Per Anton Sommernes
Per Anton Sommernes served in the Norwegian Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (NorMASH) during the Korean War. His parents were missionaries in China during his childhood until Chairman Mao sent them out. During this time, Per Anton Sommernes was able to learn a little of the Chinese language. When applying to go to Korea many years later he felt this skill would help his service. He went to Korea as a nurse, serving in a post-operation tent without any experience. The NorMASH was on the front lines and in constant danger of being overrun. Per Anton Sommernes ultimately served two to three months as a nurse, after transferring to a headquarters job.
Morphine to Ease the Pain
Per Anton Sommernes describes being part of the Norwegian MASH (NorMASH) unit. Soldiers would come in wounded from the frontlines. NorMash would stabilize soldiers who lost limbs from combat. Men would receive morphine to ease the pain. Men would be stabilized in the field hospital and then transfer out after three to four days. Per Anton Sommernes also describes receiving supplies from the American military by helicopter.
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No Experience or Training
Per Anton Sommernes describes his service as a male nurse for NorMASH during the Korean War. He had no formal training in Norway. His first instruction was giving penicillin shots to soldiers in Korea. The training was just telling him to push the needle in and inject. However, he did not kill anyone.
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To Stay or To Evacuate
Per Anton Sommernes describes an incident where there was a possibility of being overrun by Chinese soldiers. Evacuating every wounded soldier was not an option. Some nurses and doctors would have to stay. Per Anton Sommernes grew up in China and knew the language and volunteered to stay back.
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[Beginning of recorded material]
P: My name is Per Anton Sommernes, uh, P E R. And then Anton , A N T O N, uh, surname Sommernes, S O M M E R N E S.
I: Excellent. What is your birthday?
P: Twenty-first of May, 1932.
I: So now you are 87?
P: Yes sir.
I: And where were you born?
P: I was born in a town called Sarpsborg.
I: Would you spell it?
P: in Norway.
I: Could you spell it?
P: S A R P S B O R G.
I: Okay. And tell me about the family background when you were growing up, your parents and your siblings, if there were any.
P: My father was a missionary in China.
P: Uh, uh, my mother was the daughter of a, uh, pastor.
I: And, do you have brothers and sisters?
P: I am the youngest of five brothers, and I am the last one living.
I: Um. So your family has a very strong Christian background.
P: Yes sir.
I: Are you Christian too?
I: Very good. Um, tell me about the schools you went through?
P: I, uh, in,
in, Norway we have a different level. I went through, uh, the, the, the, when you start as a six year-old, you know. And then, uh, middle school and then, uh, oh, what they saying, this person is high school
I: High school.
P: And, uh, after I, uh, uh, retired from my, uh, job I, uh, studied Law at the University in [AUSTRIA]
I: Um. So you are the lawyer?
P: I am, I, I was, I finished when I was 75 years old. So I was too, too late to make a career out of, uh, law. But my, I have several family members
who were, uh, lawyers. So I was interested in Law, and that’s why I, it was more like a hobby than
I: Wow. That’s a very passionate that you finished your law degree at 75 years old.
P: But, uh, uh, you know, I, I, my oldest son is, uh, a, uh,
studied Law. My oldest daughter, uh, she is a nurse. But, uh, after I finished, she got my books and she studied Law and, uh, took the exam, too, and my youngest daughter is, uh, a nurse and, uh, then, uh, we, my wife Betty and I, we had three sons together, uh.
Oldest one is a surgeon
P: Uh, the, the number, the youngest young took over my wife’s, uh, medical practice. So he’s working as a medical doctor together with his wife who also is a medical doctor.
I: It’s a wonderful story.
I: Does your, what is your specialty as a medical doctor?
FEMALE: Uh, general practitioner.
I: General Practitioner. Very nice.
I: And how old were you when Germany occupied Norway?
P: Uh, you know, uh, this was during, uh, the Second World War
P: and, uh, uh, Germany occupied Norway, uh, on the ninth of, uh, uh, April, 1940.
I: Um hm. So you were about eight years old.
P: Yes. And at that time, I was in China, you know.
I: You were in China.
I: With your father?
P: My, my, uh, uh, parents went to China in 1934. I was then two years old. And it was a intention to stay in China for six years and then
come back because two of my, uh, brothers were left behind, uh, with our grandparents, uh. So they longed to come back.
P: But the Second World War prevented them from doing so. So, uh, it took 12 years before we could come back. So, 27th of, uh,
January, 1946 we came back to Norway.
I: Nineteen thirty-six?
I: Forty-six, right.
P: Forty -six, yes.
I: So you must be able to speak Chinese then.
P: I, uh, I have forgotten most of it I’m afraid. Uh, I was, uh, 14 years old when I came back, and you know, my, uh, fellow
uh, pupils in the school, they called me a Chinese. And I wanted to be a Norwegian. So, uh, even though my parents spoke Chinese to me at the dinner table,
P: I, uh,
I: refused it
P: I, I, refused to talk back. So, uh, quickly I forgot most of it I’m afraid. I’m a little bit ashamed that I did so.
But, uh, but, so I, it would have been wonderful if I had been able to talk it fluently today.
I: Um. So how was it under the German occupation of it? What did you think about it? How was it?
P: You know, uh, I think that, uh, the German Counselor Hitler in a way, he, uh,
he liked Norway, uh. So, eh, he did not, the Germans did not treat Norway as badly as they did several other countries.
I: Um hm.
P: But still, they, uh, deported all the Jews in, uh, Norway. So, uh, they were taken to a, a concentration camps in, in
Germany and most of them, uh, were kids by the Germans. Of course, they, uh, they were not kind, uh. They, they were, uh, were forcing the Norwegians to do as they wanted. But, uh, uh, our King, uh,
and his family went to England during the War
P: and, uh, and, uh, talked on the radio to the Norwegians and kept the Norwegians spirit going.
I: Good. So did you go to school under the German, uh, occupation?
P: Yes. I, during, during the German occupation, I was in China, you know. So
I: But when you come, came, oh, okay.
It’s 46, right.
P: Well, the, the, the Second World War ended in June, 19, uh, 45.
I: Forty-five, yeah.
I: Um, so when did you finish your high school?
P: Oh, that must have been, uh, 1952.
I: Nineteen fifty-two you graduate high school.
I: And in the school,
did you learn anything about Korean history or culture or anything like that?
P: That, uh, I’m afraid to say that I knew nothing about Korea, and I think that was also the same for most Norwegians. We had hardly heard about the country, uh. So we should have learned it in our, uh, Geography lessons.
But, uh, I’m afraid I did not know about Korea until the Korean War started and, and, uh, it was, the news was all over the country.
P: And, uh, as I grew older and, uh, uh, it was advertised for a Norwegian to go to Korean, I applied because I wanted
to, to go to the Far East.
I: You wanted to go?
I: Because you were there in China, right?
P: Yes. I had the Chinese background and, uh, I, I, uh, did not have sufficient qualifications to go to, to go to Korea, but I think my background from China, uh, was interesting, uh. So, uh, they, uh, accepted me essentially, yes.
I: Hm. How did they promote it? How, how was it advertised to, uh, to recruit the volunteers?
P: It was, uh, in, uh, all the newspapers, and it was on the radio and, uh, uh, So, so it was well known. And, uh, the Norwegians applied, very many applied.
And, uh, uh, I think when I was accepted, uh, it was 100 applicants, and I was chosen, I think solely because I had this Chinese background.
I: You are the only one was chosen?
P: I, I, I was one of 100, yes.
I: Okay. And why was it so kind of
popular for Norwegians to apply for this War? I mean, this is war, serious business. People can be killed. Why?
P: Yes. Uh, you know, uh, at that time, uh, the, the, General Secretary for United Nations was a Norwegian.
I: Norwegian, yeah.
P: And, uh, the same
day the Koreans, the Korean War started, he worked with the Norwegian government to, uh, send participants to, to help South Korea. So he, uh, made it popular to go there, and it was, uh, the ones that was chosen
to go there, uh, was, uh, was very proud of being chosen.
I: Um hm.
P: And, uh, I think all, uh, the Norwegians that were accepted and went there, they never regretted going there.
P: So the Norwegian, uh, you know, we had the, Norway has a hospital, a military hospital, Normash.
P: Uh, they’re the front line and, uh, that’s why, uh, it was working, uh, during the War.
I: Um. Did your parents say anything about your volunteering for Korea? Didn’t they say no to you? Don’t go, it’s a War.
P: I, I, I, I went to them and I said
I want to go to Korea. But I hope for your support. And, uh, they, uh, I think they, at first, were a little bit shocked.
P: But, uh, my father, give me a few days to think about it. And then he came back, uh, and
I: Take your time. That reminds you of your father?
P: And, and, uh, uh, after a few days he said, my mother, your mother and I
we have prayed to God to try to get an answer.
P: And we have come to that we will not oppose your going
P: there. And we wish you all the best.
I: Did he get an answer from God?
P: I think so he told me.
I: Good. You need?
P: Thank you. It must be a difficult decision, right? The parents sending his own and their own child to the area
that might be being killed. So it must been very difficult decision.
P: I, I think, uh, because of their background, uh, they had [INAUDIBLE] to go to China to become missionaries and, uh, so in a way, they made some sort of a comparison I think.
I: Yes. By the way,
how was, uh, life in China? Was it, must not been easy for your father to work on Christianity in China at the time, right?
P: No, my father went to China in 1915. And, uh, he started the, um, Mission of the New Grace.
P: Uh, I’m thinking the name of the city is [HONG KONG] uh, nearly in the middle of, uh, of [SANFOR], China.
P: It was, it has been for, for, uh, several years missionaries from New Zealand and from England trying to, uh, make it fruitful for Christianity. But it was a very difficult place and, uh, my father was warned against going there.
But the New Zealanders and the English, they went away, and my father, uh, continued, uh, their work.
P: So, um, after 30 years of working, it was about 300, uh, Christians, uh, in, in
[HONG KONG]. And then, you know, in 1949 Mao Tse Tung sent all the missionaries out of the country.
I: Um hm.
P: and the mission was closed.
I: How, yeah, go ahead.
P: And, but after Mao Tse Tung died, it was opened up again, uh. And when the mission was
opened again, there were 2000. If there had been underground, uh, Christians working for keeping this going.
I: Um hm.
P: And now, there are several churches and the, in, in a way, it’s exploding.
I: Yes. I know well about that, too. So
your father did a great job. And how was China to you? How, how was it in China? You, you have a very exceptional experience. I don’t think many Norwegian, um, teens have such opportunity to live in China.
P: No. I was, I was, uh, you know, I became, I, I had friends, and I grew up with, uh, Chinese boys
and girls my age. So I love China. And I love the Chinese.
I: Um hm.
P: So, uh, to jump many years forward, uh, my, the company I was working for sent me to Hong Kong to start a company. And I worked in Hong Kong for a year
for, for this company. Again due to my Chinese experience.
I: Excellent. But in the end, you went to Korea.
I: And your enemy was, one of the enemy was Chinese soldier.
I: What about that, ironical?
P: It was, yes. Uh, and, and, uh, uh, I, uh, it was, I think
near the end of the War, Korean War, the Chinese were very aggressive. They tried to push the 38th Parallel, uh,
I: You want an inch.
P: South. And, uh, under our hospital, Normash got a lot of patients. And, uh, it was one night, the whole camp was called together,
and, uh, the administration said, uh, tonight all, all in, over a few days, we may be overrun by, by the Chinese, and we have to decide who shall, uh, escape, uh, who had to stay to take care of the patients.
P: At that time,
I took to their decision, I was going to say.
I: That must been really difficult.
P: It was, I was the only one that could communicate with them.
P: And, uh, uh, so I thought I might
I: Have a chance.
P: Yeah. Have a chance to do something good.
I: Um. What were you thinking? I mean, you were,
you must been afraid first of all, and you used to live in China. You, you loved China. You have lots of friends there. And now they are the enemies. They might kill you. They’ve been killing all the people. We killed them, too. But, so what were you thinking? How was it?
P: Uh, you know, even they were fighting in Korea,
I, I, never, never, uh, got the feeling to hate them. Uh, uh, anyway I, I, I couldn’t forget my, my, uh, old friends.
P: So, so, uh, not everybody in China are bad. And, uh, so that, that’s what I was thinking, that, uh, this will end one day.
And to be, unfortunately, that hatred, that tension and conflict, sense of conflict and sense of enemies never ended in Korean Peninsula between Chinese, Americans and all these people. There are still struggles to find a way to end the Korean War. And hasn’t been finished, hasn’t been replaced by the Peace Treaty either.
And, so that, the, the problems in the Korean Peninsula still right there. What do you think? How do you think we can solve this problem?
P: I, I, uh, if I had, had the, the good solution, I think it’d be somebody else would have talked about it before. But uh, I, I,
still believe that, uh, a situation like it is today cannot continue forever. So, uh, it may still take some time. But, I think we are, there are good signs that the, uh, [INAUDIBLE] be better.
I: Um hm. I’d learned just from you that I think we’d better build better and good
relationship with so called enemies so that we can defeat those hatreds among us, right?
I: So good things will overcome the bad things.
I: Is that kind of line of thinking?
P: Yes. I think so.
P: I think so. Because, uh, nobody likes going around and hate things. It’s not a good feeling.
I: That is right. So
what kind of training did you receive to go to Korea? Uh, what was your specialty, and tell me about when you joined, the date if you remember, and where you got, what kind of training program.
P: I, I was sent to Korea as a, to, to the Norwegian Mobile Army Surgical Hospital as a maiden nurse. And I had no experience
in that kind of work. So when, uh, uh, the cease fire stopped, I was, uh, I,I, I had a chance to be moved to the Headquarters because I thought that the maiden nurse part of my work was not, uh, sufficiently
good. I, I thought I was, uh, better in the office. And, uh, so I was a office assistant for four, uh, a few months. And then the [INAUDIBLE] in the Headquarters, uh, wants to go home. So I applied, uh, yeah. The, the, the agreement was all the, the
people sent to the hospital was for six months.
P: So after six months, I was invited [INAUDIBLE] Uh, with a, rank of Second Lieutenant.
P: And then after another six months, the, the Liaison Officer with the Headquarters, U.N. Headquarter in Tokyo,
uh, the, the, was, uh, vacant because the man working there at that time was finished with his period. And I applied and, uh, I got that job. So I was also, uh, the Liaison Officer in Tokyo for another six months.
P: So I had the, you can say, uh, uh, four kind of
jobs during, uh, my period out there.
I: Yeah. But my question was when did you join the Norwegian MASH Unit in Norway, and did you receive any training to be a male nurse?
I: When did you join the volunteer here in Norway?
P: It, it was in, uh, uh, I applied in uh, uh, uh, a year before
I, it was in, in, 1952.
I: Fifty-two. Um hm.
P: Nineteen fifty-two. And I went out there in May 1953.
I: So here, when you joined the NORMASH, where did you go, and what kind of training did you receive because you didn’t know anything about medics, right?
I: So tell me about that please.
P: I, I, I had no training as a medical nurse.
I: Um hm.
P: Uh, so
I, I seem to remember I was, uh, placed in a department of the hospital to take care of patients that already had been operated on, uh, post-op. And, uh, and the first day, I, uh, uh, gave penicillin, uh, shots for 38, uh, patients.
P: And, uh, I did not know how to do that. So I asked one of the others how do I do this? Yes. You, you divide the back in, uh, four pieces and, uh, and then you, uh, uh, put the needle on the upper part and, uh, put the, push it, push the, the, needle
P: in and, uh, give the penicillin.
I: That’s it.
P: Yes. That’s right.
I: Push it. And inject.
P: Inject. I think that, uh, uh, some of the patients did not, uh, exactly love my kind of, uh,
I: I know. Penicillin shot is, uh, it’s kind of, uh, painful.
P: At, at that time in the, the 1950’s, penicillin saved a lot of people.
I: People, yes.
P: Today they are reluctant to use it, you know.
I: Now we have a lot of antibiotics.
I: Yes. So you got that hospital training, right?
I: As a, as a soldier or what?
P: As a soldier, yes.
I: Uh huh. Were you paid?
I: How much were you paid?
P: Oh, I think it was, uh, 50 Euro dollars, uh, per month.
I: In, even in Norway when you were trained in hospital?
P: No, I was not trained in Norway.
I: Where did you got the training, hospital?
P: I got the training in Korea.
I: So you went to Korea without any knowledge or any experience as a nurse
I: But you learned everything in MASH Unit.
I: That’s it.
P: That’s it.
I: That’s, that’s bad.
P: I did not kill anybody.
I: I know. But still, you didn’t have any experience
I: So actually, when did you leave Norway to Korea?
P: In May, 1953.
I: Fifty-three. And how did you get there?
P: Well, I flew, uh, from, uh, I flew to, uh,
I: Um hm.
P: And then from Alaska to the Aleutian Islands. And then from Aleutian Islands to Tokyo, and then from Tokyo to Seoul.
I: Where did you arrive in Seoul? Was it Kimpo or what is it, K16?
P: Oh, at Kimpo.
I: Um hm. And do you
remember the date that you arrived in Seoul, Korea?
P: Wow. I think it, it took, altogether three, uh, three days. So it must have been, uh, twenty-sixth of May, 1953.
I: Okay. Um, tell me about Korea. You were in China, but you never been into Korea. You didn’t know much about Korea.
When you arrived in Korea, what was your image? What did you see? Please describe in details. What did you see? How did you feel about it? How was the situation in Korea?
P: You know, to, to arrive in Seoul, uh, we were put on a, a truck
I: Um hm.
P: to be, uh, taken to the camp.
So we went to Seoul
I: Um hm.
P: Uh, from Kimpo and, uh, we saw only destruction. We hardly saw a house that were not either totally ruined or partly ruined. The, the, the, and, and at that time, there was only one bridge
I: Um hm.
P: Uh, the, uh, going over that bridge, uh
you could see on both sides the destruction, uh, that had taken place. It was, it was scary.
I: But you are not the first time in Asia. You were in China. Even compared to the China where you were, how was it? Was it still more terrible than the China, right, at the time?
P: Well, it was,
I, uh, grew up in the center of China
I: Um hm, um hm
P: and, uh, the Japanese didn’t never come so far into the country while we said although they bombed us. Uh, so I did not see such destructions.
I: Um hm.
P: as in, uh,
I: What were you thinking? How did you feel about it when you saw the Korea, Seoul City completely destroyed in ruins?
P: Well, you know, uh, we thought, we thought, uh, here it’s another reason to be here, to, to help because, uh, at that time, uh, [INAUDIBLE] were very, very depressed and, uh, and had absolutely nothing. So, uh,
I, I think that, uh, being there with the hospital was, uh, was a quite a good thing. And as soon as the War, uh, the fighting stopped, uh, Normash also took civilian Korean patients.
I: Yes. So from Kimpo, you went up to [Dongducheon] or Uijeongbu? Where were you?
P: Yes. Uijeongbu.
I: And tell me about the daily routine in Normash in Uijeongbu. What did you do? What time did you wake up? Where did you sleep? What did you eat? What was your duties, and how long and then what? Tell me the typical day of, uh, Normash operation as a medical nurse.
P: You know, uh, uh, the,
the boys were placed in 10 beds, tents. Uh, and, uh, we started the day normally at, uh, 8:00 and, uh, worked until 6:00 in the hospital.
P: We had, uh, lunch at, uh, 12 and, uh, we had dinner at 6 and 6:30 in the afternoon.
Um, we had, uh, uh, agreements with the Americans so with the Norwegian MASH, uh, bought, uh, American rations. So we had, uh, very good food and, uh, enough food. And, uh, uh,
the camp, uh, had, uh, uh, the hospital facilities, of course. But we had also a club for the Officer and a club for the enlisted men. Uh, so we had good social relations.
I: Very lucky.
I: Um. What about the operation?
What did you do? What kind of work actually you do, you did as a, um, male nurse? Did you assist the doctors in the operation table or what was your duty? What did you do, medically?
P: We, we had a, a, in, in this, uh, post-op, uh, tents, uh. It was, uh, uh,
it was nurses, uh, ladies
P: who are the, the bosses. And, uh, the, the main nurses, uh, that’s me, we were working on direct orders from, uh, the female, uh, nurses. They were experienced.
Growing up, I was 22 years old and they were from 30 upwards.
I: Um. Yeah?
P: But, uh, I, I, eh, I worked as a male nurse only for, uh, two, three months, you know. So most of the time, I was in the Headquarters.
I: Um. Do you remember any patient or do you remember any episode
during your, uh, during your work in MASH Unit?
P: Uh, I, I, I, uh, that, that, uh, uh, thinking back I, I think, uh, the worst things were to see patients coming in, uh, to have losed, uh, a, a leg or a arm,
and there were, there were shouting of pain, with pain. That, that made the work, uh, very, very, very impression on, on us.
P: And, uh, we gave them, uh, Morphine and, uh, uh, the like, uh, to ease the pain. But, uh, it was quite, uh,
quite a lot to, to see, yes.
I: Um. Must been very difficult to observe those painful moments of those people, right?
I: Have you thought that why am I here? What, what the hell am I doing here? Have you thought about that?
P: In, right here now?
I: No, no. In Normash in Korea.
P: In No, well, no. I, I was so, uh,
excited of, uh, being there, uh. And, uh, with all I was learning every day, uh, medical, uh, work, and uh, and uh, organization, I’m with very intelligent, good people because you can say all the people, uh, without me,
uh, were, were, uh, educated very intelligent, uh, people. Sol it was very educational for me to, to be together with them.
P: I admired, uh, most of them very much.
I: Did you have a chance to see Lucy’s father, Bernard Paus, Dr. Paus?
P: I, uh,
Dr. Paus was, uh, head surgeon
I: Um hm.
P: when I was, uh, when I came there. And, uh, so, uh, uh, but you, but you knew when, when you are a Private and, and he is a, he was a, uh, Second in Commander. So he was, uh, Lieutenant Third Colonel.
P: So it was a very big difference, you know?
I: Did, were there any nurses, female nurses, that were married at the time? Were they all single, or what happened?
P: Most of them, I think, I think all of them were single.
I: How many nurses and how many doctors, do you remember, when you were there?
P: Well, I think maybe, maybe 20 doctors and, uh, um 25 nur, uh, uh, nurses.
I: Um. And how was their spirit? I mean, you had to treat so many wounded soldiers every day, right?
I: Must been really hard. How was it? I mean, tell me about those.
P: Well, you know, they were grateful for, for the help they were receiving. So, uh, it was a, it was a good, uh, relation between the patients and, uh, and, uh, us for serving them, you know?
I: Uh huh.
P: So, uh, but, you know. Uh, all the Americans and English and Australians that were in the hospital,
that were transferred, after they had been operated, maybe three or four days afterwards to,
to, uh, uh, hospitals, uh, more South because we were, uh, so near the 38th Parallel, uh, near the border.
I: Um hm.
P: that we at all times must have capacity to receive new patients.
I: Um hm.
P: That’s why we, we didn’t get long term knowledge of each patient.
I: I see. Um, where did you sleep? Was it tent or was, where was it ?
P: It was, it was only tents.
I: Only tents.
I: Okay. How often were you able to take a shower?
P: We, we had, uh, uh, we had the shower tents.
We, we could have a shower, uh, two, two or three days a, a week.
I: Um. Two or three times a week?
I: Wow, that’s very nice.
I: I have interviewed so many soldiers who never been able to shower facility for like a month.
P: We were and we were prioritized, you know, because we were working with patients. We had to be clean.
I: Were there any
shortage of medicines or medical equipment and so on?
I: Were there any shortage of, uh, medicines and medical equipment and so on?
P: Right. Oh, so we had, we had, uh, uh, sometimes it were extraordinary medicine that were needed which we did not have. And then we could the American and they could send the medicine
with a helicopter. We had a helicopter, uh, landing facility
I: Um hm.
P: at the, at the hospital.
I: Um hm. What about during the winter, and wasn’t it too cold? Did you have a stove or how did you heat the whole thing?
P: We had, we were, we were uh, uh, the tents were kept warm during wintertime with, uh, with oil,
fighting with oil.
I: But what about summer? You didn’t have air conditioning there.
P: No. It was quite hot, too, in summertime, you know.
I: Um hm.
I: Um, any doctor or any nurse that you remember with some kind of story that you wanna share with us?
P: Uh, you have probably heard that, uh,
I got engaged to one of the nurses and, uh,
I: There, at the time?
P: At the time and, uh, and I, uh, after coming home to Norway, we got married and, uh, uh, we got stationed in together, and was, were married for 13 years when we divorced.
I: Um. What a story.
I: How did you, what, what, what, what was her name?
P: Her, her name?
P: Uh, Gale Chris Johnson.
I: Um hm.
I: And you, you liked each other at there, in, in Normash in Korea?
I: Wow. Everybody must be very jealous about you.
P: Well, uh, there were other, uh, people also.
I think you have, uh, you have, uh, interviewed, uh, one that married one of the Korean nurses. We had also Korean nurses.
I: Um hm.
P: I think maybe you interviewed him yesterday, Bakke?
I: I’m going to do it tomorrow.
P: Oh, I see.
I: Yeah, yeah.
P: Yeah. You were,
uh, he, uh, married a Korean nurse and.
I: Very good. Um, were there any Korean busboy who was, uh, cleaning and doing some chores in your tent?
P: Oh yes. Absolute y.
I: Tell me about them.
P: We had, uh, we had, uh, uh, Korean helpers, uh, both in cleaning and in washing, uh. And also we had Korean guards, uh
working, uh, day and night to, uh, to watch, uh, the camp from being, uh, you know, attacked.
I: Um. Were you able to go around the area in Korea, Seoul, visiting Seoul or going to Tokyo and things like that, R & R?
P: Yes. I, uh, I, uh,
you know, the, the, the contracts, all the participants got [INAUDIBLE] for six months.
P: So it was not much free time. But since I stayed there three
I: Um hm.
P: previous, I got long weekend, uh, in, uh, Pusan, uh, some vacation.
P: And then I stayed with a Swedish hospital there.
I: How was it?
P: Oh, it was interesting because, uh, uh, Sweden and Norway were working with a, in a different way, uh. The Swiss were working with the civi
P: And, uh, the Norwegians were working primarily with, uh, military people.
I: And you were
right up there in the front lines. Swedish were in Pusan.
I: So it was quite different kind of, uh, operation.
P: I, I think I used, uh, eight hours by train at that time. My wife and I, we have been to Pusan, uh, in 1980’s
I: Um hm.
P: and I think it took four hours.
P: So um, during,
during my visit in, uh, in Pusan, uh, we had also a visit to the, uh, to the, I think to the North, uh, side of the, uh, of the peninsula
P: uh, they, it, it, this was in a, in April with a, with the Cherry Blossoms,
and it was, wonderful and beautiful.
I: Yeah. [KOREAN WORD]
I: Yes. Uh, when was the last time you’ve been to Korea?
P: It was in 19 [INAUDIBLE]
P: I think 2012.
I: And you were there in 1988, in Korea.
P: Yes, uh, uh, I, I was, you know, when I was appointed Director of the [HELYANSON Company] in Hong Kong, I went to Korea many times.
I: Many times.
P: To make, uh, business wit h the Korean companies.
I: Ah. What kind of companies?
P: Well they were companies making, uh, fabrics.
I: Um hm.
P: And it was, uh, companies that had, uh, sewers, making, uh, clothing, and they had also departments in Bangladesh and, uh, uh, several places in, uh, in, uh, Asia.
I: Um. So when you were in Korea 2012 with your wife?
You see, uh, that, that is one of the, the things that, uh, uh, surprised me and made me very happy, that, uh, the Koreans has, has been very grateful for us, uh, being there during their War. So they have invited the veterans
P: to come to Korea and uh, we were also
allowed to bring with us our spouses. So, uh, Bett y has been there, I think, three or four times.
I: That’s great.
I: So that’s the Revisit program, Korea Revisit Program run by Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs, MPVA.
I: So my question is you saw Korea in 1953.
I: You stayed there more than six months, and you went back to Korea many times. Tell me, tell Norwegian elementary school who will listen this interview, ok, how was it, Korea, in 1953, and how it’s been changed in 2012 when you were there. Tell me the details.
P: It’s like night and day. It’s, it’s, it’s impossible to forget.
It was, it was a [DRUID] country. And now it’s, it is like coming to, uh, New York or, or Shanghai, you know? It’s, uh, fantastic the way it went. And, and, uh, uh, the, the, the people has changed their attitude. There were, they were like this in 19, uh, 53.
Now they are, uh, fighting spirit. And, and anyway you can, you matter. No, it’s a, it is almost impossible to describe how that development in South Korea has gone. Yeah, I, [MUMBLES] I have worked in Korea and, uh, Japan and
China, and I visited there, uh, Singapore and, uh, and several other Asian countries. But none of them had so, uh, development like South Korea. It’s incredible. And it’s still developing.
I: Um hm.
P: And today’s, uh, I think, is, uh, number four or five, uh, economical,
uh, best equipped country in the world.
I: Hm. Did the rank of overall Korean economy is 11th, number 11. But by 2030, the IMF and, uh, business, uh, I mean Economic Institute they’re working with the IMF saying that it’s going to be seven, number seven ahead of France but right behind, uh, UK.
P: Yes. [INAUDIBLE] For those that have seen Korea in 1953 and see it today, uh, you can’t hardly believe. Uh, as I mentioned to you, in 1953 there were one bridge over the Hahn River in Seoul
P: Now, I think, there’s, uh, 16.
I: No, more than 20.
P: More than 20.
I: So when I was in Korea with the Korean War veterans, we were in the bus running along the, um, along the highway of Hahn River,
I: and this veteran was doing this, count, counting with their
I: and he was crying right be, right beside me. So I was asking what are you counting, and why are you crying? He said I’m counting the number of bridges.
I: So I told him how many did you count? I’m counting 20.
I: Yeah. And he was just crying because he couldn’t believe that so much progress has been made since they left, you know?
P: [MUMBLES] I think also the education level in South Korea is, is so impressive at the, and, and,
that has paid off for South Korea.
I: But when you left in 1954, did you leave Korea?
P: Uh, I, uh, I left, uh, Hong Kong in 195
I: No, no, no, no. From Korea. When did you leave?
P: [MUMBLES] I, when I was attached to, uh, Korea,
uh, the Normash, I, I left, uh, [HONADA] airport in December, 1954. You are correct.
I: Okay. But from Korea, when did you leave from Korea?
P: Well, you know, when I was, uh, Liaison Officer in, uh, in, uh, Tokyo, I went back and forth to
P: to the camp so exactly which day it was a long time I, I, can’t remember.
I: Sorry, sorry. When you left Korea, I mean Japan, had you every thought that Korea would become like this today?
P: It’s, it, it,
P: I, I think it’s, impossible to imagine, this development.
I mean, Korea became one of the largest ship builders in the world.
I: And you are the one who are actually ordering a lot of, more than 50% of the whole ship builders from Norway’s been to Korea.
I: That’s amazing, isn’t it?
P: Yes. Other, they, they are, they are the ones, uh, best, uh, customers to Korea for building ships.
So you, you have developed, uh, knowledge, uh, at the highest level. And you, you can just mention tv, cameras, uh, electronical equipment. [MUMBLES] incredible. You can’t understand it. It’s, it’s, it’s, uh, it’s developed so quickly.]
I: Um hm. But the problem is
that Korean War has been known as Forgotten War, and if, in, in America, 1.8 million soldiers came from the United States to fight in the Korean Theater, 1.8 million. Thirty-seven thousand U.S. soldiers were killed, two soldiers from Norway were killed there during the War. They don’t teach. They don’t talk about Korean War, and it become Forgotten War.
I don’t, I don’t think Korean War is also come on kind of popular items here in the History class in Norway either. Why is it?
P: I can’t give you a, a good answer to that because there are so much news about so many things for the time being, about many countries
I: Um hm.
P: and, uh,
you, you can’t, uh, comprehend how to, to, to, understand this I think.
I: So that’s why we are doing this.
I: First of all, we need to preserve your memory as soon as possible for many, many others. I wish that we can reach out to more veterans here in Norway, and not just preserving your memory, but we need to use it
in the classroom, in the History classroom so that they can learn about what Norwegian young men and women did for the country that they never knew before. And something very good came out of it. Since you’re a Christian, I wanna talk about this. The, if you read the John, Chapter 1, 46, these are the stories where the Disciples of Jesus was introducing to their friends
about Jesus. And the Phillip was introducing Jesus to Nathaniel who was meditating under the Fig tree, and he said there are rabbis from Nazareth. And do you know how Nathaniel replied back to Phillip?
I: He said that what good can come out of Nazareth? Nathaniel said because Nazareth, the Northern Israel was Gentile.
And also those Jews didn’t see them as, uh, good people because they believed different Gods, right?
I: So that’s what John, Chapter 1, 46 says, what good can come out of Nazareth, our of Nazareth. Jesus came out of it, right? And the country you saw in 1953 and ’52 by different [Normas] people was just like Nazareth.
I: Nothing good at the time, right?
P: No. Yes.
I: But out of 1953 Korea, now we have a Republic of Korea, 11th largest economy in the World and very democratic society. Is it good news of Biblical text? What good can come out of 1953 South Korea? I’ve been u sing that.
P: I see.
P: I see.
I: Something, something good came out of your service. A lot of different sacrifices been made, and there are something good came out of it. So that’s the things that we want to be able to share with our young generations about the Korean War. It’s not just about the War but something good came out of it, your service.
P: I, do you know that we have a, a Korean
veteran organization, and we are having meetings together in November every year where we are meeting
P: each other?
P: And, uh, we are, we have invited the Korean Ambassador and, uh, family to this gathering
P: But, as you know, uh, I was one of the youngest going to Normash, and now, uh,
I am 87 and, uh, many of us are now dying away, you know? So we are getting less and less veterans coming to this meeting.
I: Um hm.
P: And that, that’s, uh, that’s sad.
I: Yes. But everybody’s numbered. So nobody, nobody live forever.
P: No, right.
I: But important thing is what are we
going to do about your legacy, you know? If, if we do not do this way and if we do not engage with our own History teachers, young generations will never have the chance to learn about it, right? Do you agree?
P: I agree 100%.
P: And I, I envy you because we should have somebody like you doing the same thing for the Norwegians because the Norwegians
that were fighting during Second World War, they are either already dead or about to die. And their history hasn’t come out in the right way.
I: Absolutely. That’s why we are doing this, and I’m going to do work with, uh, Historical Association here in Norway. I sent an email to him, Thomas Hagan, and
I’m going to work with Lucis, and if you can work with us together, I wanna bring history teachers in Norway together and ask them to write about the book you already published.
I: You have already many pictures there, right?
I: And we can use this interview, your direct witness. You saw that Korea would not become like this today when you were there. Now we have Korea. So all these things can be put
into a curricular resources book that I published, my Foundation published there in the, that I showed you, right?
I: So we going to do that. I wanna do that.
P: That’s good.
I: So if you can be part of this thing, okay? And Ambassador [NAM] also recognized the importance of this doing. So we can put together History, excuse me, Historical Association, Korean Embassy, and then Norwegian and Korean Friendship Association led by Lucis
and also Korean War Veterans Association here, and the teachers. We can put this together. My Foundation has some funding if, if Norwegian teachers wants to do it. I have a funding to help those things. We can pay for those things. You know, we spent $100,000 for that, to produce that book.
I: We hired teachers. We paid them. We asked them to watch this interview,
analyzed it, and then they are professional writers of their own lesson plan. They know how to do this, right? I am Political Scientist, and I’ve been teaching about the Korean War. But I am not the right person to write those lesson plans because I don’t understand the middle school and high school students, right? Teachers have a better knowledge and better idea how to write the lesson plans so that
they can use it tomorrow. That’s what we want to do. So if you agree with that cause and
I: I’m going to put together this text, but I need help from the Norwegian Society here, and I think we can do it because I have a, already products, you know? I published it with the biggest Teacher’s Association in the United States. It’s a National Council for Social Studies. I’ve
been doing this, and I am also, I also signed a contract with the United Kingdom.
I: Yeah. So we already signed a contract. We going to pay, you know, money there, and already they chose 10 teachers in the U.K. who is going to write about it.
I: Yeah. So I’ve been doing this. I know how to do it. So I just need some kind of, uh, uh, people who can put together these things in Norway here. Then I can come back and
talk about it.
P: So you need support, yeah.
I: In terms of organizing people together, Historical Association and History teachers in the high school and middle school.
P: I see.
I: Yeah. Then I think we can do it. Maybe in one year.
P: I see.
I: I know how to do this because I’ve been doing it.
P: That’s fantastic.
I: Um, I wish that I can do work with the Norway, uh, to produce this because,
and then you know about the Scandinavian countries, Sweden, Denmark and Norway together put together plan to establish the National Medical Center in Korea.
I: Have you involved in that?
P: But I visit the place.
I: So when you visited the National Medical Center in Korea, right?
P: Yes sir two times, two times.
I: How was it? What did you think about it?
P: It was interesting. But the, but, but I think that, uh,
we , we knew a little about it.
P: Well, we, we were not informed.
I: See, that’s the problem.
I: We can talk about that, too, in the curriculum book. We can research about it, who were there
I: how did it, who paid the money and how many patients, what kind of patients, how it’s been developing, and, you know, it’s a good work among three Scandinavian countries.
P: Yes. Yes.
I: We need to talk about that. We need to teach those good things.
P: Yes. I can see that. I can see that. And, uh, this is uh, is something when, uh, uh, North Korea and South Korea comes together one day, then, uh, they need even more, uh, assistance.
Maybe by small countries like Norway.
I: You are not small. You are one of the, yeah. You know, your GNP and GVP is pretty good. You have a, the biggest national fund in the world.
P: Yeah. Well, uh, as long as it lasts.
I: I mean, I went to [BALAS TRENT, OREGON, MIDAL, FROM] it’s a beautiful country. You are blessed with the
fjord and clean waters.
P: Oh, so you have seen it.
I: Oh, yeah. I love Viking. I watched three times.
P: I see. I, I, I didn’t know that. But Professor, I, I, I did not know whether I should prepare, uh, something when I was going to talk with you. So I brought with me my, uh, catalog of, uh, photos from my time in Korea.
Would you like to
I: Absolutely. So those are pictures that you took or
I: Did you have a camera at the time?
P: Yes, a very simple one.
I: Hm. And
I: And you developed in Japan, right? You sent the film to Japan.
I: Um hm.
P: And you can see all are very gray and, uh,
because I did not have a color camera at that time.
I: Oh, yeah. That’s black and white.
P: Do you know him? And I was made his assistant during the visit to Seoul. I have been, this, I have taken this picture.
I: Uh huh. You took this picture?
P: I met, uh, President Syngman Rhee.
I: I see.
I: That’s quite prestigious. What do you think is the importance
of the Korean War and legacy of your work as Normash member? What is the importance, and what is the legacy of Korean War and your work? Don’t be shy.
P: No. But, but, you know, I think that, uh, Norway and
Norwegians have been offered too much, uh, gratitude for our participation. We, we don’t deserve all this and, uh, and I must say, uh, the times that the Korean government, uh, invited us veterans
to come to, to Korea, it’s so impressive, uh, I’m a, a little bit shy that we have accepted it, uh, uh, because it was actually too much.
I: It’s not too much, never.
I: That’s very nice of you to say. But because of your treatment,
90,000 people were treated, and among them 33%, all but 30% was Korean people. I mean, how can we thank you back?
P: But I, I think that, uh, Trygve Halvdan Lie was the one Norwegian that, uh, in connection with, uh, Korea
P: deserves to be remembered because he
was the one that got Norway to participate.
I: You mean the Secretary General?
P: Secretary General in United Nations.
I: Trygve Halvdan Lie Yeah. The Norwegian Secretary General of United Nations.
I: Yes. Um, next year will be 70th anniversary
of the breakout of the Korean War and never finished yet. It’s, we are still technically at war.
I: Do you know any war that lasted more than 70 years after the official cease fire?
I: It’s ridiculous.
I: What do you think about this? How can we end this?
P: I think how, how can you, for so many years
I: Uh huh,.
P: Uh, technically stay,
uh, at war but not fighting because you are, I think, in, in the, in the bottom of all this North and South wishes to get together.
I: Yes. But we don’t know how because China doesn’t want us to be united. Russia doesn’t either. Japan never want us to be reunited because when we reunited, it’s going to be bigger than before
They don’t want it. U.S. doesn’t want to do anything about it either. Nobody wants to do it. We are very small fish among the whales.
P: Yes, yes, that , that, that’s, uh, that’s possibly true. But you are very clever. And you are, you’re demonstrating, uh, how clever you are with all things that you are doing. And I think that that is, that is the most impressive thing
for Korea, South Korea right now, I think. I think, impresses the whole world.
I: Um. Thank you. Um, do you have any special message to the Korean people and Korean government about next year, 70th anniversary of the war that you were part of it. What is, what would you say to the Korean people?
P: Who am I, a little person
in Norway to, give advice to a country like Korea and I said that, that will be, uh, completely wrong.
I: Any message or any
P: I, I wish all the best for Korea. I, I have, uh, Korean friends, and I, I’ve always enjoyed going to Korea. I, I, I don’t know how many times I’ve been there.
But it’s quite a few times. And, uh, uh, I am now 87. I don’t know if I may come there again. But, uh, if my health is, uh, is okay, uh, I would like to go there when North and South Korea is, uh, come together.
I: That’s beautiful.
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