Ray D. Griffin
Ray D. Griffin enlisted in the U.S. Army at eighteen years of age in September 1960. He was assigned to the 2nd Armored Division at Fort Hood in Texas. After basic training, he was sent to Cook and Baking School at Fort Ord, in California, where he learned how to make mass quantities of a variety of food for soldiers. Later stationed in Ascom City in South Korea, his depot worked long hours to maintain preparation to keep soldiers and military personnel fed around the clock. In his reflections on being a Korean Defense Veteran, he recalls learning responsibility, teamwork, frugality, and appreciation for others as a result of his military service.
A Cook for the Army
Ray D. Griffin was trained to be a Cook and Baker after he finished basic training in 1960. He had to monitor the military rations and supervise the functioning of the military mess hall. He recalls having to be prepared to feed troops and other military personnel around the clock. Military trash was required to be guarded from hungry Korean orphans, but he was able to bring surplus milk to the orphanages.
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Ray D. Griffin formed important bonds while in the military. He recalls that learning to make pizza while in Korea was a landmark moment for him. He gives credit to the military for causing him to be more mature and to develop more realistic perspectives of the world.
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A Cook's Journey
Ray D. Griffin saw a lot of poverty when he was stationed in South Korea. Although the fighting was over, he found that it seemed life expectancy was not very long for the people due to severe poverty. He recalls multiple opportunities he turned down in the process of becoming a Military Cook and Baker. He describes the long journey he had to take to get to Korea.
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[Beginning of Recorded Material]
I’m Ray Griffin and I was born West Columbia, Texas. It’s the first capital of Texas, for one year in 1836. So, I grew up there, a little farm and ranch town outside of Houston, close to the Gulf Coast. And, I didn’t even know what a pizza was ’til I got to Korea and somebody showed me. I was 20 years old, So, so I was kinda sheltered. And, the military led me a lot of places in three years real,
real quick. When I got to Korea, I was, it was a whole different world. I couldn’t imagine the world being like it was, even Japan. And, it was just a different world. And I’m very grateful that I had that experience, because I think it molded me a lot. Course, when I came back from overseas, I felt like I was the old-, oldest 21 year old on earth,
’cause I turned 21 when I was in Korea. And, but I look back at the memories that I had there. I worked in a, what we called a repo-depo, there in Ascom city, which was real close to Inchon, where all the troops would come in and out of Korea. And, the harbor there in Korea, the tide would drop extremely sometimes. I don’t recall how much, but the ships couldn’t leave when the tide dropped so much.
And we fed all the troops that came in and all of the troops that were leaving. And, sometimes we had to feed 4,000 people, because they couldn’t get on the ship, because the tide had changed. And it was all about timing every time the ships came in. And my job, I was a cook, but I hardly cooked in Korea. I supervised. We had 50 Korean nationals that worked there, on, on different ships, because had 110
tables, four place setting tables, with tablecloths on them, and we had to clean them every meal, and we had to clean the salt and pepper shakers and the ketchup, and all that, do it every meal. And plus, we prepared the food. Now, sometimes, I would work at night because that, that particular mess hall never closed. It stayed open 24 hours a day. And, we had, we fed MPs at night, and personnel that had to work on post
at night. You couldn’t leave that compound after midnight, we were restricted to it. So, that mess hall was a gathering place for a lot of the NCOs particularly and, and the people that had to work at night. So, we fed them also at night, and every troop that, every person which, in uniform, that came in to Korea, we fed them a steak and when they left, we fed them a steak.
So, we carried a lot of, a lot of rations on hand to, to feed all these people. And my job developed more into taking care of the rations, than it was cooking. But, every now and then, I’d, I’d have to swing in and cook. My, I can recall one night I made 65 cherry pies and, which seems like a lot, but not it’s not really, not, not when you’re geared up to do that. And, so I, I just look back at the experience of
Korea, would been something would that really allowed me to grow up fast. So, I cherish those memories of being there. What, what did bother me when I was in Korea, we had a lot of waste in our military mess hall, where soldiers didn’t eat all their food, and we had to put the food in these big trashcans. And we had to have put an armed guard on it because,
there’s a lot of people that didn’t have food in those days. And it bothered me that, that they couldn’t give it to ’em. And then, but we had these big containers of milk. And I forgot how many gallons it was, but I think it was about a five gallons, maybe a nine gallons container and we wouldn’t always finish it during a meal. And I would take it to the orphanage. And, because you couldn’t keep milk but a certain length of time, so I go to go down to the orphans and, and
see those orphan kids that were down there. That was an experience in itself, trying to help feed the orphan kids. And, and the abundance of food that we actually had as soldiers was, made me understand that we were blessed to be who we were and where we were, when the people there weren’t doing so well and there were so many people that were going without food.
And, so in 1962, I got to come back to El Paso, to William Beaumont Hospital. That was after I’d lost the, the hearing in my ear in Korea, which wasn’t in combat of any type. A good friend of mine fired a 45mm pistol next to my eardrum and I lost the hearing in it. And, so things happen and I, I have don’t no regrets about it,
other than it did affect my life a lot, as far as losing my hearing. Before I went in the military, I worked in an auto dealership, which I do now, but I was a parts counter person. And, I could hold two telephones at the same time, and, and I could really have a lot of customers at once. After I lost the hearing in my, in my ear, I couldn’t do that anymore, and so, it’s something I’ve had to deal with my whole life. And the other ear rings all the time so. [laughs]
But, you know, you, life has been good, really. I have no regrets about the military and what I learned while I was in the military, so. I, I, there were so many great people that I met that were, spent their whole life in the military. One of them that I remember was a guy by the name of Demarco. He was, he was staying in for 20 years, he had had 18 years in then. And he was a
fabulous cook. In fact, he would come, leave Korea and come to the States and cook for a week. And he’d come back and show me the big check he made for what he did. He cooked for Liberace, and Bing Crosby, and those people, way back then. But he’s the guy who taught me how to make pizza. In Korea, he made pizza for us, which isn’t on the military menu. So, I didn’t even know what a pizza was. [laughs] So. So, now a days, people
look at me very strange, you mean you were 20 years old and you didn’t know what a pizza was, so. But that’s, I didn’t, I guess I was sheltered. [laughs] So, Korea brought a lot of things out and I grew up a lot in Korea. I sometimes have guilt. I belong to the Veterans of the Korean War Veterans and, and the Korean Defense Veterans, and the war veterans, I, I have, I don’t feel like I’m worthy
of being in their group, because of what they did while they were in combat there. Fortunately for me, I was never in combat. So, having those, those men in our organization is very humbling to me and I, I look up to them a lot to, to what they did accomplish while they were there.
So, how old were you when you enlisted?
R: I was, I was 18 years old.
I turned 19 shortly after I was, when I enlisted.
I: What was the date?
R: I enlisted in September of, September the 28thof 1960.
I: And what made you chose to enlist?
R: I had a brother that had, had been drafted four months ahead of me. And, I was a sheltered kid, and, and I was, I was
really spoiled. I lived mainly with my grandmother and she was a prominent land owner and, and ranch owner, and, and so, but she never drove a car, and so I always drover her around everywhere. And, she was always extremely good to me and, and I was spoiled, she would buy me a new car every year, and, and I was able to live pretty, pretty
well. And all the money I made, I worked in car dealerships, when I was, starting when I was 14. And all the money I made I spent on me. And, so, anyway, I got to where I felt like I needed to make a change. One of my aunts, my mother’s sister, complained one time that I was spending her inheritance. And so I took that personally.
Years later, she ap- years later she apologized to me, for saying that, but and we get along fine, but that made me decide I was going to go ahead and join the Army, I’d been thinking about it, and so I joined. And, a buddy and I joined together. And, we never were stationed together, we joined together, we, I’m the one that messed that up. I told him, I told him
I, I would sign and join, but I had to have the first three days in the military off, or I wasn’t gonna join. And, so they arranged it. And the reason that, I think I had a date with this girl that I wanted, that I’d been seeing four years, and, and there was something that was going on that I had to have this certain date, that I, that I had obligated myself to. And, so they agreed to it, and so, when I went in, he had to gone in three days in front of me, so
he was in a different unit, in basic training. We never saw each other again until the Cuban Crisis, 1962, when we’d met each other again in Fort Stewart, Georgia. He wound up staying in the military. He spent 20 years, and he got out as a major. He, he did well and, I, I’m happy for him. But, but Korea was a different world.
And I hear all the good things about how it’s changed, but my memories as, they were really struggling. They were really, it was desolate. People had to do what they had to do to try to live. I remember, there were no, there were no trees, I, I guess they’d cut ’em all down, or shot ’em all down, or, or they were using them to try to, the wood to try to stay warm. And, at the time I left, they, had,
imposed jail time for cutting a tree down. So, it was just, it was just a time where people were just really struggling trying to find a place to live, even sleep. And, but I found that they were, those who, who had something in their heart to, to survive, they found a way to do it.
But I, I felt like, that life expectancy there wasn’t very, very long, because they had to live such a harsh life. So, I think about, is North Korea that way right now, because I would doubt that they have changed and taken advantage of what South Korea has been able to accomplish. And just reading about South Korea, and looking at the videos and stuff, I’m real pleased to se that they made that big jump and, and were able to help their, their people out.
I: When you went to boot camp, where did you train at and in what year?
R: Well, I trained in the 2ndArmy Division at Fort Hood. My eight we-, eight week ba-, basic training was 11 weeks long, so. And they wanted me to go to officer’s candidate school, and I refused to do that. I thought-
I: How come?
R: You know what, the 11 weeks, I just was fed up with the military at the time and I didn’t want any more training [laughs], as far as. And, so overnight,
they sent me to Ford Ord, California to cook and bakers school. And, that was an experience in itself. I think I flew in a DC6, and I had to s-, that, that’s a prop plane. And I had to sit backwards, and when, when we got off the plane in Salinas, California, it was the middle of the night, and I couldn’t hardly walk forward, I’d been flying backwards for 4 ½ hours, and, and so reported in to the orderly room. And I, I went to
training there for cook and bakers school. And, I don’t know how long it was supposed to be, I know they graduated me in about five weeks. That was another incident I, I had an opportunity to go to West Point while I was there, and I didn’t want to go. ‘Cause I, I wasn’t a good student, I didn’t like school. And so, within about a few hours, a f-few days particularly, they shopped me to
Korea, and, and they flew me to Korea. I was supposed to go on a transport, and, ship, and I, but I didn’t. For some reason they flew me. And that was an experience too, because it was during an airlines strike and the, the military took PanAm 707 plane and, and flew us there. And on the way there, we had an engine problem, we had to land in Hawaii, and I got to see
Hawaii for the first time for a whole day, because, while we were getting another plane. And then we flew to, to Japan, but before we got to Japan, we had to la-land in Wake Island, because I guess we were running low on fuel. And, I’m surprised we landed there, that’s such a little airport, a little runway anyway. So we had Wake Island, and then into Tachikawa Air Force Base, and in Japan. And then from there, in the middle of night
on a DC3 they flew me to Korea, in a place that I know now, at the time, I found out then it was called Kimpo Air Base, which was K14 to a lot of people, and which is real close to where I wound up being stationed. And, anyway, I, I was pulled at being this big mess hall and, so,
duty was great. I worked nine months without a day off, which was okay, I didn’t have anything else to do. And, but after the nine months, they tried to give me to much time off. You know, they, they finally got some replacements in and, and they knew I had been there all this time. And, there was a buddy and I, we were together from, from the cook bakers school, and all the way through Korea, and even back to El Paso, he was stationed
with me. And he’s passed away recently. He lived in Carlsbad, New Mexico. And, so, we, we toured the, the Pacific together. I think I was the one that always made the, the reasonable decisions, and he was always one I had to try to control to make the right decisions, because he was a year younger than me and, he for some reason, he
was always getting himself in a little bit of trouble. And I was always, seem to try to keep him out of it. Well, so it worked pretty good. But Korea is a, is a, is a place to where the South Koreans should really be proud of what they’ve accomplished. And, and, and the U.S. Government should be really proud for supporting Korea and what they’ve done there.
One of the things that I, I, I think about sometimes, the, the Korean Government has honored Korean Veterans greatly, and, and it shows. Where the U.S. Government doesn’t honor any of this, of the Korean Veterans to speak of. Not like the Korean Government does. So the Korean Government seems to be
showing gratitude towards everyone that helped them, and here in the United States, it’s kind of taken for granted. And so, I think, I think we should show more gratitude for our, for our soldiers who served, no matter where, but particularly in Korea. And, there aren’t many of those combat veterans left, so. But today it’s still
a situation where there’s a defense there, and, and more people need to know what’s really, what really’s going on there and why, why we still need to be there. And, hopefully someday, North Korea will change and want to become like South Korea. I think they already envy South Korea, but I don’t know that they have come to, to understand that they could be like that. But I believe those that are in power
in North Korea want to stay that way and keep everyone else ignorant of how thing can be. Because, you know, I, when I grew up, we didn’t have air conditioning in our cars, not ver-, not very many people did. And so, you didn’t have what you didn’t miss, but once you have air conditioning in your car, you can’t live without it. So, that’s what the North Koreans don’t know, they don’t know what they could have. And, but I think the internet is maybe starting to change
that somewhat, and I don’t know if they’re able to get access, but I’m sure it’s difficult for them to get access to the outside world, this, what really, how the world lives. And, for me, I, you know, I’ve had a good life, I have no complaints about my life, and I’m still working in the field I started when I was 14, and I enjoy, it’s like being retired all the time. But,
I do it mainly for health reasons, but for my family, and my grandkids. There’s a lot of, a lot of opportunities that have come to continue working. I retired three times but never quit, so, so, and I imagine I’ll work ’til the day I die, but. I have some grandk-children, two, two right now, that are, in next couple years are going to be going to college
and hopefully I’ll start spending time with them before they do go to college. Those two live in the Houston area. But I’m in Houston a lot. I have a 95 year old mother in assisted living home and, so I go visit her real often. In fact., I’ll got his next week to see her. And, I just like to try to help people, I just, that’s why this, working in the, in the dealership as a,
a parts and service director, allows me to help a lot of people.
I: What are some life lessons that you feel like you learned through your military service?
R: Well, one is responsibility. Being responsible for your actions, whatever you do. The other is teamwork. It takes a team, not, not the individual, to accomplish lots of goals. Yes, you can accomplish
goals for yourself, but in the most part, it, it’s teamwork. You gotta get along with your fellow employee that you work with. Also, in the military, I ran across a lot of people that weren’t, maybe weren’t as gifted as some and they had to recognize their personalities of, and deal and work
with each personality, knowing that they’re all different. The other thing is not to take life for granted. I-I never take life for granted. I give thanks to the Lord every day for giving me the longevity that He’s given me. And, but the military I believe to this day that all U.S. citizen that are physically
capable and mentally capable of serving should serve at least six months. It will mold them for a lot of structure in life. And the, and, and the traveling, the things I’ve seen while I was in the military is molded my thinking a lot. You know, when you, when you see people starving, and then you see people wasteful here in this
country, you say I don’t want to be that way, I don’t want to be either way. But, and now I have concerns about the direction that our country’s going. Pretty soon we won’t have anybody working to pay the bills. Cause, cause, a lot of people don’t want to work but they want to live off of those that do work. And, if we don’t get that changed, there won’t be anybody working to make the money to give to the people that don’t w- [laughs], that don’t work, so that equation
is starting to flip pretty soon and I, I don’t know what’s gonna happen. But the military life for me, even though it was only three years, was life lessons of how to live. It really helped me a lot.
[End of Recorded Material]