Paul H. Cunningham
Paul Cunningham was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on the 17th of March, 1930. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the United States Air Force as a Radar Repairman in October of 1948. After receiving basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and technical training at Keesler Field in Biloxi, Mississippi, Paul Cunningham was sent to a unit that was deployed to Korea in September of 1950. During the Korean War, he was tasked with setting up and maintaining mobile radar sites throughout the Korean peninsula. Upon leaving Korea after seventeen months, he returned to the United States in 1952 and completed his enlistment.
Basic Training, Technical School, and Arriving in Korea
Paul Cunningham recalls sitting for seven weeks waiting for his assignment after basic training. Since he did not want to go to Germany, he volunteered for Adak, Alaska, but while training in South Carolina, the Korean War began. He remembers arriving in Korea at Pusan on September 20, 1950, and recalls setting up a radar station at the top of a hill in Pusan. After that, he moved to Osan, Incheon, and Kimpo Air Base to continue setting up radar stations.
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Radar Sites in Korea and a Last Look in February 1952
Paul Cunningham set up a large radar station near the Kimpo Air Base, and that ended his seventeen-month deployment in Korea after spending two long winters there. He recalls leaving Korea with the image of poverty, huts, and dirt roads in February 1952. He also remembers the rail transportation office in Seoul as being all broken down and adds that he never thought Korea would rebuild itself like it has today.
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The Most Difficult Experience in Korea
Paul Cunningham identified the lack of solid support from the US government as the most difficult experience in Korea because all of the troops were ready to follow MacArthur all the way to the Yalu River. He shares that he was a part of the Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, 502 Tactical Control Group during his time in Korea. He adds that his squadron performed air surveillance for three hundred miles in all directions using radar machines that were used during WWII.
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[Beginning of Recorded Material]
P: My name is Paul Cunningham. That’s C U N N I N G H A M.
I: What is your birthday?
P: 1930, March 17, 1930. So this being March the 12th, in five more days I will be 88 years old.
I: Another birthday.
P: Another birthday coming up.
I: Happy Birthday, Paul. Where were you born?
P: Right here in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
I: And tell me about your
family when you were growing up including your parents and your siblings.
P: Well given that date of, uh, 1930, you know I was born at the start of the Depression years and, uh, we were, uh, my parents and five, uh, five of us children. I had two older sisters and a younger brother and a younger sister and, um, my brother and I were very close growing up, uh. We were only 19 months apart.
So you are the eldest?
P: Uh, boy.
I: Yeah, eldest boy, yeah.
P: Yes, yes, of the two and, um, so being that these, these were the pre-television years, uh, we grew up, um, pretty much, uh, the, uh, the church was kind of the hub of our activity, uh. We were choir boys, acolytes. We were, our scout troop met at our, uh,
at our church and, uh, young people’s club, and then, the YMCA was the other big outlet for our energies. So, um, I say it was fairly typical. I, um, went through the public schools and, um, um, graduated in 1948 from, uh, John Piersol McCaskey High School right here in Lancaster.
I: Could you spell it?
P: It’s, uh, uh,
J O H N Piersol, P I E R S O L McCaskey M c C A S K E Y High School. So our high school, it was, um, opened, uh, new in 1938 just 10 years before and, uh, that was a PWA project, uh, part of FDR’s, um, getting us out of the Depression. One of the Federal programs.
It was the, um, Public Works Administration and, uh, this high school was built at that time. Uh, it’s counterpart was the, uh, WPA but was the Works Progress Administration, and that didn’t have a very good reputation. That was, there was a, a nickname for that like “We Poke Along” because the progress they made was not as dramatic as, as what the, um, Public Works Administration did. And at that time, it was billed as the, um,
um, well it had a, an indoor swimming pool billed as the largest indoor swimming pool east of, of, uh, Pasadena, uh, California. So, um, so we did have the advantage of, uh, of a good education and, uh, but, uh, back in those days we did not have guidance counselors, uh. We did not have courses on, uh, selecting careers and things like that, um. The one thing I did know was that sometime I wanted to go to college.
That I did know. But, uh, being Depression and there were no college people in the family beforehand, um. I didn’t know the ins and outs of, of selecting colleges, getting admitted to colleges. So, um I thought well, after graduation I’ll just, um, I’ll just go into the military and, uh, buy some time and maybe then I’ll know what I want to do. So
I: Before you go into that, um, what was the impact of Great Depression in your family and your life at the time?
P It was, um, we, um, we did not go hungry. My mother was an an excellent manager and, uh, able to, to make ends meet. We, uh, my dad had the misfortune having a nervous breakdown during the, probably the depth of that and, uh, and that was kind of a setback to the family, um.
But then, uh, right, shortly after that uh, my father, uh was a member of the Pennsylvania, um, Coast Artillery National Guard, and he had served, uh, in Siberia, through the Philippines and Siberia in 1919
I: Um hm.
P: Um, so as a member of the Coast Artillery, they used to do their training along the Delaware coast and, uh, use the Delaware National Guard’s, uh, firing ranges out over the Atlantic.
So even though we were in the depth of the Depression and things were hard to come by, we did have those vacation when he’d go down there to soldier, we would take a place and, and, and we kids, uh, had a nice summer vacation at the, at the beach. So that was, um, uh, I said it’s, um, things were, were scarce and so forth. But, uh, but we were not you know, completely at
starvation point or anything like that.
I: Good. Let me ask this question also. Did you learn anything about Korea from the school?
P: No, we didn’t. Uh, Unfortunately, uh, in it, uh, I only knew about, uh, Siberia and Manchuria, China and Japan through my dad’s service over there and, uh, but as far as, uh, uh, Korea and the Korean Peninsula, nothing.
P: Nothing at all.
I: Now you are the Commander, and you are running for the President of the Nation, National Chapter. Have you been back to Korea?
P: No I haven’t, uh. I had a big disappointment in September 2016. I was scheduled, my wife and I were scheduled to go along with my best buddy from the, the service, uh, from North Carolina and his wife. We were booked to make the September 6thtrip to Korea.
I: Last year.
P: Uh, in 2016.
P: And, uh, here about six weeks before the trip, we were informed that our trip had been cancelled.
P: I never received a satisfactory answer.
I: From whom?
P: Uh, from Military Historical Tours. Uh,
P: Uh, yes. Uh, I think they did the best they, they could. I will say this. Um,
the, uh, we had booked first class, you know, business class seats at the insistence of my son, and he said this if for your health and, uh, so, uh, that’s, of course, a big expense and, uh, the airline returned, uh, all but $1000 of our, our fare which was, uh, something like $7,000, and then we had booked hotels for our connections, and we had that out of pocket expense.
But somehow or other, uh, Warren, through the Ministry of Veteran’s, Veteran’s Affairs did reimburse us. So I was not out of pocket anything. They did make good on my losses so. But it was a big disappointment and so much so that I, I can’t get my wife interested in going back with me.
I: So, I’m so sorry to hear that. But you didn’t know anything. You were not taught about Korea before, and now you are the Korean War veteran.
I: And you know what’s going on in Korea, Korean’s economy and democracy.
I: What do you think about that?
P: Well, I think it’s, it’s quite amazing. It’s, uh, well, uh, I’m driving a, um, a 2009 Kia Amanti, and when I left Korea in February of 1952, the last thing on my mind was that I would ever be driving an automobile manufactured in this country because when I left, it was just rubble and ashes and, uh, so
uh, this is, um, is truly re, remarkable. Well, there is another instance in 1988, uh. That was the year that my wife and I observed our 35th, um, wedding anniversary, and our two sons who were doing quite well in their professions at that point, said, um, we’d like to send you back to Korea for the, uh, the Summer Olympics. And my thoughts were,
by this time, I was big into sailing and, uh, so I said mm, no, I, I really don’t have any interest in that. And I don’t’ think South Korea had gone and jumped into the G20 nations yet.
P: But um, so I, I knew things were, were, were doing well there, but I, uh, um, uh, I, I just didn’t have a hankering at that time to, to go back, and now I really would like to go back
I: Isn’t this amazing? The country was almost rubble. Now it’s the 7thlargest trading partner to the United States. Did you know that?
I: Eleventh largest economy in the world.
P: It’s, uh, uh, in, yes. It’s moved from 12thto 111thnow? Very good. So it keeps going to the top there. That’s, that’s great. and, uh,
I: By 2050, Korea will the 7thlargest economy in the world, 7th.
P: Yes. Um hm. Yes. It’s amazing. It’s amazing.
I: It’s going to be better than England.
P: Oh yes.
I: And that’s the legacy of your war.
P: Yes, and it’s, that always gives us a good feeling when we, we look on that and, um, that that would not otherwise been possible had it not been for intervention there and, uh, I, um, since I became the, um, President of this chapter, and I’ve been invited to make a few talks in various groups
and, uh, generally I conclude my remarks by, uh, uh, showing that satellite picture at nighttime showing the lights over South Korea and then the big blank, uh, in North Korea, and, uh, and also then finish up with, um, I forgot her young name, she had just won the, the U.S. Women’s Open Golf Championship which
was held right here in Lancaster
P: and, uh, I show her picture, and I said would this have been, been possible also. So, uh,
I: Yeah. It’s, uh, unimaginable that.
P: Yes, and now.
I: Now, in 1950, there is no golf course. We didn’t have anything like golf.
P: That’s right. No. No.
I: It was too luxurious.
P: That’s right. And I don’t know where you would have put a golf course then. But, uh, and now to top it all off, their performance here, her in the Winter Olympics is just outstanding, just,
uh, it’s, uh
I: And I know you’ve been dedicated your life to education, and so please tell me about your profession and where you go the PhD from Temple, and what did you do?
P: Well, when I, uh, as I said I was, I wanted to buy some time and, uh, figure out, know what I might want to do, uh, with my life. So I came back and uh, I was able to enroll in college that Fall, uh, here at Franklin and Marshall in Lancaster,
and, but I, I, I still wasn’t ‘sure whether I wanted to make a career in electronics or electronic engineering, my career and, uh, I looked around, and my brother was at a local teacher training institute. My cousin, a lot of my, my buddies from high school were training to be teachers, and I, I always liked, uh, you know, uh, teach, uh, history, and, and, um, so I,
I thought I’m gonna train to become a teacher, and I was a, became a, uh, teacher of history, history major, geography minor and, um, began my teaching career, uh, right here in a little school district outside of Lancaster, and after seven years in a classroom, uh, and, there’s something I will add here. I think I learned more about Far Eastern history from courses here at the local college than I did during my sojourn over in
P: in Korea. So, uh, uh, I learned an awful lot. I, I had to number myself among those ugly Americans, uh. So, uh, but I, um, I did teach history and then, um, I had obtained a Master’s degree in Liberal Studies, and then the Superintendent came to me and said I need a Director of Curriculum. I want you to think about it. So I thought about it. I talked to my colleagues about it, what’s a Director
of Curriculum do and so forth and, uh, and I, in fact I recall saying well, I, I’ll have to go back to the University to get, oh, no, no, no, no. You have all you need and so forth. But, uh, I didn’t listen to him, and I did return to the University and, uh, had, uh, good mentors and, um, the one mentor, uh, said to me, uh, I think you need an internship. He said you jumped too many seats, so, uh,
I took him at his word and, um, obtained an internship in Administration in the Alfred I. DuPont school district in suburban Wilmington, Delaware and, um, so I, I got a broad, um, introduction to a lot of phases of school administration at that time and, I completed my course work. And then it came time to put the residence in for the Doctorate, and I applied for one of the two teaching associateships, uh,
that were available and, um, they paid a little better than the graduate assistanceship, and I was giving up my full time job, and I had two sons by this time. So, um, uh, I was selected for the one, uh, TA position which I served as a aid to the Dean of the College of Education at Temple University and, uh, after, then, after the, it was only to be for one year, but the second year they said you ought stay on here, uh.
We’ll make you a aid to the Dean, pay you accordingly and so forth, and you should go into Administration in higher education and, uh, well, I’ll look around so, which I did. But, uh, that was the period from 1969 to 1971. And if anyone can recall what was going on in college campuses at that time, a lot of turmoil and, uh, Temple was an urban University and, uh, I
came to the, I think my calling is in the public schools.
I: Um hm.
P: So then I took an Assistant Superintendancy in, um, a school district outside of Philadelphia and wrapped up my dissertation and, um, uh, during that time, and then I took my first Superintendancy in
I: In where?
P: In, uh, New Jersey in, uh, Montgomery Township, Somerset County just, uh, just outside of Princeton and, uh,
by then, all those things that you put aside while you’re working on the advanced degree, I, I, I got into sailing and, uh, I was sailing a sunfish on the fresh water lakes in New Jersey and, uh, then I thought I’d like to go where the sailing is better. So then I applied for a position as a county Superintendent, um, at a, um, school district in Maryland, uh, along the Chesapeake Bay. So I, that’s what moved me, moved me to Maryland.
I: Okay. so you are perfect case to me because you are the Korean War veteran. You actually fought in the war, and you were a history teacher, and you in charge of whole county as a Superintendent. You know how much been covered in our history textbook about the Korea War. How much?
P: Very little. A couple paragraphs maybe.
I: So, and you
P: The police action, uh, I don’t think they stress enough what the purpose of that war, what lead to that war, and we stopped the encroachment of Communism and, um, you had, uh, North Korea had been able to take over South Korea, uh. It was part of the, um, the whole Soviet Union’s expansion of Communism, and it would have been the camel’s nose under the tent, and then who knows from there
what, uh, might have gone on after that. We knew we were fighting Communists. I didn’t know, wasn’t aware of all the, um, politics that was going on in Washington about this until after reading, uh, books on this subject and, uh, one of the, uh, books that I think, um, covers it best is, um, a book, um, by David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter.
And I think he, uh, brings the, uh, the activities of the war and then inter, interjects the what’s happening in Washington and the forces that were, uh, at play there, uh, with the whole thing. So
I: Paul, why? I mean you know the legacy of the Korean War. It was from the rubble to the 7thlargest trading partner to the United States, the 1th largest economy,
strongest democracy in Asia. Why doesn’t our history textbook cover about it? Why? Why is it known as Forgotten? You should be able to tell me. You’re the PhD.
P: I, right. It’s, yeah. It’s, uh, um, there are a lot of forces at work, and the textbook publishers are generally, um, uh, college professors and, um,
and I, I think they, they find it, to borrow another term, an inconvenient truth. I just the thing if it meets with their agenda, uh, what like, they like to portray and would be very happy if that could be left, the Forgotten War. Uh, but I, I, it’s, I don’t know how to put it any better other than it’s an inconvenient truth for the authors of the textbooks and, um,
0:19:30and I think, um, you know, there are a couple states where they have statewide textbook selection, like every school in the state uses the same textbook, and of course the, um, generally the authors will play to, to that. But, um, uh, unless people clamor for it, I don’t see how, how it’s going to, um, improve on that. Uh, I think, uh, what you’re doing with the digital museum,
what you’re doing with social studies teachers is a step in the right direction and, uh, if that could catch on, I think maybe we might make a change there.
I: Do you know NCSS?
P: Oh yes. I was
I: National Council for Social Studies
P: I was a member of that as a classroom teacher, yes.
I: The current President is Terry Cherry, and the next President is India Meissel. Next one our, we been
there into the NCSS, and NCSS officially endorsing what we are doing.
P: Um hm.
I: And so the curricular resources that we going to produce will be disputed in the name of NCSS together with my foundation.
P: Excellent. Very good. That’ll be a good start.
I: In December, we’ll have a annual conference in, uh, Chicago for the, uh, NCSS
P: Um hm.
I: And that’s where we are going to announce the completion of curricular resources made
out of this interview.
P: Very, very good.
I: Yeah. So
P: Very good.
I: I hope that you can make that annual conference there in Chicago and announce it together we my foundation.
P: Well, I hope it works out,
P: that I can, can make that. yes.
I: So let’s go back to, let’s go back to when did you, what, were you drafted or enlisted?
P: I enlisted.
P: Uh, 1948, uh, October 1948, and, uh,
again, I gave a lot
P: No, uh, Air Forced. I, uh, I gave it a lot of thought to this, um, and I visited all the recruiting offices. At that time, the Army, the Air Force was still part of the Army, Army Air Force. They were just made the split at that time, but the same recruiter recruited for both branches. But I checked out the Marines and I checked out Navy, and, uh, my father happened to know the, um, recruiting Sergeant for the
Army Air Force, and, uh, I think they both frequented the local neighborhood bar and, uh, and he, my dad said my son’s looking around to, um, uh, join up something so, uh, and, uh, this gentleman said well, he said, the Air Force has a program whereby you can apply for tech school, and if you don’t get your tech school of your choice, you don’t have to join/. So, so
I thought it sounded pretty good. So I got the brochure and I got all the, the things and, and I made application, and I put down my three choices, radar repairman, radio repairman, and jet mechanics and, uh, partly because of the duration of the school. These were the, the lengthiest, uh, tech schools at, at that time. So, uh, uh, lo and behold, I got my first choice, and they said
P: Radar repairman.
I: So where did you get the basic?
P: Uh, I did my basic training, they said enlist between 25thand 30thof October this year so you’re scheduled to go into a, a class, uh. So I did, and I had my basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in, uh, San Antonio, Texas and, uh, rather than, I, receive orders, uh, on graduation that I’m going to radar school, uh, they had nothing for me, and I sat
seven weeks before they got around to, uh, uh, to getting me into the, the school. So I, uh, I spent almost a year at, uh, Keesler Field in Biloxi, Mississippi, and when I graduated from there, uh, for some reason they had a civilian talking to us and giving us our next duty assignment, and they wanted to send me to Germany and, uh, I, there was
World War II was over and so forth, and no hankering to go to, to Germany and, uh, and I said no, I, I’d rather not go to Germany. I just wanted to get in and out. Three- year enlistment so forth. So, uh, he says well, he says I, there’s always ADAC. That was, to be intimidating, uh. If you know where ADAC is, it’s out the end of the Aleutian chain, and I, I don’t know where brash, I guess I might have been 19 and I said, said well, I guess
I’ll have to take, take my chances on ADAC.
P: I, I don’t know where I came from cause I’m usually pretty timid at that point.
I: You made a stupid mistake. [LAUGHS]
P: Yes. [LAUGHS]
I: Just, just kidding.
P: It could have been. So, um,
I: You could have been Germany, no?
P: I, it might have been warmer than where I went to.
I: Yeah, right. [LAUGHS] Little warmer.
P: So anyway, um, I was sent to a base in Shaw Field, South Carolina and, um
it was the 626thAircraft Control and Warning Squadron, and we were, uh, a long-range radar intercept unit and, um, I hadn’t been there long, and of course June 25thwe knew what happened there. The, the North Korea invaded South Korea, and within days we got orders that we were going, well, they didn’t tell us right away that we were going to Korea. But we pretty well knew. So, uh,
uh, at that time, you know, the compliment of radar repairman, I had been on orders to go to Japan. Others were sent to stateside bases, and some others to Japan. Well, when my orders were cut, they only took the other guy. So I’m left, the only tech school trained radar technician in this unit. There was one other had the same MOS who was, uh, in the Navy in World War II,
and he learned electronics by OJT, on the job training. So the two of us were the radar repair outfit when we went over to Korea. So, uh,
I: When did you arrive in Korea and where?
P: Well, we, we landed at Yokohama, uh, first.
I: And then?
P: And were there overnight, and the next day we went around and landed at Pusan.
P: Uh, that was September 20thof 1950.
And, uh, we took up, uh, residence in a, I think what was an elementary school that time and, uh, then we, the group was split, and they took the bulk of the outfit, and they went north and took over a radar set that was not as mobile as the one we had, and I remained in Pusan, and if you come into Pusan Harbor, you look up to the right,
there was a, a hill with a lone pine tree on it, and the, the, um, Korean civilians created a road that came and wound around the thing to get up to the top to put our radar up there and, uh, in the end, the turns were too tight. This is the big, the large, big snowplow radar set and, uh, is mounted on a flatbed, uh, trailer, um,
just girders. Well, they still couldn’t make the turns and they wound up ganging it together three vehicles plus the, uh, the tractor pulling this thing up, and they brought it up the face of it over to the top till we, till we got it up there. And, uh, we know what happened that fall with the Chinese push, and the group that went north to take over this other set, uh, I believe they called a Napalm strike on it
had to evacuate fast. So we came down, we regrouped, and then we moved about 20 miles north or so to, I think, Ulsan. We operated there for several months and then moved back down to, uh, Pusan, boarded two LSTs and a Navy freighter and went around, up and came in at Inchon and
P: That was, I, I forget the month now. But I know that
Seoul was still held by, uh, the Chinese and, uh. So, in fact
I: You mean North Koreans.
P: North, the North, North Koreans, uh, well, the Chinese were in, in it by that time.
I: By the time, okay.
P: By that time, yes.
I: Okay, so it must be very late.
P: Yes. It was the second occupancy of Seoul.
P: And, because they told us, uh, don’t cross the highway bridge at Yeongdeungpo or you’ll be in enemy hands. So, uh, I made all right turns. The, uh, we headed
back down to, um, Pyongtaek where Osan, uh, Air Base is located, and we operated there for a few months and then went back north to, uh, Kimpo Air Base and, uh, then, there’s a hill there, and I have some pictures of that, uh, our radar installation, you know, on this, again, another big hill that comes up like, literally out of the rice paddies, and Kimpo Air Base was here, the hill here,
and the Hahn River right here and, um, uh, that’s where I finished my tour which, uh, lasted 17 months. So I had, I had two, two Korean winters, and so
I: So when did you leave Korea?
P: In February of 1952.
I: When you left Korea, had you imagine that Korea would become like this today?
P: No. No,
farthest thing from my mind, that he, you know, I, I was so taken by what, to us, was poverty. You had no, few paved roads, uh, and, um, looking at the living quarters, the huts, that standard of living, the, you know, uh, the use of, uh, night soil for fertilizer and so forth, uh, were things so foreign to anything I had ever known, um. The, um, uh,
- That, uh, and then I remember the RTO, Real Transportation Office in Seoul and, uh, the structure was still standing, not a window pane in it and, uh, so it’s just, uh, go ahead and I thought well, this is too bad.But, uh, and I, I, and I, I have another, you know, picture burned indelibly in my mind about a youth,
he looked to be about 15 or 16, uh, and just, um, just a, he was, uh, in like burlap around him, and it was cold. This was, this was in Pusan, and I, I just thought, you know, who’s taking care of him? What, what’s gonna become of him? I just, you know, really heart rending. Heart rending. So now I, I, um, never in my life would have thought this could be, be possible.
I: Um. What was the most difficult thing during your service in Korea if I ask you to pinpoint one? What was the most thing that actually bothers you most or really difficult?
P: Well, I guess, you know, again, being ignorant of the facts and what was going on in Washington and, uh, not bearing in mind that we’ve got to have civilian oversight of the military,
uh, you know, I was all, all for General MacArthur. That’s, take me to the Yalu River and, uh, not realizing the other, uh, implications, uh, of that. So, so is that, um, that, uh, that, that feeling that, uh, you know, there wasn’t solid support and things form for the effort, um.
I: What was your unit?
P: My unit?
P: It was an Aircraft, Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron.
I: Aircraft Control
P: and Warning Squadron that was part of the 502ndTactical Control Group.
P: Tactical Control Group, and our mission was to maintain air surveillance over the entire
uh, Korean Peninsula which was, um, what was really, taxed our equipment. I think ours had a theoretical range of around 300 miles that time, and we were still using the same radar as they used in, in World War II, and, uh, so with, to reach the border was just about, but, um, we, you know, um, the air surveillance included both enemy and friendly, uh, aircraft and, uh, they were monitored
and, and, uh, vectored, you know, strikes, so forth, um. So that was the, and we had a um, um, we received a Presidential Unit citation, uh, and both Korean Presidential Unit Citations for the, um, uh, I think we were virtually on air all the time. We would, were were given like, um, one hour a day, uh, maintenance time if we needed, needed it and like, uh, I think, five hours a
month for, uh, general maintenance to shut down, go off air so, uh. But we, we never used all of that allotted time [INAUDIBLE] We used to have out, the receivers all peeked up and ready to shove in, replace and, within minutes and, um, so we, um, uh, I think it was a pretty, pretty important role.
I: Absolutely. Um, how was life, I mean being a radar repair unit,
what, how was it like? Where you, where were you sleeping, and what did you eat, and how often were you able to take a shower or any, if, did happen?
P: Well, that kind of varied from, in the early stages there, when we’re in the elementary school, uh, we did have shower facilities, and then later we moved to what was then Pusan Technical School and took over that, and we had shower facilities there, uh, uh. That was, and
we were at Ulsan, and the, the technical school was our base. We were, and we lived in the, uh, it was 12-man squad tents that were not winterized. They were just, you know, sagging and, and the little stove to heat them was not efficient at all and, uh, then when we, um, moved around to, uh, Pyongtaek, uh, again, we still had tents there, but they built wooden frames so the tent was draped over
the sides of them, and then we moved up to Kimpo, and there we were fortunate enough to have the Quonset huts that, uh, we, we assembled them and, um. So that was a little more comfortable, and then our show, shower facility was down in like a little cut in that hill. There was a well down there and, um, after they complete, cleaned out the, the debris including, you know, human remains from
you know, when that was overrun and, and quick graves and so forth, uh, we were able to use the water, uh, and had hot showers available there.
I: How much were you paid at the time?
P: Gee, I don’t recall that. The, uh, um, I, by that time, I had achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant and, um, uh, again, there was, wasn’t much to spend it on an evening, so most of it I had,
you know, sent home and, uh,
I: Were you not married?
P: Not married, no and, uh, I was looking forward to having money for college tuition. So, uh, that was banked for me and, uh, and then very fortunately, um, the, uh, government saw fit to extend the GI Bill
I: Bill, yeah.
P: benefits to Korean veterans, and that enabled me then to, uh, um,
be, uh, a little more financially secure with
P: covering that, so, which, uh, I, I hope I paid back to the government many, many times over
P: for that, that advance.
I: But I am very excited to meet you and be able to work together because you are the educator. You are the living witness of history education here, and you know how little about Korea. So I really
wish that I can work, continue to work with you, and I’ll let you know what we are producing.
P: Pledge to do whatever I can to help support your effort because I think it’s a very worthy one and, uh, performing a, a, a real service to the youth of, uh, of Korea and hopefully of the United States.
I: I myself read a lot of, uh, books about the Korean War, and there are many written. But what we are producing is based on the
actual interviews of veterans like you.
P: Um hm.
I: Normal soldiers and their witness, their memory, the country that they saw in 1950
P: Um hm.
I: and I want to hear from everybody that how they feel about something has been done in Korea
P: Um hm.
I: at the sacrifice of veterans like you,
I: And that’s what we are going to make, so it’s going to be unique.
P: Well it’s, uh, it, it’s very interesting, uh,
what became of us after we returned, um. I chose the field of education, and I feel I was fairly successful in it, uh. You’re going to, um, interview in a, in a day or two another gentleman who was in the First Marine Division and fought in a foxhole in, uh, in the Chosin Reservoir area, uh, became a Staff Sergeant in the Marines at age 19
and, uh, came back, and he was preparing to be a phys ed teacher before he went in the, the service, and he come back, and then he, uh, didn’t want to be a phys ed teacher. He wanted to be a, a, um, um, physical therapist. So he studied for physical therapy, said I don’t want to be a physical therapist, I want to be a doctor. So he went and studied to be a doctor, I want to be a surgeon. So he studied surgery,
And after that he’s a neurosurgeon and very successful and, uh. So it’s, uh, you’re from a, a, um, soldier in a, in a foxhole to a very prominent neurosurgeon here in, in the area. And, uh, one of our benefactors, again, for the monies we raised for the Vietnam, um, oh, excuse me, for the Veterans’ Day participation, the KWVA, we received a grant from a,
um, professor from, retired from UCLA who was in Korea, came back and, um be, um, I think he was a, uh, history major and then um, um, studied anthropology, taught anthropology. He’s written eight books and, um, he made a very substantial donation to our, to our fund. So people went on and, to, all
sorts of pursuits there and, and, uh, it would just, uh, kind of, uh, you know, we didn’t come back, and we didn’t dwell on things of our experience. It was an experience that many of us will say, uh, well, I wouldn’t want to do it again, but I wouldn’t take a million dollars for having had the experience. And, uh, I think a lot of us feel that way, and we, we didn’t dwell on it or say, you know, poor me or whatever, uh. We went on about our lives and, and, uh, so.
I: Any other, uh, episode that you want to leave to this interview about your battle experience or service during the war?
P Uh. there’s nothing too noteworthy, uh, about, uh, anything there. Uh, what I, uh, certainly would like to express is, uh, uh, my appreciation for the gratitude that the, uh,
people of South Korea are showing towards the servicemen and women who served over there and, um, I, I don’t think miss an opportunity, uh, to show that, that, um, uh. As a national director, I’m privileged to participate in events in Washington, uh. Your Korean Embassy is very generous in picking up costs for many of our activities, uh.
The military attaché, um, very active and, um, and more recently the, um, um, we are doing more now to embrace the Korean American community in this area and, um, they’re very receptive to that, very supportive. Uh, they’ve demonstrated that and, of course, I wear this proudly. This is the Ambassador for Peace medal which was issued by your Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs to, um
as just one little tangible, uh, memento of, of the gratitude. That’s, um, it’s unequaled.
I: Great. Um, tell me about your chapter briefly.
P: Well, the chapter is, uh, only three years old, uh. It’d be, we received our charter on April the first of, uh, 2015 and, uh, we have grown
to 109 members, uh. That number fluctuates. We gain one, and we lose one. So it was, uh, and I’m sorry to say that, um. we’re losing one by that terminal route. But, um, uh, part of forming a chapter, uh, you need to identify charter members. You need to develop by-laws. You need to get a name, uh, and, uh, your article of incorporation and your, um employee identification number and all these things.
But in the process of picking a I came up with the thought to honor a local four-star general, uh, General John H. Makalus, um. He was, uh, he grew up, you know, though he was born in the Presidio, he grew up here in Lancaster, attended the schools and, uh, it was his mother’s hometown
after his parents had divorced when he was about four years old. So, um, uh, when he graduated from high school in 1931, depth of the Depression, he enlisted in the, the Army and was in the infantry. A year later, the local Congressman got him an appointment to West Point, and, uh, he graduated from West Point in ’30, 1936 and became an Airborne Infantry officer, uh, made jumps in Normandy and again
in the Netherlands, uh, twice wounded, um, came back. He was General Eisenhower’s senior in the camp in Washington for which he had to take a reduction in one grade in, to a Lieutenant Colonel, and then he was sent to Japan to command the 27thRegiment of the 25thDivision, the Wolfhounds and, um, he was sent right over there in the summer of, of 1950,
and his military prowess, tactics were crucial to the defense of the Pusan perimeter there.
P: and that he
I: So he, he was there in Korea?
P: He was there in Korea, and, uh, again, he went from Lieutenant Colonel to Brigadier General in six months. He didn’t graduate extremely high in his, in his class at West Point, but he was the first member of the class to earn a star.
So we felt that General Makalus best exemplified the, uh, valor and courage of all the men and women who, who, um, served over there and saw it very fitting. There’s no other, uh, memory to, uh, to him, uh. I went to, um, a school here, the John, General John F. Reynolds, uh,
Junior High School. General Reynolds was a two-star general in, in the Civil War. The other school across town was, uh, Edward Hand. General Hand was a one-star general. So until, um, just recently, we do have another four, retired four-star general. But General Makalus was the highest ranking military man ever to come out of the Academy.
I: Paul, this is great, um. I want to thank you for your
efforts to arrange a series of interview. I think we’ll do more than 20 interviews here,
P: Um hm.
I: and Wednesday we going to meet together and talk about what we are doing. So I’m very excited, and I’m very thankful, and this will be a great partnership between you and me about how we going to educate our educators and students.
P: Well, I will be very happy to be participate in making that happen. Okay.
I: Thank you so much.
P: Thank you.
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