Korean War Legacy Project

Richard V. Gordon


Richard V. Gordon served in Korea in 1950 as part of the New Zealand Navy. He speaks highly of his time in the Korean Seas and around Incheon harbor. He describes life aboard the Her Majesty’s Ship (HMS) Tutira, the first ship to arrive in Korea from New Zealand. He speaks highly of his role in the Navy and is proud of the New Zealand contribution in the Korean War. While Richard V. Gordon did not see the Korea mainland, he describes his role in defending the seas of South Korea.

Video Clips

Guarding the Seas Off South Korea

Richard V. Gordon describes patrolling the seas off Korea from the Communists. He describes blowing up a floating mine and provides a picture of the explosion. Richard Gordon describes not really engaging the enemy due to the North Koreans not really having a Navy.

Tags: East Sea,Incheon,Yellow Sea,Communists,Front lines,North Koreans,Pride,Weapons

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Life on the Ship and in the Navy

Richard V. Gordon describes life aboard the HMS Tutira. He describes making his hammock and putting it up every morning and the food. He also describes the pay in the Navy and sending money home to his new wife. Richard V. Gordon also describes the waves on the ship, even in a frigate.

Tags: East Sea,Incheon,Yellow Sea,Food,Front lines,Home front,Letters,Living conditions

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Lasting Memory and Pictures from the Ship

Richard V. Gordon describes his one lasting memory, the loss of a fellow shipmate in the China Sea. He, also provides pictures of the USS Missouri and cold conditions aboard the ship. Richard V. Gordon provides a picture where people are covered in snow while on the ship during the winter.

Tags: East Sea,Incheon,Yellow Sea,Cold winters,Front lines,Living conditions,Personal Loss

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of recorded material]

R:        Richard, R I C H A R D

I:          Um.

R:        V A U G HA N Gordon, G O R D O N.  Um, my official  number was NZ11090.

I:          And what is your birthday, sir?

R:        Richard.
I:          Your birthday?


R:        Oh.

I:          Birthday.

R:        Twenty-eighth of April, 1928.

I:          Twenty-nine?

R:        Twenty-nine.

I:          Twenty-nine.

R:        Yeah.

I:          And you born in the Gisborne here, right?
R:        Yes.

I:          It’s a beautiful city, isn’t it?
R:        It certainly is.

I:          Yes.

R:        Yes.  [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Yeah.  And tell me about your family background, your parents and your, uh, siblings when you were growing up.

R:        First of all, my,


well, well, my,  my father, he, he, he, he had served in the, um, in the First World War

I:          Um.

R:        And, um, my family had been involved right through the War.  My older brother Ken

I:          Um hm.

R:        served in the, um, the Second World War and fought against the, the Japs, Japanese.  And then I was [INAUDIBLE] after that to have been [INAUDIBLE] on the Korean War.  And, and when I was part of a family that, that took part in, uh, you know, as part of the New Zealand contribution to


the, these places.

I:          So when did you join the Navy, 1945?

R:        Nineteen, yes, ’45.

I:          Uh huh.

R:        Yep.
I:          And where did you get the basic military training?

R:        In Devonport in Auckland. Auckland, New Zealand.

I:          That’s another beautiful city.

R:        Yes, yes.

I:          So what kind of, uh, basic military training did you receive?


R:        Oh, well, the usual stuff, marching and, um, all the different skills required to survive in, in, in, in wars and things like this.
I:          Um hm.

MALE VOICE:  What about  the guns and stuff?

R:        We had, oh yeah, the,  the, the gunnery training, of course and, uh


I:          Were you able to swim?

R:        Yes.  Yep.

I:          When did you learn?

R:        It’s, uh, well, I learned at school here in the, in New Zealand where they taught us to swim, yes.

I:          Yeah.  So you have all the ocean around you to swim.

R:        Yeah, well, yes, right.  We lived in, uh, [INAUDIBLE]

I:          And from there, where did you go?  When did you leave for Korea?

R:        Um, right at the, we were the, we were the first, uh, the first ship away, it was the first


away from  New Zealand to the Korean War.  So that would have been in, uh,

MALE VOICE:  It was probably about 1950 [INAUDIBLE]

R:        We went more less pretty well straight away.  We were at the start of the conflict

I:          Yes.

R:        It was, um, we were the first, we were the first away anyway.  I know that.

I:          So do you remember when you were in the Korean Sea, 1050?

R:        Yes, I can remember.


On, on our way to Korea, we lost a man overboard.

I:          Why?

R:        He

I:          It, it wasn’t even, it didn’t even started the War yet.

R:        We didn’t start the War, no.  I, I, I will  never forget his  name.

I:          What is his name?

R:        His name was Ordinary Seaman Cooper.

I:          Um hm.

R:        And he came from, uh,


[INAUDIBLE] I can’t remember.  But he come from the central North Island anyway.

I:          Yeah.  Why, how did it die?
R:        Well, pure accident.  They were, they were rigging up some of the, uh, some of, ropes required for awnings.  He stood up onto the side of a, of, he stood up on the, um, he stood up


on the rail

I:          Yeah.

R:        which was a wire rope one.  His foot slipped, he hit the, the, the, the, the catch that held it on, and he went straight down.  And that was right in front of me.

I:          Oh.

R:        And that was in the South China Sea.

I:          On the way to Korea.

R:        On the way to Korea.

I:          Ah, that’s too bad.

R:        Yes, it  was.

I;          And from there, where did you go, the West Sea or East Sea of Korea?


R:        We went from, I think, I think we went to Japan first.

I:          Japan first.

R:        Yes.

I:          Yes.

R:        Forget the name.  Uh, uh, forget the name.

I:          Yokosuka.

R:        Probably was.  It was one of the, one of, one of the Ports quite ha, handy to the Korean, on that side of the, um, uh, um, of, of, Japan.

I:          Yes.

R:        I can’t, can’t, uh


I find it hard to remember the name of it, the Port.

I:          Yeah, that’s not important.  So from Japan you went to Korea.

R:        Yes.
I:          Yes.  So what kind of ship were you in?

R:        We were in a, it, it, it, it, was, was, it was a frigate.

I:          Um hm.

R:        Small ship.

I:          What was the name of frigate?

R:        The Tutira.


I:          Tutira.

R:        T U T I R A, HMNZS Tutira.

I:          T U

R:        T U T

I:          Um hm.

R:        I R A.

I:          Tutira.

R:        Tutira, yes.

I:          Yes.  And H M

R:        H M N Z S.

I:          H S, yes.

R:        HMN Her Majesty’s New Zealand ship.

I:          Yeah.  Her Majesty New Zealand ship frigate Tutira.

R:        Tutira, yes.

I:          Yes.

R:        I have a name, I know just, it’s nice to know that, that, that


they, the frigates at that time, I think there were eight, six or eight, and they were named after the lakes of New Zealand, and Tutira is a lake, uh, from New Zealand down by, in [Hawk’s Way] area.

I:          Um hm.  What kind of ship is it, frigate?  How many people were there?  What kind of weapons you had there?

R:        Um,

I:          Approximately.

R:        Well, they had, they had all anti-aircraft, um, they had anti, anti-aircraft




I:          Um.

R:        And plus, um, I think it was called a squid, anti-submarine, uh, and, and also what the ordinary guns, 4” guns.  I think they were the 4 or 6”, no, 4” guns.

I:          And what was your specialty?

R:        I had, I had just


qualified as a, a, I’d done a gunnery course but also was a, was a physical education course as well.  I was a, I was trained in physical education.

I:          So what do you mean by physical education in the frigate?

R:        Yeah, so I, I used to take exercises with a, with a crew member, uh.  They came from Firth.


I:          Wow.  So you actually trained the crew, seamen.

R:        Yeah, well, yes, to exercise, train them, you know, took, took them for exercises, yes.

I:          Very good.  So what kind of movement did you teach them?
R:        Oh, basic, exercises, [INAUDIBLE] through what would exercise every part of the body that you could on a ship because you gotta remember that it was pretty


restrictive, the places you didn’t have much room.

I:          Um.  Very interesting.  So where did you do these physical exercise, on the

R:        On the quarter deck.

I:          Deck?
R:        On the quarter deck of the frigate.
I:          Uh huh.  How big was it?  I mean, how many seamen were there to, at one time?
R:        Maybe 20, 20, 20 or 30 at one time.

I:          Um hm.  So you were in charge of this physical activities.

R:        Yes.

I:          Very good.  What was your rank at the time?


R:        Um.  I think I, I was a Leading Seaman.

I:          Leading Seaman.

R:        Yes.  I’m not sure.  I could have been Petty Officer.  I can’t

I:          And were there any special missions in the Sea, in the West Sea against enemies?

R:        Oh yeah.  We. we were there to, to, till the Korean Peninsula,


to become part of the, of the, the Naval force which, uh, we joined up with the Americans, and we were there to, to help in the Korean War, simple as that.

I:          Um.


R:        Yeah, and we, we, we, we would, we’d, that’s right.  We guarded the entrances to some of the Ports, Inchon

I:          Yes.

R:        Yes, I remember that.  We, we, we spent a lot of time on the outer reaches of the Inchon Harbor and, you know,



I:          You were patrolling.

R:        Patrolling, yes.  And it was, it was  a, was it there or was it, was it [INAUDIBLE] all the way up that.  The, the Communists had been dropping these [INAUDIBLE] and they were floating mines

I:          Um hm.

R:        and I’ve got, I brought the photograph of, of up there.

I:          Um hm.

R:        And, and, and all that needed to happen, all you had to do was hit one of those, and you were gone.

I:          Is this, the, the picture


R:        Yes, that’s the picture, and that’s in the South China Sea.  That picture was taken in the South China Sea.

I:          Who, who took that picture?

R:        It was taken from on board the frigate on, I, I can’t, probably the photographer on, on the frigate, Tutira.  You can see the, you can see the, there was one of the big [INAUDIBLE] of the frigate .

I:          Uh huh.

R:        Yeah, on the side.

I:          And what was it, a mine?

R:        Mine, floating mine.


I:          And, and you detonated.

R:        Yes.

I:          Yeah.  So that it exploded.

R:        Exploded.  That was the  explosion.  We, [INAUDIBLE] and exploded it.

I:          What was it like to see those?  Was it really big explosion, you could feel it?
R:        Well, it was quite a big, you know, quite a fair size.
I:          Um hm.

R:        And, uh,

I:          Was big explosion that you could feel it ?
R:        There, there, there’s the smoke from the

I:          Yes, yes, yes.

R:        cannon.


I:          Yep, that’s enough.  So that’s another mission.  So how many, do you remember how many times that you detonated a flo, floating mines?

R:        Only the once.

I:          Only the once.

R:        That once, yes.

I:          Okay.  That was the only one.

R:        Yeah.

I:          Any other, uh, mission, patrolling the Inchon, had, had you landed in Inchon?

R:        No.

I:          No, never landed in the soil.

R:        We never, we never, we never landed.  We were  patrolling.  We were patrolling the reaches of


some of the, of Inchon and some of the other, some of the other Ports of the Korean, the Korean, uh, Peninsula.

I:          Hm.  Were there any encounter with the enemy Navy forces?
R:        No.

I:          Never?
R:        No.

I:          Huh.  What happened to enemy Navy?

R:        I don’t know what the, oh, they had very few, they, they had very few, uh, ships.

I:          So you never been attacked by the enemy either.


R:        No, no.

I:          Tell me about the soft side of your, uh, life inside of the frigate.  Where did you sleep?  What kind of things did you eat, how many times you took a shower, things like that.  Anything you remember?

R:        It was a normal day.  We, in those days, you slept in hammocks and, uh,


everybody had a hammock.  So, I mean, that means that you made your bed each night, and then you had to then, had to tie it up each morning and then put it away and then take, for more room in, was in the frigate.

I:          Was it hanging like this?
R:        Yes.  Just, yes.

I:          Hm.  So when there’s a big wave, could you feel it while you were sleeping?
R:        Yes, depended on, depended on how big the wave was.  Sometimes you, you were shot up.  A lot of times, you would just sway.


I:          Uh.  It wasn’t fun.

R:        No.

I:          No.

R:        You had to make your  bed every night  and, and, and then in the morning, uh, you know, tie it up.

I:          What about food?  What kind of, uh,  Always hot meal, right?

R:        Most of the time.

I:          Um.

R:        Yes.


I:          Any difficult things because you lived there inside of the small frigate, Tutira, right?

R:        Yes.

I:          Anything that you remember which was difficult?

R:        You know, it would let you came to expect in the Navy, really.  It was it.  You had, you know, small spaces to eat and sleep and, and the food, of course, depe, depending on


where they could get the food from.  So it varied from place to place.

I:          Um hm.

R:        But, it was alright, you know.  You, it, you had to expect that sort of thing, you know, in case of war.

I:          So were you able to write letters back to your family?
R:        Yes.

I:          Uh huh.  How often did you write, and what did you write?

R:        They, they were Air, [INAUDIBLE] special Air, Airograms where you,


you wrote, and oh, just the usual things, uh, because, uh, I,  my wife

I:          Oh, you were married?

R:        Yes.  I, I’d gotten married, and I got married, and I, on a Saturday [INAUDIBLE]  the Korean War on the Monday.  So, the  Korean War broke, it was all quickly.  It all broken out, and everything happened.  That, too, happened very quickly.


So I got married and, and then I, then away I went.

I:          That was courageous decision.
R:        Uh huh.  Well

I:          You, you married, then you went to war.

R:        Oh, straight away, yeah.

I:          Yeah.

R:        Yeah.

MALE VOICE:  No honeymoon.

R:        No  honeymoon.

I:          Really?
R:        [INAUDIBLE] no, no.  So that’s what happened.

I:          So your wife was really courageous.

R:        Yes.  Yes.

I:          But she, must have been very hard for her without you.

R:        Yeah, yeah.  Yes.


I:          So what did you write to her?

R:        Oh, quite, quite often.  I would write and, I would just write about, you know, where we were, what we had and bring, brought her up to touch with [INAUDIBLE] and

I:          Do you have those letters still?
R:        Pardon?
I:          Do you have those letters?
R:        Somewhere I might, oh, I, I must, oh, I, I’m not sure.

I:          Um.

MALE VOICE:  They were probably good based on that.

R:        Yeah.  They could be somewhere.

I:          Yeah.  Would love to read that.


And how much were you paid?

R:        I can’t, I, I can’t really remember but just

I:          Approximately.

R:        It was like, uh,

I:          Did you send those money to your wife?

R:        It was, it was, yes, yes, yes.  The, the, the money was, you kept so much, and so much of your pay

I:          Um

R:        uh, went, went to your wife, yes.

I:          Um.


R:        I can’t.

I:          So when did you leave Korea?

R:        Well, we would have, I mean, we, we would have, we were there for about a year

I:          Yes

R:        you know I remember rightly.

I:          So you left around 1951.

R:        Yes, would have been, what, when the war broke out when, 19

I:          1950.

R:        ’50.  [STAMMERING]  Yeah, that’s right.  We were to break out, come, come, come back home 1951, ’52, round about early ’52.


I:          Oh.

R:        Or something, it could have been.  We were about a year..

MALE VOICE:  I was born in ’50 so

R:        You were born in ’52, oh yeah.  oh well.

I:          Have you been back to Korea since then?

R:        Yes.  I think I was there.  Yeah.

I:          When did you go?

R:        Oh, I can’t, when Ma took deaf, we went up there.


can’t,, what’s it, I can’t


I:          Oh.  And did you see Korea changed?

R:        It was, uh, it was hard to really, hard to say that too much because, you know, we were, we were, we were scene most of it, when, when the war was over [INAUDIBLE] You hardly ever walked around.  Um,

I:          But when you went back to Korea


and, what did you see?

R:        Well, it was really much the same as what it was when, when it was, when they have a war, you know.  Just like any country, it was.  But the, um, the Korean people, they knew about us, you know.  They, they,  and, uh, they, they, you know, there’s always, always, like I said, [walk up and words to us] and that.


I:          So you didn’t know much about Korea before you left  for Korea, right?
R:        No.

I:          Uh huh.

R:        No, no.

I:          Anything you know now about Korea?
R:        Oh well, uh, um, the people are ready to really appreciate and, um, and, and got to  know very well, of course, when the was on.


And, and I, we went, uh, and it, so that, you know, that was it and, um,

I:          What do you think about Korean economy now?

R:        Uh, I think it’s, a, uh, I think they’re a, they’re, the, the Korean people are a pretty smart lot of people in my book compared


with, you know, with my goings around the world and, um, I know, they seem to, um, they seem to be going pretty well to me.  I, I, yeah, I

I:          So are you, are you  proud of, to be a Korean War veteran?
R:        Yes.

I:          Um.

R:        It’s alright, yeah.  Yep.

I:          Um.

R:        Yes.

I:          Do you have any special message to the Korean people in the context of 70th anniversary of the  break out of the Korean War?


We, it’s  never been replaced by the Peace Treaty. So do you have any message to, what do you wanna say to Korean people in the context of 70th anniversary?

R:        Simply this, that as a young New Zealander at the time, we were proud to go and help Korea in its conflict with the North Korean,

I:          Um hm.

R:        with the Communists, providing some help up North Korea and, we were, and we were the,


we were the first away from New Zealand on a, on a frigate. It  might have been small but, um, that was, that was the start of our contribution before some of the Armed Forces, the Army and, that came into Korea, that we were the, we were the first of the New Zealanders away and to be in the, the con, the Korean Conflict.  And I’ll never ever, never ever forget it.

I:          Excellent points.  Any other message


you want to leave to this interview?

R:        No.  I’d just like to wish the Korean people and, for what they went through when I was there as a young man and just out of, how lucky we are to live in a country like New Zealand when you see, you know, what happened in Korea and, not only in Korea but other, other, conflicts around the world, um.

I:          Especially in this beautiful city of Gisborne.

R:        Yes, yes.

I:          Uh huh.

R:        Absolutely right, yeah.

I:          Uh.

R:        Yeah.

I:          I went to see a seashore there,


and I found a statue of James Cook.

R:        James Cook, yeah.

I:          Yes.

R:        Yes,  he, yes.  We’re a very fortunate country.

I:          Very.

R:        Yes, very [INAUDIBLE] you know.

I:          Yeah.

R:        But New Zealand seems to have had, carried on with a, um, quite a connection with, uh, with Korea, with South, you know, with Korea.


I:          Do you know any connection that we are building together?

R:        Not really I don’t.  My memory is, uh, my memory is fading.  I’ve, you know, I’m getting on in my memory phase.  But, um, the one thing as I, that always [INAUDIBLE] that I, I’ll never ever forget in the Korea War was when we lost that young man, ordinary seaman [INAUDIBLE] overboard right in front of me,


and he just went down

I:          Must have been a shock to you.

R:        Into the South China Sea and never, that was it.  You never saw him again.  He just, and it was an accident.  The ship just rolled over, and he put his, his foot, had, uh, one of the, one of the slips that held the steel wire right together, and he just went down like that.

I:          So it’s not just a war but because it’s so dangerous in the sea,

R:        Sea, that’s right.

I:          Yes.  You gotta be really careful.

R:        That’s right, yeah.  Cause all, we were, we were patrolling in the  South China Sea.  Um.


I:          Um hm.  Uh, do you want to show some pictures?  You wanna show those pictures?
MALE VOICE:  It’s a, it’s a big aircraft  carrier that you went on.

R:        Oh, that would be the Missouri.
I:          Yeah.

R:        Yeah.  I’ll never forget that.  That was a, that was a,

I:          Just hold still.  It’s a


aircraft carrier Missouri?
R:        USS Missouri.

I:          US, did you take that picture?

R:        From aboard our ship it was taken.

I:          Um hm.

R:        from aboard the New Zealand frigate Totira.  That was the photo taken of the Missouri.

I:          So your frigate worked together with the Missouri.

R:        Yeah.  With, with, yeah.

I:          Great.  Another one?

MALE VOICE:  That’s you standing up.  Here’s [INAUDIBLE]

R:        Yeah.  That’s on the ice and snow in,  at  Action Stations in the, on the, in the Korea.


I:          Ah.  It was, where did it, where was it?  In the frigate?
R:        That was, yes.  That was the frigate.

I:          Wow.  And you covered with snow.

R:        Yeah.

MALE VOICE:  There’s a few here.  Here’s a group one.

I:          Geeze.

MALE VOICE:  I’ll get one that’s covered in snow.  That one.

R:        Yeah.

MALE VOICE:  Give me the other one.
R:        Um.  Yeah.

I:          Where was it?



I:          Kurad.


I:          So you actually landed in the soil.

MALE VOICE:  Well, by the look of it.

R:        Uh,

I:          Thank you so much for your fight and honorable service during the Korean War, and due to your service, Korea had a opportunity to rebuild our nation.  Now we are the 11th largest


economy in the world, and substantive democracy.  So I want to thank you for your fight.  Thank you,, sir.

R:        Thank you for your, your kind words.  But we were there to do a job, and at that time as a young New Zealander, we couldn’t get away to, to Korea quick enough as you can imagine.  And we were so happy to be able to do  something to help the, cause it was the South, it’s the South Korean/North Korean that, uh, and I,


and the South Koreans conflict was a Northern Communist um, regime

I:          Um hm.  Thank you so much again.



[End of Recorded Material]