Ovid Odean Solberg
Ovid Odean Solberg was born in January of 1929. After graduating high school, he worked with his father on a farm until being drafted into the Army in 1951. By February 1952, Ovid O. Solberg was shipped to Pusan, Korea, and then to the frontline in North Korea with the Third Infantry Division, where he specialized in Gun Battery. Ovid O. Solberg has never returned to Korea, but his grandson teaches English in South Korea and married a Korean woman.
Consequences of War
Ovid O. Solberg discusses his views about the fact that the Korean War was not labeled a war, the division of North and South Korea, and the hope for unification of the Koreas. He expresses sadness that North Koreans and South Korean families were separated, and the emotional devastation that ensued.
Share from this page:
Landing in Korea
Ovid O. Solberg recalls landing in Busan and seeing the demolished villages. He remembers never setting foot in a building. He was stationed in North Korea with the 3rd Infantry.
Share from this page:
Feelings of Service
Ovid O. Solberg discusses his sense of accomplishment in Korea. He mentions how other countries need to look to them for examples.
Share from this page:
[Beginning of Recorded Material]
O: First name is Ovid, O V I D. My middle name is what I go by. It’s Odean. O D E A N. My last name is Solberg, S O L B E R G.
I: Great, and when were you born, and where were you born?
O: Where was I born? I was born in the middle of January in 1929
over in the eastern part of the state.
I: Great, and could you talk about your family at the time?
O: Well, they went through some awful hard times. They both came from large families. My dad only had a seventh grade education, my mother an eighth grade education.
But they had the one thing that they don’t teach in school, and that’s common sense, and, uh, I have four sisters and, and one brother, and us kids were always their number one priority. We always came first. So I have a lot of respect for my folks.
I: Did you graduate high school?
I: Where did you graduate, and when?
O: Oh, a little town, Garden City, South Dakota, and I graduated in 1947.
I: So were you drafted, or did you enlist?
O: No, I was drafted.
I: And when did you get the letter?
O: When did I get the letter? Oh, I suppose
it was maybe later on, probably in the Fall of ’51, I was already married and everything, and, uh, I was farming with my dad.
I: So you got the letter then?
I: In 1951?
I: And did they tell you where you were going to go?
O: No. [LAUGHS]
No. They just, just sent me off to basic training.
I: Where’d you go get basic training?
O: Uh, Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
I: And then straight afterwards, did you go to Korea?
O: Yep. Got a few days of, uh, leave and shipped out to Korea right away.
I: And do you remember when that was?
O: Well, it would have been probably, let’s see. I left, I left home in February of ’52, and we shipped out of Seattle, Washington.
I: And do you remember where you landed in Korea?
O: Yeah. I landed in Pusan.
I: And what was your first impression when you landed?
O: Well, it was new to me, of course, and I never got into, I was never in a building in Korea. I never went by
some, some of the bigger cities, but I never got, never got into the city itself. So, uh, all the villages that I was close to were demolished. So I was never in, there was never any buildings to be in.
I: And where were you stationed?
O: In North Korea.
I: And what, what unit were you a part of?
O: The 3rdInfantry Division.
They were, uh, they were on the front line all the while I was there. That’s where I was at.
I: And do you remember the town in North Korea that you were stationed at?
O: Oh, there was village of Chorwon and Kumwha, and I just, I just don’t remember any more. There was
more hills to remember than there was towns I guess.
I: Yeah. Maybe this map, does that help you remember any? So that’s the 38th, and you said you were north of
O: I was up in here, in this area here. North of the 38th, but I, I don’t see any
little villages on there that, that I was close to.
I: Okay. So you arrived in Pusan, and then you went up to North Korea.
O: Three days later, I was in North Korea.
I: And at the time, was there much difference between what you saw in Pusan and when, when you saw in, and what you saw in North Korea?
O: Well, uh, I didn’t get to see much
because we never got into any area, uh. I can remember when we boarded the train in Pusan there was a, a lot of little kids there down at, uh, down by the track, and they were begging for, uh, they could say chocolate, and chewing gum, and that’s, that’s what they wanted. And I remember seeing
this, this one little fellow, uh. He had both legs off at the knees, and he had his stumps wrapped, and then he was, I don’t know, I think he had a, a, a stick or something in each hand because he had to crawl on all four, you know, and he was crawling on the, on the cinders along the track there, and, uh, I remember the rest of the kids did let him get some stuff,
you know, like chewing gum or something that. They did let him get some, and, uh, I’ve often wondered what happened to that little fellow. But other than that, you know, I never got close to the civilians. There was no civilians around where I was at. So I never got to, I have
quite a few pictured of people over there, but they were all taken by some, some other GI.
I: Can I take; I’ll hold it for you. So you said you were on the front lines most of the time when you were there?
I: How was the, how was it to fight, um. What did you feel like when you were fighting the war? Did it, was it sad for you, or did you think you were doing
your duty, or what kind of emotions did you experience as you were fighting?
O: Just a job you were told to do. I, my first would, wedding anniversary was in North Korea. My second wedding anniversary when was I on my way home from there.
I: And you, so you were already married before you went to
O: Oh yeah. I, I left a young wife and a little boy when I went over there.
I: And did you, surely you missed them when you were there.
O: That was probably the hardest thing I ever had to do was say goodbye to a young wife and knowing I was going off to a war and they might not ever see me again. But somebody was, somebody was looking out for me.
And I, I left there without a scratch. So I was one of the lucky ones.
I: And when you were in, in, when you were stationed, did you interact much with North Korean soldiers or Chinese soldiers?
O: No, they [ LAUGHS] No, they kept their distance [LAUGHS] We made sure of that.
I: Did you participate in any battles that you recall?
Well, there was a lot of there was a lot of hills, and I don’t remember all the names of them, you know. But, uh, we pounded the heck out of them.
I: What was the most difficult experience that you had during your service?
Well, probably just leaving this country, wondering if I was ever going to see it again. There was about, uh, I remember the night when we left from Seattle there, there was about 5,000
troops on that ship, and I think just about everybody was on deck, one deck or another, and there was a little band down there on the pier playing Harbor Lights, and I was watching the Seattle lights and wondering whether or not I was ever y going to see them again. But I did, so, so
I say somebody was looking after me.
I: So what was everyday life like? What was your daily routine? And what was your specialty as well?
O: Oh, everyday life was, uh, you know, there was no, uh, no modern conveniences, no electricity, no running water, outdoor biffies wherever you were, when Mother Nature called.
But, uh, and you always knew you were going to be out in certain weather, day or night. It was, uh, when I look back on it, it’s kind of hard to believe that we lived that way all those months, but I know there was thousands
and thousands of other guys that, not just in the Korean War but other wars, that lived the same way.
I: Do you recall any friends or comrades that you had?
O: Uh, yeah. I have a friend that, uh, I went to, uh, basic with and went overseas with that lives, oh, down here in the southeast
part of the state that I’ve, I’ve stayed in contact with him. But we weren’t in the same unit overseas, but, uh, we went over on the same ship, and another fellow down in Iowa that I’ve stayed in contact with, we, we shared a bunker over there for a while. I’ve, I’ve, uh, visits with him, uh, since he got back.
But, uh, the thing was the, at that time and when they, all the people that you went through basic with, if they went over there, uh, they split you up after you got over there. So whatever outfit needed replacements, why that’s where you went. And so you kind of lost track of, uh, some of the people that you went through basic with.
Was it ever lonely for you?
O: Well, I always thought about my wife, but, uh, there was so many other things going on.
I: Do you recall any specific battles that you were a part of?
No, not really.
I: And what did you say that your specialty was?
O: Well, I had a little bag phone, and I had a direct line to the gun battery, and so when I dialed up the phone, why, uh, the guy on the other end, the first thing he heard from me was
for, for a mission. And so, so he got all the information that they needed to, for a mission.
I: How did you feel about fighting and killing and this warfare in general at the time? Do you recall?
O: No, I just, I just do what something I was told to do.
Never, never give it another thought really.
I: So do you remember the last place you were before you left Korea?
O: No, I left from Inchon. Never got into Inchon proper, went by there and, uh,
had to go out on a landing craft and, uh, it was, water wasn’t deep enough for the big ships to come in, and so, uh, they would scoot up alongside the big ship, and you had to climb up that rope net to get on board [LAUGHS].
I: Were you happy?
O: You bet. [LAUGHS] [INAUDIBLE] We came back in to San Francisco and docked there, and I remember Doris Day was supposed to be singing for the troops that day, but she wasn’t able to make it, and so they had some other young lady there, and, I don’t know who she. I, I,
she, she was probably as good a singer as Doris Day. But, uh, when they call my name and I walked down that gangplank, uh, there wasn’t enough words in the dictionary to describe how happy I was to be home.
I: And when was this?
O: Well, that was in, in May of ’53. I was home before the war ended.
I: What did you think about Korea when you left? Did you have any hope for it?
O: Well, I guess I never gave it too much thought. But, uh, we did, uh, we did accomplish something over there. South Korea is a pretty progressive little country now due to what we did for
them over there I guess.
I: Absolutely. Um, you know, now we’re the 11thlargest economy in the world, and I’m sure you’ve heard of companies like Kia and Honda and Samsung, and how does it make you feel about what, how do you feel about your service given that it is what transformed South Korea into what it is today?
O: Well, I, we did accomplish something,
and I think it’s something for, some of these other countries should think about. North Korea is, uh, probably a world of difference from South Korea, and I, I can feel sorry for those people in North Korea. I’m sure there’s people that live in South Korea that have relatives in
the north, vice a versa, and it must be, must be really tough for them to know that some of them have got a good life and, I have a grandson that teaches English over there in Korea, and he’s married to a, a Korean girl now, and, uh, I understand he’s coming back to
the States now. But, uh, he’s been over there for several years.
I: Have you been back?
O: No, I had an opportunity to go, but I knew that, uh, I would never be able to get to the area where I had, was and so why, and I, it’s a long flight over there, and I could have taken my wire along, too, but, uh.
They, they provide everything after you get there. So it wasn’t, it wasn’t a matter of money. It was just, uh, I kind of dreaded that long flight.
I: Well, I mean it, it was much longer when you were going there back in the service time.
O: Well, yeah, it was on water then. So, yeah. Two weeks of going and two weeks of coming.
I: So what, why do you think that despite this transformation that South Korea has gone through, it’s considered the Forgotten War?
O: Oh, I don’t know. That’s something it got labeled with years ago and hasn’t been washed away since.
I: Have you tried to forget about the Korean War?
O: No. No.
Pretty hard to forget an experience like that.
I: Even though it was the most difficult part of your life, to leave your wife and your son, you still don’t try to forget?
I: If you were asked to go again, would you go again?
O: Uh, today I, I wouldn’t be able to [INAUDIBLE]
O: But, well, it, when you’re drafted, I guess you just go, you know. So, yeah, there wasn’t any question about whether you’d go or not. You just go.
I: Are you proud of your service?
O: Oh yeah. Yeah, I, I feel we accomplished something over there, even though it wasn’t called a war to start with there. Why, I think we, uh, I think we helped out that country.
Um, my, my biggest disappointment is that when World War II ended, Korea should have never been divided. I don’t know who made that decision, but, uh, Japan, uh, Korea was, uh, controlled by Japan for years, and
we, we beat Japan, and we had a cease, um, cease fire settlement with Japan, and we should have never divided Korea. I don’t understand why that was ever done. I could say like in, in World War II when Germany was divided because the Russians came into
East Germany and conquered part of it, and we come in from the other side, uh. But now we have Germany united again, and it’s a, it’s a shame that, uh, that we split because North Korea could be living like South Korea.
I: I think you have a soft spot for North Korea a little bit because you were
stationed there. Is that?
O: Pardon me?
I: It seems like you have like a soft spot for North Korea because you were stationed there. Is that accurate?
O: Well, yeah. I, those people were, a lot of them, you know, had to move south, and I’m sure they left behind friends and relatives, and, uh,
so I, I, it’s kind of hard to imagine, uh, [INAUDIBLE] if I had to leave some of my friends and relatives in another part of the country or something and couldn’t, couldn’t go see them, couldn’t visit them. I, um, I was really disappointed that they divided up Korea.
I: Would you like to see them unified again?
O: Yes. Definitely. Yeah, that would, uh, well, it would benefit those majority of the people in North Korea, and it would bring a lot of our troops home. We got 20 some thousand troops
over there. We could bring them home if the country was united.
I: How does it make you feel that after almost 66 years the Korean War is technically still ongoing because it was only, you know, temporarily ended with the cease fire and the Armistice?
to me it’s kind of disappointing and, of course, it’s, from all the heads up North Korea there, he’s, just made that comment the other day that he would, if he got, uh, into a, if we got into another war, why, Seoul and Washington, D.C. would be left in ashes which will never happen.
So, it’s a shame. But, uh, North Korea [INAUDIBLE] the way it has.
I: So even though the Koreas are divided, do you think that the Korean War was worth it, and your service was worth it?
O: Oh yeah. Yeah. If we hadn’t gotten involved in there, why it would all be like North Korea I would imagine.
I: Is there any message that you want to give to the younger generation about the Korean War and about your service?
O: Well, I guess sometimes you
have to help out another country, although we’ve been in a lot of wars that, uh, with countries that have never declared war on us and, uh, and people fighting somebody else’s war for years and we shouldn’t have to do that.
But I gotta give, I have to give all these young folks a lot of credit for wanting to be in the service and doing what, what our country demands of them even though I don’t agree with it. We gotta give those young folks a lot of credit.
I: Is there any final thought that you want to leave with this interview about your time in Korea and your service to your country?
O: I guess, uh, being there wasn’t the most pleasant time of my life, but it was a good experience,
and don’t begrudge Uncle Sam for sending me over there.
[End of Recorded Material]