Korean War Legacy Project

Keith H. Fannon

Bio

Keith H. Fannon was born in McPherson, Kansas. He was living in Emporia, Kansas working in a department store before he enlisted. He enlisted in the Air Force December 28, 1948 and was discharged September 19, 1952. During his Korean War service, he was stationed at Kimpo Air Base K-14 from October 1, 1950 to late December 1950 when the Chinese came south. He served with the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing as an administrative driver and guard for the Commanding Officer. In May 1951, he returned to Korea and was stationed at Suwon Air Base K13, where he assisted in aircraft accident investigations. He participated in 6 of the 10 major offenses. After returning to the United States, Keith H. Fannon was stationed at Chanute AFB, Illinois as a security instructor. When he was discharged in September 1952, he returned to his pre-war job, got married, and had a son and daughter.

Clips

Seeing Korea

Keith H. Fannon describes seeing the destruction of Korea for the first time.

Tags: Seoul,Physical destruction

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7fX2XmiH4Q&start=386&end=441

Food

Keith H. Fannon describes the food that was given to U.S. Servicemen when he was in Korea and his love of Korean food today

Tags: Food

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7fX2XmiH4Q&start=676&end=808

Difficult and Happy Memories

Keith H. Fannon talks about his experiences trying to help orphaned children. He talks about seeing dead orphans. Keith H. Fannon shares how helping an orphan family brought joy to him.

Tags: Seoul,Cold winters,Food,Living conditions,Orphanage,Poverty

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7fX2XmiH4Q&start=1318&end=1710

Haunting Memories

Keith H. Fannon shares his most difficult memories of the Korean War. These include friends that were killed at Kimpo Air Base (near Seoul), his reaction at the time as well as later in life. He also briefly shares his nightmares about the children.

Tags: Seoul,Depression,Home front,Orphanage,Physical destruction

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7fX2XmiH4Q&start=1766&end=2020

Returning Home from the Forgotten War

Keith H. Fannon describes how the mail worked during the war and how his family received information about the Korean war. He also talks about coming home to friends that were unaware of the war and the impact the war has had on his life since.

Tags: Depression,Fear,Home front,Letters,Pride

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7fX2XmiH4Q&start=2032&end=2378

Video Transcript

[Beginning of recorded material]

0:00:01

I:          Thank you so much again, Keith, uh, for accepting an interview with us.  Uh, this is the Korean War Veteran Digital Memorial project, and how, how did you know about this, uh, KWDM project, and how do you feel about participating in this project, and why, uh, why are you interested in, uh, participating in this project?

K:        Well I, I heard about the project through the, uh, Korean War Veterans Association national convention

0:00:30

I:          Um.

K:        when you were down there.  And, uh, as far as my being here today, I am all for this type of program.  I think that more information like this needs to be out for people where they can go and search, get information because, uh, and I hate to even use the words, but Forgotten War but, uh, actually it really has been and, uh, the United

0:01:00

States after World War II didn’t really want to have another war, and so today even politicians when they’re speaking, they’ll start naming the wars, and it’ll be World War II, Vietnam and completely skip over the Korean War.

I:          Right.  Uh, could you introduce yourself?

K:        My name is Keith Fannon.  I’m 82 years old.  I was born in, uh, McPherson, Kansas, uh.

I:          When?

K:        In 1930,

0:01:30

January of 1930. And, uh, I had an older sister and two younger brothers.  Both, all three of those are deceased now and, uh, I’m the last of the family.  Uh, locally, I do have a daughter here in Liverpool, and a son in, uh, Erie, Pennsylvania, and both of them have families and extended families so, uh, even to my great-grandchildren,

0:02:00

they’re all in Erie.

I:          Could you talk about the schools that you went, high school and

K:        Uh, high school, I graduated from high school in Emporia, Kansas.  It’s about 110 miles west of Kansas City and, uh, then Brookhaven College in, uh, Dallas, Texas.

I:          When did you graduate?

K:        From, uh

I:          College.

K:        Oh, uh, well, my college was a broken up thing, so, and that really didn’t, it’s still ongoing. [LAUGHS]  Yeah.

0:02:30

Uh, unfortunately, didn’t get to go, go for four years.  It didn’t work out that way for me.

I:          I know that you moved from the chapter in Texas to the Central

K:        Yes.

I:          New York, right?

K:        In fact, uh,

I:          When did you, can you talk about that?

K:        The guys that may look at this and say the uniform doesn’t look like ours.  Uh, I was with the chapter 270 Sam Johnson chapter in Dallas, Texas.  In fact, I was the Vice-President there.  And, uh, when they decided on

0:03:00

a uniform, we decided to wear U.N. blue shirts instead of the white shirts that a lot of them have.

I:          Um.

K:        And, uh, so I, I was voted in as Vice-President almost immediately upon joining the chapter and, uh, had to resign then when I decided to move to, uh, Baldwinsville, New York.

I:          Ok.  So what was your first reaction when you heard about the Korean War broke out, and you had to fight for it.  Have you known

0:03:30

of Korea before, and what was your first impression and feeling that you heard about that I had to go to Korea and fight for the country? Um, what was your first reaction [INAUDIBLE]?

K:        Okay, I, uh, yes.  I, I did know where Korea was, uh.  At the end of World War II, I had a very good friend that was stationed there, and when he came home he told me about Korea.

0:04:00

So, uh, I had volunteered for overseas duty and was stationed on, uh, in Naha, Okinawa, uh.

I:          When was it?

K:        I got there 10 days before the Korean War started and was assigned with the 51stFighter Interceptor Wing, and on Sunday when the war started he, uh, brought us all out into the squadron area, announced that North Korea had attacked South Korea and that, uh, we should

0:04:30

standby for further information later, uh, in that afternoon.  They came back and said okay, you’re all going to go through Supply, be issued full field gear, weapons, everything except ammunition.  And from then on, it was very hectic because the plan was to take the entire wing with the exception of one fighter squadron. So we took two fighter squadrons with us for F80 Shooting Stars.

0:05:00

And, uh, in September in advance of the, uh, Inchon invasion, why, we reported to Sergeant Antalak, the, uh, World War II liberty ship, and went to Japan, stayed at Itazuke Air Force Base in Japan and then went in with the Inchon invasion.  Uh, the, uh,

I:          You mean Inchon Landing.

K:        Yeah.

I:          Yeah.

I:          Inchon Landing, and almost immediately the Marines,

0:05:30

we were in a group with the Marines, went north and, uh, took over Kimpo Airfield.  And so I was, you know, on the first plane that landed at Kimpo then.  As far as, uh, feelings, uh, I don’t know how to explain this, uh, a lot of times, pardon me, to, uh, a lot of Korean friends that, uh, I likened this situation to going to school

0:06:00

and the bully is picking on my younger brother.  Uh, wasn’t gonna happen.  So, uh, I, uh, I didn’t mind going to Korea, uh.  I felt that the, uh, South Korean people needed help, and I was ready.

I:          Was your first reaction when you saw the Korea

0:06:30

for the first time in your life?  How was it? Can you describe it?

K:        Well, yes.  Uh, what I saw immediately, uh, was almost nothing.  Everything was blown up, burned, uh, you name it.  Uh, going into Kimpo, uh, the one large building therewith the city.  The north was airlines terminal building and, uh, other than that, there really wasn’t a lot left.

0:07:00

Um, one building that we referred to as the pagoda-style building, uh, was to the right of the terminal building, and as it turned out later on, I had hired a Kor, young Korean, uh, fella to be my interpreter and, uh, his father was the architect in that building.  I, uh, while there, I, I hired about 300, uh, Koreans to work at the base

0:07:30

as long, as well as contractors, um.  I was the driver and guard for our CO, and once a month we would load the jeep trailer with money.  We’d go and pay the contractors off, and then they would pay the workers.

I:          Um, when did you enlist in the military? What branch did you enlist into, and what was your, uh, specialty unit, and when did you rotate to your destination?

0:08:00

K:        Uh, I was going to be drafted, and I didn’t want to go to the Army.  So six of my friends and I, we all went and enlisted in the Air Force, uh, and that was in December 1948.

I:          Where?

K:        And, a

I:          Where were you?

K:        Well, I enlisted in Topeka, Kansas.  that was the closest enlistment station to where I lived.

I:          So you lived in Kansas?

K:        Yes, at that time.

0:08:30

I:          Um hm.

K:        My father was with Shell Oil, and we had moved, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, back and forth.  But, uh, we went to Lackland, went through basic there and, uh, I went to Administrative school in Cheyanne, Wyoming and, uh, was stationed at, uh, three bases stateside and, uh, the job that I had I was getting kind of burned out, so I said United States is not at war with

0:09:00

anyone right now. It’s a good time to volunteer to go overseas.

I:          So you went to Japan.

K:        Went to Naha, Okinawa.

I:          Okinawa.

K:        Yes.

I:          Yeah.

K:        Yeah.  I really had wanted to go to Spain [LAUGHS] but, uh, it didn’t work out that way.

I:          So you wanted to go to Spain but ended up in Japan.

K:        Yes.

I:          Okay.

K:        Yeah.  You go where they tell you,

I:          Yeah.

K:        not where you want to go.

I:          Um, where did you go through basic training? Do you have any

0:09:30

additional training or any story that you want to share with us about, uh, your experience before you shipping into Korea?

K:        Well, uh, went to basic in Lackland in San Antonio, Texas.  Upon graduation there, they sent me to Administrative school at Fort, uh, uh, Francis C. Warren in Cheyanne, Wyoming.

I:          Okay.

K:        The Air Force had a number of schools on that Army post.  Upon graduating from there, I was sent to

0:10:00

Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  There was a small air base there.  Our primary duty was to fly, uh, generals, uh, in and out to go to the, uh, work college at Fort Leavenworth and, uh, eventually I was stationed in Selfridge Air Force Base Headquarters 10thAir Force.

I:          Um hm.

K:        That was where I, eh, decided I wanted to go overseas.

I:          So you flew over to Korea and arrived in Kimpo.

0:10:30

K:        No.

I:          No?

K:        Uh, we, uh, we went, uh, from San Francisco to Naha aboard the General Nelson M. Walker troop ship.

I:          Oh.

K:        It was the largest troop ship in the Pacific, and then we took another, uh, ship from there to Japan and then flew into Kimpo.

I:          Right, right.  When was the day, the first day you arrived in kim, at Kimpo air?

K:        Pardon me.  Uh,

0:11:00

I think it was October

I:          October

K:        1950.

I:          Okay.

K:        Yeah.  I think it was approximately two weeks after the Inchon landing.

I:          Two weeks after the Inchon landing.  Um, could you describe the living conditions while you were on line?  Describe about the food that you had

K:        Well, um, when we first got to, uh, Kimpo, we, uh,

0:11:30

were eating C-rations. These were World War II rations that had been stored in a cave on Okinawa, and we brought those with us and, until later on when we were able to actually set up a field kitchen and have hot meals.  And so, uh, you know, these dish rations could have been boxed up back in 1940, ’41, ’42, the little biscuits that are in there, uh,

0:12:00

you had to soak them in water or take a hammer or something and pound them to break them up in small pieces so you could eat them, the little char, chocolate bars that were in there made by Hershey, uh, they were white, uh.  It was just a coating that appeared on the chocolate bar from being stored in the heat in Okinawa.  Uh, then we got our own kitchen, started having, I think for, uh,

0:12:30

place in Korea for us, we probably had very good chow.  And then later on there was a time when we actually ate and, uh, lived on K-rations which were a big improvement over the C-rations.  Again, they were from World War II.

I:          Any other memories about living conditions?

K:        Yes.  Well, being the driver and guard for the Commander, I drove all over South Korea and um,

0:13:00

we would always take rations with us because we never knew where we were gonna be, uh.  Never once did I eat in a Korean restaurant or anything while I was there.  Uh, today I eat Korean food whenever I get a chance, whether it’s, uh, Mandu, cowbee, you name it.

I:          Um hm.

K:        Uh, I’m there.  Kimchi.  A lot of guys, uh, can’t eat Kimchi, but I like Kimchi you know.

I:          So you,

0:13:30

could you describe the, the area that you served?  You were in the Kimpo and then after that, could you describe where you went and what was your mission and the battle that you involved, and tell me exactly from when to when you were in Korea and doing what?

K:        Yeah.  I was actually, uh, I was, uh, with the 51stFighter Wing.  We took part in six of the ten major events that was in Korea.

0:14:00

But, uh, our jets flew missions over North Korea from the day we landed and, uh, then, and, uh, in December when the Chinese came in, we had to evacuate and go back to Itazuke, Japan, and that was in December, just before Christmas in ’50.  I had an order to save our planes, um.  There we moved on to TsuikiAir Base in Japan which was the base for the Japanese

0:14:30

Navy trained their kamikaze pilots. Uh, and in, um, was it, May of 1951, um, they had changed my duty.  So I was now investigating aircraft accidents.  And a lot of our pilots were flying missions out of Suwon, Korea.  So the officer I worked with, he and I would send

0:15:00

advanced party to, uh, Suwon, and I stayed at Suwon then until January ’52 when I came home. In, uh, November of, uh, ’51, the 51stchanged over from F80s to F86s, Saber jets.  Uh, um, pardon me.  Later on I understand, those planes were, uh, transferred to the South Korean Air Force.

I:          Um.   How many

0:15:30

soldiers, do you remember, when the war?

K:        Thousands.  Literally thousands.

I:          Um, I’ve heard that North Koreans were really afraid of, uh, Allied Forces of Air Force.  Could you describe that situation?

K:        Well.

I:          What was the impact of this Air Force raid and attacks?

K:        We did a lot of ground support, and those, in other words our guys would, we’d get right down close to the deck

0:16:00

and, uh, I think probably one of the things that bothered the North Koreans and the Chinese the most was out use of Napalm bombs.  Uh, we even had occasions where we found tunnels, and our guys were able to drop the Napalm so it would actually bounce and go to the entrance of the tunnel and, uh, yeah.  The, uh, between rockets, machine guns and Napalm bombs,

0:16:30

pardon me, it caused a lot of problems for the, uh, Chinese and North Korean troops.  We were also bridge busters.  We tore down a lot of bridges that they were using.

I:          Were there any moment you faced North Koreans or the Chinese soldiers one to one or face to face?

K:        Yeah, um, pardon me just a moment [COUGHS] Pardon me.

0:17:00

Um, yeah.  Third day in Korea I had to take the CO to, uh, 8thArmy Headquarters in Seoul. [Abrupt start] Yeah, the South Korean troops went across and up into this building, and they brought the sniper back out of there.  And so the CO told me, he says, uh, park the jeep.  Let’s go ahead and see what’s going on.  Well, this poor guy had gotten left

0:17:30

behind when everybody else moved back north, and probably very hungry which was a good thing for me because [INAUDIBLE] in there.  But, uh, the, uh, South Koreans took care of him, and the boy didn’t have to do anything more.  That was one of my closest.  I, I was shot at a few other times, but I didn’t feel any danger, but I didn’t think they were close.  I protected

0:18:00

the CO and, uh, he, uh, he thanked me when I transferred to another squadron.  He said he’d never even had to draw his pistol, that I’d always taken care of business for him.

I:          So you, in the beginning, you repaired the aircraft, and then late

K:        No.  I, I investigated aircraft accidents.

I:          Investigated from,

K:        Yeah.

I:          from the beginning to the end of your duties, right?

K:        No, uh, at first, as I say, I was the driver and guard for the CO,

0:18:30

hired workers from the base.  it was when I went back into, uh, Korea the second time at Suwon that I started investigating accidents, and I continued to do that till I left Korea in January of ’52.

I:          Did you have, uh, experience working with the Korean soldier katusa at the time?

K:        No.

I:          What is your experience?

K:        We had

I:          Any, any Korean soldiers that you all lived together or any experience working with any Korean citizens?

K:        Well, uh,

0:19:00

a lot of experience with Korean civilians.  But, uh, and a few Korean soldiers.  Um, I needed a Korean soldier that spoke some English on one mission and, um, he was very good.  He was very good.  I, he was a lot of help to me.

0:19:30

I:          Do you remember his name?

K:        No, unfortunately, no.  It’s, uh, it’s kind of a situation that, uh, you try not to get too close to a lot of people because, uh, they might not be there tomorrow.

I:          Um.

K:        And, um, yeah because I, uh, lost a lot of friends, mostly pilots.

0:20:00

Yeah, I had one of them coming back from a mission over North Korea, and I went down to the runway because he was trying to get back with the plane, and they kept urging him to ditch and get out of the plane.  But he managed to get back, and just as he got over my head at the end of the runway, his plane exploded and, uh, yeah.

I:          Um.  What about your experience working with Korean civilians?

0:20:30

What was your

K:        It was very good.  Um, I, I always remember one particular instance where, uh, it was getting cold, and we were trying to put stoves in our tents.  We got the stoves but no pipe to run up through the top of the tent to get the fumes and the smoke and, uh, so I got to talking with, uh,

0:21:00

some of the Korean workers, and I had my interpreter there, and I told him, I said this is what I needafter he’d talked to the workers a while, two of them came over and says, uh, oh, we can make a pipe.  We just need such and such.  We got the tools that they needed, and they made a pipe for us which was very good.  Yeah.

I:          So they are very able.

K:        Yes.

0:21:30

Yes.  I found some very capable workers amongst the, the guys that we hired, um.  Many of them worked, you know, just for common labor.  But we had many skilled people as well.  Some were electricians, uh, plumbers, you know.  I, uh, I had a good time working with the, the Koreans.

I:          Um, what were the most

0:22:00

difficult or the happiest or the rewarding memories during your duties?  Could you share that?

K:        Um, well, I’ll try with the, the most difficult first, and hopefully I get through this.  Um, in driving the, uh, CO to Seoul, uh, many times, I’m down in one area where there

0:22:30

were many orphans. I’m guessing they were anywhere from three to maybe a, the oldest ten years old.  Whether their parents had been killed or they just got separated, you know, who knows.  But, uh, the South Korean government at that time was still in such chaos.  They had no agencies going around to try and take care of these children.  So I.

0:23:00

I made a habit every time I’d leave the base to go to Seoul, I would stop by our mess tent and take as much food as I possibly could and put it, of course, it was never enough. But the thing that really, uh, got to me was the fact that if you would give a child a biscuit, they would never eat the whole thing.  They would share that biscuit

0:23:30

for as many as it could go around to.  But, um, and as the weather started, and, of course, I’d get there sometimes and maybe one or two of them had died.  But then when the weather started getting very cold with November, December, um, I’d start finding many of the children had died when I got there.

0:24:00

And, uh, there wasn’t really anything that I could do as far as burials or anything like that. But, um, I would, um, pour water in my hand and, uh, just wash their face and, uh, put their

0:24:30

hands on their chest. It was all I could do.  But, u h, other than losing my friends, that was probably the worst.  The good parts, yes.  There were good things, uh.  I had hired a young Korean boy.  I got a phone call one day from the APs at the gate.  And they said I’ve got a young boy out here.  He

0:25:00

wants to come and work.  Are you hiring boys?  And I said well, how old is he?  And of course they made a guess.  Oh, maybe 10, and I says does he speak any English?  Yeah, he does.  I said I’m coming out to the gate, and went out and, uh, real nice kid and very neat and did speak some English, and I

0:25:30

thought okay, uh. He explained to me the situation and really needed money.  And so I said okay. I’ll hire you to take care of the CO’s tent.  well, when I told the CO, he was not happy.  I don’t need some little kid under foot at camp, and I says no. I says he speaks some English, and I think he could be a help.  He can keep your canteens filled.

0:26:00

He can sweep out your tent, keep it clean and neat, and that was Chang.  His father, uh, was a, uh, Protestant minister at a little church just outside of the gates of Kimpo.

I:          Um hm.

K:        And, uh, the North Koreans had taken his father, killed his mother.  He had an older sister and, uh, so they were living in the back of the church, and she had also

0:26:30

taken in, uh, two or three other orphans from the area there, uh, probably farmer’s children or something.  And so from then on, I used to, if I was around when he was leaving in the evening, I would give him food, and I’d walk off the base with him, then I could give it to him. He couldn’t take it all because they’d accuse him of stealing.  And, uh,

0:27:00

if I’d go into town sometimes I’d buy him fruit and bring it back and drop it off at the church, you know.  And, uh, I even have some very poor video taken by one of my friends.  The guys had taught him how to make a snowman in the snow and, uh, in the video it shows the Co coming out, trying to find his cap because Chang had taken his cap and put it on the snowman. [LAUGHS]

0:27:30

But, uh, the old man liked him.  He really did.  In fact, when we had to leave, he smuggled him into Japan.

I:          Um.

K:        I told him you can’t do that.  I said you’ve got to get him back to Kimpo because his sister will wonder what happened to him.  And so they did.  They got him back to Kimpo.

I:          Oh, good.

K:        Yeah.

I:          Do you remember his name?

0:28:00

K:        Chang is the only name I have.

I:          Um.

K:        Yeah.

I:          Okay.  How old was he?

K:        About 10 I’m guessing.

I:          Oh.

K:        His sister was maybe two years older I’m guessing, yeah.  Yeah. In fact, when I started sending food and that, she insisted, you know, doing my laundry as payment for what I was doing for them.  Yeah. Yeah, um.

0:28:30

Then I, at Suwon, I hired another interpreter and, uh, uh, he, I was very lucky.  I had two young interpreters, um, maybe between 18 and 20 years old.  And, uh, they both spoke good English and did an excellent job interpreting for me with the people I had to work with.

0:29:00

And, um, yet this, the interpreter at Suwon, his name was, uh, (Deroochip).  I have a letter that he wrote to me before I left.

I:          You still keep it?

K:        Yes.

I:          Oh.

K:        Certainly do.

I:          Can you share that with us?

K:        Yes.

I:          Great.  You? Okay?  Um, you talked about the typical and happies time,

0:29:30

but do you still, is there anything that really haunts you, that kind of         trauma that still bothers you

K:        Yes.

I:          Could you, could you talk about that a little bit?

K:        I’ll try.  Um, yes.  Uh, In fact, I have extreme PTSD experiences.

I:          Hm.

K:        Uh, like my

0:30:00

friend’s plane blowing up.  Another case of two friends

I:          You saw him on that moment?

K:        Yes.  I was on the ground looking up at his plane when it exploded.

I:          Yeah.

K:        And, uh, for two hours after that I walked in, into the runway trying to, uh, uh, find

0:30:30

anything that we could send back to his family.

I:          Um hm.

K:        But, uh, when a plane explodes like that, it basically just vaporizes the body.  The other occasion happened back at Kimpo with the two friends, mid-air collision killed both of them.

0:31:00

I:          And you witnessed that?

K:        Yeah.  And again, I was there trying to find bits and pieces to have something but, uh, that, that case really didn’t end there.  Many, many years later I received a phone call from a gentleman

0:31:30

I believe in the State of Washington.  He’d seen my website, and he says he had a brother that flew with us and was killed, and they were looking, they said they really never got a lot of information from the Air Force, and he was wondering if I could help, and he gave me the name and, uh,

0:32:00

yeah, it as one of the guys that was in the air collision.

I:          Oh.

K:        And, uh, the 51sthas, uh, reunions every year in September, and before the next reunion, I was able to locate his brother’s crew chief.  And so we invited him to come to the reunion

0:32:30

and he, he, um, he got to spend a few hours, uh, with the crew chief.  That, uh, meant a lot to that family.

I:          Must been very hard for you.

K:        Yes.  And, of course we killed little children.  I still have nightmares.

I:          Um.

0:33:00

K:        I, uh, very sad I couldn’t save him. Sorry.

I:          Oh no.  Um, I didn’t mean to bring you back to that memory, but thank you for sharing that, that, uh,

0:33:30

story with us. There must be a lot of those similar stories and still bothering many of Korean War veterans.

K:        Yes.

I:          Um, so when were you discharged from military service, and what were the reaction of the people when you returned from Korea? By the way, what was your family’s reaction, um, to the fact that you were supposed to dis, I mean you

0:34:00

were dispatched to Korea to fight there, and, so when, I mean you can compare those when you returned home from your service, and what did they say about you, you, you know, returning safe to home?

K:        Yeah, well, I, I, uh, that’s a, I, I left, uh, Korea January 10 of ’52 and, um, came back Stateside and was stationed in Rantoul, Illinois Air Base and then

0:34:30

was discharged in September 1952.  But, uh, when, uh, when I left Korea I, of course this was back before, no cell phones, no internet.  So mail, and it took 30 days for a letter to get to the States, 30 days for a return letter. And, um, I wrote my parents

0:35:00

as soon as they would let us, and I said okay, I’m no longer on Okinawa.  I’m now in Korea and told her what I was doing, and my mother wrote back and, uh, she, uh, she told me the family was very proud of me.

0:35:30

And I stood, uh

I:          How old was your mom at the time?

K:        My mother died when she was 85, eight years ago. Yeah.

I:          So what

K:        My family had always raised me that, um, friends and neighbors that,

0:36:00

uh, that it was a great thing, what we were doing.  Uh, when I got back home, though, I’d get this Forgotten War thing.  I would meet people on the street that I’d known for years, and they’d say Fannon, I haven’t seen you. Where have you been? Well, in the Korean War.  The what?  They didn’t even know about the war.  Uh,

0:36:30

see, this was all before television news, no news, just, no.  People really didn’t know about it.

I:          Why do you think it was forgotten to them? Why was it that so unpopular and, and almost ignored by your own people?

K:        Well, it, uh, the only way they kept hearing about it really was if they’d go to a movie, and

0:37:00

there they would have news, mov, or, uh, news reel, and there would be some information about the Korean War.  So that’s what my family did mostly.  They would go to the movies, maybe once every two weeks just to, just to hear something about the Korean War because it took so long for my letters to get to them. So.  But, uh, we didn’t have

0:37:30

problems that maybe Vietnam vets had with people spit on them because they’d been killing babies.  I was, you know, nonsense.  But, um, we just came back.  Nobody had any idea what you’d been doing.

I:          Um hm.  Um, any impact in your life from the service that you, uh, from Korea?

K:        Yes.

I:          In your life after that?

0:38:00

K:        Yes.  Uh, as I said, I, I had extreme PTSD and that, uh, affected my life considerably. Um, it’s a disease there’s no cure for, and they didn’t even know what it really was back in those days, and I never admitted to any of my friends or family.

0:38:30

I never admitted it to anyone the problems that I was having.  And, um, but, uh, not until 2005.

I:          What happened in 2005?  You don’t have to share it.

K:        I was gonna commit suicide.

I:          All because of that.

0:39:00

Are you okay now?

K:        Yeah.  And, um, so I went to the VA, and a psychiatrist had been working with me ever since.  And they do an excellent job.

0:39:30

I:          So are those traumas that you experienced during your service still bothering you

K:        Oh, yes.  They never told me

I:          [Abrupt start] Tell me about the legacy of Korean War veterans, and do you have any message to the future generations of the United States and Korea?

K:        Well, I don’t believe I’ve ever met a Korean War veteran that says I wished I’d hadn’t never been there.

0:40:00

They’re all proud of what they did and, uh, the one thing that really strikes me as a big difference between the Korean War and say World War I, World War II, the other wars the, um, the Korean people don’t forget.

0:40:30

I have many, many Korean friends and, uh, yeah.  I’ve been invited to many Korean homes here in the States and, uh, yeah.  That means a lot.

And, uh, the United States didn’t

0:41:00

have that same situation with other countries that they’d gone to help.  The other countries, all they were looking for was money. Yes, we gave money to South Korea [INAUDIBLE] and look at that country now.  It’s great.

I:          Have you been back to Korea?

K:        No.

I:          No?

K:        I want to.

I:          You want to.  Do you know about what happened

0:41:30

after the Korean War in Korea in terms of economic development and

K:        Yes.

I:          democracy?

K:        Yes, yes.

I:          What do you think about that?

K:        Oh, I think it’s unbelievable.  Yes.  No, I, again, all of my friends, they, they’re very proud of what’s happened in Korea. I have one friend.  His screensaver on his computer

0:42:00

is the, uh, space shuttle, the Korean missile with all the lights in the south and dark in the north. Yes.

I:          Um.  I hope that you can have a chance to visit Korea back and

K:        Yes.  I’d like to

I:          see the, see difference

K:        Oh.

I:          between those times that you fought for Koreans and now.

I:          Yeah, I, way back when,

0:42:30

somebody had asked me, before they had the Revisit Program you know, said would you really want to go back?  I said yeah. I would like to go back and see Korea with trees that are all in one piece. Yeah.

I:          Any specific messages to the young generations to come?

K:        Yes.  Anytime you get a chance

0:43:00

to help another country, do it.  Yes. Um, if I was younger, I’d do it again.

I:          Um, next year, 2013,

K:        Yes.

I:          will be 60thanniversary of Korean, uh, Armistice of the Korean War.

K:        The Armistice, yes.

I:          There is no

0:43:30

war lasted 60 years after an official cease fire

K:        Yeah.

I:          in 20thcentury history.

K:        Right.

I:          Korea has been divided, suffered from it. Would you sign a petition if it is ac, if you are asked, to end Korean War officially and replace the Armistice with a Peace Treaty?

K:        Oh, yeah.  I don’t think, my signature’s

0:44:00

not gonna help, but, uh, I would love to see that happen.

I:          You wanna see the closure on it, right?

K:        Oh, yes.  There’s been so many people killed on the DMZ it’s unbelievable.  Yeah.  Uh, I, uh, [INAUDIBLE] friends speak one time, and he says DMZ is such a misnomer.  There is no D in DMZ.

0:44:30

I:          Um.

K:        It’s one of the most highly militarized areas in the world.  I’ve had friends serve in the, uh, two ID’d on the DMZ.  In fact, the two ID on the DMZ sent me, I have a piece of the original barbed wire

I:          Um.

K:        that was used up there.

I:          Yeah.  There are lots

0:45:00

of problems in the Korean Peninsula, especially the confrontation between U.S. and, uh, North Korea and South Korea.  Nuclear weapons problem.  But I still think that we can declare symbolically the end of Korean War replacing the Armistice with a Peace Treaty, and we can move ahead to settle lot of different issues.  So

K:        Do you think the North would sign that?

I:          No, it doesn’t matter whether they

K:        Oh, okay.

I:          sign or not.

0:45:30

K:        I was gonna say

I:          But

K:        Yeah.

I:          as a Korean War veteran

K:        Yes.

I:          who fought that war and now when average age is 82, and I’m just asking to see if you wanna see an official closure

K:        Oh yes.

I:          on it from your perspective.

K:        Yeah.

I:          It doesn’t matter what North Koreans react to that or I’m not going to even talk about that with North Koreans.  So would you sign it?

K:        Sure.

I:          Would you shake hands if it arranged to meet with, uh, former enemies of

0:46:00

North Korean soldiers and Chinese soldiers if, if they alive.

K:        I’ve already shook the hands of one North Korean.

I:          You did?

K:        He lives in Florida.  He’s a friend of mine. [KOREAN PHRASE]

I:          Hm.

K:        He’s the North Korean pilot that brought the, uh, new, uh, MIG into, uh, Kimpo in 1953.

I:          Oh.

K:        I know him.  He’s fine.

I:          And you shook hands with him?

K:        Yeah.

0:46:30

I:          You ready to shake more?

K:        Yeah, I think I could, [LAUGHS] Yeah.

I:          Any other messages or, uh, comments that you want to make

K:        Yeah.  I’m, I’m,

I:          before we finish it up.

K:        I would like to say I’m so glad to see you doing this program.  Uh, it gives, uh, a lot of people one place where they can go

0:47:00

and try and find some type information about the Korean War that in the past there’s really never been any place, uh.  I’ve had a lot of people go to our website and then send me emails that never knew about this.  We never knew this happened or, you know, or, yeah.

I:          It’s a digital clearing house of

K:        Yeah.

I:          on interviews and many different kinds of

0:47:30

artifacts

K:        Yeah.

I:          and it’s a data base so that people can come back and retrieve it

K:        Um hm.

I:          with the key words.  So I think it’s the first of its’ kind,

K:        Yeah.

I:          and I want to expand it to all other Korean War veterans

K:        Yeah.

I:          all around the State.  2.2 million Korean War veterans still alive

K:        Yes.

I:          and I want to do it before it gets too late.

K:        They’re dying very fast.  I’m very fortunate at 82 that I’m still in pretty good health, yeah.

0:48:00

I:          Thank you again so much for your, uh, acceptance of this interview and sharing all those happy but also very difficult moments

K:        Yes.

I:          with us.

K:        Yeah.

I:          And I think it will serve as a history that we can preserve for future generations and for the country that the U.S. and, and Republic of Korea.

K:        Yeah.

I:          Thank you so much,

0:48:30

and I want to present this, uh, Ambassador for Peace medal

K:        Oh.

I:          issued by the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs

K:        Yes.

I:          and Korean Veterans Association.

K:        Yeah.

I:          Thank you so much again.

K:        Oh, thank you.  Yeah.  That’s, I’m asking to go back to Korea to receive this. Oh, beautiful.  Thank you very much.

 

[End of Recorded Material]