Korean War Legacy Project

Phillip Olson


Phillip Olson was born in Amherst Junction, Wisconsin on December 17, 1930.  He grew up on a farm with two brothers and three sisters.  He completed school up to eighth grade, not attending high school or college.  In January 1951, he enlisted in the United States Army and served in Korea as an assistant supervisor for heavy equipment.  After attending boot camp, he landed in Pusan in 1952.  Throughout his time in Korea, Phillip Olson drove cranes, bull dozers, caterpillars, and huge earth movers to cut through mountains.  Luckily, he wasn’t hit by the multiple sniper shots that came from the tops of the mountains.  One shot almost lodged in his back as it came through his railroad car aimed for a South Korean general.  After serving a year in Korea, Phillip Olson was shipped home.

Video Clips

A Sniper Almost Took Me Out!

Phillip Olson was almost shot in the spine while traveling on a train with other South Korean soldiers. Actually, this wasn't the first time that he was shot at by a sniper because as he moved large loads of dirt into the rice patties, snipers would shoot the hood of his Caterpillar vehicle.

Tags: Busan,Panmunjeom,Chinese,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Physical destruction,Pride,South Koreans,Weapons

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Letters, Cookies and War

Phillip Olson tried his best to consume his time while he was not on the front lines working with large equipment. He wrote letters to his family about Korea. They in turn sent cookies and letters back to him while he was stationed there from 1952-1953.

Tags: Panmunjeom,Civilians,Depression,Food,Front lines,Home front,Letters,Living conditions,Women

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Transitioning From Basic Training to Running Heavy Equipment

Phillip Olson enlisted in 1951 and attended a variety of training while in the United States as part of the United States Army. His specialty was heavy equipment such as bull dozers, cranes, caterpillars, and earth movers. One of the roles that he remembered fondly was building an air strip between the 36th and 38th parallel so that the US Air Force could drop bombs on North Korea.

Tags: Panmunjeom,Basic training,Civilians,Front lines,Home front,Living conditions,North Koreans,Physical destruction,Pride,Weapons

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Death All Around While Landing in Pusan

Phillip Olson could smell the port by Pusan even before he entered the bay. Dead soldiers were still floating near the shore while dead fish also added to the smell of decay. He was shocked at the beginning because it was not what he would imagine it would look like in Korea.

Tags: Busan,Civilians,Food,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Personal Loss,Physical destruction,Poverty,South Koreans

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