Korean War Legacy Project

Stanley Fujii


Stanley Fujii grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii, and pursued a degree in criminology at University of California, Berkeley, before being enlisted to to fight in the Korean War in 1951. Early in his testimony he describes his coming of age during the Great Depression. His experiences entertaining wounded soldiers on the American homefront during the Korean War helped to connect him with the life of a soldier before receiving his enlistment letter after his second year of college.  His testimony reflects on how he arrived at the warfront, the excitement of mail call, and a touching story of how he assisted a fellow soldier to communicate with family.  Additionally, his reflections include descriptions of his experiences of holding a man down who loses his mind on night patrol, being a witness of the effects of napalm on the Chinese, and his overwhelming emotion of coming home after the war.

Video Clips

Enlistment, Station, and Promotion: Arrival at Incheon

Stanley Fujii describes arriving in Korea, his station, and military promotion. He describes his training for infantry, reflections on war preparation, and his arrival to Incheon during a storm that resulted in many men getting motion sickness. His testimony includes climbing the mountain to reach his station where he would feed ammunition to machine guns to keep the mountain secure.

Tags: Incheon,Yellow Sea,Basic training

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Night Patrol, the Enemy, and Explosions

Stanley Fujii describes the emotional experience of a fellow soldier who lost his mind during a night patrol. His description also includes going to take a mountain with a company of 160 men. The endeavor to take the mountain began with encountering explosions in the flatland, ultimately causing retreat. He describes his encounter with land mines, enemy flares, mortars, machine guns, and tanks.

Tags: Fear,Front lines,Weapons

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Glorious Mail Call

Stanley Fujii describes the emotional experience of mail call for soldiers, and the camaraderie that came along with getting communication from loved ones on the homefront. His heartwarming testimony reflects on his writing letters for a fellow soldier from Minnesota who was illiterate. His friend from Minnesota later died in a bombardment.

Tags: Chinese,Food,Front lines,Home front,Letters,Living conditions,Personal Loss,Rest and Relaxation (R&R)

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Running from Napalm

Stanley Fujii describes the experience of seeing the bodies of young soldiers in Chinese uniforms who were burned from Napalm. His testimony describes being on patrol to look for another location to move his company to and noticing a lot of dead bodies. The bodies were burned to a crisp and the faces were very young. He saw maggots crawling from the flesh and buzzards coming down to eat the flesh.

Tags: Chinese,Fear,Front lines,Weapons

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Fight the Aggressors!

Stanley Fujii describes the big picture of why he was deployed to fight in the Korean War. He knew he was there to fight against communist aggressors to free Korea. His testimony includes his discussion on why he was thankful to have a role in helping Korea to be free. His description includes reflections on two Korea's, one he saw from the frontlines, and modern Korea he was able to return to see in 2010.

Tags: Communists,Impressions of Korea,Modern Korea,Physical destruction,Pride,South Koreans

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Video Transcript


S: Stanley. S T A N L E Y. Middle name, Susumu, S U S U M U. Last name, Fujii, F U J I I.

I: So you have two I’s at the end of..

S: Yes, I’m the two-I Fujii (LAUGHS)

I: (LAUGHS) Two I Fujii. So that’s a Japanese name, right?

S: Yes.

I: Mm hm. When were you born?

S: December 15, 1930.

I: And where were you born?

S: Honolulu, Hawaii.

I: Right here


S: Right.

I: Tell me about your family, when you were growing up.

S: My parents uh, uh, were hard-working tailors during the years of the depression, and we lived in the slums of Honolulu, in the ghettos. Uh, they worked in the front of the building where there was a tailor shop and we live in the back, with a kitchen and a loft which is our bedroom on the second floor.


S: And uh, at that time it was myself and two sisters, and from there, I started to go to school.

I: So when did you graduate high school?

S: In 1948.

I: What high school?

S: Farrington. Farrington High School.

I: Could you spell it?

S: F A R R I N G T O N. In Honolulu.


I: So those are the days of Great Depression, very difficult to live, right?

S: Yes.

I: Must’ve been very difficult for all the families?

S: Yes. In fact during early years as a youth, I sold newspapers on the streets of Honolulu to help my parents with income.

I: Uh huh. So what happened to you after the graduation of high school?


S: I uh, began my college career. I went to California. While I was going to school, the Korean War broke out.

I: You said you, your family were really not rich, and how did you get the tuition?

S: Well, the tuition is uh, later on, is paid for by the government.

I: Oh.

S: But early on, I was on my own.


S: The first two years, before I went into the army. I worked part-time to pay myself uh, college degree, uh college tuition, food, and rent and so forth.

I: So what was the college name?

S: I uh, I graduated from the University of California in Berkley.

I: Wow!

S: Yeah, with a degree in Criminology.

I: Criminology.

S: Criminology.

I: When?

S: That was in 1958.


I: 1958?

S: Yes.

I: But…

S: I graduated from high school in 1948, and I graduated from college in 1958. So there’s a span of 10 years.

I: So you are the UC Berkley graduate.

S: Yessir.

I: Wow.

S: Yes.

I: But in between, what happened to you?

S: In between, you mean after my college?


S: Ok, um, before I talk about after my college, while I was in college during my sophomore year, the Korean War broke out.

I: Uh huh.

S: So, I was a sophomore at that time, and, and uh, the newspapers and the media were covering the Korean War, as much as they can. And, those that were seriously wounded were being sent back to the United States for medical treatment.

I: Right.


S: I belonged to a fraternity in college that entertained these Korean War veterans. I played the ukelele and one of the girls sang, I mean, danced a hula. In my group was a magician, a harmonica player, uh, dancers, and we went to the hospital twice a month, and it was


S: real heartwarming to see the Korean War veterans in the hospital crippled. And I felt sorry for them because they were about my age. And so we did our best to entertain them. So, when I finished my second year of college, I came back to Hawaii for a vacation, summer vacation, and during that period of time, I received a notice from the war department.


S: That I was inducted into the Army. It did not surprise me, I was kind of expecting it, because all my friends in college had already been notified

I: Yeah.

S: of their commitment. So, in October, of 1951, I entered the infantry training school at Scofield barracks in Honolulu. Outside of Honolulu.

I: So you was enlist?

S: I was an enlisted man.


I: And then what happened?

S: Yeah, I trained as an infantryman for 16 weeks and being a college student, I was, my stamina was not a strong but when I finished my infantry training, I was strong as an ox, you know.  I really felt that I was ready to go to war. And so, um, I was sent to Korea in January of 1952.


S: I remember on the ship going to Korea from Japan in the Yellow Sea we ran into a big storm. I mean, that storm was so furious, the waves were so big, and I thought at one point the ship was going to topple over. Everyone was holding on the rail vomiting and so forth. I felt very nauseous too and so when the storm passed and we saw the land, we were very happy to see land.



S: When we landed, the ship anchored and we rode a launch..

I: Where did you land, Incheon?

S: Incheon. And when we landed in Incheon, the first thing I did was kiss the ground!


S: (LAUGHS) That’s my first step in Korea was kissing the ground. I felt so good to be on solid ground again after being on the rolling ship. From there, I was trucked to my assigned unit. There were various people on the trucks


S: being dropped off at different places where they were assigned to.

I: What was your unit?

S: My unit was uh, the 3rd infantry division, 7th regiment, 2nd battalion, charlie company. By the time I was dropped off by the truck, it was almost, uh, the sun had already set. But I can see the tall mountains and the valleys.


S: And so, after getting off the truck, we were, the three of us were met by a American soldier who walked out and..

I: Where was it?

S: In uh, somewhere in the uh Chorwon Valley.

I: Chorwon Valley.

S: Chorwon Valley.

I: Yep.

S: Yeah. And so we were met by an American soldier who came down to escort us to the top of the mountain, and we were carrying our duffel


S: bag and our food pack and our rifles and ammunition. It was a tough climb going up the steep mountain. About halfway through the mountain, the whistling sound of an artillery came in an exploded nearby. And everybody fell to the ground, hugged the ground, and I can hear the shrapnels whizzing by. I said thank goodness I wasn’t hit by any of those shrapnels because I


S: haven’t fired a shot yet. And so, after the artillery bombing stopped, then we continued our climb. And when we reached the top, we went into a trench. And so the trench led to a bunker which was to be my outpost. I was an assistant machine gunner, and my job was to bring ammunition and feed the ammunition to the machine gunner in the bunker. And he’s firing all the time downhill


S: towards the enemy, and uh, I my job is to make sure he does not run out of ammunition. Gradually over a period of time, I was promoted. So within a space of nine months, I went into Korea as a PFC, and in nine months I became a Sergeant First Class.

I: Wow.

S: And so, uh, about a month before I left Korea, I was offered another


S: promotion to become an officer.

I: Mm hm.

S: A Battlefield Commission. Uh, that required me to go to Fort Benning, Georgia for officer training school and then after I graduated, then I would be obligated to remain in the Army for an S: extended period of time and then return to Korea. Well that interfered with my plans to continue my college. So I declined that commission and uh,


S: came back home. And uh, the homecoming was on a LSD one of these flat-bottom boats. Three boats loaded with soldiers from Hawaii. We were disappointed that we couldn’t fly home, but they didn’t have any airplanes available during that time, so we took the slow boat. Uh slow boat, took about 10 days to Hawaii, but it gave me


S: enough time to reflect back on what I did in Korea, and my experiences in Korea, and uh, my leadership in Korea. And um, when we neared the Hawaiian waters and I could see the landscape of the Honolulu….. uh, diamondhead and, it was a very emotional moment, seeing the homeland again.


S: Many people thought when they left that they would never see the homeland again. Me included. Then when we neared the pier, where the ships docked, oh I could hear the screaming and yelling and everyone’s waving and then there’s a Hawaiian band playing and there’s hula girls dancing. And uh, I saw my parents and my brothers and sister. At that moment, the tears rushed down like a broken dam.


S: I couldn’t control my crying.

I: Did you know anything about Korea before you left Korea?

S: No. I knew nothing about Korea. All I knew about Korea was that it was a country in the far east, uh, close to Japan. In fact my uh, my father was a tailor, and uh, he used to make clothes and then sometime after World War II, I remember a Korean man who came into the tailor shop


S: to order a suit because he was planning to go to visit his relatives in Korea. Well little did I know at that time that I would be going to Korea as a soldier sometime in the future.

I: Did you know anything about Japan? Your home country, mother country?

S: No, only what uh, my parent told me, but I never been to Japan before…

I: Mm hm.

S: … on my own to visit.


I: So tell me about the typical duty of your service at Chorwon valley, what did you do?

S: Well besides starting out as a ammunition carrier and feeding the machine, uh, machine gunner, uh, going on patrols at night.

I: At night?

S: Yeah, at night.

I: That’s very scary.

S: It’s very scary, in fact, I don’t mind seeing the enemy during the daytime. You can see the enemy, you can shoot them, but when


S: you cannot see them, it’s very very scary.

I: Yeah.

S: I get terrified sometimes.

I: Internal fear comes out.

S: Yes, yes. In fact, some people become so fearful that they lost their minds. They go insane momentarily. One of the soldiers in our company began to yell and talk nonsensical words,and he was flailing his arms here and there, and there were four or five of us who corralled him,


S: and then someone brought a straightjacket and tied him up, and then they took him to the hospital. I was so sorry to see that type of experience.

I: Any, any skirmish or battle that you engaged with in your experience?

S: One of the battles that stood in mind was uh, we’re going on a patrol at night again to take one of the mountains in no man’s land.


S: So it was a whole company, about 160 men. Uh, we’re very slowly walking to a flatland, and then all of a sudden, BOOM, this big explosion. Somebody had stepped on a landmine. So we did not know that we were walking in a landmine until that moment. So, then the enemy began to shoot their flares, throw their mortars, machine guns, and you could see the red flares coming through.


S: And so, we couldn’t move forward so we all had to backtrack, step by step slowly so that we avoid any landmines. Um, fortunately, many of us did survive and went back to an encampment and laid down and began to fire back. At that time our tanks, we had two tanks that supported us, began to fire the cannons,


S: and then we began to retreat back to our position.

I: Mm.

S: I thought that my life would end right there in that minefield, which used to be a rice paddy.

I: Did you write back to your family?

S: Uh, yes. I’m glad you mentioned that because mailcall is one of the most glorious moments that, of a GI in Korea. There’s really,


S: no news from home is real terrible. So whenever the mailman comes, everyone rushes to him and calls his name and everyone rushes to get their mail. Some people receive packages, food packages, and we share whatever food that we receive. That’s a wonderful moment, we shared a camaraderie. Uh, the sad thing about a mailcall is that


S: I knew a soldier in my platoon who did not go to mailcall, and I asked him why. He said because he did not know how to write.

I: Oh.

S: And no one would write to him because he did not know how to read. So, he told me that he was from a small town in Minnesota, in the farmlands, and he had to work most of his life instead of going to school. And so I told him that,I would be glad to write


S:  for you if you’ll dictate for me. And so we sat down and he dictated a wonderful story to me and I wrote it down to his mother. Dear mother, you know, I am alive, do not worry about me. I am having my friend Stanley Fujii writing this letter for you and on and on and on. And he’s, he’s saying that it’s cold during the wintertime here, but not as cold as Minnesota



S: during the winter months. You know, and that type of talk. It was very heartwarming to listen to him, and so uh, we sent that letter off to his mother, and then three weeks later a letter came back and it was to him, and he rushed to me saying look I got a letter! Can you read it for me? So yes I opened it up and it was from his mother. First of all the first sentence was, I want to thank you very much Stanley Fujii


S: for taking the time to write a letter for my son and reading the letters from him. And very very heartwarming, and I knew that he was from a very closely-knit family to do that. That continued for a while. And another, the saddest moment of my life was when, uh, one of the bombardments that came into our trenched landed near his trench and he died. So, I uh, I felt heartbroken


S: and, and I had to write to his mother you know, and it was a most difficult task, it was a difficult letter that I had to write. It was not an official letter that uh, the army would eventually send notifying her of the death of her son. Mine was more of an informative you know, where it happened, how it happened, what time of day it happened, so forth.


S: And, what kind of a soldier he was.

I: Wow, what a story, huh?

S: Yeah, what a story. Yeah, another experience that I’d like to relate at this time is uh, while we’re on patrol, it was during the daytime this time, looking for uh, another place to move our company too. And we’re walking down the, the slope of a mountain and into another mountain and then I noticed a, a lot of dead bodies.


S:The napalm bombs for the United States planes had, bingo, bombed them, and then burned to the crisp. They were blackened and uniforms were burned out. And there I noticed their faces were very young, they were about 14, 15, 16, years old and they wore Chinese uniforms that you could see. But the saddest moment at that time was me seeing maggots crawling out


S: from their flesh, and then buzzards circling about in order to come down and eat the meat. I said oh my goodness. I thought about how their parents would react to something like this. And I don’t think they ever knew, know, how their sons died in a war in napalm. And I could see the frightened faces of these children, I call them, as they were running away from the napalm.


S: And uh, it was a sad moment.

I: Mm hm.

S: I’ll never forget that.

I: Do you keep any of your letter that you wrote to your family?

S: Uh, I, uh, I sent it, all my letters to my mother and she kept it, but I have not read what she kept. I don’t think she kept it forever because I haven’t seen it and she’s already passed away.


I: Uh huh.

S: I should have asked for the letter because it brings back some, some good memories as well as the bad moments.

I: Did you had the chance to take any pictures, do you have some memorabilia with you?

S: Oh yes, I took some pictures. As a matter of fact, the story that I wrote about the Korean war to Korean school children has some photographs in it of me taken in Korea.


S: I sent it to the email in um, Korea Times in Honolulu and they’re publishing my story in different segments and then little by little, my pictures are here and here and there, so.

I: So, whatever you have, just scan everything and send it to me, so that I can publish in the Web with your interview.

S: Oh, ok.

I: Ok?

S: Ok, will do.

I: Yeah.


I: And let me ask this question, did you know what you were doing there in Korea?

S: Absolutely! I..

I: What..

S: Yeah, I was, I knew I was there to fight the communist invaders from North Korea.

I: Um hmm.

S: And that, from the moment the war started when I was in college, I knew that if I went to Korea, my job was to fight the aggressors and to free South Korea if possible.


S: That was my objective. And so, I felt good going to Korea and doing my job. And I feel very thankful that the Korean government extends their heartfelt thanks to Korean War Veterans by re-inviting them to Korea to revisit, to see the transformation of Korea from the time that they saw Korea during the war. And uh, my image of Korea during the war is just war-torn.


S: Buildings were down, burning, smoke here and there. The streets were pock-marked, uh, holes in the streets. During my revisit in 2010, the, it was a new Korea that I saw. Completely new. The roads were smooth, buildings were up, trains were running, subways and uh, people were happy. Uh, it made me happy knowing that I did my part


S: to make them happy. And with that thought in mind, I wrote my Korean War story to the Korean school children so that they would never forget the experiences of all Korean War veterans, and mine is just one of the many thousands.

I: When did you leave Korea?


S: I left Korea.

I: What were you, yeah, when did you leave?

S: I left Korea in uh, late January 1953.

I: Um, what were you thinking when you left?

S: Well, first of all, I was happy I was going home because..

I: In one piece.

S: In one piece because I wanted to,


S:  to, uh, live like a human being again. Living in a mountains for one, for a year, eating sea rations, occasionally walking all the way down and eating hot food and coming all the way up and not bathing for a long time. In fact, they used to come around once a week with, pressed a DDT powder into our clothing, inside our clothing, to kill the lice and


S: insects in our bodies. That made us feel good,


S: but still, we needed a bath. So, once in a while, we walked down to the Imjin River, took all our clothes off, and jumped in there, that was a glorious moment, felt really outstanding taking a bath. And then all of sudden, I’m seeing a dead body floating by. It’s an enemy soldier in uniform. Said wow! There’s fighting going on uphill, upstream,


S: and here we are downstream with a dead body floating by. I look, I stared at it until it went around the corner and disappeared. So, but taking a bath was a wonderful..

I: So you were happy when you were leaving.

S: Yes I was, I was very happy, uh.

I: What were you thinking about the future, do you, had you ever thought that there is a future for Korea at the time, what was your thinking?

S: Well, uh, my, I was hoping that the future of


S: Korea would be something like the future of Japan after World War 2 when it was devastated. I was hoping that Korea will build up to that level and to my astonishment they did, and fairly rapidly too.

I: What is Korea to you personally? You didn’t know much about Korea, and when you left Korea, you didn’t really think that the Korea would come out like this.


S: No.

I: What is Korea to you personally?

S: Korea to me is a country that is thriving, it’s a democracy. Uh, and again I’m repeating myself but it’s a democracy in which I helped to build and save the country from Communism. You know, I uh, after coming back from Korea and uh, getting out of the army and Honolulu,


S: I met with some of my friends, some veterans, and we talked about what we did in Korea and so forth and so on. And uh, what I didn’t know was that, in my mind, the war was still raging on because, and I would wake up nightmares, flares, machine guns, dead bodies, everything, the smell. I could sense it all, and the Korean war was going on in my mind. I kept worrying, gee, is it ever going to stop.


S: And then gradually over a period of time, it faded away, and I was able to sleep peacefully. From that moment on, I began to study a little bit about Korea whenever I can. Uh, I have Korean friends, I have uh, I love to watch Korean drama.

I: What do you like?

S: Oh, Fabulous Neighbor is what I’m watching now


S: and uh, Horse Doctor, I like, I enjoy those programs.

I: How can we keep the legacy of Korean War veterans?

S: Well you can keep the legacy of Korean War veterans by doing, continue to do what you are doing now. And people like myself writing their story about the Korean War experience and then having it publicized and distributed. That should continue, and the grandchildren


S: should pick up on it. And then their children should pick up on it. So it’s a perennial cycle, continues, continues. I hope it continues forever.

I: Yeah

S: But, inside Korea, the children are learning about the Korean War. In fact I wrote, I read a book called Heroes, My Heroes and there’s excerpts from various grade school children writing what they felt about the Korean War.


S: And it really warmed my heart and disturbed my emotions reading that, so they haven’t forgotten the Korean War, they haven’t forgotten us, and I hope that continues.

I: Who were your enemy when you were in Churon Valley, was it North Korean or Chinese or both of them?

S: I would say both of them, yeah. When uh, during the Christmas of 1952, uh, no between ‘51 and ‘52,


S: and that was, you know, Christmas of 1952, I was on a trench line on the top of the mountain and uh, artillery shell came over you heard the whistle, and then bang when it exploded, and everyone’s diving for cover. Instead of shrapnels, the leaflets were coming down. And I picked up a leaflet and read it, it’s from the Chinese people’s volunteers.


S: The leaflet is captured in the story that I sent you today. Uh, the front and back.

I: Yeah, what should we do dealing with the North Korean Regime right now, North Korea, what should we do?

S: Well, that’s a very good question, what should we do? Uh, certainly we should maintain our stand and, to make sure they do not invade Korea again.


S: And how do we do that? By telling North Korea that we are strong. Not like back in 1950 when you ran over us, we are not that type of people today, so we want to tell you, be very very careful whenever you make an intrusion toward South Korea, because we are going to attack, and attack, and attack.

I: And… would you go back to Korea if there is another war breaking out?


S: Well, I thought about that


S: yeah, ‘cause I’m, I’ll be 85 years old. If they can use me somehow, yes, I’ll do my part.

I: Stan I really appreciate your help to arrange a series of interviews for my foundation, and I want to thank you for your fight because without your sacrifice and honorable service there is no Korea. We all know that.

S: You’re welcome. I’m glad to have been a part of the Korean War

(End of Recorded Materials)


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!-Front

Merry Christmas to the soldiers, from the Chinese People's Volunteers! During Christmas of 1952, Stanley Fujii found this leaflet in Korea after an artillery explosion that was launched while he was in a trench line on top of a mountain. The artillery shell exploded with the leaflets. They were sent from the Chinese People's Volunteers. He was relieved to know it was only leaflets!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!-Front

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!-Back

Merry Christmas to the soldiers, from the Chinese People's Volunteers! During Christmas of 1952, Stanley Fujii found this leaflet in Korea after an artillery explosion that was launched while he was in a trench line on top of a mountain. The artillery shell exploded with the leaflets. They were sent from the Chinese People's Volunteers. He was relieved to know it was only leaflets!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!-Back