Korean War Legacy Project

Leo Calderon


Leo Calderon explains that he wanted to join the military after a childhood of seeing German and Italian prisoners of war from WWII in his hometown of El Paso.  He joined the American Air Force at the age of seventeen and was sent to Korea in 1954, after the war had ended.  He describes the extreme poverty of South Korea after the war and the living conditions of the people.  He discusses how the people were so destitute they would resolve to selling family members in order to make money.  He also describes his position as a military police officer protecting American assets from the people who were in desperate need and the difference he has observed between the destruction of Seoul and its prosperity in modern times.

Video Clips

You Can't Blame Them for Having Nothing

Leo Calderon describes his job maintaining security of the planes while being stationed in Suwon in South Korea. They had to guard the planes 24 hours a day. He worked 8 hour shifts. He describes how a papa-san tried to steal a tip tank and he had to chase him to retrieve it.

Tags: Suwon,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Poverty,South Koreans

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Selling Their Mothers and Sisters

Leo Calderon describes the atmosphere of South Korea after the war. He notes that some of the people did not like the American presence. He also describes the crime and poverty after the war. The people sold anything, including their mothers, sisters, haircuts and boot shining for cigarettes. Bars eventually popped up though American soldiers were not allowed to go beyond the MSR (Main Supply Rode).

Tags: Civilians,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Poverty,South Koreans,Women

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They Have Everything Now

Leo Calderon describes the difference between first seeing Korea during the war and the country it has become today. He explains the physical characteristics of Seoul at the time: buildings no taller than half a story, potholed roads, homes made of hay and mud. He says at that time the people had nothing compared to today, that they have everything.

Tags: Seoul,Civilians,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Physical destruction,Poverty,South Koreans

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