Korean War Legacy Project

Thomas J Dailey


Thomas J. Dailey grew up during the Great Depression and enlisted in the Army in 1948. He earned the rank of Corporal as a gunnery instructor in California and was sent to Korea with the 1st Marine Division, participating in Incheon Landing. He recalls his arrival in Korea and time spent at the Chosin Reservoir where he collected injured and frozen soldiers and placed them on the back of armored tanks. He comments on Korea’s progress since the war and shares his pride for having served there. He conveys that he still has many dark memories from that time, but he elaborates on the kindness Koreans have shown him over the years.

Video Clips

Chosin Reservoir Recollections

Thomas Dailey recalls his arrival in Korea and time spent at the Chosin Reservoir. He describes collecting injured and frozen soldiers and placing them on the back of armored tanks due to the lack of space inside the tanks. He remembers one occasion where he was forced to pull his pistol on a soldier who kept attempting to get inside the tank due to thinking it was warmer.

Tags: 1950 Inchon Landing, 9/15-9/19,1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir, 11/27-12/13,Incheon,Jangjin,Cold winters,Fear,Front lines,Living conditions,Weapons

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Modern Korea

Thomas Dailey comments on Korea's progress since the war. He shares his pride for having served there but conveys that he still has many dark memories from that time. He elaborates on the kindness Koreans have shown him over the years.

Tags: Fear,Home front,Impressions of Korea,Modern Korea,Pride,South Koreans

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Video Transcript


TD:      My name is Thomas J Dailey. T-H-O-M-A-S, J for Joseph, D-A-I-L-E-Y.

I:          Where were you born?

TD:      In Blueville, Connecticut.

I:          Blueville?

TD:      Blueville, Connecticut.

I:          Could you spell it?

TD:      B-l-u-e-v-i-l-l-e.  Blueville.

I:          What is your birthday?

TD:      August 3, 1928.   That’s yesterday my birthday.

I:          You born a year before the Great Depression.


TD:      Yeah I grew up in a Depression.

I:          How was it?  Tell me.

TD:      Terrible.  You know, no meat, no sugar, no bacon, no butter, no tires, nah no work excess, run around like a kid, cannot have a car because you cannot get gas. Only people who are working on defense could get gas, and they had a black stamp, a green stamp and a red stamp

I:         Aha.

TD:      in your windshield,


A, B or C, and depending what you, where you worked.  If you had a government job, course you had the one that was 10 gallons. If you were just a resident, maybe you have the small one

with three gallons, and if you wore your tires out, woohoo, the only person who could get it is people who had a government job or a defense job.  Yes, he could get tires for his car, you know. But everybody else, if you wore your tires out like you wore your shoes, it


was very hard to get them in the war, you know.

I:          So how was your family then?  What were your, did your parents work for


TD:      No.  I am an orphan.  When I was three and a half years old my parents

died.  I had signed for the draft.

I:          When was it?

TD:      The draft.  I signed for the draft.

I:          When?

TD:      I guess I was 17 or 18.


TD:      I signed.  Somewhere around there I signed for the draft, but I was in the draft, but I was

using another address of another friend of mine on Magill Street.  I used their address when I registered for the draft board.  He says what, ‘‘tell you what we’re going to do.  You’re eligible for draft and we can take you under the draft.  But if we take you under the draft, you’re going to

go where you, where we want to put you, not where you want to go.  Okay.  We’re going to give you 48 hours to


get in the service”.  I said fine.  So I went, went and joined the Marines, went down and joined, you know, I want to be a Marine, you know?  So I go down and fill out the paper for the

Marine Corps.

I:          When?  When was it, 1949 or 50?

TD:      48 or 49,  I’m not sure.

I:          Not,  It was before the Korean War?

TD:      Oh, before the Korean War, oh yeah.  It could be 48 or 49, between in there somewhere.

I:         Okay.

TD:      So anyway they me my physical right there, the Marines do, give me my



Dona, and when I get my clothes all back on, like, oh, I’ll tell you, he picks up a red pencil and a ruler and it goes like this Shh, draws a red line right through my name.  I said what’s that? I’m already a sergeant?   He said no.  He said the Marine Corps wants a few good men. I ain’t smart enough to go in the Coast Guard or the Air Force.  I don’t even think about those two.  I go back to the Army and I said the Marines won’t take me, you know, and I didn’t


go anywhere else.  I said you know what?  I’d say you know where I’d like to go?  I says how about Airborne?  I’d like to be a paratrooper.

I:          Okay.

TD:      Whoa.  He said.   We can arrange that  he says, but there’s only one thing wrong.  He

says you how much you weigh?   I says 115.  Can’t go.  You’re not heavy enough.  We drop you down at Benning and pick you up in Miami Beach, you know.  You fly away.  You don’t weigh enough. Uh oh.  You see, you’ve got to go Army.



I don’t want to go Infantry.   They said okay.  You don’t want to go Infantry, add one more year to your draft and you can ,we’ll send you, you won’t be Infantry.  I said fine.  I said okay, where you going to put me?  He said we’re going to put you in the armored tanks.  He says boy they’re tough.  They punch each other out.  I said wow, tough outfit?  Yeah, and tough work, too, and dangerous, you know?  I said oh that’s for me pal. Sign me up.


So that’s how I went in armor.  So now I went to Camp Pickett.   From Pickett, I went to

California, and I was a gunnery instructor.  I was a Corporal.  I was a gunnery instructor

in California.  Bingo, the Korean War starts.  Next thing you know I’m RA. RA.  I’m going to Korea come whatever, you know, cuz I’m RA.   So now they send me to Korea.  I get to Korea, I get to Japan


and they hand me an M1.  An M1, I don’t even which end the bullets come out of this thing. I never seen one.  I always carried a pistol.  Now I got an M1.  What am I going to do with this, you know?   So you’ll figure it out when you get there.  So okay.  Off to, off to, we went [INAUDIBLE]

I:          When did you go to Korea?

TD:      The end of 1949 or the beginning of 50, you know,


I:          Before the war broke out?

TD:      No, after the war started.  So not, it was in ’50 when I went to Korea.

I:          Right.

TD:      Because the war had already started when I went to Korea.

I:          What month did you arrive in Korea?

TD:      Around, Let me see it was around late August, August or September.

I:          Really?

TD:      Yeah.

I:          So it was very early thing

TD:      Yeah, right, right in the beginning of the War, you know.  I came in with the 1st Marine Division.

I:          Ah.

TD:      Right in the beginning.


TD:      To, I was in the 7th Infantry Division and we came in there with the Marine Corps.  Now

MacArthur  seeing that we came in with the Marines, what does he do?   He takes two regiments from the 7th division and puts them up on the Chosin Reservoir, okay, the 31st and the 32nd Infantry Regiment, they put us up in the reservoir.

I:          Right.

TD:      Wow.  He’s a warmonger, and he wants to start World War III.


I:          Yeah.

TD:      and Truman sees this.  So Truman brings him home and dethrones him, ok?

I:          Before, did you, where did you land in Korea?

TD:      I guess it was Inchon.

I:          Were you in the Inchon landing?

TD:      Yeah, Inchon landing.

I:          Operation?

TD:      Yeah, with the 1st Marine Division, yeah.

I:          So that was September then?

TD:      All September.  Well I’d say, I think I went over there in September or whatever.

I:          So, you went back and, and carried the

TD:      Yeah.


I:          injured

TD:      Yeah, wounded and frozen guys, whatever, and I put them on the back of

the tank and put a canvas over them because that’s where the motor is and all the

heat’s under there, and one guy insisted on getting in the tank with me, and I had to pull my pistol out I told him get back on the deck, on the back deck or I’m going to plug you.  You

cannot get in this tank. There’s five of us in here now, and if I have to turn the turret or do something I can’t because I had extra guy in there, I can’t turn the turret.


I:          That was American soldier?

TD:      Yeah, yeah, [INAUDIBLE]

I:          And then?

TD:      I told him to get back underneath the canvas because there’s no heat in here. It’s 10 degrees colder in the tank than it is outside. So you get back under the cover.  That’s where it’s nice and warm, and I’m going back to When my wife was living, I used to go to reunions for the

Chosin few all over the place, wherever they had their, I used to go to all kinds of reunions, and I was looking for the two guys that killed two Chinese and saved


my life that day.  I’ve gone to reunions and put things on the board.  I’ve never found those two guys.

I:          Do you know where is going to be the reunion of Chosin few this year?

TD:      No, I don’t go no more, no.  Ever since I lost my wife, I don’t go no more reunions. I don’t go to the 32nd.  I don’t go to the 7th Division, I don’t go the Chosin few.

I:          Do you know about Korean economy now?

TD:      Yes, I’ve seen pictures of, of Korea.

I:          What do you think about that?

TD:      Beautiful.  What a country.


What a beautiful country.  I can’t believe it. The way I seen it when I first got there, you know,

and to see it today or see it, I haven’t been there but I’ve seen pictures of it, and guys, my friends have brought pictures home and videos, and I’ve been to Korean functions where they showed what Korea looks like today on a screen, you know.  Wow.

I:          Aren’t you proud of that?  Aren’t you proud of your service there?

fight for Korean people.

TD:      Pardon?


I:          Aren’t you proud of that?

TD:      Yeah, I’m proud.  I’m proud that I want to help people in Korea.  I sure am.

I:           You should go back to Korea and see and meet with the people who will thank you.

TD:      I know.  Well, they thanked me enough here.  They

I:          I want you to go back.

TD:      No I’m not.

I:          I want you to go back, really.

TD:      I don’t think I’d want to go back now.  I don’t think I can face that again, you know.

I:          But the things that you will see is going to be beautiful


came out of your sacrifice and hardship.  Don’t you want to see it?

TD:      No, I don’t want to go back there.  I got too many bad memories there, you know?

I:          Because you fought for us, now Korea is 10 biggest economy in the world .

TD:      I know.  It’s great.  But you people are nice to me here, you know.


You’ve been nice to me in Washington, New York, Boston you know, wherever, and

you pin medals on me and whatever and pins and dinners and you name it.  You

people have been very, very kind to me.  One thing I’ve noticed about Korean children

that they here in the United States, you will never see their name or picture in the paper at all. They are very respectful here in this country, you know,


and I have never seen a Korean that stepped out of line in this country, and I’m 88 years old, you know, and they’re very, very nice children, are very polite, you know, and so on.  So are the  Korean people, and they’re very nice to me, all right,  and then there’s no other country in the world is nice to veterans than Korea.  I’ve never seen anybody be kind to Americans but, you

people, you people are, you know


You are to me.

I:          The battle that you were in Inchon landing Ch’ongchon Battle, and Heartbreak Ridge and Porkchop Hill

TD:      I’ve been up and down the peninsula

I:          Yeah

TD:      In the tank, you’re very, well.

they want you here, there, you know.   They need heavy support, well, that’s where we’d go.


[End of Recorded Material]