Korean War Legacy Project

Luther Dappen

Bio

Luther Dappen was born on a small farm in South Dakota.  He went to grammar school in a “farm school house” and graduated from High School in Gregory, South Dakota.  Mr. Dappen, coming from a family of veterans, joined the Army in 1949 and served for one year before being deployed to Korea in November of 1950.  While in Korea Mr. Dappen served in a Reconnaissance Company with the 25th Infantry Division as a Mortarman.  After returning from Korea he used his GI Bill to further his education and became a teacher.

Clips

Impressions of Korea

Luther Dappen describes receiving his orders and his journey to Korea by way of Japan. He describes traveling by train across the country to Seattle but being told to get off at Tacoma so he could get to Ft. Lewis. From there he traveled to Yokohama by ship, hearing reports of MacArthur saying his troops would be home by Christmas and the Chinese invasion.

Tags: Basic training,Chinese

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTmL63YJzgI&start=126&end=266

Impressions of Korea and Withdrawal from Seoul

Luther Dappen describes his arrival in Korea and his transfer north from Inchon. He describes his unit's experiences during the withdrawal before Seoul was taken over by the Chinese. He recalls seeing not only the troops retreating but also lines of civilians carrying everything they could carry away from their homes. He goes on to explain that his company was the last to cross the bridge at the Han river, leaving them with the responsibility to blow the bridge up in order to slow the Chinese' progress.

Tags: 1951 January 4 Withdrawal, 12/31-1/7,Incheon,Pyungyang,Seoul,Chinese,Civilians

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTmL63YJzgI&start=331&end=535

The Eyes and Ears of the Division

Luther Dappen describes the work of Reconnaissance. He explains that many times he was given the task of "going out to see what they're shooting at you with today." He goes on to describe his unit accidentally stumbling upon a unit of Chinese troops who were lying in wait and having to take them in as prisoners.

Tags: Chinese,Front lines

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTmL63YJzgI&start=710&end=790

Video Transcript

0:00
well my name is Luther happen and i was
0:03
born in south dakota a little actually
0:06
out on the farm in south dakota and with
0:10
the gray school in the country school
0:13
and high school in gregory south dakota
0:17
and then i joined the army and you asked
0:23
about the family yes I I come from a
0:26
family of four other brothers and two of
0:32
my older brothers were in the service so
0:34
I guess that’s why I joined the army
0:36
what were you doing at the time that
0:38
Korean local call um I had been in the
0:43
Army for a one year and then they
0:46
released me through the reserves and
0:49
when the korean war broke out i was with
0:53
my family at home my dad I was helping
0:57
him farm I had two older brothers that
1:00
were in the service and well here we go
1:04
again I guess so you or nothing afraid
1:08
of anything like that I wasn’t
1:09
especially afraid oh yeah you have to
1:14
get a little bit uptight but that’s the
1:17
way it was I guess have you heard about
1:19
Korea before you actually we’re headed
1:23
to Korea now we’re talking about 60 some
1:29
years ago so I don’t remember what I
1:35
knew about Korea before the korean war
1:37
broke out i I just really don’t know did
1:40
you learn anything about cria from the
1:42
class I’m probably in in history the
1:48
probably well during them the old books
1:53
you have in history well they didn’t
1:56
even get into world war two yeah and so
1:59
I I knew about Japan and I can’t
2:03
remember if I knew much about Korea my
2:06
orders read the report to Fort Lewis
2:07
Washington and I got on a train
2:10
and headed across country and landed and
2:13
I think I am I think I made the ticket
2:19
to Seattle Washington and then when I
2:23
got on the train do you’re going to Fort
2:26
Lewis you better get off at Tacoma so I
2:28
got off it took Coleman and I think
2:32
there was a bus there waiting for a few
2:36
of us there how many were in the train
2:38
the soldiers who were headed to ah and
2:45
what kind of my eye I can’t remember if
2:48
they’re with anybody but they must have
2:50
been some more because I know when we
2:51
got there we got on a bus and we went
2:57
out to Fort Lewis and so did you guys
3:03
talk about you’re headed for Korea to
3:06
fight in the world yes we knew what was
3:08
happening and then you see we they set
3:10
up a kind of a I believe it was a
3:14
seven-day refresher course basically
3:18
kind of like a refresher of the basic
3:23
training back in Arkansas and we got on
3:26
the boat it was some time before the
3:32
Chinese come in because we were
3:36
listening to news on the ship and they
3:41
said the Hokey MacArthur made the big
3:43
talk about I’ll have my troops home for
3:47
Christmas and that’s what we actually
3:50
hurts yeah that was the news on the ship
3:54
over there and so it was also on the
3:58
trip about that time the Chinese entered
4:02
so that’s that what that was that the
4:05
sailing time now when we say of we sail
4:08
for Yokohama in Japan and we were there
4:11
in Yokohama for three days and I don’t
4:14
know if it was the same ship or another
4:18
that in three days later we got on the
4:21
ship again
4:22
and we sail for Incheon so probably have
4:28
been between September and october that
4:31
you left you don’t remember the exact
4:33
date that you left I think I think the
4:40
Chinese come in the last part of
4:44
November so it had been close to
4:45
November close to November but actually
4:49
the Chinese sold across the Yalu River
4:51
and hide it out there in the middle of
4:54
October so but yeah you will fit you
4:58
you’re talking about official sort of a
5:01
recognition of Chinese soldier crossing
5:03
yellow and being Korean Peninsula around
5:06
November right yeah okay can you
5:09
describe about three days in Yokohama
5:11
what did you do we didn’t get a pass to
5:16
go downtown I remember that and I
5:18
remember it was raining in I took off
5:23
across the courtyard got in the water
5:27
about that deep hahahaha we were issued
5:32
live ammunition on the ship and we went
5:36
overboard on these rope ladders into
5:39
what they call these some landing boats
5:42
and so I didn’t know what expected i got
5:45
i had my lion I had my live ammunition
5:48
so what well whatever will be will be so
5:51
we got into Incheon and this stuff they
5:56
call it a rep whoa depot I don’t know
5:58
where they got that type of a name that
5:59
it just looked like the end of the world
6:02
there was empty barrels of fuel and then
6:06
I guess they’d be calling off our names
6:09
ok you’re going here you’re going there
6:11
that it’s kind of a wonder anybody got
6:14
to where they were supposed to and and
6:21
anyway I was then assigned to the 25th
6:25
division i was in new constant company
6:27
so you get on that train and and ok we
6:31
got on the train and my first night duty
6:35
i was on guard
6:36
I was guarding on the train the C
6:39
rations because if you didn’t have a
6:42
guard there that my rations would
6:44
disappear so you took the train from
6:49
each an intern to where um somewheres up
6:52
north up around pong yang Yong Yong pong
6:58
yang comes to mind I don’t know exactly
7:00
where so you directly shipped from each
7:03
other yeah they’d heard the scream right
7:05
I don’t think ever spent the same night
7:11
the same place ever we were always on
7:13
the move oh really so please tell me
7:16
about it walking into okay we got way up
7:19
north there and well we had that that
7:25
retreat and one of the things that I can
7:28
kind of remember not only where we
7:30
retreating the civilians they had their
7:34
a-frames on probably everything they own
7:37
and just whines of them just heading
7:39
south and and so we had this orderly
7:44
retreat and about Christmas time of
7:49
nineteen fifty we were coming through
7:54
Seoul Korea and there were three army
8:01
divisions that pull through at that time
8:05
there was only one bridge across that
8:06
Han River and we were the last company
8:09
and we blew the bridge yep our company
8:13
did you did your company did it yes that
8:16
was a reconnaissance company of the 25th
8:18
Infantry Division what did you use TNT
8:22
or we we were you and ro I tell you what
8:27
I wasn’t in the group that put the
8:32
dynamite there but it was our company
8:35
and we were the last company across that
8:37
bridge tried to slow the Chinese down a
8:39
little bit how about other people the
8:42
civilians will they already danced on
8:45
the Seoul Korea
8:50
evacuating there was nobody so there
8:52
were no civilians I didn’t see any lumps
8:55
and I remember the p50 ones coming down
9:01
the street with on their strafing runs
9:04
they open up about right straight over
9:06
top of our heads and down the street and
9:12
I had a revisit to created in the year
9:17
two thousand and one of when I saw Korea
9:21
in two thousand I said those p-51s
9:24
wouldn’t be able to get down through the
9:26
streets and their strength in shops now
9:29
but ok let’s go back to nineteen fifty
9:32
we we I had in the 25th division in the
9:42
reconnaissance company there was a
9:45
followed by the name of David heck with
9:49
it was in our company and he wrote this
9:51
book about faith and he tells about how
9:54
well when we come through soul there
9:57
about Christmas time in 1950 Howie his
10:01
squad was his they set up in the bank
10:05
and he said that he ordered a bazooka to
10:10
blow the safe open and and there was
10:12
some worthless though Korean money and
10:14
he says well I take all you want but my
10:18
spot at that particular time was in the
10:23
jewelry store next door and there was a
10:28
safe there but we couldn’t get into it I
10:30
was in the motor squad of the
10:32
reconnaissance company and a typical day
10:37
we that that first couple months we we
10:41
were in retreat like I said we’d ever
10:44
stayed in the same place twice in the
10:48
night we went in we finally got some
10:54
more support and we started advancing
10:55
and I’m not sure exactly the dates and
11:01
so forth but we we got up
11:03
to pop where the Lions are right now on
11:06
the DMV and and then we stopped we’re
11:11
waiting for that doubt that the
11:15
armistice come along about two years
11:19
later it was just kind of a stalemate
11:22
there right so you were around the dmz
11:26
or the 38th parallel as a period of
11:29
stalemate right yeah that dan have you
11:33
ever faced real enemy North Korea have
11:37
you ever seen those have ever shot at
11:39
one yeah well a lot of the motor work
11:43
with then I although we had them being a
11:51
reconnaissance company that means we’ve
11:54
kind of the eyes and ears for the
11:56
division well in a lot of a lot of our
12:00
assignments was well one or two go up
12:04
and see what they’re shooting at you
12:05
with you today and I remember one time
12:08
we moved up to see what was going on and
12:11
we SAT there probably we were kind of in
12:14
the open field I thought and we were
12:19
sitting there for about an hour and
12:21
finally one of our tutor one of our
12:23
soldiers just about stepped on a Chinese
12:24
soldier he jumped up with his hands up
12:27
and when he jumped up then there was
12:29
about a dozen more we’ve been there an
12:31
hour or so and we had no idea we were
12:36
surprised me so what happened to him
12:39
what have what happened to us those well
12:41
we took them back to their to our MP
12:45
unit and they shipped him back to
12:47
wherever they’re holding prisoners but
12:50
you know they also the both sides had
12:54
these propaganda Leafs but it was no
12:57
it’d be a a Chinese soldier or North
13:00
Korea with that give up slipper Here I
13:03
am and so I I know one time we had a
13:06
prisoner we just kind of kept for a
13:08
couple days he is a good worker for us
13:10
they had the point system to be rotated
13:14
but
13:16
and I left it was there they said okay
13:20
I’m who’s been in the company the
13:25
longest okay you get to go home so I I
13:27
got to go home it might come up the same
13:30
time my iron are come up so I got
13:32
cheated out of R&R oh but well you know
13:40
like that whole 3rd platoon that was
13:42
about a third of our company was
13:43
captured during in Seoul and a few other
13:47
casualties it didn’t take all that long
13:51
before I was the oldest member Blair so
13:55
I got I got to go home can you describe
13:59
the scenery of creo in your ride oh I
14:02
think I mentioned earlier when we hit
14:05
that rippled Apple there an inch on man
14:08
I I thought this is the end of the world
14:11
I never saw anything so gloomy gloomy
14:15
and well I don’t know it’s probably
14:18
cloudy and cold and yes and they were
14:24
oil barrels strung all over and people
14:28
trying to get on a train to go north and
14:31
south or wherever they were heading we
14:35
were alongside the the Turkish troops
14:39
for a while and they were they were
14:45
pretty brutal they had them lined up an
14:48
L sergeant to come up and he knocked
14:51
this one soldier down he got up and
14:53
stood up there and he knocked him down a
14:55
second time and he got back up and he
14:59
had gotten down a third time did he
15:02
would that belt the kind of discipline
15:05
the turks turks used Americans didn’t
15:08
have that kind of discipline no I didn’t
15:10
night and everything a check you never
15:11
seen it oh so must be a shock to you
15:16
also there was a period that we were
15:23
assigned to the
15:25
British soldiers and we draw their we
15:29
drew their reparations you know there’s
15:35
many of the Korean War veterans that
15:38
mentions that they never had a parade or
15:42
a welcome home but well when i got there
15:46
in sydney in 1951 they had the band and
15:52
us so girls down there and i was one of
15:57
the last ones off so i was up on top of
15:59
the ship looking down at the first
16:02
folger board and he grabbed that UF o–
16:07
gal and I midst my buddy good thing I
16:11
wasn’t the first one off because I
16:12
wouldn’t know what to do wow that’s nice
16:17
because many of the criminal veterans
16:19
that I have interviewed they said there
16:21
was nothing arranged for them uh-huh
16:24
that was very true was reaction from
16:27
your family did you go to drink what
16:32
happened well they they give us our
16:39
service and DD 214 and give us some some
16:49
mustering out money I think that’s about
16:51
400 bucks and I got on the train and
16:55
headed home Oh what happened did you
16:58
receive the celery do while you were in
17:01
Korea yep what did you do with that
17:04
money there wasn’t actually the cash
17:07
dollars and that was in they had that
17:12
the script what your call yeah what they
17:15
do with it I don’t think there’s enough
17:17
to really worry about it but I didn’t
17:19
have anything to spend it on either I
17:22
don’t know you could find a poker game
17:24
once and while i probably lost some up
17:26
in a poker game have you had ever send
17:29
it back to your family I never wanted me
17:32
so I don’t know I didn’t know
17:34
the only money i had when i went home
17:36
with my mustering out money that’s it
17:39
yep so you you spent all the money there
17:41
yeah I didn’t I didn’t didn’t have any
17:44
extra money the GI Bill come out and no
17:48
I said I think I’ll just take my money
17:50
and I’ll go to college go to school so I
17:54
went to northern state university up in
17:59
Aberdeen South Dakota and spent four
18:03
years there and come out in education
18:06
education yes Ani I was a teacher and
18:12
then in the summers and don’t have
18:16
school so I continued my education I got
18:20
a master’s degree from the University of
18:22
Wyoming in counseling for a while when I
18:25
first got back home you know was really
18:28
really different is it you know on the
18:31
year that i spent over there like in the
18:34
evenings and everything that we always
18:36
had we always had somebody on guard I
18:39
mean that feeling it you have to see
18:43
curious them but you’re back home and
18:47
get the thing and it was before hey I
18:51
don’t have to do that but how do you let
18:53
Allah breath but that might admit that
18:57
it might consider as a post traumatic
19:01
stress I know that’s the most mildest
19:03
form of stress right yeah you look T hmm
19:09
you said that you went back to Korea it
19:11
by 2010-11 I went map 2000 even and then
19:16
to I went back twice and in 2010 um I’m
19:21
proud to be a Korean War veteran I guess
19:24
that that’s that’s my feeling would you
19:30
be willing to shake hands with the North
19:32
Koreans or Chinese soldiers if you know
19:35
how hard I wonder about the Chinese you
19:42
know right now
19:43
were in fairly good standing with the
19:48
Chinese but the North Koreans they don’t
19:52
really want to behave do they what if it
19:56
if it is a range then somebody come out
19:58
which are you willing to shake hands
20:01
with them oh sure yeah I would you know
20:05
next year will be a sixth years
20:07
anniversary of armistice yeah then we’re
20:10
going to celebrate that in Washington
20:12
I’ll be there yeah and have you heard
20:16
any war lasted 60 years after the
20:18
official ceasefire in 20th century human
20:21
history Heth got a wire by wire is it
20:25
yeah there are still a lot of problems
20:29
in the DMZ and in North Korean side but
20:32
would you be willing to sign the
20:35
petition if there is a 12 and the
20:39
armistice and replace it with the peace
20:42
treaty I would I be a willing to sign it
20:47
yeah yeah yes I think that’s what should
20:50
happen and hope that the North Koreans
20:53
meaneth in n divided by it we did we did
20:57
keep the North Koreans from taking over
21:01
the South Korean people you you wonder
21:08
what if the United Nations wouldn’t have
21:12
agreed to do that I wonder I wonder what
21:17
Korea would look like now you wonder so
21:24
was your message so the message would be
21:28
what would it be now you know the
21:33
biggest mistake was when they decided to
21:37
after World War two when you know Korea
21:42
was under the domination of Japan but
21:45
then so we defeated Japan but they they
21:49
allowed Russia to have the North Korea
21:53
and so the Russian
21:55
they armed and equipped North Korean and
21:59
then they said sikkim and then they
22:01
disappeared that’s what I that’s why I
22:05
saw it yeah I made a real point there
22:09
the American government overestimated
22:13
the capacity of Japanese soldier in on
22:16
Manchu area London you know and so that
22:21
they had to invite the Russians to
22:23
occupy North Korea who will reduce the
22:25
damage and casualties of American
22:27
soldier but it wasn’t necessary no I
22:30
prefer create any message to two young
22:36
generation the young generation study
22:40
your history