Neal C. Taylor
Neal C. Taylor was born in Auburn, NY. Before enlisting in the Air Force, he worked in a grocery store. His military service lasted from September 1950 to September 1953. Before being sent to Korea, he was trained in Turret Maintenance for B-29 Aircraft as well as Radio Repair. Upon his arrival in Korea Neal C. Taylor was stationed in a K-9 Air Base near Busan and was assigned as an Armament Specialist for B-26 and B-25 Aircraft from October 1951 to February 1953. His duties entailed loading bombs and guns onto B-26 and B25 aircraft and maintaining the weapon systems aboard the aircraft. Upon returning to the United States after the Korean War, he went to Lockbourne Air Force Base in Columbus, OH where he performed armament inspections.
First Impressions of Korea
Neal Taylor never thought about Communism when he was sent to fight in the Korean War. He just went there to do a job. After he flew in, he noticed the lack of cars and technology. Sanitation conditions were deplorable.
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Living Conditions at K9 near Pusan
Neal Taylor lived on at the K9 Air Force Base located near Puasn. Luckily, he had a bed to sleep in each night and a place to store his supplies. During the night, huge animals would crawl into his footlocker. While stationed in Korea he had to eat stew for 35 days straight because of the "West Coast Strike."
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Defusing a 500-Pound Bomb on a Runway
Neal Taylor had to clear a bomb off the runway at K9 Air Base near Busan after it fell off a plane in the middle of the night. It was the middle of the night and when he realized that all the men that defuse the bombs were on R&R, he had to do it on his own. Using a manual and a few simple tools, Neal Taylor defused the bomb with help from his lieutenant.
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Under Enemy Sniper Fire
Neal Taylor survived being shot at by a North Korean sniper who fired down into the base from the hills. The sniper used a small gun at the beginning and many of the airmen didn't worry about the shots. Unfortunately, the sniper found a larger gun that started to tear up the cement, so the troops had to get rid of him!
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Return To Korea
Neal Taylor felt pride when he revisited Korea. There was also a feeling of "closure" when he returned because of all the progress created by the people of Korea. He noticed all the trees and tall buildings that were built around the country.
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Loading Bombs onto the Aircraft
Neal Taylor took pictures while he was stationed at the K9 Air Force Base. He loaded bombs on a plane with a mission to blow up a bridge. There was a loss of life and aircraft from that mission.
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[Beginning of recorded material]
N: Uh, my name is Neal Taylor, and I’m 80 years old.
I: It’s N E A L.
N: N E A L.
I: Taylor. Where do you live, Neal?
N: Live in Cayuga, NY.
I: Ok. And that’s in Cayuga County?
N: In Cayuga County.
I: Central New York?
N: Central New York, on one of the finger lakes.
N: Well, I think it’s a good idea to have this on film and have, uh, find out some of the facts that happened, and
I think that every war should have this done.
N: So you’re, you’re interested in it to, why, why are you interested? What, what, what do you
N: Well, I want to see younger people realize what happened then
I: I see.
N: Cause there’s so much lost in history that doesn’t get printed and shown.
I: So you want this for posterity.
I: you want this to be forever.
N: Um hm.
I: When your ashes are gone, and you want to still, still be around.
I: Okay. When, when did you enlist in the military, or were you drafted or, uh,
N: I enlisted in the Air Force on September 7, 1950.
I: And how old were you then?
N: Uh, 19.
I: So you were 19 when you enlisted?
N: Um hm.
I: Did you have a choice?
N: We had a choice in a way because the, a friend of ours was on the, uh, registration board for the draft, and she called and said you’re being drafted next week into the Army. Hint, hint.
So we went on, the five of us went over and enlisted in the Air Force.
I: So before you got drafted into the Army,
I: You enlisted into the Air Force.
N: Air Force, yeah.
I: Did you do it in downtown Auburn or Syracuse?
N: No, uh, Syracuse.
N: Um hm.
I: And, uh, so you enlisted in the Air Force on the suggestion not to get drafted into the Army.
N: In the Army, right.
I: Uh, what was your specialty in the Air Force?
N: Uh, my specialty was, uh, remote
control turret technician for B29s, bombers.
I: In plain English, what did you do?
N: Uh, we, uh, cor, uh, set up and inspected and maintained the, uh, [STAMMERS] actually, if you were to, I’m trying to explain this, um, when you, uh, the guns on a B29 were all sited in on these sites, on the site of the plane,
and that’s what we, I was trained to maintain and repair and work on. But you put that on the enemy plane, but your guns might be pointed off in another direction. They were corresponding to the, yours being there, [STAMMERS] and, enemy speed and, uh, temperature and everything that’s involved in the, what we worked on.
I: So you had to make sure they were sited in.
N: Um hm. Yeah.
I: So you had to make sure to, the way they were shooting was,
the bullets were going where you wanted them to go
N: Where you wanted them to go
I: And these guns were controlled by the speed of the plane?
N: By, the aircraft speed, the speed of the enemy’s plane, by temperature. Everything was taken in and all, it was computer operated.
I: There was computers at that time.
N: Well, it’s a, it, it, um not exactly a computer, but everything fed into this. Actually loved the computer because everything fed into it, and all the mechanism work and,
as I say, the guns would be pointed out here, and the planes over there you’re shooting at.
I: So it had to be coordinated.
N: So the bomb took about, yeah, all coordinated.
I: You did this on the plane while it was flying?
N: No. Uh, you did this on the ground, and they, but I never, I never worked at it. I went to school for it in Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, went back TDY to my station in
I: What’s a TDY?
N: Uh, Temporary Duty.
I: Uh huh.
N: Came back to, uh, uh, Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, went back working on, uh, the flight line on radio repair, and then I was notified to go to California to be shipped overseas.
I: And you became a radio person?
N: No. I ended up in Armament when I, on B26 and B25s that were left over from World War II.
I: Oh. So what you were trained for never, sort of related a little bit?
N: Never, I saw one that got shot up and landed at our base, a B29. I never saw one again.
I: Uh. So, so you still did similar things while you were there.
N: I was in the Armament group, yes.
I: And you made sure that those turrets are the same kind of turrets?
N: No. Entirely different. That was all, they all used like Kentucky windage. They, they had tracer bullets to see where the, where the
plane was, or where the bul, the guns were shooting. But I did do boar siting which was take the planes down to the end of the airfield, and you put a tube in the end of the gun and sited it on a target down range, you know, three four hundred yards or so and adjusted the guns to shoot out that way, yeah.
I: So was this typical of the Air Force or the Army or the military, to train you for one thing and say no, you’re gonna be doing something else?
N: I guess it wasn’t typical. I guess it’s where they needed you. They needed me as a replacement in K9 in Korea. I was the first relief in for the, um, Long beach National Guard was there. Some of these fellas had, uh, been called down to the air base so they thought for a weekend training, and they ended up in Korea. Some of them, their cards were still there, at the base, air base in California.
I: So you did you basic training in Florida?
N: Um hm. Yes. I had basic training. No. Basic training was in San Antonio, Lackland in Texas.
I: That was your boot camp.
N: Um hm.
I: But your technical training
N: Was at the Tyndall Air Force Base in
N: Panama City.
N: T, T Y N
I: Tyn is in southern Florida, northern Florida?
N: Uh, Panama City over in the Panhandle.
I: Okay. So southern Florida.
N: Um hm.
I: Is it still there? Is that
N: Yep, still there.
I: Still there. Um,
did you rotate around at all, uh?
N: Uh, not really. Went from there right to, from the Florida to California, to, um, Korea and came back and went to Lockbourne Air Force Base in Columbus, Ohio.
I: So did you, well-being in the Air Force, did you go from Florida to California by airplane or train?
N: Uh, trying to, I flew, I came home and then
flew out of Syracuse actually to San Francisco.
I: Okay, and then from San Francisco where did you go?
N: I got on the boat.
I: Oh, it was a boat this time.
N: On the ship, yeah. We got on a ship and, uh, 12 days crossing into Japan, to get to Japan.
I: And you landed in Japan and did something there?
N: We just, uh, we were there probably eight, ten days, and to be just waiting for orders to be, see where we were going.
I: You were probably glad to hit ground after that ship.
I: What was it like on the ship?
N: It was terrible and I, uh, I didn’t know that I had a bunk up, two off the floor until somebody up above me got seasick. Then I learned you can find a to, um, the top bunk you grab it.
I: [LAUGHS] You don’t want to be in the bottom in cases like that.
N: No. You get as high as you
I: It’s like the chickens in the chicken coops. Nobody wants to be at the bottom. You always want to get the top.
N: Yeah. And I moved up in a hurry.
I: You got the, the top bunk.
N: Uh huh.
I: You were already rained on with that stuff.
N: No. And, uh,
I: And it was a pretty rough, uh, [INAUDIBLE] into the Pacific and then
N: We went through, uh,
I: When did you leave? What month did you leave on the ship?
N: Uh, we left in October, I believe it was, in October
I: Um hm.
N: of ’51, and we went through a major storm. The piano, I was right beside the rec room. The piano was chained to the wall. The, it thrashed so hard that the piano
broke loose, went against the other wall, back and forth and smashed all to pieces.
I: It was up and down.
N: Well and, uh, so one day I decided I’d go up this, take a look and see what was going on outside. I went out, and I opened the door, and here was coming a wave about 15 feet high, and I closed the door, locked it, and back down I went.
I: Any stories you would like to share about your time before shipping out to Korea? Was there any family things? Was there any riots?
Was, uh, what was going on in America in, in your time, uh, in town? What, was there any stories you want to share before shipping out? Family things or anything?
N: No. Uh, I did luck out that one of the fellas I enlisted with was out there at the air base, and I looked him up, and he was driving cab at night. So I used to go ride with him a little bit in the cab just to kill time until, cause every day you got up and went out into the,
big field and waited to see if your name was called. If not, you had the rest of the day to yourself, and
I: What do you mean a field?
N: Well, it was a big, I don’t even know what you’d call it, big mustering field. They had the, all the racks up with the ropes on ‘em. So every day you climbed up and down the ropes in case you, uh, had to get of the ship into a landing barge or something. But, we never used, never had to.
I: Uh, how did your family feel
about you leaving to go to Korea?
N: They never said anything, um, about it. But I’m sure they were concerned, uh. They never, uh, they never expressed any feeling about it. Just take care of yourself and all that. But U think now I know how they must have felt because my grandson just spent two tours in Afghanistan, and I know how we felt about it and his father felt. So
I: They might have been worried, but they didn’t show it.
N: They didn’t show. Didn’t say anything.
I: Uh huh. Did they have a going away party for you?
N: No, no. They just went on our way.
I: Okay. So you went to the airport and
N: Said goodbye and
I: Did you come home after basic training and technical training and went home first because you’d be shipped out to California and get on the boat?
N: Uh, I came home, uh, from Florida for, I think, 10 days or something, and then
just went to Syracuse and got on the plane.
I: It took you to California.
I: How many men were on your ship that you left California on?
N: Oh. I don’t, I don’t know. There was probably, I’m gonna say, two or three thousand. It was a troop ship.
I: Oh my gosh.
N: The USS General Mann.
I: General Mann.
N: And the strange thing was when I came back from Korea I got into Japan, they put me on a ship
and I was walking up the gangplank, I looked USS General Mann. Came back on the same ship I went over on.
I: What a coincidence.
N: Uh huh. To go and come back.
N: Coming back, we had a lot of dependents on board and, uh, so there was children and wives and all kinds of military personnel on there coming back.
I: Also about civilians and
M: Um hm.
I: Okay. What, what did you think about going to fight in Korea? What’d you think when you
got on that ship?
N: Well, we were all young and gung-ho, you know, and, uh, we didn’t really think much about it. It was just something our duty. We wanted to go, and we went. Never thought another thing about it. That, um, just
I: Yeah, you know cause World War II had just ended and, uh, the Korean War was just beginning.
N: Um hm.
I: Wasn’t there the still same sentiment about we have to protect our country, uh.
Was that in the back of your mind, or was that in the back of your parents mind do you think?
N: Well, um, we all volunteered because, I guess being patriotic. We all said let’s go and do it, and we, uh, as I said, I didn’t want to go in the Army and be digging foxholes, so. But we had, uh, everybody just said that it’s something we had to do, and let’s go do it.
I: When you got there, what was your impression about the Korean War when you got there?
N: Well, I arrived at a, in a strange group. The, the, uh, Reserve air, they were Air Force Reservists from Long beach, California, and I thought this, so this is war. I mean these fellas, they, they were a bunch of comedians in a way, but they did their job. But they were comedians. Every day you had one fellow off, and all’s he did was run a camera
up on top of an airplane for every plan that landed or took off because our field was treacherous, cross winds, and there was accidents every day. So, one day was my day to sit on top of an airplane with a camera and watch airplanes come in and take off and make sure that an accident they wanted a picture of it. But, uh, they were all, they were all older. They were all older fellas, and they were very happy to see me,
the first relief man in. So
I: So you were a youngster at 19.
N: I was the, yes.
I: And they were older?
N: Yeah, they were all in I’d say 30’s and 40’s.
I: I see.
I: Were they, were they in the World War II do you think?
N: I think they were or just afterwards probably, yeah.
I: And they maintained their military,
N: Um hm.
I: uh, status.
N: These are all, all Reservists, yeah.
I: Plus, you figure at 45, 46, 50 and, uh, what year did you go to Korea?
N: I went to Korea in, um,
October of 1951.
N: And I left, uh, there in February 1953.
I: I wasn’t even born then.
N: Thank you.
I: Uh, when you, when you got to Korea or you heard you were gonna go fight, was it oh my God. I’m gonna fight or was it the spirit against the Communists? Uh, describe your reactions, you know.
What you had? Was it oh my God, I’m gonna go? I’m gonna have problems or, or had the spirit of, uh, energy as a youngster? Describe your reactions to the Korean War.
N: Well, we were just, as I say, young. We were there to fight a war, and we never anticipated being there number one. But number, after we got there, it was just a job to do, and we did it. We never thought too much about Communism or that at that time. But we were there and to fight for
Korea, and we did it.
I: Where in Korea were you stationed?
N: I was stationed about 20 miles I’m gonna estimate. They had about 20 miles north of Pusan they call it
I: Um hm.
N: Busan now I believe. Uh, at K9, the air base.
I: So you were in southern Korea.
N: Um hm.
N: Way, yeah.
I: Southern most
N: Very far
N: Yeah, very south, yeah.
I: Okay. What year, what was your
impressions when you got to Korea when you first saw it? What was your first impressions when you saw Korea? You landed on a ship from Japan, right?
N: Right. No, we flew in.
I: Oh, you flew in.
N: We flew
I: What was your first impression when you saw Korea?
N: Uh, I couldn’t believe it. Um, they were so, what you wanna call it, antiquated? I mean they were so far behind in their times, um. In, I got a picture here of, in Pusan of a,
this is in 1952 in Pusan. They have an officer on the, in the middle of the street standing on a box directing traffic.
I: Doesn’t look like too many cars are there.
N: No, there’s no cars, mostly, uh, oxens and the carts and the bicycles and
I: So it’s like in a, like a time zone, uh?
N: Oh, in this one, all the, uh, Koreans in the, down in the river bed washing clothes and
I: This was your, your first day there, you saw this?
N: Well, no. As we went in after we were there and situated on the base, we took a bus into
town and we saw all this, and I just couldn’t believe it.
I: So your base was different than the town.
N: Yes. We were about 20 miles from there.
I: What did you see?
N: One of the strangest ones was in the sidewalk, there was an open channel with water
flowing in it, and men and women would stop and relieve
themselves in it, right on the sidewalk and think nothing of it, you know. I mean, you’d look and say well. It was unbelievable. Besides
I: Sanitary conditions were not the best.
N: No. But this was, this was the way they were living. I mean, it was in ages gone by like. But, uh,
I: Sounds like a, considering where you were from, it was like almost like the, like stone age
N: It was unbelievable. Yes, it was.
I: You have another picture there?
N: This one is from Seoul in 1952, what there was just bombed out ruins. There were a few buildings standing. But this is unbelievable to see what’s there now that’s, uh, just bombed all to pieces. I imagine the North bombed it, and the South bombed it, and the Americans bombed it, too.
I: So what you saw was a lot of devastation.
N: It was, a lot of it.
I: What about the, what about the people? I mean, you had to meet some people. Uh,
uh, what were your reactions to the people that you met? I mean,
I: you were on a street. You took pictures, right?
N: Well, they didn’t speak any English. Of course, we didn’t speak any Korea. So there wasn’t much intermingling with the people there. Um, in fact, that was the only time we got into a city was, eh, Pusan, and we used to take a bus down. They had a, uh, service bus, and Army bus,
and they’d run us down, and we’d go down to the Navy pier to a, uh, club down there and drink, and then they’d take us back, and that was about the only thing we saw in town besides these going through towns and we’d see these pictures, take these pictures and
I: So when you got there and you saw this bombed out stuff, uh, a town pretty desolate, what were you, what were you going to be fighting for? I mean what was your realization? I mean why am I here, you know,
N: Um hm.
I: What’d you think?
N: Well, you looked at it and you said I don’t know if this is worth preserving or not. But you, you were there to do a job, and you did it. And, it’s all. You just sat down
I: You were just doing your duty and saying, following orders
N: And following orders and waiting for your day to go home. That’s all.
I: Did you, did you ever like, like sort of communicate with some of the townspeople at all?
N: No. No, never did.
I: Uh, so you talked about the living conditions, uh.
What were your living conditions like on the base? I mean, they were living in, you know, devastation and stuff. What was your living conditions like on the base? And was it hard? Was there a lot of down time? Did you have fun times, sad times?
N: Well, we had, like once every 10 days, we had a day off. But our barracks weren’t that bad, uh. You had a, a good bed if you, uh, could get enough blankets and stuff. And you had a
little foot locker to keep your stuff in. But the conditions weren’t that bad except at night you always had a few visitors that were called rats. We had a lot of rats, and, uh, they’d try to drink out of your mess kit. Any water left in it, they’d come down, and you’re hear the mess kit moving. So we had to finally, we always slept in, with a mosquito net, and but eventually they got control of that and got rid of the, of the rats.
I: So it was, that time was warm. But I also heard them say it was very cold.
I: Now you, now you slept in the mosquito nets in the summer
N: And the winter.
I: and you had rats and everything,
N: And the winter. We
I: Wintertime, what was it like in the winter time [INAUDIBLE]
N: The winter it was cold. I mean, it was really cold. I can remember all down the flight line, we had all these clothes on. Oh, they were, I want to see fur lined, uh, clothes, hat. But your eyes, because the wind coming down out of the valley was so cold, your eyes would water, and it would freeze
right on your face here. You’d have all kinds of ice, and you had to pull it off. It was, it was cold.
I: So you had cold days, warm days. What about the food? Was it, you had to eat.
N: That was, that was a problem. Being on the, on the flight line and working, we were always late for getting in. The food wasn’t that bad, uh, considering what was going on. They did the bestthey could, but, uh, we cheated a little bit.
I: Tell us about your cheating.
N: We had these, uh, B26s that would go to Japan every 200 hours for a major overhaul. And so we’d have the pilot and co-pilot, a bunch of us on the flight line and give them some money and have them pick up some steaks and some potatoes, and they’d bring ‘em back, and then we’d build a bonfire and cook our steaks and roast our potatoes. So we cheated a little bit once or twice a month or so.
I: So normally you wouldn’t eat steaks and potatoes.
What would you be eating, like, during the these [INAUDIBLE]
N: Well, one time during the west coast strike, we ate, uh, stew for 35 days in a row, and for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I: Stew all day?
N: Stew, stew. I thought it had, they had a west coast shipping strike and we didn’t get much to eat except stew. So.
I: And there was a cook that just
N: They just dished up the stew. They had big pans of stew, and they’d say hey, sorry. This is it.
Well, you had to eat, so, but, but it wasn’t that bad.
I: Did you get sick?
N: Not sick, sick and tired of it, yeah.
I: Sick and tired, but you never were really ill there?
N: No, no.
I: You stayed pretty healthy?
N: And cold sometimes. But no, good.
I: Uh, did, did you rotate home from Korea at all while you were stationed there? Did you come home?
N: No. No. Nobody did. No, no, never call, you done use, you didn’t have telephones that
would call out of the base, and you didn’t rotate home. Nobody did.
I: So you were stationed in what little town again?
N: Well, I didn’t wasn’t really a town. It was K9 Air Force Base.
I: Um hm. Pusan.
N: And, and north of Pusan.
I: Okay. So you never left. You stayed in Korea for what, two years?
N: No. I was there about 16 months.
I: Okay. So
N: You were supposed to rotate after 11, but they kept losing my orders up in Taegu, and I didn’t mind
the first time because I was figuring I’d be coming home in first part of November so I’d be home for Thanksgiving. I didn’t mind that. Then the second time they didn’t, uh, show up, um, I guess, well, this is alright. I’ll be home for Christmas. Then they didn’t show up for Christmas. Now I was really upset. So, um, my Master Sergeant said to me don’t you do it, but, um, you write to your wife and have her get a hold of your Congressman,
and maybe he can get you out of here.
I: So you enlisted for what, two plus
N: Four years.
I: Four years.
N: Um hm.
I: But you were only gonna be in Korea you, hopefully for like 16 months.
N: Well, it, rotation was 11 months of the time you got out there’d be, you know, home would be 12 months. Well, mine didn’t come down in, in January, either, and so our Congressman was from Auburn, uh, John Taber,
and he talked to the family and then found out I wasn’t home yet, well, he was in charge of the Armed Forces. He made a call, and I’m out on the flight line working one day, and this jeep pulls up and a Lieutenant gets out and says who the hell is Taylor? That’s me, sir. Get in the jeep, he said. You’re going home. I said Oh, thank you.
I: And that was six, that was a, like, uh, 16 months?
N: So, 16 months.
So they put me in the jeep, uh. I said I gotta clear the base. He says I’ll clear it for you. He signed some paperwork. He said see that airplane sitting there? That’s waiting for you. Get on it. When I got to Japan, they had a taxi waiting for me. Then I got in the taxi, and it took me to the USS General Mann, and the Captain of the ship was there, and he wanted to know who I was. He says get on this ship. We’ve been waiting for you, and I got on, and twank, up came the gangplank,
and were under motion.
I: Oh my God.
N: I got a nice hand when I got onboard and I said phew.
I: Cause they’d think they’d leave.
N: We can finally leave, yeah.
I: Ah, so you, uh, you were hastily departing.
N: Well, John Taber was important then. I mean, he was the head of everything. So. He got me outta there.
I: He was the [INAUDIBLE] Armed Services congressman you said?
N: Congressman John Taber.
I: So one phone call, and you were on your way.
N: I was on my way.
I: What’d you feel?
N: I was happy as can be. Then I was very happy to be on the
General Mann because I knew the ship back and forward. So every morning I got up about 4:00, went up on the deck, laid down and rolled under the gun turret. They had a big canvas over it, so they didn’t find me for working KP.
I: And you got one of those top bunks, too.
N: And, yes. And they eventually caught up with me about two days or three days out of San Francisco and put me on KP in the bakery.
I: So you were on the ground in Korea for 16, 18
N: Six, about 15 months total, yeah.
I: Four more months than you wanted to be.
N: Um hm. Yeah.
I: So you were home by March or
N: I got home in March I believe, well, the end of February or March. I know it was cold when I got home so.
I: That must have been a nice St. Patrick’s Day parade for you.
N: That I don’t remember, yes.
I: What was your opinion of Korea, on the Koreans and the South Korean Army? Did you meet any, any, uh, uh,
South Korean soldiers, uh, while you were there?
N: The only ones I met were at the end of a rifle. I, uh, was, had to go out and get some batteries one day and, uh, I got checked by a, the, the guards on our base were Korean, uh, Army boys who had been wounded, and then thy could guard an air base. And one of them checked me one day out in back of the, cause we kept the batteries out back. Then
one night I was out there getting hydraulic fluid right near the fence, and one had his carbine right on my head, and I kept saying to him boysan, GI, boysan, GI, and finally he left, and that’s the only way I met them.
I: He was really doing his job.
N: He was doing his job.
I: Did you learn anything from the Korean Army soldiers?
N: No. No. As I said,
we never had that much contact with them, um. They, they didn’t speak English, and we didn’t speak Korean.
I: What, what were the most challenging, uh, challenging moments, a difficult moment, a happy moment, a rewarding memory, uh? You can say the challenging one first, the difficult one, the happy one, the rewarding one, during your duty, uh. Was there any favorite or, uh, happy moment?
Can you tell us any challenging moments?
N: The biggest challenge I had was, uh, I was on the night crew, uh, in charge of the night crew, and we got a call that a 500-pound bomb was laying on the runway, and they said it was our plane who had just taken off, so it belonged to us, and the wanted it off of the runway. So they sent a Lieutenant over, and
he and I went out on the runway and pulled up in them, what they called a BST, a bomb service truck, and I looked at the bomb, and it had what we call a non-delay fuse in the nose and the tail, or just in the tail, that’s right. And at the, the fuse that was set to go off after it spinned so many times, the impeller, its arm, there’s a little vial of, uh, acid in there. It’ll eat through the trigger and set it off.
Well it had pulled, the wire had pulled out, and the impel, impellar is sitting there spinning, so we don’t know if it’s armed or not. So we decided to pick it up in the back of the pickup and the bomb truck and get it outta there. So, we picked it up and took it down to the end of the runway and got it off the runway so the planes could take off, and then we, all the bomb armament men were in
on R and R. So that’s no, never happened again I’ll tell you.
I: There was always somebody gonna be there.
N: Yes, and there was two of them, and they were both on R and R, so we took that bomb down, and then we got the book out, and he and I defused the bomb.
I: You and the Lieutenant?
N: And you’re not supposed to be able to be diffused of it, and we, there is a section in there on how to diffuse it. We got the fuse out.
I: Were you sweating?
N: Oh, wringing wet, and the Lieutenant, he was so nervous that he’s trying to hold the flashlight and I’m starting to work the tools.
I: What tool did you use, like a screwdriver and a pair of pliers.
N: No. There’s a tool. We had the tools to get on it and start working it back, but we had to take the, the fuse apart.
I: And all the time, this thing could have
N Gone off.
I: cause it was spinning, right?
N: Yea. We didn’t know it was armed or not. Hopefully it wasn’t I guess. But we got it out. We left there after we got it
diffused, and the Lieutenant says I have a bottle of whiskey in my barracks. We went into the barracks and drank a quart of whiskey between he and I, and all these officers were coming in and looking what’s he doing here? And the Lieutenant had to tell him what happened. So that was my memorial moment.
I: That or challenging.
I: Was that a challenging in a difficult one? Was there a difficult thing?
N: Well, that kind of locked up all three right there. And no, we were very happy, uh, oh.
I: So it was a, was there any happy moments,
uh, besides, I mean, you were glad that the bomb didn’t explode obviously. But was there any other days that you might have had a happy day?
N: No, not really, nothing exciting except when I say when the Lieutenant pulled up and said you’re going home. Come on, let’s go.
I: That was a happy day.
I: Were there any rewarding memories, uh, that you did something for somebody or somebody did something for you or
N: Well, I think about it now, and I had this fellow, Stangaroni.
N: Stangaroni was his name,
and he went out to get a battery one day for the hydraulic lift, and I don’t know if it was at dusk or what, but it was dark, and he’d lit a match and held it up and looked in the battery, and it blew up. Oh, there were, and he had acid all over him and his eyes. I picked him up. We had rain barrels at the corner of the barracks. I picked him up by his feet and dumped him, and he come and he was coughing and spitting and
I’d put him back in again and brought him out. I got, got him over to the hospital. They said that probably saved his sight. But I kept hollering at him. Open your eyes. Open your eyes in the water. So that he could have probably saved his sight. So, that was a happy one.
I: You’re a hero.
N: Yeah. I’m a real hero.
I: I bet he must have; did he ever call you
I: to say thanks?
N: No, no, he, he left, uh, shortly thereafter for home and never heard from him again.
I: He might be thinking about you.
N: Yeah, he might be. He might be.
I: You should look him up.
Sta, I mean, how many people are named Staga. I mean how many people are named Stagaroni?
N: Well, I don’t know if I can even remember his first name, so. We all had pet names for everybody, and
I: That might have happened, that he can remember anybody get injured?
N: Um, well, I’d rather not get into that one, no.
I: Okay. Uh, on your base, you met the Koreans, uh, that were injured that were guarding the place. Were there any other foreign troops or allies that you, uh, did encounter? Did you meet any Turkish people, Canadians?
N: Um, I met some British. They had a base just off to our, well, to our south I guess it would be. There was a British, uh, contingent up there. We met them not under favorable circumstances. It seems that one of the fellas jumped in the airplane. Don’t know what he did, but he hit the trigger, and he fired about 10 or 15 rounds into their base out of the 50 caliber machine gun.
I: Wake everybody up?
N: Uh, during the daytime, they were all in the mess hall. That was the thing that saved them. And, he got a, he, he went and saw the
I: What, what nationality was this?
N: They were British.
N: Uh huh.
I: They didn’t know what they were doing.
N: Well, no. That was our fault. Our American that shot at the British base, hittin it. They were just tents up on the side hill and just
I: Oh, oh,
N; small detachment, and he kind of shook them up a little bit.
I: I guess.
N: Luckily he didn’t hit anybody.
I: Oh, boy. That would have been sad.
I: Uh, so, uh, you weren’t too fond of the British, uh,
N: Well, they were alright. We talked to them, you know. But, uh, they were a little standoffish after that.
I: Stay away.
N: Um hm.
I: Keep them out of the plane. Uh, were there any battles that impacted you that you’ll never forget? Were there any, were any battles
N: No. We were so far from the front lines that, um, we didn’t get into. You don’t need contact or anything. We used to
get shot at at night by this, uh, Korean up in the hills and, uh, nobody paid too much attention to. We just had a lot of holes in the roof, and they had to patch the next day till they got a heavier gun, and I don’t know what he got, but then he really tore up the cement blocks and everything. So the next day the Army went up the hill with bulldozers, flame throwers all loaded with caves, and then we never had any more shots shot at us.
I: Was there anybody injured by this? It was a sniper obviously.
N: Yeah, he was a sniper, but we didn’t, he never hit anybody or hurt anybody that, that I knew of. But they
I: So he was either a bad shot, or he was just being a nuisance.
N: Nuisance, that’s what we called him, a nuisance, yeah.
I: Uh huh.
N: Off would go the pop, pop, pop, and grab your helmets and head outdoors and get in the sand bags and wait till he got through. But, uh
I: When, when you were discharged from the military, what did you do
and, did you have to adjust to life in America? Did you get a welcoming home party? I mean, you got on a ship, a ship from Mr. Taber and everything. You’re glad to go home, but when you got home, uh, and discharged, what, what did you do?
N: Just came home and more or less unpacked, uh, and went to New York City for a three-day vacation, uh, with the wife, came home and went to work.
I: You were married when you enlisted?
N: I got married while I was in the service.
I: Oh. Like
N: Out at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver.
I: Oh. Did you get married in Denver, or did you go
N: Right on the base, in the chapel.
I: Your wife came to Denver?
N: My wife and, uh, her mother and father and my mother and father.
I: How unique is that, to get married while you’re in the Army, and they came to the base?
N: Yeah. And
I: They must have loved you to come all the way there to get married.
N: Well, we had a wedding date set up for the summer, and uh,
they knew I wouldn’t be around. So we went out there, and she came out and we got married out there.
I: So nobody was gonna wait. Nobody wanted to wait to get married.
I: till you got out.
N: Yeah. We’re
I: You wanted to get married right away.
N: Right away. Do it today.
I: And how old were you when you got married?
N: Phew. well, let’s see. Uh, 20 I guess I was.
I: Twenty. You remember the anniversary date?
N: Um, A, April 21stor something.
That’s not her. Uh, April 21stor something like that.
I: April 21st. So that was springtime.
N: Um hm.
I: Interesting. You know, were you a bad guy for going, uh? Were you a good guy for going? What, what did people think, uh, when you got back?
N: Nobody ever said anything, and I never expected, you know, a parade. I, I didn’t, I was just, we just did a job. We went and did our job and came home,
and I often heard about closure, you know. You’re supposed to get closure as well as being welcomed home, uh, and I never felt that I was supposed to get that. And, what was it, three years ago I went back to Korea on that Korean tour, and when I saw what they had accomplished there, of course, everything is new,
and the people were so grateful and walked down the street with your tag on and one of our members had written on there in Korean that we were Korean War veterans, people on the street would hug you, shake your hand and say thank you. I got my closure then. I really did. That was, that meant a lot to me.
I: All those years.
N: Yeah. I never expected it, but it came in that form.
I: So when you got back to Korea and you saw all these big rises,
it probably reminded you of that one point where there was nothing there and a bombed out, uh, shelter [INAUDIBLE]
N: Nothing, nothing but ruins, I remember, and the job and all, at that time there was hardly any trees. Now it’s all green. They’ve planted 50 million trees and it’s all green and, they’ve really done a wonderful job.
I: What do you think of the politics in Korea now? I mean, you went back. Did you talk to people there about politics?
N: No, well a little bit. A couple of the fellas that we with us, uh, talked about that with them. And they’re very happy, and of course it’s modeled after our system, and it’s very each to pick up, and I think they’ve done a good job with it.
I: Okay. Um, let’s see here. Do you ever dream about Korea?
I: Do you have any bad dreams, good dreams?
N: Um, no never had any.
I: Just the bombs. Is it easier to remember [INAUDIBLE]
N: I remember that very, yeah. I remember that one very vaguely, yeah.
I: Do you have any dreams about that bomb a little bit?
N: No, no. Nightmare, but not a nice dream.
I: Night terrors.
I: So you do wake up the middle of the night, uh.
N: No, I never thing about it. I mean I think back about the time we did that and then I’d say, uh, it looks just part of a job and thank you, I’m still here.
I: Do you have any animosity against the Communists for doing what they did?
N: Not really, no. They were,
they were doing what they thought was right, and I mean, it’s, well, it was war and who’s right and who’s wrong, I don’t know.
I: And, you know. You, you’ve been out of the war. You had left tin ’53 you said?
N: ’53. Um hm.
I: So it’s close to 60 years. You gotta have an anniversary of the Korean War of 60 years. Uh, do you have been thinking about Korea and what happened over there, uh,
with friends or anything? Do you have, do, you talk to people, do you belong to any organizations that you talk to people?
N: I belong to the Korean War Veterans association and, uh, and we talk about it and the different stories and things that they did and I did but, uh, it’s just talks among veterans mostly. Yeah.
I: And, and when you went back to Korea, you were hugged and everything by that Korean people. That had to be
really emotional from what you said.
N: It was. I mean, as I say, that was, came closure to me, and I just never expected this and everywhere you went they were so nice, and just couldn’t believe that uh, they would treat us like that.
I: The children wouldn’t know you, though. The children
N: No, no. Little, little difference with younger ones. Level the difference.
I: Do you think they forgot?
M: I don’t know if they forgot or they just don’t know what happened cause of, uh,
I: It says here the same thing about this, the Forgotten War. And it was a police action. What do you think of those phrases; the Forgotten War versus the police action? What do, what do you think?
N: Well, it was a war. It wasn’t a police action. It was a war and, uh, they called it the Forgotten War. Why, I don’t know because when we’re out, uh, selling these, uh, Rose of Sharon poppies, people say thank you for what you did,
you know, and, [INAUDIBLE] at, down in Auburn there. And I just think that, uh, they know. I don’t know where they got this, the Forgotten War from. But
I: Did, did a, did a flowers you’re selling say anything like that on them?
N: Uh, the Rose of Sharon, uh, now I can’t tell you off hand.
I: Does it say never forget?
N: Never forget, uh, Freedom is Not Free.
I: Okay. Is the Rose of Sharon
the national flower for Korea?
N: Flower of Korea, um hm.
I: What’s the significance of the poppy? I mean, do you know what that might be?
I: The Korean War has this Rose of Sharon.
N: Um hm.
I: What’s the poppy for? You have any idea what that means?
N: Well, I’m sure it has, uh, some meaning. I don’t know exactly.
I: Um hm. It seems like the flowers always seem to be, uh, uh, recollecting all these wars. Um, you know, you’re gonna be on tv
and the website for future generations. Uh, what would you like to say to the future generations that everyone, you know, you’re, you’re gonna be gone, buried, ashes. What would you like to say to these people that are going to be watching this website or this video about your experiences, the war, anything you want to say?
N: Well, I just hope they don’t forget what happened. I mean, it, it was, it was a war.
It wasn’t a police action. It was a war, and hopefully we learned something from it. But as I see the country now where the world turmoil we’re in again, I don’t think we ever will. So I just hope they don’t forget what happened in and they get some idea of what went on, you know, over there. So.
I: I see Arlington Cemetery. I see all these cemeteries for the Korean War vets. You had to have somebody that was
close to you that didn’t come home.
N: Not really. Um, most,
I: A friend.
N: most of my friends, they all came home, and, you know, and died naturally, you know, that, uh, the five of us that went in all came back and, uh, so.
I: What do, what would you say about the legacy of the Korean War vets? We hear of Civil War heroes.
We hear about the World War II heroes. What legacy do you think, uh, you can say about the Korean War veterans? What, I mean, what do you think about the Korean War veterans themselves. You belong to an organization that has hundreds of members. You meet with them all the time. You must talk about, you know, the people who don’t like us or people love us. What do you, what do you think about the legacy of the Korean War vet?
N: Well, I, I have never seen anybody
that’s been upset with any of the Korean War vets, um. I think that they were, uh, went there and fought, came home, and everybody that I know of approved of it, and they never were talked down to or anything like that. I think it, we had a job to do, and we did it, and we, I don’t how to say this, we weren’t, we didn’t come home expecting a lot,
expecting a parade, expecting great things. We went and did our job and came home and went to work.
I: I saw you brought some albums.
N: Um hm.
I: You have some other photographs. Can you describe some of these?
N: Well, as I saw
I: And the story behind them?
N: What we have here is, um, we’re out on the line with our, loading the planes. This is our hydraulic hoist that has the batteries that I was talking about.
I: Um hm.
N: And there’s your three 50 caliber machine guns and
500 pound bombs they’re putting on the wing.
I: Is this you loading the bomb?
N: Um, no, I don’t think so. I don’t think it is. The, um, the, uh.
I: What are these guys doing? They clamping it on or something?
N: It hooks, and there’s two rings on it. You go up, and you lock it into the stanchion they call it up on the wing. These are old B26 and B25
I: Now, now these are live bombs.
N: Right. Well,
you have to put a fuse in the nose.
I: That makes it, just before they take off?
N: That’s what arm, arms them, yeah.
I: Who does that?
N: We do after we get through them, and you put a wire through it and, uh, and this is all the old B26s and B25s. We lost so many B26s they were bringing in B25s that were used in World War II.
I: How many men are on the B25 and the B26?
N: Usually four. There might be, uh, one gunner.
I: Is, oh, oops, sorry.
N: There might be one gunner up in the top turret. There might be a, a, a, bombardier and the pilot and co-pilot. Sometimes there’s only three, the gunner and the pilot and co-pilot. Co-pilot would be the bombardier.
I: And they carried, like how many bombs?
N: Uh, well, we’d have four or five hundred, two on each wing, and internally we used mostly, uh, 220 fragmentation bombs, and we’d put like, uh,
I think it was 44 in the, in the bombay, two bomb bays.
I: They were in the belly of the plane?
N: Yeah. Um, I don’t know if I, no, I don’t have it. But, uh, the bombay was underneath here. And, uh, they would put them in.
I: How would, did they push them up into the belly?
N: No, we hand loaded them.
I: Lifted them.
N: Lifted. And
I: You could drop one.
N: Oh yes, you could.
It was a three-man crew. That’s what ruined my back. But we had, the crew would set them all up outside, and then two fellas would set them up onto a wooden stand that we had, and then the three of us inside, you’d have a piece of pipe in the nose. One fellow would grab it by the pipe. One would grab the tail fin, and I’d bring it up to here, guy in the middle would cradle it while you changed your hands and then
hang it up on the rack.
I: Now these are not arms yet.
N: No. No.
I: Cause the pipe is going down the middle of them.
N: Yeah, well the pipe was put into the nose of the
I: You’d think they would have came up with an easier way to
N: Well, underneath there was no way to get anything in there to lift and then. We used to have contests. There were three squadrons on the base, and we used to have contests to see who could do it the fastest. We used to win quite often, but the three of us come out bad backs.
I: You used to load the bombs.
N: Um hm.
I: And all these photographs have the planes that you loaded
- How, how, when would they load them like, immediately before takeoff or
N: Uh, we loaded all day. And we were a night squadron. And the, they sent me, as you see these planes here are black, and they painted them, when they went to, uh, Japan for, uh, overhaul, they painted them black cause we were in the Night Raiders, and it worked out well until one sunny day a general wanted a
bridge knocked out. We sent, each squadron sent up 12 planes, 36 planes went up, black airplanes in the middle of the day. We got three back and our squadron, I think one of the squadrons got five or six, and one of them got one back.
I: It must have stuck out.
N: They stuck out. Black airplanes on a sunny day. Boom. So that was, that was
I: So those are the soldiers that didn’t return.
N: Yeah. That night, it was awfully quiet on the base, you know?
I: Did you ever rescue anybody? Did they go look for these people?
N: Well, I imagined a lot of them got shot up and landed at other bases. But, uh, we got, some of them eventually got, come back, but then they started bringing other planes.
I: They sent out like search and rescue helicopters?
N: No, I, uh, they, what was, uh, what they could fly back, I don’t know what they did up there.
I: Now they would, they were going to bomb, uh, a location distant from your base.
N: Yeah, yep. Up in the north area.
I: During the day.
N: During the day up in North Korea. Yeah.
I: That was a fatal mistake.
N: Very bad.
I: Did the general say anything or
N: Who knows. I mean, the orders came down to have those planes loaded, and we got up, we were there very early in the morning, got them loaded, and
I: And they couldn’t do this at night?
N: They, no. He wanted it out during the day. They wanted to see what they were doing.
I: Somebody must have had orders to tell him get them out now.
N: So it must have been a very important bridge.
I: So, how many planes left, and how many planes
N: 36 left, and I think back at our base we got, like, about 9 back. But there were planes that landed at other bases that couldn’t make it back.
I: Did they return do you think?
N: I don’t think half of them made it back. I don’t know. Awful, awful day.
I: That must have been a really sad day.
N: It was. As I said, it was very quiet at the base that night. We got so we would sleep by airplanes going off every six minutes I think it was
a plane left. And then ones, then they started coming back, just lull you to sleep. When we got socked in with fog or a snowstorm and couldn’t see and the planes didn’t fly, we’d sit up all night, couldn’t sleep.
I: You were used to that.
N: We were used to that noise all night long. It was just like sleep at it, you know, it would
I: They were going out to bomb distant locations
N: Yep, they were going north every night, coming back.
N: Yeah. Yeah.
I: Okay, well, do you have anything else or you could [INAUDIBLE] the pictures or
N: No, that’s, that’s it.
I: Well, thank you very much. It was a wonderful interview.
N: Thank you.
I: I think you, people are going to enjoy this film.
N: Thank you.
I: Thank you.
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