Korean War Legacy Project

Leonard Laconia

Bio

Leonard L. Laconia was born in Shenandoah, VA. and was just out of high school when he enlisted in October 1948.  When he first arrived in Korea June 27, 1950, he had to help evacuate the American Embassy in Seoul.  Leonard Laconia would return to Taegu around September 1950 as a Forward Controller with the 8th Fighter Group, 5th Fighter Squadron (as a Sergeant) helping plan coordinates for air strikes on the front line near Pyongyang.  Leonard Laconia’s squadron was outnumber and they were forced to evacuate to Japan before returning with the 452nd Bomb Squadron equipped with the B-26 Bombers.  He stayed in Korea until November 1951 and he received the National Defense, UN Service, US Presidential Citation, Korean Presidential Citation, Air force commendation, and Korean Service medals.  He returned to the US in November 1951, and was assigned to the Air Force headquarters command in Washington, DC., until he was discharged on March 1, 1969.  After his discharge, he worked at the Central National Bank in Cleveland, Ohio, as well as at the Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles.

Clips

Just How Close We Were To The Enemy

Leonard Laconia's jeep squadron moved around from Seoul to Pyongyang and up to the North Korean Airports that he noted as K23 and K24 (Pyongyang). He recalled spending most of his time around K23 and he was told originally there were 30,000 Chinese headed their way, but there was actually 380,000 Chinese soldiers. Leonard Laconia's missions, known as a "sorties," would only last about 15 minutes (refuel & amp; rearm) because they would run out of ammunition so quickly due to the number of Chinese they were fighting.

Tags: Pyungyang,Chinese,Fear,Front lines,North Koreans,Physical destruction,Weapons

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSikyQcmukI&start=963&end=1193

The Chinese Were Smart, But Napalm Was Stronger

When Leonard Laconia's air squadron went on "strafing" missions, the Chinese were smart to just lie down flat on the ground to keep from getting shot which was a great defense tactic. Leonard Laconia's group responded by dropping napalm which wiped out most of the Chinese troops. He described that one canister of napalm would cover the diameter of a football field spreading across consuming the oxygen in the air and heat would rise under the plane. The Chinese wore thick heavy coats during the winter and the napalm would just stick to it aiding in the burning of bodies.

Tags: Pyungyang,Chinese,Cold winters,Fear,Front lines,Living conditions,Personal Loss,Physical destruction,Weapons

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSikyQcmukI&start=1384&end=1490

US B-29s Couldn't Stop the Chinese

Leonard Laconia stated that the Chinese would fly MiGs from Manchuria, but they would burn fuel so quickly that they rarely made it to Korea. The US would fly B-29s up and down the Yalu River dropping bombs to destroy bridges, but it didn't stop the Chinese from coming down into Korea. The Chinese still found a way to get across the Yalu River.

Tags: Aprokgang (Yalu River),Chinese,Fear,Front lines,Living conditions,Physical destruction,Weapons

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSikyQcmukI&start=1416&end=1590

Bed Check Charlie

An enemy plane was nicknamed "Bed Check Charlie" by The Stars and Stripes newspaper which was provided for every US soldier. In the newspaper, it threatened that "Bed Check Charlie" would come at night and killed one of the men from his squadron by dropping grenades and mortar shells. Leonard Laconia remembered that many of the enemy planes maneuvered well through the night sky, so soldiers were afraid of them.

Tags: Pyungyang,Chinese,Fear,Front lines,Living conditions,North Koreans,Personal Loss,Physical destruction,Weapons

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSikyQcmukI&start=1615&end=1736

Armistice Signed, But Fighting Continued

Leonard Laconia mentioned how bad the fighting was from 1950 through 1951, but when talk of armistice was being discussed in 1951, no one wanted to take a chance of dying. Therefore, none of the soldiers showed interest in the armistice. After the Armistice was signed in 1953, territory along the DMZ had many battles that continued to secure and occupy any land.

Tags: 1953 Armistice 7/27,Panmunjeom,Chinese,Front lines,North Koreans,Physical destruction

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSikyQcmukI&start=2192&end=2268

Video Transcript

00:00:00          [Beginning of Recorded Material]

Leonard Laconia:         My name is Leonard L Laconia. I was born in Shenandoah, Virginia. It’s a small town in Page County, Virginia. I attended school there. After high school I went into the same school my whole life and when I finished high school, it was hard. Employment, it was after World War II and the veterans had all the jobs.

 

00:30:00

 

So the people I played football with in high school, we decided we would join the marines. They had a buddy system, if you join the marines, you would stay with the same division. But we had a couple that couldn’t pass. We had one with a crooked arm, so we decided none of us would go, if we could all go together.

 

Male Voice:    You were very close to each other.

 

01:00:00

 

Leonard Laconia:         So we went back home. We knew an army recruiter, so we went to see him and the people that couldn’t make it with the marines said they wouldn’t go, if the marines won’t take us, the army won’t take us. So it was just a couple of us then and we joined the army. Well he had his army quota full, so we went and joined the air force. He handled both, he recruited both.

 

01:30:00

 

I was born January the 10th, 1931.

Male Voice:     And when did you graduate from High School?

 

Leonard Laconia:         It was in ‘48, June ‘48.

Male Voice:    June ‘48.

 

Leonard Laconia:         And we looked for jobs and things for a couple of months and we went into the service.

Male Voice:     Right, and do you remember when you joined the air force? The date, approximately what month or year?

 

02:00:00

 

Leonard Laconia:         I think it was October ’48, I think. I can’t remember the date. I stayed with them over 20 years so it’s a long time. My memory is not good.

 

Male Voice:    Where did you go to receive your basic training?

 

Leonard Laconia:         Lackland air force base, San Antonio, Texas. Typical, it was the army style basic training back then. And then I went from there to Fort Warren, Wyoming

02:30:00

for tech school. Then I went to air material command at Patterson air force base. Then I went from there Fort Myers naval quarters base in DC. What we did we were screening records, officer’s records, for derogatory information. They had a reduction enforce, they were reducing the force of the then. We made a

03:00:00

list of anyone who had derogatory information and they were eliminated, you know taken out of the air force. Of course a couple years later the war in Korea started and they recalled those guys back again so, then when I got back to Right Patterson, I had orders for Japan. I went to Japan in early ’49 I guess it was they had had the army of occupation there.

03:30:00

I was stationed in Kyushu down at a base called Itazuki and that’s down south on Kyushu. And of course we were there until the war started in Korea.

Male Voice:     Let’s go back to your personal aspect. What are the ethnic origins of that last name.

 

04:00:00

 

Leonard Laconia:         Well I have a brother that does the genealogy. The best he can determine is he found we were Huguenots living in France.

Male Voice:     What?

 

Leonard Laconia:         Huguenots. And the Huguenots they were beheading the Huguenots, eliminate, and they migrated to Ireland. They got out of France. I mean a lot of Huguenots had already been eliminated. And the name, the spelling, is entirely different now.

 

04:30:00

 

I don’t know it’s all screwed. He’s done genealogy and the way it was spelled in France is a little bit different than.

 

MV:     Tell me about your life and what did you do after nine hours of work daily.

 

LL:       We mostly did a lot of drinking at the cabarets. That’s about all we did. We did some traveling, beach parties. See down in Kyushu, the weather is nice and you can have nice warm weather so we lived

 

05:00:00

 

pretty good. It wasn’t bad at all.

 

MV:     And did you receive any specific training, targeting Korea?

 

LL:       You mean before we got to Korea?

 

MV:     Yeah, before. While you were in Kyushu.

 

LL:       I’ll tell you, that was the problem. With the army and the air force, you had hardly any training. We didn’t do any drills or hardly ever. We had what was called a tact eval, tactical evaluations. Our unit used to come out first. And then the 36thwould come out 2nd.

 

05:30:00

 

And then the next squadron, the 80th, they never made it. So when the war started, we were the first, the 35th, the 36th, and the 80thdidn’t have to go because they weren’t combat ready.

 

MV:     You were spoiled right?

 

LL:       Yeah, so that’s what you get. Yeah.

 

MV:     So nothing special training, but easy life?

 

06:00:00

 

LL:       Yeah, easy life.

 

MV:     How much were you paid there in Japan?

 

LL:       I think our pay then was $60 a month.

 

MV:     And you spent most of it?

 

LL:       Yeah because you got 360 yen for an American dollar.

 

MV:     Pretty good deal right? Did you like the raw fish?

 

LL:       Yeah, yeah, I liked the food, I liked everything about it. I liked everything about it.

 

06:30:00

 

 

MV:     So, had you ever been in Korea?

 

LL:       No, no.

 

MV:     Never been in Korea?

 

LL:       I had never been until the war started.

 

MV:     But I mean after the war started, what happened to you?

 

LL:       Well we went to Korea and

 

MV:     When was that?

 

LL:       Well, we went over and helped the embassy people, took them out on the 27thof June.

 

07:00:00

 

Got the American embassy people.

 

MV:     In Japan?

 

LL:       Got them out of Seoul.

 

MV:     Did you leave for Korea? Do you remember?

 

LL:       Well we flew out on the 27thof June to Korea. It only took a matter of hours. The North Korean were just on the outskirts of Seoul in a couple of days. I think it only took them 3, 4 days to take Seoul. All the

 

07:30:00

 

embassy people were being evacuated and we took the Americans and put them on C54s and took them to Kichikawa, it’s a base in Japan. And I guess from there they went home. I don’t know where they went. And the other embassies and the other civilians, they put them on buses and took them to Incheon. They left by ship.

 

8:00:00

 

MV:     So both [inaudible] that operation?

 

LL:       We secured it to make sure they got out. We had, there were three C54s we were using, but a yacht came over and strafed one of them. And I don’t know if it completely disabled it or not, but one engine was smoking. They had nobody on board, they were just waiting. We had three and loaded two of them, I don’t know what happened to the other one.

 

8:30:00

 

MV:     Was that a dangerous mission?

 

LL:       Well it could have been. But we didn’t stay long. Well they got one yack, one yack was shot down. It was you know strafing at 54s, but they didn’t do much damage, just hit that one, that one 54. They didn’t get the ones that had people. You know we had already loaded.

 

MV:     So after you took them to Japan

 

9:00:00

 

did you come back to Korea?

 

LL:       No. We went back to our unit and then we went to, they took our whole unit up to Tawiki, it’s an air drone, it’s on the north coast of Kyushu. And we had a couple of weeks there of combat training. Supposedly combat training and then we went back to Korea as a, but we couldn’t take our airplanes because there were no strips that would support our aircraft. And at that time we had F80s

 

9:30:00

 

we’d switch from F51s to F80s and then we found

 

MV:     F51s to F80s?

 

LL:       Yeah, they had sent the, this was before the war started, we had converted F80s. And the F51s that we had, they had sent them to the United States and most of them were given to the West Virginia National Guard and then when the war started

 

10:00:00

 

we found that the F80 couldn’t stay over the target long enough because they had to fly all the way over from Japan. From Kyushu where we were at they had to fly all the way to our targets and they couldn’t stay, by the time they flew all the way from Itazuki to our targets around Taygue, they could only stay a couple of minutes. But they eventually months later converted back

 

10:30:00

 

to F51s. We had the F51s back, I don’t know if it was the same 51s or not but the 51s we had sent back to the states.

 

MV:     Those had more fuel?

 

LL:       Yeah they could stay a lot longer. They could stay a long time. They didn’t burn fuel like a jet did.

 

MV:     What was your specialty in the air force?

 

LL:       Well I was a clerk when I started out, but they didn’t need clerks or MPs. If you were a cook, clerk, or an MP, they didn’t need ya.

 

11:00:00

 

They had a system or they claim, I was just too young, I don’t remember a lot of it, but they claim this forward controller system, they used it in World War II.

 

MV:     Forward controller, what is that?

 

LL:       You get a controller and a controller is usually a pilot and they had to be [inaudible].and they spent

 

11:30:00

 

they could pull a 30 day tour as a controller on a line and they’d give you a jeep and a radio and usually a driver or operator mechanic and one man for security. And you take your jeep and you and go up on the line on the front when the army has a problem or you spot something, sometimes airplanes will come back and they’ll spot some convoy on the road or something and they give you the coordinates and we’ll call in an airstrike on them.

 

12:00:00

 

And then of course a lot of times the infantry they get hit right there on the line and we would call airstrike and give them the coordinates and they could come and that was your air cover, the best air cover you could get.

 

MV:     So that was dangerous mission.

 

LL:       Well, it wasn’t really too bad until the Chinese came. They evidently, I don’t know, I wasn’t in the know

 

12:30:00

 

I think they had radio locators and the North Koreans didn’t have. And the minute we got on the radio. Well sometimes the North Koreans did too, they would fire a lot of mortar or RPG, but they didn’t have too much of that. But the Chinese didn’t have too much high big artillery, they had mostly mortars.

 

13:00:00

 

MV:     When did you go back to Korea after you helped the US people withdraw from Korea? When was the second time you…

 

LL:       I’m just trying to remember that for out of the blue. We went over and got the embassy people, we went for a couple of weeks or maybe a month, training up at Suweki combat training. Then we went up back around Taygoo.

13:30:00

 

MV:     Around August 1950?

 

LL:       Yeah it was close to the Incheon landing. Because it must have been in Taygoo. It must have been around the last of August or the first of September, in that area or someplace. I’m sorry that I can’t…

 

MV:     But it was 1950, from early September…

 

LL:       Yeah, yeah.

 

MV:     Then you had a mission as a forward controller?

 

LL:       Right. Well I kept that job until,

 

14:00:00

 

let’s see, about November of ‘50. We were, we got up as far as Pyeongyang. Our whole unit, moved a lot, but my fighter squadron, to Pyeongyang, Pyeongyang had two airports.

 

14:30:00

 

They had one over that looked like the west side of town and one on the northeast side. We went to K23, K23 was along the right. I don’t know who went or what was on the other side of town, I just wasn’t high enough ranked to know all this stuff.

 

MV:     But you were always in the Jeep, going around, calling for air strikes and so on, right?

 

15:00:00

 

LL:       Yeah we had a Jeep and a radio Jeep, it was about four of us altogether.

 

MV:     Pretend that it is in Korea right now and you find a Chinese soldier and you call in to a pilot and ask him for a strike. Do [inaudible] then? Pretend that this is the real.

 

LL:       Well I had nothing to do with the calling. We were the security. The man that did this was our pilot. We had a pilot with us. He was the controller.

 

MV:     You had a pilot in the Jeep?

 

15:30:00

 

LL:       He was the controller. All he did was give the coordinates of the target. Then the fighters would do the rest of it. They were coming.

 

MV:     You were kind of a security there.

 

LL:       Yeah because we were usually surrounded, we were right on the line. Sometimes you have to move fast. We figured they had radio locators, as soon as we made in a radio call, we’d have to move.

 

16:00:00

 

MV:     So what happened around the region of Pyeongyang. What did you do and what happened to you?

LL:      Well we moved from sites, I don’t know all the sites we were at. From some site between Seoul and Pyeongyang. We moved to site 23.

 

MV:    What is that? Where is that?

 

LL:      That’s at Pyeongyang.

 

16:30:00

 

Pyeongyang had two airports at one time and one of them was 24 and one was 23. 24 was on the other side of town. We went to the 23 and it got pretty bad. This was when the Chinese were… One day they told us there were 30,000 Chinese on the line in front of us and then the next day they told us there were 40,000 and now I think we found out there were 380,000.

 

17:00:00

 

All together the Chinese, there were…

 

MV:    [Inaudible] the Chinese were crossing the Yellow River…

LL:      Well they knew it, but I don’t about the intelligence, they didn’t know how many. They were pretty good by concealing that, but they didn’t bring any heavy equipment with them. Hardly any artillery or tanks or anything.

 

MV:    So didn’t see it as a military?

 

LL:      No they didn’t. We didn’t know it anyways. So after moving

 

17:30:00

 

all that gear. When you move a squadron, tons of engine parts, and ammunition, fuel, and all that stuff, we moved it up three days later we had to go back because the Chinese just come right at us. We were so close that our sorties were only 15 minutes long.

 

MV:    What does that mean?

 

18:00:00

 

LL:      Well a sortie is a mission, and an airplane would come and land, and we’d rearm it, put bombs on and fix it up, refuel it, and he’d take off, and 15 minutes later he’d come back, I mean the Chinese were right at the end of the run way. So we left there in three days, we had to pack up everything, we moved back and well we kept moving back after that for a while and

 

18:30:00

 

I don’t know what part of November, we were back at Seoul city airport. No Kiempo, they have another airport. We went to the Seoul city airport and the Chinese were following us. They went back as fast as we did. So we had to move again. We had lost so much equipment and everything

 

19:00:00

 

that they had to evacuate us and take us back to Japan.

 

MV:    When?

 

LL:      It must have been the end of November or the first of December of ’50. We went back to our regular old base…

 

MV:    Why [inaudible]

 

LL:      Well the Chinese were chasing us out. Everything they took the strips we were using up north and they just were running us right out.

 

19:30:00

 

MV:    So the air force has to move out in order to not be effected by the Chinese right?

 

LL:      They just overrun the airports, the strips we were on. The army was just, they figured we were outnumbered 7 to 1 so we had to, we didn’t do very well. We went to Japan, and we were going to

 

20:00:00

 

going to regroup, get new airplanes and they would get in the new equipment and were going to reequip, and we had a unit, from California, the 452ndbomb group, they were called up and sent to Japan, but they weren’t up to combat strength, they didn’t have enough people. So they took people out of my unit, and I was one of them. And they assigned us to the 452ndso I went back to Korea

 

20:30:00

 

with them. They had B26s.

 

MV:    When was that? ’51?

 

LL:      Yeah it was ’51. I don’t know the exact date, but because I stayed with them until I had my points in and I left Korea in November ’51. I went home, but…

 

21:00:00

 

MV:    You said that was B51?

 

LL:      Well the new unit, the 452ndhad B26s. A light bomber. Two engines. It was a light bomber. I met some people in that outfit that had been with in Japan, because they had to pick regulars out to bring that unit back up to strength. Each unit has a

 

21:30:00

 

combat strength. You have to be up to a certain number of people and I was one of them. One guy I knew in Japan as a master sergeant. And I met him one day walking up the strip and he had been he was a captain then, he was wearing captain bars, and he had said he had been riffed after World War II and he was recalled and put in the 452nd. He was a pilot. So that’s one of the people I knew

 

22:00:00

 

you meet people that you know. But I was with them and it was getting cold weather again and it was pretty cold.

 

MV:    When you went back to Korea in 1951 with the B26 unit, what was your mission?

 

LL:      I did about the same. An observer or controller. Mostly observer with them. You can fly as an observer. Mostly to notify the

 

22:30:00

 

crew if you see any fighters. But the migs never came very far south.

 

MV:    You said that you thought you did a wonderful job so that you take out enemies. Do you remember anything like that?

 

LL:      I don’t know.

 

23:00:00

 

MV:    I mean you were at the right place and you were right to just communicate with the air force so that they would scope out some of the Chinese or do you remember anything like that?

 

LL:      I know we killed a lot of Chinese, because when the Chinese first came in, we would call strafing missions, and we’d strafe them. But they were pretty smart, they would all fall down on the ground and you wouldn’t get too many. So we started and got Napalm. And when we got Napalm that was

 

23:30:00

 

when we did a good job then.

 

MV:    How destructive was Napalm?

 

LL:      Oh it’s bad. About one canister will cover about the same area as a football field.

 

MV:    Wow.

 

LL:      It will just hit and it just spreads. And we were close enough you could feel the heat from the Napalm. And if you get too close, you don’t have to be right in it, but if you get too close it burns the Oxygen out of the air.

 

24:00:00

 

You can’t breathe, you don’t. I guess it will knock you out or kill ya, I don’t know. You don’t have to be right in the, but the Chinese the wore in the winter big heavy quilted uniform and that stuff would just stick to them and it was pretty bad. But it worked.

 

MV:    Did you see Chinese people burning?

 

LL:      Yeah, yeah.

 

MV:    Did you see the burned bodies?

 

LL:      Yeah we had binoculars we carried some 750 binoculars

 

24:30:00

 

because we called airstrikes. You need them, binoculars mainly for bombing bunkers and stuff like that. I didn’t get any pictures of that

 

MV:    Did we drop so many Napalm?

 

LL:      Oh yeah we used Napalm, once we got it, we used a lot of it.

 

MV:    What was the other kinds of bombs did the air force use?

 

25:00:00

 

LL:      Well we used a rocket, armored piercing rocket on the tanks. Napalm will stick to tanks too. They used different series of rockets. Of course we used the 50 caliber machine guns on the airplanes. We used 500 lb bombs. We used everything.

 

25:30:00

 

Everything we had, that don’t necessarily mean you can stop them. You just can’t stop them sometimes.

 

MV:    How was enemy air force? Were they?

 

LL:      We didn’t have to worry. The migs wouldn’t have to come down too far. They would usually take off from Manchuria and they wouldn’t come because they were like our F80s, they’d burn their fuel too fast.

 

26:00:00

 

We had the B29s that were going up and flying down the yellow river, bombing the bridges, but that didn’t stop the Chinese. They didn’t need the bridges evidently. I don’t know if they swam the river or what they did, but they didn’t need the bridges. And I got a guy who lives on my street. He was a B29 and

 

26:30:00

 

I told him and what he did didn’t stop the Chinese at all. The migs wouldn’t come down and bother you. Early in the war, the yack 9 and it was similar to a F51, prop driven. They would come around, but we’d knock them down. They were easy to knock down.

 

MV:    So we actually dominated the air right?

 

LL:      Yeah. We never had too much of a problem with that. Now we had one

 

27:00:00

 

guy, they’d call him Bed Check Charlie, but we called him something else. He would come at night. He’d kill one of our guys at night. We were…

 

MV:    Friendly fire?

 

LL:      With bomb. Well he’d fly, it was a light air craft, sometimes a bi-wing, and he would drop grenades, mortar shells…

 

MV:    You mean the enemy?

 

LL:      Yeah, yeah. I don’t know if he was North Korean or Chinese.

 

27:30:00

 

MV:    You called him what?

 

LL:      They called him Bed Check Charlie. In the paper, in Stars and Stripes, it was our paper over there. We called him something else. A little profane. But he’d come at night and he’d just as quiet, we’d have, some unit would be the night cover. The marines night cover and we had a night fighter outfit the 68 was our night cover and whoever was on duty that night, no one ever got him, he would come in real slow quiet, I don’t think they ever shot

 

28:00:00

 

one down. And they would come in. He came in one night. And I don’t know he damaged how many of our airplanes on the strip and killed that one guy we had. It was just harassment, you never knew when he was coming down. We were standing in a Russian barracks in North Korea, Russia occupied North Korea

 

28:30:00

 

when we occupied South Korea. They build a big stone barracks. It was a nice barracks. We stayed in that when we’d go there. He came in on one night and dropped something pretty good sized bomb right in and hit the building, real close to where I was sleeping. But nobody ever shot him down. I don’t know what he did or how he got by.

 

29:00:00

 

He was a… we had a lot of harassment like that.

 

MV:    When was the happiest moment in your service?

 

LL:      Happiest? When I got word we were coming home.

 

MV:    Were you writing back to your family?

 

29:30:00

 

LL:      Well that was another thing. It was pretty rough to do too. We didn’t have for some reason any stationary. We’d use any paper we could find. And you didn’t need a stamp, all you had to do was put free on the pad and say… but we wrote whenever we got a chance. The problem was the mail getting to you, coming back. Because we’d move around so much and we all had an army post number, we got mail but not really. Not like the ones in the Middle East right now.

 

30:00:00

They get on the computer, talk and see each other every night, we had none of that.

 

MV:    Did you ever have an opportunity to work with the Korean force? To work with a Korean officer?

 

LL:      No, but they were with our unit a lot.

 

MV:    How about foreign air force? Australia? British?

 

LL:      Yeah we had Australia and the British

 

30:30:00

 

but we never dealt with them. I guess they had their own controllers I guess. I don’t know I’m not sure. But I was with a British, we were with the British tank regiment, tank company one time. We were with them for about a week. They had the biggest tank, they had a mark force centurion tank and I don’t know how well they made out. But we were with them, we gave them

 

31:00:00

 

air cover. I was with a Turkish group for a while.

 

MV:    How was Turkish soldier?

 

LL:      Yeah they were good. They were good. We had to take and pull a tour at the United Reception Center. I forgot now where it was at. But we had to pull maybe a two week tour. As these countries would send troops in

 

31:30:00

 

a lot of them didn’t have the correct uniforms or equipment and they would come to the United Nations Reception Center and we’d give them helmets and American gear. They would go up on the line and be assigned units on the line. But when I worked there we had Filipinos come through there.  Colombians

 

32:00:00

we had another outfit come through there, but I forgot.

 

MV:    [Inaudible]

 

LL:      I don’t remember, but could have been. We had about three units come through there.

 

MV:    So when you departed from Korea, Korea was almost devastated right?

 

32:30:00

 

LL:      Oh it was, terrible, terrible. All the way up to Pyeongyang, I don’t know the rest of it. I didn’t get up to Incheon or Chosan, but the rest of it and Seoul was just… well I was there like I said, two days or a day after the war and it was pretty good shape. But the North Koreans were already just on the North side of town and I don’t know

 

33:00:00

 

I took my wife back there to have a revisit program, but the place had changed so much. I couldn’t, it’s probably one of the nicest countries… I stayed in the military for 20 years and stayed all over, all over Europe and everything, it’s one of the nicest there is now. I’ll tell you, I got some good pictures.

 

MV:    What do you think about your service

 

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retrospectively. What you did there and how Korea is, what do you think about that?

 

LL:      It’s a pretty good investment really. It cost a lot. Compare it with a lot of people go over there now, they don’t know what it was like before, but if you could see it back in ’50 and look at it today, it’s something. I took my son back in 2010.

 

34:00:00

 

They take you on a different tour each time you go. So I got back down and see Suewan and I saw the northern part up and around where they take you to the DMZ all the time. My wife and I got to see mostly the eastern part and the upper part by the DMZ. I took my son back up, it was the year we had the reenactment of the Incheon landing.

 

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and I got good pictures of that. That was really good. I think the Korean navy was involved in that and they gave us a big dinner, outside dinner, but that place is really one of the nicest I’ve been and I’ve been to a lot of countries.

 

MV:    Any comments you want to leave at the end of this interview?

 

35:00:00

 

LL:      No, just glad for the opportunity to be here. I went so many years, I stayed in service. Over 20 years but we never discussed it in there. Nobody ever… you don’t want to tell another GI a war story or he don’t want to hear it.

 

MV:    Why is that you didn’t want to tell about it?

 

LL:      I don’t know, there’s so many, shortly after I left Korea they had the Vietnam War and then they started the Middle East War,

 

35:30:00

 

so they don’t discuss it too much in the service I found out. Then I retired and I came in and they formed this Korean War Veterans and we didn’t form our chapter until what, 4 to 5 years ago. So yeah it brings some memories back but we never gave it a thought until recent, the last couple of years.

 

36:00:00

 

MV:    So now what are you feeling after you instituted your local chapter and talk about this and thinking back and…

 

LL:      Well it was a good experience really. I probably would have missed it I guess. I know a lot of guys in our chapter, they never saw any action during the war. They were there, but they never saw any. They were there later.

 

36:30:00

 

I figure if you were there after 1951, from ’50 to the end of 1951, it was bad. And they were talking about an armistice when I was there, before I left. They started talking about that back in ’51 and after that in ’51 no one wanted to take a chance. The Chinese or the North Koreans didn’t want to take a chance

 

37:00:00

 

because they were talking about an armistice in the background. No one showed an interest in it really. They thought, why go out there and get killed and they eventually did sign an armistice. So things really slacked off. But up until the end of ’51 it was pretty bad.

 

MV:    Well at the end of the war there was a singular battle to secure more land

 

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and territories…

 

LL:      Yeah right on the DMZ. Where the DMZ is today, that’s what they were wanting to do because whatever land you occupied at the time of the armistice that was it. They did put in some pretty good battles, but I don’t really think that was necessary.

 

MV:    Do you have any messages to younger generations about your service and war in general?

 

38:00:00

 

LL:      Well I’m definitely not for war. Definitely not. The service was good, being in the service was good, but the reason you are there is for war, but that’s pretty bad. And I think the country’s having their fair share of it, we’ve had one war after another. I was due to go to Vietnam.

 

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I applied for ROTC duty. I didn’t do it intentionally, but once the war started, well this is ideal. Why go to Vietnam. And I went through a four year tour of Case Western Reserve in Cleveland. I worked with an ROTC unit

 

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until I retired.

 

MV:    You are not in ROTC, but work with the ROTC?

 

LL:      Yeah, active duty people train the ROTC. They train at the different colleges.

 

MV:    Leonard thank you so much for your service for the Korean nation. I want to present this certificate of ambassador for peace, which is made by the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs

 

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from the Republic of Korea.

 

LL:      Oh is that it?

 

MV:    Yeah

 

LL:      Leonard Laconia

 

MV:    Thank you very much for your service. And this is the metal also made by the same ministries and association. And again we thank you as a Korean nation.

 

LL:      Well thank you for having me.

 

MV:    Thank you for the interview too.