Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A WAR STORY IN KOREA by EUGENE HALVERSON

A War Story
Korea 1950
Eugene Halverson

Eugene Halverson
This is not a “Happily Ever after Story and I am still wondering why I am writing it.  I did find many new life long friends.  the people we thought we were helping hated our guts.  The South Koreans fought us because of the government we gave them. 
   
Our leaders believed that a communist lurked under every rock and bush, now it’s a Muslim in every bush.  When Hitler waved his flag Germany marched and now America is waving the same war flag and away we go   but not for me I believe in nothing and question everything.    


The FORGOTTEN WAR
Eugene Halverson
47th Engineer Camouflage Battalion 
On June 25, 1950, the Korean War began when some 75,000 soldiers from the North Korean People’s Army poured across the 38th parallel, our Secretary of State Dean Acheson told President Truman stay out of it.  But by July, American troops had entered the war to fight this damn war.  Yes, a war, not a Police Action In all, some 5 million soldiers and civilians lost their lives during the war.  We lost 27,000 troops and 82,000 injuries.  They called it a skirmish but it was a very vicious and bloody war that never settled anything the Korea is still divided just waiting for another war. 
In 1904 Korea belonged to Russia, 1905 it belonged to Japan.  The Koreans now free of foreign domination expected to be free of Land Lords too.  But the United States quickly set up a so-called Democratic goverment with the hated Dictator Syngman Rhee.  He killed thousands of his own people in his quest for power.  Why would the people fight for him or America?  It was no wonder his army seemed frightened, confused, and seemed inclined to flee.  We messed up badly and the people hated our guts. 
Eugene back center
Eventually America knew there was never going to be a victory.  But the killing went on, some ridges became famous for the dead.  An armistice was signed in July 1953.
I got this letter one day that told me to report to Fort Douglas, Utah.  Well, I did and was soon sitting on a train with about 120 other Utah boys heading to Fort Riley, Kansas.  Being bored I eventually went to sleep.  We woke up the next morning sitting in a side track in the middle of nowhere.  There was nothing to see anywhere.  Hours later some army trucks showed up on the horizon and gathered us up and took us to Fort Riley, Kansas.  Soon we were crossing the Republican River to a place called Marshall Field with a small runway and a bunch of two story barracks.  It was an old abandoned Second World War training center.  It was now opened up as 47 Engineer Camouflage Battalion at Fort Riley, Kansas. 
Armenian Barbeque Reunion SLC
We were issued all the equipment we needed for Basic Training.  Then we learned what was needed to be a soldier and how to use them.  Most of the things were stupid, just the army way.  I loved the shooting, in fact I was an expert marksman on the first try.  I put many bulls –eyes with my M1 at 500 Yards and done quite well at the other yardages.  The carbine was a bunch of junk.  I did not really care for the 30 caliber machine gun or the 50 BAR.  It was quite interesting to call in the artillery on the tanks, it took a little calculation and a little redirection, then listen to the shells passing overhead.  I also liked the bazooka especially the aiming.  I thought it was kind of dumb smelling the tear gas just so we could appreciate the masks.  
War games and hiking through the woods on marches was fun.  Fort Riley was an old Calvary outfit and some officers still had horses there.  I could not see the forest for the trees, beautiful. It was just a primitive forest that went on for miles.  The trees were very high and little sunlight was able to reach the ground.  I was given the communication job and had to put on the spikes and climb them to string wires.  If you did not set the spikes deep enough you went sliding on down leaving big gouges in the bark.  I volunteered because no one wanted to do it. 
Home in Korea
We built buildings and took a riggers rope course, making rope bridges, towers, booms to lift and many other things.  Then one day we had the chance to put some of our learning to use.  It was late February and an ice jam and a great flood took out our big steel bridge.  So, we made this pontoon bridge out of fifty gallon barrels and it lasted until the next ice jam. Sometime later a picture was sent to us showing just how bad the flood was, it covered the whole valley above the windows of the barracks.  I missed the last ice jam and flood I was now in Korea.
One of classes told us that with an Atomic Bomb Canon we could win the war with North Korea and on into Manchuria.  Just fire the canon and the bomb would kill the enemy then we run through the blast area and occupy what was left.  Too bad for you if your Rontgen Meter told you, you were dead or just glowed in the dark.
Eugene left--822 Engineer Aviation Battalion
Before the floods came I was picked to take some special camouflage training at Belvoir, Virginia this lasted about six weeks and it was quite interesting and fun.  First we camouflaged trucks, guns, whatever large nets and then we went up in an airplane to look.  But what I remember looking at rolls of film taken by air.  If you just looked at it there was nothing to see but if you learned to focus one eye on one picture and the other on the next in the roll, you could see in three dimension and the trucks, tanks and buildings would show itself
Every weekend we were on a train to New York.  This was when I really got to know DeBacker.  He said he was a Bell-Hop in some big hotel in Kansas City and I followed him everywhere.  There was not anything that he did not know and he was the best “Wheeler-Dealer” I have ever known.  No more beef, potatoes and gravy for you, he told me, it’s time you learned what normal folk eat.   From then on he ordered every cocktail, appetizer, meal, drink and desert whenever we went out and I loved it.  He took us to all the monuments, historical sites including the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC.  Weekends found us on a train to New York, ate in fancy restaurants took tours on buses and rode the subways.  Those Catholic Cathedrals were really worth seeing.  We also celebrated New Year’s Eve with a million other people.  New York opened up their hearts to us.  They stopped us on the side wake to give us free tickets to the big Broadway Shows, baseball games and other things.  Then there was all the things our wheeler-dealer found for us. 
Eugene left front 822 Motor Pool 
When we got back to Kansas, DeBacker said, come on, we are going to Alaska now, let’s sign up, so we did.  Four of us volunteered, the very first to head overseas.  I never found Dorothy’s yellow Brick Road and never got to see Riley’s Magical Forest again.  I flew home in a four prop plane and went over to see Dr. Coon to see what he could do for my front teeth that were broken with a rifle barrel in a scuffle. 
Then I was off to Camp Stoneman in California where I spent almost a month seeing what there was to see in San Francisco.  We volunteered as runners and when we were done, usually an hour or two we were free to go.  Trolleys were fun and took us everywhere.  I quite fascinated with Chinatown, it was more like magical world.  We visited the Wharves.  That was my first look at the ocean and jelly fish.  The Golden Gate Bridge was quite spectacular.  

They had no idea what to do with four Camouflage Foremen in Alaska.  One day I was boarding a ship to Alaska with all my winter clothes.  Then they closed the gate and sent us back to Stoneman.  Soon we were on a ship to Korea.  

DeBorge and friend
The papers had a code word that said “Destination Evil”.  We knew what that meant soon we boarded a sad looking ship called the Lt. Raymond Beaudoin.  As we neared Catalina Island the ocean was alive with dolphins jumping all around us and flying fish flying so high they landed on deck.  Some sailors put some meat and chicken feathers on a rope and waited for the sharks to take it.  I was on vacation.  This is where I lived for the next twenty one days.  I just disappeared. I only went below to eat, I had nothing to do and liked it that way.  DeBacker, George and Moon volunteered to work in the kitchen “KP” to eat all this fancy food.  Navy Food that I ate was terrible.  I still can see the slim on the Sauerkraut and weenies, yuck.  

I carried my own papers so I was my own master and had no to report to.  I was quite happy and had the run of the ship.  I loved the freedom.  The ocean was warm and pleasant even far out to sea and no land in sight.  One night everyone was one deck watching a movie, when we heard cries for help.  Four people were on a raft and their boat was sunk.  Funny we did not run over them, no one had seen them at the bridge.  It was us who made them turn around and pick them up.  After dropping them off in Hawaii we sailed on by way of Philippines, we may have steered clear of the typhoon its self but talk about a crazy ocean.  There were swells of at least a hundred feet high.  On top the propeller was spinning freely out of the water and at the bottom of the bowl we could see nothing but water, the ocean was many times higher than the ship.  When my stomach began sloshing back and forth I cut down on liquids and never got seasick.

21 days to Korea
We decided to catch a shark.  We put a chicken with some feathers on a line with a big hook.  We never even got a bite. 
My KP friends with their full stomachs and kitchen work paid dearly for their fancy food.  I was one of the very few who was not sick.  Even the sailors got sick.  They laid on the deck like dead men and every so often they would get hosed down to get rid of the smell. 
The winds eventually quieted the ocean smoothed so not even a ripple showed.  This brought out many humongous sharks carousing around in packs.  Stranger yet were natives three to a dugout two paddling and one standing out front with a spear to keep the sharks away.  There was no land in sight and I have often wondered how they found their way home.  All in all I quite enjoyed the twenty one days at sea but I was thankful to be a soldier and not a sailor. 

Rickshaw ride in Japan
A few days later we sailed around the southern tip of Japan and landed in Sasebo, Japan.  This was quite close Nagasaki that got the second atom bomb.  We spent a short time here while receiving new orders.  I wandered all over as there was much to see, and island with ocean all around.  I watched the Japanese construction workers with their strange looking hand saws and other tools.  There was much to see and I loved it there but soon we were on small narrow gauge train heading north.  We stopped here and there along to way.  Some farmers tried to sell us some fruit and other tasty things but some officer always chased them away, he said it would make us sick.  I wondered if it still contained radiation from the bombs.  On the way we passed right through Hiroshima.  And it was a mess everything was twisted broken and blacked.  I still wonder why it was necessary to kill so many innocent civilians when we had so many other targets.  There was much to see on our three hundred and fifty miles train ride an air force base near Osaka.

Japan
Hitch-Hiking now the original four of us from Kansas were standing on the runway with our orders in our hands.  So, we asked some Fly Boy how we get to Pusan?  Go over there and ask, he said, there is always someone going there.  I walked over to a small building where a bunch of air force guys were talking and said four of us are hitch-hiking to Pusan.  One of them said he would be happy to take us when he got ready.  I tried to show him my orders and he said he did not care about orders, just grab a parachutes and I’ll show you all you need to know.  He hooked my rip cord to a bar running down the length of the plane.  The chute would open automatically if we jumped out the doors.  Actually there was no door to open or close just large holes in the side of the plane.  Just like the paratroopers did when they jumped.  Sitting next to these holes one on each side gave me a front row seat of Japan, the ocean and later Pusan where we landed.  The plane we boarded was a C-47.
Pusan city was one of Korea’s major shipping ports and it was quite large.  The poor had houses made of sticks covered with mud and never painted.  The mud was always the color of the ground around them and were quite drab.  The roofs was thatched of some kind of grass. 
A little later I could see large wealthy mansions on a hill protected by all kinds’ barbed wire, trenches and all kinds of guns and cannons pointed at us.  They were afraid of their own people. 
Japan
So, I asked a soldier what in the hell is that.  That is Pusan Hill and that is where all the money goes. America pays big bucks every time a plan lands, a ship docks or a soldier comes.  Money and guns put in to the wrong hands caused a rigged election gave them a terrible dictator with absolute power.  A master is above any law, he can starve, kill, and torture.  A serf is not human and is more like an animal. No wonder the people hate our guts. 

I loved the buildings roofs not only protected residences from the elements but also had deeper meanings. For example, the Buddhist curved their temple roofs because they believed that the shape helped ward off evil spirits.
We continued our walk and found a mess hall and ate.  Someone there told us where to go and who to see.   We gave our orders to some clerk who put us on a narrow gauge train heading to Taegu, usually called K2 and trucked to Company A of the 822nd Engineer Aviation Battalion.
DeBacker was put in Head Quarters.  Moon went to C Company and God only knows what happened to George after getting some shots and was flopping around like a fish out of water.
DeBorge and Corbett
Taegu Air Base referred to as K-2, is located within a river valley between 2 major mountain chains.  The Kumho River flows through Taegu, this the river I took many pictures of women and children bathing, washing in the polluted river. Rice patties are scattered throughout the valley.
We did find the area where our Orders had sent us and finally knew what the word SCARWAF on our papers meant.     
Special Category Army Reassigned With Air Force.  
First I was drafted by the Army, and now drafted out of the Army to the Airforce.  I was United States Air Force became a separate branch of service in 1947.  But they had no Combat Engineers to their buildings or airports.  They then borrowed several of the army’s Engineer Heavy Equipment Battalions.  So, now I belonged to the Air Force for the remainder of my service.  I was now a RED HORSE.  Their capabilities are similar to those of the U.S. Navy Seabees and U.S. Army heavy-construction Battalions. 
I even got discharged from the Air Force in Texas.  I was sent to live in a tent to live with both AF and Army personnel.  They wore their Blues’ and I my Kakis’. 
When I needed any clothing my camp cot and two wool blanket were kaki.  That’s all they gave me, no sheets or pillows.  Not much for a Korean winter, So DeBorge took me down to the Black Market to buy sheets, pillow and a woven Korean straw mattress.  But I could not use it until I de-bugged it,  I put it in the cold at night and in the sun and hoped it was enough.
a river near our field
I told Jim I needed drink of water and he told me the water was not fit to drink.  Take your pick pop or beer.  How could I drink a quart of either one?  To prove his point he took me over to this Lister bag full of water, pulled out a large knife and cut it from top to bottom.  Yuck, two inches of slim coated the whole bag and hundreds of undissolved pills lay on the bottom.  While I was thinking it all over he took me back to the tent and introduced me as the bar tender because I was not supposed drink all the booze away like the last one did.  I really did miss water and my coffee, it was made of the same polluted water.  Soon I was drinking the beer and liking it too much.  But there was nothing to do about that.  Polio killed two of our Battalion Commanders. 
Our Motor Pool Tent was a large tent used in the Second World War, in fact it looked identical to those used in the First World War.  Thanks to those who came earlier wooden walls about five feet tall were built on a wooden floor and the tent set over it.  We even had a door with a window in it.  A sign over the door said “Motor Pool”.  A small wood burning stove kept us quite warm.  Everything was kept neat and well-scrubbed by a young Korean House Boy.  Kim was only about 12 years old, they said he could be a communist so they killed him.  He was just a frightened young boy chased south by the war.    



Japanese Hanger--my welding shop
Headquarters for Company A, 822 EAB was the village school.  It was here that I was sent to see the Captain.  The Captain was trained at West Point and was very knowledgeable.  The first officer I had ever met who was worth his salt.  Under his guidance our Company was out producing all the other three companies in the Battalion. It seems like there were all kinds of construction jobs available but I was not interested and told him so.  I told him that I can weld and repair machinery and he seemed to be satisfied.  I just hoped that I could cut the mustard, I was a boilermaker who had done a little welding and did the best I could.  I got a lot of practice welding and I was able to show them some of my boilermaker skills.  I was soon given Staff Sergeant Stripes with its privileges and money.  I ran the welding shop and no one bothered me.  My shop was inside this “old Japanese hanger “, it was big enough to hold the old propeller driven planes and built of concrete.  It oval in shape and was thick enough to withstand a bomb. 
young mother
My overhead welding skills were never what I wished but I got by.  I failed my first overhead test I failed it was welding a cast iron piece broken from a frame of a shovel.  I knew I had to use stainless steel and the bead had to be relieved of stress and I was quite proud of how it was progressing when it just popped off.  Then there were various aluminum jobs that were brought in that were doomed from the start but I tried.  An argon gas is a must when arc-welding and a fuel tank on a jet was quite thin. 
I built a blacksmith forge out of some bricks and plumbing that was soon copied to heat water for washing. 
I had to work on anything that needed welding or burning so I learned to start and operate every kind of machine the army had.  One day I asked for some spark plugs for my Hobart Welder and some welding rod.  Well there were no stores or warehouses.  A soldier who even looked like “Radar” on Mash picked me up and off we went visiting other engineering battalions.  We traded a set of tires for four spark plugs and even traded for things we did not need.  This was my first trip through Taegu.  Policemen directed traffic with arms and whistle better than any lights ever could.  I was glad I was not driving, everyone was crazy.  Trucks, belly scrapers, bulldozers, graders were working day and night frantically extending the runway.  Then it would be covered with “Pierced Plank”.  The plank interlocked and made a smooth landing strip.  In places where it could not interlock I had to weld it in place. 

washing clothes
 The work crews had moved on and I was told where I was needed.  I was always alone with my truck and welding machine parked as far away as my welding cable could reach. I had witnessed many airplane crashes so when I parked my truck and welding machine, I would park as far away as my leads would reach.  I surely would hate to kill someone.  But I did have many close calls.  Some pilots would buzz the field and on the next pass land butt many times the jets would be shot up and coming in on a “wing and a prayer”.  I was always ready to drop everything and go rolling off the strip.  I had to dive head first with my welding mask on and hoped it was right direction.  Time after time I watched them land these crippled jets, some trying to land with one, two or no wheels.  They landed extra fast and hard hoping to shear the wheels off and slide in on their bellies.
I welded was alone and welded into the night at times to finish.  One night someone began shooting at me.  My gasoline Hobart Welding machine made to much noise to hear any gun-fire.  I had no idea that DeBorge and some of my friends ran over to me and began shooting at the gun flashes across the airfield.  I kept welding until I was finished and went home.  I had idea what was happened and everyone was laughing at me.  I felt cheated somehow.

Flying Box Car--C-119
Once in a while a Flying Box Car (C-119s) would come in and land without warning.  They flew slow weaving from side to side, and very scary.  Sometimes I had to drop everything dive and roll off the field.   I always parked my truck as far off the field as my welding leads would reach anyway.  One time I had a colonel come shouting at me to get me and my truck out of here.  I told him I had a job to do and for him to go away.  Just teach that stupid pilot how to fly and don’t bother me.
One morning I got down to the Motor Pool and no one was there.  Everyone was running down to the air field so I followed.  I watched a jet was just taking off.  All of a sudden there was a great bang and the jets engine flamed out.  The pilot immediately dropped his napalm bombs and wing tanks and went skidding on its belly past the end of the runway and out into the rice paddies.  Five Jets Crashed while taking off this morning.  Korea was the world’s first Jet War and there were fuel problems that took a while to solve.  The fuel became so thick with the cold the jet simply ran out of fuel. 

F-51D pressed back into service
When one crashed on this end they would taxi down to the other end to see if the next plane could make it up.  Some did, but some did not, and crashed at the other end.  One time both ends were littered with failures.  We lost five planes that day.  There were other days like this but not as bad.  The cold really had an effect on take-off.  Most of the time the pilots did not seem to get hurt but I know some of them were killed.  It raised hell with planes and air strip.  The wing tanks would often explode and the rockets caused problems but the bombs would never explode but if they collided with anything it made a hell of a mess.  Just before I got there a wing tank hit a bulldozer and a truck crew and killed them.  Flameouts were quite common until they got the right fuel mixture. 


One afternoon the sirens went off.  Looking up I could see a jet approaching the field and then started climbing.  Then there was a great explosion and fire and then there was nothing to see.  Nothing at all was in the sky until suddenly a parachute opened and it seemed like it took forever to get down, they told me he lived but was burned. 

A Winter to fight
One night a large plane that was in trouble asked to land and was told to go away, permission deigned.  The next thing I knew it deliberately flew right into the mountain killing the crew and 20 or 30 soldiers.  DeBorge, Deisinroth, Moore and Gallanis made the hike to see what happened.    



One day just after dark our anti-aircraft guns began shooting.  What a sight that was.  The rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air and metal falling all over.  What a display of fire power and a grand sight to see but nothing was hit or seen, nor any word was ever passed down the line for the scare.

The best display of firepower was when two soldiers got drunk and found a bunker with a machinegun and a great deal of ammunition.  A rata, tat, tat was heard most of the day. The AP’s (Air Police) were excited and ran around in jeeps.  Eventually, the guns quieted down and the AP’s captured the sleeping soldiers.   
When I was still a corporal I pulled Guard Duty.  It was so dark black, I could not even see my hand in front of my face.  I expected everything it to be quite, but this was when the village would come alive.  People seemed to be running here and there.  Most of them were rolling barrels off the base and home.  Sometimes it got quit noisy but as long as nothing came my way and they did not bother me I let them steal whatever they needed.  I was told to shoot in the air to scare them off.  But they needed it more than we did.  
5 o'clock Charlie and his bomb
5 o’clock Charlie’s war.  I never knew about him until I watched “Mash” on TV.
My brother, Lee was up north near Inchon and we were telling war stories a while back and he kept telling me about this black airplane that came in just before dark dropping bombs out the side of his cockpit.  He dropped bombs here and there but never with any accuracy.  He seemed to harass them for a long time and for some reason he just stopped.  
I told Lee about almost being run over by a black airplane while out welding one night.  He got interested asked me more about it.  When I told him it had no markings, just black.  Then he called me a dummy, that’s “5 o’clock Charlie”.  He’s loading up on your base and dropping bombs on us.  Who knows?  I liked the story anyhow.
We were working night and day on our Airfield there were jobs for everyone.  Trucks, bull dozers, crushers, cranes, belly scrapers and other heavy equipment manned by army and air force personal.  As soon as drainage and base was laid across the valley Korean laborers were laying what we called “Pierced Planking” down for the final finish.  Each succeeding piece interlocked with the last.  It was really called Marsden matting and was used during world war two to build airfields on the islands on our march to Japan.  Each piece was 10 feet long and 15 inches wide, the whole pattern was 3 wide by 39 long and weighed 66 pounds.
friendly family
Our field grew everyday but as it did the planes were loaded heavier so it seems like we still had to short of a runway.  This work never stopped all during my year in Korea.  There always seemed to be shortages, problems, and expansions.  At night I would go out and weld the problem areas.   The heavy traffic kicked up dust and stones that were sucked into the jets motor and the pierce planking was wearing out.  The metal runways were replaced by concrete after I left and I have no idea what it is like now.  In fact the whole 822 Battalion has been disbanded.  
A Puzzle to Solve
I read the “Stars and Strips”, (an army newspaper) praising us for saving the Koreans from Communism.  Then why was there so much hate in the villager’s eyes?  Most of my friends thought we were heroes but something was wrong.  I started to look for answers elsewhere, maybe the peasant farmers could tell me.  I wandered here and there walking through the village.  I found my walks quite fascinating I looked at their yards and houses, some had walls separating the families.  Everything was made of the same color rock or walls of mud everything had the color of earth around them.  The houses are small with thatched roofs.  The mountains have lost most of their trees and fuel is scarce. 

Retired farmer and genealogist
They built their cook-stoves so that the smoke passed under their floors before it goes up the chimney.  I watched them grow their rice with primitive tools.  Planting each rice plant in a few inches of water in a large shallow pond.  Wondering if they were able to even consume even a small part of their harvest.  As I walked through the village the people would disappear like ghosts, a look at the eyes of those I did meet showed both fear and hate or maybe just disappointment. 

50 years ago Korea was ruled by kings and princes in a feudal system, serfs ruled by masters.  Japan defeated China and Russia and by 1910 conquered Korea, the military ruled with an iron hand.  The Japanese goal was to force the Koreans to speak Japanese and to consider themselves Japanese even adopting Japanese names.  This all ended in 1945 when America won the war and the people were so grateful and happy until America decided to bring back the old “Princes”.  No one wanted them but Syngham Rhee was somehow elected.  He came into power determined to crush any opposition.  He killed a half a million of his own people. .  Bodies were mass buried everywhere and thousands of bodies were dumped in the ocean.   Hundreds of bodies floated as far away as Okinawa and they were complaining of the stench and having to dispose of them.   I’ll never understand why we allowed these atrocities to be committed. 
 

killed in our village
One day we were told to turn in our rifles, that was alright with me and we did have drunken soldiers.  I think it was to make sure that we did not interfere with the South Korean Soldiers who came to kill many of the people in my village I really don’t know how many but we soon had starving children eating our garbage. 

I remember Kim, he was a happy 12 year old house-boy, we loved him and he did a good job.  One day they carted him away while we were working. 

One day about a dozen prisoners came marching by our field wearing chains around their hands and chains around their feet.  The little guys were madder than hell and I could not blame them.  With them were some great big Chinese soldiers who were almost seven feet tall they looked like Punjab in little Orphan Anne, they all walked around with a big smile looking like big teddy bears.  They came from the War where they had had their feet frozen, and blood was showing through the bandages. 
See-Saw
The Turkish Soldiers I seen wore turbans and carried a large curved scimitar.  They looked mean and terrorized the enemy, they at night they would silently leave the trenches and kill the enemy with their scimitars. 
One morning the women of our village in an act of rebellion stopped the digging and closed the roads.  There was a hill nearby that supplied the fill for our new airfield unfortunately it was also an ancient cemetery full of bodies.  What a bunch of idiots, no wonder the people hated us.    Work was stopped until one of the lord and masters down in Pusan found another part of the mountain for us to dig on.  I really think this act of rebellion was the reason Korean troops were sent to kill half the people in our village. 
At night the villagers came to kill us, at daylight we killed them.  We killed two million South Koreans and another two million North Koreans.  The Koreans who fought the Japanese were now fighting us.    
I talked to two Berkley College educated Koreans.  They told me the war will never be over until the people can own their own land and be free, even if we have to wait a hundred years.  History tells us about wonderful cities or the wars but nothing about the people.
Peter Brooks, LA Times Complained bitterly and called the Koreans ungrateful.  There have always been anti-American riots in South Korea.  The statue of General MacArthur has to be guarded day and night so the people will not tear it down.  He just killed to many people, more than necessary. 
War 
R&R (Relaxation & Recreation)
I went back to Japan twice, DeBorg and I from A Company and about four from other 822 companies.  We met at the airfield hitching a ride.  We found a willing pilot and boarded a Gooney Bird bound for Tokyo.  On the plane we talked to some soldier who was so happy to be going back to some wonderful place.  “Do you want to go”, yes we did we had no idea where and what to do.  He was as good as DeBacker and a lot more enthusiastic.  He waved down a taxi and we all climbed in.  It was so crowded, I was lucky to even look out the window.  The driver could not understand a word we said, but the soldier pointed the way and he drove like a maniac away from the city down many allies to the back part of town.
Japan
We parked in front of a nice well maintained two story building and just went in.  The Madam welcomed us in and given a room.  I knew it was a Geisha House when we were called out to meet a bunch of smiling young ladies.  One of them came over and tried to talk to me, she was a real cutie but I chickened out.  You Christian Boy, Cherry Boy.  So, she went over to the next soldier.  I thought maybe the Madam would send me away but I was treated with great respect.  I was treated well, feed well and did most everything else and was left to sleep alone.  Whenever I would come near any of the girls they would curtsy and smile, some would always call me Christian Boy.  The Japanese like most Asians thought sex was natural and not shameful.  A man stayed young by the girl giving her youth to him.  I took pictures everywhere but not one in the house, what a dummy. 
Breakfasts were great, just like a fancy hotel, eggs, bacon but rice instead of potatoes.  After breakfast the boys would wander into the shopping area and be gone until suppertime.  The food and drink was very expensive by their standards but it was just pennies to us.  Japanese rice beer was to best beer I had ever had, but it was very powerful, 12 or 13 percent.  Our steaks were very expensive and was cooked to perfection as far as I was concerned.  Those that wanted it well done had to send it back two or three times and it still was not cooked enough for them.  The cook just knew she was destroying the meat and that was that.  
The people were poor and they had very few cars and trucks.  Most of them were three wheelers, some made during the war and others were homemade.  There were no lights or anything to regulate traffic, they honked the horn and cut in and out of traffic, pretty scary.
We travelled a little by the rickshaws but mostly walked here and there.  It was fun and quite fast and quite.  Other than Nagasaki Japan rebuilt their cities quite well.  I did not see any bombed out areas.  Shops were open for business and people were out.  I bought a few things to send back home but mostly I looked and watched.  There are still some things that I had no idea what they were doing.  I took a lot of pictures and done a lot of walking.  I can’t remember how I got to the city or home again, and even how we got back to the airbase with my case of whiskey and my possessions.  The Captain asked me to bring the whiskey back to save the drinkers/drunks from going blind with the Korean stuff.  We hitched a ride on another Gooney Bird home.  I believe I could have traveled all over Asia if I wanted too, no one ever found us or asked us anything. 
Japan
We worked on the field day and night and it was dangerous.  We had to watch for planes taking off and landing.  Many came home damaged and some did not come home at all. 
When I first came to Taegu there were all kinds of old propeller driven air craft, the Mustangs, Grumman, Tiger Cat, Corsairs, Douglas Skyraiders.  Soon there were jets like F-80 Shooting Stars, and the Sabre jet, later came the F-84’s and the F-86. The problem with them was that our runways were to short and had to be lengthened in a hurry.  The Air Force had to overcome the flame-outs caused by fuel problems.  Cold weather was a real problem.  The Russian Migs seemed to have a field day until our pilots got better planes and learned the Migs weakness.   
Another R&R to Japan and now I was hitch hiking back to Tokyo, no one I knew was able go.  I was even alone on the plane.  If I knew how to find the Geisha House I may have went back.  But I got a room in a fancy hotel.  It was clean and neat, hot tubs showers good food.  I got to see many of the things I did not see before and took some pictures but missed getting a picture of something I am still wondering about.  It looked like a giant auger being twisted by four giant men, round and round they went.  I shopped and sent presents home.  I was glad the trip was over.  Soon I was back looking for a plane to Taegu again.
Time passed and it was getting close to going home.  I went down to the Black Market and loaded up with some hot items.  I put them and my presents in a wooden box and banded it with the help of some Lieutenant and sent it away but it never got home, the Navy lost or took it.                                                                            
Korean House in village
I remember one day when trucks began arriving and parking on our airfield, people were soon setting up a stage and setting out chairs.  Bob Hope and the Bunny Girls came and I made sure I got there early enough to get a good seat.  Some of my friends did not like Bob Hope but I did.  I thought he was funny and he put on a good show.  It lasted a couple hours and I loved it.  I cannot remember any of the jokes but I do remember the girls.  Their costume was kind of skimpy and the wiggle waggle showed of the bunny tail.  They were cute.  The show lasted a few hours and I thought it was great. 
One day a Funeral came by and I thought it was parade or some kind of a celebration. It seemed like a very festive occasion. Everyone was happy.  There was food and drink with talking and singing.  Some were even drunk.  The dead person was being taken to the cemetery.  It was a Funeral procession supposed to show the Gods or his village who was his friends and family.  The gathering of friends, family, drinking and eating would be something even I would like.
The old is much revered in Korea and even the master leaves him alone.  His food and care is provided by his family or village.  He is now too old to work and is now a retired farmer and is honored for it.  He is and dressed in white.  I have seen them dressed in black but I don’t what that means.  I have a picture of an old man looking like he is recording his family’s history or even the village’s history.  I would have loved to talk to him. 
Funeral



America has always been criticized for its war on civilians.  We killed almost 3,000,000 South Koreans in our drive to Seoul and beyond.  The civilian deaths ranged about 80%, twice as high as the war deaths in Europe.  Then we let a madman like, Sigmund Rhea kill another half a million rice farmers to show them he had the power to do so.  

Our first mistake was to give all the land in Korea to make landlords of a few old families when our occupation began.  These 13 families now owned all the land in Korea.  Now we had the Master, (the rich) and the Serf (he poor), the hated feudal system was put back in operation by America.  A great deal of money was given to finance this new government. 
Korea today
Money was given for every plane that landed every ship that docked, and every soldier that came.  The unbridled pursuit of wealth by the upper class through various privileges and their conspicuous consumption fanned the feeling of relative poverty among the ordinary people.  They told me, “The American Empire like other empires will only last maybe 100 years, maybe more.  Then we will fight again to be free.
This anger was further inflamed by a crisis in home ownership that worsened in the mid-1980s. In a country as small as Korea, land is vital to power and wealth. At first the Land lords (chaebols) owned 100% of the land in 1951.  After riots and mass demonstrations in the late 1980s by the people, the chaebols were forced to sell some of the land to help ease the land market. By 1985 over 6 million people were renting, squatting or homeless. The poorest 30% of the population have an average of two square meters per person and three families per house. Estimates are that Seoul has 2 million squatters out of a total population of 9.6 million. Evictions for the 1988 Olympics, in the name of beautification, removed 3.5 million people from 230 slums.  This is why everything looked like everyone was prosperous and happy.   I was given the opportunity to visit Korea with other veterans a few years ago but I was angry and missed my chance.  I do regret it now.
Korea today
Cheap labor and money created the Capitalistic climate creating global multinationals with huge international operations. The word "chaebol" means "business family" or "monopoly" in Korean.  The chaebols have impeded development of small and medium-sized businesses in South Korea, creating massive imbalances in the economy.
With so much power and money in business land and rice lost importance.  The ownership problem also caused the mass migration to the cities and factories.  The Chaebols power over the people but he still held the land.  Now we have tenant farmers who rent the land, but care little about the land or its future.  This leads not only to pollution but also to the eventual exhaustion and desolation of the farmland. 
They built beautiful cities and created jobs and now we have a   middle class which is a good thing.  The rapid growth of industry has made Korea a show-case of democracy.
In my time there were very few buildings I only knew of peasant farmers, and absentee landlords.  About 30 years later a civil war forced the wealthy landlords to sell some of their land.  But most of the farmers now are tenant farmers who rent the land from the land lord and care nothing about the land. The Korea I remember was different than what Americans were told.  I remember the starvation and the dead bodies.  The people fought and died to change the mess we had left them.  The general idea that the world had of Korea being a wonderful Democracy, glamorous and romantic place was true only for the middle and upper-middle classes. The poor class still struggles day in and day out with poverty, high taxes and just plain surviving in squalid surroundings.


fish for sale

 Aviation Engineers

By PFC Marvin H. Petal
Special to Pacific Stars and Stripes  Written: 21 June 1953
Few people ever get to read unit histories tucked away in some obscure locked box in the back reaches of a headquarters. For the most part they are formalized military reports written in the stilted language of documentation and they carry the ominous red stamp: SECRET.
            The files of the aviation engineers are especially encased in a vault of security. Thus, the drama of war is seldom replayed. But once in a while the histories are read and the drama has a brief encore. Each unit history of the aviation engineers contains a statement of the outfit’s primary mission. Universally, it is the generalized, “to construct, maintain, camouflage, and defend field airdromes.” 
The SCARWAF story is that and a lot more.
            The Army Information Digest places the beginning of the SCARWAF story in 1947 when the Air Force was established as a separate entity under the national security act. “The new Air Force had no engineering units and the old Army aviation engineers were left without a market for their specialty. The logical result was SCARWAF.”
Eugene welding pierced planking on Airfield
A new Air Force program to utilize its own engineers may soon ring down the curtain on SCARWAF (Special Category Army With Air Force). Meanwhile, however, the drama has been played.
There is one unit history which tells of a battalion that came to Korea in the early stages of the campaign

They stumbled onto a mine field in Wonsan harbor and wallowed helplessly as enemy bombers swung in low. Dogged before they had even started, they somehow got ashore and moved forward through enemy fire. The report was scribbled in longhand.
 In the infant action there was a powerful enemy. The weather. An airstrip is a temperamental thing and it won’t allow itself to be built unless conditions are just right. But the weather was never just right. When winter came the ground froze and balked and wouldn’t be turned by the giant blades of the bulldozers. And when the ground had finally been scraped the engineers couldn’t pour concrete in the below freezing weather. Improvising, they set control fires on the field and brought the ground up to concrete-pouring temperature.
            Often the field site was a frustrating horizon of mountains, swamps, and rice paddies. In one project the 1903rd Engineer Aviation Battalion moved more than ½ million truck loads of earth.
village children
            They were green troops who first came to Korea and they soon learned that there was more to fashioning an airstrip than just landscaping a long, wide ribbon of cement across the terrain. They not only had to build runways, but also taxiways, parking aprons, control towers, water lines, hangars, ammunition dumps, and fuel points. There had to be drainage systems to draw off the great pools the rains had left. And there had to be bridges and roads to allow an approach to the field. In one case the entire top of a mountain was shaved off to make room for a radar site.
            They had to set up rock quarries, asphalt plants, sand and gravel pits, rock crushing plants, and concrete supply centers. And there had to be the usual mess halls; fences, offices, motor pools, utilities shops, power plants, and latrines. All the while the men gave top priority to their mission and often slept in pup tents.
            Of necessity, the early troops were thrown hastily into their jobs and many had not had time for thorough training. So, even as the building and fighting surged, there were on-the-job training programs in progress. Sometimes all the long weeks of work were in vain. As the enemy poured south over the hills, the airfields had to be hurriedly destroyed before withdrawal.
            One outfit operating at a base near Pyongyang, the present capital, writes this in its unit history:
Korea today
            “There were several heckling air attacks. United Nations troops were just about at the Yalu River and everyone had ‘be home by Christmas spirit. Then the artful rumor everyone was hearing ceased to be a rumor. The reported 800,000 Chinese Reds massing on the border joined in the attack with what was left of the North Korean army and descended on the U.N. Forces.
            The swing of battle caused frequent problems. Just east of Yongchon, Company A of the 822 EAB met with the enemy who threw a barrage of mortar, high velocity and small arms fire. “Under fire for several hours,” the history reads, “the company was finally rescued by fighter aircraft that napalmed enemy positions. Friendly infantry also moved into the area and pushed back the enemy forces.” The 822nd received the Presidential Unit Citation. And the men received their share of Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts.

See-Saw--never to old
            One time the Eight Double Deuce had moved into an advanced site near the Yalu river. They hadn’t even time to unload their valuable, hard-to-get heavy equipment from the freight cars when the enemy launched a vicious attack. The battalion fought its way through the cordon and eventually wound up at a new base. The abandoned machinery was written off as lost in combat. But one day at the new base a train pulled in with a huge load for the 822nd Battalion. An ingenious and anonymous railroad engineer had coupled the cars to his train during the confusion of the skirmish and had chugged nonchalantly from the area. The 822nd was back in business.
            Despite the pressure from the campaign many historians had a sense of humor. An excerpt from an 811th EAB report has it that “Company B returned from K-23 at the request of the Chinese.” Another outfit reported, “A company party was held Friday evening 23 March 1951 at which all personnel became pleasantly polluted.” Of morale. The 802nd EAB historian observed, “There was a prevalent feeling of doing an important and vital job.”
            In one report of the parent 930th Engineer Aviation Group there is an entry which seems to sum up the SCARWAF story. One of the outfits was given 30 days in which to have an airstrip ready for action. The historian wrote:
            “In unison with the clamoring of the equipment the men could be heard swearing, groaning, enduring the intense heat of the sun, and there in front of our eyes a miracle was taking place. Day after day the clamoring continued, the swearing increased, the sun burned hot on our bodies, the long hours dragged into days, the days into nights, and again the sun.
Bathing and washing clothes in the river
            The strip was put into operation 9 days and F-51s began operating from the dirt runway. Immediately there was a marked change in the Korean conflict. With the Air Force entrenched close to their targets, the bombing attacks could be more than hit and run affairs. And thus the tide of battle was turned.”
            And thus the aviation engineers have carried on in the tradition of “construct, maintain, camouflage, and defend field airdromes.

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