Korean War Legacy Project

Roland Dean Brown


Roland Brown was born in Tennessee during the Great Depression and joined the Army in 1950. He recalls his first impressions of Korea upon landing in Pusan in 1951, detailing the poor conditions. He recounts his experience with friendly fire and adds that many men were killed due to inadequate training and a lack of communication. He details the food scarcity endured on the front lines and offers an account of having to fend off Chinese and North Korean soldiers to secure provisions from an American airdrop. He shares his experience with PTSD upon his return home and reflects upon Korea of the past and its progress through the years. He is proud of his service and of the economic gains Korea has made since the war.

Video Clips

First Impressions and Friendly Fire Encounters

Roland Brown recalls his first impressions upon arrival in Pusan. He describes the scene as horrible, recounting the sewage running in gutters down the streets, children begging for food, and the poor living conditions. He shares that many soldiers were killed from friendly fire due to inadequate training and a lack of communication, adding that he and others even dug holes with their helmets as defense during friendly fire encounters.

Tags: Busan,Basic training,Chinese,Civilians,Fear,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,North Koreans,Physical destruction,Poverty,South Koreans

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Food Scarcity and Living Conditions

Roland Brown recounts the food scarcity he and fellow soldiers experienced on the front lines. He recalls being surrounded by the Chinese and North Koreans, a situation that required an airdrop of provisions. He shares that he and fellow soldiers had to fight the enemy for the goods dropped, which included food and ammunition, as the Chinese and North Koreans had acquired U.S. weapons from American soldiers they had overrun and needed ammunition. He additionally comments on the living conditions, stating that they often slept on the ground and sometimes in foxholes or old bunkers.

Tags: Chinese,Food,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,North Koreans,Weapons

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PTSD Experience

Roland Brown shares his experience with PTSD. He describes being found standing in bed, fighting and yelling, on occasion upon his return home. He expresses that he has learned to manage it through the years with help from his wife, religion, and PTSD group.

Tags: Depression,Fear,Home front,Personal Loss

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Reflections on Korea

Roland Brown expresses that he wanted to be in Korea as it was his goal to fight for his country. He recalls his first vision of Pusan and compares it to modern Korea. He reflects upon how poor the Korean people were during the war and comments on the thriving conditions in Korea today.

Tags: Busan,Seoul,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Modern Korea,Poverty,Pride,South Koreans

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Video Transcript

My name is Roland Dean Brown. I was born in Greenville, Tennessee on March 13th, 1932. Ahh so you had a birthday several days ago? I had a birthday last Thursday I’m 82 years old.

Tell me about your family background.

I have had many families. Not something I’m proud of. When I came home from Korea I was a little bit disturbed. As I went in when I was 16 and a half. And later on, in life one of my military psychiatrists said my brain wasn’t young enough to absorb what I did, so that stuck with me for a little too long. And so, I was married when I was twenty. No, I’m talking about your mother and father. I was born during the depression and we were very poor. I lived in Tennessee only 2 years then my family moved to Iowa. My father was in Iowa then met my mother and then went back to Tennessee during the depression then lived there for 2 years then went back to Iowa in 34 or 35 I think it was. He was a farm hand and then when I was about 14 I was a money monger I went to school I had 4H products I raised hogs, I saved every penny I earned, and I had 3000$ in my bank account by the time I was 12 or 13. Uh I was a freshman in high school and I had 3000$ in my bank account I put my sister through college.

Wow, that’s a lot of money, isn’t it?

Back then it was a lot of money, but I saved it all from my hogs I raised from my 4H products. Then my father asked if he could use my money, which he did, to start his farming operation. Which I got payed back, I got payed back no problem. So, I was more or less raised on the farm.

And you had to go through many different schools since you were moving around?

I attended uh, I started at this one school in Elizabeth, Iowa. Then we moved to Tipton, another school. Then we moved to Springfield. Then back to Elizabeth, so I finished school where I started.

You didn’t have a problem with that?

My grades suffered some, because I wasn’t a very good student. But uh.

So, when did you graduate high school?

I didn’t graduate high school. I um left high school in my sophomore year.

When was that?

That was in 1948. Shortly after that a friend of mine and I joined the service and went to Korea.

Tell me what were you doing when the Korean war broke out?

I was working for a uh, I was farming with my father and working for a cabinet maker. And uh, then a friend of mine and I decided we would join the service and uh.

Were you not afraid of losing your life in the war?

I was, well being young and unexperienced with war, my father was in the navy during World War 2. And uh, I did not know the ramifications of what was going on all I knew was they needed men to go over there and fight. So, that was the only reason I joined the service. At that time the need for soldiers was very desperate. So, we had 8 weeks of basic training.

So, did you enlist?


Ok, when and why?

October 3rd, 1950. Army? Yes, I joined the air force when we got to Iowa to the recruiting place. They put about 20 of us in another room and they wanted us to sign this document, then after we signed the documents this gentleman collected all the papers and said, Now you’re in the U.S Army! He said, that’s where we need you, we don’t need any more men in the air force. All my life I was interested in flying. So, that’s what I wanted to do. That was the one of main reason I enlisted.

Did you appeal?

No. Why not? To young, to stupid.

So where did you go to receive military training?

Fort Alderwood, Missouri. It was a closed base and we opened it up. Our truck load of guys in civilian clothes opened up the base, they told us only bring what your wearing. Well we wore the same civilian clothes for a whole week before we got a uniform. The base was closed, and when we got in there was only about half a dozen people on the base when we went in for it.

So, they were really in a hurry?

O yes. So, all we did was paint rocks for a week with civilian clothes on and we were filthy dirty by the time we got our uniforms. *laughing*

So, you were painting the rocks?

O yeah. That’s what they had us doing. I was an expert rifleman. I could uh, when we were in training I hit the bullseye every time I shot. No matter what if it was 100 yards or 300 yards. Three platoon sergeants had a bet. Each one had a good sharpshooter in their platoon. And they put us up against each other. The platoon that won got to share 3 cases of beer.

How long was your basic training?

8 weeks.

Ok, then what happened?

Then we got shipped off to Korea.

Were you informed anything about Korea while you were in boot camp?

No, none we didn’t know anything about Korea. And did you know anything about Korea before the military?

I knew very little. I knew there was a lot of action going on there and some of our guys were getting killed and so forth. And so, with a couple of my older mentors, we had talked about Korea, but I didn’t know much about Korea.

How did people talk about the Korean war at the time?

Just that we were there fighting, and that intrigued me. My father and I didn’t see eye to eye and that’s why I was working for a cabinet maker. I didn’t live at home at that time. So, before I left the only person I saw was my mother because she signed my paper, so I could get in at my age.

When did you leave for Korea and where?

I left out of pier 69 from Seattle.


That was in March of 1951. We took a troop ship to Yokohama and we spent a few days there and then we took another troop ship to Pusan. Then we disembarked in Pusan.

Do you remember when you arrived in Pusan?

It was I think the later part of March. The exact date I don’t recall.

How was the situation in Pusan when you first arrived there?

It was horrible. The poor people were um, there was nothing there. Sewage ran down the streets in the gutters and children running around homeless and you just felt so sorry for them. At that time, I was absolutely amazed at the type of living conditions they had there. Little children running around begging for candy or something to eat, they were very desperate people back then. Of course, I didn’t see too much of Pusan they put us in trucks in June and put us right in the front lines.

So where did you go from there?

I can’t tell you, we went to the front lines. Do you know the name like Hak Chok Hugh or? We were at all them places you know we were all over Korea. The first big battle was when we weren’t even there a week when our first big battle happened.

So, who was the main enemy?

The North Koreans.

Were the Chinese involved to?

Yes, they were involved to.

Do you remember when the first big battle you were involved? Was it in the middle, the west, or east?

More in the east central. And can you describe the first big battle you were involved? We had mortars in the rear that were way off their mark. No one had enough training, no one had enough training to operate they things they were operating like the mortars and so forth. And we had a lot of men killed from our non-enemy fire.

Friendly fire?

Friendly fire.

Can you explain how it happened?

Um, we were moving so fast they couldn’t keep up with us. At different times we had the military offshore, the naval military, firing in and they would not have the proper coordinates and you know. Especially at night time. They fired a lot at night time from the carriers. And we would clamor to get out of the way because we knew they were ours. They were ours, our people were firing on us so.

I mean, didn’t people complain an argue?

O yes o yes, the radios went crazy. The communication wasn’t great either.

Do you remember a specific moment when the people kept arguing that you are killing us?

O yes, o definitely. We dug holes with our helmets trying to get out of the way. This interview will be viewed by many young children to. Tell me about a typical day where you were involved in the serious battles. We had numerous battles from day to day, but the one I remember the most was where we did the 16-day push.

When was it?

I can’t tell you the dates it was in the summer time of 1951. It was in the summertime, I think the first big battle was when we rescued the first half. I remember that. The first half was overrun I think it was the 26th and 7th regiment. But they went on a push that got rid of the North Koreans at that time. That was funny I think the first half lost their colors at that time.

Brown- That got rid of them, the North Koreans at that time that was when the first cav lost their colors. At that time.  That was the first major battle that we were in we were in a few before that. But different times they would need us in another sector. So, they would rope me down the mountain and jump in a truck. They would shoot us across to another area and we’d be in another battle. You know.

Interviewer- Did you regret that you’d become a rifleman?


Interviewer- Never

Brown- Never, no. No. We are friends you know and uh I was attached to a couple of the fourth Batoon. Was the heavy equipment Batoon. They had all the big machine guns and mortars, the 60mm ones not the big ones, and 57mm recollars rifle, which I became an expert shot with that. And uh I was an ammo barer, then I was the gunner, then I was the squad leader, then I was the batoon Sargent. At one time we had no officers so I was batoon Sargent and batoon leader of the fourth batoon. Because of the people who got hurt or got wounded or deceased.

Interviewer- When did you leave Korea?

Brown- I came back, I’m not real sure I think it was in February or march. February, I believe I was rotated. We tried to carry some sea rations with us, a lot of a days we didn’t eat.

Interviewer- Really

Brown- Yes

Interviewer- Were you not hungry?

Brown- Oh yes well yeah

Interviewer- How could you survive?

Brown- Well, the kitchen never kept up with us. We sometimes went days and days without having a warm meal.

Interviewer- So you ate sea rations

Brown- When we had em

Interviewer- When you had it so

Brown- We didn’t have it every day, there were some days that especially during the 16-day push, we didn’t eat for 2 or 3 days. One time we got surrounded by the Chinese and The North Koreans and they had to do air drops to us ammo and food. We had to fight the Chinese and the Koreans for the sea rations and the ammunition. They were using a lot of the same guns we were. Because they would over run an area and confiscate the guns that were left behind. So, a lot of the time they were after the same ammo that we were after when they did the air drops. This one time they did this big air drop to us and we after that had to fight our way out of there. I can’t remember where that was at, there was too much going on to remember in my mind.

Interviewer- Without eating for two or three days?

Brown- Oh yes.

Where you able to move or run.

Oh yes, sometimes we had a package of crackers you know the old round steel cracker that they had. Or we had a can of hamburger patties. We got by.

Where did you sleep and it was during the summer so it must have been hot?

Well we were there for four seasons we were there for winter summer fall and spring

When you had 16 day push it was summer right

Most of the time

And where did you sleep

On the ground not on a sleeping bag

You did not have a sleeping bag

Sometimes yes sometimes no

Then you just sleep in the field

(Nod)Slept on the ground

No mosquitos?

No not in the mountains, nothin I recall. It was very hard sometimes, but you were so tired after sometimes you climbed all day or walked all day. Walk 5 or 6 miles a day then dump our full field pack and start fighting. Nighttime come we had no sleeping bag we didn’t have anything.

You didn’t have blanket either.

They had the rock army that was attached to us that carried our things to us after we paused

So you didn’t even have a tent

Oh no never Only had, no never had a tent.

Horrible isn’t it

Oh yeah. We slept in fox holes old bunkers and so forth.

Do you have PTSD

Yes, I do I’ve sort of learned to control it over the years. I belong to a PTSD group that goes to automorphy twice a month. Standing In Bed fighting and yelling you know, standing up on the bed fighting and yelling

You Know you are Doing that?

No, The first time I ever feared for was after I moved to San Antonio in 1980 with an insurance company that sent me down here to open up and office. The thing that got me over my PTSD the most is my wife and religion.

What is your religion?

Well, I was baptized in a Methodist church when I was younger I sang in the youth choir and all that then I left that church when we moved. When I first started my own business, I started going to a Luthor church and I was also baptized in the Luthor Church. That is a must for the Luthor church no matter if you were baptized before. Then when I moved to San Antonio I met my wife she was a Presbyterian. So I started going to that church. I was always aware that I had god in my life. When I was in Korea I prayed a lot. During trying times, we had many of those, it kind of hard.

You don’t want to share Its ok.

With the help of my wife and my religion I became attached to a PTSD groups. In San Antonio

Why were you in Korea?

Oh, I wanted to be there. That was our goal to be there and fight for our country. And the people in Korea, after I got there and saw what they were like. I got up in the front lines and forgot about it but later on It came back, it always comes back. My first vision of Puson was the people were so poor and had nothing. And now, I have not been back to Korea since then but what I read and what I see its become quite a country.

What do you know about Korea now?

I know they have a lot of industry now that they never had. The last time I was over there and went through Seoul Korea there wasn’t a house standing, now it’s a thriving Metropolis. I never got back to Puson, we got flown out to Japan when I got rotated. So never got to see if it changed any. But I was decorated in Korea, there was six of us, this wasn’t publicly known, but we were across the river when General McCarthy went across, he wanted to continue the battle. There was six of us that got decorated on the north side of the allow river. He decorated six of us on the bank of the river

Did you get any medal?



A Bronze Star

Bronze Star?


Did you write a letter back to your family?

As many as I could. Maybe once a month.

What was the content?

Just what we were doing. I think the legacy has become more like us. They are proper, living good, their economy is great. I feel real honored to have been a part of that.

Would you want to go back to Korea?

I’d love to, I almost did but I can’t afford it.

Do you have anything against the North Koreans or Chinese?

I used to, but not anymore. Part of the PTSD is you have dreams about people you killed. You had to you were forced to kill them. You dream did their family ever get to see them after that. What happened to their family you know that’s part of PTSD. That’s a big part of it. Even though you were doing your job it bothered you. That’s a big part of having PTSD, your are thinking about the things that you did. The harm that you might have caused to their family. That still bothers me but not as much as It used to.

America continues to have battles with other countries and what is your message to the generation about the war?

My feeling is that the engagements we are in right now is kind of negative. We have no business in Afghanistan. That’s my theory I might be wrong. My feeling is that we don’t need to be there. We are doing good there.


R. Brown

Rights: KWVA veterans and KWLF

R. Brown

R. Brown

Rights : KWVA Veterans and KWLF

R. Brown

R. Brown

Rights : KWVA Veterans and KWLF

R. Brown

R. Brown

Rights : KWVA Veterans and KWLF

R. Brown

R. Brown

Rights : KWVA Veterans and KWLF

R. Brown

R. Brown

Rights : KWVA Veterans and KWLF

R. Brown

R. Brown

Rights : KWVA Veterans and KWLF

R. Brown

R. Brown

Rights : KWVA Veterans and KWLF

R. Brown

R. Brown

Rights : KWVA Veterans and KWLF

R. Brown

R. Brown

Rights : KWVA Veterans and KWLF

R. Brown

R. Brown

Rights : KWVA Veterans and KWLF

R. Brown