Rodney F. Stock was born near Detroit, Michigan, on February 15, 1931. A talented football player, he played football at Washington and Lee University but injured his knee in 1949. His service in Korea included being a cook and performing switchboard and telephone wire work. With the promise of a $500 bonus, he reenlisted and returned to Korea from 1954-1955 where he was stationed at the DMZ. After the war, he lived and worked in Nevada as an assistant chief of police and a detective.
Reenlistment: Above the DMZ
Rodney F. Stock remembers being one of the first to receive a $500 bonus to reenlist. He shares when he returned to Korea in 1954, Seoul looked less war torn than when he had left. He notes that initial recovery was a testimony to the Korean people who had already begun the rebuilding process. Serving above the DMZ, at one point he recalls coming face-to-face with an entire Chinese division.
"That's Just the Breaks of the Game"
Rodney F. Stock shares he knew where Korea was from studying maps. He remembers hearing about the beginning of the war while driving to his parents' house. Citing no fear of dying, he recalls convincing the draft office to speed up his processing. After transferring among multiple training locations in the United States, he recounts boarding a ship for Korea at the end of 1951.
Too Many Cooks
Rodney F. Stock explains he arrived in Korean in January of 1952. Assigned as a cook, he shares he disliked his position and convinced his superiors that he could work switchboards, repair phone lines, and act as courier to outposts. He notes that besides maintenance and communications, his army unit protected the soldiers of the 5th U.S. Air Force. He recalls he was particularly impressed by the lovely old farmhouses as he traversed the countryside around Yeongdeungpo.
War Wounds and Train Attacks
Rodney F. Stock explains that North Koreans left farms in Yeongdeungpo unmolested since North Korea relied heavily on rice harvests. He notes that the U.S. soldiers were not so fortunate. He remembers a sniper shoting at him while he repaired a wire up a telephone pole. He recounts how the bullet missed him, but wood splinters embedded in his leg. He resents not being listed as wounded in combat since he was not hit by the actual bullet. He recalls other dangerous experiences which included the armored train ride from Yeongdeungpo to Pusan (Busan), with enemy attacks on the train each time they passed through Tegu (Daegu).
[Beginning of Recorded Material]
My true name, birth name, is Rodney, R-O-D-N-E-Y, Francis Stock, S-T-O-C-K.
I: Where were you born?
R: I was born in Hamtramck–
I: Could you spell it?
R: H-A-M . . . I don’t know, it’s a, it’s a polish name.
R: And that’s a suburb of Detroit.
I: Oh. When were you born?
R: February 15, 1931.
I: So, tell me about your parents and siblings when you were growing up.
R: Well, I was the only child. My mother was very small, and she had a miscarriage. And, when I was born, I was–
–a pretty good size kid. So, and the doctor told her no more children.
I: I see. So, you are the only child?
R: I’m the only child. Both my parents are deceased. They lived long lives.
I: What school did you go through there?
R: I didn’t stay in Detroit. My dad was an insurance investigator for a major company so–
R: –we moved around. From Detroit, we went to South Bend, Indiana.
–And by that time, I was in the middle school.
I: So, what high school did you graduate, where?
R: Well, I graduated from Grandview High School, in Grandview Heights, Ohio, which was a Columbus suburb.
I: Mmm. When did you graduate?
I: And, then what did you do after the graduation?
R: Well, I got–
–I was a football player in high school–
R: –pretty good. I had a walk on at University of Tennessee, but I never showed up because I had, was accepted at Washington & Lee University in Virginia. And, I immediately made the team there.
I: So, what university? Lee?
R: Washington & Lee.
I: And Lee.
R: It’s the fifth–
–oldest college in the country.
I: So, what did you study there?
R: I started in journalism, in fact, I had a class with Roger Mudd. One of the great news broadcasters–
I: Mmm hmm.
R: –of his time
R: And, I was hurt in ’49, in–
–playing against Virginia Tech. It was a, it was a, well they got $100 for getting me out of the game. That’s the way football was in those days.
R: Southern Conference.
R: So, I had, they had to rebuild this knee, so I was in a hospital in Columbus. They put me back together and, since the season was then over, I quickly–
–registered for Ohio State and, did two quarters there, Spring and Summer.
I: So, you quit, Washington & Lee?
R: No, I didn’t quit. I went back in the Fall of ’50.
I; Uh huh.
R: And, I practiced with the team, but my knee was not strong enough to actually play. At that time, I received, my fraternity brother and I received the last scholarship and we split it–
I: So, when did you join the Ohio State University?
R: Ohio State I used as a getaway.
I: Mmm hmm.
R: I didn’t like Ohio State. It was a factory.
R: At, at that time, it had 22,000 students. Now it has almost 50,000.
I: Yeah. Did you know anything about Korea at the time?
R: Oh, I knew where it was.
R: By maps, I was always studying maps. I had the radio on in my car, and I had just come from class and was going back to my parents’ house. And, in Grandview Heights, and they interrupted the station to announce that the North Koreans had crossed the border.
R: And were attacking the South Korean army.
And I thought to myself, oh boy, I’m going to be in it.
I: You know that?
R: I knew that.
I: [laughs] So, were you drafted?
R: I was drafted.
I: So, when was it?
R: They, well, I, this is the start of a funny story. I’m spinning my wheels, waiting for it to be called, to get it over with, and they kept prolonging me and prolonging me. So, I went down to the draft board in–
–Franklin County, Ohio. And, asked them why I hadn’t been called, because you notified me almost six months ago.
I: Why did you have to make a visit to make yourself drafted soon?
R: Well, I just wanted to get it going. I had things I wanted to do with my life, and I didn’t want to sit around and wait for them to–
I: But, you might been killed?
R: Well, that’s just the breaks of the–
I: Oh, c’mon, you don’t have to risk your life, right? You could have just wait there until you’ve been called.
R: I come from a military family.
I: Uh huh.
R: My great-grandfather was a Confederate soldier during the Civil War.
I: So, there was military blood in you?
R: Oh, yes.
I: And you wanted to be there in the War?
R: I wanted to b-, I didn’t like those people up north.
I: Oh. So, what happened?
R: Well, I finally, I–
–convinced them to bump somebody on the next drop and take me. And they did.
I: So, what happened?
R: I got, I got called in June of ’51, notified to–
R: June of, yeah, June of 1951.
R: So, I, I reported with a light bag to the–
–old Fort Hayes. Which, this till existed as a military post in downtown Columbus, Ohio. And from there they assembled about 20 of us, gave us a sergeant to guide us, put us on a train. We went, it seemed like forever. And, but, it was an overnight. We–
–wound up at Fort Meade, Maryland.
I: Mmm hmm.
R: And that’s where we were issued our uniforms. And got our first class in military protocol.
I: So, you got the basic training there.
R: Well, I, I had had a year of rotsee, of ROTC at Ohio State.
I: Uh huh.
R: So, I knew–
–the, I knew the drill pretty well. In fact, they put me in as a, as an acting squad leader.
I So you were officer?
R: No, I had just started officer’s training.
I: Mmm hmm. So, when did you leave for Korea?
R: Well, I went to basic first, which was at Camp Breckenridge, Kentucky.
I: Mmm hmm.
R: Which, you can’t even find–
–out where it is now. They took, they tore everything down and tucked it away somewhere. And that was way out in western Kentucky.
R: Nothing but sand and pine hills.
R: I had sixteen weeks there and then I went, they gave us orders. I had give, they gave me seven days leave–
–and four days travel time to Camp Stoneman.
R: –An-Antioch, California.
R: That’s where we boarded a, a ship to San Francisco, and took off for Korea, on a s-slow boat to China.
I: When did you?
R: That was December, ’51
I: So, when did you arrive in Korea?
I: Uh huh.
R: That was in Japan.
R: We went, we went to Camp (Greek). Where we were issued weapons and battle gear. And then they flew us in a K14, which is, I take that back, it was K16–
–Seoul City Air Base.
R: Oh, it was out in the middle of a sand bar, between Yangon Po and Seoul. And, the only thing they had to get across the river, in, into Seoul, was on a pontoon bridge, because all three railroad bridges and the main bridge had been blown.
I: Did you arrive in Korea in 1951 or 1952?
R: It was–
–probably January of ’52, somewhere in there, just after the first of the year.
I: So, what was your main mission? What was your specialty?
R: Believe it or not, I was a cook.
R: And, I didn’t want to be a cook. I, I got sort of Shanghai’d on that.
I: Mmm hmm.
R: And, so, they, they had so many cooks over there, that they didn’t need us. So, we traveled–
–up and down on the, on the railroad and by airplane, down to Pusan, or Buson, as they call it now. And, then came back up on the, on rails, through all the, all the places where they had units that I was supposed to go to.
I: What was your mission? What was your specialty? You didn’t like cook, so what did you do?
R: Well, I got, when I finally got to–
–a battalion, it was overloaded with cooks. They took my two friends, that I’d gone to basic with, and the personnel sergeant asked me, he says, what else can you do? I said I can run a, I can do fuel wire, telephone work, I can run a switchboard, and I said I’m a darn good courier, if you need somebody to take–
–messages back and forth.
R: Well, I became all three.
I: [laughs] Right.
R: I ran, I ran the battalion switchboard, there were four of us that ran it, on, in shifts. I got one day off, and that, I used it to go do wire work in the field.
R: We had lines going to a quarry on the other–
–side of a radar mountain. The air base, Kimpo, was on the east side of the hill, and the quarry was on the west side. We had double lines going to both places. And somebody was always cutting ’em. Now, in ’52, the fighting had pretty much stabilized. And the North Koreans–
–were being sent down across the Han River estuary and at times, you could wade across. It was that shallow. And, so we had to go out and hunt those people down. And we were basically attached to the 5thAir Force, but we were all Army personnel, because at that time, the Air Force was so new, that they had security people, no, no air–
–police. And, they had no heavy weapons, except what was on the planes, so, we were their protectors, so to speak.
I: So, you were in around the K14 area right?
R: Yangon Po.
I: Yangon Po. And, were you, were there danger there, that the S-, North Korean snipers or any–
R: I was fired at while up a, about 18 feet on one of the few telephone poles still standing. We were out trying to, in the rice paddy section, and actually, it was a very nice farms out there. Some of those buildings were four or 500 years old, those farmhouses.
I: But, mostly was completely destroyed, right? How was it? The Yangon Po, Yangon Po area.
R: They had, they had really not done much out there. The houses, some of those–
–houses were still standing, in good shape.
I: Oh. How about the people? Were they in good shape? Or how was it?
R: Pretty much. The farmers, they kind of left the farmers alone. After all, the North Koreans lived on rice. And, I got, I was up this pole. I had my two helpers down with the wire truck. They had, we had a 30–
–caliber machine gun on the truck. But, they heard a shot, I didn’t hear it. But all of the sudden, I felt real funny, and I looked, I thought a bee had gotten me or a wasp or something. And I look down and I’m bleeding–
I: Oh, you were wounded.
R: Yeah, I wounded.
I: When was it?
R: But I wasn’t hit with a bullet.
I: What is it?
R: He, the sniper missed me, hit the pole and blew about a four inch pieces of, of–
I: Mmm hmm.
R: –and it stuck in me.
I: Oh, okay. So, was it wounded, you, is regarded as a combat wound, right?
R: It should have been, but it wasn’t.
R: They had a young kid on the, working on the dispensary at battalion and he wouldn’t put me on the morning report as a wounded soldier, so I never got a Purple Heart.
I: Gee. Where was it, right–
R: It’s just, my upper.
I: Oh, okay.
B: Right there. It caused me trouble later.
I: So, that was too bad, right? He didn’t?
R: Well, it didn’t, I recovered quick. I was a lot bigger than I am now.
I: Mmm. Ss-, and that was the only occasion that you were almost shot?
R: That was the only time that I was–
–technically wounded. We didn’t see much in the way of combat. We were always in combat areas, that’s why they were giving us, one, every, every month, we had to 12 months, and then we’d to go home, because we were combat support.
I: What was the most difficult thing during your service in Korea? What made you really sick and tired of it, or afraid–
–or hate it?
R: No, I don’t think I was ever hated. A couple of the, I had fights with a couple of the guys that didn’t like me because I was a college–
I: No, I’m not saying you were hated by somebody else, but what did you hate most during your service, what was your most difficult thing?
R: I really don’t think I had it. I think the most difficult thing was riding the, what they called the Usak Express, or 8thArmy Express–
–between Yangon Po and Pusan.
I: You mean the train?
R: The train.
I: Uh huh. Why was it difficult?
R: Well, the train was armored.
R: We had gun cars at both ends.
R: And, the train got shot up, every time we went through (Tagoo) and the tunnels down there, the train would get grenade or, or shot up. So, that’s why they were armored. I slept on the, on the floor–
–below the windows.
I: So, there was kind of dangerous?
R: Dangerous, yeah, there was danger down there. We had a couple a guys killed, on, on, on the train, when they, they used to get upon the baggage racks, over the windows, and sleep, and those were, an armor piercing round would penetrate those.
I What was your rank?
R: At that time, I was–
I: At the time?
R: Private First Class.
I: Private First Class, PFC.
I: How much were you paid?
R: Well, overseas, about $105 a month.
I: What did you do with the money?
R: Sent it home.
I: To, to support your family, or to save it?
R: No, just, no they didn’t need any support, I just sent it home for ’em to bank.
I: Did you have any relationship with Korean people?
Work, working, working?
R: Yeah, we had, we had ex-Korean soldiers as our security around the post.
R: We had an armorer that worked with me. Armorer, on cleaning and issuing weapons. He was a former sergeant, Korean sergeant.
I: How about Korean boys, working in your?
R: Yeah, we had houseboys.
I: Houseboys. Do you remember?
R: I remember Kim very well.
I: Ohh. How old was he?
R: Probably 14 or 15.
I: Did you like him?
R: Yes. I think he liked me.
I: Uh huh. How was he?
R: He was a good houseboy. He did a lot of extra stuff. We took care of him.
I: What do you mean by extra stuff?
R: Oh, he shined our shoes and our boots, which really never needed, the, they were dirty within an hour or two. But it gave him something to do. He was there, sometimes he even slept in the tent.
R: We gave him a bed. But he had, he had a pretty close knit family, so he usually went home.
I: So, did you try some Korean food?
R: Oh, yeah.
I: What do you like?
I: You really like Kimchi?
I: It’s strong smell.
I: But you like it?
R: I like horseradish.
R: Cabbage and stuff like that.
R: And, I drank a little soju. Some of that soju was in burned with a blue flame. [laughs]
I: Yeah, that’s right.
II Did you go around the country?
I: Did you have time?
R: –saw, I saw a, quite of South Korea.
I: Tell me about the scene that you saw that time. And, have you been back to Korea?
R: Well, I went a second time in the military.
I: When did you go?
R: I was kind of bored with college when I got back. After all, you know, you’ve seen combat and you, I didn’t have any–
–PTSD or anything like that. I do still, have a few bad dreams once in a while. But, this is later, this is when I was on the DMZ. That was dangerous.
I: When did you go back to Korea?
R: I went back in the Army, I’d been in the Reserve. I-I was a sergeant by that time, And, they sent me down to Fort Hood for maneuvers. Good old–
–Fort Hood, Texas. Hell hole. It was bad. And after 90 days, I had the opportunity to get our or go regular army, so I went regular army. And on, on a three year enlistment.
I: When was it?
R: I’m trying to think. It was, see, I went back on active duty December, ’54. So, we got done–
–with those maneuvers and I reupped, got one of the first bonuses they issued. I got a whole $500 for, for reenlisting. And got a 30 day leave, and that would have put me into April of ’55 and I was slated to go to the Philippines–
–as what they called PMAG. And that was, would have been an instructor to the Philippine Army, in armored communications. which is what my specialty was, by that time. And, then when I got to Fort Lewis, Washington, they said, well you haven’t been overseas in 18 months, so you’re going to Korea, we’re sort NCOs over there. So, they flew us over there.
I: So, that should been–
R: That was probably–
R: –in April of ’55.
R: They flew us all the way to Japan, by way of Hawaii and Wake Island.
I: So, then, not much difference than you saw back when you were in Korea during the war. And then in ’55 you w-went back and there was not much difference in Korea, right?
R: Well, they’d done a lot of cleaning up.
I: Oh, did?
R: Yeah, by that time–
I: –they had torn down some bombed buildings in Seoul and cleaned up the streets a little better. But, I went to, the 24thDivision was back on line, as we call it, and the 34thRegiment was on the, at Freedom Bridge Head and 11 miles to the–
–east of the Inchon Gang. And, that’s where I went. I went to Freedom Bridge Head and took over the 3rdPlatoon of the tank company.
I: Um hmm.
R: — of our medium tank company assigned to the regiment.
I: So, what was your mission?
R: Mainly to–
–be ready to go to our positions above the DMZ and repel anybody who came across.
I: So, must be very dangerous. Actually, it was more dangerous than before you–
R: Oh yes.
I: –when you were in Yangon Po, right?
R: That’s right.
I: Uh huh. Tell me about it. What kind of danger, what–
R: Well, we had–
I: did you encounter?
R: we, we were an under strength regiment. And we’re facing a whole Chinese division across–
–from us. [laughs]
I: So, there was still Chinese soldiers–
R: Oh, yes–
I: in ’55?
R: –we still had Chinese soldiers over there.
I: Where do you live now?
R: I live right up north of here, in a little town called Fernly, Nevada.
R: I’ve been out here 51 years and I was on the Reno PD for 20 years as a, I was assistant chief in detectives when I retired.
I: So, what do you think about your service. What is the legacy of the Korean War and the Korean War Veterans?
R: It’s mostly forgotten.
I: Why is that?
R: Because it was a political war and I just don’t think this country wants to bring it out again. It’s embarrassing to a lot of people that are still alive, what went on over there.
I: Why doesn’t this country–
–to bring that out?
R: I have no idea, but there was just, it was badly handled. That’s one of the reasons Truman got rid of MacArthur, General MacArthur. He was an egotist. He, he, he did not listen to his intelligence people. He claimed the Chinese, wouldn’t dare cross the line. Hell, the Chinese were already been here, had been here five months.
R: Nah, that’s just what happens when your e-ego gets the better of you.
I: I agree. What is the legacy of Korean War Veterans?
R: Carry on. Advise as many of the kids today in school that we had a war. That the Americans, nobody came, unless you were, had a family.
I: Are you working on tell American program?
I: But you’ve been visiting high schools?
R: I, one of the things that bothers me is that they’ve rewritten all of the history books, and the Korean War is about one little paragraph. It’s a–
I Do you, yeah.
R: –incidental situation. They don’t realize that we lost over 50,000 men over there.
–I lost two high school friends over there.
I: Do you know of any history teacher in high school here around and might be interested in learning about that we are doing, my foundation is doing?
R: Not anymore.
R: I’m sorta out of touch now, and that’s the way I want it because I had such an interesting life. And let’s–
–just say that there were times where I lived right on the edge.
I: Do you have any grandchildren or great grandchildren–
R: Oh, yeah.
I –in the age of high school or college?
R: I’ve got one granddaughter in college right now.
I: Any other story that you want to leave to this in-interview?
R: Well, I would say this, I rather liked the Korean people when I was there. Some of those farmers were funny.
–they, they, they told jokes. They, they, they enjoy a good laugh. I have one of their pipes, so long, and they’d smoke a, they’d stick cigarette down here in the bowl–
R: –and smoke it that way. I brought one, one home with me.
I: Do you, do you, did you take pictures?
I: Do you some pictures with you?
R: No, not with me. And, what I’m doing right now is I sorted through ’em and I’m giving them, slowly as I find some, some scenes of the Korean landscape.
I: Thank you for your interview, okay?
R: Okay. Thank–
[End of Recorded Material]