Korean War Legacy Project

Roy Aldridge

Bio

Roy Aldridge was born September 10, 1934, in Ardmore, Oklahoma. In 1949, he joined the Oklahoma National Guard at the age of 16.  He and his two cousins forged their parent’s signatures and entered basic training on June 25, 1950, at Ft. Hood, Texas when the Korean War started. He was a part of the 147th Regiment Combat Team, 11th airborne and was a prisoner of war.  He was a (POW) prisoner of war during the Korean War.

Clips

We Broke Their Will

Roy Aldridge describes how he crossed the 38th parallel into North Korea. He shares how the North Koreans shed their uniforms, put on civilian clothing, and fled. He shares how there wasn't much resistance. He explains how the North Koreans had killed all of the prisoners of war and where they put them.

Tags: 1950 Pusan Perimeter, 8/4-9/18,1950 Inchon Landing, 9/15-9/19,Busan,Incheon,Seoul,Fear,Front lines,North Koreans,POW,Weapons

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSjrdt6YBVQ&start=660&end=819

"An Angel Sitting on My Shoulder"

Roy Aldridge describes their unit being the first airborne unit that was completely self-contained. He explains how they had artillery, trucks, jeeps, ammunition, and medics. He describes the dates and movements of his Batallion. He describes the extremely cold temperatures ranging between 40-50 degrees below zero, and how they were attacked by the Chinese.

Tags: Seoul,Chinese,Cold winters,Fear,Front lines,Weapons

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSjrdt6YBVQ&start=823&end=1116

Prisoner of War

Roy Aldridge describes his first interrogation with the North Koreans and the Chinese. He explains his experience as a prisoner of war starting April 13, 1953. He explains that many soldiers died in the North Korean prisoner of war camp. He identifies his camp as Pak's Palace.

Tags: Pyungyang,Chinese,Fear,Food,Living conditions,North Koreans,POW

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSjrdt6YBVQ&start=1680&end=2121

Video Transcript

[Beginning of recorded material]

R:        I am Master Sergeant Roy Aldridge.  I was born in Ardmore, Oklahoma September the 10th, 1934.  In, uh, 1949 my two cousins and I joined the, uh, Oklahoma National Guard, uh.  We both, uh, forged our parents

0:00:30

signatures on the papers, and at that time everybody knew who we were in town cause it was such a small town, and they didn’t care, uh.

I:          So you were 15.

R:        Uh,

I:          16?

R:        16.

I:          16.

R:        Yeah.

I:          [LAUGHS]  So you have to be 17 to join, right.

R:        Yes, uh huh, with your parents’ permission.  And, uh, there was no wars going on and, and, uh,

0:01:00

we were all, all farm boys.  We were all raised on a farm and raised by, my, primarily, by my grandparents and, uh, we were like brothers.  I had no other, uh, siblings.

I:          Um.

R:        And uh, so we just saw it as a lark.  We’d join the, the Army and

make some extra money. Well,

I:          You were able to join the National Guard but at the same time you only serving there for weekend or so, right, so that

R:        Just weekend

I:          Right.

0:01:30

Weekend drills.

I:          so you could work on your farm, too, right?

R:        Yeah.  Uh huh. And, uh

I:          That’s wonderful, isn’t it?

R:        Oh yeah.  It was nice.  It was extra, extra pocket change.

I:          Right.

R:        And, uh, we, uh,

I:          Why not?

R:        Why not?  So, uh, in June, June the 25th, 1950, we were on our way to summer camp from Ardmore, Oklahoma, to

0:02:00

Fort Hood, Texas.

I:          Summer camp of what?

R:        National Guard.

I:          Oh.

R:       Summer, we’d been activated for our two weeks’ summer camp duty.

I:          Um hm.

R:        So we get into, uh, a town in Texas just across the border called Lewisville, and, uh, we were stopped by, uh, the Texas Highway Patrol and a young Army officer who said that the North Koreans had invaded

0:02:30

South Korea, and we were getting ready to be activated. [Abrupt start] So I went ahead and I volunteered for the, uh, the paratroopers, and they sent me to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and that’s where I took my training, National training.  And they were already for, already had a Regiment formed there called the 187thRegimental Combat Team Airborne.

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We were part of the 11thAirborne.

I:          Um hm.

R:        And then they loaded us on a ship in, uh, August of 1950, and we went down through the canal and on into, Panama Canal,

I:          Panama Canal.

R:        and, uh, went into, uh, the main unit and went into Japan, into Sapporo, Japan on Hokkaido Island and our unit

0:03:30

went to Pusan. [Abrupt start]  Well, in September we came out September the 10th, my birthday, uh.  We, we pulled out of, uh, the perimeter and boarded some ships, and we went around on up towards, uh, Inchon along the, and, uh, we went on up in what they called a Kimpo,

0:04:00

uh, Peninsula and, uh, we made the landing there, or the, the 3rdbattalion made the landing there along with the   5th, uh, GHQ Radar Battalion.

I:          You talking about Inchon Landing?

R:        I’m talking about the Inchon Landing, but we went up further north to what they called the

I:          Kimpo.

R:        Kimpo Peninsula.

I:          When was that?

R:        That was, uh,

I:          September 15th?

R:        September 15th, 1950

I:          So Inchon, then Kimpo

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Peninsula at the same time?

R:        Yeah, um hm.

I:          At the same time.

R:        Same time.

I:          Okay.

R:        And then they rendezvoused up with the Marines, and the Marines went on, uh, and us, the Army, captured Kimpo Airport, Air Base, and we set up, our units set up a temporary headquarters there, and the rest of the, uh, 187 Regimental Combat Team came in.

0:05:00

In the meantime, the 8thArmy was coming up from the south, and we were sort of boxing off the North Korean Army.

I:          Was there any severe resistance when you landed at

R:        Oh, yes.

I:          Kimpo?

R:        Yeah.

I:          But I heard that there were not much resistance in Inchon.

R:        Well, there was, uh, well, we ran into our severe resistance, uh, oh, I guess about six hours into the invasion as we moved on inland.

I:          Please describe me

0:05:30

more detail about the landing situation?  When was it? It was in the

R:        It was in, was in the dark.

I:          Yeah.

R:        And, where at Inchon, they had to put the Marines in because of the tides.  We were further up north and, uh, the Marines had already occupied, I can’t remember the name of the island there at Inchon.  We were getting ready for, to go on in.  Well, we came in on the higher tide, and went in with the, at, into the, uh,

0:06:00

Kimpo Peninsula

I:          [INAUDIBLE]

R:        We were in land about six hours.

I:          Oh, okay.

R:        Then the North Korean we ran into, uh, severe, heavy resistance.

I:          Uh huh.

R:        It took us, uh, two days to capture Kimpo Air Base.

I:          Wow, two days.

R:        Yeah.

I:          Give me more detail about how you, uh, engaged and what kind of battle there.

R:        It was just, uh, we bring in a lot of fire, uh, and, you know,

0:06:30

we were getting help from the Navy, and it was just walking and, and flat overrunning the enemy. Then we’d fall back and, and, uh, we had a little hand to hand, nothing too, uh,

I:          Um hm.

R:        say.  But, uh, you know, we, we just kept advancing.

I:          You were scared?

R:        Yes.

I:          Um.

R:        Terrified.

I:          Terrified.

R:       Anybody who’s been in combat said they weren’t scared, they’re liars.

I:          They’re liars, right?

R:        I’ll, I’ll

0:07:00

I:          And that was the major battle, the first major battle that you engaged, right?

R:        No.  Uh, my first major battle was up on the, uh, in the Pusan Perimeter.

I:          Pusan Perimeter.

R:        Yeah.

I:          How long you were there at Pusan?

R:        We were at Pusan from I like to say 28, 29, 31, somewhere in there of August through September the 10th.  Then we pulled out and went around for the invasion.

I:          I read a history book that it was really, really intensive and desperate situation.

R:        Yes.  We had our backs to the water

I:          Um.

R:        had our backs to the sea.

0:07:30

It was, it was Dunkirk, those that remember World War II.  It was at Dunkirk.  How we, if we hadn’t held the lines at, at Pusan, there would be no South Korea today. None.

I:          Right.

R:        We were outnumbered something like 20 to 1, and we were building up.  But Pusan, as I’ve said many times, that’s where we drew the line in the sand and says

0:08:00

no, you’re not coming any further.

I:          Um hm.

R:        And we held the enemy and defeated him.

I:          And you never heard about Korea before, right?

R:        Never heard of Korea before.

I:          How did you feel about risking your own life, life in a country where you never heard about before?

R:        The, uh, I’m an Oklahoma farm boy, uh, born and raised Oklahoma, raised on a farm, small farming town

0:08:30

and, uh, very, if a neighbor was in a, in trouble and even if we didn’t know t hem, we went and helped.  And that’s how I look at it is we had a friend in trouble, and we went to help.

I:          Right?

R:        We had, we set up our headquarters there, um. The 187thcame in.  The whole, but the whole unit came in.

0:09:00

R:        MacArthur, General MacArthur wanted us to do an air drop. We did a couple of practice drops on the Hahn River after Seoul was captured, and he wanted us to do a drop up north to cut off the North Korean retreat and to liberate a, uh, large contingent to prisoners of war.

I:          Um hm.

0:09:30

R:        On D-Day they were supposed to go.  There was such intense fog

I:          D-Day of

R:        Of, uh, October, October the 19thwas when we were supposed to go.  There was such fog, the aircraft could not take off.  And the fog held up until October the 20th, 21st, and that’s when the aircraft took off, and it was a daylight, daylight drop. First Battalion and Third Battalion, 1stBattalion dropped at Suez, Sukon, and the, uh, the 3rdBattalion, my battalion, we dropped at Su, uh, Su, uh, Suncheonto Sukon.  There we go. I’ll get it right, and we

I:          Oh, so 3rdBattalion landed what, airdrop in where?

R:        Su, Sukon.  Second Bat

I:          Sukon?

R:        Sukon and, uh, I

0:10:00

can show you on the maps.

R:        Yeah.

0:10:30

My Korean is not that good.  You can tell it’s been quite a while, and, there was two drops, Sukon and Suncheon,

I:          Um hm.

R:        I’m sorry.  We dropped at Suncheon.

I:          Suncheon.

R:        First Battalion dropped at Sukon

I:          Um hm.

R:        and, uh, we were to hold and, uh, and that’s, this was north of Pyongyang.

I:          North of Pyongyang.  Yes.

R:        North of Pyongyang.  And, uh,

0:11:00

so the American troops had already come across the 38th, and we were supposed to rendezvous with the, the, the Australians [Abrupt start], and the North Koreans, when we broke their will, that was just, they just shed their uniforms,

I:          Um hm.

R:        put on the civilian clothes and, and bayoneted to the hills, and we just, we always had a fairly clean, uh,

0:11:30

uh, shot going north not, not that much resistance.  We got into the, a, but, there was still a lot of the regular Army, regular North Korean Army who were the professional that, uh, were holding the ground.  We had, uh, we had Australians, Turks and Greeks in our sector.  [Abrupt start] We found the prisoners of war in the train tunnels,

I:          Um hm.

0:12:00

R:        and they were all dead.

I:          Oh.  So killed by the North Koreans?

R:        Yes.  And they were all dead.  They were all dead.  And we heard that night a lot of noise, and we thought, we thought it was the Australians coming up towards us.  Well, it turned out to be a full

0:12:30

Regiment of, uh, North Korean professionals, so we got in a little fire fight that, uh, we came out pretty good.  We came out good.  We, we, uh, were still, a bunch of us are still here to talk about it.  And then we got relieved, uh, the comical things, uh. When the North Koreans, we stopped them when we started in the daylight,

I:          Um hm.

0:13:00

R:        and we st, we called for air support, and we had one company move ahead of the panels, and the Australians, came, aircraft came in, and, and sort of strengthened the fuse, so we got on the radio and says hey, hey, hey.  This is us, and I never will forget this.  This one pilot says your bloody apes don’t move past your panels. [LAUGHS]

I:          [LAUGHS]

R:        And they pulled them back.  Yeah, but we were lucky.  We, we did

0:13:30

exactly what we were supposed to do.  We cut the, cut the retreat off.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get there in time for the, the prisoners.  We rendezvoused.  Now we were a special unit.  We were a special Airborne unit, the F78.  We were the first Airborne unit that was completely self-contained.  Second Battalion came in the following day, and with them they brought in air drops,

0:14:00

artillery, trucks, jeeps and

I:          C-rations.

R:        C, oh yes, C-rations and ammunition.

I:          So you got everything.

R:        We had every, we were completely self-contained.  So when we turned from a holding position, we turned 180 degrees to an attack position, and we were fully self-contained.  We had our own medics, we had our own artillery, we had our own vehicles,

0:14:30

and we were fully mecha, and this is all delivered by air, the first time it had ever been done in warfare.

I:          Um hm.

R:        Uh, so we got our orders, and we turned north, alright?  So now, the end of November, it’s about November the 5th, and so we turned north.  We had two battalions go up the east,

0:15:00

and my battalion, they put us with the 7thInfantry Division, and the other two battalions were sent up with the 2ndInfantry Division.  Well, the 7thInfantry Division along with the 1stMarines, went up towards the North to Chosin.  [Abrupt start] It was so cold, and I’ve told people this and people look at me like I’m crazy, we had to put our canteens underneath our armpits

0:15:30

to keep the water from freezing.  Wounded,the plasma would freeze in the lines.  We had to keep our hands around the lines to help the wood and to keep the plasma flowing.  The medics, you know, we didn’t have plastic bags now like they have now. Had the bottles in their crotch. They wore crotch kits and wrapped extra blankets around to keep the plasma from freezing.  We were experiencing, I never figured out exactly. I’ve heard so many temperatures.

0:16:00

Uh, now these are actual temperatures.   They’re not chill factors.  We didn’t know a chill factor back then.

I:          [LAUGHS]

R:        We were experiencing 40 -50 below zero.  Some people had 60 below zero.

I:          Fahrenheit.

R:        Fahrenheit.

I:          Yeah.

R:        That was the actual temperature, not chill factor. Plus, we had the wind on top of it, so probably

I:          60

R:        we were seeing 100 – 110 degrees below zero if, you know, with a chill factor.

I:          Whoa.

R:        It was, it was just brutal, and

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uh, I still don’t have hair on my feet and my hands, back of my hands and, and, and stuff, uh. I got patches all over my body that were frozen, and there’s no hair.  And, uh, anyway, it was about 4:00 in the morning

I:          Oh?

0:17:00

R:        on the 25thof, uh, November.  I never heard such screaming and noise and bells and, and sirens and bugles

I:          Bugles.

R:        and drums, cymbals, and then the artillery started, and here comes a mass of humanity.  I mean, a mass of humanity.

I:          Did you see in your eye?

R:        I saw it.

I:          How close was it?

0:17:30

R:        Well, I guess when they first, when they broke past the, on, coming down on top of us, uh, the first ones we saw about less than, uh, three blocks away, and time we got rallied enough to get ready, and they weren’t, the first person I shot wasn’t any farther than you.

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I mean, they were just coming, and these guys didn’t have weapons.  They didn’t have guns.  These were called, as we call it, enhance their pawns, alright.  You can sacrifice them, and they just came down.  Some of them had guns but not all of them, and they were taking our weapons.  They were, it, it just, we just, people just threw down their weapons and ran.  I mean, you couldn’t stop them.  And, uh,

I:          It’s a miracle that you survived.

0:18:30

R:        And,

I:          Right?

R:        I think it was.  I, I believe deeply in God.  I had a angel sitting on my shoulder.  That’s the, that’s exactly how I feel. We had, I had this Master Sergeant Withers holler at me.  He says Aldridge, grab your men and follow me.  Well, I grabbed what I had which wasn’t many left.  Out of 120 men, there wasn’t that.

0:19:00

There was only about 35 –  40 of us left, and we followed Withers, and we were headed out down to where we knew where the Marines might have been.  We were pulling back, and we had our weapons, but a lot of the soldiers were caught in their sleeping bags.  We were going home for Christmas.  We were getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner.

0:19:30

I:          They were sleeping.

R:        And we had our, RD sleeping bags.  I was just, unfortunately I wasn’t, I was on duty that night.  And they were caught in their sleeping bags and killed in their sleeping bags.  They couldn’t get out.  At that time, it was the old style sleeping bag that you had to reach up and unzip.  Later they came out with a break away zipper where you could do it like that, and the zipper would break open.

I:          Um.

R:        And you could get out.

0:20:00

And they were caught in their bags, and then we used them for body bags to help pull them out, some of them.

I:          How many were you there before Chinese attack?

R:        We had a battalion, and there was a little over, uh, 500 troops.

I:          And you just left in to

R:        and we just, we just

I:          forty?

R:        In my company,

0:20:30

there was less than 40 alive, around 45, 30, 40, somewhere in there.  And I grabbed what I could, and we followed the Sergeant, and he got killed right away and, uh, so we, we were pulling out to the south and to the east and the Chinese were coming in between us, and over to the left of us or right of us, and they were just,

0:21:00

and they were behind us.  They were just everywhere.  It’s just like if you went to an ant pile and dug up the ants, that’s exactly what they were. Uh, as the ones that had weapons were killed, the other ones would pick up their weapons [abrupt start] the big break, yeah.  It was the Air Force dropping that bridge because the Chinese had us, had our back to this canyon, I’d say it’s maybe 100’

0:21:30

200’ wide and very deep, and the Chinese were behind us, on the left of us and on the right of us, and here we were with our back, you know, we couldn’t go any further. And, uh, the Air Force dropped that, and the engineers, and

0:22:00

they scratched out a little runway so we could get a lot of the wounded flown out.  They’d loaded the dead in the trucks, and we went across that bridge and just kept on going south and east till we got to Hunyang Harbor.

I:          Hamun, Hamun.

R:        Hamun, okay.

I:          Hamun yes,

R:        And then we saw something I never saw before in my life.

0:22:30

Thousands, hundreds of thousands, it seemed like millions

I:          Refugees.

R:        of refugees, and I was told Aldridge, take your men, and I want you to go up and, uh, hold this one area, and I took my men, there was 20 little, there was 25, 26 of us left, and we went up, up back on up

0:23:00

the riv, oh, we just come down.  But we had the Army guys spread out, Marine guys spread out.  And we set up a road block to stop the Chinese and the North Koreans from coming, and that’s when they loaded all those civilians on the, on the ships.  And there was various stories you hear.  I heard it was 120,000.  I’ve heard it was 110,000, and today they said, uh,

0:23:30

104 or 5,000, uh. And that’s when I got hit in the leg and, uh,

I:          [INAUDIBLE], right?

R:        Yeah.  And I got wounded in the leg just above the knee, right there, and, uh,

I:          More Chinese, right?

R:        Uh, Chinese, yeah.

I:          Right.  And, uh,

0:24:00

I got evacuated out, and that’s when they found out how old I was and, uh, I got discharged from the Army.

I:          When was that, so it’s going to be April?

R:        April.  [Abrupt start] I went to Munitions school, Conventional Muniti, Air, Air Munitions school, and I was trained on a certain type of, uh, bomb fuse,

0:24:30

and then they sent me back to Korea to the 67thTactical Connaissance Wing.

I:          Sixty,

L:         Seventh

I:          Uh huh.

R:        Tactical Reconnaissance Wing,

I:          Um hm.

R:        at Kimpo Air Force Base K14, Korea.

I:          What did you feel when you overheard that you are going to Korea?

R:        Well, I, uh, wasn’t too cause a lot of my class

0:25:00

I:          I bet that.

I:          A lot of the guys were going to Germany and other places.  But I had this special fuse training and, uh, it was designed for a special, a special new type of photo flash bomb which was like a king sized flashbulb.  It would generate something a little over four million candlelight power for just less than, uh, half a second.

0:25:30

But, they wanted it to go off cause at night photography, and they’re flying reconnaissance missions and they wanted to go off at a certain altitude so they’d get bigger spread.  Well, the bombs were going off too low or too high and, uh, and they were electronically set. So they asked me, being I was specially trained on them,

0:26:00

to do a, a, fly this mission.  And it was supposed to be what we called a milk run, little or no resistance.  I said sure.  So I put on my parachute and got in this airplane

I:          How many were in the airplane?

R:        There was four

I:          Like you?

R:        of us.

I:          Just four of you?

R:        Yeah, um hm.

I:          Wow.

R:        Yeah.

I:          So two pilots?

R:        And the guys in the backseat that had the electronics

I:          And you?

R:        Actually there was five

0:26:30

They had about a bomb sight, bombardier.

I:          So you are the only one who were older to experiment this, um,

R:        Yeah.  Uh, I, uh, yeah

I:          special fuse

R:        I was, I was the only one trained, specially trained for it.  The rest of the class hadn’t come, you know.  And, uh, so we went on this, uh, what they call a milk run with little or no opposition supposedly.

0:27:00

Well, I hate to see a, cause I swear to you you could get out and walk on that stuff at night. It just flash flash, flash, flash, flash, and all of a sudden the airplane just, just, boom, just shuddered, and the pilot immediately hit the bail out switch, uh, the, it’s a, it’s a bell, and I had a parachute on the whole time because I didn’t, wasn’t,

0:27:30

and, uh, I was a passenger, and I opened up and I kick the hatch out of the Bombay doors, and I dropped out.  I think I tumbled

I:          How ‘bout others?

R:        When I opened my chute, when I tumbled, just, as I opened my chute, I saw the aircraft disintegrate.

I:          So rest of them died in the air?

R:        I was the only one survivor.

I:          Only survivor.

0:28:00

R:        I was the only survivor.  And everybody’s asked me how high were we?  All I can say is when my chute opened, I swung about three times and hit the ground in a rice paddy.  You had Korean brown earth and, uh, before I could get my chute completely off, I was, they had me.

I:          Do you remember the day, date?

R:        Yeah.  April the 13th.

0:28:30

I:          April the 13th.

R:        I don’t know if it was a Friday or not

I:          [LAUGHS]  Perfect.

R:        you know, and, uh,

I:          So that’s, uh, 1953 April the 13th.

R:        Yes, Uh huh.  And they blindfolded me, they hit me two or three times and, uh, kept saying chungee, chungee, and I kept saying look, look, you know, you know?

0:29:00

It’s like all of a sudden, it’s really hard to visualize, my entire life squeezed down to the size of a pinhead.  [Abrupt start]  North Korean soldiers, North Korean soldier captured me.  My first interrogation was Chinese and North Korean, and the Chinese took me somewhere and then turned me over to the complete North Koreans.  Now, of all the prisoner of war camps,

0:29:30

the Chinese took them over from the North Koreans because in one week we lost over 1,600 prisoners of war at a camp that were run by, uh, North Koreans, and the Chinese were a little more humanistic than the North Koreans and they took over the camps, so the treatments eased off a little bit.

0:30:00

I was transferred into a camp or what’s officially called, it was a holding area.  If you look at the maps with all the prisoner of war camps, called Pak’s Palace, P-A-K’-S Palace, P-A-L-A-C-E.  It was just outside of Pyongyang, North Korea. I was put in a small cell,

0:30:30

and I was given some gruel-type soup.  Looked like a barley or something, oat, oats and rice or something and a small piece of bread to eat

I:          You said you one meal at, a day, right?

R:        One meal a day.

I:          There was no light.

R:        There were no lights or anything.  I mean, it was, wasn’t total darkness.  There was, you could see a little light like through the curtains or something like that, you know.

0:31:00

But, uh, you could see through the cracks of the cell.

I:          But it was, uh, building, right, not tent or something else.

R:        No, this was a hard building.

I:          Hard building.  Yes.

R:        It was a hard building. They took me out of that and took me into a marbled hall, very elegant hall.  And there was three Koreans sitting up on this bench, and they were dressed

0:31:30

in, uh, what I call Navy Korean dress.

I:          Hm.

R:        Very elegant, and they were all speaking Korean, North Korean, I don’t know if there’s a difference between two languages and I still don’t.  And, uh, the one Korean officer sitting by me, uh.  He was asking my name and I told him my name,

0:32:00

and I said I’m Airman Second Cla, or Airman First Class Roy E. Aldridge, AF19453530, and he asked me did you drop bombs, and I said, unfortunately I said yes cause that’s, they knew, and, uh,

I:          Was there translator?

R:        He was my translator.

I:          Um.  And was he good enough?

0:32:30

R:        I guess, uh.  Anyway, they read a, a, stood up and read my name.  I understood my name, and when it was all over with, uh, my translator told me I was a war criminal and I’d just been convicted for crimes against humanity for biological and chemical warfare against the People’s Republic of North Korea, and

0:33:00

I was sentenced to die.

I:          Um.

R:        And they tied my hands behind my back, walked me down the hall, and then they untied my hands and said now, this is the interpreter.  Had another North Korean officer, and they hit me two or three times, and, uh, he says if

0:33:30

you sign these papers where you confessed to doing crimes against humanity, you will receive life in prison.  You will not die.  Well, stubborn I guess, I don’t know.  I would not disgrace my country,

0:34:00

and I wouldn’t, not disgrace my family, and I told him to go to hell.  No.  And they hit me two or three more times and asked me to sign, I said no.  Then they tied my hands behind my back, took me outside the compound, and I dug a hole.

0:34:30

A shallow grave. And they tied my hands behind my back again, pushed me down on my knees, put a blindfold on me, and I felt the gun muzzle at the back of my head, and it went click, and they got me up,

0:35:00

and I urinated all over myself and, and, and, and then defecated in my pants, and they took me back to my cell.  Six times they did that to me.

I:          Six times?

R:        Six times.

I:          They repeated six times of that?

R:        Yes.  And there was 20, 30 of us, I can’t remember, I have no idea as to how many were in there.

0:35:30

I:          But you said that only Air Force, right?

R:        Only Air Force.  It was South African Air Force, Australian Air Force, British Air Force, U.S. Air Force, prisoners there, and then one day they came in and, time means nothing now.

0:36:00

I have no idea what day it is or anything.  They came in, and they gave us clean clothes.  We did get three ounces of rice once a week and, uh, plus the gruel.  I used to save my bread, you know.  They gave me a small piece of bread, and I saved my bread, you know.  And, uh, that’s what kept me going.

0:36:30

But, I weighed 185 pounds, I weigh 205 pounds now.  I weighed 80, 185 pounds when we were shot down.  I weighed 110 pounds when I was repatriated.  And so with the bread, I guess, and stuff, I sustained myself. And, uh,

0:37:00

they came in, and, and uh, loaded us into trucks, cleaned us up, shaved, cut hair.  We had one man that refused to shave or cut hair.

I:          Why?

R:        Just stubborn.  And I didn’t know him.  I’d seen him. We called him the Mountain Man cause that’s what he looked like.  He had a beard, long hair hanging down.  He looked like a, you know,

0:37:30

what you think is a mountain man.  And then we went, fell in the trucks, once again hands tied behind under your legs, blindfolded, head pushed down, and we took a ride for about, I don’t know, I guess an hour, maybe longer, I have no idea.  I just more or less passed out and, uh, and they untied us and everything

0:38:00

and told us to get out of the trucks, and we looked off, and I saw the prettiest sight in the world.

I:          When was it?

R:        September 4, 1953, six days before

0:38:30

my 19thbirthday.  And I saw the American flag, and I saw the U.N. flag and I saw the South Korean flag.

I:          Where was that?  Was it Panmunjom?

R:        Panmunjom.  That’s the bridge of no return.

I:          Um.

R:        And we were taken off the trucks, [KOREAN PHRASE] and we formed up,

0:39:00

my group anyway, 16 of us, and we walked across that bridge.  And we walked across that bridge there was a Marine standing there, shiny helmet, real sharp creases in his fatigues, Sergeant, big moustache.  I threw my arms around him and I kissed him.

0:39:30

He says welcome home, son.  I think we were taken on up to the processing tents, and they wanted to know who it was, I reported to him, I says Airman First Class Roy E. Aldridge, AF19453530. He’s going through his list, and he says I don’t have you on my list.  Where’d you come from?

0:40:00

And I said, well I’m here.  I’m me. Who are you?  I’m me.  It sounds silly that I said that, but that’s what I said.  Well, we weren’t all prisoners of war.  We were never reported by the Geneva Convention.  We were war criminals, sentenced to death, so the United States or none of the other countries

I:          Wow

R:        had any records that we were incarcerated.

I:          So there is a difference between

0:40:30

war criminal and prisoner of war.

R:        and prisoner of war.  Prisoner of war has rights under the

I:          Geneva convention.

R:        War criminals has no rights whatsoever.  [Abrupt start ]  You’re an experiment, and we went to school at Livermore, and we studied nuclear physics, electronics, chemistry, biological effects of nuclear weapons.

0:41:00

Then they transferred us to, uh, Albuquerque, New Mexico at Sandia Scientific Laboratories on Kirkland Air Force Base.  And we were given training on how to build and assemble atomic bombs and hydrogen bombs. [Abrupt start] All the enlisted men that I knew, I didn’t get a chance to talk to off, I talked to some officers, but at one time during high school, and

0:41:30

a lot of them had college which I didn’t have, studied chemistry, biology, higher mathematics, and physics at one time during high school.

I:          You didn’t.

R:        I did.

I:          You did?

R:        I studied, but I was

I:          But that’s a high school, you know.  High school chemistry and high school physics, what do they teach?  Nothing.

0:42:00

R:        Nothing.  But we had the capability that we could, could, what they thought we might absorb. Of all the scientists in the Manhattan Project, the only person against it was Edward Teller.  He did not want the military to touch any of the weapons. [Abrupt start]  I went to, uh, Great Falls, Montana and, uh, Malmstrom Air Force Base and, uh,

0:42:30

uh, we were just starting what we call a generate and, uh, Cuban Missile Crisis started, and my team, and I was a team chief.  We assembled the first nuclear weapon, took it out and put it on the first Minuteman missile, and counted

0:43:00

it down T minus 10 seconds.  [Abrupt start]  I was a non-commissioned officer in charge of the Armed Forces School of Nuclear Weapons, and I retired, my orders read 1 February, 1973.  [Abrupt start] If they, if it happens, if they ask me again, I’d go back in a heartbeat.  I have no regrets going to Korea.  I’ve seen what, what we did.  We went back to Korea

0:43:30

in 2006, and when, when there was only a pontoon bridge and part of a rail bridge across the Han River, I see all these modern bridges.  I see a modern metropolitan city of millions of people instead of a pile of rubble.  Yeongdeungpo was just a trash heap.  You’ll see pictures of it.  And, and, uh, I know what I did was good.  They’ll never take that away from me.

0:44:00

And, uh, as far as the nuclear weapons go, my object in nu, in nuclear weapons was Krushev and the war planners in Russia says hey, we can’t go to war today, chief, because Sergeant Aldridge’s crew’s on duty.  And when I retired from the Air Force, I had no marginal civilian skill. Who wants a bomb builder in civilian life?  So I went to school

0:44:30

for nuclear medicine technology, using radioactive tracers to look at different diseases and, uh, I did that for 35 years.  And re-retired four years ago, five years ago.  Completely.  I’ve dedicated my life to supporting the veterans of, of my country and other countries. I, I

0:45:00

have no regrets going into the United States military.  I have no regrets going to Korea.  I have no regrets going to Vietnam cause what I did in Vietnam, what we did in Vietnam was good if we were allowed to do our job.  When I go back to Korea, I’m very humbled for what the Korean government and the Korean people do

0:45:30

for me.  I, I find it hard to accept their generous, generosity because I went from picking cotton, from a defender to a liberator, and you just can’t, people just can’t understand it.

I:          If there is a petition from our side

0:46:00

not to talk about whether North Koreans will sign or so, not, but just for symbolic reason to say that we want to wrap this war.  We want a closure on it, and let’s replace the Armistice with a peace treaty, and let’s move on that direction.

R:        Yes.

I:          Would you be willing to sign that petition?

R:        That’s one piece of paper I’d be willing to sign. [Abrupt start] Yeah, I, I feel very strongly that the countries should be unified,

0:46:30

and that’s what we tried to do until the Chinese intervened.  And, uh, we had, you know, and that was the whole thing of the United Nations was when they had, a let, told us to go north, it was to unify and make one Korea.  And I still think it should be one Korea, one flag.

 

[End of Recorded Material]