Paul S. Welsh is a passionate veteran who vividly remembers his time in the United States Army during the Korean war. When he joined the Army in 1948, he did not know what to expect before heading to Japan and then Korea. He describes a situation where he made a decision that still bothers him today involving Korean civilians. He shares how important his time in Korea was and how it sticks with him. His emotion is intertwined with his descriptions.
Dealing with Guilt
Paul Welsh describes a time when he had to make a difficult decision. He recalls a woman and a young boy were on a bridge with a wagon that was carrying a hidden weapon. He explains that when the woman opened fire, he ordered his men to fire on them--a decision he still struggles with today.
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"Korea is Special to Me"
Paul Welsh states that Korea is special to him because he shed his blood there. It is apparent that there are a lot of emotions intertwined in his memories. Like with many veterans, the time in Korea had a lasting impact on him.
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[Beginning of Recorded Material]
P: My name is Paul S. Welsh, W E L S H, Sr.
I: What is your birthday?
P: 4/19/1931. My serial number is RA21264614.
I: Wow. You remember that?
I: Where were you born?
P: I was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Mass General.
I: And tell me about your
family when you were growing up.
P: We grew up in the ghetto in Cambridge.
I: And parents and your siblings.
P: Yes. I had a sister who was a Major in the Army Nurse Corp. and was on Corregador when it fell to the Japanese. She was a prisoner of war for four years. She was a Major, and as a Field Officer, she was flown to Japan
Along with all Field Officers on Corregador.
I: And that was your only sibling that you had?
P: No. I have two, actually I have three brothers buried in Nova Scotia,
P: and I have a brother buried here who was in the Canadian Army as a Sergeant Major. Anyhow,
and I have a sister, a younger sister, and I have an older brother who served in the Air Force, the United States Airforce, but he was never in, he was in Germany during the airlift, the German airlift. Anyhow, and then I joined the Army in 19, I have my dogtags on me, 1948, and
I went to Jump School in Georgia and became a parachutist, and I broke my legs in a jump, and then I went to Oliver General Hospital in Augusta, Georgia for rehabilitation, and I was there seven months. You want my military history.
I: Yeah, yeah, go ahead, go ahead.
From there, I was sent to the 2nd Cavalry in Texas, Fort Hood, Texas, yes, in Fort Hood, Texas where I spent a year. From there, I was sent to Guam, and that was in July of 1950. Korean War broke out July 23, 1950.
I: No. June 25.
P: June 25. Three days later, I was in Korea.
I: So when was that? June 28?
P: Yes, I was in Korea. I was a radio operator
I: How did you get there?
P: By air.
I: From where, from Guam?
P: From Guam, yeah.
I: And what was your unit?
P: No unit.
I: No unit?
P: No, because our unit was on Guam reclaiming government equipment.
I: But what was your unit in Guam?
P: 5 11th.
I: 5 11th what?
P: Quarter Master Service Company.
I: Quarter Master
P: Yes. Service Company.
I: What does that do?
P: That’s what they did. They claimed, reclaimed,
That was their job, to reclaim government, United States equipment that was left in the Pacific.
P: Like Iwo Jima had ammunition,
I: I see.
P: All the irons there had American equipment on it. [INAUDIBLE] had all aircraft from the Pacific War.
I: I see. So you don’t have a Division, Battalion or Regiment?
P: No, no, no, no, just
I: You were just independent?
P: Yes. That’s how come we went first.
I: And so when you arrived in Korea, where did you arrive in Korea?
P: At a little airport right outside of Pusan called Usan Airport. Okay? And a six [INAUDIBLE] truck pulled up alongside the airplane and it hadn’t even stopped rolling, and each one of us, there was 12 of us on the airplane, each
one was handed an M1 rifle and three bandoliers of ammunition. The enemy’s at the end of the runway, and God bless you.
P: See. Yeah. I was also in the Battle of Pusan, and that’s where I got my Combat Infantryman’s badge. That’s where I got four bronze stars and a
I: Four bronze stars and what?
P: A silver star.
I: Two? Two Silver Star or one
I: And, tell me about that Battle in Pusan. Tell me about it. Describe in detail. How was it, and how dangerous it was and so on.
P: The enemy, like I said, the enemy was at the end of the runway, and they said God bless
you. So they didn’t expect us to survive. But we did, and then we got together and worked like a British, three on each side so they couldn’t, you know, overrun us, which they eventually did but.
I: Were you thinking that you were going to die?
P: Definitely. Yeah. But, you know, we didn’t.
I: But you didn’t know anything about Korea
before you came to Korea, right?
I: You didn’t learn anything about Korea?
P: No. I was in Guam, everybody ate at the same cafeteria. All Military ate at the same place. When the Korean War broke out, the talk was some of us is going,
you know, to Korea because they were pulling men from everywhere. You know, it took the Marines two months to get to Korea, two months. They didn’t make the Inchon Landing, either. And that’s a fact. Because I was there.
I: What do you mean they didn’t make the Inchon Landing? They did.
P: They did not. It was the 8th Army who took the beach at Inchon.
I: I thought there was a Marine there.
P: No, there were no Marines there. They
didn’t arrive there till two months after the War started, and then they didn’t fire a shot until they got into the City of Inchon.
P: That’s, that’s a fact.
I: That’s a fact that I didn’t know.
P: Well, now you learned something. I was there, see, and then I was at the Yalu
I: No, no. You jumped too ahead, okay? So from Pusan.
I: How was Pusan? Tell me. I mean Paul, school children will listen to you, and they don’t have any idea how Pusan looked in 1950. So you need to describe. How, how the Korean people did look at the time, how the city, how was the landscape. How was it? How much was destroyed in detail. Tell me the things that you saw.
P: When I arrived there,
there were no trees in Korea. No trees. The Japanese had taken them all to make plywood for their fighter planes, see? But anyhow, also, the houses were very close together, and very close together, and families, you know, lived, and they had a place called Little China.
I: What is that?
P: That’s a fact. It eventually burned down. But it was called Little China at the time. And 100,000 people lived there. But they were all related basically, you know.
I: So you took a picture of Korea?
P: I have a couple pictures of Korea.
I: Did you take the picture, or did you get the picture from somebody else?
P: No, I took the pictures.
I: So you had a camera at the time?
P: I took it off a Japanese
I: What do you mean?
P: He was dead.
I: How, the Japanese Officer were there?
P: Yeah. They weren’t supposed to be there, but they were there.
I: You mean in Korea or in Guam?
P: In Korea. I’m gonna tell you something that I’ve never seen written in any papers or anything. But the Russians bombed South Korea. I seen the people that parachuted out of it, out
of the airplane, and they were all shot by South Korean soldiers.
P: Right after the War started.
I: So let’s talk about Pusan, and then from Pusan, where did you go?
P: Pusan, I went with the rest of the, we had joined the 24th. He was in the 24th, and we went up to Yalu. I was in the evacuation
of Hungnam, and I went down, and they were looking like this? Have you heard about that?
I: No, no, no. I mean, you
P: You don’t want to go that fast.
I: From Pusan, where did you go?
P: We marched North.
I: With what unit?
P: With the 24th.
I: Okay. And where did you go from there?
P: We went all the way to the Yalu.
I: Yalu. And then?
P: We stopped.
P: Because the United Nations was only supposed to go to Yelen. At that time, when the, Chinese come across, I was there.
I: Did you see Chinese coming in?
P: Yeah, yeah. It was Sunday morning, early morning, 5:00. They’re beating pans, blowing horns, 30,000 come across. We had not set up a
defensive perimeter, see? Because at that time the President
I: What Sunday are you talking about, November?
P: Yeah, when they first come across.
I: Yeah. Do you remember the date?
P: I don’t remember the date.
I: Okay. So what were you thinking when you see the Chinese marching in
P: I’m saying oh my God. That’s what I was saying. But
I: But many soldiers were killed by Chinese around Ch’ongch’on River, you know. Were you there?
P: I was there.
I: Oh my goodness. You survived that?
I: How? Tell me about it.
P: I’m going to tell you a story, and this is the truth. I grew up in Cambridge with a Chinese boy. His father owned a big Chinese restaurant in Harvard Square, okay?
His name was Wing Wong, okay, and he was in our, my outfit. He went to war with me, in Korea. They weren’t going to let him go because he was Chinese, see. Anyhow, what he did, there was four of us in a group, left from the squad I was in. And what he did, he picked up an M1 rifle, and he said okay you guys, You’re
my prisoners, okay. He walked us, the four, to the American lines. Therefore, that’s when we made, the four of us, made our evacuation to Chosin, no, Hungnam, the evacuation of Hungnam.
I: So, from Yalu, you went down to where?
I: No, no, no. you don’t go to Hungnam right away.
Where did you go? From Yalu, where did you go down? To Seoul? Did you come down to Seoul?
P: No, no. We bypassed Seoul. We went to Hungnam because they were moving so fast. They’d already gone through Seoul. The Chinese. Another thing that is, you know, we wiped out four
North Korean divisions. Each one had 180,000 mean, okay. And when the Chinese come across, they never went back to China. They stayed in North Korea. So we’re not fighting North Koreans. We’re fighting Chinese.
I: Exactly, yeah, exactly. So in Hungnam, what did you do?
P: We boarded transports, boats that were there to take us to Pusan, okay?
P: And then when we got to Pusan, when we come off the boats, each outfit that was there took so many men, you know.
You four, you go to 2nd Division. You four, you go to 1st Cavalry. You four, go to the, you know. That’s how we were divided. And that’s how I got to be on MacArthur’s staff. That was just before he went
I: When was that?
the latter part of ’51.
I: And how did you become the MacArthur’s staff?
P: Yeah. I was picked.
I: By whom?
P: Because I was speaking, I was speaking Korean and Japanese.
I: How did you learn Korean?
P: How did I learn Korean?
P: Yeah. I had a beautiful musuan.[LAUGHS]
I: You mean, the
P: Korean girl.
I: Korean girl?
I: Where did you meet her?
P: In Pusan.
I: In Pusan.
I: And you picking up Korean language so fast.[LAUGHS]
P: Oh, sure. I can speak Japanese, too.
I: Oh boy. So, where did you work with MacArthur’s staff, where?
P: Right in Pusan with President Syngman Rhee.
I: Hm. Tell me about those details.
P: Okay. Syngman Rhee gave all those who
Fought in the Pusan Perimeter a Presidential Unit Citation which is they are using now as the Korean emblem, but it wasn’t. It was a gift from President Syngman Rhee to all who fought in the Pusan Perimeter. And President Truman gave everybody a citation fought in the Pusan Perimeter.
I: So what did you do in that? Were you in MacArthur’s headquarter in Pusan?
P: Yeah, I was a radio operator.
I: So what did you do?
P: I called, I also was a runner to the front lines, too. I would take dispatchers from headquarters to the troops on the front lines.
I: So you went from Pusan to front line?
I: What did you do there in front line?
P: I would bring the instructions from MacArthur.
I: What kind of instructions?
P: What they should do, and they did it.
I: Whom did you actually give that instruction to?
P: The Commander of the Allied Forces.
I: Who was it?
P: A couple of times, I was with
Colonel Poponaopolis who was the head of the Greek Forces in Korea, and I became his interpreter because he couldn’t speak Korean, and he could speak English, and I spoke English, and I could speak Korean. So I became his interpreter.
I: So from Pusan to front line, how did you get there?
P: I had a
armored vehicle that I used to drive. I didn’t drive it, I had a driver. And we’d go to the front line, and my cousin was in the Canadian Army who was also a courier, and I used to put his bicycle on the armored car, and we’d go to the front line.
I: So it took a long time to get there, right?
P: Not too long. My armored car would go 70 mph.
I: But there was not highway there. It was a rough road, right?
P: There was no highway, but there was a road. Also, you know there was a amphibious landing prior to Inchon?
P: Halfway up the coast. There’s a little town. It used to be a Japanese concentration, not Japanese
P: Yeah. That’s where we had an amphibious landing.
I: You had an amphibious landing there?
I: When was that?
P: In ’51, first part of ’51. I’m not sure.
I: You were everywhere, oh my goodness. How could you do that?
P: Because I had an armored car and would travel, and I spoke the language.
I: But you didn’t learn Korean language before you left for Korea, right?
P: No. I learned Japanese by being on the hospital ship Hope for six months.
I: You must be genius.
P: All Japanese doctors and Japanese nurses. So if I wanted to know what they were talking to me about, I had to learn the language. So I learned the language.
I: Tell me some Koreans that you know.
I: Yeah, Korean language.
P: What would you like, I just sang you a song.
I: We didn’t record it, so why don’t you sing again? [INAUDIBLE], right?
I: Yeah. Sing.
I: [LAUGHING AND CLAPPING]
P: Now I’ll sing you a Japanese love song. [SINGING]
I: I am amazed by your talents and capacity to pick up Asian languages so fast. How did you do that?
P: When I lived before, I was Chinese.
I: What do you mean, Chinese?
P: Just what I said.
No. The truth be known, languages come very, very easy to me.
I: So when did you leave Korea?
P: Well, I left Korea two years, I was there two years.
I: Why you were there too long?
P: Because I went
there, I went down to Personnel because people were coming in and, and relieving other guys that had been there a shorter time than I had, see. So I went to Personnel, and the guy in Personnel checked my records, you’re missing in action. You have been for months.
I: I don’t understand what you’re talking about.
You’d been there for long, but you’ve been as a missing in action?
P: Missing in action as far as Personnel can tell. So they had to send to Washington to get my records, and then there was only a few days and I was on my way home. I was on troop ship Bwaka, come home
P: It turned out to be New Year’s when we arrived in Seattle.
I: Of 1950 what?
I: And, have you been back to Korea?
I: Do you know about Korean economy and Korean democracy right now?
I: What do you know about it? Tell me.
P: Look at all the cars you see in Korean, Korean cars. Yeah.
I: Korean cars,
and what else do you know?
P: That’s about it. I’ve seen pictures of it. That’s about all.
I: So what does that picture tell you?
P: That they’re doing great.
I: Can you see the real difference between Korea you saw in 1950 and Korea right now?
I: What other difference, tell me, detail?
I: Yeah. Detail matters.
P: Yeah. Well, they seem to be living better, and they all got
automobiles, and they all got motorcycles, and
I: So the Korea you saw in 1950 are completely gone, right?
P: Yeah. They are. I’ll tell you a little story. I can speak Korean, so here comes this man with a ox, with a horse, and on his wagon he’s got five or six barrels,
big, anyhow, the horse, they came to a bridge in Pusan, in Pusan, yeah, in Pusan a bridge. It was a wooden bridge. Now, the horse wouldn’t go over that bridge. So I took my coat off, I seen that, and I took my coat off, put the coat over the horse’s head, took the reigns and walked the horse over the bridge. Now, the Korean man seen me do that
and I went over, took my coat off and put it back on, and he come out from under them barrels, he come out with a rifle and shot the horse.
I: Shot the horse?
P: He shot the horse.
P: So when I, after I, I talked to him in Korean, and I asked him why he did it. He said I was afraid you were gonna steal my horse.
P: So rather than let you take him
I shot him. Yeah. It’s a hell of a way of thinking. I just got the horse over the bridge so h e wouldn’t have a problem getting it over the bridge.
I: You were trying to help him, but he thought that you were going to take it
P: Take his horse.
I: So he just killed it.
P: He just killed it.
I: Even after he crossed the bridge?
P: After I got him across the bridge.
I: What a Korean man was?
P: Or you don’t. You grew up there.
So what do you think about your service? I mean, you didn’t know anything about Korea before you left for Korea, right?
P: Right. I was on Guam.
I: And you saw Korea in 1950 and it was completely destroyed, right?
I: Now Korea is completely different country.
P: It is.
I: So, what do you think about the whole thing?
P: I think it’s great, and I think North Korea has got a big problem
because they know what they’re doing, you know.
I: So what is Korea to you personally?
P: It was a part of my life. I still after 60 years, I can still speak the language. I can still speak Japanese.
I: You seem to lose your fingers. What happened?
P: Skill saw. They’re there. You just don’t see them.
I: So you know that there is a Korean government program inviting Korean War veterans back to Korea, right?
P: I’ve heard about it.
I: Yeah. Do you want to go back?
P: I would like to eventually. Right now I’m dealing with a body that isn’t as resilient as it used to be, you know.
I: You are almost 86, and you want to go eventually? You got to go back as soon as possible
right? Huh? Are you willing to go if I arrange it?
P: I would be willing to go, yes.
I: Okay. We’ll see, okay?
I: So you were in Pusan Perimeter. You went up to Yalu, and then you went to Hungnam. You went to Hungnam, right? Wonsan or Hungnam?
And then you were in Korea two years. That’s almost double because regular Korean War veterans, they were there for just one year.
P: Yeah, but, you see, I went there not ever expecting to come home, you understand?
I: What do you mean by that?
P: Just went there to die there. All United Nations troops were the same way, you see
I, one of my jobs when I worked with MacArthur was to meet the troops coming in from other countries, and we had 3,000 men from Ethiopia, okay, Haile Selassie, the Emperor of Ethiopia, came with them. Every one of them sat over 7’ tall. Every one of them carried a sieve like this, and if
they took it out, they had to bring blood. But anyhow, that was it. There was 30,000 troops from Australia. There was 12,000 from Britain. There was, you know, Sweden, they sent a hospital, complete hospital, right down to the guy who swept the streets, you know, and beautiful women. But anyhow,
I: Let me see
your dogtag. Show it to the camera.
P: Just a minute. There it is.
I: So which one is Korean War dogtag?
P: These two.
I: Both of them?
P: You were issued two.
I: Show it to, yeah, right there. Those are the dogtags that you had.
P: You know how they were, see this little mark here?
Bottom tooth. This one, and then when you’re dead, that’s how they notify, knew you. I’ve had them all these years.
I: So are you proud of your service as a Korean War veteran?
P: I was, but not anymore.
I: What do you mean by that?
P: What do I mean by that? We got a President that’s doing foolish things.
P: Mr. Trump.
P: Mr. Trump. He’s playing Patty Cake with Russia. You know, MacArthur would have shot him, really. That’s aiding and abetting the enemy as Russia’s always been our enemy ever since the 2nd World War.
I: You are very exceptional. Anyway, so
You don’t like what’s going on right now?
P: No I don’t, you understand? And he’s, I do know why because he owes Russia all kinds of money, and every new place he builds is built by Russian money.
I: So what is Korea to you personally? I mean, you didn’t know anything about Korea.
You served there for two years, and now Korea is one of the largest economies in the world, and what is Korea to you personally in your life?
P: I would go there and make it my home.
P: Really. Because I get along good with those people.
I: And you speak good Korean, and you’re singing in Korean.
I: Meaning what?
P: I’m an American soldier.
I: In Korea.
P: In Korean.
I: Yeah. And any other story that you didn’t tell me you remember?
P: Like what? Syngman Rhee lost his puppy dog, his little punk white dog, and the war stopped till they found his dog. Somebody had eaten him.
I: Oh. Really?
P: Oh yeah.
I: How did you know that?
P: Like I said, I was on the boss’s staff, so I knew all things.
I: Any other story you want to tell me?
P: Like what? The girl I met?
I: Or any about the war and your service in MacArthur’s headquarters in Pusan?
P: No. I was wounded a couple of times but
P: Right there, see?
I: What happened?
What happened? How did you get the wound?
P: That’s a dumb dumb bullet.
I: How did you get the wound there? Where is it, show me the hand
P: Right there, see?
I: No, lift it up. How did you get that wound?
P: That come from a Russian [INAUDIBLE]
I: Russian what?
P: Burp gun.
I: Where’d you get it ?
P: Walking in, walking in the field.
P: Walking along, next thing I know my arm is down like this.
I: Where did you get that?
P: Don’t ask me. I don’t know. I can’t remember. But it was a dumb dumb, and a regular bullet is, goes through the air turning like this. But a dumb dumb goes up, rolls, see. So when in hit me here, it come out here, and this whole arm is no good.
But that’s alright. They’re scars of the trade.
I: So you got four Bronze Stars and one Silver Star from the Korean War?
P: From the Korean War.
I: You have a DD214?
P: You still have that?
I: Yeah. Okay. And you have how many pictures do you have?
P: I don’t know. I threw some away because it was a long time ago. But I know where there’s some of Pusan
and sunken ships in the Harbor of Pusan, and the trees, no trees in Korea. When I got there, there was no trees anywhere in Korea because the Japanese had taken everything. But to build there, there’s zeros.
I: Why didn’t you bring that picture with you today?
P: I didn’t think of it.
I: Could you send it to me?
I: Could you do that?
P: I can fax it to you.
I: No, fax is not good because we need clear pictures, so if you trust me, and if you trust Jack
P: I’ll give it to him and he can get it to you.
I: Yeah, and then he will send it to me, and we’ll scan it and then return those pictures back to you, okay?
P: That’s alright. I got pictures of Bob Hope singing and his girl, Marilyn, yeah.
I: Was he there when you were there?
I: You saw him directly?
I seen Al Jolson there. I got a picture of Al Jolson. You can see me right there in the crowd because I drove him to there, to the big arena.
I: So, what did, say hello to Bob for me?
P: Hello Bob.
I: Did you see Marilyn Monroe there?
I: How was she?
P: Marilyn Monroe? Yeah. I got a picture of her singing.
I: Really? You saw her
P: I think I still got it, yeah. With a microphone in her hand
I: How was she?
I: How was she?
P: Other than that she was pretty, that’s about all I can tell you. I didn’t go to bed with her, but
I: So, any other story you want to tell me about the War?
P: The war? It’s hard. It’s hard.
Now, there’s a little river running South of the Yalu, and the, I’m not proud, I’m not proud of what I did, okay. But being the Officer of the Day, you know, anyhow, there was a woman coming with a big carriage loaded with clothes
coming to the checkpoint. She had a little boy behind her. I would say the boy was about 12 or 14, you know, we get to the checkpoint, there’s four of my guys checking this thing, see. Well, she gets down off the thing, took the covers off the front of the carriage, and there’s a 30 caliber machine gun, and she started firing it, see.
Now, I was the Officer of the Day, and I ordered this is the Commandant, the head, Officer of the day. All United Nations forces fire on the crossing the bridge, crossing and going down the sides of the river, and they did. Just,
and I have to live with that all my life that I ordered them to be killed.
I: That lady?
I: The Korean woman?
P: Korean woman, everybody that was on that river.
I: Because you never know who’s going to kill whom, right?
P: Right, right, right. So it was my duty to stop what was ever going on, and the only way I could stop it was to order them all killed.
So I’m going to see a psychiatrist for that.
I: So you have PTSD?
I: You have PTSD?
I: Do you see that in the dream, too?
P: That was many, 60 years ago.
I: But you, you had to do it, right?
P: I had to do it.
I: Yeah. That was your duty to do it, so don’t feel too much bad about it. But
P: Well, I do.
I: I mean, yeah.
Are you, I know
P: I don’t mind the men, killing the men. But the little children. Because I had 12 of my own you know. Any how
I: But thank you for sharing that with me. Any other story that you want to tell me?
P: That’s enough. I don’t want to say anymore.
I: Yeah, I think so. But Paul, I want to thank you for your service. Because of your service, Korea is now
P: The way it is.
I: The way it is, so it’s a model for other countries.
P: It is. I know. It’s special to me. I shed my blood there, you know, and it’s special to me. Korea. South Korea.
I: Thank you.
[End of Recorded Material]