Korean War Legacy Project

Raoul Van Ocker


Raoul Van Ocker joined the Belgian military in 1950 and became one of the last SES troops. He arrived in Pusan, Korea, on September 15, 1952. He recalls relying on the American forces, the 7th Regiment of the 3rd Army Division, he was attached to for equipment. He was serving in Korea at the time of the armistice and returned home in March of 1954.

Video Clips

Dangerous Moments

Rauol Van Ocker details leading his small unit of men, including one Korean soldier, through several dangerous moments while serving in Korea. He remembers the challenges they faced in making their way through mine fields. He recalls coming under attack by Chinese snipers.

Tags: Chinese,Front lines,North Koreans,Weapons

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Living Conditions as a Sergeant

Raoul Van Ocker served in Korea from 1952 to 1954. He vividly recalls the living conditions he and his fellow soldiers endured, including horrific cold with little protection from the low temperatures. He shares that when the ceasefire was announced, he felt it was a good thing because soldiers on all sides did their jobs.

Tags: Cold winters,Front lines,Living conditions,Physical destruction

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of recorded material]

C:        Raoul, uh, R-A-O-U-L  Van Ocker, V-A-N  O-C-K-E-R.

I:          Ah.  Beautiful pronunciation.  Unfortunately, I don’t understand.  So we agreed to speak in English, right?
C:        Yes, that’s okay.

I:          That’s great.  What is your birthday?

C:        My birthday is, uh,


15, uh, March, uh, 1930.

I:          Nineteen thirty.

R:        Yes.

I:          So you are now 86, 87?

R:        Eighty-eight.

I:          Eighty-eight.

R:        Eighty-eight.

I:          Eighty-eight.  Oh yeah.  It’s 88.  I’m sorry.

R:        Eighty-eight.  I’m the youngest.

I:          But you look like a little mature child.  You don’t have wrinkles.

R:        No, no, no, no, no.

I:          Wow.


You look great.

R:        No, I, no wrinkles.  I don’t know where it comes.  I’ve been several days, uh, several, uh, moments with that.  Always, three times I been practicing that.  But I’m here, still here.

I:          Yeah, right.  Um, where were you born?

R:       In, uh, [INAUDIBLE] Kent.


I:          Is it far from here?

R:        Kent, yeah.

I:          Kent.  Uh huh.

R:        You know city, Kent?
I:          No.

R:        No?

I:          In Belgium.

R:        Yes.

I:          Yeah.

R:        Beautiful.

I:          Beautiful?

R:        Yeah.

I:          Um.

R:        Exotic.

I:          So tell me about your family when you were growing up.  What did your parents do and, and

R:        That’s a whole story.  My mother and my father were [misplaced], and I was sometimes


by my mother, sometimes by my father.

I:          Um.

R:        And, uh, that, yeah.

I:          Must been difficulty.

R:        Yes, it was a difficult time.

I:          Um.   And what about your brothers and sister?

R:        I have, uh, one half brother and one half sister.

I:          Uh huh.  How about the school you went through.  What kind of school did you go?

R:        Oh, uh, middle, uh, middle, uh, middle


I:          Middle school?

R:        Middle school, yes.

I:          Um hm.  And did you know anything about Korea at the time?
R:        No, before not, uh, I was, I was, uh, military. I was, uh, by the [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Um hm.

R:        In, uh, 1950.  I was going by the [INAUDIBLE] office.

I:          Um.


Your par, oh.

R:        Yeah.  I was one of the last SES, SES troopers.

I:          Uh huh.

R:        And then after two years, we are going to Korea in, uh, ’52.  I been transferred, translated to name [Numerc] after [Masterdom] from, from there

I:          Um hm.

R:        the uh, uh, uh,


going to Korea with the plane that was in, uh, February ’52, ’53.

I:          Nineteen fifty-two.

R:        Fifty-three.

I:          Three.

R:        Three, yes.

I:          Okay.  So when did you join the military?  When did you  join the military?

R:        The military.

I:          Uh huh.  Nineteen fifty-one.

R:        Yes.

I:          Oh no, fifty-two.


R:        No.  I was two years in the  [INAUDIBLE] office, uh, fifty, uh, from ’50 t0 ’52.

And then I am, u h, been translated to Korea by then.

I:          I see.

R:        Uh, 15, September, uh, 1952.

I:          Um hm.

R:        And, uh, then they, we are going to, uh,


[Namin, Namir] and, uh, and then, uh, [Masterdam]

I:          Yes.

R:        They were, uh, other exercises.  And then, uh, we got, uh, going to, with the plane, to Korea for and, uh, the Turks that were waiting February 19

I:          ’53.

R:        ’53.

I:          Where did you arrive?  Where did you arrive in Korea?


R:        Uh, arrived, arrived

I:          Yeah.

R:        In Pusan.

I:          Pusan.

R:        Yes.  We, uh, landed in, uh, Tokyo and [INAUDIBLE] with the plane.  Then we are taking the train from, uh, uh, Tokyo till Sasebo.

I:          Sasebo, yes.

R:        Yes.  South then.  And then at Sasebo, we are going, uh, with a ship, uh,


[The Susan Mckately], and they, and they


I:          Remember it.

R:        I remember the name.  The ship was [Susan Mckately].  And then we are going to Pusan.  And there was an old [INAUDIBLE] store there when we come in, uh, Korea, yes.  There was work, everything was, uh, this, uh, uh, yeah.

I:          Destroyed?

R:        Destroyed.  The train where we go in

I:          Um hm.

R:        for going to the front, first to the camp, uh, American camp for the, we had no, uh, uh, come on,

I:          No equipment?

R:        No equipment.  Then we must, uh, take equipment from the Americans

I:          Um hm.

R:        we were by the 3rd Division


and 7th Regiment from the Americans.  And then, uh, we are a little bit training, you know.  Then we are going to  [Sutko]

I:          [Sutko]

R:        [Sutko] was the

I:          Uh huh.

R:        And then the 55 nights of [Sutko}

I:          Wow.  So what was your rank at the time?

R:        Rank, Sergeant.

I:          Sergeant.

R:        Sergeant, yeah.

I:          So you are experienced soldier.


R:        Yeah, yes.  I was Sergeant in Belgium

I:          Um hm.

R:        And I came to here, I was a Sergeant.

I:          Um.  How many soldiers under your jurisdiction, how many

R:        How many?

I:          Yeah.

R:        Oh, a section, uh, a section there was about, uh, nine soldiers.

I:          Nine soldiers.

R:        Nine soldiers.  There were also, uh, Korean soldiers in my section.  [Le Nam Ho]

I:          Oh.

R:        Uh, a good guy.


I [had chance, we, I have at them]  He was a, a school teacher, and he talked a little bit  English and, but I, I caught, Chinese, I understood Chinese.

I:          You did?

R:        [INAUDIBLE] My, the Korean, Korean boy in my section

I:          Yeah.

R:        The, uh, good, uh, uh, speak Chinese.

I:          Ah.

R:        I understood it.


And, uh, one day I pack on a certain moment, the Chinese declared the attack.  They say we can go first or go after.  There were some of the, uh, the [fire].  We have, uh,  found, uh, the Chinese, uh, about, uh, seven meters from our, our bunker.

I:          Seven meters?

R:        Seven meters, yeah.


I:          So that was so close.

R:        Oh yes, yes, yes.

I:          So did you fight hand-to-hand battle?

R:        No, no.  I no fight hand-to-hand battle.  No, no.  From out, uh, bunkers with, uh, uh, [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Um hm.

R:        But I have our [INAUDIBLE] was very lucky I  must say that.  We, we were, uh, on another, uh,


uh, front lines out there, on another front line.  We were, uh, [three tents] on the, there were, um men, Korean men, the workers, they help us

I:          Yeah.

R:        And, uh, the one with his tool, he, he tapped on a mine.

I:          Oh.

R:        And the other Korean


is for me, is [INAUDIBLE] for me, and he can, all the shrapnel in his body.  And I have nothing.  I just, after.  I had nothing.

I:          Oh my goodness.  So you were saved because there were

R:        Yes, yes, yes.

I:          persons there, and they died.  It was, hm.  What do you think about it?

R:        I don’t.

I:          Huh?


You still vividly remember that.

R:        And I think about.

I:          Hm.

R:        Hundred and ten shrapnel in his body, 110.  And it’s, uh, his lip


from the pain, he took it off.

I:          Hm.

R:        In the night time.  Was, uh, difficult moment.

I:          Hm.  Do you have some dream of carrying

R:        No, no.

I:          No.

R:        I have no dreams.

I:          Um.

R:        But I, and then they come back, uh, in the, in Belgium

I:          Um

R:        I think, uh,


in my unit and the first, uh, [battle troopers] unit.  And there was in, uh, his [coffin] from [INAUDIBLE] and I, uh, I [INAUDIBLE] epileptic.  [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Um, any other dangerous


moment that you were situated there?

R:        Yeah.  Yes, yes.

I:          Tell me about it.

R:        Uh, we had, uh, uh patrol, uh, patrol, uh, killing, uh.  No fight patrol, [INAUDIBLE] patrol

I:          Yeah.

R:        And, uh, there was an American with a dog.  There was, um, uh, 10 men.

I;          Um hm.


R:        And we arrived in a mine field, [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Um hm.

R:        And there they have, uh, [INAUDIBLE] my, my hair.  It’s [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Hm.

R:        Yeah, there was, uh, was hot.

I:          Um.  Did you know why you

R:        But I have all my men through the mine field [INAUDIBLE]


They were all, all safe through the mine field.

I:          Wow.

R:        Ten, 10 men.

I:          Yeah.  That’s almost like a miracle.

R:        Uh yes, yes, yes.  But I, I saw, uh, I had to point on the front where the, they go in and they go out the  [front doors].  And I must, I was, uh, uh, very good in mines and, uh, grenades and, uh,



booby traps and all those things.  And they, and know practice all around where the line, and they were Korean.  They must go over the front landing

I:          Uh huh

R:        For a, uh, spy, uh and, uh, I must  go outside through the minefields.  I know the way to the minefields, huh.  And they go, uh,


But they come, go over the front.  The Chinese attacked them, and they must go back.  But, but I wasn’t there.

I:          Uh huh.

R:        And then, uh, they were front in the minefield, not bomber, not bomb mine fields.
I:          Um.

R:        Well, [bombardment].  I, and, and have them, uh, taken in, uh, three men,


had them taken in because [INAUDIBLE] Then I have another, another position, uh, hut, uh.  I was, uh, little bit sniper.  I was a good, uh, shoot.

I:          Shooter.

R:        I was a good shooter.  And, uh, there were snipers.  You know that, snipers?

I:          Yes, sniper, yeah.

R:        There was snipers.


They come and they [three tents] and there were no more than that [tent]

I:          Um hm.

R:        Could not, not dig by there.  Thirty, thirty centimeter from there to the, the place where you must shoot.

I:          Um hm.

R:       And I had to dual with the Chinese and snipers.  Yes.  That’s, uh, true.  And, uh, bullets through the, here and there.


But I shoot back, and, uh, once it was, uh, quiet, I don’t know.

I:          So you

R:        It was probably, uh,

I:          So you were better than Chinese sniper.

R:        I,

I:          You were better than sniper.

R:        Probably, yeah, I don’t know.  [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Um, so you were Sergeant, and where did you sleep and how was the condition, living


condition there?

R:        Oh, the living condition.  It was winter, winter and very cold

I:          Um hm.

R:        It was 40 degrees.  That’s cold.  [INAUDIBLE] and gloves, uh, four pair, two with fingers and two, uh, about, uh, [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Um.

R:        Four pair.  And two pair, two pairs of shoes.

I:          Huh.


That cold.

R:        That cold.

I:          Um.

R:        And my, my feet were, uh, frozen, half.

I:          Frozen?

R:        And all the, was veery painful.

I:          Very painful.  Do you still have frostbite?
R:        No, no, no.

I:          No?

R:        No, no.  That’s all, uh, recuperated.

I:          Um hm.

R:        I, I am a man still, still kept recuperated.


I don’t know where it comes.  I don’t know.

I:          So what was the, um, so when did you leave Korea?

R:        Leave?

I:          Yeah.

R:        Uh, in, uh, 19, uh, 4, uh, 54.

I:          Fifty-four.

R:        In March.

I:          Um hm.

R:        Nineteen fifty-four.

I:          So in 1953, July 27, they signed


the Armistice, the cease fire, right?

R:        Yes, yeah, yes, yes.

I:          So what were you thinking about it?  You were there, right?

R:        Oh yeah.  It was, uh, a good job and that, uh, there was a cease fire for both sides of the [INAUDIBLE], yeah.  They were all soldiers and t hat.  Then they do a job.  I did my job.  I never go back [INAUDIBLE]


I:          Um hm.

R:        I go not back in, I stay in.  That’s my, that’s my opinion when, uh, I’m a soldier.  I was, uh, I was an active soldier.

I:          Um.

R:        Yeah.
I:          Where you married at the time?

R:        No, no, no, no.

I:          No, you were single.

R:        I was single, yes, yes.

I:          Okay.
R:        I’m, uh, married to Nan 59.  But half, uh, some, uh, difficult years after my, when I leave from


the Army, [INAUDIBLE]when I leave from the Army and then I was [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Um.

R:        And, uh, I work, uh, by the railway, and I worked the railway, the railway [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Railway

R:        The railway

I:          Yeah, yeah.


R:        [INAUDIBLE] by the port.  I’ve been a [baker]

I:          Uh,

R:        [INAUDIBLE] that in English, be no, uh, I do not, butcher

I:          Butcher.

R:        Yeah.

I:          So you have a lot of different kinds of job.

R:        Oh.  Jobs, [INAUDIBLE]  Then my first, my last job was docker in the  harbor.


I:          Docker.  Okay.

R:        Docker.  I have had 33 years spent on the  docks.

I:          Um.

R:        Thirty-three years.
I:          I see.  Have you been back to Korea?  Have you visited Korea again?
R:        No, no.  I, I can’t go back because I take many medical [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Oh, medical.

R:        I, I, I must, uh,


take 12, 13 pills from there.

I:          Oh.

R:        That’s, uh, very difficult to go.

I:          But you look very healthy.

R:        Yeah.  Yeah, yes.  They say that.

I:          Yeah.  So do you know about the Korean economy, how Korean economy is doing and how democracy’s doing?

R:        I want from the best, uh, economics from the world, Korea.

I:          What do you think about it?  I mean you saw country


completely destroyed in 1950’s, right?

R:        Yes, yes.
I:          Now they are 11th largest economy.  What do you think about it?

R:        It’s, uh, I think it’s wonderful.

I:          Uh huh.

R:        They’re, they, the people of Korea are workers.  They are work till they are above, the top.

I:          Yeah.

R:        I feel respect for them.  Yeah.


I:          I mean, when you left Korea in 1954, did you ever imagine that Korea would become like this today?

R:        No, I, uh, no.  No.

I:          No.

R:        But yes, uh.  That’s, uh, a political [INAUDIBLE] political [INAUDIBLE]


I:          So are you proud to be Korean War veteran?

R:        Yes.  Yes, yes, yes.

I:          Um hm.

R:        Yes.

I:          What would you say to Korean people now or, and by 2020 we’ll have 70th anniversary of the Korean War.  What, do you have any special message to Korean people?

R:        Yeah.


Be on your, on your, uh, yeah.  Oh, must I tell that I can’t, the words cannot [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Do you wanna speak in French or what is your language?

R:        Uh, Netherlands.

I:          Netherlands, Dutch?


R:        Yeah, Dutch, yeah.

I:          So do you want to speak in Dutch?

R:        [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Sure, sure.  Go ahead.

R:        Uh,

I:          What is the special message to the Korean people for the  70th anniversary?

R:        Uh, I would tell them look and [INAUDIBLE]



I:          Do you speak Dutch?

MALE VOICE:  Yes, I speak Dutch?
I:          What did he just say?


R:        [INAUDIBLE]

MALE VOICE:  That they have to be careful and watch out very carefully because, uh,


it’s not because what they say.  Will also be what they will do.

I:          Um.  About, he’s talking about North Korea.

R:        Yes.
I:          Yeah.

R:        Yes, yes.

I:          Yeah.

R:        I don’t trust this man.

I:          Um.

R:        I can’t tell that, this man up in there.

I:          Um hm.

R:        I don’t trust this man.  [INAUDIBLE]  They must see beginning, yeah.

I:          Yeah.  Um hm.  Any other message that you


wanna  leave to this interview about your experience as a Korean War veteran?

R:        Yeah.  Uh, in my, in my, uh, opinion, I have had very luck, uh, luck.  I have, I’ve had plenty luck.  Uh, and, uh, but, uh, everybody can have that,


can’t have that.

I:          Um hm.

R:        And I hope that the Korean, they have that luck to be the number one.  that’s, that I think.

I:          You are very sweet.  You are very sweet.  And

R:        It is strong, it is strong economic, yes, strong economic

I:          Um hm.  We were able to do


that because you gave an opportunity to rebuild our country again.

R:        Right.  I did the best that, did the [INAUDIBLE], yeah.

I:          Um hm.

R:        We were, we, we were soldiers, and we did what we must do, simple as that to me, for me, uh.  [INAUDIBLE] I had it under control.

I:          Um hm.


R:        In all situations, I had the [INAUDIBLE] under control.  When, when they shoot at me, I [INAUDIBLE].  I come, uh, give others to be but yeah.

I:          Any other message you wanna say to us?  Any other message that you want to leave?

R:        [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Um

R:        [INAUDIBLE]


I:          Sir, again thank you for waiting patient to be the last interviewee of today, and I want to thank you on behalf of Korean nation for your honorable service for the Korean people, and that’s why we are strong, and we never forget your service, your fight.

R:        Thank you.

I:          Thank you,  thank you.

[End of Recorded Material]