Korean War Legacy Project

William Burns


William “Bill” Burns was born in Auburn, NY and he volunteered for the military in 1952 with some friends from college.  Fort Dix, NJ is where William Burns would train in intelligence and reconnaissance as an Infantry Scout and Aerial Observer.  In the winter of 1952, William Burns, who was classified as a Private in the 2nd Infantry Division, would replace the British Commonwealth troops in an area referred to as “The Hook” near the Iron Triangle at Chorwon Valley.  The Chorwon Valley is where he would remain from January 1953 to December 1953.  He recalls working with KATUSAs and expressed his respect for their hard work along with other United Nations soldiers.  By the time he was discharge from the military, he had transitioned to Sergeant and received multiple awards for his commitments including a Combat Infantry Badge, Commendation Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, and Air Medal.  After returning to the United States, he was a cadre-instructor at Fort Dix, NJ.

Video Clips

Catch Them if You Can!

William Burns never captured any Chinese soldiers while fighting in Korea. There was an incentive program created by the armed forces to capture the enemy to earn additional Rest and Relaxation (R & R) time in Japan. Even though he didn't earn any additional R & R, William Burns did receive one rotation to Japan for time away from the front lines.

Tags: 1952 Battle of Triangle Hill, 10/14-11/25,Pyungyang,Chinese,Front lines,Living conditions,Rest and Relaxation (R&R)

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Hey Bill Where Have You Been?

William Burns was very excited to come home after his time in the war because he missed his mother's favorite chicken dish. After meeting up with a friend back on the home front, he did not remember that William Burns went away to war due to the lack of media coverage. The Forgotten War was definitely evident in his hometown of Auburn, NY because WWII was so publicized and there were not a lot of information coming to the US about the Korean War.

Tags: Civilians,Home front,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Pride,Prior knowledge of Korea,Women

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Conditions in the Korean War

It was trench warfare in 1952 and it was hit or miss fighting because the Chinese were very savage. The United States fire power is what saved William Burns' troops. The soldiers slept in the ground during the winter and it was just as cold as New York because it was not as bad as the winters of 1950-1951. Hill 1062 was a huge hill that was located near William Burns' trench and the Chinese had hospitals built into the hill along with military weapons.

Tags: 1952 Battle of Triangle Hill, 10/14-11/25,Pyungyang,Chinese,Cold winters,Fear,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Physical destruction,Weapons

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US Soldiers Fighting Along Side KATUSA

William Burns worked with many KATUSA and Korean civilians during his 11 months in Korea during the war. The Koreans who worked with the US troops worked hard, but had a difficulty with communication. William Burns showed personal pictures of two KATUSA that he worked closely with during the war, but he remembers about 10-15 were stationed with this regiment.

Tags: 1952 Battle of Triangle Hill, 10/14-11/25,Pyungyang,Chinese,Civilians,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,KATUSA,Living conditions,Pride,South Koreans

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of recorded material]

W:       Well, I’m very pleased that someone, you, started a program like this because the Korean War is not known to many people other than those of us who were there and were part of it and our families, of course.  And, uh, we were all young boys when we went there, but we were older in many ways when we came back.  So, it’s a very important project that, uh, posterity will understand what we did


and wh, when we did it, where we did it.  Korea was an unknown entity at that time.  We had never, uh, well we probably heard of it at the end of World War II when, uh, troops went in there, Russians did attack the north, northern part of the peninsula and United States troops to the south.  But we had not real understanding of what that really meant. We didn’t understand, uh, at least people my age,


didn’t understand what the Russians had in mind for, you know, the rest of the world.

I:          So at the time when yous guys say about Asia, what country did help putting you on a path in your mind?  What country that stands out when, you know, people began to talk about Asia?

W:       Japan because that was our enemy for so many years

I:          Um hm.

W:       and, uh, and China was an ally at that time, at least Chiang Kai- Shek part of China, the Nationalists.


We knew nothing about Communism

I:          Um hm.

W:       Or Communists.  Nothing.

I:          So you didn’t know about Korea at all?

W:       No.  The first I heard of Korea was the day I graduated from high school because that’s the day the Korean War started.

I:          You mean June 25?

W:       June 25.

I:          Of 1950?

W:       1950.

I:          So how old were, how old were you, and could you identify your name and age and


your family members as much as you

W:       Yeah.  My name is Bill, Bill Burns.  I was born in Auburn, NY, graduated from high school on June, actually June 27, but we had a ceremony on June 25, and the talk at that ceremony was all about the war, the Korean War, the attack

I:          Oh.

W:       crossing the 38thparallel in Korea. We didn’t know what it meant, especially what it would mean to us.  But eventually my high school class, uh,


as I recall we had 59 boys in the class.  Four of them died in Korea.

I:          Four of them?

W:       Four of them, yeah, and, uh, many wounded also.  But, uh, we certainly learned a lot about Asia in the following years.

I:          Um hm.

W:       Uh, I think all but four, probably 55 of us enlisted.

I:          55?

W:       Um hm.

I:          Of whole class

W:       Out of, out of 59 boys, yeah.


Well that was a very patriotic time

I:          Um hm.

W:       in, in America because World War II was not over very long, just under five years, and most of us growing up during World War II hoped that it would last until we could get in there and be part of it. Little did we know.

I:          But weren’t Americans part of, uh, fighting in the World War II so that another war broke out, people,


I thought, would be sick and tired of it.

W:       Well, the general population didn’t pay much attention to it, uh.  The military services in the United States had been cut down to almost nothing

I:          Um hm.

W:       after World War II.

I:          Um hm.

W:       And, uh, the initial attempts to assist, uh, the South Korean government didn’t meet with much success because the Army was, and Marines, all the services were under staffed and, uh,


those that were part of the Army right at that point had very little training.  They were really occupation troops in Japan, more like policemen than soldiers.

I:          So you enlist yourself

W:       I did, yes.

I:          to join the Army or drafted?

W:       No, I, I enlisted.

I:          And, uh, all of your classmates also enlist themselves?

W:       As far as I know, yes.

I:          Oh.  And what was your reaction when you heard, first heard about the Korean War?  Was it like it’s great


to fight to save Korean people from the Communists or wow, or

W:       It’s more wow. [LAUGHS]  Yeah.  We were, we’re gonna be soldiers.  We couldn’t really wait to be part of it, although in my particular case I went to college for one year after I graduated from high school, and then I enlisted in the Army, eh, because all my friends were enlisting.  Nobody, you know, all my pals were there, in the service.

I:          So, so it wasn’t right after the, uh, graduation


of your high school but after

W:       A year after for me.

I:          Um hm.

W:       Others went right away, but, uh, it was a year for me.

I:          So what was your specialty, and what was your unit and when actually did you get the basic training?

W:       Well, I got the basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey in, um, early 1952.

I:          ’52.

W:       Yes.  And my MOS, my military occupational specialty, was I was an infantry scout, and


I had some advanced training.

I:          Could you spell out more about the infantry scout?

W:       Well, we were in an, an intelg, intelligence gathering

I:          Uh huh.

W:       situation where we patrolled, uh, different kinds of patrols, reconnaissance patrols to see what might be out ahead of us, ambush patrols to take care of Chinese patrols, you know, the night tine.


And, uh, I also flew in the back seat of a small aircraft over the, over the front lines

I:          Um.

W:       for two different reasons.  First of all for intelligence and secondly to help adjust artillery and mortar fire on the enemy positions.

I:          So it’s far most front line of the battle, right?

W:       Yes.

I:          And far most dangerous positions


W:       Yes.

to take. Wow.  So how long was your basic training?

W:       Sixteen weeks.

I:          Sixteen weeks?

W:       Yes.

I:          What did you learn from there? Was it long enough or what was it?

W:       Oh yes.  It, it was long enough, but, because basic training is just that, basic. You learn, you know, about your weapons and how to fire them and how to repair them and, uh, all the things that soldiers need to know, you know, to, to exist really.


And then advanced training came after that, the, the scouting part of it and the intelligence part of it.  And, uh, it, it was very good experience for me learning those things, you know.

I:          What was your family’s reaction to your decision to enlist yourself [INAUDIBLE] war in Korea?

W:       Yeah.

I:          And what was like, uh, overall atmosphere right before you were shipped to the Korea?

W:       Well, my family,


I was not married at the time, uh, my mother and father and two brothers.  My father was a veteran of World War II and very badly wounded and decorated.  But he did not discourage me from enlisting.  I’m sure that he thought it was a thing that I should do.  And we had, uh, other veterans in our family from World War II, cousins and, yeah, many cousins in World War II, some of whom were prisoners of war of the Germans, not the Japanese.  But, uh,


it was, as I said, a very great patriotic time, and if my mother and father were against it, they certainly never told me that I shouldn’t go.

I:          Was your friend’s reaction or any other relatives?

W:       My friends were all in the service.

I:          All in the service, yes.  So, actually when did you leave for Korea?

W:       In, uh, November of 1952.

I:          November of 1952.  And


where did you, uh, stationed and where, what was your first impression when you saw Korea for the first time, and what was like the reality there when you began to fight?

W:       Well, let me say that I sailed across the Pacific. It took me 12 days from Seattle, Washington to Yokohama, Japan, Then I spent four weeks in Japan in advanced training and, uh,


they had just come off line when I got there.  So we had another month or so of training, and then we went up and relieved the British, the Commonwealth troops, Australians and Canadians, up at, uh, uh, an area called The Hook which is, uh, west central front.

I:          Front of where, where, Inchon, around [INAUDIBLE]

W:       Oh no.  It was north of, north of Inchon, really not far from Chorwon


I:          Uh huh.

W:       and Kumhwa.  That’s where I spent the majority of my time up there.

I:          So that was during the winter, right?

W:       Yes, it was.

I:          What did you learn at the advanced training while you stayed down, you were staying in Japan?

W:       Well, just more to make me as professional as, I, I could possibly be in a short time in the job that I was gonna have to do.

I:          So it must been a real contrasting picture between Japan and Korea.

W:       Oh Japan,

I:          Japan was completely destroyed

W:       Yeah.  And japan


had recovered very much from World War II.  And, uh, there was no animosity that I ever saw from the Japanese population to American servicemen, and there were many of us in Japan.

I:          Um hm.

W:       Uh, they were always extremely polite and I never had a problem at all.

I:          So it’s a war.  Obviously it’s the most difficult reality a human can face, but


could you describe about the conditions that you find there as a soldier and

W:       Well, it was trench warfare at that time, uh.  We did a lot of patrolling, nighttime, daytime, but that type of warfare was, uh, you know, just, just hit and miss. Nighttime was the worst because the Chinese were very, very, uh,


savage at that point, and they had tactics that just would have overwhelmed us if it wasn’t for all the firepower that we had.  The artillery firepower was amazing.  Air, aircraft, even naval gunfire because, uh, when the Chinese came, they came in, in bunches.

I:          [LAUGHS] Right.  So it was during the wintertime.  Was, must be very cold and, uh,


the kind of living condition there was

W:       Well, the living conditions were in the ground, you know.  We were in bunkers and trenches, uh, sometimes had a warming bunker where there would be a stove, and you could go in there and get warm for 10 or 15 minutes and then come back out.  But, uh, the winter that I was there I found to be not much different than right here in Central New York.

I:          Um hm.

W:       Uh, the first winter those guys that were there in the winter in 1950 and ’51


I:          Um hm.

W:       are the ones that had it the worst as far as weather goes.  When we went up on the Hook, as I said we, uh, replaced the British Commonwealth forces, and then, uh, when we came off, we were off for, I don’t know, five or six weeks, then we went back up into the Chorwon area and relieved the, uh, 3rdInfantry Division up there.  So it was continuous battle.

I:          Um hm.

W:       Uh, there was a massive hill up there.  I’ll never forget it, called Papasan.


It was hill 1062, and it was a mountain.  Uh, you, I still picture it in my mind as the biggest hill I’ve ever seen in my life. And, uh, that was, we were told that the Chinese, uh, had hospitals built into the reverse slope of the hill, and, uh, they had artillery positions inside there where they’d roll the guns out and let go and pull the guns back in.  But, uh, that was massive.


I:          soldiers, like Korean katusa

W:       Yes, we had

I:          or [INAUDIBLE]

W:       many katusa with us.

I:          Um hm.  And is that one of them?

W:       That’s one, Sung Ja Sup.

I:          So

W:       He’s from Yeongdeungpo.

I:          So his last name is Sung.  During your 11 month stay in Korea and, uh, engaging in a war, you must have a lot of chance to work with Koreans, just civilians and Korean soldier, katusa or you told me that you replaced


the British Army. So could you talk any of your experience with the Koreans and what was your impression and could you describe the relationship with them?

W:       Well, uh, the Koreans who were intermingled with us were good soldiers, uh.  It was very difficult for them sometimes to understand what we were trying to say or what we were trying to do.  But usually there was one senior soldier there who had, uh,


the ability to speak English.  So he would translate quickly.  But he couldn’t be every place,

I:          Um hm.

W:       you know, uh, when things were going on.  But these two photos here that I have, uh, these are two Koreans that I, I knew.  They were in our, uh, unit.  Sung Ja Sup from Yeongdungpo.  His rank was [KOREAN PHRASE]

I:          [KOREAN PHRASE]  Yeah.

W:       Yeah, Corporal.

I:          Um hm.

W:       And, uh, when I learned that that was his rank, I called him [KOREAN PHRASE],


and he loved it. [LAUGHS]  Now this other one is Kim, Kim Phung Ra who was another katusa with us at the time.

I:          Very good pronunciation.

W:       Yeah.

I:          And?

W:       Uh, well I would just like to say that they were very good soldiers.  Uh, again, there were probably 10 or 15 with us, but they were the only two I really knew.

I:          How many were you, like in your, your infantry.


How many soldiers [INAUDIBLE]

W:       Well, we were, uh, in a, in a company that was supposed to be roughly 200, but if we had 100 it would be a lot.

I:          And that 200, you worked with, uh, 15 – 20 Korean katusa?

W:       Yes.

I:          Um hm.

W:       Yes.

I:          Um hm.

W:       Uh, and other foreign troops that I met, Australians, uh, Brits, Scottish, Canadians, all great soldiers.  Great soldiers.

I:          Um hm.


W:       And, uh, we were very happy that they were there.

I:          How old were those two Korean soldier

W:       Well, I would

I:          Do you remember?

W:       No.  I would say, uh, Kim was probably older than, you know, the run of the mill American GI. But he was possibly 25.  But Sung Ja Sup was a young fellow like we were, you know, 19, 20 years old.

I:          Um hm.  Um hm.  So what do you think.  If we


put out your interview and with, uh, this picture available in the internet, do you think that they, there will be a chance for them to look at it and get back to you about this?

W:       If they’re still living, it’d be wonderful.

I:          Isn’t this wonderful that we have this digital technology

W:       Oh, yes.

I:          knowledge and internet so that it actually transcends the, uh, the temporal and spatial limitations.

W:       Yes, it, oh, it’s wonderful.  I, uh, I enjoy my computer very much because I can go all over the world when I’m sitting in my little


room where I have the computer.  I go to Ireland often because my family is Irish.  But I go to Australia, uh, anywhere, anywhere in the world.  Great.

I:          So, during your, um, service in Korea, what was the most challenging, most difficult or most happiest moment or rewarding memories that you want to share with us?


W:       Well, happy moment, obviously you’re gonna have to say that it was the day the war ended.

I:          Um hm.

W:       Everyone was pleased to see that happen.  Uh, the worst experience really, personal experience to me, was learning that a friend of mine after the war was over stepped on a mine, and he lost his right leg and his right eye, and I didn’t know whether he died from that or not until 1995 when we were in Washington, DC


for the dedication of the Korean War memorial, and I met, this guy was from Holland.  He was a Dutch soldier, and I met some Dutch soldiers and asked about this particular fella, and they said he was still living.

I:          Wow.

W:       So that pleased me, 40 years later, you know?

I:          That’s amazing.

W:       Yeah.

I:          Um, what was the most difficult time and

W:       Well,

I:          Uh, you just talked about the difficult time uh

W:       W, well that, that was the saddest

0:18:00I:          Saddest

W:       thing for me,

I:          Yeah.

W:       Uh, every day was difficult really because, you know, you were libel to be killed at any moment.

I:          So when the war end, you were at exactly the spot that you first engaged in the war?

W:       No, I had left there about a month before that to go down and fly with that aviation company, to do the intelligence work from the air.

I:          Um hm.

W:       But my unit was still there.


I:          Departed to where?

W:       Well, I, it was a, at an airfield maybe five miles away from

I:          Uh huh.

W:       Chorwon.

I:          Um hm.  Um hm.  So that intelligence reconnaissance flight

W:       Yes.

I:          had been continued until when?

W:       Probably still doing it. [LAUGHS]

I:          [LAUGHS]  Ok.

W:       After the war, you couldn’t fly over the DMZ. You couldn’t, you know, not go on the other side of it.  But we flew as close to that line as we


possibly could to keep our eyes on the Chinese.  But we rarely saw them after that.

I:          So there was no chance that you fight against North Korean soldiers?

W:       Not to my knowledge.

I:          Hm.  So there was only Chinese soldiers

W:       Chinese, yes.

I:          around that 38thparallel?

W:       Well, my section of it, yes.

I:          Your section of it.

W:       Yeah.

I:          But must be North Korean soldiers in the east side of it, right?

W:       The east side, that’s where they were as far as I know, yeah.

I:          Um hm.


So there was no single, uh, encounter with North Korean soldiers for you?

W:       No.

I:          No.  So you don’t have any memories of your sense of opposition against North Koreans?

W:       Well, no.  Only heresay, stories that I’ve been told by those who, uh, fought them initially in the first part of the war, that they were brutal, very, very cruel soldiers and took no prisoners to speak of.


I:          What about the prisoner of war, uh, from China? Have you had any chance to arrest Chinese soldiers and

W:       Oh, you mean take a prisoner?

I:          Yeah.

W:       Uh, I never did.  Others did.

I:          Um hm.

W:       In fact, uh, sometimes they would give you an R & R if they really wanted a prisoner.  I don’t know whether you know what an R & R is, but it’s rest and relaxation in Japan

I:          Um hm.

W:       And if you brought a prisoner in, you might get a trip.

I:          How many times


you been rotated from Korea to Japan?

W:       Once.

I:          Just once?  Just once.

W:       Yes.

I:          So now China is the rising power in Asia and one of the greatest trading partner to the United States.  Without Chinese cheap labor, there is no products here in, uh, big super, supermarket chains, and now we call that relationship as frenemy, friend but at the same time it’s the enemy.


Enemy at the same time, friend.  So we call it frenemy.  What do you think about the former most, uh, um, fierce enemy now became your friends, and do you have any, uh, sort of sentiments about it?

W:       Well, I remember when President Nixon went to China and, uh, the Korean veterans I knew at that point were all disgusted with that fact because we


had no love for the Chinese.  But again, politics and capitalism and economy, it transcends wars I guess.  But China is going to be, or is a super power and that, will be for many years.

I:          So it’s going to be 61 year of the Korean War, uh, June

W:       June.


I:          25thof this year, and what if this Korean War veteran digital memorial contains and hosting the soldiers from other countries including your former enemies?

W:       I don’t know what we would do about that.

I:          Um hm.

W:       I would probably like to talk with them anyway, you know.

I:          Are you willing to talk with them?

W:       Yeah, I think so.

I:          Um hm.  So, I mean, in my opinion, this digital memorial can be a


symbolic sign of the peace and reconciliations by bringing all those pictures and the interviews from 16 other countries that actually pulled for the South Korea but at the same time if we can, I’m trying to get pictures and interviews from Chinese soldiers and possibly North Koreans.  Would you object to it or…

W:       Oh no.  I, I think that’d be very interesting.

I:          Why?  Why is it interesting?


W:       Because it’s part of my history.

I:          Your history.

W:       Yes.

I:          Yeah.

W:       Yeah.  If they were an enemy and, uh, I just like to hear what they have to say.

I:          Um hm.  So you’re willing to become friends and

W:       Well, I don’t know, acquaintances.

I:          So when did you discharge from the military,

W:       April of

I:          and when did you depart Korea?

W:       I departed from Korea in, uh, uh, early February, 1954, and I was discharged


uh, from the Army in April of 1954.

I:          Um hm.

W:       And, uh, so it was a great homecoming because all my friends were in the same position.  Everybody’s being discharged about that time.  So we had a great summer of ’54.

I:          Did you actually stay with your friends that you graduated from Auburn in Korea or…

W:       I only saw one.

I:          Only one?

W:       Yes.  And, uh, as I said,


I’m a Roman Catholic, and I was going to mass and Communion prior to going back up into the trenches, and I received Communion.  We had a plate called a paten that you passed to the person next to you, and it was [LAUGHS] a, a guy from my hometown that I grew

I:          Uh huh.

W:       up with, I nearly dropped the plate because you just never expect something like that.  You’re 12,000 miles from home and suddenly to see someone you’ve known all your life.


I:          So it must be a pleasure for you.

W:       Oh, it was grand.

I:          Um hm.  So how did you let your family know about your discharge and coming back to home?

W:       Well, I wrote to them, uh.  In fact, I wrote a letter every other day to my mother just so she would know that I was still alive

I:          Um.

W:       uh, because sometimes when people were injured or killed, it took quite a while for the news to get to the families.  So I wanted to keep my mother reassured that


I was alive. Yeah, it was not a lengthy letter, just a few lines of general talk and had it mailed.  We, the mail was great because it was free, yeah.  So I kept my mother aware of what was going on.

I:          So you wrote your mom that you are discharged and I’ll be home.

W:       Yeah.

I:          So what was your reaction from your family, and when you came back to your home town for the first time, how was it?


There was a big party or welcoming ceremony or something?

W:       No.  Uh, I got home on a Friday, and I had been dying for my mo, a, a chicken dish that my mother made, and that’s all I could think about

I:          [LAUGHS]

W:       when I was in Korea.  And I got home on a Friday, and being a Catholic you couldn’t eat meat or foul on a Friday.  It, it had to be fish.

I:          Oh.

W:       So I was disappointed.  She had the chicken the next day.


But, uh, I got out to see my friends after a day or so and, uh, uh, it was just great to be with them. But I remember a fellow saying to me Bill, I haven’t seen you in a long time.  Uh, how’s it going?  Where you been?  [LAUGHS] I said where do you think I’ve been? And he said oh, I forgot about that.

I:          Um.

W:       So the Korean War was not really a topic that the American people paid an awful lot of attention to.


I:          Why do you think it’s been said to be forgotten? Why is it?  Is that because of World War II just ended or was it because that the Americans didn’t know anything about Korea or what, why do you think that it’s been known as Forgotten War?  I’m so sorry to hear that so many times.

W:       Well, I, I think the Vietnam War was so unpopular,


and it got so much press.  It was in, you know, in the news every day and, uh, I, I think that Korea was just kind of a blank spot in between World War II and, and Vietnam and, uh, again Korea wasn’t on the front page, uh.  Little television coverage.  Television just coming into its’ own at that point, not like Vietnam where they were there every day, uh, the


tv cameras and people saw, saw it the day that it happened.

I:          Um.

W:       So, it just didn’t make that big a mark in anyone’s memory here, except those of us who were there.

I:          Um hm, um hm.  So have you been back to Korea

W:       No.

I:          after you left?

W:       No.

I:          No.  Do you follow up with, uh, things that happen in Korea in terms of achieving democracy and one of the most rapid economic development ever achieved in


third world countries?

W:       Well certainly the leaps and bounds that the Korean economy has grown is of interest to me because I remember, uh, the little, really the little bit of Korea that I saw, there was nothing, uh.  The only large, city I ever saw was Seoul, and that was flattened pretty much, and then up where we were, there were no, no cities, no villages.  I rarely saw a Korean civilian.


I:          You rarely saw?

W:       Rarely saw Korean civilians.

I:          But you, yeah

W:       I was just gonna say as far as politics goes, uh, I really don’t pay that much attention to it.

I:          Um hm.  Um hm.  So could you overall, uh, describe overall sort of impact of the Korean War in your life after you coming back from Korea?  What was the life, kind of, what was your life after you come back, and what did you do?


What did you, uh, uh, resume your college study or

W:       No, I did not.  Um, I intended to, but I didn’t, and I’ve regretted that ever since. But, uh, I became a policeman, and I did that for 40 years.  So, that was my life after Korea.

I:          Any bitterness coming from the war or any other impact on your family relationship or anything else that you can…


W:       No, I don’t have any bitterness about having been a member of the military and fought in Korea.  In fact, again, that was a very great, patriotic time and, uh, I feel that it’s every young American’s, uh, duty to serve his country when it’s needed.

I:          So what do you think?  If there is another war breaks out in Korean War, we don’t want to even imagine

W:       Um hm.

I:          about it.  But what would you do if you are the young and you are called to serve?


W:       I would serve.  I would serve, but I think any wars today are gonna be one or two day affairs.

I:          Um hm.

W:       I don’t think there’s gonna be anymore fighting with ground troops.  At a full scale war, the things that we’re doing in Afghanistan and Pakistan today are, I don’t know, mind, mind boggling to me.


I don’t know why we bother.

I:          Um hm.

W:       Losing a lot of boys over there, and girls now.

I:          Yeah.

W:       Um.  I hate to think we’re the world’s policeman.  We were for years, but I don’t know if it was necessary or not. Certainly the Korean War was necessary because it was time to put a halt to the Communist aggression and the Communist plan to, you know, take it over Asia, Europe,


and eventually it, the United States and Canada.  But I think we put it to bed there because they knew we’d fight.

I:          Yeah, this is different era.  It’s now the main enemies of the United States is terrorists group,

W:       Yes.

I:          Al Qaeda and Taliban and fundamental Islamic sort of, um, um terrorist groups so that the, there are wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan


and Iraq.  But certainly your service to Korea actually made a difference, real difference, and it’s the size of Indiana now become 13thor 12thlargest world economy and it’s, uh, 6thlargest trading partner with the United States.  So there’s no Korea without your service, and that’s why we want to do this, uh, digital memorial, to have a digital clearing house of


your experience and all the photos and your personal belongings so that future generations can have access to it.

W:       I’m very pleased that you’re doing it.

I:          Um, so since you didn’t, uh, you haven’t back to Korea and might not have some sort of sense of contrast before and after the, the picture of the Korea, but what do you think that is the legacy of


Korean War veterans in terms of this, one of the strongest all, uh, alliances between this countries and what Korea is now for.  What is the most important legacy of Korean War veterans?

W:       Well, that’s a difficult question.  Uh, I think our legacy is that we will always be known as those who brought Korea to


the situation that it has today.

I:          So you think your services and, uh, so your sacrifice has been rewarded?

W:       You bet.  [LAUGHS] You bet.

I:          Um.

W:       I know people my age who never served in the military, and I can tell when they’re with those of us who did that


they just feel, I think, inferior.

I:          The Korea is still divided.

W:       Yes.

I:          Communists in north and democracy and capitalism in the south republic of Korea, and we all Koreans looking for the moments to be reunited, uh.  What is your, do you think that U.S. policy has to be about this divided Korea?


W:       Well, I think that the United States would certainly love to see Korea become one again.  Uh, I think that everyone is worried about the Kor, the North Korean hierarchy

I:          Um hm.

W:       and, uh, I don’t think we know what he’s gonna do.


He starves his people to keep his military there.

I:          Um hm.  Um hm.

W:       And a dangerous man.

I:          Um hm.  Um hm.  Are you willing to, to visit Korea if you are invited by Korean government?

W:       Uh, I know that there is an invitation there, uh. If I could see the places that I was when I was in Korea, I’d love to do it.  But most of them are above the 38thparallel.

I:          Right.

W:       But, yeah.  I’d love to see that part.


I:          You know, finally, would you have any, your message based on your experience participating and engaging in the Korean War and a survivor of that Korean War as a Korean War veteran to the future generation about the lessons of the war and for the future, um, engagement of any


American military intervention in other countries or participation?

W:       Well, it depends for what reason, uh, it would be deemed that we should participate in a war in another country.  Uh, if it’s to stop Communist aggression, that’s what, uh, is perpetrated by Red China in North Korea, then I think that, uh, we probably should participate.  But again,


it’s going to be a much different war than the world has ever known if, if that should happen. So there has to be some cool heads

I:          Um hm.

W:       be, before, uh, it’s decided that we go all out and go to war.  Again, the terrorists, uh.  They’re a bigger threat than the Communists at this point and, uh, you can see that from September 11th, 2001 at the World Trade Center, uh,


I don’t know. They, they scare me.

I:          Um hm.  Um hm.  Any specific message to your grandchildrens about the war and Korea and the relationship between these countries?

W:       I’ve never discussed it with my grandchildren. They probably don’t wanna know about it. They’re, they don’t have the kind of patriotism that we had when we were young men I don’t think.

I:          Um hm.


W:       But if they should ask, I’d be happy to tell them.

I:          Um hm.  How many grandchildren do

W:       Four.

I:          Four?  How old they are?

W:       Well, I, one boy 28, one boy 26, one boy 20 and a girl 14.

I:          All grown up.

W:       Almost.

I:          Okay.  Any, you know, the, the main perspective of this Korean War Veteran Digital Memorial is to have


your own views, your own, uh, experience and your own eyes to look at the Korean War, not from the politicians or the political leaders or the scholars who study about

W:  Um hm.

I:          Korean War.  So could you just make any comments about that point?  Your own eyes.

W:       Well, that, that’s a difficult question,


  1. I, I can only say that I was there to do what I needed to do, what needed to be done

I:          Um hm.

W:       myself and a million other young guys.

I:          Um hm.

W:       And I’m sure that if we had to, we’d find a million others to get it done, too.

I:          Um hm.  Great.  Thank you so much.

W:       My pleasure.

I:          Thank you so much for your interview.

W:       Thank you.

I:          Yep, and sharing that stories with us.

[End of Recorded Material]



Glider on airfield

Glider on airfield during the Korean War

Glider on airfield

A-frame carrier

A Korean civilian is carrying a big jar with an A-frame carrier along a narrow road.

A-frame carrier

Ridge of mountains

Ridge of mountains in Korea

Ridge of mountains

Protection of the Front Lines

This is a picture of a soldier on the front lines protecting a forward trench line. The trench is lined with sandbags to prevent sliding from terrain.

Protection of the Front Lines

William Burns Prepared for the Korean War

William Burns entered the Korean War in 1952 and this is a picture of him prepared for war against the Chinese.

William Burns Prepared for the Korean War

William Burns wearing parachute

Bill Burns wore a parachute while stationed at the Iron Triangle in 1952.

William Burns wearing parachute

KATUSA Kim Pyong Rae

KATUSA Kim Pyong Rae worked with William Burns during the Korean War starting in 1952 while stationed in the Iron Triangle.

KATUSA Kim Pyong Rae

KATUSA Sung Jae Sup

William Burns worked with KATUSA Sung Jae Sup during his time stationed at the Iron Triangle starting in 1952.

KATUSA Sung Jae Sup

Profile photos of William Burns

William Burns enlisted for the military in 1952 with multiple college friends. Here is his military photo.

Profile photos of William Burns

William Burns Prepared for War

William Burns was stationed in the Iron Triangle starting in 1952 and fought there along side multiple KATUSA. In this photo, he has a machine gun to protect himself and his fellow troops.

William Burns Prepared for War

Traditional Painting of a Korean Woman

This is a traditional painting of a Korean woman from William Burns.

Traditional Painting of a Korean Woman