Korean War Legacy Project

Mayo Kjellsen


Mayo Kjellsen was born in Arlington, South Dakota on July 10, 1929.  He enlisted in the military as a twenty year-old becasue he figured that he would be drafted anyway.  After enlisting in the US Marine Corps, Mayo Kjellsen attended basic training at Camp Pendleton before he was sent to Korea in 1952 during the Korean War as part of the 5th Marine Regiment.  Living conditions consisted of one month at the front lines in North Korea and then he was sent back to the bunkers that were filled with large rats.  As a radio operator, he carried a 45 pound battery pack while in combat as a Senior Radioman.  After earning two Purple Hearts for wounds from shrapnel and a blown-up bunker, Mayo Kjellsen spent 6 months rehabbing in Japan.  Even though he has not been able to revisit Korea, Mayo Kjellsen is very proud to have helped the South Korean people as a US Marine.

Video Clips

Enlisting in the US Marine Corps

Mayo Kjellsen enlisted when he was 20 years old because he figured that he would be drafted soon. That was the culture, so decided to join the US Marine Corps and he was sent to Camp Pendleton in California. Without any prior knowledge about Korea, Mayo Kjellsen was surprised to see a Korean woman openly nursing her baby right near Inchon.

Tags: Incheon,Basic training,Civilians,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Prior knowledge of Korea,South Koreans,Women

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C-Rations, Rats, and Radios, Oh, My!

Mayo Kjellsen ate lots of C-Rations while stationed in Korea. His job was to carry a 45 pound battery pack and communicate over the radio for his regiment. One night, on radio watch in his bunker, he started shooting at large rats running throughout the rafters and he scared his commander.

Tags: Gangneung,Fear,Food,Front lines,Living conditions,Poverty,Weapons

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Wounded in Korean War

Mayo Kjellsen was wounded twice during the Korean War. He was hit by shrapnel in his knee and the other shot blew him out of his bunker. After his second injury, he was sent to a hospital ship in the harbor and was taken to Japan for rehab. After 6 months of healing, Mayo Kjellsen was sent back to the US to finish his time in the military.

Tags: Gangneung,Fear,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,Letters,Living conditions,Personal Loss,Physical destruction,Weapons

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