Paul Hockla was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1952. After arriving in Korea he was sent to the frontline as an infantryman. In the four months he served in combat, Cpl. Hockla remembers well the Battle of Pork Chop Hill as well as a time in which he saved his commanding officer, Perry Edgar’s life. After returning from Korea in 1954, Cpl. Hockla married his longtime girlfriend and had three kids. He looks back on his service with great pride, and is happy that the Korean people have been able to create a modern democracy in the Republic of Korea.
Fighting on Pork Chop Hill
Paul Hockla describes what combat was like fighting against the Chinese at Pork Chop Hill.
Letter from Perry Edgar
Paul Hockla reads a letter from Perry Edgar, whose life he saved in combat while they were in Korea.
Legacy of Korean War Veterans
Paul Hockla discusses what he sees as the legacy of the Korean War Veterans.
[Beginning of Recorded Material]
H: My name is Paul Hockla. Okay, I live in
I: Can you spell?
H: Okay, it’s uh, H O C K L A
I: Mm-hmm. What’s the origins of this name? Ethnic background?
H: Well on my, on my, uh, my grandmother’s side it was an Italian, and, uh, and on my father’s side it was Austrian.
I: So . . . Hockla?
H: Yeah, Hockla. H O
I: That’s coming from Australian name?
H: Uh, well, that, yes. Austria.
I: Yeah. Not Australia?
H: No, no, Austria. [LAUGHS.]
I: So when you born?
H: I was born on December the 17th, 1931.
I: Mm-hmmm. How about your family?
H: Okay, my, my family, my
father, my father died when he was 74,
H: and my mother died when she was 76.
- Mm-hmm . . . So, uh, could you — what school did you go?
H: I went, uh, to the, uh, Orcutville school for a year or two
I: Where? Where?
H: In, in Stafford Springs — it would be Orcutville, okay? Okay?
I: What state?
H: Uh, Connecticut.
H: Yeah. And then, uh, they moved us down — they closed that little — it was a one-room house, one-room school — and then they took and they brought us down to the Borough school and at the Borough school, I went there for a few years, and then we moved to Broad Brook, and I went to, I went to, uh, Ellsworth for a while, Ellsworth High.
I: Uh hm . . . Right, so, what were you doing when the Korean War broke out?
H: I was, uh, I was working on what they call Route 15, I was a truck driver, and I drove a dump truck. Uh, they were building a new road, and I got drafted.
I: You got drafted.
H: I got drafted.
I: When — Do you remember when was that?
H: It was in November of, uh, ’52.
I: November ’52?
I: And, uh, so you go through the, went through the mili — the basic military training?
H: I went to Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
H: I took infantry training, and, uh, when I got done with infantry training, I was shipped to Korea.
I: You knew that the Korean War broke out at the time, right?
H: Oh yeah, I did, yeah,
but I was at that time I was, I was a truck driver, I was making pretty good money,
H: And so you know, you say, well, maybe, uh, they’ll draft me, and that’ll be it.
I: Had you, had you thought that you might be, you know, end up in Korea?
H: Oh, I knew I was, I knew I was going to go into the service, I knew that the Korean War was on,
H: and I knew that, yeah.
I: So you thought that you might be end up in Korea?
H: I, I wanted to go.
I: You wanted to go?
H: I wanted to go.
H: Because when
I: You may lose your life!
H: I, that’s true, but when I, when I took that basic training, when I took my basic training, I gave it the best I could, and I had my sergeant, he said to me, he said, “Paul,” he says, “For what you did in training,” he says, “if you go to Korea,” he says, “you come back.”
H: That’s what he said. And you know what? He was right. The last four numbers on my serial number was 7 0 7 7.
I: Uh hm. Lucky three 7’s.
H: Yeah, and I’ll tell you, our company, in Korea, we had a 170 men, I was in Baker Company of the 14th Regiment, 25th Division
I: Mm-hmm. 25th Division?
H: Yeah, 25th Division, and there was a 170 men in, in that company, and, uh, we wound up in combat on Memorial Day of 1953, and I was one of 25 guys that wasn’t wounded or killed. I came home with the, that.
When the war, when that was over, there was 25 of us that was in a tent, they kept us in a tent, until we got reinforcements, reinforcements.
I: When did you leave for Korea?
H: Oh, when did I get to Korea?
I: No, when did you leave?
H: Oh, oh, I left there, okay, I think it was around July of 1954
the war had, I was there when the war ended.
H: Yeah, and
I: But, you said that you drafted, you were drafted in 1952, in November, so it was almost the, you know, 1953
H: I spent eight weeks in combat, eight weeks, I mean, wait, 16 weeks in training, and then I went right to Korea.
I: But you . . . no.
I: You were discharged from the military
and from Korea July 1954?
H: No, no, November of 1954, November of ’54.
I: When did you arrive in Korea?
H: Probably in April of ’53.
I: Oh, ok, now it makes sense.
I: So did you take a ship?
H: Yes, I went over on the McRae and came back on the,
the Meigs, it was the Meigs.
I: I mean, you, when you leave for Korea, it was a ship that you were in, right?
I: Yeah, yeah.
I: Uh-huh. And then where did you arrive in Korea?
H: We, uh, we went to Japan,
H: and then from Japan we went to Pusan.
I: Pusan . . . So tell me about it, if, after you arrive in Pusan, where did you go and what did you do?
H: Ok, I have, uh, books here on — we wound up, uh, we were in Camp North Star, okay, and the, uh, Chinese started pushing all kinds of artillery into us and a lot of people were wounded right then and there, and, uh, we went into, uh, we went into an outpost,
there was four outposts — Alcove, Vegas, Carson, and East Berlin — and when we got in there, the, our company thought it was just another company, and it was a battalion.
H: And we lost a lot of men, and like I said,
I have, in this book here, right here, it shows the monuments that they made in Nevada.
[HOLDS UP BOOK WITH PICTURES OF MONUMENTS.]
I: Hmm. So you were rifleman or what?
H: I was an infantryman.
I: Infantryman. And what did you do, especially? Did you drive trucks or what or
H: No, no, I was, I was right out in combat.
H: I was in combat
the whole time until the war ended.
H: Uh, I did, and our, my platoon leader, Perry Edgar,
H: he was, he had a severe head injury, and I carried him up and laid him in a slit trench, and uh, and uh, the, uh, Stars and Stripes wrote later that he was also killed.
H: Later. He died. He died, and I found out that almost 50 some odd years later. He, he never came back into the military. He had that, he was discharged — medical –with uh, with a plate in his head, okay, and, uh, I finally, I finally, we finally met, and here’s the picture of him and
I: The Stars and Strips said that he was killed?
H: He was, he was also killed.
I: What do you mean by “also killed”?
H: Well, because there were so many, we had ten killed and two missing
I: But that was wrong?
H: Well, on that one, that one particular guy, yes.
I: Right, so you
H: Yeah, I found out, I found him later. What happened, he wrote an article
H: in the 25th Division,
H: and I says, “That guy that said he was the lieutenant in Baker Company of my platoon
H: has to be lying.
H: It can’t be him because I have the proof that he was killed,” okay? Because on Stars and Stripes —
I: Oh, the proof, you mean, the article in The Stars and Stripes?
H: Yeah! And so when a friend of mine gave me his address, he lived, he lived in Vermont.
H: And I got a hold of him, and we met.
I: What did he say to you when you met him again?
H: When he see me, he said, “I remember you now.” He says, “I remember”
I: and that you saved him!
H: I did, and I have the letters here of what he wrote.
I: Could you read it?
H: Okay. [READS LETTER.]
“Dear Paul, It was great seeing you on Sunday and getting to know what a great lifestyle [0:11:00] you have in Stafford Springs. What a far cry from your time in the U.S. Army. Spending time with you looking at your pictures and talking with you about what we did has been a big help to me regarding questions I have and I lived with since then. As a friend [0:11:30] and as an army buddy, I also want to say, Paul, for a job well done for the 2nd platoon member and thank you for saving my life.”
I: Ah, that’s a nice letter.
H: “See you soon in Vermont. Perry”
I: Is he still alive?
I: He died?
H: About, uh, three months later he had a massive heart attack, and this is a letter from his mother, uh, from his wife.
I: What do you mean, that’s not written by . . .
H: This was, no, this was written by him,
H: but after that he had a heart attack,
H: and this is what his wife wrote.
I: Oh, okay.
H: [READING LETTER]
“To who it may concern regarding Paul Hockla of Stafford Springs, Connecticut, who was active during the Korean War [0:12:30]: My husband Perry Ladd Edgar, deceased, served as a platoon leader in Korea in 1953. He was with the 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. On May of 1953, Perry received severe injuries while engaging in battle. A friend, Paul Hockla, refused to believe [0:13:01] that he had died, although after, at the scene, he thought this was so. During intense battle activity, Paul refused to leave Perry, protected him, and picked him up with his belt and put him in a slit trench to protect him. My husband eventually recovered [0:13:30] from his wounds.
To Paul Hockla: Perry often spoke of Paul and that he should have received the Bronze Star. As Perry’s wife for 52 years, I know I owe a big debt to Paul Hockla for recovering my husband during that terrifying battle. Charlotte Edgar.”
I: Ah, very nice! You did wonderful job for his [unintelligible].
H: And, uh, they tried to get me the Bronze Star with “V for Valor” and our, our Sena–our, uh . . . Perry, I mean, uh, Rob Simmons, he got me this [HOLDS UP CERTIFICATE.]
I: What is that?
H: It’s a, it’s a medal. It says here, “For Heroism in Combat.”
I: Who gave it to you?
H: He was our Senator. Uh, his name was Rob Simmons.
I: Mm-hmm. Of Connecticut?
I: Can you show that to us again?
[HOCKLA HOLDS UP CERTIFICATE FOR THE CAMERA.]
Hold it up . . . Great . . . Higher, that’s it, yes. And, uh, did you get the Bronze?
H: No, because the reason why –Perry had died before he put down here that, uh– “Thank you for saving my life” — but due to the fact that he didn’t sign the thing, Rob Simmons gave me this,
H: but I haven’t got the Bronze. If he had been alive, I would have got it.
And here is the picture of Rob Simmons giving me this. [HOLDS UP PICTURE.]
I: Hm, that’s very, very nice. Did you get any medal or ribbon?
H: No, the ribbons I got are these here. [GESTURES TO JACKET.] I have the combat infantry badge. I never was wounded. Like I say,
the last four numbers were 7 0 7 7.
I: Uh, were there, must be, must have been a lot of occasion where that you almost lost your life. Were there dangerous moments?
H: I did. Many, many times, it was, yeah, I can remember I, I was the last man. Here’s what happened. After I carried
Edgar up — up the hill — I went back down the hill and we had a bunch of people wounded already and Ed Holland was from Fall River and he was next to me and he just got wounded and he started to go back up the hill. He wound up with a piece of shrapnel in his, outside of his helmet, and he says to me, “Paul,” he says,
“They’re moving out, what’s left of us, we’re moving out.” And we had a forward observer, a Chinese forward observer, that was in a trench up on the skyline that was on a hill just beyond us. He had a burp gun, and he would fire that burp gun and just spray the area, and he had antenna on his back and you could see the antenna because
it was on the top of the hill and it was against the — there was nothing in the background. You could see the antenna spike swaying back and forth. I took my M1, and I sat on the side of the hill. I sat on, I sat on the side of the hill with the M1, and I watched the antenna.
And when, when he came up about waist-high to fire the, uh, the burp gun again, I pulled the trigger, and the last thing I seen was the antenna falling over, and he never fired another shot . . . Yeah, I’ll never forget that day. And I’ll remember one other thing. When we were
In the trench, the Chinese were throwing, uh, hand grenades and, uh, potato mashers in the trench, and this fellow — this lives with me, it lives with me today — this fellow was sitting in a trench, and a potato masher landed in his lap, and when it did, his intestines was in his hands like this, okay?
And it was dirt all over already, and this is what he said: “Ma.” I’ll never forget that.
I: What is that?
H: “My mother.” His mother.
H: Yeah, something that stays with you all your life.
I: Do you suffer from PTSD?
H: No, I don’t. I thought, I was for a while, and what
I did, what I did is I was so busy working, I was working, I was working 70 — 65 and 70 hours a week — and that kept me busy.
I: Did you write back to your family? Or did you have a girlfriend?
H: Oh, I did. Yeah, I did! I met my girlfriend when I was 18 years old.
I met her in 1950, okay, and when I came home, she would write to me, and I would write to her and my parents, and, uh, when I came home in — we got married in 1955 and we’re still married.
H: We’re still married. We’ve been married 58 years.
I: That’s very nice. Did you still keep those letters that you wrote back to her?
H: Uh, probably. I don’t know. We had so many
letters and stuff like that, probably a lot of ’em disappeared, you know.
I: So when did you leave Korea?
H: I believe it was in July of ’54, the war had alr– wait a minute, uh, wait a minute — the war ended in July the 27th,
H: so I, wait a minute, I left in, it was, I left in, let’s see . . .
Gee, I think, wait a minute, I thought it was April of ’54.
H: [LONG PAUSE] Yeah, pretty sure it was April of ’54.
I: How much were you paid?
H: Well, combat, I made, uh, they gave us, uh, they gave us — when you were in combat, uh, I was a corporal, and so I think I was making twenty dollars for combat, I think you got for that. You know,
I: That’s extra, right?
H: Yeah, well, yes, yes, but don’t forget, it’s 60 years later, I don’t remember exactly!
I: That’s a lot of money, right? What did you do with the money?
H: I sent it home.
H: I sent it home, yeah.
And, uh, because I knew when I got home I was going to marry the woman that I was dating, and so we got married in 1955.
H: April 16, 1955, we got married.
I: So you saved it.
H: I saved, yeah, yeah. You couldn’t spend no money over there! [LAUGHS.]
I: Exactly. Did you have any, uh, experience working with the Korean officer, Korean soldier?
H: Yeah, we had [SOUNDS LIKE katooses],
they were very good, the [katooses] were very good.
I: Anything you remember?
H: I have, uh, I have some pictures of them. Yeah, I do have some pictures of them. Matter of fact, the one that I have pictures of is one that got killed over there, yeah. He got killed on, uh, on Alcove.
I: So when you send the copies, tell — write it down there, uh, when, where, what, who, all this information.
H: Yeah, I, I can’t,
the only thing I can remember is most of them, most of them were Kim, there were just —
I: Yeah, you don’t have, you don’t have to give me full name of Koreans, but, where, like, you know,
I: [unintelligible] or the
I: Porkchop Hill, or whatever
I: and when these things, all right?
I: Yeah, okay, um, have you been back to Korea?
H: No, I haven’t.
I: Mm-hmm. Do you know what Korea is now in terms of economy and political system?
H: Well, you know,
I’ll tell you this, my daughter bought a Korean car,
H: and my daughter-in-law bought Korean car. [LAUGHS]
I: Uh-huh. Do you know that the Korean economy is prospering?
H: I do.
I: It’s the seventh largest trading partner to the United States and 11th largest economy in the world.
H: I know.
I: Yeah. So, what do you think about the legacy of the Korean War and Korean War veterans?
H: What do I think about them?
I: Yeah, I mean, what is
the legacy of the Korean War and your service?
H: I tell you, I . . . I, I’m glad that I went. I’m glad I did what I did, and, uh, I think everybody that went there, uh, figured that they, they helped, and that’s my, that’s the way I feel, yeah. Yeah. It was, uh, like I say,
uh, it was only, the time I was in combat was just about four months, but the four months were the worst part
I: Worst part
H: because they were trying to, they were trying to make as much territory as they were
I: Can you describe a typical day, the worst battle that you fought?
H: Yeah, Memorial Day of 1953.
H: It was Memorial Day.
H: That’s why, when I do the parade on
Memorial Day, I carry the Korean flag. I do.
I: Tell about the details. How close were you? With Chinese or the North Koreans?
H: Oh, they were, yes, when they first came, they, the first bunch came with rifles, the second bunch came with hand grenades, and the third bunch came empty-handed and picked up what the first and second dropped.
H: That’s what a lot of it was, but they got to the point where most of them
uh, they wore sneakers, and most of them, uh, they uh, they would sneak up and try, like if you were in trenches or anything before you started into combat, they would, they would throw as many of them, uh, concussion grenades into the trenches.
I: You remember you killed and you saw them being killed?
H: Oh yeah. We would,
they would get, sometimes they’d get into the trench, and they’d pick them up and throw them over the other side.
H: Sometimes it went hand-to-hand combat. Yeah.
I: You did?
H: Well, uh, yes, when they got in the trenches, it went hand to hand.
H: Oh, sometimes they’d come right into the trenches, yeah.
I: How close?
H: The trenches were only about that wide [GESTURES], it was
I: Right before you?
H: Oh yeah. At one time
we were walking over the dead in the trenches.
I: How did you defend yourself, uh, did you use the knife or . . .
H: I used the bayonet, the, the M1 with a bayonet. Yes. But, but you were, a lot of them, they had a khaki uniform, like a sort of a brownish, light brownish uniform, but most of them had sneakers.
and the way it looked to me, they were very young, they looked like they were probably only 16 or 17 if, or if they were that old. And you could see they were very — they weren’t very old people — they were young people, very young. Yeah. And so . . .
I: What do you think about those — killing, have to end up in this Korean War and, you know, happen to, you have to, had to kill those, right, enemies?
H: You had to do it.
I: Yeah, yeah.
H: You were taught to do it.
H: You were taught to do it. It was either you did it or they did it to you.
H: Yeah. Sure.
I: Is there any message to young generations?
H: In Korea?
I: In Korea and also in the United States about your service
and about the Korean War and the war that you, U.S., engage right now?
H: Well, I’ll tell you, uh, Korea is, wonderful people in Korea. Some very, very nice people in Korea, and, uh, at one time here within the last two or three weeks, uh, what North Korea was doing, I was sort of worried. I was worried very much. You got a man there
that has no mercy, and I’ll tell you, if he ever started anything again, United States would be there to help.
I: Do you have grandchildren in the age, in high school or college?
H: I have, I have one grandchild, one boy.
I: In high school?
H: No, no, he’s, he’s working, he’s got a job. He’s, uh, he’s a machinist.
H: Yeah, he went to trade school, and he became a machinist.
I: How old is he?
H: Right now, he’s, uh, 19, he’s going to be 20. He’s going to be 20 the 18th.
I: Uh-huh. Would he be interested in coming to the workshop? I am inviting the descendants of Korean War veterans to the Washington, DC, from July 24th to July 28th. It’s the 60th anniversary of Korea-U.S.
alliance and armistice, and I am hosting a workshop for the descendants. Would he be interested?
H: I’ve don’t — you see, he is so busy on working. He works for, like a machinist, for, uh, like Pratt & Whitney, and stuff like that.
I: So he may not have —
H: Probably not, yeah, but — I am, I’m going to the 25th Division reunion on July the 31st until
uh, Sunday of August
H: In, uh, in Gaithersburg. It’s just outside of Washington.
H: And my whole family’s going.
H: My wife is going, my son and his wife, my two sons and their wives, and my daughter is also going.
I: Good, good.
Um, I want to present a medal, Ambassador for Peace medal, it’s from the Republic of Korea, and also I’m going to write your name in Korean as it’s pronounced. Paul Hockla, right?
H: That’s correct.
[HOCKLA HOLDS UP THE MEDAL FOR THE CAMERA.]
I: Paul, thank you very much for coming again for the interview, and please send your pictures or anything, memorabilia
H: I’ll do my, I’ll do my best.
I: Yes — and to my address so that I can put those into the website and so that people from everywhere can see it, and thank you very much again,
H: Thank you.
I: for your service.
H: Thank you.
[End of Recorded Material]
Paul and Perry
This photo shows Paul Hockla and Perry Edgar. Perry is the officer that Paul saved after others had assumed he had died in combat.
Pork Chop Hill
This is the site in which Cpl. Hockla describes when he is talking about fighting on Memorial Day, 1953.
Paul Hockla while on outpost Elko-Vegas-Reno and Carson. Taken on May 29 1953, just before Memorial Day in Korea.
Cave in Elko
A picture of the cave in which Chinese soldiers were killed in the trench on Elko.