Lawrence Hafen was born on May 16, 1932 in St. George, Utah. After attending nearby Dixie High School and Dixie Junior College, he was drafted into the US Army in October 1952. He was sent to Fort Ord, California for basic training before being sent by troopship to Japan and soon after, Inchon, Korea. He was attached to the 45th Infantry Regiment and worked as a supply sergeant in the Heartbreak Ridge area from April 1953 until returning home in 1954. He completed his service at Fort Lewis, Washington and soon after was married. He went to work in the family tire business. Today, he is retired and lives in Utah.
Living Conditions in the Late Stages of the War
Lawrence Hafen describes the living conditions during his time on the front lines from April 1953 until the signing of the Armistice. He talks about daily life, where and when he slept, as well as what he ate during this time.
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Airirang and Other Memories
Lawrence Hafen recalls three KATUSA soldiers that were attached to his unit. He mentions their names and talks about his interactions with them. He remembers a song that "Willie," one of the Korean soldiers taught him, "Arirang." In this clip, he sings the song from memory.
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The Last Ten Days
Lawrence Hafen talks about his experience during the last ten days before the signing of the Armistice. He mentions continuous shelling by both sides in an effort to expend stocks of ammunition. He describes the front lines after the ceasefire.
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Not so Friendly Fire
Lawrence Hafen tells a story of when a fellow soldier accidentally fired a contraband machine gun. The soldier, after assembling the weapon, accidentally fired several rounds in his direction.
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"I Did the Honorable Thing"
Lawrence Hafen reflects about his Korean War service. He talks about being proud to have served both the US and Korea.
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0:00:00 [Beginning of Recorded Material]
I: Would you please introduce yourself? Your name, and when you born and where you born.
L: Okay, my name is Lawrence Calton Hafen and I was born here in St. George, Utah. Lived here all my life, except for the time I spent in the Army and I was born in- on the 16thof May, 1932.
I: Alright, so, what, what school did you go to here?
L: We had, we had the St. George Elementary that was brand new when I started school. We went through the sixth grade there, and then we went to what was called Woodward Junior High, we had four years there, the seventh through the tenth.
and then we went to Dixie High School and Dixie College, they were kind of combined. And so, I had two years of high school at Dixie and two years of Junior College.
I: Oh, that is a very interesting combination, isn’t it?
L: It-it-its a different combination than most people go through. Back in those days,
there were around 90 to 100 kids in each class in St. George.
L: And now, we’ve got- we’ve got more people attending Dixie College than we had citizens of the town when I was growing up. It is a-a big change in this area.
I: What did you study in Junior College?
L: Just general education.
I didn’t study anything special. Growing up, my interests were in agriculture and ranching. Our family had a tire store that we, I knew I was going to work into when I got through with my service, so I didn’t-didn’t study any special.
I: But you were college student.
L: I was a college student and I graduated from two years of junior college which—
I: When was it?
L: This would have been in–from ’50 to ’52.
I: From Junior College from ’50 to 52?
I: So, you knew that there was a Korean War broke out at the time?
L: Oh yes, you bet.
I: How– how did you come to know of it?
L: Oh, well, we just, it was just common knowledge. We all… we all knew that soon or later we’d probably be drafted.
The- the fact that I had two years of college helped me a lot in the Army, and I can explain that later, but well I, I would say that when I went in the Army I was the only one that had had a college degree out of my outfit so, I got promoted to supply sergeant real fast, which most– which is unusual.
I: Mm hmm.
L: I got to be a sergeant first class when most people that are in the Army for only a couple of years don’t get past corporal usually.
I: So when did you enlist?
L: When did I go to in the service?
L: I went on the 20thof October in ’53.
I: To Army?
L: In, yes, infantry. I was in the infantry.
I went to Fort Ord, California. Took 18 weeks of training and then we shipped directly to Korea, from there.
I: Mm-hmm. So, you actually went to Korea after the war?
L: Oh no. There was – I, I got there–
L: — 20thof April in ’53 and it was what? 20thof July in 53 when the war was over?
I, I was on the front line for 3 months before the war was over.
I: So, you, you enlisted the Army in 1952?
L: I didn’t actually enlist. I was drafted
I: You were drafted and that was 1952 right?
L: Okay, I guess it was, I, yeah.
I: Yeah, yeah. So, then you had 18 weeks of boot camp military training
and then you went to Korea in April of 1953?
I: So, tell me about how did you go to Korea?
L: Well, we had a-a big troop ship it was called U.S.S. Meigs.
L: And it was really crowded with people. It took us a month to get to Japan.
We stopped at Camp Drake for about three days and then went right to Incheon and—and got off the ship there and went directly to the front line. We didn’t, didn’t stop anywhere between Incheon and the– and the front line.
I: And where did you go?
L: Well. . .
I: Was it. . .
L: I was, I was in the 45thinfantry regiment.
L: They were a Oklahoma National Guard unit–
L: — that had been there for a long time. All of the old original people of the unit that rotated home, but, so, I went. And shortly after the cease fire they sent that unit home.
And so I was transferred to a artillery battalion.
I: Uh… my question was where did you go from Incheon to?
L: Oh, oh okay.
I: Was it..
L: From Incheon, we went to– we were just on the 38thparallel at that time was one tre– er one trench or bunkers the full length of Korea. And so we,
we went up there. We were located just to the left of the Heartbreak Ridge.
I: Oh, okay.
L: Overlooking what they called Mundung-ni Valley.
I: Mm-hmm. So, how was situation at around April 1953 in Heartbreak Ridge?
L: Well, like I say,
there was the full length of Korea they had trenches with– with bunkers in them and so we would stay there. D-During the day, everybody would stay inside. At night, sometimes they would send us out on patrol. We got to go out several times, but it seems like the enemy wasn’t any more interested
in having contact having with us than we were so, we had little skirmishes, but they didn’t’ amount to much. The thing I remember about the–that was quite, quite a hilly country. The—they– pretty good size mountains and the thing I remember most about it was all the trees and the vegetation and everything else had just been blown apart.
There was nothing, nothing left of the landscape.
I: Mm. So, the– there were not very severe battles going around, at the time?
L: Not really, no. Just, like I say, if we went on patrol and encountered the enemy we would have a little, little skirmish, a little fighting and then both outfits would go home.
We only had in–in the three months that I was on the front line, we only had two casualties in our outfit.
L: And both of those were during the day, when people would get out where they could be seen. And, of course, the enemy had us zeroed in so, if they could see you out, they would shoot at you. But, if you would stay in your bunker you was okay.
I: So, it wasn’t too much dangerous, at the time.
L: I–I–I never felt like I was in that much danger during that length of time.
I: Mm-hmm. What was the most difficult thing for you to be in Korea at that time?
L: Well, I–I guess being away from home. I had a nephew that was just a little bit younger than me was killed in a truck accident here.
And when I got that word that was a little difficult for me, but just I–I never did feel that I was in real danger in–in the fighting like the people that had been there previous to me.
I: Mm hmm. How was living condition at the time?
L: Well, everything was, we got, like I say was okay.
We lived in bunkers and so we would–we would sleep mostly during the day and be on guard at night. But as far as–we never–we were never uncomfortable. The conditions for us were pretty good.
Being on the front lines in a war I think would be considered very good.
I: What kind of food did you eat?
L: Well, they– the regular GI rations. They’re– for the most part they–they– we enjoyed the food.
I: [unintelligible] ration?
L: We didn’t eat the canned rations, no. We had– they were– we had cooks. . .
L: That that took care of us on the front lines there.
I: Korean cook or American cook?
L: Actually, what we had, we had, had Americans, but we did have some Koreans that were members of the, what? Royal Korean Army?
L: Were attached to us.
I: Mm hmm.
L: And some of them worked in the kitchen and there were– there were three of the fellows that I lived directly with that I got
very, very well attached to. Really nice, nice guys and we had a lot of fun trying to communicate and…
I: Tell me about those Korean people. How old they and what name?
L: Well, the one little fella we called him Willie.
L: But his name was Kum Sok Yun.
I: Kum Sok Yun
L: Uh huh. And then there was another one named
[Lee Jin Koo]
I: Mm hmm.
L: And one named [Jo Ba Kill].
L: [Ba Kill] is…
L: Maybe I don’t pronounce them right, I don’t know, but that’s the way…
I: So, they used to work with you and…
L: Yeah, we lived right together.
I: Together in the bunker?
L: Uh huh. And…
I: What was their mission?
L: Well, they were just attached to us
as– as the Korean Army and the American Army working together. Very, very pleasant people. I–I really had a lot of fun and enjoyed visiting with them and, like I say, trying to communicate. Willie, that I called him, taught me the Korean song,
number one [Adi Dong] and I… I’ve–I’ve sang it a little a few times over the years, whether I’ve sang it right or not I don’t know, but it was interesting that he took the time to try to…
L: Try to teach me that song.
I: Can you sing for me now?
L: Well, I don’t have a very good voice, but I could–I could try.
L: And when we get through, you tell me how close I was.
L: To being right. [Singing in Korean]
L: [singing in Korean]
I: [clapping] Whoa! A plus! A plus! You can go to Dixie State University again!
I: Very good! Very good!
L: But I–I–I asked him. . . I asked him what the song meant and he kind of indicated that if a man left his wife before he go’d–got over the hill, his feet would get [e-tie]. [laughing].
L: That’s kind of what he told me, the way I remember it.
I: Ha! Very, very good. Any other anecdotes any story with those three Korean soldiers?
L: The only thing I–I try to stress is that they were some of the nicest and politest people that I had ever met and they tried in every way to be kind and–and graceful.
The same as the Korean people have for us since we’ve come home. I can’t think of– I can’t think of anybody in the whole world that just had more what? Love and respect and shown more appreciation than the Korean government has had.
I: How do you know? You’ve never been back to Korea, right?
L: No, I haven’t been back, but they’ve been here and–we I’ve been to two or three programs that they’ve put on so, I’ve been able to. . . and those people that were in the Vietnam War —
L: They—people thought they weren’t doing the right thing.
L: And I’ve had people ask me how I felt about
being in the Korean War and I would tell them, look at North Korea and look at South Korea for 60 years the difference those two countries have made. I feel like going to Korea was one of the best things I could have done to help my fellow man.
I: Very nice point.
But you came to defense of Korean people, that’s why we were able to accomplish economic development and democratization.
I: Now, I think it is just natural for us to say back to you, thank you. Isn’t it?
L: Well, it is, but the French people are quite happy with the Americans doing World War II but they have never shown their appreciation like the Korean people have.
The–at least that is the way it appears to me.
I: Okay. What was the happiest moment during your service?
L: Well, let’s–let’s– let me just finish up. Like I say, I was there about three months.
L: And on the –they sent us back behind lines for a few days
and then moved us to another area, called Outpost Texas.
I: In [Toriapara]
L: In Korea.
L: and I was there about 10 days before the cease fire.
L: And the thing I remember mostly.
L: About those 10 days. When they–when both sides knew that the war was going to be over and that they were going to go home,
the first thing they did was to fire all of their ammunition and get rid of it. So, for–for a week there, it was almost continual shelling back and forth and I don’t remember much about anybody, you know, being killed during that last week, but it–it was just continuous shelling until everybody ran out of ammunition.
The interesting thing, to me was, as soon as the cease fire took effect, you could look out over the valley in front of you and you had people coming out, looked almost like gophers climbing out of little —
L: — little holes all through there. Had no idea that we had that many people out there in front of us. And–and then when they came, actually they came and marched right through our, our camp on their way out.
So. I think if you asked me what the greatest joy was, it would have been when I was home I, or on my way home coming under the Golden Gate Bridge realizing that I was back home.
That would be. But it was interesting to me, because I went from Incheon to the front lines and then we were back behind the line a little ways and I was there for a full year and I don’t remember doing too much other than just being there. I never went to any villages. I never went to any cities. I was just from the front line to behind.
And then back to Incheon and on the ship and home. So, a lot of–a lot of people had experiences in some of the cities. I know I’ve talked to some of them that were in Seoul and different places, but I never had any interaction with the Korean people except for those three fellows that was in our outfit.
So, if, if everybody in Korea is as nice as they were I had a great respect for the Korean people.
I: You’re too nice.
I: You’re too nice. Tell me about the soft side of your service there. How much were you paid?
L: I think to start with I was paid about $89
L: Because the 45thInfantry Regiment everybody was leaving except for those of us that were there, I got rank awfully fast. I got to be corporal just before the cease fire. Then they made me a supply sergeant so, I got to be sergeant and then a few weeks later I got to be a sergeant first class,
which is usually never happens, but they happened to need rank, at the time, so. And, like I said, the fact that I was the only one that had any college education –
L: I got to be the supply sergeant, which I had no training for, but…
I: Did you write letters back to your family?
I: What did you write and how often?
L: Well, we–I– we’d write every week. I–I had my girlfriend, Peggy, the girl that I married, we wrote every week at least, and I wrote to my folks every week, and a little bit to some of my other friends that were in the Army in other places. Just basically how things were going, what was happening.
It’s–it’s been 60 years now, so it’s hard to remember a lot of it, but.
I: Do you still keep those letters?
L: I have some, mm-hmm.
I: Oh you do?
I: Oh, would you be willing to share that with us?
L: I should’ve got them out and looked them over a little bit, I guess.
Look over it and if there are some lines that you do not want to share with others, just erase it or, you know, mark it and– as you see I gave you my business card, right?
I: Could you look at the back of it?
L: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.
I: Yes, what do you see there?
L: Well, it looks like the map of Korea.
And those are the memorabilia. The pictures that Korean War Veterans took and I have letters in the background.
I: The letters, you know. So, if you…if you have any memorabilia or the letters that you want to share with us you can send that to me. You can send to. . . to Sunny.
I: You know?
Female voice: Just remind me I will get it.
L: Okay. Yeah.
I: You don’t have to expose your privacy, but if you do not share that with us, then there will be no way for our younger generations to know what happened to American soldier in 1953 one from Salt Lake City and what kind of a situation that you were in and things like that.
L: I’ll tell you one incident that happened.
L: I guess the closest I came to being killed while I was there. There was a–a soldier from New York, he was, in my head– in my mind, just a little bit of a ding-a-ling.
I: What is that?
L: Oh kind of about half nuts.
I: [laughing] okay.
L: And somehow we had a Thompson sub machine gun there.
L: Which was not legal. We were– it wasn’t supposed to be there, but he had it and it was taken apart, he put the thing back together and got ammunition in it and was fooling with it and pulled the trigger and about. . . about 10 rounds came right the side of my head while. . .
I: Oh geez.
L: The reason I say that is that was my own men
were probably closest to getting me killed as anybody there.
I: [laughing] so what did you do with him?
L: Well we didn’t do anything.
I: Did you punch him?
L: I didn’t, no. [laughing].
I: You should have punched him.
L: Shoulda done. [laughing]
I: Give him a lesson, okay?
I: So, what did you do after you come back from Korea?
L: Okay, I knew that the family
had a tire business, here in St. George.
L: And I knew that I was going to work into that. I also, Peggy and I were corresponding and were planning on getting married as soon as I got out of the service. So, I– I got back from Korea and they sent me to Fort Lewis, Washington for a few months to get my two years in the service.
I: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
L: And so, after I got home, I. . . well I got home the 20thand I was married on the 2ndof November so, I was only about 12 days out of the service, when I got married.
I: And what do you think is the impact of your service upon your life?
L: I’m very glad that I went. You don’t want to do it again, but I feel like that I– I did the honorable thing and it was of service to, not only my country, but to Korea as well and it– I have been proud to say that I am a Korean War Vet.
I: And how did it affect your private life?
L: It, I, it didn’t affect me in any derogatory way. I, I never had– I didn’t pick up any bad habits or have any problems while I was in the service. Like I say, I, I was pretty well isolated from everybody. We had some guys in our outfit
that would go out on weekends and get hooked up with the [moosamays] and get some venereal disease and things like that, but that isn’t anything that I had any problem with whatsoever.
I: You behaved.
L: I did, and I’m happy to say so, yes.
I: Good man huh?
L: So anyway. . .
I would say my service in the– in Korea would have been a benefit to me, as far as my outlook on life. I got to see a part of the world and I got to see what war can do to people and places and so I’ve had absolutely no ill effect from it.
I: Mm-hmm. What do you think is the legacy of Korean War and
Korean War Veterans?
L: I don’t know just how to — to say that. I went in the service with 9 fellows from here. We all went in together.
L: Went through basic training together.
L: And a lot of us went overseas together but none of us were together during the war.
I: Mm-hmm. All of them to Korea?
L: Yeah. And we– every one of them that I’ve talked to feel real good about the fact that they were in the service and were able to–to help.
I: Hmm. Any other message that you want to leave to this interview?
L: Well, I, I guess I pretty well said it. I– my experience with the Korean people has been nothing but good and I feel like I’ve been of some help to society in general.
I–I–I just feel so bad for the citizens of North Korea and what they’ve had to live under for the last 60 years and compared to what’s happened to South Korea it’s just as different as night and day.
I: You said that you were planning to go back to Korea, right?
L: We’re looking at it. I have had some knee surgery and I’ve had– I am having some complications with my health right now and I have got to decide in the next few days whether I’m going or not. I would really like to, but I’m not sure yet whether I’ll be able to or not.
I: I hope you can make it.
L: Yeah. Sunny tried to get me to go what? Two or three years ago.
And I should have gone then and didn’t, but. . .
I: Bad man [laughing].
L: Yeah. [Laughing] I can’t think of anything else that I ought to say.
I: When– if you go, what do you expect to see in Korea?
L: Well, the thing, if I go, I expect to see more of the cities and, and the changes in the cities.
I don’t expect to get to the front lines, where I spent all of my time. I don’t expect to see any of the–of Korea that I actually saw while I was there.
L: But I–I expect that they’re going to be just as gracious and nice to me as anybody could be and treat me like I was somebody special.
I: You are a very nice man. You are a very nice man.
I want to thank you for your genuine recognition of the Korean people’s accomplishment and their hospitality to the American soldiers, but this I think is obvious and natural and I want to thank you for your fight for Korean nation and Korean country.
L: Well, you are more than welcome, thank you.
I: Thank you very much.
[End of recorded material]