand on August 10, 1928. He worked as a plumbing apprentice at a New Zealand naval dockyard in 1944 and volunteered for the New Zealand Army’s Kayforce in August 1950 when the war broke out. He did not know anything about Korea from his school studies. Upon arrival in Korea, he was struck by the primitive living and working conditions, which he compares to the amazing growth evident in modern Korea today. Keith Hall’s main duties in Korea involved building roads and clearing minefields so troops could navigate the front lines safely. He spent much of his time near Hill 355 during the Battle of Maryang-san in October of 1951 primarily fought by British and Commonwealth forces.
"Smashed to Bits"
Keith G. Hall describes the differences between Korea in 1950 and Korea in 2010 when he returned. He describes poor conditions in the villages, with villagers farming rice paddies with primitive wooden plows. Seoul and Daegu had been "smashed to bits."
Basic Training to Field Engineering
Keith Hall trained at Papakura and Waiouru military camps in New Zealand before sailing to Korea. He arrived December 31, 1950. His unit was the field and engineering section. He describes building roads and a base camp, digging trenches, and working mine fields.
Becoming an Officer
Keith G. Hall was selected to return to New Zealand for officer training. He describes choosing to return to Korea to avoid the daily routine of work back in New Zealand. In that sense, Korea was a welcome adventure.
Minesweepers near "Little Gibraltar"
Keith G. Hall describes his experiences near Hill 355, nicknamed "Little Gibraltar", in October 1951 as part of the Battle of Maryang-san alongside the more famous Battle of Heartbreak Ridge. His unit helped maintain the roads and sweep for mines behind the hill. He recounts the many wounded brought down from the battle.
Patterns of Minefields
Keith G. Hall explains the process of clearing mines. For fields laid by allies, he had access to the schematics in order to know where mines had been laid. He felt fortunate that he didn't have to detect mines laid by the enemy.
Slippery Slopes and Minefields
Keith G. Hall describes the dangers of defusing anti-personnel mines, as they included both trip wires and three-prong detonation features. In one instance, a sergeant working with him slipped on a slope and exploded a mine. His body was thrown onto another mine, which Keith G. Hall had to deactivate in hopes of saving the sergeant.
Get Out of This Field!
Keith G. Hall describes training reinforcements to clear minefields. Inserting pins into mines in order to deactivate them was of utmost importance. In one instance, a soldier forgot and had clear the field fast.
[Beginning of recorded material]
K: My name is Keith Grimston Hall. Keith is K E I T H. Grimston is G R I M S T O N, and my surname is Hall, H A L L .
I: What is your birthday?
K: The 10th of August, 1928.
I: So you are?
I: Wow. Wow.
You look just like a 70.
K: Thank you for that.
I: Did I good? Yeah, you really, you look just healthy,
K: Yeah, well.
I: much younger. I don’t see you as 90 old man, no. Where were you born?
K: I was born in Auckland here.
I: And tell me about family
when you were growing up here, when you were growing up as a child, uh, parents and your siblings.
K: My, my father was a railway man, and my mother was home, was wife and homemaker and mother. I have a young brother who is seven years younger than I, uh. I was born in [INAUDIBLE] which is a suburb of Auckland in my grandmother’s front bedroom.
My mother and father, uh, dad was working down in Huntley. It’s just about 100 odd miles from here, uh, as a railway man and, uh, when my mother was due to give birth, they came up here. That’s why I was born in, in Auckland.
I: Hm. So you have only one brother.
I: younger, younger brother.
K: Yes, seven years younger.
I: And you born in ’28, one year before the outbreak of the Great Depression. How was it? How was impact here in New Zealand?
K: My father was working all the time, uh. As a, as a youngster in that age, I was unaware of, you know, the probations and the way things were. That’s my knowledge
really of the Depression is what I’ve read.
I: So you didn’t feel it?
K: Not as a child, no. But I was aware of it afterwards
K: because of the, uh, well, um, We, because my father was employed all the time,
I: Um hm,
K: There was an income.
Mum was very conscience of what she spent money on. So, uh, we didn’t, weren’t hard hit as people who didn’t have a job
K: and therefore no income.
I: So very lucky.
K: So we were lucky in that aspect. My father was very [INAUDIBLE]
I: Oh. And so there was a serious impact in New Zealand, too,
because it originated from the United States, but it has a global ripple effect.
K: It did.
I: It did.
K: Yes. Oh, there was an awful lot of unemployed in New Zealand, and they had labor camps and that, where the single men were put up, and they worked on the roads, and there was a lot of government work done by the, uh, by these, uh, uh, people, yeah.
But not having, not personally experienced it, you know, I can’t really speak
I: Um hm.
K: from somebody who’s really suffered from it. There won’t be many of them left there.
I: Tell me about the school you went through.
K: I went to a primary school called [INAUDIBLE] Road Primary, um. That was, I was there
really at the start of the Second World War, uh, spent, uh, three years at a secondary school right here in Auckland just up the road from here.
I: Um hm.
K: Uh, I then went to, uh, the Naval Base. This was towards the end of the War, about 1954 I think, uh, ’44.
K: Forty-four, yeah.
I: Yeah. So you graduate
your high school in 1944?
K: No, uh, I wasn’t a graduate. I just left school
I: Uh. You left school?
K: Well, I’d got three years secondary school. [INAUDIBLE] Then you either went to work or you studied to go to University, and I didn’t, didn’t want to go to University. So I went, I got an apprenticeship job over at the Naval Base over the water.
I: Apprenticeship in 1944.
K: yeah, in the, the Naval Department.
I: Uh huh.
K: The, the [INAUDIBLE] There’s a [INAUDIBLE] over the water there.
I: So what kind of work did you do as apprentice?
K: I was a, uh, plumbing apprentice by working on the, on the ships. There was plenty, plenty of, plenty of work on there because there was ships coming in that had been damaged during the War and all that for repair.
I: And then, what happened?
K: Uh, I was there, still there when the Korean War started,
K: And I was
I: As apprentice?
K: As an apprentice, yeah. I had 5 ½ years of my apprenticeship in.
I: That’s long.
K: I had six, six months left when I left. I volunteered for K Force.
K: That was the start of it. That’s when I went into the Army and
I: Oh, you went into the Army.
K: Well, the
I: You were apprentice for the Navy, but you joined the Army.
K: Yeah. When the Korean War broke out, when they, when they formed the force here to send to Korea,
K: It was an all volunteer force. So you volun, and I volunteered for it, and I was taken.
I: Well, why didn’t you do if for, um, Navy rather than Army?
K: Well, I wasn’t, I wasn’t in the Navy. I was a civilian working for the Navy Department.
I: I know.
I: But still you knew about Navy.
K: Oh yeah. I didn’t want to be in it.
K: I saw plenty of the Navy while I was working there, and I thought not for me.
I: So when did you join the Army?
K: Uh, 1950.
I: What month, do you remember?
K: Uh, I think it was, um, August I think. It was when the first, first volunteers were called for.
K: And then they sorted them out, yeah.
I: So let me, before we go into the details of your military service, I want to ask this question. Did you learn or did you know anything about Korea, the location, history, anything? Not at al?
K: I knew where it was, and that was about all.
K: Well, we’d had nothing, no schooling, you know, nothing that’s
come up in schooling. It was just in the, it was in the East, you know, around by Japan.
I: Ran by Japan. That’s all you knew?
K: That’s about it, next door to China.
I: Next door to China, yes. So basically you made the point. It’s either China or Asia when we talking about, I mean, China or Japan when we talk about Asia at the time.
I: And Korea was just between them
I: So now you are Korean War veteran.
I: Have you been back to Korea since then?
I: When did you go back?
K: Uh, 2010.
I: 2010. And that was your first time to be back?
I: How did you feel when you, when you arrive in Korea in 2010?
K: I was amazed. Really amazed. The Korea that I first went to was
smashed to bits.
I: Um hm.
K: The second time, then that visit there, when you see all these big buildings and, uh, everything, all the construction work that had gone on, um, just amazed. Thought it was a fight being worthwhile.
I: You thought so?
K: when I went back.
I: What else did you see? I mean, compare. This interview will be checked out by the young students in New Zealand, and they don’t have any idea of what Korea looked like in 1950 when you went for the first time. And then you are the person who can witness about this differences between ’50 and 21st century.
I: Tell them the, the discrepancy or differences that you, you are the only
one who can tell about it.
K: Yeah. Well, we, we landed at Pusan, and we went out to a military camp that was, uh, where all the, uh, first military people went to and got, um, before we went up the line. And the, I was struck by the day that we
got there it was in the middle of winter, and it was cold, and the streams were frozen over and the snow laying around, and it was a wake up call that I’ve never experienced anything like that at home.
I: From New Zealand, right?
K: Uh huh. No, no. And then we shifted up country and my, the, the only contact we had with the Korean people
were going through, uh, villages and seeing village life, um, and the, uh, I knew that the Japanese had been, had been in, uh, had, had taken over Korea for a long while and robbed, released, robbed the country of anything that was value. So everything looked so
poor and wanting, um, and seeing people working in a, what you’d think was an old fashioned way with, uh, no modern tools and things and making due with a, with an old [INAUDIBLE] pulling a plow that was made out of a wooden tree trunk, you know, that sort of thing. And, and the paddy fields and see them working away in the paddy fields,
thrashing, thrashing the grain with these. So I was never in a place that was a, a built up city. All the ones that I went through, I went through Seoul a couple of times with, and Taegu. But they’d been smashed to pieces, you know, flattened out. I mean, I’ve got photos of them here.
I: Um. Do you have pictures?
I: Yeah. Show that to us please.
K: These are photos that I took myself in
I: You did
I: So you had a camera.
I: Hold on. Could, could you go back and look at it because, yeah, yeah. That’s better, and show some of the pictures that you took yourself.
K: These are not very good. They’re not very good. I think you can look at them and see what you can show.
I: Can you show that
up to your chin so that, show that to camera, camera. You have to turn it around.
K: This way.
I: Yeah. Clearly so that camera can take picture or capture of it, yes.
K: But I don’t.
I: Yes, yes, yes.
K: They’re not very good.
I: Is it original copy or
K: These are al copies. There were only
I: Is it copy or original?
K: They’re paper copies of the original.
K: I’ve got an original, I just made this up to take back with me to, when I revisited Korea.
I: Um. So you have original
I: Would you
K: Original, all of these.
I: Would you be willing to share them with me?
K: Yeah, as long as I get them back.
I: Oh yeah, absolutely. Oh, we have about 10,000 pictures and artifacts like that, and it’s been all
volunteered to be provided by the veterans to us, and then we scanned it, and then we, you know, gave those back. If you can scan those, that will be better.
K: Oh, I’m, I’m not, I don’t know anything about computers.
I: Do you, don’t you have any children?
K: No. My boys are dead.
I: Oh boy, I’m sorry to hear that. Any grandchildren?
K: Uh, yeah, one, but not, not handy.
I: No. Okay. So
K: I don’t have, I, I can’t operate a computer.
I: If you can share that with me, I’ll make sure that you get it back, okay?
K: Yeah. Well, you can look through here and mark any ones that you want, and I can get them.
I: Yes. So you saw the difference.
K: Oh, I saw, did indeed. But all, all, that you can see, see from these, these
photos of the
I: So were you proud to see all those transformation that’s been made?
K: Oh yeah, yeah. When I, I thought gosh, you know. It’s real, real worthwhile what was going on,
K: what we did.
I: Do you know the rank of Korean economy now in the world?
K: I bet it’s pretty high. I don’t know.
I: It’s the 11th largest economy in the world.
K: Yeah. I can imagine. I drive a Korean car. I’ve got a Korean walking stick.
K: So I’ve done my little bit to help.
I: Yeah, buy, buy more.
I: Yeah, you helped. First of all, you fought for us so that we were able to rebuild or nation opportunity, you know?
I: That’s big.
I: But do you know whether New Zealand history textbook talking about the Korean War much?
K: I, I don’t, uh, I don’t know that they, I don’t honestly know because I don’t have anything to do with education now, like what’s going on in the schools. I know that there’s been an
official history of the K Force in the Korean War and how it all led up, the whole history of that, that’s a government publication. And then there’s that book that I showed you that was just reminiscences of a certain number of people in the K Force.
I: They don’t teach more, more about the Korean War.
K: I don’t know.
I: Yeah. They don’t.
K: They don’t?
I: They don’t. And it’s been know as Forgotten War.
I: Do you know?
K: Well, I don’t know why, whether it was a case of, uh, population didn’t take much interest in it. It’s, it’s quite possible.
I: Um hm.
K: Like the, there wasn’t the interest in it that there was in the Second World War, you know?
I: Um hm.
K: Every, not everybody was involved with it. See, the Korean Force was, in, I think, was only a total of about 5,000 or a few more than that that actually served in Korea.
K: And that. So when you take 5,000 out of 2 ½ million, you know, it’s not many.
K: So I think maybe that’s what it is.
I: So share that with me. What was your first impression, honest impression, of
Korea when you landed in Pusan?
I: Yeah. what was it?
K: Quite a bloody, stinking hole it was. I looked over the side of the ship and, oh God. What did I [INAUDIBLE]
I: Exactly, right ?
K: Oh boy. When I landed, landed by plane this time, you know,
I: And the best airport, international airport in the world. They, they’ve been ranked as number one for how many decades, you know?
I: So that’s great, isn’t it?
K: Oh, wonderful.
K: Yes, We stayed, the, the revisit we were, stayed in Seoul, and the last, last time I’d seen Seoul, you know,
it was, was smashed around, bridges, bridges [INAUDIBLE] were smashed.
I: You know, I think you better give your picture to me so that I can scan and so that everybody can see the Korea in 1950 the way that you saw.
I: Otherwise, you going
to keep it to yourself, and nobody will be able to see it.
I: Okay? Trust me. I, I read, I did, I did return every picture.
K: Yeah. I’ve got an idea.
I: Okay. So let’s talk about your military
K: Those are some
I: Yeah. Let’s talk about your military service. So that, did you get the basic military training?
K: Papakura Camp. It’s, um, basic, basic training.
I: Um hm.
K: And then we went to Waiouru for more training and, uh, and back in Wellington.
K: and, uh, the ship was, um, we went, went to Gisborne and then to Manilla and then landed in, uh, Pusan and, uh, but that, that
I: When was it?
K: That was, uh, it was New Year’s Eve I think, ’50, yeah.
I: Fifty, December 30? Your unit was, uh, Field and Engineering section and just 15 of you maintaining and those, right?
I: But belong to Royal British.
K: We were, we were attached
K: to, to the British.
I: Yeah. And
K: First off, we started in Pusan. While we were there,
K: we rang this rock quarry producing metal for the [INAUDIBLE] systems. And we did that for a while. And then we, then we built a, um, we, we use do a bit of road building plus going to the railway and get, getting all the engineers stoves that were required for the, uh,
frontline and then used to unload the trains there, uh. We built or helped build a, a base camp where all, where all the reinforcements came in
I: Um hm.
K: provide, we started off in tents and then gradually got more, more solid places built as time when on. So we did some of that. That was our train, training and did that.
And then when we got posted to the Field Engineer Squadrons, we ended up, uh, there was, we were digging trenches on the frontline. We built, um, dugouts and, uh, rail, um, built roads, drainage for the roads, mine fields. We did a lot of mine field work.
I: So did you plant the mine or what did you
K: I, I was there just over a year then before the events I think,
I: Um hm.
K: And I got sent home to go through a training course here. Then I got commissioned and went back to Korea for another year.
K: In ’53, ’52. ’53.
I: So when did you come back?
I: No, no, no, first time. You went there 12/31/1950
I: And then you came back to New Zealand
K: In ’42. Went to, sent to school for three months or four months, went back to Korea.
I: What school?
K: Officers’ Training School.
I: And so you’d become officer?
I: Oh. So from
Korea, when did you come back to New Zealand, first time? Nineteen fifty-one, right?
K: Fifty-two I came home.
I: You were there in two years, in Korea, when you get there first time?
K: No, it was, it was in the middle of ’50 that we enlisted here.
K: It was the end of ’50 when we landed in Pusan.
K: It was in ’50, beginning of, early in ’52 that I came home.
I: Um hm.
K: And later in ’52, I went back
K: And it was ’53 that I came home.
I: So you became a Officer. Why did you do that? You wanted to be a Officer, or what made you do that?
K: Well, I was selected. They asked me if I, if I would go to there,
to training school.
I: Um hm.
K: Cause I, I, over the period that we were in Korea, I’d become a Corporal. And, uh,
I: So they asked you to become an Officer, but you didn’t know that you were, you were going to go back to Korea?
K: Oh, I knew I was going back.
K: I was given the opportunity, yeah. If, if you go to the training and become an Officer, you go back for a year. If you don’t go back, you stay home and you get dismissed, you finished.
I: Oh, I see. So from the beginning, there was the condition.
I: And, were you not afraid?
I: Going back to the War again?
K: Oh, I was quite happy.
I: Huh. Happy?
look. The, I was 20, 22 or 23.
K: Young buck, adventure, add a little something different to what you’re used to. I mean, you get used to going to work, get on the train, get on the bus, get on the boat, come back, get on the train, get on the boat, go home, come the next day, routine, routine.
year after year. I wanted to change.
I: You wanted to change. So you chose war.
K: Well, you don’t know until you get there what it’s like.
I: Tell me about the Hill 355. That’s where you were there.
K: I loved, I was there a lot.
I: Yeah. So tell me. What happened, and how severe the battle was and what did you do?
K: They have a, the, the Infantry, Hill 355, I was, I was there the day they took 355.
I: Um hm. When was it, 1951, right?
K: Yes. We, uh,
Yeah, that, that day they took that. We, we were given the job of minesweeping the roads leading, it was around the back of 355 that they, we had tanks coming through. And we, we, we had, uh, mine detectors to sweep the road, and we, we did t hat while all this fighting was going all, the tank was going on. And the fighting the,
the word they were coming back down the hill, you know. So I saw all that. But I didn’t get right involved in it just at that time. But we, we were in the vicinity of, of maintaining the roads around there. I think 355, it, it,
it’s changed hands, I think, once or twice. But finally we got it, and they called it Little Gibralter.
K: [INAUDIBLE] for good reasons.
I: Why is it?
K: Yeah. Well it was a solid little place that stood out amongst everything else. And we, we, the squadron, engineer squadron that
we were attached to, we, we worked in support of the Americans, the Australian Infantry that were occupying 355. And we helped with the rioting and, and the, um, building of, of dugouts, uh, and the maintaining roads, mine fields and, uh, putting
defensive mine fields and, and maintaining those and that entailed going out on patrols at night at the end of the no man’s land and making sure the fences were still up cause one of the things about laying mines is where the, uh, Geneva Convention, I think it is that the mine fields have to be sort of marked up with
at least a strand of wire around them with red mine markers hanging on them. So we used to, with shelling and that, that the mine field wires used to get broken then. So you’d have to go and fix them up. So that was a, a, bit of a job, too.
K: We used to go out with a [INAUDIBLE] and Infantry patrol and they,
they would defend us while we did the work.
I: Tell me about it. How do you remove mine? Do you bomb first so that that ignite the explosion and then take it out? Or do you have to really detect one by one with the machine and then you have to take it out manually?
I: Tell me, detail, because children doesn’t know about those.
I: Yeah. What,
what one of my jobs became is apart from those, um, minefields in front of 355, around about there, is we, there was a defensive line behind the, the Americans had laid a terrific number of minefields, so that was very difficult to gain, to get access
to reach, to, uh, uh, retreat from 355 and that, that line, their forward frontline to a rear defensive line. And that needed opening up, and I got the job of clearing these minefields.
I: Clearing means you’re doing manually.
K: Taking them out again.
I: That’s a very dangerous job, isn’t it?
I: Had you been wounded?
I: Not at all? So no mistake? Nothing happened?
K: No. [INAUDIBLE]
I: Amazing, isn’t it? Looking back all those years, you could have been dead many times.
K: Oh, yeah, yeah. That’s right. See, but minefields are [like to patents] So they’re not just higgely piggely flying around.
They’re laid in a certain patter, and that pattern is laid out on a [INAUDIBLE], uh, the design of the field, how many mines are in. And so that when it came to picking them up, they used to have a big, get access to one of these for that particular field and know
how many mines were in there.
I: How do you access to that kind of information?
K: That’s information that’s held by the, by the rear units of the, the Army there, yeah.
I: You mean the one that laid by U.S.?
K: If we, if we laid them, we made a record of it, and it’s filed away.
I: What about the ones that laid by the enemies? You don’t know.
K: They’re a different story.
I: It’s completely, you don’t have any idea where it and how many, right?
I: So that’s what I’m talking about. How do you do that?
K: Well, they have mine detectors, of course, and that’s a very slow job. They probe the field, but I was lucky in that respect that I didn’t, didn’t come to, come in contact with an enemy field. All my work was done with fields that we laid.
I: I see.
K: So, but I had, but at least I
had the information before me.
I: That makes sense.
K: That doesn’t make it any, a lot easier except you, you know where they are or where they should be, and how do you find them because they’re laid out to a pattern. There’s all, you’ve gotta start from the, a point, and where is that point? Usually, usually some significant point that the compass bearing’s taken off, and the field laid from there.
So once you find, find one mine, you can generally tell by the, what the patterns that’s been used where the others are,
K: Then you get them that way. But you still gotta take care with them because there’s trip wires on them and there’s also just a little three-pronger that sticks out which you stand on that sets it off. So you got two things happening to that one mine.
And therefore if the trip wire’s gone, you’re left with a, a three-pronger. So you, if you don’t find the trip wire, that doesn’t mean to say that the mine’s not still alive.
I: Yeah, right. And what was the typical, uh, kinds of mine that you had to remove?
K: Anti-personnel mines.
I: Anti-personnel mines.
K: Yes. It
I: Is there any typical name there? I mean, serial number or things like that? What do, what do you call that?
K: Um, we just, uh, they just called them anti-personnel. They were like a, like a cube.
K: The ones that we used anyway. They come in different sizes and sorts. But we had these, I for, I forget what they call them now. But they’re just like a, a cube of, um, u, cast iron. So when it shattered, you know, it’s everywhere.
I: Yeah. Describe. Let’s say that you are demining one now, right now.
I: And describe the psychiatric, psychological or conditions of your mine, and what, what is it like? Suppose that you are doing now,
what, how, how can you describe your mental condition?
K: Oh, just, well I, the worst one I had was when I had a, a Sargent blown up on the mine. He had slipped, um, the minefield was on a slope
and we, he obviously slipped, and it, the mine had gone off. and he had landed on another one. We didn’t know at the time cause it, I, I went in to see whether he was alright. But I found that because of the way that pattern that was used
for the laying of these mines had, he’d, one was underneath him. So I had, I was very, uh, wondered what was gonna happen
I: Um hm.
K: cause I had to de, deactivate that mine to get, get his body out of there. I didn’t know whether he was dead or whether he was severely
wounded. There’s always a chance he was still alive. So it was a case of getting him out as quick as possible. And that was, uh, I said at the time that it was, I think it was a bit hairy.
I: Um. Anybody you saw just being killed because of the, because of the demining process? Anybody
K: He was the only one that I
I: He’s the only one?
K: personally knew. I heard about this. I know, I know there was a, an engineer Captain was killed, too, in the mine field. But I, I only knew that one cause he was in our platoon there.
Had, had you thought that you could be killed?
K: Oh, yeah. But you, you put it out of your mind, you know. Otherwise you’re looking for trouble.
K: So you
I: Were you scared?
K: Oh, not scared. It was only gonna go off or it wasn’t, you know. If it did, well I wouldn’t know anything about it.
K: But you get, you get, uh, see, see. When you’re, when you find the mine, you gotta deactivate it before you pick it up and dispose of it, and that meant that you had to put safety clips in, safety pin and despite, I had one, o ne of, I used, I used to get the job of
when the reinforcements came and the unit left to take them out to a minefield that we were clearing and give them the experience of actual, real life mines, you know, not practice ones. And you’d get, drum into them time and time again that when you find a mine, the pins would go together before you start doing anything dangerous, to pick them up to disarm them.
You gotta put these clips in. And I was with one bloke who turned and I was watching him cause I used to go behind them to try and keep, keep an eye on what they’re doing. this bloke stood up and he says what’ll I do with this? He had the mine live, no pins. Geeze, I said, just give it to me.
I took it from him and put the pins in and then get out of this field. And I took, and I gave it to him. I said to him I don’t mind you getting yourself bloody killed, but you’ re not killing me, too.
I: Had you ever counted
how many mines that you removed?
K: It would be in the thousands.
I: Thousands of
K: It would be. I got, I had totals in some books here, 300 and something in one field, 200 and something in another.
K: So they add up. So I, I would easily be in several thousand I think.
I: So by demining, you must have saved so
I: Just not us, but also the enemies.
K: Anybody that’s, and also a lot of the population, the local population.,
I: Um hm, yes. They don’t have any idea about it, right?
K: No idea what, what field I, I used to, there was a worn path through it.
They walked this path
K: Luckily, It, it missed all the mark, and that’s hard, that’s hard to do.
I: What a statistic, right?
K: Yeah. I tried to tell them that. Don’t go in there. Don’t go in there.
I: Had you encountered many Korean people around there? No.
K: Oh, the, there, no, finally in
pocket side villages there’d be a couple of houses, you know? Then somewhere else around the valley, there’d be, cause it was very hilly country, isn’t it?
I: Um hm.
K: And there’s so many little entries and, there were a couple of houses or five or six houses made of, sort of made a village, that sort of thing, you know. We had, we did have one occasion when we all had to, uh,
they did a big sweep through an area of country behind the lines because there was, um, some guerilla activity. So we had a big sweep to take everybody in the area, to shift everybody out, shift them out of their houses, you know. But they came back again because that’s, that’s basically the Koreans that I met.
I: Um. What did you think of them?
K: I, well, uh, I,
uh, I thought they, you know, would have had [INAUDIBLE]
K: Cause every, they seemed to be working all the time, uh. There’s nobody sitting around there, not. There was something to do. That, that’s sort of the, the hard life that they had. I suppose that’s the result of the Japanese.
I: If I ask you to pinpoint one thing that really bothered you there or was most difficult thing that you couldn’t stand, what would you say?
K: I didn’t like the winter, that’s for sure.
I: How cold was it? Describe in real terms
K: I know, I know for a fact that one stayed there it was 40 below.
I: Forty below.
K: Fahrenheit, yeah. That was, that was, that was one particular time that whether that was the usual or not. I mean, it was cold anyway. I mean, when a bottle of beer underneath you being in the room, it freezes, and you
I: You couldn’t drink.
K: Gotta break the glass off.
I: See, that’s what we called, coldest winter in Korea was 1950.
K: Was it?
I: I mean, because so many New Zealand and Hawaiians, they came with the summer
K: They lift us up, come into that.
I: Yeah. So you wanna pinpoint the cold weather?
I: What about demining job? Was it stressful?
Should be, right? Be honest. How was it?
K: Well, it, I, I suppose it was. But that, that, that was, that was just that, that was life. That’s what it was. Same as anything else, you know?
I: So what did you do after demining, came back and two year in the bunker or whatever
I: What did you do to relax?
K: I would sleep when I could,
and we used to have, uh, in the mess with, we used to have a couple of drinks and, if we could, and it was, that was, that was a special side to visiting other units and that sort of thing.
I: Um hm.
K: I mean, you weren’t at it all the time. But there were long periods where you, where you were at it al the time. I mean, I spending days
days overseeing parties and we’re doing road work, digging bunkers or something like that. And then at night time going out at night, on night patrols down through the mine fields.
I: You did night patrol, too?
K: Yeah, on the mine fields, yeah.
K: Well, it’s, you couldn’t carry it in the daylight. They’d see you.
K: coming out of, I mean, we’re here. The Chinese are there.
K: Down in the valley, this is minefields, and you go down.
I: So you did demining at night?
I: Mostly night?
I: Oh, I didn’t know that.
K: No. Tried not to lay mines at night.
I: That’s even worse, isn’t it, because you, it’s hard to see.
K: Uh, no. The, you can, you can get a bit of light. You shine this light on the clouds
and the mountains back there . You can see what you’re doing.
I: They didn’t shoot at you?
I: They didn’t shoot at you?
K: No. Not those ones.
K: Cause they were on the back slide, so they couldn’t be seen.
K: No, it’s, the areas where they’re under observation is what they, they, uh, they’re the ones that were the
I: So when you went back to Korea as an officer, what did you do?
K: I was doing that.
I: Exactly same thing?
I: And you
K: more, more of it.
I: More of it.
K: Yeah. That’s basically what I did.
I: So as an officer, you did
I: demining, too, by yourself? Why didn’t you just ask your soldiers to
K: Well, you didn’t do anything that they would ask them to do, anything you wouldn’t do?
I: Wow. You, so you kept doing the same thing that you used to do.
K: I did more of it.
I: More of it.
How often did you do it in a week for example? How many days?
K: I don’t know that I could, it, it varied in, in what the, you know, the, what operations were required.
I: I see.
K: Yeah. I mean it, it’s not a 9 – 5 job. I mean,
I: Have you watched the recent movies
where that, you know, the American soldiers demining in Iraq or Afghanistan or things like that?
K: I have seen some of them yeah.
I: Uh huh. What did you feel?
K: Well, they, they did it differently.
I: You didn’t have that much of safety equipment, right, to protect yourself?
K: I had a, had a flak jacket
K: that was the, that was the big thing, and the tin hat, not that it do you any good.
I: But that doesn’t really help, right?
K: If the bomb goes, if it goes off underneath you, that’s the other Sargent was killed.
K: And he had slipped, I think, on the shale of the slippery slope and, and probably, probably caught a, um, trip wire with his foot.
K: and with that, it would explode, just about blew, it blew right up in the, uh, vest, you know, by hanging out of it. So it would have caught
him right up here.
I: Um. So how did you think of how we are doing now these days? Better?
K: Must be better.
I: We, you have
I: Wish that you had such equipment to protect yourself?
K: Oh, it would have helped.
K: That, uh, they still get knocked around.
K: particularly, particularly when you don’t know what you’re gonna face. [INAUDIBLE]
I: So looking all, back all those years, you’re demining, one of the most dangerous job, you know, one mistake you just gone.
I: You survived everything. How do you put that into perspective as Korean War veteran?
K: Oh, I don’t think of it.
I: Do you have nightmare?
I: You don’t have any flash, flash
K: I did when I came home once or twice. But not now.
I: Not now.
I: Great. You don’t suffer from it, so that’s good.
I: Any other episode that you want to share with me today about your service in Korea?
K: No, I think we pretty well covered it unless you’ve got particular questions you want to ask.
I: So you were mostly in 355, Hill 355, Little Gibralter, and
any, anywhere else?
K: Oh, yes. We’d been, we’d been around the [INAUDIBLE] the second Taegu for a little while.
I: Yeah. Why?
K: Well, we, uh, there was a railway depot there
K: and we were there, uh, getting, uh, loading supplies for the, to go up the frontline and then another job we had was, uh, running a forestry camp,
chopping trees for props for the dugouts.
I: Ah. Could you tell me more detail? How, did the Forestry?
K: Yeah. Um, the, we, we needed, uh, the frontline, of course, needed posts and that for the construction of bunkers. So, uh,
it was hard getting timber, that first length of timber. Well, we set up a forestry camp, and we, the KSC which is the Korean Service Corp., because they, they were the laborers on site, and they used to, they, they were given a quota of so many logs per day. Then if they got this quota, they could knock off for the day. So that’s the way we managed to get
a cer, a guaranteed number every, every day.
K: So that, we were in that for a few weeks till the timber ran out
I: Um hm.
K: So that was a case of felling trees, cut the length, load them up. Trucks would come and get them and take them up to the frontline and they’d be used for building bunkers.
I: You remember that our
mountain was almost like a bulge, right? Not many trees there.
I: And now we have a, have you seen modern forestry of Korea?
I: No? We are one of the most successful forestation countries in the world.
K: Oh, that’s good. Yeah. Yeah, I was, I was surprised and pleased to see what I did when I
when I went back on that visit, uh. It was great.
I: Were you married at the time?
I: Um hm.
K: No, I was single.
I: I was single.
K: And fancy free.
I: So tell me. How much were you paid when you were Corporal, and how much did you get more when you become an officer?
K: Oh, I think it was, uh, not that much. I think, uh, we’re going back to the old, old, uh, pan shillings and pence, uh. I think we were on 17 shillings a day I think.
I: Seventeen shillings?
K: Yeah, 17 shillings a day.
I: When you were Corporal?
K: Uh, what was it? That, that might be what we started on. I, I can’t remember now.
K: I’ve got all these figures.
I: I’m just, I’m just
K: I think it was 21 and something when I become an officer.
I: Per day.
I: Yeah. What did you do with that?
K: Well, what I did with it was that some went home. What I kept for spending
was spent on buying beer from the NAFY.
I: They didn’t give you free?
I: Hey, that’s too much.
I: That’s not nice.
K: We hit the bar there, right. Um, and then the, the rest was when you went on leave in Japan.
I: R and R.
K: R and R, yeah.
I: Um hm.
K: Buy all sorts of fancy stuff and send it home.
K: The only thing I bought in Korea was all I could find was a, a, was a, an embroidered scarf that I found in the little shop. These women, I think, were getting, were doing some needlework, you know. It was just a small thing.
K: I bought that and sent it home to my mother.
I: Um. What is those three books? What are those three books?
K: They’re my diaries.
I: You kept it?
K: I kept it.
I: When did you write it?
K: One, two, three.
K: At the time.
K: Yeah. Two and three.
I: Excuse me. For, so from when to when? Can you tell me?
K: Yeah. 1951 to 1953. There’s three books.
I: Wow. Can you read it?
K: Yeah. What do you wanna know?
I: Uh, anything that you remember. You thought that the best one that you wrote. Can you read it?
K: This is, this,
Well, this is, remember I was telling you about the guy who got killed?
I: I’m sorry?
K: You remember I was telling you about that
K: died in
I: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
K: That, opening to that page.
I: Yeah. Read it please.
K: Sargent Morgan killed on, I’ll have to get the glasses.
I: Yes, you need that.
K: Sargent Morgan killed on 2 Troop’s minefield this afternoon about 16:00. Evidently slipped under a mine and was blown onto another mine. Went in and disarmed it so we could get
in there, dead when I reached him. Doc said instantaneous. Blokes that had carried forever could have involved in shell slabs. Yeah. Dropped in a air raids could be going back to squadron for a few drinks. Funny things that happened. My
officer commanding came in after briefing with a broken nose. His Jeep had come into a, had gone into a ditch tonight.
I: Um. Wow. You were able to keep that.
I: Keep writing and for three years.
K: Yep. Most of it’s in there.
I: Have you thought about
typing it up?
K: It is typed up, well, it was.
I: It’s all typed up?
K: Yeah. I can’t find the copy. I was gonna bring a copy in today.
I: You couldn’t find it after all those typing.
I: You’re very good. What do you think? You wanna share that diary that you kept for three years with me?
K: If I can find it.
I: Yeah. You, your wife knows.
K: No, she doesn’t know. We’ve turned the house upside down.
K: Trying to find it cause I thought I’d bring it in and
I: Did you type in typewriter or in the computer?
K: Uh, computer.
I: Yeah. So that, there should be a file.
K: Oh, yeah, there probably is.
K: Yeah she
K: you know. It’s about 70 pages of it I think,
I: I, I would like to read it. Keith, I’ve been working with more than thousand Korean War veterans in the United States. I went to Great Britain, Greece, Netherland, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, South Africa, Turkey, and I’m here in Australia and New Zealand. Everybody knows me. Everything is in the website, and you’re, you’re, you’re interview will be
uploaded into the website so that everybody can see it. And if you do not mind and if you think that there is, uh, something that nobody want to, should see, take it out. Otherwise, I think it’s worth for other people to read about how you thought of the daily routines in the Korea for three years.
K: Um hm.
I: What do you think?
K: Yeah. Well if I can find it.
I: So I’ll let you go back to your home and find it.
K: I’ll, look. I’ve turned the place upside down. The only thing I can think of is it, I may have lent it to somebody. I can’t recall who.
I: Well, why don’t you go back to the computer, and there will be a file, okay? Are you far from here, your home?
I: So please, please go back to the computer, not the actual print, okay? Go back to the computer. You will be able to find the file, electronic file, okay?
K: No good telling me. I can’t do it. I don’t know anything about it.
I: Hey, you have to find the friends around you. Then you will be able to.
I: Yeah. I think you need to, okay? So tell me,
you, you told me in the beginning that you didn’t know anything about Korea other than that it just between Japan and China
I: Now you been there. You been there twice actually, 1950 and then ’52 – ’53 you went back to Korea 2010. What is Korea to you now compared to the days that you never, you know, you, before you left Korea?
What is Korea to you personally?
K: Oh, it’s, uh, I think I said, yeah, how surprised I was at the advancing, advances in, that have been made in the, in the period from the War till I revisited Seoul.
I, I was as, you know, um, amazed at, at the amount of construction and they, and everything that’s been done there, and I was particularly impressed by the, the, uh, state of the cemeteries that have been looked after so well there cause on our visit, we went around a number of them, and I was highly impressed
in the, uh, memorials in that, that are around, uh. It, as I say, I, I, can’t, I keep my interest with Korea alive by walking with a walking stick.
I: Now the, our government is trying to normalize relationship with North Korea,
and the first thing that they wanted to do is to demining because it’s the most heavily mined area in the world. You know that.
I: What would you say to our government that they want to demine, anything, anything, any comments you’d say to them.
K: I don’t, I don’t
like that Kim Mun Jung
I: Um hm. Kim Jun Un.
K: I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him/
I: Um hm.
K: I’d like to keep the mines.
I: You like to keep the mines. You are the one who used to demine,
I: but you wanna save that, you wanna keep that mine? Not forever, right though?
K: Uh, no. I would like to see Korea
united. I think that’s fair because it seems as though North Korea is suffering under the, that family that they’ve had.
K: But, but unfortunately, I think the, I don’t know whether he’s gonna pull the plug or what he’s gonna do.
It would be good if, if there was this line that could be, you know, tightly removed and the country reunited. But, but I, they aren’t gonna be done with that, gonna say clown but
I: Um, is there any special message you wanna tell to Korean people in the context of 70th anniversary of the War?
K: I’m glad to see they’re
in such a position as they are these days, that, they have advanced that much and are leading the world in a number of things.
I: Great. It’s been a pleasure and honor to, to talk to you, and you did a lot demining, saving so many people. So many people could end up there and being killed. So
K: And nasty things.
I: Yes. You did wonderful thing, wonderful.
K: Yeah. There’s still a lot there.
I: Yeah. I want that to be remembered by the students and young generation all over the world, what you did, and that’s why we are doing this, and hopefully we can continue to work together. I wanna have, I want to scan your pictures
which capture the real normal scene of 1950 Seoul and, uh, you know
I: other area, and also I, I, I really want to read your diary, okay?
I: So, that’s your job. Alright?
I: Do you promise?
K: Uh, if I can find
K: and get it done.
I: Great. Thank you, sir. Thank you, Keith.
[End of Recorded Material]