Melvin Colberg was educated in a one-room schoolhouse in Freeport, Illinois, and he was later drafted into the Army in 1966, serving in Korea from 1967 to 1968. His experience is unique in that he saw Korea over a decade later following the Korean War, and he recounts his impressions of Korea in the 1960s. He offers a brief account of his life as part of the 83rd Ordinance Battalion, specializing in ammunition and serving as the northernmost depot in Korea, and details some of the weaponry used at that time. Melvin Colberg also acknowledges the transfer of knowledge that took place in many forms from American soldiers to the South Korean people as they worked together over the years. He feels that South Korea is a true success story, and he is proud of his service.
One-Room Schoolhouse Education
Melvin Colberg recounts his educational experience in a one-room schoolhouse growing up in Illinois. He shares that learning and even teaching on some days were cooperative efforts between students and the teacher. He expresses that the experience allowed students exposure to an environment conducive to learning how to get along with others and learning how to adapt in preparation for the real-world setting beyond the classroom.
Impressions of Korea in the 1960s
Melvin Colberg recalls his impressions of Korea in the 1960s during his service, a perspective which centers on the years between the war-ravaged Korea of the 1950s and today's modern Korea. He recounts that infrastructure was still in the development stage as there were many dirt roads at the time and few factories present. No large farming equipment as water buffalo were mainly used in the agricultural setting along with a few rototillers here and there. Most people were still poor, living in one-room houses heated through the floor, and many civilians still wore traditional Korean clothing.
American Weaponry and Transfer of Knowledge Contributions
Melvin Colberg offers an account of his life as part of the 83rd Ordinance Battalion in Gimpo, South Korea, which was responsible for special ammunition and served as the northernmost depot. He summarizes the weaponry at the time and Melvin Colberg assisted in the testing and maintenance of the weaponry. There was a transfer of knowledge from American soldiers to the South Korean civilians in many forms and he agrees that these contributions should be highlighted.
South Korea: A Success Story
Melvin Colberg shares his views on the relationship between Korean War veterans and defense veterans along with the legacy of the Korean War. The outcome of the Korean War is a success story for both the South Koreans as well as the Americans. South Korea has changed so much, for the better, since he left, and he acknowledges that it is a shame that this success story is not taught in schools today.
[Beginning of Recorded Material]
My name is Melvin, M-E-L-V-I-N, Colberg, C-O-L-B-E-R-G.
What is your birthday?
M: 12 December 1942.
I: 12/12 19?
I: And where were you born?
M: Right here in Freeport, Illinois.
I: So, you see your home town?
I: Tell me about your family and your siblings when you growing up here.
M: I had two brothers and two sisters. We lived on a farm, two or three farms around here. Started to school in a one room school.
I: One room school?
M: One room school.
I: Even, you born in 1942, so is more like a 10 year younger than average Korean War veterans.
M: Well, I served in Korea in 1967 and ’68.
I: Right. But I not talking about that. You born 1942 and
there was still one room school?
I: Tell me about it.
M: Well, there were all eight grades.
I: All 8thgrade?
M: All eight grades.
I: No, I mean, from one to eight, right?
M: One to eight.
I: One to eight.
M: One teacher. And there was no bathroom facilities inside, it was a outdoor toilet. And water was carried in from the well, no water inside. And it was heated by a stove in winter time
M: It was couple grades had nobody in them, some grades had four or five in them. And we, we got along good for the difference of ages between six and fourteen.
I: How is it possible for one teacher to teach one to eighth grade?
M: Well, I think that the, the older kids helped teach the younger kids. And the
younger kids heard what the older kids were learning, so it was kind of a toss back and forth, so that everybody got to know what they needed to know, but it was a coo-, coo-, cooperative effort between the older kids and the teacher to teach the younger ones.
I: So, do you have a message for our kids right now who are in the school that cannot be comparable to that of your school that you went and all those environment. What would you say to
our kids now?
M: They’re missing out on a whole lot of learning to get along with everybody.
M: Because, you get along with older people, and younger people. It’s not like the kids now, you have one class, one age group, and it kind of limits your sociological . . . learning, I guess.
I: They are
their environment is too good, right to believe, right?
M: Well, I don’t know if it’s to good to believe, but it limits them. Makes it harder for them to adapt when they get out on their own.
I: That’s very good point, very good point.
M: So-social status has changed in this county from when, when I was growing up, neighbors were very important. You worked together, you played together, you went to school together, you went to church together.
Not that everyone was the same religion, but everybody got along well. Today it’s very hard for people in a group to get along well in this country.
I: I really appreciate that point. I think that’s something that our kids need to learn and, and understand how important it is to how it is to, to live with neighbors together in very, you know.
M: And to count on your neighbors.
I: Exactly. Yes. So, you
graduate that and then what happened? When did you graduate your high school?
M: 1960. From Freeport High School.
I: And then, what did you do?
M: I went to college for about a year and, then-
I: What college?
M: Northern Illinois University.
I: Ahh. What did you study?
M: I was studying pre-engineering then.
I: Did you finish the whole thing?
I: What happened?
M: Oh, I’d had difficulties in sc-, in college,
so, I dropped out there.
M: Came back to Freeport, went to work for Microswitch as an engineering technician,
M: and worked there for about four years and then I was drafted into the Army.
I: When did you, when were you drafted?
I: And did you know that you were going to be drafted?
M: Pretty much.
I: Because of the Vietnam War?
I: Let me ask this question.
When you born 1942, and when you were growing up, there were Korean War.
I: Other than that, did you know anything about Korea?
M: No. Only thing I knew is I had an uncle that was stationed there at the end of World War II. He was stationed there in 1945 and 1946. But he never talked about it.
I: Mmm. He never talk about it. You never ask
about it? So, you didn’t know much about Korea?
M: He was a medic and was sent there at end of World War II when the American troops went to Korea.
I: Yeah. When Korea was liberated from Japanese Colonial control, they occupied for three years
I: and then withdraw.
I: So, your uncle was part of that occupation.
- That’s correct.
I: And you were in Northern Illinois University even though your major was in engineering but still you are very, h-
you got higher education and you didn’t learn anything about Korea in the university either?
I: No. So, when you were drafted, where did you get basic military training?
M: Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
I: Fort Campbell. And how was it? Did you like it?
M: I can’t say I disliked it but it was, it was different than what I was used to.
M: Again, it’s getting along, learning to get along with people that you don’t know. But-
I: But you already trained in the one room school?
M: Right. And we had all kinds of people in my enlisted company and Fort Campbell was the home of the Screaming Eagles, the 101stAirborne Division.
M: 101stParatroops and they were always trying to get us to
volunteer to join the 101st,
M: and they almost had me talked into it. One day, we were watching them jump out of helicopters and I saw a man jump and his chute didn’t open.
M: And, that talked me out of it right there.
I: Yeah, that’s my fear, always. When I look at those jumpers, what if, what if, what if that passion, I cannot stop.
M: That’s right.
I: Because it’s just one,
M: Um hmm.
I: Oh boy. So, what happened to you?
M: Well, after I was done with basic, then I was sent to the U.S. Army Missile and Munitions Center and School at Red Stone Arsenal.
I: Missile and what?
M: Munitions school.
I: What is that?
M: They teach the people how to deal with ammunition and rockets and I went through their course on land combat missiles. And came out with an MOS
of 27C, which was land combat missile repairman. And, in October of ’67, I was told I was going to Korea to receive, help receive the first shipment of red eye missiles coming into Korea.
I: Red eye missile.
M: Um hmm.
I: And tell me about your MOS a little bit more. You can repair the missile?
M: Well, it was more that we were in charge of testing and inspection. So, it was, it was a lot of electronics involved with these missiles.
M: And every time they were moved, they had to retest it to make sure that the movement hadn’t messed up the electronics. So, we did a lot of work, this testing to make sure they were still useable and making sure the stock pile was useable.
I: So, you look into
each missile and see if it’s working?
M: Put it on a test set.
I: Test, with a test set. And so is quite simple, you just put the test set and just link it and see if it’s working.
M: Go through a sequence of operations to make sure it was still operational.
I: Mm-hmm. Tell me about red eye missile. What is, what was, what is it like it? What is the, what’s new?
M: Well, at that time, it was the first shoulder fired anti-aircraft
M: that the Army had and this was the first shipment to Korea at that time. There was three of us sent over there. We did not, we were not in the same units.
I: So, it is to shoot down the-
I: enemy aircraft.
I: In 1967, so, at the time it was F5A, right, most of it. F86, F5A.
M: Well, the F86
was gone from Korea then. When I was there, there was not fighters at all when I first got there.
M: Then, when the attack on the presidential palace took place and Pueblo was taken, then they brought fighter aircraft in from Okinawa.
M: I felt so sorry for those guys because it was in the winter. Okinawa has-
M: a summer-
M: all year round, and they came with short sleeve shirts, no parkas.
No cold weather gear. And they’re out on the fight lines, the mechanics, the pilots, the security people. With short sleeve shirts and trying to survive out there, doing their job. And, it was tough for them.
I: So, let’s talk about when did you leave for Korea, from where?
M: I went from Red Stone Arsenal at Alabama
M: to. Fort Lewis, Washington.
From Fort Lewis we flew to Anchor-
I: You flew?
M: Yeah, to Anchorage, Alaska for refuel. Then to Japan. And then up to Korea.
I: Where did you land?
M: In S-, in Korea?
I: Uh huh.
M: At Kimpo Air Base.
I: Kimpo. So, your position, your experience is unique, okay? Mostly I’ve been interviewing Korean War Veterans and what they
saw was the Korea in 1950.
I: Which was pretty much demolished, so poor, miserable. Now, you went there in 1967 or, when did you arrive in Kimpo?
M: October 1967.
I: And that’s more like 14, 15 years after the war and there has been
some change already made. Tell me about this because you can tell us and teachers and students that will listen about the Korea in between 1950, current and you are talking about middle one. You have a unique perspective and memories about the Korea between those. What did you see?
M: There were not a lot of paved roads. We were, if you know where Yongsan is,
we were north of Yongsan in a small village, (Seoksu Dong)-
I: I was, I’m in Yongsan.
I: Yep. Itaewon.
M: Okay. MSR1 ran past-
I: What is MSR?
M: Main supply route.
M: It was a paved road a two lane highway, blacktop. There was a railroad running along there. When you go, looked at agriculture there then, they were still using the water buffalo
to plow. You ha-, some people had rototillers, rototillers, but there was no large farm equipment. People still lived in small one room houses. They still heated with, the, the little fireplace or furnace at one end and the heat went through the floor and then out through the chimney.
I: That’s actually very scientific and
healthy way to, to warm.
M: I remember, close to Yongsan, there was the Korean Hollywood, where they made movies.
M: There were not a lot of factories, at least in the area where I was at. And once you got off the main supply route, you were either on dirt roads, or maybe gravel, but no paved roads whatsoever. Most of the people were still pretty poor,
that I saw. Most of them or a lot of them still wore the old Korean garb clothing. You didn’t see much of the Korean military where I was, even though there were large storage facilities of artillery projectiles and stuff. I was in a special ammunition unit and had our own storage area back in the mountains.
We did our thing. Didn’t get out in amongst the public a whole lot. When, when I first got there, our commanding officer was very liberal. If we got our work done by Thursday, we could have Friday, Saturday and Sunday off. And then he left, he got promoted, and a new man and he believed that a busy GI was a, a happy GI, so we worked seven days a week.
M: So, we didn’t get out much. And then the attack came on the president palace and Pueblo was taken.
I: 1968? 9?
I: ’68. Yeah.
M: And that tightened things up very much. We weren’t allowed to go anywhere then for quite a while. We were restricted to our barracks pretty much.
I: Let me ask this question. Have you been back to Korea since then?
I: No. Do you know what happening now?
I: What’s Korea now?
M: Um hmm.
I: So, how can you put this
- I mean, you know what, what happened in the war, right? Not, you didn’t see it in your eyes, but you know. You were in the 19, the late 1960s and you know current Korea. How do you put that into perspective? What do you think about that?
M: Well, it’s changed a whole lot. Korea has flourished. They are one of the major suppliers in world of, of cars, a lot of other things. I have a friend
who is still working for the Army. I worked for the Army 32 years after I got out of the Army. And his specialty is Korea, and we meet twice a year yet, and talk about it ’cause he was stationed over there and he is the explosive safety expert for the stockpile of ammunition in Europe, or I’m sorry, in Korea.
I: What’s his name.
M: Greg Helis.
I: And still in Korea?
M: No, he works out of, um
United States. He works for the Defense Ammunition Center and he’s a logistic management specialist
M: And his specialty is storage of ammunition. And he’s an expert at it.
I: And what he’s talking about Korea?
M: Well, he spent a year there as a surveillance inspector in the, probably the 1980s, came back to the States, switched career programs, went to work as a
explosives safety person. And, has been doing this kind of work worldwide ever since. And, like I say, he likes Korea and he specializes their needs, the military’s needs over there. And as the military shifts from being front line, in other words on the DMZ, this, the U.S. military, back to being a reserve unit, I guess I would say, as the ROK Army took over
the DMZ responsibilities, they have had to shift their ammunition storage areas. And right now, they’re going through a shift as they give up some of their camps and moving back further south, they’re having to move their ammunition stocks with them. And, they’re, they’re going into built up neighborhoods, so they have to do some creative storage ideas for the ammunition.
I: So, what was your rank when you arrived in Kimpo, in October?
M: I was a private first class.
I: PFC? And, but you have such skill, very specific skill to test the missile, right? So, you must be treated very well.
M: They didn’t know what to do with me. [laughs]
I: [laughs] What do you mean?
I: But you was, you were sent to do that job, but you, they didn’t know?
M: They knew, but this was something new. The unit I was assigned to was special ammunition, and
that was basically nuclear. And, they didn’t know what to do with a person that wasn’t nuclear oriented. So, I did a lot of things while I was there.
I: Mmm. So, there was a nuclear weapon, right?
M: At that time.
I: Yeah, in 1967.
I: They actually deployed in 1957 and they, I think withdraw, 1991.
M: Um hum.
I: So, tell me about your life there. Where were, did you stay in Kimpo, or did you go to Osan or any other air base?
M: I went to the 83rdOrthos Battalion.
I: I’m could you slow down?
M: Ordinance Battalion.
I: What is that?
I: Ordinance. Of? Eighth Army?
M: Eighth Army.
I: Mm-hmm. And where was it?
M: That was in that little village, (Seoksu Dong).
I: (Seoksu Dong).
And, what this Ordinance Battalion does, do?
M: They were responsible for the ammuni-, special ammunition in Korea for the northern most depot.
I: What kind of special ammunition did we have at the time?
M: Well, we had the Honest John, they had the-
I: The Missile.
I: That was for the air-, airplane, right? That was-
M: No, that
was ground launched.
I: Oh, okay. Earth to air?
M: No, that was ground launched ar-artillery to this, the same as the regular conventional artillery, only-
I: Got it.
M: it was rocket launched rather than fired from a tube.
I: And what else?
M: They had the hot missile system.
I: Uh huh.
M: They had the artillery rounds, 8 inch. And they were responsible for the storage and maintenance of all those rounds in Korea.
I: So, what did you do there?
M: I worked mainly at what they call the rocket
motor section. We worked on Hawks, Honest Johns, Red Eyes, that type of stuff.
I: Ss-specially, what did you do with that, for example Red Eye missile? What did you do?
M: They were mainly just tested. The Hawks we actually rebuilt missiles if they got dropped or something, we would rebuild them. The Honest Johns were issued to the Korean, the South Korean Army. They didn’t have the war heads, but they had the rockets and they had trainers and we
rebuilt the trainers for them.
I: So, that’s the part that I am very, very interested in. The Korean War Veteran they fought during the war. U.S. forces in Korea, it wasn’t war. I mean, technically, we were at the war, there was a second wave of the war in the 1960s, but wasn’t real war.
M: Well, it was to a point.
I: Yeah. But my point is that many of what
you did as a U.S. forces in Korea actually transferred the knowledge in many different way. Transferred the technog-, knowledge in many different forms. For example, you know the U.S. military presence there actually give Korean people about scientific management system, organizational system, classification, everything that U.S. had at the time, is strange to the Korean people and they learn from it.
M: Uh huh.
I: So, to me, the contribution made by the U.S. in Korea is tremendous but it is not visible as the war. That’s why I think we need to tell more about this things and illuminate it again so that we can see real contribution made by the U.S. in Korea. It’s not just military, it’s a culture, it’s a, it’s a philosophic, philosophical kind of notions, and economy. Tremendous.
You guys spent a lot of money in Korea, right?
I: And, and you trained those Korean soldiers so that they can learn about how to, how to repair this, how to test it, and, so tell me about that part, specifically. What kind of training program, what did you actually do to teach them and how did they perceive it? I mean, are they good? Think about those detail, please, as much as possible.
M: Well, because most of the stuff we worked on
was classified, the Korean military was not involved in that very much.
I But, you told me you were teaching them, training them.
M: No, no, we weren’t training them. We were on the conventional side. Now the battalion that I was in, and the special ammunition company, which I was in, it had a conventional ammunition company and it had a transportation company and physical security.
M: Now the conventional company had a separate facility and they repaired and, that’s wha-, demil-, demilitarized everything like that. They used Korean personnel there and taught them how to do the, the repairs, the demil work, et cetera.
I: Repair what?
M: Right. In other words, if you had to change the fuses or configure
it some way, they did that in their own facility.
I: Who taught them?
M: American GIs.
I: Right. See?
M: Okay, and also, we used a lot of Korean civilians in administrative jobs.
M: They ran the PX. They was Korean secretaries in the offices. The m-motor pools, were, a lot of their
personnel were Korean. In fact, I learned a lot from an old Korean papasan there about battery repair that I never would have learned anywhere else.
I: Tell me about it.
M: We had what we called motor stables, every week. And all of our vehicles had to be started. You had to check the oil, check the water, start the motor, et cet-, check the tires. And, one of the problems with U.S. motor vehicles is they use a 24 volt system.
M: And if you don’t have the battery clamps on tight, and you go to start it, you’ll melt the battery post right off.
M: And, usually that means you throw the battery away. This old papasan came up with a method, I’m not sure exactly what it was, but he could put new posts on those batteries that was just as good as brand new.
M: And he showed me how to do it. And, we would ev-, after every weekend, there was GIs who would
forget to tighten those battery clamps and they’d go to start the motor up and melt the p-, the battery posts. And th-, we spent three or four days putting new battery posts on those batteries. And that was his, since I didn’t have a security clearance when I first got there, that was my job, was to help him. And, he taught me more than I taught him.
I: [laughs] So, there was a technology transfer from Korea to you.
I: Hmm. What, tell me about specifically what was, what
you were able to do transfer the knowledge about your missile technology to Korea.
M: There really wasn’t any when I was there.
I: No? Nothing?
M: I’m not saying there couldn’t have been. I think maybe their Honest John part could have been taught to the Koreans, but it wasn’t. At, at that time, the policy was to maintain the knowledge on the U.S. side.
M: Even thought the South Koreans did have the, the rockets themselves.
As far as the other stuff, it was pretty close holed.
M: The knowledge.
I: How was life there in Korea at the time that you were there? How was life? Where you sleep? What did you eat? Did you go out? Learn Korean people culture? How much were you paid? Things like that.
M: Well, if I remember right,
I got out into the Korean culture somewhat, because I took Tae Kwon Do. And, there was a Korean Tae Kwan Do instructor there, Mr. Pak.
M: And, he would take us to the, what would I call it, whenever they would have t heir-
M: Competitions. He would take us to the competitions.
M: And we would see, we had certain, we had some of the guys that were
in the competitions, and, then we would take us out on a Korean-
M: restaurant and we would have Korean food.
I: What is your favorite Korean food? Do you like?
M: Some yes, some no. [laughs]
I: [laughs] What are nos?
M: I don’t really remember, as, as to what they were. I, I didn’t, only got out about two or three times.
I: That’s it?
M: Mm-hmm. Which, ’cause that, we were restricted and weren’t allowed off post for quite a while during the Pueblo incident.
I: Were you married at the time?
I: So, you were you with your family?
M: Family was not allowed-
I: PFC not allowed. [laughs]
M: No, no. No. We stayed, we had the old quonset huts barracks and if you want to see what it looks like, get on the internet and look up 83rdOrdinance Battalion and there’s a website, and there’s was man there at that time, and you can see exactly what our
unit looked like, as far as facilities, and there’s some narrative with it. So, if you want to see what it looked like, that’s a good place to look. A lot of photographs.
M: And, some information of that time frame. It was a different, learning to live differently. We had house boys, which we weren’t used to, they used to do a lot of the, what I call the
clean up and make the bunks, and et cetera. The meals were so-so.
I: What do you mean? You had the American food, right?
M: [nods] But it wasn’t the greatest. We had no fresh milk. We had no fresh eggs.
I: At the time either?
M: No. Powdered milk, powdered eggs. Once a month, one thing that most of the
troops hated, is there were old c-rations left over from the Korean War?
M: And they had to get rid of them. Once a month the cooks would have c-ration stew, which means they put everything in a big pot-
I: [laughs] Right.
M: and mixed it up and then served it over biscuits, or something like that. And that’s the days most the people ate in the snack bar.
I: Okay. Raman, right?
I: Do you like Raman? Instant noodle?
M: No. Yea, they’re okay, yeah.
M: I know this, Mr. Helis I talked about, he loves ’em.
M: But, I never got used to them.
I: How much were you paid?
M: Oh, I think I got about $70 a month.
I: You kidding me?
I: Korean War Veterans, they were paid about $100. And you were paid less?
M: Well, part of it went to my wife.
I: So total, how much?
M: Oh, it was about $120 total.
That, that’s a PFC. It went up to $160 when I made Spec 4.
I: $120 PFC. And, how much did you send to your wife?
M: Oh, I kept about, I think I started out with about $60, about half of it went to her.
I: And, with that money, what, I mean, they provide you everything, right?
M: Yes. Um hmm.
I: So, wha-, what were you doing with that
M: Well, I bought things to send back home and we had, we could go out into the village, you know, once in a while.
I: So, with $100, what was possible to be purchased in, in the United States, $100 at the time? Give some sense to the students that what could $100, could buy?
M: Well, gasoline back here then was probably 25 cents a gallon.
M: Now it’s $2 and
25 cents a gallon. . . . Food was a whole lot cheaper. Hamburgers were a quarter, 25 cents. Pop was 10 cents, Coca-cola.
I: So, with $60, this could have been big for
M: Um hmm.
I: Very nice. Were you able to look around the Korean Pennisula?
M: Not too much.
I: Not too much.
M: When I first got there, I could have gone out some and didn’t know where to go. And when to so that I could kinda figured out what was going on, that’s when they restricted us and couldn’t do much traveling.
I: Was Korea was your,
was Korea your primary destination? I mean, there were, must have been other choices,
M: Oh, yeah
I: like Germany, and other, other parts right?
M: Oh, Vietnam was a big one then.
I: Okay, so you, you got out of there right?
I: Thank God.
M: Yeah. Germany, Alaska, Japan, Okinawa were the big places to go to. I preferred Germany and
Alaska, one because my wife’s parents came from Germany.
M: So, we thought we could go over there and find some relation and et cetera, but didn’t get to go.
M: So, it was somewhat of a disappointment. But I, I, I was not as disappointed when I got there, because I, I learned a lot.
I: What? Tell me.
M: Well, it’s a different culture. It’s,
it’s, the world is not all the same.
M: At that time, a lot of the Koreans were really struggling. They had, well they were still had, they were still sort of like fighting with the North, not actively, but, it, there were, you know, sporadic incidents. I, s-, put Korea back in probably the 1950s at that time,
M: as compared to us in the United States.
The police officers, I marveled at the old Korean, what I would call state police
M: because they had the old Harley Davidson motorcycles. And the leather jackets and the white helmets and a M3 submachine gun across their chest, and you saw them around. The average Korean policeman wore a black uniform, carried a M1 carbine. I remember once,
we were setting out one night to go do attack assist site, and we got done about 3:00 in the morning. And as, at that time, there was a curfew from midnight ’til 6:00.
I: Yep, yep.
M: Nobody was supposed to be on the road.
M: Well, the warrant officer decided, well we’re going to start back. And we started back, and we come to this checkpoint and they had pulled their barricades off to the side and they were interrogating a
Korean truck driver who had left too early.
M: And I drove through the checkpoint without stopping. And, the warrant officer told me, he said when you come to the next checkpoint, you stop. You make sure you stop. And sure enough, they had telephoned ahead from this checkpoint to the next one
M: and said there was somebody coming and they didn’t stop to be check out and when we got there, the, the policemen were there with their car beams aiming at us.
M: So, we made sure we stopped got
checked out and then they waved us on after they saw who we were. But, it was kind of a scary incident.
I: So, when you say to me that it wasn’t completely off of the war in 1960s in Korea, what it, what were you wanting to talk about that?
M: Well you saw large storers, store, storage areas of ammunition. You’d see huge fields full of artillery projectiles.
And, you would see one or two sentries, and at night every once in a while, you would hear a sentry open up with his rifle. He would see somebody or something, he would challenge, and then his orders were to shoot. So, you would hear firing, which is very unusual for an American to hear firing in a situation like that.
I: Where? Where was it? You, still you are talking about (Seoksu Dong):
I: So, you stayed there from the beginning to the
end of your service?
I: And then they are still firing there?
I: In (Seoksu Dong) in 1960s?
M: Mm-hmm. At, at the storage sites. We were at (Seoksu Dong) but our storage area was about three or four miles back into the mountains to the eas-, to the west?
M: And in between there were some of these storage sites.
M: And Korean, South Korean sentries at the storage sites.
I: Sentry means soldiers? What?
I: Yeah. And?
M: And they had orders, as we understood, that if anybody was out after the curfew, they were to be challenged and if they didn’t come forward and be recognized, they were to shoot. Because the, the supposition was that they were an enemy s-soldier.
M: Because there were infiltrators at the, at, all during that time.
I: Yeah, yeah. North Korean spies and infiltrators. Anything you wrote there, down there, that you want to share with us? Wha-, what, what did you
M: Oh, this is just a little history of my service.
I: Anything that you didn’t talk so far?
M: Well, can I talk a little bit about after my service?
M: After I got out of the-
I: So, let’s wrap this up. Yeah, when did you leave Korea?
M: April 1968.
I: And, what was your kind of emotion when you le-, leaving there?
the reason I had left at that time was my father-in-law had passed away.
M: And I had come back for the funeral.
I: I see.
M: And, it was kind of a rush to get out of there, because the telegrams telling me about his illness and death got mixed up and the death, the telegram about his passing away got there before the telegram that said he was sick. So, that kind of got things mixed up so it was kind of a trying to get things straightened out time, just to get
out of there, and back in time for the funeral.
I: What was regular length of your service as a U.S. forces-
I: in Korea?
M: One year.
I: One year, right?
I: Yeah one year, but you left like six months.
I: And, when you left, did you think about the future of Korea, like this today?
M: Not at the time, no. But
after I got back, I went to work for the Army
M: as a civilian and ended up working a lot with Korea, as far as, oh I worked on ammunition and explosives. And a lot of the work we did was for the Korean government.
I: So, that’s the one that you want to talk, right? So, talk about it please, go ahead.
M: Okay, I, I started out working as a technical manuals writer at Savannah Army Depot. And we built specialized machinery
to work on ammunition, stuff you can’t buy off the counter elsewhere. And, some of that ended up going to Korea. I progressed up to being equipment specialist and then we worked a lot with making sure the equipment was working properly and stuff. We went overseas to train people in the different countries on how to use the equipment. Then I became an instructor at the ammunitions school, teaching ammunition managers,
interns on how to manage ammunition. Then I went to work for the Army’s technical center for explosive safety. And there, we did the site plan work for storage of ammunition all over the world, as far as the U.S. is concerned. And we did accident investigations and things like that. And, at the end of my career, we were doing explosives ordinance clean up. In other words, wherever U.S. troops had been and
used ordinance, we had to go back and clean up any ordinance that had been left there, whether it had been fired or just left. And we did that all over the world. I worked specifically with Panama, Great Britain. Other fellows and gals you worked with, what, where, in Korea. But, we also worked with the surveillance inspectors, if you’re familiar with them. That’s the civilian group that goes wherever the army goes and their
job is to inspect ammunition to make sure it is serviceable at all times. Worked closely with them.
I: So, there is a tremendous impact of your military service in Korea into your civilian life?
M: Mm-hmm. I learned a lot.
I: That’s very good. Very nice. Anything else?
M: No, I think that’s pretty well-
I: That’s, so, what do you think about, are you, are you the member of
Chapter 150 here?
I: Yes. What do you think about the relationship between Korean War Veterans and Korean Defense Veteran? You are the Korean Defense Veteran.
M: Right. I think the relationship is good. A lot of the Korean Defense Veterans have not joined their chapter because I don’t think they really know how they fit in.
M: And, we’re working right now to recruit more and more of those people because
to me, what happened in Korea was a success story for the Koreans and for the Americans.
M: It’s probably one of the few success stories that we both have shared.
M: And, I know were (Seoksu Dong) was, where our barracks were, is, is now a high rise building. But, I think it’s probably a apartment building. The country has changed so much since I left. And my friend, th-that I talked to you about, Greg Helis,
he goes back there usually once a year. And, he keeps me abreast of what’s going on over there. And so, I think Korea, like I said, is a real success story. South Korea. I wish the heck North Korea would become a success story too, but that’s, would be a tougher nut to crack.
I: But, as we don’t teach about this success story. It’s
a shame actually. As you mentioned, there has been many war that U.S. has involved after the World War II. Name any war that came up with such a success story.
M: There are none.
I: No, right?
I: It’s all mess. Iraq, Afghanistan, now ISIS and all other war. It’s a mess. This is the only successful story, and we don’t teach about this.
I: That’s why we are doing this. We are
making digital history contents that teachers can use in their history and social studies class activities. So, we are making those. Using yours, and your is very unique, right?
M: I don’t think it’s very unique, it’s just, it’s just another part of the p-puzzle.
I: It’s unique in that most of the interviews are Korean War Veterans, now you are Korean Defense Veteran. Actually, I was in Washington, D.C. for the events that actually celebrating
the launching of Korean Defense Veterans organization. General Sharp and others were there to, to just launch this organization. What do you think we have to do to, to entice more Korea Defense Veterans to join this either Korean War Veterans association or Korean Defense Veterans association?
M: I don’t think they should be separated.
M: I don’t think they, they should be one.
M: Because, if you look at the history, the Korean War Veterans were actually Korean Defense Veterans before that term was used. We were there to assist the Korean people in defending their country. We continue to do that.
M: We started in 1945 and we’re still doing it, although right now, we have minimal as far, number
of people there. But I don’t think it’s ever going to change.
I: That’s a ex, excellent point. I share that with you. I mean, but these people, especially the top people, wants to have their own organization and they want to separate from Korean War Veterans association. I don’t think that’s the right way to do it.
M: [nods] When I was in, I went in it was, in during the Vietnam war, and I’d been asked to join the
Vietnam War organization-
M: but I really don’t feel an association with that, as much as I do with the Koreans-
M: because I was over in Korea and I have more of an association with what happens there than I do with what happens in Vietnam.
M: And Vietnam was not a success story.
I: Nope. Absolutely not. So, that’s why we are doing this and I really thankful to have you here because you can talk to young children
about what happened and in between and your perspective is very important and especially the point that you talk about one room school. [laughs]
I: That’s a really good lesson that this young kids, our kids, need to, to know and learn. Any other story that you want to share with me today?
M: No, I don’t think so, I think that covers it pretty well.
I: Pretty well? Are you proud to be Korean Defense
M: I am.
I: Alright. Very nice talking to you and thank you for sharing your story. I will let you know when we finish the editing so that you can see it from internet.
I: Alright. Thank you.
M: Thank you.
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