Korean War Legacy Project

Thomas Parkinson

Bio

Thomas Parkinson was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1933.  He attended school until he was thirteen years old and by fourteen he went to work because his dad was away fighting during WWII.  After being sent to the Korean War in 1952, he landed in Incheon and saw the devastation across the city.  Buildings and bridges were in rubble, but luckily, Thomas Parkinson was able to revisit Korea four times starting in 2000 to see the positive impact of the United Nations troops.  During his time fighting as a machine gunner from 1952-1953 with the Australian Army, he fought the North Koreans and Chinese from the Jamestown Line (Seoul) and Kansas Line (Panmunjeom).   Thomas Parkinson will always be proud of the work that he did to free South Korea from communist rule.

 

 

Video Clips

Prior Knowledge About Korea During WWII

Thomas Parkinson was raised by his mom most of the time because his father fought in WWII. When Thomas Parkinson turned eighteen years old he volunteered for the Australian Army. Before he left to join the Korean War, Thomas Parkinson only knew about Korea's location because his uncle was a prisoner of war (POW) in Japan during WWII and he wanted to see on a map where his uncle was being held.

Tags: North Koreans,POW,Prior knowledge of Korea

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptQLnt4k0lg&start=45&end=177

Korea: Unbelievable Differences Between 1952 to 2000

Thomas Parkinson saw unbelievable differences between the time he was stationed in Korea in 1952 to 2000 during his first revisit. He went back four times since 2000 and the advancements in buildings, technology, and bridges was astounding. The changes from the Korean cardboard houses to the multi-stored houses was a visible difference described by Thomas Parkinson.

Tags: Incheon,Civilians,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Modern Korea,Physical destruction,Poverty,Pride,Prior knowledge of Korea,South Koreans,Women

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptQLnt4k0lg&start=276&end=568

Volunteering, Training, and Entering the Korean War

Thomas Parkinson tried to volunteer for the Korean War when he was seventeen years old, but he was too young and had to wait until April 1951. All the Australians volunteered to join the military and a draft was not needed. Thomas Parkinson was trained in Puckapunyal, Australia for three months and then he was shipped away to Korea on March 3, 1952.

Tags: Incheon,Basic training,Civilians,Cold winters,Communists,Fear,Home front,Living conditions,Pride,Weapons

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptQLnt4k0lg&start=734&end=1093

Fighting and Living in Korea From 1952-1953

Thomas Parkinson fought from the Kansas Line and the Jamestown Line while in Korea from 1952-1953. While fighting and living in Korea, he ate American C-Rations, slept in the trenches, and wrote letters home to his mom along with pen pals from England.

Tags: Panmunjeom,Seoul,Chinese,Civilians,Communists,Fear,Food,Front lines,Home front,Letters,Living conditions,North Koreans,Personal Loss,Physical destruction,Poverty,Pride,South Koreans,Weapons,Women

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptQLnt4k0lg&start=1094&end=1517

The Korean War Yielded the Most Difficult and Rewarding Moments

Thomas Parkinson's most difficult time was when a Jeep landed on his legs while there was a lot of petrol and napalm spilling around him. Even though this was such a scary time, he'll never forget the Indian regiment that helped him recover in a field ambulance. The most rewarding moment was related to helping the Korean children in and out of Seoul and the surrounding cities.

Tags: Panmunjeom,Seoul,Chinese,Civilians,Cold winters,Depression,Fear,Food,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,North Koreans,Personal Loss,Physical destruction,Poverty,Pride,South Koreans,Weapons,Women

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptQLnt4k0lg&start=1518&end=1775

Video Transcript

[Beginning of recorded material]

T:        My name is Thomas Parkinson.  T H O M A S  P A R K I N S O N.

I:          P A R K I N S O N.  Great.  What is your birthday?

T:        It’s the seventh of the third, 1933.

I:          So March or July?
T:        Uh, March.

I:          March.

T:        Yeah.

I:          So.

T:        The seventh of March, 1933.

I:          Thirty-three.  You are very young.

T:        [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Yeah.

T:        [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Yeah.  Many,

0:00:30

many Korean War veterans are born before Great Depression.  So, some of them.

T:        Well a lot of fellas we had two, they were  Second World War soldiers, also.  And they’d be well in their 90’s by now.

I:          Uh huh.  So where were you born?
T:        Ah, in Melbourne, here,

I:          Melbourne.

T:        Melbourne, yeah.

I:          Ah ha.  And tell me about your family background when you were growing up, you r parents and your siblings.
T:        Well, my, uh, I had

0:01:00

I:          When you were growing up.

T:        Well, my father, he was a first World War [INAUDIBLE] and also when the second World War started in 1939, he joined up also.  And for six years until 1945, he was away at various places and, uh, I think I was 12, and I missed a lot of him because he wasn’t there.

I:          Yeah.

T:        And from, then from 12 years onward, uh,

0:01:30

I was playing football and cricket and what have you and, uh, then when I was 18 I, I joined the Army.  So, that, then I only sort of had five years, uh, you know, then I got to know my father.

I:          Yeah, but what about the school?  What school did you go through?

T:        Well, I went to, uh, what is, what’s known as a State school, uh.  I went to, uh, it was a type of secondary college.   It was mainly primary, though. I left school when I was 13,

0:02:00

at 13 of age.  I was working when I was 14.  That was the way things were in those days.

I:          Ah ha.

T:        It was.

I:          And did you learn anything about Korea at the time from the school?
T:        Not really.  Not from the school but.

I:          Not from the school.

T:        No.  What I knew about  Korea was I had an uncle who was a prisoner of war in Japan during the War.

I:          During the War.

T:        During the War.  And

I:          You mean World War II?

T:        In World War II.

I:          Yes.

T:        And he was a prisoner of war in Japan.

I:          Oh.

T:        And uh,

0:02:30

cause he and I, we used to look up maps and things to see where Japan was, and because we seen Korea was there.

I:          So you didn’t know where Korea was.

T:        Well, I knew where Korea was

I:          You knew because of your uncle.

T:        Yeah, because of my uncle, yeah.

I:          Ah ha.  So you are one of the few

T:        Well, probably

I:          veterans who knew.

T:        Yeah, yeah.

I:          Did you know anything other than location of Korea?  Did you learn

T:        No, no.

I:          Not really.

T:        Never knew anything at all really.

I:          Uh huh.  After you left Korea, have you been back to Korea?

0:03:00

T:        I’ve been back to Korea four times.

I:          Four times?  When?

T:        Yep.

I:          When:

T:        Well, uh, 2000

I:          And?

T:        2008

I:          2008.

T:        Eight, yeah.  2012 and 2017.

I:          2017?

T:        17, yeah.  Not quite two years ago.

I:          Wow.

T:        Yeah.
I:          How come?  How come were you able to go four times?

T:        Well,

0:03:30

I paid my fare the first time.  The second time I. myself and a couple of other members of the Association who were, one of them has now passed on and the other one is, is, uh, in a nursing home.  He’s not here today.

I:          Um.

T:        But he was a Canadian.  And his friend is a Canadian who, who he knew in the Canadian Army.  He organized the trip, I believe, for us.

0:04:00

I:          Wow.

T:        And it was, we were, actually, uh, another guard from the [DEPENDENCE], some women whose husbands had been killed and some, uh, people whose fathers had been killed.  And we, uh, went over and went through all the [INAUDIBLE].  In 2012, I applied, and I got it.  And then  2017 which is five years after which is, you’ve gotta wait  five years

0:04:30

before you can apply to go again, and I was fortunate enough to get that one.

I:          Wow.

T:        So that was four.
I:          Yeah.  So tell me about  the country you saw.  When did you go to Korea in the, during the War, 195o

T:        Fifty-two.

I:          Fifty-two.  And you were Navy?

T:        No, I was Army, not Navy.

I:          Army.

T:        I was in the Army, yeah.
I:          What was your unit?

T:        The First Battalion Royal Australian Regiment.

I:          First Battalion

T:        Royal Australian Regiment.

I:          Uh huh.  AR.
T:        Yep.

0:05:00

I:          Yeah.  So what about your First Battalion and company or any other

T:        Yes, I was, I was in the Support Company

I:          Support Company.

T:        [INAUDIBLE] Company.  I was in the machine gun platoon.

I:          Ah ha.  So did you deal with the machine gun?

T:        I was a machine gunner, yeah.

I:          Ah ha.  And you said that, do you remember the month that you arrived in Korea?

T:        Yes, I’ve got it all here.  But I know when it was.  It was, uh,

0:05:30

it was in March

I:          March.

T:        March, and we’d done a 12-month tour.

I:          And where did you land in Korea?

T:        In Inchon.

I:          Inchon.

T:        Yeah, yeah.  Yeah.  I’ve got another mate out there who you’ll see later.  He was on the same ship with me, that we landed on.

I:          So tell me about Korea you saw in 1952 for the first time in your life.

0:06:00

Be honest.  What was it like?

T:        Terrible.

I:          Tell me details.  Give me the details because your children, your grandchildren want to learn.

T:        Yeah.  Well, it was devastated.  The whole countryside was, well, actually somebody said that to me, they said, uh, whatever trees the Japanese didn’t take during their occupation, were, the trees have all blown down by, uh, the armament that was used,

0:06:30

all the shells and the mortars, and everything was just bare and dry and terrible.  Seoul itself, there was only one bridge over the Han River.  That was one that the engineers had built

I:          Um hm.

T:        and Seoul itself, I think the, the only building I seen that was two stories might  have been the railway station. There was nothing else there.  Everything had been nearly leveled.  And the people, of course, they were, they were living in

0:07:00

whatever they could get to, to build, made out of cardboard and whatever scraps the people could get.  It was absolutely terrible.

I:          Um.  So what about Korea that you saw for the first time in 2000 and 2008 and 2012 and 17?

T:        I was just amazed, just amazed at what had happened and, and what the people had done.  I mean, I’m still amazed because the people in Korea in,

0:07:30

that was 65 years, had done more than we’ve ever done in Australia here.

I:          Um hm.

T:        It’s just amazing what, what they have done.  Everything was, and apart from that, all the trees had grown again, and everything was lovely and green and, uh, colorful.  It was just uh, uh, hardly, it was unbelievable.  That’s about  the words I’ll say.

I:          Unbelievable.

T:        Yeah.  What the people, especially what the people had done like mechanically.  But I think there was about

0:08:00

probably 15 bridges over the Han River, [INAUDIBLE] there are more now.  And, uh,

I:          Yeah, more than 20.

T:        Yeah, that’s right.  I’d also say there was only one [AIRPORT] in the, when we first got there, yeah.

I:          So Tom, please be honest with me.  When  you left, when did you leave Korea, uh, 19

T:        Nineteen fifty-three.

I:          Three.

T:        Yeah.
I:          March, right?
T:        March, 1953, yeah.

I:          Yes.  And when you left, did you ever think that Korea would become like this today?

0:08:30

T:        No way, no.  I never had, I never thought, it was sort of, you had the feeling you know, uh, why are we leaving?  We haven’t done enough yet, you know?  But we’re gonna, we haven’t done enough.  But anyway, I never, ever thought that, you know, I’d see any thing like it.  And I mean, uh, as I say, they’ve done more in that 60 odd years, 65 years, only 66 years than what Australia’s ever done.

0:09:00

[INAUDIBLE] especially the uh, uh, the technical side of things, you know, you know.  They made all these, uh, televisions and things they got and they’re motor in the street and those bullet trains.  They’ve been talking about doing that in Australia ever since I was that high, and it hasn’t been done.  And yet it’s been done in most, most, uh, in Korea.  It’s just amazing.  It’s amazing.

I:          Yeah.  It is.

0:09:30

And, but we don’t teach about it.  There is no description about the Korean War in the World History textbook in America.  How about here?  Do you know?  Do you teach here about the War that you fought for?

T:        Well, not really.

I:          Not really.
T:        I wouldn’t think so because when  my, when my children went, went to high school as we call it or secondary college, they never learned anything about Australian military history which would,

0:10:00

you’d have to couple, uh, military history along with our, uh, our service in Korea.

I:          Um hm.
T:        And they  never learned a thing.  That was

I:          It’s not just about the Korea but overall.

T:        Overall.  They never learned anything at secondary college my children.

I:          So what do you think we have to do to, to change that reality?
T:        Well, we have been talking the, the KVA,

 

0:10:30

we have been trying over the years.  We’ve gone to a lot of schools and we put in books.  There was a lot of books printed about the Korean War, and we’ve been taking them in the schools to put in their library, uh.  I also gave a number of talks at the local schools in my area [INAUDIBLE] uh.  But I’ve been asked along and I told t hem what I could about War and the suffering of the people.  And, uh,

0:11:00

I, I think hopefully it will sink in, you know.

I:          What if we making this interview as a part of curricular resources like a book that I showed you?  Do you think it will work?

T:        Well, I hope so.
I:          When your grand and great grandchildren listen from you and learn from you about the War.  What do you think?
T:        I think they will.  I think they’ll take notice of it.

I:          Uh huh.  Do you have any family member who’s teaching in the school?

T:        No, no.

I:          No?

T:        Never had any, no, nothing like that.

I:          Um hm.
T:        I still have a couple grandchildren

0:11:30

going to school.  And, uh,

I:          Because you are young.

T:        Yeah.  Well when I went over there, I brought them back little presents like, you know, from Korea

I:          Um hm.
T:        and, uh, by now it, you know, when, uh, you,  you’ve probably seen it.  They’ve got this [INAUDIBLE], you can buy in a little frame, and it’s supposedly be wire from the DMZ.

I:          Um hm.
T:        And uh, which I don’t think it is.  I think it’s some enterprising

0:12:00

uh, young Korean [INAUDIBLE] made some money out of this sort of thing.  But uh, I brought  home a number of them.  I had one of them up in [INAUDIBLE].

I:          So tell me about where, when did you, did you volunteer or were you drafted?
T:        I volunteered.
I:          Why did you volunteer?

T:        Well, I, well I, I had a Catholic upbringing.
I:          Uh huh.
T:        And, uh, Communism was always a, uh, a no no

0:12:30

in, in the Catholic religion.  [INAUDIBLE] Communist Atheist.  I had no belief.  And even at that young age, I sort of thought, you know, what, what’s gonna be stopped.  So whatever we do, it’s gonna be stopped.  And I think we have at the moment.

I:          So were there any draft, draft, conscripting?

T:        No, no.

I:          So everybody was volunteer.

T:        Everybody, every Australian soldier that

0:13:00

went to Korea, or Airmen or, uh, soldier they were all volunteers.

I:          All volunteers.

T:        Yes.  It was no, no national servicemen at all.

I:          So you thought that you going to fight for the country you never knew before.

T:        Well, that was alright.  But, uh, then of course there was the theory of the Domino Effect.  If, uh, South Korea fell, it would be next.  And it was, uh, it’s very right because even though we stopped it in Korea, we couldn’t stop it in Viet  Nam.

0:13:30

I:          Um hm.  So when did you volunteer?  Do you remember the month and date?
T:        Yes, it was, uh, I, I joined, I turned 18.  I, I tried to join up when I was 17, and I never got away with it.  And the, the old recruiter, he said I, uh, he realized that, you know, I said I, I’ve lost my birth certificate.

I:          Uh.
T:        Anyway, he told me to come back when I was 18.  So I came back when I was 18 and, uh, I was

0:14:00

18 in March, and I joined up in April.
I:          April

T:        April

I:          of 1951?

T:        Fifty-one, yeah, yeah.
I:          Um hm.  And what kind, where did you get the basic military training?

T:        Uh, about, about 16 miles north of Melbourne here

I:          Yeah.  What is the name of it?

T:        Uh,  Pakapanyo.

I:          Pakapanyo.  Could you spell it?

T:        P-U-C-K-A

I:          C-K-I

T:        A.

I:          Yeah?

T:        P-U-N-A-L

I:          P

0:14:30

T:        U-N-A-L, Puckapanal

I:          So Pucka, Puckapanal.

T:        Uh, Puckapanal.

I:          Puckpanal, yeah.  Very interesting name.  And how long did you get the basic training?

T:        It was three months basic training.
I:          Three months?
T:        Yes, three months.
I:          And everybody same, right?  Everybody same, three months.

T:        Yeah.  It was three months training.

I:          How as the basic training?
T:        Uh, pretty  rugged, pretty hard.  We’d call a place up there and, uh, yeah.

0:15:00

[INAUDIBLE] But still very cold.

I:          Right.  So when did you leave for Korea, from where?

T:        Well after I’d done my three months’ training, I decided to form another battalion to go

I:          Could you show that to your chin?  Yes.

T:        Yeah.

I:          Let me see if I can

T:        I, I decided that there was only the one battalion there with three battalion, 3RAR.  And they decided to form another battalion

0:15:30

to take, to go over, too.

I:          Um.

T:        And I went to a place in New South Wales Ingleburn

I:          Um hm.  And when did you leave for Korea?
T:        Uh, the third March, 1952.

I:          I’m sorry, again.

T:        The third of March

I:          Uh huh.  ’52.

T:        Yes.

I:          From where?

T:        From Sydney.

I:          Sydney.

T:        Sydney yeah, yeah, yeah.

I:          And you took the vessel, right?

0:16:00

T:        We went by ship, the HMA, HMS Devonshire.  That was the name of the ship.

I:          Um.

T:        I had my 19th birthday on the ship.

I:          Yeah, right.  So how was the condition?  Did you have a seasick or any problem, no?

T:        No, not really, no.  I’ve been pretty fortunate that way.

I:          Um.

T:        I’ve never been seasick, yeah, yeah.

I:          Um.  And so you went to [INAUDIBLE] or did you go to Japan?

T:        Japan.

I:          Where?

T:        At Kura.

I:          What?

T:        Kura.

0:16:30

I:          Kura.

T:        Yeah.  K-U-R-A, yeah.

I:          K-U-R-

T:        On the Inland Sea there, yeah.

I:          Kura.

T:        It all depends on what school you went to how you pronounce it.

I:          And what did you do there in Japan?

T:        Well we, we done more training, uh.  There was a, about 40 mile, we were at a place called Quoitaci which is between Kura and Hiroshima.  That was where we came.  But we then went, uh, machine gunners and, uh,

0:17:00

[INAUDIBLE] Support Company, more specialist types.  We went to a place called Haramura which is a battle training school which is the other side of Kura, the other side of Hero.  And, uh, we then, you know, uh, more, more training there before we picked up, you know, our guns and everything from the stores at Hero, and then that’s when we went over to Korea.

I:          Um hm.

T:        We spent a fortnight in Japan we were.

0:17:30

I’m not quite sure, I’ve got it here somewhere, but

I:          Were you afraid to go to the War?  Be honest.  Were you afraid?  Were you impatient?

T:        Oh, everybody, everybody gets, is afraid sometime.

I:          Um.

T:        You’re, you’re afraid.  But you’re not gonna let your mind stay on that.  It’s as simple as that.

I:          Um hm.

T:        And you, you couldn’t, you couldn’t,  you, you were afraid, but you never let it get the better of you.

0:18:00

It’s unfortunately [INAUDIBLE] a number of people that has done, and that was near the end of them.  The way I always thought well I can’t let my mates down by, you know, and that was it.

I:          So when you landed in Inchon, where did you go?

T:        Well, we went up, we had to swim a little bit, uh, up by the Imjin River to a place, uh, it was known as the Kansas Line.  It was the

0:18:30

second line of defense.

I:          Kansas Line, right?

T:        Kansas Line, yeah.  That was the second line of defense.  And we just sort of got ready there, and we went up to, uh, the Jamestown Line, the Jamestown Line met with the, the front line.  And that was in the

I:          Jamestown.

T:        Jamestown, yeah.

I:          So tell me about the front line situation

0:19:00

at the time that you were there.  It was, should be around April 1952, right?

T:        Yeah.

I:          Tell me about it.  How was it?  Was it, were there intensive, uh, battles all the time, or how was the  situation?

T:        Mostly all the time.

I:          All the time.

T:        Yeah.  I have, have a, in this it tells how many shells and how many mortars landed in an area at one time.  Here’s one here.  Uh, 1,959 shells, 2,865, uh, mortars,

0:19:30

unidentified 414, 5,238, and that would be in about a week.

I:          Um.

T:        So it was, it was pretty full on.

I:          So do you have any particular occasion where that you might have lost your life or any dangerous moment that you wanna share with the future children?

T:        Really, really it’s [INAUDIBLE] it could have happened any time.

0:20:00

I mean, you only had to have a shell or a mortar land in the trench.  I mean, everything wasn’t all covered up and even, even some of the strongest offenses they had in the trenches wouldn’t stand, wouldn’t have stood a direct hit from a, a shell or a mortar.  And that was where most of the people got killed or got wounded was in the trenches, was mortar or shells.

I:          So who were the enemy, Chinese or North Koreans?

0:20:30

T:        [INAUDIBLE] North Koreans.  And then mostly Chinese because by then, uh, the, the North, North Korea was in a pretty bad state.  And, uh, you know?  A very bad state.  There was one night there when there was a South Korean unit alongside us.  And the North Koreans, they didn’t attack us.  They attacked the South Koreans, you know?  That was a real battle that one.

0:21:00

It was

I:          Any, anything you remember about the battle you fought?

T:        No, not really except that, well, no, not really.  Nothing stands out.  I, well, I suppose one stood out when your mates got hit and, you know, mates got killed.  But I mean, uh, you were too busy doing something, you know, to think, you know, really concerned about it.  I mean, people say oh, you know, you [INAUDIBLE] pretty well.

0:21:30

Inwardly probably would be.  But I thinking more of how I’m gonna get out of this.  That was my line of thought.  How am I gonna get out of this, and how am I gonna survive this?  And uh

I:          Exactly.  Everybody’s concerned.
T:        Everybody, sure.  That’s what happens.

I:          Yeah.  Where did you sleep?  Were you in the trench, uh, foxhole or were you in the tent or, tell me about the detail?  Tell me about daily routine.  Where do you sleep?  How, what did you eat?

0:22:00

What did you do the rest of the day?

T:        Well, we got mainly three serving rations.  They were American rations.  And, uh, and they held three meals in them.

I:          Three what?
T:        Three meals like, you know, uh, breakfast, dinner and, and, [INAUDIBLE] if you put it that way

I:          Um.
T:        And they had, uh, tins of baked beans and sausages and, uh, there was little satchels of coffee

I:          Was that C ration?  Was that C ration or did, did, did they cook for you a hot meal?

0:22:30

T:        No, no, no.   We had little hexagon stoves that we could heat things up at times.

I:          Um hm.

T:        And in, in the trench, in the, in the hut itself or the foxhole, whatever you wanna call a hoochie, we had steel pipes and [INAUDIBLE] and then heated it  up.  And it just kept it in, in, in the winter

0:23:00

just bearable.

I:          Um.

T:        Uh, cause, you know, you couldn’t wash very much.  So again, we had, you know, what water we had, uh, different when we melted snow to have a, a good, good washing.  Like my mate will tell you outside there now, we went there one time about 20 miles behind the line, an American [INAUDIBLE] that came up.  The first shower we’d had in over six months.

0:23:30

which we enjoyed very much.

I:          You must  have been really stink at the time.

T:        Oh, yeah.  You know, we’d try to but, but then again in the, uh, you know, well you know yourself only too well how the water is, you know, from coming down from the hills.  You could always wash yourself in, keep yourself respectable.

I:          Yeah.

T:        you know, with [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Exactly.  Were you able to write letters back to your family?
T:        Oh, yeah.  I’d write back home a number of times, yeah.
I:          How many times a week?

0:24:00

T:        Uh, more than, at least once a month.

I:          Once a month.
T:        About once a month.
I:          Uh huh.  And did you have a girlfriend at the time?  You were not married, right?

T:        Not yet, yeah.

I:          You were?  No.

T:        Didn’t have a girlfriend, no.

I:          You didn’t.

T:        No.
I:          So whom did you write to?
T:        Uh, well my  mother mainly.  My mother and, uh, some of my mates, uh.  Like you know, we all played football and I got back to them, and they said [INAUDIBLE] of being, you know, on the team, the football team and, and, uh, I got,

0:24:30

got a couple of pen friends, a couple of girls, uh.  And they both lived in England actually.

I:          Um.
T:        Uh, there was a lady came there one time when we were out on rest, and the English Red Cross, and she gave us the names of these, uh, girls.  And so we’d write to them and that was

I:          That’s like a pen pal.

T:        Yeah, it’s a pen friend.

I:          Yeah.
T:        This was a pen friend

I:          Yeah.

T :       Never, never corresponded with them since.  It was just while we were there and it would break the monotony of things like, you know, and

0:25:00

when you got a letter from, you know, uh, England or one was Scottish, one from Scotland.

I:          Wow.  You were international.  So tell me, yeah, go ahead.

T:        Something like that, yes.

I:          So what was the most difficult thing during your service in Korea?  What, if I asked you to pinpoint one thing that really bothers you or really difficult, what was it ?

 

0:25:30

T:        Well, we were, my section, uh, they were going up to, used these flame throwers.  So we had a short two hour lesson on flame throwers, and we were to go up with A Company to attack Hill 227.  We were all in the back of this truck this night, and we were going near the road to the start up point

0:26:00

when a mortar came in and put the road away

I:          Um.

T:        and the truck went into it, toppled over.  Dropped us all out  on the, on the road, you know, in the paddy field. Well, everybody got themselves together, and they looked around and they said where’s Tom?  Well, Tom’s laying out  underneath the truck.  That’s me.

I:          Oh.

T:        So they, luckily it was a paddy field, and the ground was soft.  Otherwise good night, what would have happened?  I had my leg pains

0:26:30

I:          Oh.

T:        and they, the boys dragged me up the top of the hill and I laid there and, uh, somebody said cause mind you there’s purple and there’s Napalm, all spilled.  Somebody said, uh, give us a cigarette, and our Sergeant said I’ll shoot the first man that lights a match.  And that was very frightening cause I couldn’t move.  Anyway, an ambulance came and got me,

0:27:00

and I went back, and the Indians, they  had a field ambulance unit.  That was their contribution to the Korean War.

I:          The American soldier?

T:        No, no, Indian, Indian, Indian.

I:          Oh, India.

T:        India.

I:          Okay, I’m sorry.

T:        The 66th, it was a field ambulance.  And I went back there and, uh, I did wake up after.  When I got  there I, uh, [INAUDIBLE] so I had this pain, uh, right through my, my chest and my back.  And I woke up, uh,

0:27:30

oh, probably, probably needed to sleep in a nice clean sheets and what have you.  Uh, I slept for about 24 hours.  And I woke up, I was  there awake, and then I came out and I went back, back to the unit again.  But  I had to wake up in the, this field ambulance.

I:          Um.

T:        But when Sergeant Ray Stevens said I’ll shoot the first man that lights a match, if somebody had lit a match, we would have all gone up.

I:          What was the most

0:28:00

reward, rewarding moment to you during your service?

T:        Well, probably the small when you, when the  children who were starving, when we’d give them a can of the, of something whatever we could, a bar of chocolate, you know, the way their eyes used to light up when we’d give them something.

I:          Um hm.

T:        That would probably be the most rewarding thing that I can, I can, you know, I think of.  But  you know, you would  think to yourself well look,

0:28:30

you know.  I’ve helped somebody along.

I:          Yeah.  What  did you think about that Korean situation at the time, looking at children and

T:        That was shocking, that.  They way they had to survive and in the cold and that, you know.  I’ve seen little, I’ve seen children’s face when they’re dead, you know.  And, uh, then in Seoul one time I, uh, had to go down with one of the, uh, CO’s of the unit , and t he re was a woman walking around Seoul, and she had a baby on her back,

0:29:00

but the baby was dead.

I:          Oh.
T:        And she wouldn’t give it up.  I wonder what, and I, she had these funny eyes when she come up to us.  And anyway another Korean fellow there, he said the baby on her back is dead.  But she’ll not  give it up.  And that, that was just one of the thousands of instances that would have happened.  It was just unbelievable.

I:          Uh huh.

T:        Just unbelievable, you know?  But, uh, yeah.

0:29:30

It’s, but  I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

I:          So that was so terrible. And now Korea is 11th largest economy in the world.

T:        In the world.
I:          And we still don’t teach about it.  We don’t talk about it.  We forget about  it.

T:        Right .  Now we’ll, last time I, last trip up there to Korea, the last night  we were there, we went out  with these, these young people who the government  gave to look after weapons.

0:30:00
We went out to a nightclub with them and, uh, we all had a good time.  We had, and they, they themselves, you know, when we spoke about up North, they never, it never worried them.

I:          Hm.

T:        Never worried them at all.  Oh yes Ellen, yeah.

I:          Any, so um, what do you think about ?  What is the legacy of your service ?

0:30:30

What is the thing that you are proud of being a Korean War veteran?

T:        Well, that, that the South Korean people are very, they have, they haven’t got a dictator running them, and they’ve got a  good, uh, you know, uh, there’s some good living now, something they never  would have had then.  And it will speak for itself what the Korean people have done.  It speaks for  itself what they have done, what they have become and, uh,

0:31:00

that, that’s what I think really.

I:          Are you proud to be a Korean War veteran?
T:        Oh yeah.  I’m very, very proud actually.

I:          What is Korea to you personally?  You never knew before.  We didn’t  have any relationship before the War.  Now Australia and Korea is one of the

T:        Very, very glad

I:          biggest trading partner.

T:        You have [INAUDIBLE] together.

I:          What is the, what is Korea to you personally now?
T:        Well, it’s, it’s like a second home

0:31:30

as far as I’m concerned like, you know.  I would be, uh, I’d like to go and live in Korea tomorrow.  That wouldn’t  worry me.  I’m a widow, and I can, all my children are grown up, uh.  But I would go and live in Korea tomorrow if it  came up.  [INAUDIBLE]

I:          You can be in Korea tomorrow.  Right.

T:        Pardon?

I:          You can be in Korea tomorrow.

T:        Yep.
I:          Wow.

T:        I would be.

I:          Do you like it?

T:        I like it very much, you know.  I realize that’s not all like it is when you

0:32:00

go on a Revisit.  You’re not getting looked after like that.  But, uh, I wouldn’t need that.  And I don’t think anybody would need it, you know.  I mean just the whole, whole place itself.  I’ve been in many countries in the world.  I’ve been to England.  I’ve been to Germany.  But [INAUDIBLE] in Korea is as good a country as any of them.

I:          Hm.

T:        Probably better.

I:          Tom, what would you say to the world about  the  War that you fought for and

0:32:30

about Korea to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Korean War breakout in 2020?  What would you say to the world about the War that you fought  for?
T:        Well, it was, it was a terrible thing.  It was like all wars.  It was, uh, unnecessary.  It was only, uh, big men, big men with their radios not worrying about the other, not, not worried about the people that, uh, you know, fought, fought the  wars.

0:33:00

And it  had to be stopped.  It’s as simple as that.  It had to be stopped the Communists.  Otherwise they  would have, they would have been running the world now.  That was the testing ground, and I think it proved that the free world will stand up to bullies like that.  That, that’s the way I look at it.

I:          Great, sir.  Tom,

T:        Yes.

I:          Great to meet  you, and thank you for sharing your story.
T:        And thank you, sir, for all the trouble you’ve gone.

I:          Oh, it’s my pleasure.  Thank you, sir.  Great to meet you, and, and nice talking to you.

T:        Thank you.

I:          Thank you.

 

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