Korean War Legacy Project

William Duffy


William Aloysius Duffy was born on June 14, 1932, in St Louis, Missouri. The youngest of five children, he attended a Catholic school for elementary and middle schools and then attended and graduated from Normandy High School in 1950. He recalls never being taught about Korea in school. After the Korean War broke out, he and his friend enlisted in the Marines. He always wanted to be a Marine because his uncle was a Marine in World War I. After enlisting in 1951, he attended bootcamp in San Diego. After boot camp, he boarded a ship for Japan and then eventually Korea. He served in Dog Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines Regiment, 1st Marine Division. He was a rifleman in the infantry, then a fireteam leader, and then a squad leader. He left Incheon, South Korea, in the fall of 1952 and arrived back home on Christmas Eve of 1952.

Video Clips

What was it like in Korea?

William Duffy shares what it was like in Korea. He recalls it being freezing cold, calling it "the coldest place on Earth." He talks about his day-to-day duties and cites water being very difficult to find. He also recalls filling sand bags at his bunker with snow. Once the weather warmed, he recounts losing all protection in his bunker.

Tags: Cold winters,Food,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Weapons

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What was it like being a marine?

William Duffy describes his boot camp experience as a rude awakening. He recalls having to be up very early in the morning for drills and shares how it was the hardest thing he ever went through. He describes his journey from San Diego to Japan and then eventually to the east coast of Korea.

Tags: Basic training,Fear,Living conditions,Prior knowledge of Korea

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A Episode to Remember

Wiliam Duffy talks about a time when he went to NCO (non-commissioned officer) school. He shares how the experience was like a different world from the front lines. It had warm food, barbershops, showers, a pub, etc. While there, he recalls how his officer offered him multiple drinks. He shares that he suspected there was some bad news and learned that his squad was attacked. He recounts how only four of the twelve men survived.

Tags: Depression,Fear,Food,Front lines,Living conditions,Personal Loss,Physical destruction

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What were living conditions like?

William Duffy recalls his life on the frontlines. He remembers living in bunkers, which was basically a hole in the ground. He recalls cutting down a lot of trees to get material to build structures. He also remembers not wanting to be at the bottom of a hill when it rained because the bunker would fill with water.

Tags: Panmunjeom,Front lines,Living conditions,Monsoon

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Comparing Korea, Then and Now

William Duffy recalls Seoul being in rubble. He remembers Korea being totally destroyed and adds that he could touch the top of any building that was still standing. He remembers going back to Korea years later and seeing a beautiful and impressive Seoul; the skyscrapers were numerous, and the traffic around the city was heavy. He shares that the Korea today is not the Korea he left in 1952 and adds he never would have imagined Korea would look like it does today. He recalls the South Korean people being exceptionally nice.

Tags: Incheon,Seoul,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Modern Korea,Physical destruction,South Koreans

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