Korean War Legacy Project

Paul E. Bombardier

Bio

Paul E. Bombardier was born on May 14, 1932 in North Adams, Massachusetts. After graduating Notre Dame High School in 1950, he enlisted in the US Army in 1950.  Paul E. Bombardier was deployed to Korea in October of 1953 and was assigned to the 159th Field Artillery Battalion as an aviation maintenance specialist working on L-19 Cessna Bird Dog spotter planes. He completed his service and rotated back home in October 1953 and went on to a career as an aircraft engine mechanic. Today, he lives in Virginia and regularly speaks to student groups about his experiences in the Korean War.

Video Clips

A Last Minute Change

Paul E. Bombardier talks about enlisting in the Air Force and switching to the Army the day before leaving for basic training due to too many candidates. Paul E. Bombardier, along with some his friends, decided that instead of waiting for the draft they would enlist in the service.

Tags: Basic training,Home front

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-K065oJfGho&start=392&end=501

"It Was Terrible"

Paul E. Bombardier describes first seeing Seoul in 1952. He described the city as "total devestation." He recounts most all buildings being destroyed. He goes on to describe the living conditions on farms outside of town and the work done by all family members.

Tags: Seoul,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Physical destruction

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-K065oJfGho&start=618&end=783

House Boys

Paul E. Bombardier talks about his relationship with two Korean "house boys" that lived with his Army unit. He describes showing the boys a Sears magazine and he even purchased some outfits for them. He describes wishing he was able to adopt them.

Tags: Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Poverty

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-K065oJfGho&start=810&end=945

First Impressions of Korea

Paul E. Bombardier describes his first impressions of Korea after getting off a ship in October 1952. The first thing he remembers was the smell of food cooking outside. He remembers the smoke in the air from the food.

Tags: Food,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Poverty

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-K065oJfGho&start=1518&end=1655

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Paul E. Bombardier describes his long journey North from Incheon to his unit, the aviation section of the 159th Field Artillery Battalion. He rode on a truck on dirt roads to get to his unit headquarters. He remembers having a rough first night with cold, hunger and unknown feelings.

Tags: Incheon,Food,Impressions of Korea

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-K065oJfGho&start=1712&end=1831

Getting Paid

Paul E. Bombardier gives a detailed description of his earnings as a PFC (E-3) in the US Army in 1952. He recounts getting paid a daily (24 hour) rate of $2.40. He notes $7 came out each month for life insurance, $25 sent to his mother, $25 sent to his girlfriend (future wife) and the rest he kept.

Tags: Home front,Living conditions

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-K065oJfGho&start=1929&end=1988

"Spotter" Planes

Paul E. Bombardier describes the mission of his unit, providing reconnaissance using what he called "spotter" planes, specifically the L-19 Cessna "Bird Dogs." He describes it as a two-seater airplane that rose up to 4,000 feet and were tasked with "spotting" targets.

Tags: Front lines,Living conditions,North Koreans

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-K065oJfGho&start=2355&end=2405

Video Transcript

 

[Beginning of Recorded Material]

0:00:00

 

Paul Bombardier:        My name is Paul E. Bombardier the last name is spelled B-O-M-B-A-R-D-I-E-R.

 

Interviewer:                Bombardier.

 

P:         Bombardier. Its–

 

I:          Is there any ethnic origin of–

 

P:         It’s French–of French origin.  My ancestors came from Belgium and Northern France and to Quebec and then–then to the United States. Back in the early–the late

 

0:00:30

 

1800’s.  And my father was born in Quebec. My mother was born in Massachusetts. And I was–I was born there in Massachusetts and raised.

 

I:          When were you born?

 

P:         I was born in May of 1932.

 

I:          May of?

 

P:         May 14

 

I:          Mm-hmm.

 

P:         1932 in North Adams Massachusetts.

 

I:          North…

 

0:01:00

 

P:         Adams

 

I:          Uh-huh

 

P:         Massachusetts.

 

I:          So, there was around the year of Great Depression wasn’t it?

 

P:         It was born–in my–it was after The Depression had started. My parents married two weeks before the Great Depression, in 1929.

 

I:          Mm-hmm.

 

P:         And they struggled through The Depression. I was born in 1932, my brother was–my only brother was born in 1933.  And we were raised there in Mass–in North Western

 

0:01:30

 

Massachusetts.  We went to a–a–

 

I:          Were you the oldest?

 

P:         I was the oldest and we were only two in my family.

 

I:          Mm-hmm.

 

P:         My parents came from large families, but we didn’t have a big family. And we were raised there in North Adams. We went to grade school.

 

I:          What school?

 

P:         It was the Notre Dame Catholic School.

 

I:          Mm-hmm.

 

P:         It was a French

 

0:02:00

 

Speaking school and I learned to speak English there.  As well–my parents–my father was born in 1903 and emigrated as a child with his parents to Massachusetts from Quebec and he–he went to the same school and he also learned to speak English there.

 

I:          So, do you speak French?

 

P:         I speak French.

 

I:          Could you introduce yourself in French and say hello to Korean people?

 

P:         [Speaking French]

 

0:02:30

 

I:          Beautiful.

 

P:         Yeah.

 

I:          So, you speak two languages?

 

P:         I speak two languages, yes.

 

I:          Very nice. When did you graduate–I mean think about–please tell us, this interview will be heard by the many young kids in the school and tell them about the days around the 1929 the Great Depression. How hard was it? How did you survive and things like that?

 

0:03:00

 

P:         Well, as a child, I wasn’t aware of the Depression. My parents worked hard at whatever they could find and the–the– I was always fed. My brother and I were always fed.  We were clothed and we went to school and we didn’t feel the effects of us and it didn’t seem to bother us, though my parents worked very hard and we were fortunate in that

 

0:03:30

 

we survived and we survived I think, quite well.  I never felt that I was suffering at all in growing up.  My days in school and activities. It was a–it was a good childhood. Yeah.

 

I:          Very nice.

 

P:         Yeah.  Graduated from grade school in 1946 and then went on to high school.

 

I:          1946?

 

P:         1946.  And then graduated from high school

 

0:04:00

 

in June of 1950.

 

I:          Uh-huh.

 

P:         Two weeks–

 

I:          June.

 

P:         June.  Two weeks before the action started in Korea.  A country that I had never–I hadn’t heard of before and didn’t know where it was. And– but I learned a lot from it immediately.

 

I:          That’s–that’s my question. Did you know anything about Korea?

 

P:         No.

 

I:          Did you know anything about Asia?

 

P:         Very little.  Very little.

 

I:          Tell me.

 

P:         All I knew about was

 

0:04:30

 

Growing up during the war years. That–the, of Japan.

 

I:          Mm-hmm.

 

P:         Japan was the talk and that was the only thing. And I’ve read newspaper articles about the Chinese and the atrocities in China and–and the Flying Tigers.  And I loved airplanes so, I followed that and-but as far as knowing anything about the people–I didn’t know anything, at all.

 

0:05:00

 

I:          So–

 

P:         And Korea I had not heard of at all.

 

I:          You didn’t know where–

 

P:         Not at all.

 

I:          it located?

 

P:         Didn’t at all.  When–when they announced that the North Korea had invaded South Korea everybody said well, where’s Korea? You know? We just didn’t know.  We–we–we weren’t taught that.  And we just learned–but we learned fast. We learned fast.

 

I:          When were you in Korea?

 

P:         I was in Korea in–from–

 

0:05:30

 

October of 1952 to October 1953. I was there during the–the hostilities and I returned home three months after the truce was signed.

 

I:          So, let me ask this question act–usually I ask this question at the end of the interview, but since you mentioned by yourself that you didn’t know anything about Korea. Now you were in Korea from October ’52 to ’53

 

0:06:00

 

and now you know about Korea, right?

 

P:         Now I know about Korea.

 

I:          Have you been back to Korea?

P:         No I have not.

 

I:          You never been?

 

P:         No.

 

I:          But you know what’s going on in Korea.

 

P:         I know what’s going on, I keep up to it, yes.

 

I:          Tell me about this. You didn’t know anything about Korea, but you were there. And now the Korea you know and the Korea you knew in 1950’s is completely different.

 

P:         Right.

 

I:          Tell me about this. What do you think about this and why were you there and what is the outcome of your service and what do you think about it? What is Korea for you now?

 

P:         Well,

 

0:06:30

 

for–for me, two weeks after my graduation from high school I already had a job. I had no thoughts of going to college. I had a job, I had a girlfriend and life was good, you know? And, but the draft was in full force and they were taking all the 18 to 21 year-old boys and

 

0:07:00

 

the group of friends that I had we discussed this and we didn’t know–we knew we were going to go but we didn’t know when, so we decided- let’s just–lets go. So we all enlisted there was five of us who enlisted. And we enlisted in the Air Force in order to stay away from the infantry.  Self-preservation.

 

0:07:30

 

And we processed our paperwork and were all set to depart. We–we’d given notice at our jobs, our families had given us going away parties and bon voyage type thing and the night before we were supposed to leave, the recruiter called and said that all Air Force enlistments were frozen, they had too many candidates and so therefore, we would not be leaving on time.

 

0:08:00

 

Well, since we had already given up our jobs and everything, we decided lets–let just go into the Army instead.  And we went down and scratched out everywhere on the forms that it said Air Force we scratched out and put Army and initialed it.  And we left on time the next morning.  We were in the Army.

 

I:          [laughing]

 

P:         That’s how we ended up–

 

I:          What–let me ask this, what was the reaction of your girlfriend that when you have to go to war?

 

0:08:30

 

P:           Well, that was later on. At first, we were just going in the Army.  We didn’t–some of us–we just didn’t know what the future was going to bring in, as far as assignments, where we would go. Some went to Korea and some went to Germany and, you know, there were different assignments. So, we didn’t know, but they–they–the family–the girlfriends the families they hated to see us go. Especially since we signed up.  The draft was for two years,

 

0:09:00

 

we signed up for three. The minimum to signing up to volunteer was 3 years and so we signed up for three years and so–

 

I:          So you were not actually drafted, you volunteered–enlisted?

 

P:         No, I was not drafted, I was–I was volunteered yes. All five of us. Mus–

 

I:          Why?

 

P:         Well–

 

I:          Were you not afraid?

 

P:         No. No not really. Curious. But we weren’t afraid, no. but we knew they were going to get us eventually.

 

0:09:30

 

And we just want to just go ahead and get it over w. go–go–it might have been a year it might have been a month until they drafted us.  It depend on the luck of the draw and so we decided to just go ahead and get it over with.  And three years didn’t seem like such a long time and–it was–I just–I guess I would think that It was an adventure.

 

0:10:00

 

Something that we were gonna do and–

 

I:          But now, looking at all those years, what is Korea to you now?

 

P:         Well–

 

I:          The Korea you know about the modern Korea, right?

 

P:         I know about the modern Korea, yeah.

 

I:          And so what do you think about that?

 

P:         I think it’s marvelous. I think it’s marvelous because when I was there, it was total devastation.  There wasn’t a– a building in Seoul that was still whole.  I think the only one that was whole was the main PX. The–the Army PX in

 

0:10:30

 

Seoul was the only building that had all the windows in it.  They were the–even the– buildings across the street were all bombed out.  It was just a–and I was stationed up, just north and west of Yeoncheon and that was all above the farm line. There were no civilians above the farm line.  Any Korean above the farm line–if he wasn’t from the military, was the enemy. And so

 

0:11:00

 

It–it was just–back then it was just terrible. Just seeing it. I was fortunate in that I wasn’t a line soldier. I wasn’t a rifleman. I was an aviation mechanic on the light airplanes and I had a pretty well-structured work routine in maintaining my aircraft and my units air craft and–

 

I:          I will-I will

 

0:11:30

 

go back to that question–

 

P:         Yeah. Yeah.

 

I:          But this is going t–I mean many school children is going to be listening to you afterwards okay?

P:         Mm-hmm.

 

I:          So, could you tell us more about the specifics of the devastation that you witnessed in Korea, in Seoul so that they can know before and after picture.  Because you are the only one that has before and after of Korea pictures, right?

 

P:         Right, mm-hmm.

 

I:          Please tell more about the devastation and the people. How miserable how poor

 

0:12:00

 

they were and things like that.

 

P:         The–the population in Seoul in–out in the outlining villages was hand to mouth, as far as growing–everybody had to work–everybody worked and children and everything.  And from what I could see.  I tra–I was fortunate to travel from my unit and back to Seoul on a monthly basis.  And so I was able to–to see the people there and

 

0:12:30

 

The– I could recall instances where our–our garbage would be picked up to our unit and transported to a dump location where the children would be just–the–the–the military police would have to really work to keep them out of there, because they were struggling to find anything that was half eaten. I–I–I just I thought that was terrible. And I never took a picture of that because I didn’t want to–

 

0:13:00

 

I just didn’t want to show that to people. It–it had to be terrible it had to be terrible for them because I was sleeping in a nice warm bed at night. I had three meals a day and here there’s these people just trying to survive. Just trying–

 

I:          What were you thinking? The–when kids were trying anything to eat, right?

P:         Any–any–anything at all. Anything that was edible or useable. And it–

 

0:13:30

 

I was fortunate in having two good houseboys in my tent, which we kept with us. One was only 14 years old and the other one was 16 years old. And I had a Sears catalogue sent to me by my girlfriend. And I let them pick out clothing and articles out of the catalogue

 

I:          Wow.

 

P:         To–to ship to them–t–to me to give to them.  But

 

0:14:00

 

I would have liked–I would have loved to have adopted them but I wasn’t married, you know, and there was no way that I could do that. But I would have loved to take those two boys home. One was–especially very smart and the older one, he was 16, he was so afraid that the Korean MP’s would come in and grab them because there was a lot of talk about young boys being picked up off the street and put in the army.

 

0:14:30

 

And he was so afraid. And every time he saw anything that looked official he would disappear, you know, and–but it was–it was–that part of it was terrible.

 

I:          So, you pick up–you asked them to pick up their favorite clothes from–

 

P:         Mm-hmm.  From the catalogue.

 

I:          And you asked you ask your girlfriend to send those?

 

P:         She would order them and send them to me, yes.

 

I:          So you actually did deliver those clothes to your bus boy?

 

P:         Oh yes, yes.

 

I:          Wow.

 

0:15:00

 

P:         Yeah. Oh yeah.

 

I:          What a story.

 

P:         And the younger one wanted a f–his–his dream he looked in and he found a flashlight in that catalog and it had a–it was about a foot long and held about four or five batteries in it. He wanted that and I ordered it for him. And he was tickled to death of that thing.  Now, I don’t know if he sold it real quick, but–

 

I:          Did you have any picture about that with the new clothes from the U.S. for–

 

P:         No.  No. No. I have pictures–

 

I:          That might have been a dynamite.

 

0:15:30

 

P:         I have pictures of the house boys, but not–not in the–not incivilian clothes. They wore the same fatigues that we wore. We had a custom set made for the smaller one, because he was too small for our clothing. We had a set of–of fatigues made for him.

 

I:          So, now you know the modern Korea, right?

 

P:         Yes, I know the modern Korea.

 

I:          What do you think about this radical differences?

 

P:         Oh this–this is amazing I just don’t know how they could put up that many buildings in that small space, you know. I was fortunate in the

 

0:16:00

 

aviation unit I was in I was able to fly a lot with my–my pilots.  As–and I was a crew chief on–on the airplanes, which was the maintenance man, and they would take me whenever they were going on business some other air strip or some other location they would take me along. I look a lot of pictures in the air, and especially around Seoul.  And I have pictures of the buildings from the ground and from the air and I was–I was quite fortunate

 

0:16:30

 

in the job that I had and it was–it was a good way to spend an assignment for me.

 

I:          So, what would you tell the American kids about Korea in 1950 and 21stcentury Korea?

 

P:         They wouldn’t believe the difference. They just–I–I–I think I’d find it hard for the children to believe what I saw.  And it–

 

0:17:00

 

today, of course, modern–they got the modern trains and all back then, they only had one track going up north form Seoul and then going up to Yeoncheon and up to Chorwon and–and we used a railroad bridge up there on route 3 before you get to Yeoncheon, we used a railroad bridge to–to cross with our vehicles because the

 

0:17:30

 

automobile bridge on the side of it was in the river.  And–but getting back to the children, that was my, the biggest thing that bothered me was seeing the children in that dump foraging for food. And they just looked so miserable.  Yeah. I didn’t have much action with the citizens at all, because I was

 

0:18:00

 

above the farm line. But we had a detail of Korean labor force.

 

I:          Hmm.

 

P:         At our–at our location that we used for maintenance around–around the area.  And one elderly gentleman, he was a grandfather, and he was smart.  He helped us maintain our airplanes.  He was–he was mechanically inclined.  And he-he was a very good person.

 

0:18:30

 

He was learning a little bit of English and we showed him how to do something and he did it every time ever–

 

I:          They are very smart.

 

P:         Yes they are.  Yes they are.

 

I:          Mm-hmm.

 

P:         Given the opportunity. Given the opportunity, they are.

 

I:          Let us go back to the time around that you were in basic training.  What was your MOS and what did you do?

 

P:         Well, I started out

 

0:19:00

 

when I–when we enlisted the recruiting sergeant gave us a story about the buddy platoon system to keep us all together. We were hoping to all stay together instead of going off in different directions.  And so they wanted to know what–in–in–in our forms when we enlisted–they wanted to know what we were doing in civilian life. What kind of experience we had

 

0:19:30

 

and they assign your MOS according to that, but they gave us all the same one, which was a rifleman. And I took my basic training with the 45thdivision before it went to Korea and it had just been mobilized. It was a Oklahoma national guard mobilized to build up its forces and ship to Korea and we took our infantry basic with them. And I was

 

0:20:00

 

going to be a line soldier and I don’t know what the MOS is for that, but the infantry basic was a 16 week course and at the end of 13 weeks I injured both knees on a forced march. And I was in the hospital for 21 days and so I missed three weeks of basic training. When I was released from the hospital,

 

0:20:30

 

My unit was already packing up. They received their orders to ship out and I didn’t graduate with the rest of the people so I was transferred to another battalion on the base. And, which was a Godsend for me. Because the 45thdivision took heavy casualties and out of the five of us that enlisted, three didn’t survive.

 

0:21:00

 

And that one of them was my best friend childhood–from childhood all the way on up through. He was to be our best man in our wedding. The day before rotating back home, he was killed. He had spent his year there. His year in hell he called it. And the so–I was transferred to the artillery battalion and

 

0:21:30

 

they had put me in service battery because supposedly I had a d–defect with both my knees I couldn’t march or anything, but I could work.  So, I was put in the service battery where–the service battery in the artillery battalion services the three firing batteries A,B and C and headquarters battery.  Supplies them with ammunition and fuel problems, supplies them with fuel, supplies them with food for the kitchens and

 

0:22:00

 

just general work is what it is. It was a service battery.  I was only there two months though, then I was transferred into headquarters and I began training as a fire control specialist for artillery. And several months into that, I received orders to go to an aircraft mechanics school. And I didn’t–at that time, I didn’t realize

 

0:22:30

 

that the Army had airplanes. I thought the Air Force had airplanes.

 

I:          There was no Air Force actually, officially.

 

P:         Well, it had just, it was just beginning, you know. The Air Force had just been transferred from the Army after World War II.  So, I went to a–airplane mechanics school for four months in San Marcos Texas. It was an Air Force base.

 

I:          I’m sorry I–I have to revise my comments that there was no Air Force Academy there at the time, but there was an Air Force.

 

P:         Right. Right. Yeah.

 

I:          Still, Army had

 

0:23:00

 

Its own, yes.

 

P:         It had its own.  They used small spotter airplanes.

 

I:          Yes.

 

P:         And they were beginning the use of helicopters.

 

I:          Yeah.

 

P:         So, when I graduated from the mechanics school, I went back to my unit in Louisiana and I was put into the–transferred into the air section and there I received my MOS, which was 3008, was air aviation specialist–aviation maintenance specialist.  And I kept that all the way to the

 

0:23:30

 

rest of the time I was in the military.  The–I was there about two months after I graduated and then I received my orders then for Korea. My initial orders were go to– to Daegu to the KMAG the Korean Military Advisory Group there to be an instructor for the Korean troops teaching them maintenance on their aircraft.  And–

 

0:24:00

 

When I got to the replacement depot after landing at Incheon we went to the–I forget the name of the replacement depot there, Ascom City it was.  Yes, Ascom City they looked at my orders in Daegu you know, you go to Incheon and Daegu you go this way.

 

I:          Yep.

 

P:         They said you’re going this way [laughing] they reassigned me to the 159thfield artillery battalion

 

0:24:30

 

and at that time, the 159thwas using–they had just transitioned from 105mm cannon to 155mm cannon, a little bit bigger. So that brought them back from the line a little bit so they could get a little bit further back.  And there’s where my experience in Korea started. My first

 

0:25:00

 

Night, after getting off the ship at Incheon and going to Ascom–

 

I:          When did you arrive at Incheon?

P:         I arrived there about the first week of October of 1952. And–

 

I:          Tell me about the Incheon that you saw, how was it?

 

P:         Well, we got off the ship at night at high tide during the night and I didn’t see anything.  And they put us on trucks and took us to Ascom City and went through the gate

 

0:25:30

 

into the compound and the first thing that hit me was the smell–the odor. Because everybody was cooking outdoors.  No one lived inside there was nothing.  There was huts–huts was all, you know? And the–the and then the smoke–the smoke just hung in the air, you know, at night time. And that was the first time. And they said get used to it, you’re gonna smell that for a while, you know?

 

I:          What kind of smell was it?

 

0:26:00

 

P:         it was just a– a strange odor. It just, smoky, might have been some cooking, might have been some sewage just a–a– weird–weird– weird odor. And that was the first–and that was dark when I got there. So when I woke up in the morning in daylight and looked outside–looking outside the compound there wasn’t much there.

 

0:26:30

 

you could see walls, parts of walls, chimneys, you know, just here and there but it–it was just a–it was just–it was different. It was strange.

 

I:          I mean, to be obvious, it was like something very foreign and very–

 

P:         Oh yes. Yes.

 

I:          It was different and–and

 

P:         Yes. Yes.  Well, it was military, but then outside the gate was everything else.

 

0:27:00

 

And business went on.  The oxcarts went by.  And the p– papasans.  The papasans really fascinated me. They were like–like royalty and they were all nice and white with their black caps on and their little pipes, you know, and–I figured they must be a mayor or something, you know?

 

I:          [laughing] yeah right.

 

P:         and–and–and it was very strange and it was new to me. Because

 

0:27:30

 

I had never seen anything like that before. It was amazing.

 

I:          So, from Incheon where did you go?

 

P:         From Incheon the–I was– for several weeks, while waiting. They didn’t know how they were going to get me to my unit because they were way up there and there was only one track of train going up to Yeoncheon and

 

0:28:00

 

they didn’t know if the unit was going to send a vehicle down to get me. So, they temporarily, til they found out, they assigned me temporarily to a helicopter repair outfit, which was close by. And every day there for about a week and a half I would go in there and help with the maintenance on helicopters, which I knew very little about, but I–I was able to do mechanical work and–.  Then one day they called me in to the–the office

 

0:28:30

 

and they said get all your stuff you’re going to get on the train up to your unit. And so I got on the train then they pulled me off the train and said no, there’s a truck coming to pick you up, you know. So back to the compound again. Anyways, again, I took a truck ride bouncing in the back of a truck and–dirt roads. Gravel and dirt and it was late in the day and it got dark and we’re still going

 

0:29:00

 

and I didn’t know how far north we could go and still be in same country, you know?

 

I:          Mm-hmm.

 

P:         and we arrived at my unit headquarters after dark and hadn’t eaten all day. Mess hall was closed. They gave me a sleeping bag and told me to go to a certain tent and find a spare bunk and sleep for the night and the next day they’d process me.

 

I:          What was your unit?

 

P:         Again, again, it was cold.

 

0:29:30

 

It was October. After dark as soon as the sun went down it was cold and I spent a very bad night the first night because I just had no idea what I was going to do and whats–. Next morning I went to the mess hall, had a good breakfast. I went into the supply sergeant and he issued me a rifle, an M1. And I wasn’t an infantryman I was an airplane mechanic.

 

0:30:00

 

And they said, your transportation will be here in a little while. We’ll call you as soon–over the loudspeaker as soon as it comes. A little while later, an airplane came and circled the field and landed on a little piece of gravel road. And they said, there’s your ride.

 

I:          [laughing]

 

P:         And he says he’ll take you up to where your unit is stationed.  He said the aviation d–section was–was detached from the main unit

 

0:30:30

 

and combined with I Corps.

 

I:          But what was your unit?

 

P:         The 159thfield artillery.

 

I:          And that belongs to where?

 

P:         That was–it was a battalion of artillery that was detached from the 25thDivision and attached to I Corps artillery. I Corps had taken a–a battalion of artillery from about seven different divisions and combined them on one little airstrip

 

0:31:00

 

up there at I Corps artillery, which was just west of Yeoncheon.  On a plateau there they’d built a little airstrip there and they had about–oh they had about 14, 15 airplanes based there that one strip.  And–

 

I:          What was your rank?

P:         My rank, at the time, was Private First Class.

 

I:          [laughing]

 

P:         And the–I was sent up there.  The reason they had changed my orders and sent me up there was because the sergeant who was a crew chief

 

0:31:30

 

And section chief for the 159thwas ready to rotate back home and they had a vacancy there and they only had one other mechanic and they were supposed to have three. And the other mechanic was also a PFC and they just needed–.  And it happened at the time it was an emergency. The sergeant that I was replacing was in the hospital for surgery.  So, they were really short

 

0:32:00

 

handed and they need to get somebody in that unit for–to fill that space.  And–

 

I:          How much were you paid?

 

P:         My pay, based on a 24 hour day 7 days a week, was $2.10–was .10 an hour.

 

I:          Okay.

 

P:         $2.40 a day.

 

I:          $2.40–

 

P:         .40 for 24 hours.  So–

 

I:          A day.

 

P:         Yeah for 7 days a week.

 

I:          So, its about–

 

P:         $82 a month, roughly.

 

0:32:30

 

I:          [laughing] what did you do with that?

 

P:         Oddly enough, $7 of it, out of it, to pay for my life insurance policy.

 

I:          [laughing]

 

P:         And I sent $25 to my mother and I sent $25 to my girlfriend. We had a joint account because we were going to be married and we were trying to build up some money. I sent I tot her and she put it in the account

 

0:33:00

 

and the rest is what I used to subside. And I did right–well, I did okay it–

 

I:          So did you marry that?

 

P:         I did marry that girl. I still am.  63 years now.

 

I:          63?

 

P:         Yeah.k

 

I:          Endangered species.

 

P:         Yep.  Yep.

 

I:          What’s her name?

 

P:         Her name is Shirley.

 

I:          Shirley.  S-H-I-R-L-E-Y?

 

P:         Yep.

 

I:          Shirley Bombardier.

 

P:         Shirley Bombardier.

 

0:33:30

 

I:          I wish I could see her.

 

P:         I met her when we were 15, in high school. In the second year of high school.

 

I:          So, high school sweet– sweetheart.

 

P:         Yeah. Yeah.

 

I:          That’s a beautiful story.

 

P:         Yeah.

 

I:          What was the most difficult thing during your service in Korea?

 

P:         [thinking] that’s hard to say. I don’t–I don’t recall any

 

0:34:00

 

most difficult things. I guess the most difficult thing was the basic training in the infantry division. It was rough. It was hard.

 

I:          In the state?

 

P:         In the states.

 

I:          But I’m asking you about —

 

P:         In–in–in Korea.

 

I:          Korea.

 

P:         In Korea.  I–

 

I:          I mean what is the thing that really bothered you or hated–you hated something. What other things that you couldn’t stand that bothers you.

 

0:34:30

 

Physically, mentally.

 

P:         I–I don’t have anything that really bothers me. I–I was

 

I:          You talk about the kids looking for the anything to eat–

 

P:         Yes look at that.

 

I:          in the waste dump.

 

P:         Yeah. And the, but I have–but as far as bothering me, nothing that I laid awake at night worrying about. Like I say, I wasn’t in fear of my life.  I was in the support company.  I was–we were

 

0:35:00

 

supporting the fighting troops. I could hear it, but I couldn’t see it. I could hear it at night.

 

I:          So, you were in the rear area.

 

P:         About four miles behind the demilitarized zone, yes. Mm-hmm.  Yeah. I could see it at night, during the hostilities–I could hear the machine guns and, of course, every time my unit, which was based–my unit transitioned then from the 155 to the 240mm the big–

 

0:35:30

 

the big cannons and they were 10 miles behind us. So every time a fire mission was called, because we monitored the aircraft. We listened to the radio when they were calling in strikes and they’d call in a round away, which is had been fired and about a minute later we’d hear it go over and it–it just whistled through the sky.

 

I:          Mm-hmm.

 

P:         And then 30 seconds later, we’d hear the [crumph] four miles ahead, you know, and…

 

0:36:00

 

It–but that was my the–the–the extent of my involvement with the combat part of it. I could hear it but I couldn’t see it and it didn’t bother me as far as–.  I didn’t carry a rifle every day.  I–I was working on airplanes. I kept my airplanes flying and I did my job.  I knew I was there for a year. I think the thing that bothered–the only thing that –as far as bothering me

 

0:36:30

 

I think the only thing that bothered me was waiting to go home.

 

I:          Uh-huh.

 

P:         Waiting to go home.  And the, but the time went by quite fast. I was fortunate in that I was able to fly with the pilots two three times a week, you know, and I went to different airstrips and met people. I always went with the airplane because if the pilot had to leave the airplane I always stayed with the airplane.

 

I:          I see. That must be hard.

 

0:37:00

 

P:         To keep–to keep pilfering.

 

I:          Yeah.

 

P:         Because we–we–we, you know, we carried good radios and everything. We had a– in our unit–in our little compound there at the air strip, we had a 2 ½ ton truck that was loaned to the–the unit from I Corps to do heavy hauling fuel drums and everything for our airplanes.  And we had that truck parked ight next to our mess hall and while we were eating lunch one day, it was stolen. Right–right

 

0:37:30

 

from in–right there next to us. Took off with all the airplanes and everything. Jeeps and trucks went out. We never saw that thing again. Where could it go? Who took it, you know? But we lost a 2 ½ ton truck.

 

I:          Really?

 

P:         Right–right while we were eating our lunch, you know?

 

I:          Who took it?

 

P:         We don’t know. We don’t know if it was North Koreans. We don’t know if it was South Koreans.

 

I:          Where was it, where was it in Yeoncheon?

 

P:         At our air strip there in–in

 

0:38:00

 

west of Yeoncheon. Just west–we were about three miles from Yeoncheon.

 

I:          Wow.

 

P:         Off to the west, yeah.

 

I:          And you couldn’t find that again?

P:         We never found the truck nor high nor hair.  We never saw it again.

 

I:          Did you actually try to find it again?

 

P:         Oh yeah. Yeah.

 

I:          How can this be?

 

P:         Because this was within minutes. You know, we were only in there for 10, 15 minutes eating lunch and the truck disappeared in that 15 minute time. And somebody took it from there and–and drove off with it.

 

0:38:30

 

And you, know that was wide open spaces up there where we were at. And even from the air and everything they–

 

I:          It’s hard to understand.

 

P:         Hard to understand, yeah. But that was the only thing we had was see–the–that was the most excitement.  [laughing]

 

I:          [laughing] it’s not exciting it’s a–

 

P:         Yeah. Yeah.

 

I:          It’s a humiliation.

 

P:         Yeah. Oh yes it is, it’s a humiliating thing and to have a 2 ½–the–they didn’t take a Jeep.  And we had a lot of Jeeps. Each unit had a Jeep there as about 7 Jeeps there

 

0:39:00

 

and that many quarter ton trucks but one 2 ½ ton truck. The only–it was our–it was our work horse, you know?

 

I:          My goodness.

 

P:         and well we had–

 

I:          What was the aircraft there? F–F86 or?

 

P:         No, no. The–the–this–this was a –this was a gravel dirt strip. It was a dirt strip and it was just a spotter airplanes the–the–

 

I:          Spotter.

 

P:         Yeah.  The L19 cessnas, you know? The bird–

 

I:          L?

 

P:         The bird dogs.

 

I:          What do you call?

 

P:         Bird dogs.

 

I:          Yeah.

 

P:         The L19.

 

I:          L19.

 

P:         L19 Yeah.

 

0:39:30

 

Liaison 19 model.  It’s the two–two–two seat airplane. The pilot and the observer was all that flew in it.  And they would–they would get up there at 4,000 feet over the lines and pick out targets.

 

I:          To spot their enemies.

 

P:         Spot targets. Look for targets. And actually sometimes they’d go 3 or 4 miles past the line because we could fire 10-15 miles into the–into the rear.  And–

 

0:40:00

 

But those were the airplanes we–we serviced. And we kept them flying 7 days a week.

 

I:          Did you write a letter back to your family?

 

P:         All the time.

 

I:          All the time?

 

P:         All the time.

 

I:          Do you still have the letter?

 

P:         Some of them.

 

I:          Do you?

P:         Mm-hmm.

 

I:          Oh.

 

P:         Not those that I wrote, but those that I that–that were written to me.

 

I:          You received.

 

P:         That I received.

 

I:          From your girlfriend too?

 

P:         Yeah.

 

I:          Shirley.

 

P:         Yep. Yep.

 

I:          Wow.

 

P:         I wrote to–

 

I:          You know, on our website, there are more than

 

0:40:30

 

8,000 artifacts. Like the letters you exchanged.

 

P:         Yeah.  Yeah.

 

I:          if you want to give me your pictures and the letters we can put it up there.

 

P:         I could dig some pictures up the letters, I would have to read them first

 

I:          Yes.

 

P:         and make sure there was nothing in there.

 

I:          Make sure to get out.

 

P:         Because we were an engaged couple and–

 

I:          It’s gotta be PG-13 not rated.

 

P:         Yeah. Yeah.

 

I:          Okay.  And if you want to do–I think teachers and students they told me

 

0:41:00

 

Fascinating experience to read what they wrote back to each other during the war and that attracts a lot of attention from teachers.

 

P:         Oh yeah.

 

I:          And students. It’s amazing.

 

P:         Well yeah, for children to think–to act–you don’t think it people had a life before them, you know.  And–but we all went through our–our–our period of

 

0:41:30

 

life, and–

 

I:          You know, these are the questions that elementary school children ask veterans: where did you pee?

 

P:         Yep. Yep.  Right in the tube.

 

I:          How was cafeteria? McDonalds? You know?

 

P:         [shaking his head no] Yeah.

 

I:          Things like that.  So, it will be fascinating for them to see the pictures. Because the picture that you took is different from the pictures that was taken by the–expert.

 

P:         the press.

 

I:          The press.

 

P:         Mm-hmm.

 

0:42:00

 

I:          Because they want to see Korea in your eyes 70 years ago.

 

P:         Yeah.

 

I:          That’s what we’re trying to do. So, if you have those and if you are willing to, we would love to put it on your page. So when people checking your website they will be able to see your bus boy, your letters, you know, it’s a love letter, you know has to be–I mean it will stay private but still

 

0:42:30

 

the most of the contents is I think they are no problem to be open, you know?

 

P:         Yeah.

 

I:          So, it’s your decision.

 

P:         Sure.

 

I:          You let me know, okay?

P:         Mm-hmm.

 

I:          So, when did you leave? October of 1953–or ’52?

 

P:         ’52

 

I:          50–

 

P:         is when I–when I arrived in Incheon, yeah.

 

I:          So you were there–

 

P:         My unit.  I arrived at my unit on the 16thof October.

 

I:          So you were there when the armistice was signed.

 

P:         I was there when the armistice signed.

 

I:          Tell me about it–the day–

 

P:         The day–

 

I:          the day that you heard about it.

 

P:         The day was a good day.  Everything got quiet and we moved.

 

0:43:00

 

They moved. They closed the air strip where we were at and they built camps–I don’t know if you heard of Camp St. Barbara? Camp St. Barbara they built it about eight miles to the east of Yeoncheon and its active today. The rock army uses it now, we don’t use that anymore. They–we built that. We built that. Our–in those three months we built an airstrip there and we started putting up our tents. Now, they’ve got nice

 

0:43:30

 

buildings there and everything. I’ve seen the pictures of Camp St. Barbara now, and its quite different from when I was there. And–

 

I:          You saw the picture now?

 

P:         yeah, it’s online, yeah.

 

I:          Okay.

 

P:         They’re online, yeah.  And the–from the air–I’ve seen pictures form the air. It’s quite a bit different. But it was– but Camp St. Barbara it went military after the armistice.  It went military.  You had formations in the morning,

 

0:44:00

 

you had physical exercises and a little bit of marching in formation and it went military. You know, press the suits and no more wrinkled caps on in the–and be all squared off and– but that happened right after I left.  I left at a good time. It was a–

 

I:          So when you left Korea what did you think about Korea that would have a

 

0:44:30

 

future like this today?

 

P:         Not at the time I didn’t think so because of the condition it was in.  The rebuilding hadn’t started and there’s no way to imagine because it was a farm country. It was–it was really a rural country except for Seoul and Busan.  So, there was no way for me to have any idea what–what would become of it, but over the years I saw what happened

 

0:45:00

 

and I have an excellent picture of Seoul now, taken last year. I found online. And seen all those building and high speed trains and its–its–its amazing. It’s amazing that they could do so much when there was so little.  It–it’s come a long ways. It’s coming a long ways from taking the American beer

 

0:45:30

 

cans and opening them up, flattening them out and soldering them together and making siding for the buildings, which I have seen not only in Korea, but in Japan the same way. And it–I–I think it’s a good–I think it’s a good thing that’s happened to them. Because had the North Koreans taken over the whole country, well, it would–the whole country

 

0:46:00

 

would be like how North Korea is today.  My–the picture that amazes me is the night time Google picture of lights in South Korea as opposed to what’s–the candle that’s burning in North Korea.   It just–well it just–I just feel we did the right thing. We did the right thing.

 

I:          Are you proud of your service?

 

P:         Yes, I am.  Yes I am.  I would’ve loved to stay in but I had the foresight

 

0:46:30

 

to–to think ahead and decide I did not want to drag a family through–through life in the military. If I’d had been stayed single, the military would’ve been fine. I enjoyed my work. I enjoyed my work. I learned my career there. When I got out of the service and married I went to school and got my federal licenses. Became a certified

 

0:47:00

 

aircraft and engine mechanic and I went through my whole working career in the maintenance of aircraft, civilian and airline and–and all.  And I–I–I learned my career in the service.

 

I:          It’s a beautiful thing that came out of your service, which is Republic of Korea.

 

P:         Oh yeah.

 

I:          11thlargest economy in the world.

 

 

 

0:47:30

 

P:         Yes.

 

I:          And the most substantive democracy in Asia.

 

P:         That’s right.

 

I:          We just impeached our president.

 

P:         Yep. Well, that–

 

I:          Unfortunate, but that shows the power of civil society.

 

P:         Let politics work.

 

I:          Yeah.  And–but we don’t teach much about it.

 

P:         No.

 

I:          In our world history textbook.

 

P:         Oh yeah. Yeah.

 

I:          Korean War is only about this one paragraph.

 

P:         There’s not much in there.

 

I:          I mean, why is that? Why is it forgotten and why we don’t teach about this honorable things that came out of your service?

 

0:48:00

 

Why?

 

P:         I don’t know.

 

I:          Is it because Korea? Because it’s not Japan, it’s not China but because it’s Korea?

 

P:         I really couldn’t answer that I don’t–I don’t know. I really don’t.

 

I:          That’s why we are doing this.

 

P:         That’s right this is–this is a good thing. This is a good thing. I’ve read some of the–I’ve done an interview at the Handley Library two years ago.  And this–and I’ve read some–some of the interviews there.

 

0:48:30

 

And a lot of the soldiers had much worse experiences than I did. I mean there are those who really suffered. My best friend, he–he was a line soldier with the 45thdivision he was a motor–field observer for a motor platoon and in June of 1952, June 12th,

 

0:49:00

 

the North forces were running amuck. Attacked their location and he allowed all his people to move to the rear and he stayed to call in more to fire for his retreating–for his retreating troops and he was killed there in his–in his position. And that was the hardest thing I had–

 

I:          Oh.

 

P:         That was the hardest thing.

 

0:49:30

 

When my mother sent me a telegram. I was still in the States, at that time. And three months later was when I left to go to Korea. And that was the hardest thing I had to take. And to–to have spent–to have done his duty and performed his–his job for a year and the day before–two days before going home to–

 

I:          That’s horrible.

 

P:         Yep. Yep.

 

0:50:00

 

I:           Paul, that’s why we are doing this.

 

P:         Yeah.

 

I:          So that teachers and students can learn from you and then we are using it to make contents in the classroom for the Korean War and modern Korea. And so that–I just finished the big teacher conference–

 

P:         Uh-huh.

 

I:          90 teachers from 22 states came down to Washington D.C. and my foundation hosted them

 

0:50:30

 

for three nights and four days.

 

P:         Mm-hmm.

 

I:          we provided everything, hotel rooms and meals but they learn about Asia, they learn about Korea. They going to listen to this interview so that they remember what happened and what actually came out of your service, which is Republic of Korea.

 

P:         That’s right.

 

I:          So that’s why we are doing. And we are going to have another teacher conference July 11-14 this year in Washington D.C. and I invited Korean War veterans

 

0:51:00

 

come so that teachers can have interviews and then sitting with us for dinner

 

P:         Mm-hmm.

 

I:          July 12.  I invited–I–I ask Louis to bring his chapter memoirs, like yours, like you, to the dinner, okay? So, I really hope to see you there.  And–and I want to thank you again for your wonderful witness

 

0:51:30

 

about the Korean War. Is there anything that you want to say to this interview or any message to the young generation or about your service?

 

P:         Well, the only thing I say I–next week I am going to the Mercer School in Aldie Virginia to do three periods of living history with the middle school students there. This will be my third year going for that and I tell them the same thing.

 

0:52:00

 

At their age they don’t know what they want to do, but the–for those who don’t aspire to go to go on to college and just want to get out of school, the military is a place to go. Because they can learn a career in the military.

 

I:          What school are you going? What was the–

P:         Mercer.  Mercer. Mercer School in Aldie.

 

I:          In Virginia?

 

P:         Its Mercer Middle School.

 

I:          In Virginia?

 

0:52:30

 

P:         In Virginia.  It’s down year Dulles airport.

 

I:          You can invite the teachers to join our conference in July.

 

P:         Mm-hmm.

 

I:          They can stay in the hotel free.  All the–all everything’s provided by my foundation and they will have a chance to listen from the good speakers and they will learn about my foundation.

 

P:         Yes.

 

I:          They are welcome, okay? So could you–

 

P:         The librarian there at that school is in charge of this program.  And this history program.

 

I:          Please tell them.

 

P:         Yeah.

 

0:53:00

 

 

I:          I want to invite them. Can you do that for me?

 

P:         I can do that, yeah.

 

I:          Alright.

 

P:         Yeah. And they–this is my third year. The school has been doing this for 8 years now for their middle schoolers and the questions that the students ask are all good common sense questions.  And then afterwards. A couple of weeks afterwards, I got a–an envelope with about 12 letters in it, written by students. And they–they had to be listening to me because

 

0:53:30

 

all of the things they mentioned were all the things I talked about.  You know?

 

I:          Cool.

 

P:         So they–they were getting the message and I thought that was very, very nice.

 

[End of Recorded Material]