Dan Ellis -- Writer | home
Dan Ellis -- Military
Daniel A. Ellis RA 25 500 385
Military Duty KOREAN CONFLICT 1952 1954 Age 20-21
I was mustered in on February 7, 1952 and remained in service until January 30, 1954.
My induction process was conducted in the New Orleans Municipal Auditorium, where, after a physical examination, I was given orders requiring a train trip which was a tearful goodbye on the part of my wife, my mother, and stepfather. I was mustered-in at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, where I was given further orders. Two weeks later, after boarding a military train, followed by an Army truck ride, I arrived at Fort Riley, Kansas to perform four months of Basic Training.
In a letter sent to my mother, I mentioned that after being on the firing range, I received classification as "Expert." I rambled further to state that, "the physical training is the toughest yet as physically sound as I thought I was, I have the hardest time keeping up with the supervising instructor. The Army stated that a starving and tired man makes the best soldier."
The Army operates by making temporary promotions, so within the first few weeks, I was appointed platoon leader in charge of the First Platoon. I assumed that my past National Guard military experience which had entitled me the military rank of Private E2 and that I was also a college grad and an applicant for Officer Candidate School is what contributed to my having been "volunteered."
During the 16 weeks of Basic, I had observed that the Company to which I was attached, was comprised mostly of boys from Michigan and other Midwestern states. Of the approximate 130 men in our Company, 24 were southerners from Louisiana and Texas. For some reasoning I couldn't understand, following heavy drilling during the first two weeks, almost all of the squad leaders and platoon leaders were chosen from that small bank of Southerners. I was selected as Platoon Leader for the First Platoon having some 30 men under my care and all living in the same barracks. This meant that I was removed from the menial tasks of KP, Latrine Orderly, and some Guard Duties. All of which, I had served dutifully during the first two weeks, during which I fully had my share of cleaning toilets and was most happy to have such chores removed from my calendar of events.
Following Basic Training
Since I had originally enrolled for Officers Candidate School, which was a three-year hitch requiring special training for the next eight months, having completed Basic Training, I was permitted to bring Elynor to join me in an off-camp rental apartment. Elynor arrived in July 1952, in time to celebrate our first year wedding anniversary and her birthday. We took up family living while I made certain not to germinate her to pregnancy since both of us realized that, as yet, fate had not unfolded itself. We were able to find a one room attic apartment with no bathroom. We needed to share a bath with the lessors. Of course this was quite confining.
Living in the town of nearby Madison with Elynor resulted in a transportation routine for weekends when having a weekend pass. I would trek the long walk to the outer perimeter front gate to take a bus to town. Fortunately, I had a ride back to Camp in the mornings with another Platoon Leader companion. That was fine until his wife and Elynor had an argument and then afterward I had to get up at 3:00 a.m. to catch a bus back to camp just making it in time for 5:00 a.m. Reveille.
Our social life consisted of a Sunday movie and an occasional lunch or supper due to the meager income after living expenses. Other soldiers were able to get by in better style with supplements from home.
I had been given slip-on "Sergeant Stripes" since those of us awaiting OCS assignments were appointed as Training Cadre to support the training of a new group of inductees who were taking their Basic Training. As a result, I was included in most of the conversations of the regular NCO's. Having heard so many stories from them about Second Lieutenants being killed by being shot in the back by their own men in Korea, caused me second thoughts about entering OCS. Having made the mistake of telling Elynor about such perils resulted in her haranguing me every day until I finally withdrew my officers' candidacy options. My argument to myself was that I would have only two years of obligations instead of three, and having had prior National Guard time, I would be free from military obligations following my tour of duty. And, then, if I did get shot or killed, it would be by enemy fire rather than from some errant countryman. My Company Commander displayed his dislike for my withdrawal and indicated that I would probably be summarily assigned to front-line duty in Korea. While awaiting shipping orders, many of my comrades were sent to many select locations in Europe and the Carribean. I was not a bit surprised when presented with shipping orders to Korea.
Elynor and I packed our meager belongings and took the long bus ride home to New Orleans where I had two weeks leave before shipping out again by train to Camp Drake in Seattle, Washington. Before my leaving, Elynor wanted a last photo shot of the two of us. I don't know who looked most unhappy.
Camp Drake Seattle, Washington
Upon my arrival at Camp Drake, the barracks were filled with soldiers preparing to make the Pacific crossing. Some went by plane, but most were herded on Troop ships that accommodated 4500 men in very close quarters. During my first week, the entire barracks to which I was assigned slowly dissipated and was left empty with but few exceptions. I was assigned guard duty to watch over the near empty quarters for the next week as new troops arrived. During that time, I took the opportunity to make a few day trips into Seattle. I had always wanted to visit a Turkish Bath so I stayed a couple of hours in a very dingy, dirty steam room. My curiosity having left me.
During these short journeys I was left impressed with Seattle's low-level misty clouds that covered the area as I took the long walks from the camp to reach the gates to town. There, I would catch a bus that arrived every hour. During that chapter of my existence I felt as if I was in a suspended mental process.
I had placed myself in the hands of destiny which was probably the frame of mind for everyone else facing the Apocalypse of War. I was overcome by a numbness, a waiting, a question "Was it all for nought?"
Finally, my number was called as I boarded a tightly knit Troop ship just two days before Christmas 1952. My quarters were furnished with bunks that were four cots high having an 18-inch aisle to circulate through. I'm sure that there were at least 200 of us crammed into one small steel-walled room. We had to crawl over each other's bunks, duffle bags, and each other.
Due to inclement weather, we were ordered to remain in our sacks for much of the day during the first week. We only exited to go to the head and to go to the galley for anything but fine dining. Breakfast consisted of orange juice, coffee, and two hard-boiled eggs. Our lunch consisted of powdered milk and two hard-boiled eggs. Our supper consisted of the same. I discovered that the eggs had been boiled prior to departure enough to cover the eight to 10-day trip across the Pacific Ocean.
After the first day out of Seattle, the swells were so huge and frequent that our ship felt like it was twirling like a top. There were very few of us to survive the rigors of seasickness. In some ways I felt fortunate for not succumbing as I made my trips to the
galley to find almost no one there and absolutely no line to hinder me in accessing the boiled eggs. The large galley had about 50 tables bolted to the floor providing standing room only. Those that used trays had to hold on to them to keep them from sliding off and being tossed to the floor. On each galley visit there were less and fewer men eating, but more and more vomit on the floors of the pathways, the aisles, and everywhere about. This condition of putrid stench and puke filled the air, often causing me to waken with a gasp as I choked the fowl odors from my lungs. I found some respite once I discovered a shower unit that was distant into the bowels of the ship that apparently was not found by fellow troop members aboard. So, I took leave to shower two or three times a day for the freshness, even though the spraying spigots spewed out cold, coarse, salt water from the wintery seas.
It wasn't until the fifth day that climate conditions got better and all troops were ordered topside for some six hours as the quarters were fumigated and swabbed down to eliminate the vomit that adhered to many places besides the floors and latrines. As we basked in the sun, most of the soldiers took advantage of the new found freedom and strolled the decks, examined the canon mounts, or maneuvered open places along the ship side railings in watching the play of foaming waters.
We repeated these forages aboard ship for the next few days. As soon as a line started up, everyone seemed to get in line quickly without knowing where they were going and didn't bother to question what it was for. After standing in lines that didn't seem to move, a couple of us played jokes on the others by creating a line of our own at a closed doorway while not to our surprise, hundreds joined in behind us. There wasn't much else to do. After getting bored, some of us ambled back to our tight quarters only to return back topside to repeat the strolling and watching. In our quarters, there wasn't much talk as almost everyone had hunkered down to prone positions in rigid canvas bunks. Even New Year's Eve was quietly celebrated with no commotion.
The question asked by many of us directed to others was, "What is your MOS?" These were the assigned numbers for job role departments. Every veteran who served in the United States Armed Forces during the Korean War (or any war) was assigned a Military Occupation Specialty or MOS number. This was the government's way of classifying military personnel in various jobs for payroll and other purposes. Almost all aboard ship seemed to be assigned to such specializations as chefs, cooks, truck drivers, entertainment, etc. I found only two or three others with my MOS number being that of a plain, common infantryman. I was certain that I would soon be drawing foxhole pay when arriving ashore.
We were afforded an interesting side trip by anchoring at the small island of Okinawa. We had an opportunity to spend one day roaming the shores where the bitter battles of World War II had been fought just a handful of years prior. Still remaining were large cement and steel barriers, concertina wire, and bunkers and deep caves all along the beaches. It was a good opportunity to visit the island and to see first hand the rampages of war laid desolate for some ten years and an epilog to our destiny in Korea.
Two days later, we landed at Yokohama, twin city to Tokyo. Once more, I found myself standing guard duty to near-empty barracks as all of the 4500 troops had been carted off to their assigned duties, many of whom were to remain their in Japan. Woe was me as I stiffened my back and my upper lip in awaiting orders for Korea. There we were about 25 of us waiting for our call when two days later, we were boarded upon a bus without the least of instructions and toured across the bridges to Tokyo, then, through Tokyo, and on through the countryside onto smooth blacktop roads. The trip held all elements of confusion thereby holding me captured in a state of baffling wonderment.
After riding for approximately four hours we stopped at a compound with an assortment of military and Japanese style structures. The silent sergeant in charge, alighted from the bus, just as a captain came up to greet him. As they communicated, they animated the scene with waving of hands that puzzled me along with the other weary bus inhabitants. The sergeant boarded the bus once more, slamming the thick file of folders he had kept guarded and instructed the bus driver to turn around and make our return. All of a sudden, the captain came racing back to stand in front of the bus with arms upraised. The sergeant once more dispatched himself out the open door. Within moments, he instructed the dumb cattle aboard the bus to dismount and form two ranks at attention. The captain yelled out, "At ease!"
In some form of explanation without a preamble, the Captain went on to state that the class we were assigned to had been terminated and that it was decided we would be merged with another group that had started training the week before. We were then instructed to unload our duffle bags from the bus and led to a dormitory that was provided with very nice rooms having twin beds in each two men to a room. Wow!
During the first few days of what became eight weeks of class sessions we studied to be Photo Interpreters. It was explained that we were now G-2 Classified, which simply meant that we were assigned to "Intelligence." Unbeknownst to all of us was that while we were taking these special classes, back home, the FBI had been busy checking out each individual to determine whether we would be given Security clearances for our "Intelligence" assignments.
It took awhile to get the hang of it, but Photo Interpreters used special magnifying glasses. It was explained that when two photos were taken within seconds of each other, and when placed side by side, the special glasses would show up the photo objects in "three-dimensional" depth of perception. Natural and man-made features can be seen in three dimensions with the aid of the special glasses called stereoscopes. These are also used to view two overlapping scenes. With the addition of depth, aerial photos can provide the Photo Interpreter with information of geologic boundaries, terrain characteristics, relative heights, and regional topography.
By studying the techniques of stereo photography, as interpreters, we were able to analyze ground surface in three dimensions by viewing overlapping scenes. As kids in elementary school we used a stereopticon or "parlor stereoscope" as an early instrument to view duo-photographs for stereo effect in 3-D video perception.
For military purposes, we were taught to closely examine the terrain looking for caves, tracks, roadways, waterways and mountain sides in seeking hidden airplanes, tanks, trucks, troops, etc. We learned how to detect clues that would provide an assessment of what type, and how much, and how recent an enemy presence existed in a designated area.
Aerial stereo photography consists of a series of overlapping photos taken along a designated flight line that were taken by airplanes flying over enemy territory. Upon flight completions, the films are immediately developed and sent to Photo Interpreters who would examine the photo series. Once analyzed with accurate determinations, an air-strike would be called designating a specified target or as a request for another run of sorties for closer examination by another air flight. All aircraft were equipped with photographing equipment even pursuit planes and dive bombers.
Photo interpreter training provided the skills to read and analyze the terrain of any aerial photograph much like a book. As aerial photo interpreters, we learned to view large regions in one glance by using a technique called "mosaicking" in which several photos of adjacent areas are pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle to present the overall "big picture."
Our school was located one hour outside of Tokyo in a small village called Tsudanuma. There was nothing of interest in the village so we were allowed frequent weekend passes that gave me access to many of the entertainment spots in Tokyo and Yokohama. I had a chance to visit the dance halls, Japanese operas and folk ceremonies, and a huge multi-storied, Enlisted Man's Club that housed three movie theaters, five restaurants several nightclubs, lounges, libraries, slot machine casinos, and workout gymnasiums and swimming pools.
Even though I was far from being a golf champ, I had a try at swinging the clubs on the side of Mount Fuji.
However, in spite of the wonderful and intriguing sites in Tokyo, I was restricted from relishing much of the social life due to the inhibiting amount of my monthly payroll check $86 less $30 which I was sending home. Result, I did not make Tokyo trips every week as others did.
My occasional outing was by Japanese train; and which was quite an experience. The Japanese culture was male dominated which prohibited the common courtesies of offering one's seat to a woman. All of the Japanese men remained seated and would become somewhat dismayed when I would insist that a woman, regardless of age, take my seat.
School students were dressed in black uniforms, comprised of short pants or short skirts, and a sort of beanie cap with visors. Most of the adult women wore long sheath-like clothes covered by long coats. The men were normally dressed in black suits, white shirts, and ties with the exception of those who did common labor. Mostly all of them wore white sanitary masks due to the highly polluted air.
When the 8-week school was completed, we were all boarded on a flight to Inchon, Korea. After landing and being billeted in a small military compound, our original group of 25 from Yokohama were once more told that our new assignment orders had to be cancelled. We were told that there was no longer a need for Photo Interpreters.
We were all issued Carbine rifles, and again I conjured the thought that it was time to pay my dues for having dropped Officer Candidate School. A few days later, we were separated into small groups to board "Six-by" trucks again without explanations or any instructions. It wasn't the first time that I felt like cattle or as I usually put it "ignorantly following a slow line to the gas chambers." The truck I was riding in, drove for five hours as we left behind the flat lands and the terrain began to get hilly and more and more mountainous. Finally, after several stops along the way there were only two of us left in the truck bed. We halted at a forward Battalion headquarters unit where the Duty Officer came out with papers and explained that we were now assigned to POW compounds. I was again in a quandary as to the other fellow who remained at Battalion level and I was sent forward to the "Front" at company level.
"The Front" at Rear Echelon
Stopping at a Military Police compound, I naturally thought that I must have been assigned to guard duty over prisoners of war. After jumping off the truck with my duffle bag and Carbine, I was motioned to a tent that was posted with a sign that read "508 MI Service Platoon." The sergeant bid me in, took my personnel folder, then escorted me to a tent housing eight other fellows. There were three white guys and the remaining ones were Oriental, all in various states of casual uniform dress. Only one fellow looked up to greet me as the others continued on with their conversations some in English and others in other languages. The friendly private explained that he had just arrived the week before, so we chummed up and I took the vacant cot next to his.
Stuart Graber was from the Mid-West and was quick to explain what our new MOS assignment consisted of. Thereafter, I became aware that my Specialty classification was 1636, an Intelligence Analyzer, no longer a photo-analyst, no longer an infantry man, but now an Interrogator of Prisoners of War.
My separation discharge papers describe that my overseas time was from December 23, 1952 until January 14, 1954. That was portal to portal from Camp Drake and return to Camp Drake in Seattle, Washington. I mention this because I had learned from other GI buddies that maintaining a sanity existence and a positive outlook was to mark time for each calendar day by announcing the number of days remaining until discharge. It wasn't all that important to me at first since my rotation number was just a little bit below 400 days remaining, thus, I wasn't interested in starting the routine so early. I actually waited until 99 days of my estimated departure before starting the customary count down.
Before my arrival, the big battles of Pusan, Inchon, Pork Chop Hill, Heartbreak Ridge and Chosen Reservoir had already been valiantly fought during the years of 1950 to 1952. It was in May 1951 that General Omar Bradley had described General MacArthur's plan to carry the Korean Conflict across the Yalu River into China as, "The wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time and with the wrong enemy."
Frankly, at that time I wasn't into the politics of what was right or wrong. As a young boy, I had gone through the stateside rigors of civilian life during World War II, making daily pledges before the flagpole at school, and had been gloriously ingrained with patriotism for our country. I was in Korea to do my duty, but quite relieved that I had missed the earlier bloody battles. When I arrived at my ultimate station sometime in March of 1953, my commitment was to be dutiful. The sounds of battle continued to ring out each night as artillery canon flashes were turbulent against the sky line in blanking out the lighted stars while the surrounding valleys sounded like bowling alleys with the rumblings that sounded off. Although, not in the heat of battle it was still scarry.
Interrogator of Prisoners of War (IPW)
I was encamped somewhat East of the Punch Bowl as shown in the map's bottom right quarter on the next page. My new acquaintance, Stu Graber, had indoctrinated me into what would become my mode of conduct. My new role was to be an Interrogator of Prisoners of War. As prisoners were caught on the front lines, a call from the forward Headquarters Unit would be sent to ours and one or more members of our platoon were dispatched by jeep(s) to pick up the newly captured prisoner(s). Upon reaching the front line headquarters, usually situated with the forward Artillery units, our task was to perform a two-hour interrogation of the prisoner in seeking strategic information that would be of benefit to the front line commanders. When the initial Assessment Report was completed, we would mount the prisoner(s) into the rear of our jeep(s) to be taken back to our compound where they would undergo a grueling 24 hour interrogation process.
Once we finished with them, the prisoner(s) would be picked up by a Battalion level Interrogator who carried them to their HQ compound for further interrogations before being shipped off to a POW camp further south.
My commanding officer, quite a nice fellow from Texas, told me that I had to learn the ropes since I had no training, but because the battle fields had calmed down considerably, there was little need for me to be pressured by a stringent learning cycle. I sat in on a number of interrogations of prisoners after they were brought back to our compound. The standard demeanor was one assigned Interrogator along with an assigned Interpreter for each prisoner. A separate tent in the compound was set aside for interrogation purposes which had maps and a terrain relief map as well as a table with clay and sand for prisoners to build a relief of the area in which they were entrenched. Once they built a recognizable clay model they were brought to another room which had relief sections of the selected front lines. These props were selectively used based on the intelligence and willingness of the prisoner. Most were incapable of reading and not able to comprehend a map, but could create a reasonable facsimile of their battle area in a sand box.
I was awakened early one morning for a prisoner pick-up. Fortunately, I was assigned one of the top Interpreter/Translators, a South Korean who spoke very good English. He knew the roadway to the Front lines so he became my guide. The South Koreans were not allowed to drive the jeeps, handle fire arms, or to directly interrogate the prisoners. Only the American Interrogators were charged with such duties.
After a drive into the treacherous mountainous terrain, I drove into a valley where artillery bunkers were laid out. As we got closer, puffs of smoke ejected with the release of each spent shell casing being thrown out from the large canons as they fired their noisy missiles. While driving nearby, the artillery thunder from the ground was strong enough to shake our jeep.
At our field headquarters destination, the Officer on Duty stated that there was no need for a strategic interrogation so we loaded the prisoner in the rear of the jeep after first tying his hands. At the beginning of the trip, I had been issued a .45-caliber which I withdrew from my holster and tucked below my testicles. Under such circumstances, I didn't allow myself to trust either my South Korean Interpreter, or the North Korean prisoner even with tied hands. The South Korean grinned a smirky smile, but I didn't care. Once we returned to the treacherous rocky roads, it wasn't long before the prisoner started choking and all of a sudden he spewed out his guts. My Interpreter explained that the prisoner had never ridden in a jeep before and was frightened. This caused me to drive at a slower speed which eventually caused a train of vehicles to be backed up behind us. Every so often along the roadway was a breach in the mountainside that allowed me to take refuge long enough to let the truck traffic and other vehicles behind us, to pass by.
Upon arriving back at the compound, I conducted my first 24-hour interrogation by the book. I say by the book, because Interrogators had to follow specified guidelines in questioning prisoners and detailed notes had to be recorded. Needless to say, the time spent was wearisome for all parties concerned the interrogator, interpreter and the prisoner.
During my early engagement, armistice negotiations were being conducted at Panmonjon. As a result of those ongoing discussions, there was limited battlefield conflict with the exception of nightly artillery fire and occasional, "Bed-Check-Charlie" raids.
Bed-Check-Charlies consisted of low flying reconnaissance flights by North Koreans or Chinese aviators who would fly below radar detection and would sometimes drop mortar shells that blasted off on impact. I had never heard of anyone being killed by these raids, but we wouldn't have known what went on in adjoining compounds.
Our small society
Our Group consisted of four, sometime five officers, a couple of sergeants, and eight to ten Interrogators of various ethnic backgrounds four Caucasians, and the remaining were Orientals composed of Nisei Japanese from California and the Hawaiian islands.
South Koreans were employed to perform professional functions such as serving as Interpreters in addition to others who provided housekeeping services which included our laundering and cleaning the tents and compound area.
Our living quarters were large tents that could house as many as 12 to 14 persons, however, because we were few in number, we were benefitted by quite a bit of roominess even to having a large table that was used for writing, playing cards, or socializing with drinks or snacks. The four of us Caucasians stayed in one tent and the GI Orientals stayed in another, and the Koreans had their own tent.
Dining a major diversion
Regardless of the ethnic divisions, it was normal for each of us to visit other tents in socializing or in seeking to taste the various dishes prepared by the Koreans and the Japanese. It became common for all of us to prepare some kind of rice dish at night that would be mixed with assortments of canned fish or fresh vegetables.
We used a large 10-gallon tin can to make coffee by pouring coffee grounds into socks which we swished through the heated water. There were always small deposits of coffee grounds encountered while sipping from our canteen cups.
Everyone didn't make the breakfast-run by jeep to our designated Mess Hall. For the first six months, morning breakfasts were great. Only our small group along with the adjoining Military Police attachment was assigned to what we called "Cuisine Cafeteria." My breakfast was always quite varied, since I could request eggs to be cooked in any quantity and in any fashion. It was usual for me to start off with a large cup of dry cereal with powdered milk while I awaited a half-dozen of "sunny-side ups" being prepared to-order. I sometimes requested French toast or pancakes with one or two eggs on top.
Lunches and suppers were frequented by more GIs, but never creating a line of any consequence. We frequently had steaks and fish prepared to taste and to top it off, there were always large bowls of peanut butter and jam to smother over sliced bread if the prepared dessert wasn't filling enough.
During the last half of my stay in Korea, a new military attachment appeared at our Mess Hall. They were KATUSA (Koreans Attached To USA) troops that were assigned to special duty with the Military Police. They literally changed the atmosphere of our "Cuisine Cafeteria" to "Messy Hall." The Koreans were sloppy and dirty diners, which caused me to eat and get out quickly and because they dipped their eating utensils into the peanut butter and jam, I quit that resource food supplement completely. But, the KATUSAs were late risers, so at least, I was still able to continue enjoying my morning breakfast routine.
Military Police Compound
Our Intelligence Group was housed within a compound shared with the Military Police. There was very little interchange between our two groups except when they brought in Line Crossers. Line Crossers were Korean civilians who chanced to make the trip through the battle grounds to escape the North into the South. However, there were instances when spies mingled in this group. If they were suspected as such, our Interpreters were sometimes called upon as translators until the MPs were assigned their own Korean troops.
After hearing about a certain ritual performed by the assigned Korean troops upon the female line-crossers that were caught prostituting within our front-line GIs, I asked to be allowed to watch.
On one such occasion, I was called over to watch as a Korean woman was stripped and her ankles were widely spread apart and tied to two upright posts. Her wrists were also tied as she was pulled forward and bent over a horizontal board at the height of her abdomen. On the ground below her was a bucket. Another Korean with a ten-foot long board that was used as a paddle was swung with all his might to land squarely on the protruding cheeks of the prostitute's ass. With the jolting shock and sting and pain from the depths of her vagina out poured a messy gush of juices and hidden articles that included paper money, rings, watches, coins, and assorted items.
I later found out that those items were rinsed down and analyzed for Intelligence purposes.
Trips to Seoul and Chunchon
On several occasions I was instructed to make courier trips to Chunchon or to Seoul City or both. I was given written dispatches that had to be brought to other levels of the military.
I actually welcomed the drive through the mountain sides and deep wide valleys. The Summer months were brilliant with colors. The mountain tops were ringed with crimson colors from the abundant growth of wild azalea bushes and along the valley bottoms. Korean farmers used the roadbeds to lay out their crops of peppers that were dried blood red from the heat and sun. Even though tempted to do so, I was instructed never to pick up any civilians along the way.
The many farmers went to and from villages with their crops or other items to trade or sell. Women were stiffly erect as they carried atop their heads huge bundles that were twice the size of their bodies. And, the men were bowed over by the weight they carried on their backs which were supported by A-frame rigs strapped to their shoulders and stuffed seemingly a mile high.
Frequently, along the way I would be waved at by ragged Korean prostitutes who kept to dirty hovels. One would have to be awfully horny in attempting to satisfy their lust.
During one trip, I was instructed to drive a GI prisoner and his assigned guard to Chunchon, which took about four hours. Along the way, I was surprised by a shot that rang out close-by.
At the sound of gunfire I immediately halted the jeep and jumped to the side of the roadway while bringing up my Carbine to sight-in for whoever was doing the firing. However, neither the guard nor the prisoner moved from the jeep. All of a sudden the prisoner turned white and I knew he was shot, but I called for the guard to get down beside the jeep. He refused as he stated, "I shot him I shot him!"
It was then that I realized that it was not a suspected ambush but an accidental shooting which had occurred. The guard was too frazzled to do anything, so I tended to the prisoner's leg wound by applying a bandage and cautioned him to let me know if there was further bleeding that would require a tourniquet.
We were an hour away from Chunchon as I decided to apply more pressure to the peddle. I first brought the wounded boy to a hospital tent and then took the shaken guard to the headquarters tent where I expected to have to write up a report, instead, I was dismissed. I always wondered the outcome for each of them.
Chunchon was a small village halfway to Seoul from my encampment. Seoul, the South Korean capital, presented greater threats from even South Korean civilians who were always performing demonstrations in the streets. Hundreds of men wore kerchiefs tied around their foreheads. They would line up with arms about each other and dance in a serpentine fashion to disrupt traffic in the streets. Threatening, but otherwise, harmless.
Whenever I would leave the GI compound, I was instructed to carry my Carbine with a clip of ammunition inserted.
When making such trips, I would always stay the night and seek out one of the GI clubs. Drinks only cost about 25› and I was able to dance with any drink hostess. During day hours I would stroll the neighborhoods that were not off limits.
I never knew what kind of billeting I would have when I stayed overnight at Chunchon or Seoul. Sometimes it was in a small tent and other times in a large facility. In one instance I was assigned a cot within a large barracks that was filled that night with Ethiopian troops. Short and very dark, their military discipline was by chain of command. Size and might was irrelevant when it came to a frail corporal inhumanely battering a much larger private for not jumping from his top bunk in a swift enough manner to salute the demanding corporal. And, their's was a world where sergeants ruled with an iron fist.
Rump Bump Hump
In yet, another trip, I was driving up the side of a mountain on a road grade that was so steep in its incline, that a Korean group of road workers riding inside of the back of a 6-ton truck had turned over on its back, throwing out all of the riders and pinning down one Korean. It was such an absurd accident that I wished that I had pictures taken of the scene. I stopped my jeep and examined the wailing and startled Korean who was bent in half with his neck on the ground and a rear truck wheel pinning the poor fellow as it locked down on his rump. As I helped the workers who tried to dig from under the pinned Korean, the truck actually moved to further lock him down by the weight shift. I told the workers to go cut some trees in order to prop beneath the truck to keep it from further pressing down on the distressed Korean. It took a couple of hours to pull him out and I finally was able to maneuver my jeep around the downed truck that barred passage to other truck traffic as well.
Scotch and Seltzer
Once a month the fighting forces were entitled to rations in the form of alcohol, cigarettes, candy, etc. My take consisted of a bottle of Black and White Scotch and a couple of cartons of Marlboro. If I recall correctly, the fifth of scotch cost $2 and the cartons of cigarettes were $1 each.
Just before I joined (inducted into) the Army, I had acquired the taste for Scotch and Soda. However, since soda wasn't available, I substituted half of a tablet of Alka-Seltzer dropped in a small amount of water in order to bring up a fizz that was poured over by several dashes of scotch. It suited me right well.
War Criminal Me
During one of my last interrogations, the pressure was on to find exacting North Korean positions at our Front line. I had finally bagged a captured officer who was as tightlipped as any American prisoner would be. While into the last leg of the 24-hour interrogation process, and everyone was tired and quite weary, I pulled out my .45-Automatic and slammed it down loudly atop the table with the prisoner situated opposite me. He jumped from his chair and was forced back down by my Interpreter where the prisoner could look down the ejection barrel of the revolver. I slowly placed my hand back on the piece, and as it lay flat, I pushed it across the table with the muzzle pointing to his abdomen and then pulled my hand back leaving the .45 on his side of the table. He looked at me wondering what was happening.
The prisoner didn't even try to take possession of the revolver, instead, he started nervously jabbering in his language. At that instant, my Interpreter started questioning the prisoner with the same meaningful questions about his troop positions. He became very helpful in his reporting as all the while, my (empty) .45 remained plainly in sight upon the table as the prisoner continued directing glances at it.
The garnered information had been sent to the Front headquarters unit, the prisoner had been packed off and sent south to Seoul, and two days later, during the night, a "Bed Check Charlie" low flying plane dropped leaflets with a photograph showing the prisoner being escorted to the Jeep to be taken south. Also, included on the leaflet was clearly printed my name as: DAN ELLIS, and in Korean calligraphy, it was stated that at the end of the war, I would be held accountable as a War Criminal for having ruthlessly pointed my pistol at the temple of the officer in forcing him to talk.
It was evident and very clear to me, that we had a spy within our camp and for how long had that existed no one appeared to know.
Showering was usually limited to three or four times a week because of the assigned days given to our compound. We would take a few jeeps to drive to the designated shower tents that were some 15 minutes away. The cleaning process while waiting in line would take about an hour or more.
While taking strolls throughout our encampment, I came upon a small stream of water that was slowly cascading from a high ridge. The water simply passed down a narrow ditch to nowhere. I talked Stu Graber and Oeji (the Mormon) into assembling a trough in which to catch the water to divert it out from the slope of the ridge so that we could shower beneath it. This worked well and some of the others in our group began showering there every day. We then decided to dam the area to make a swimming pool with the water that streamed out constantly. To accomplish that task, we got the Supply Sergeant to requisition a stack of burlap sandbags which we filled with sand and mud and created a wide perimeter which was able to store a quantity of water, but only sufficient to make it a little deeper than a wading pool. Nevertheless, it worked and provided us several hours of enjoyment and relaxation.
R & R (Rest and Recuperation)
After a five to eight-month stay in Korea, GIs were treated to a 5-day furlough which was titled "Rest and Recuperation."
One of the Caucasians with whom I chummed with was called Oeji, Japanese for "Old Man." He was a Mormon, and through him, I learned that Mormons were committed to perform two years of missionary work. Oeji, I don't recall his real name, had put in two years of dedication in Japan where he learned to speak the language fluently. For a rather young man, he was balding and was mustachioed and had a full beard. To top it off he would guff loudly as he puffed on his crooked pipe. In a way, he was truly an old man. We were shuttled from our camp to Seoul where we boarded a transport plane with some one hundred other fellows. During our flight to Tokyo, Oeji told me that he was intent on visiting the family with whom he had stayed while on his missionary duty.
Excerpt from "Korea: The First War We Lost," by Bevin Alexander, pp 396-98
One important reason why morale in Eighth Army had improved so dramatically was that, starting around the first of the year , the army inaugurated a new program of five-day Rest and Recuperation (R&R) leaves in Japan, for which the lowliest GI and the highest officer were eligible.
The transition of a war-weary soldier or marine from a foxhole in Korea to the dazzling lights of Tokyo or other Japanese cities was staggering. But the hope for R&R buoyed many a man whose morale otherwise would have sunk. GIs quickly dubbed the R&R leaves I&I (Intercourse and Intoxication), or, more vulgarly, A&A (Ass and Alcohol). There were, indeed, great opportunities for both in Japan. Clubs for officers, noncoms and enlisted men abounded in Japan, but the many excellent commercial nightclubs run by Japanese claimed the attention of most of the R&R men. These clubs offered superb Japanese beer, professional Japanese musical combos with female vocalists singing American pop tunes and generally a plethora of Japanese girls waiting to be picked up. Americans and other UN troops were overwhelmed by the often beautiful but always extremely polite and clean Japanese women. The Japanese ran official red-light districts, providing, in typical Japanese fashion, offerings for any taste from raucous and bawdy to restrained and refined. Some men frequented these houses, but the greatest and most sought-after sources of feminine company were found right on the streets of the cities. Generally the Japanese girls and young women were not prostitutes in the traditional sense; rather they were working women who were attracted to the excitement and comparative high life that a man on R&R could offer. Almost without exception the Japanese women stood shyly on the streets, seldom calling or hustling, and responded to inquisitive glances or nods by Westerners with embarrassed giggles and polite responses in generally bad broken English. To the hollow-eyed young men (on leave) from Korea, badly in need of solace, comfort and affection, these young Japanese women were apparitions come to life.
Despite all the talk (and some action) regarding wine, women and song, the most lasting and happy memories that most men carried back from their R&Rs were remembrances of being clean and of being able to lie down in peaceful sleep untroubled by mortars or wet or cold. Few veterans of Korea would ever admit it among their associates, but a great many of them slept away great portions of their R&Rs.
During the air flight from Korea, we were given a sort of tourist pamphlet that outlined where we were allowed to go in addition to offering some suggestions. For some reason, without explanation or reference, I decided to spend part of my R&R trip in Kobe in the southern part of Japan. It meant that I would have to take a train ride for four or five hours to get there. I didn't have more than a hundred dollars in my pocket and I was acting like the last of the big spenders.
As soon as the plane landed in Tokyo, everyone scattered as if they knew exactly where they were going. I decided to tag along with a group that seemed to be having the most spontaneous fun. Six of us crowded into a single taxi as we rode seemingly without direction to a small Japanese hotel, where, we were given rooms adjoining each other on the second floor where there were already four other GIs. We all got together and sent a Japanese boy out to get a couple of bottles of Saki. Then, without much introduction, in walked four beautifully dressed and ornamented Geisha girls to keep us company. Some of the fellows didn't understand that Geishas were not whores and were not going to "put-out." I had the prior enjoyment in Tokyo during one of my weekend trips from Tsudanuma to experience the wondrous entertainment afforded by a Geisha. They would sing and dance in their traditional dance rituals, and they would prepare food on a hibachi and instruct in the use of chop sticks, and fill empty cups with Saki, but no "Touchee-touchee."
I told the untutored GIs that if they wanted prostitutes, they would have to go to a whorehouse which would probably be on the outside fringes of town in lower class hotels. Once they understood that they could actually enjoy the refined entertainment provided by the Geishas and once they got a little sauced from the Saki, they got into the mood. We were all enjoying the afternoon when all of a sudden a scream came from anther room down the hall.
The rooms were actually cubicle sized with walls made of paper that also made do as sliding doors that allowed passage from room to room.
We finally let the Geishas go and we slept off the booze in Japanese style sleeping on the floor with a cloth-covered brick for a pillow.
On my own to Kobe
Early the next morning I took a train to Kobe, Japan. I don't have the slightest recall as to what motivated me to make that trip or any reason why I decided to visit Kobe. I had been in the habit of sending a good portion of my money home through automatic withholding.
As a result, I didn't have too much to spend on fancy hotels. On arrival at Kobe, I had the taxi driver take me to a small Japanese hotel on the edge of town. I checked into a clean and quaint habitat. It was late evening and too late for me to go out to explore the town, so I decided to stay in for the night.
There was a young Japanese couple, both dressed in kimonos so I assumed that they worked in the hostelry. The Japanese boy spoke better English than the girl. I was shown to my room on the second story which actually had a bed with spring and mattress. The young girl brought a kimono, slippers, and towels and beckoned me to follow her to the bathing room. The tiled tub was centered in the middle of the room and measured about 4' by 4' and about four-foot-deep with a set-off to sit on. She motioned me to take off my clothes behind a modesty screen as she held the large towel for me and guided me to sit on a short wooden stool near the tub. She then took a wooden bowl and dipped it into the hot steaming water and with a small towel started rubbing my arms and then my legs. As I became acclimated to the hot water, she coaxed me to dip my feet into the tub. The water was steaming hot as I could ever so slowly get accustomed. The girl smiled with great patience. While coaxing me to get into the tub she kept pouring bowls of water on me. It must have taken an hour before I finally eased myself into the tub and submerged myself. All the while, she showed no shyness about my nakedness except to place a cloth over my private parts. Nakedness was not a problem with the Japanese as long as they covered themselves even if it were just with their hands over their pubic areas.
After bathing, I put on the kimono and slippers and the girl took my clothes to my room. I found the dining area which was a large room with no tables or chairs. The boy was about 19 or 20 and the girl was about 18 years. They both went about ordering food preparations from the kitchen which was located out of doors. I had decided on the small Japanese hotel on purpose, both, because it was cheaper and secondly, because I wanted to experience native Japanese food as well as the culture.
What I didn't realize at first, was that I was the only Caucasian guest that evening. The result was that the couple dined with me and remained there providing me company.
I had an uncanny way of being able to understand and communicate by speaking to them in Spanish when they didn't understand what I was saying in English. And with their spoken Japanese, extremely limited English, and with hand gestures we got along fine. All three of us were enjoying the evening so much that I didn't want to leave for my room. As we sipped on Saki, it was easy to just stay reclined there on the floor as they both coaxed me to do. Without any conscious decision, the three of us slept right there on the floor.
Early the next morning, when I awoke, I was by myself. I went to my room and dressed and went out to see the town and took some photographs. When I got back to the hotel, the young couple was there and they explained that they had two jobs. One in the town, the other at the hotel during the afternoons and where they made their habitat each night. I told them that I wanted to go dancing and asked for directions for a place to eat and dance. It wound up that once more it was the three of us. Since I was the only hotel guest, they had gotten permission from the inn-owner to accompany me. We had a good time together as I danced with the girl and they sang Japanese songs and danced some of their cultural dances together. Even at the supper club in which we were dining, there were but few people.
The following night was my last. The girl and I went out alone, dancing as we shared dinner.
On the following morning she accompanied me to the departing train. She had tears in her eyes. Although she wouldn't accept it at first, after strong insistence on my part, I gave her twenty dollars. This caused her to well up with more tears as she tried to explain in Japanese, of which I gathered, that she was further hurt by my offer of money. I kissed both of her eyes and she responded with an adoring smile after noticing that I too had tears in mine. It was a very sweet delicate feeling, which was tarnished a little by my giving her money.
Operation Little Switch, occurred between April 20 and May 3, 1953, resulting in the exchange of sick and wounded prisoners of the Korean War. The exchange was finalized during the truce talks at Panmonjon on April 11, as agreed by the United Nations (U.N.) Commander in Chief General Mark W. Clark with North Korean Premier Kim Il Sung and Chinese General Peng Dehui. The Communist side released 684 U.N. sick and wounded troops, while the U.N. Command (UNC) returned 1,030 Chinese and 5,194 North Koreans, together with 446 civilian internees.
Interrogations of Returning Prisoners
Following the partial exchange of prisoners, I was given orders in late August of 1953, along with Oeji and two of our Nisei Japanese Interrogators and several Interpreters, to go south to the off-coast islands surrounding Koje-Do.
We boarded a military flight departing Seoul to Pusan. Once there, we boarded a large LST that crowded close to two hundred of us for a four-hour trip to the Koje-Do island group. After meandering through several small and medium size islands we finally reached our encampment. Unloading our duffle bags, we were assigned to several large Quonset huts for lodging.
An LST naval pilot remembered that: "viewed from the main deck, troughs had been constructed along the port and starboard sides for the POWs to take a leak. I suspect that they were North Korean, but they could have been Chinese and were being taken from the mainland to the islands of Cheju-Do and Koje-Do."
Pertaining to prisoner repatriation, he continued, "The only POWs that I remember were put in stalls that were constructed on the tank deck and we were hauling them from Cheju-Do and Koje-Do to the mainland during Little Switch and Big Switch."
* * *
Each morning after breakfast we would board a landing craft that could handle about 50 of us in somewhat crowded conditions. By water, it took an hour to reach the neighboring larger island that housed the repatriated South Koreans. The buildings were planted along the slopes of a mountainside which was one of many emerging mountains that rose from the ocean floor making up the island group.
On the first day, we were paired off with a Translator for each Interrogator and we were issued a prisoner's name and a thick booklet of questions to ask and report on. During the first three days I followed the book, asking each question in English and the Interpreter would translate in Korean and waited for a response from the repatriated prisoner in Korean as the Interpreter translated back to me for recording. Each prisoner took about three hours to process, so without instructions from higher authorities, after the third day, I took it upon myself to make character assessments of each prisoner. Based on such analysis, after the first several questions being responded in the negative, I began rippling through the thick list of questions knowing that there would be many more negative responses. But, I would also read aloud interspersed questions to be translated to prove and verify my assessment. During the questioning of each prisoner, I was learning to comprehend more and more Korean to endorse my judgements and near the end of the second week, I was completing as many as 20 prisoners a day. In short, I became aware that many of the other Interrogators were doing the same thing.
I then began making fun out of the very long and tedious days of continued repetitions.
Because some of the Koreans had such names as Phuc, and Oh, and Que, I would send my Translator out looking for the next prisoner to interrogate yelling out for "Oh Huk Que" or "Phuc Que Moon" thus, the other Caucasian Interrogators joined in with their own variations.
During another day of boredom, I placed a door and door frame in the middle of the walkway centered in the building. When my Translator would go outside to call for a prisoner, I would go out for a smoke and when the Translator and prisoner would I arrive, I walked ahead and would open the door within the doorframe, let the Translator through and then close the door waiting to see what the prisoner would do. With variations, some would wait at the closed door doing nothing, a few knocked on the door, but most weren't much fooled and simply walked around the doorframe to our table.
The days were hot during the six weeks that we were at Koje-Do, but I marveled at the beauty of the island group. After a long day at the repatriated prisoner's camp, the return trip to our island was quite a welcome cruise before reaching our quarters. After supper, I would walk to the edge of the steep bluffs where below the emerald waters would wash against the volcanic rock base. The magnificence of the water was unfathomable as I peered down to see a great variety of swimming fish and swaying vegetation.
One day I walked to the edge of our restricted area which was surrounded by concertina wire and came upon a Korean security guard who allowed me to pass through a small gate after giving him two sticks of gum. I continued my walk to descend to a sandy beach which I reached in 15 minutes. I descended further recalling that I had seen a small island not distant from ours. On the shore I encountered a small boat being paddled by a Korean navigator carrying another person aboard. I waited them as they came ashore and realized that the boat had ferried from another island carrying a laborer to our camp. I talked the boat owner into taking me across and told him that I would pay him to remain with me for an hour. He spoke broken English and we were able to understand each other quite well with some of my newly learned Korean. My pronunciation was quite understood because, unlike the throaty Japanese language, the Korean dialect has Latin soundings similar to my Spanish.
We landed at a very small settlement that had only two houses on the beach. I learned that one of them was occupied by an old Korean lady with her daughter. My Korean fisherman guide explained that the two women had only recently taken the beach hut in hopes that GIs would have access across the water. The old woman was prostituting her daughter, but I turned the offer down and asked her to prepare me a dish of Kimchi. During prior trips to Chunchon and Seoul, I had taken a liking for Kimchi, which is much like a salad. It is a Korean staple which for the first time I was able to see the process in making it. The old woman brought me to the rear of the hut where there was a tree stump which had its inner core scraped out to make a bowl shape. Every day, new ingredients would be cut and added to the concoction by thoroughly mixing the new with the old. A major ingredient was sliced cabbage with herbs, roots, other vegetables, and hot peppers for seasoning.
The whole of it was always kept thoroughly doused with vinegar. The aging process was what made Kimchi the favorite national Korean dish. Just a light cotton rag covered the stump to keep out insects and dust and allowed the food stuff to continue fermenting. After eating and talking with the bashful young Korean girl and her mother, I promised to be back the next day.
When I got back to my barracks that evening, I told my Caucasian friend Oeji all about what he had missed, so he was more than anxious to go with me the following day. Oeji's Mormon religious teachings had prevented him from fornicating with his sheep in his missionary practices for his two-year church obligation that he had performed in Japan some few year's prior. When he had taken R&R in Japan during the same five days as me, he spent his time with remembered Missionary friends. I had always teased him by saying to him, "Come now, Oeji, tell me the truth, I know you must have been fiddling with the churchly girls." He was always adamant about cherishing his oath of chastity as he would swipe his large moustache with sincerity.
After we reached the concertina wire and were granted permission to pass through by the Korean Guard, but not before his demands for cigarettes instead of chewing gum were answered. While descending to the beach, I retold Oeji about the old lady and her young daughter. On the way across by way of the fisherman's ferry boat, I told Oeji, "You know, I'm proud of you maintaining chastity during your missionary stint.
When we landed, the old lady came out of her hut chattering as I introduced her to Oeji. Automatically, Oeji spoke out in an extended conversation in Japanese, which the old lady understood. In response, she went about preparing some steaks on her hibachi and called out her daughter to help her.
Earlier, upon landing, I requested our Ferry Master to go to his village to get a couple of bottles of Saki. I knew Oeji liked the Japanese wine and he drank the warmed glasses put to him by the young girl who knew from my previous trip, that I wasn't interested in having sex. Thus, she started plying her charms on Oeji, who finally gave in and went into the hut to tackle his first conquest.
On our way back across the water by way of our ferry, Oeji kept hooping and whooping in heralding a new era into his life. He never told me, but I'm sure that he made a few more trips on his own before we completed our interrogations the following week.
Operation Big Switch
Operation Big Switch was the repatriation of prisoners during August 5th to December 23rd, 1953. The final exchange of prisoners of war by both sides was marked by controversy over voluntary repatriation and, later, by allegations of brainwashing and torture of U.N. POWs by the Communists. The issue of forced repatriation of POWs proved the major stumbling block to successful conclusion of the truce talks.
Communist insistence on the return of all captured nationals held by the United Nations coalition was strenuously opposed by the U.S. and South Korean governments, although a number of the other governments who had committed forces to the U.N. command in Korea argued that the principle of voluntary repatriation should not be permitted to obstruct an early conclusion of hostilities. Eventually it was agreed that a U.N. Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission (N.N.R.C.), chaired by India, would take responsibility for prisoners who had indicated a desire to remain with their captors.
Finally, the Communists agreed to return 12,763 Allied POWs at a rate of 300 a day, during which, 88 days was allowed for the exchange. The breakdown consisted of 8,186 South Koreans, 3,313 Americans, 922 British, 228 Turks, 40 Filipinos, 22 Colombians, 15 Australians, 14 Canadians, 12 French, 6 South Africans, 3 Japanese, one Greek and one Belgian.
Last Days of Fighting
Communist ground forces made a final major push on the central and western fronts in the last days of the war during July 23rd to 27th, 1953. They were largely repelled by ROK and U.S. Army and Marine units, but they gained some ground because the UN forces fought only a defensive battle to prevent more losses of life. The final lines of the 38th Parallel were drawn. These battles had occurred while I was still at Koje-Do processing and repatriating prisoners.
After my return to our camp headquarters in late September, I had suspected that I would be involved in the Big Switch, but was told that because I had only a few months left, my obligations were completed. In fact, most of the Japanese Nisei Interrogators and all of the Interpreters had already departed for Big Switch duties before my return. Remaining in our compound were four officers, a new commanding officer, Oeji, Stu Graber, and two other GI's besides myself.
A Shore Visit
Just after the cease fire agreement with the North Koreans, several of us started taking short trips from our military compound. The first was to the Chunchon Reservoir where we took our air-mattresses along to use as floats in the water. On one occasion, we purchased a few bottles of Saki which we tied to the edges of our floating mattresses to get the benefit of heated sunlight.
Since we enjoyed swimming trips so much, the four of us decided on another trip that would take us to the ocean side to remain overnight. After a full day of swimming in the surf and cooking supper, we toasted the evening away until next morning's departure.
Fisticuffs from Boredom
There were two Nisei fellows remaining in our compound, one of whom disliked that I would enter their tent to taste their nightly cooking of rice. I was always thankful to both of them, offering them to come to our tent when they felt like it. I didn't realize that one of them with a mustache had resented my presence until one day he approached me while yelling like a scrappy little dog yelping at me.
All of a sudden he slugged me on the jaw and because I was not much fazed by his attack, I launched out after him. He scooted so fast around the compound that I gave up the chase. Oeji said that the sight reminded him of Tarzan attacking the pygmies.
I always found myself more embarrassed by such public displays, therefore not frequently resorting to physical force as a means of having my way.
Mutiny and Accord
A month or so following the Armistice signing, our new CO, an American Captain who was Russian-born, started changing all of the rules by which we had become accustomed. He dismissed the Korean security group that provided nightly guard duty and ordered all enlisted men, the few of us left, to perform nightly security. I hadn't walked guard duty since I had left the states and now it seemed demeaning. He then ordered us to make trips into the mountains with our jeeps in performance of some sort of uncanny drill exercises. We had to camouflage the vehicles and take full packs and bedding along as if we were front-line soldiers. On the second trip it had snowed all night causing our vehicles to slide on the icy, narrow roadways that were cut into the mountainsides. With the steep inclines, we were faced with the possibility of sliding into the deep crevices or by being hit by the many rock falls that took place during that time of year.
The traumatic experience of that needless drive exercise was utterly ridiculous in having improper preparations without our having tire chains mounted. This caused me to recall the truck of Korean workers that had rolled over on a steep incline not much different than the roads we were trying to master made even more dangerous by the ice-slick, hardened snow. We finally convinced the Russian Captain to let us end the exercise and return to our compound.
A further irritation involved the Captain's decision to disallow the Lieutenants from driving themselves to and from their Officer's Mess in addition to their evening trips to the "Officer's Club." There were only two of us that had Military drivers' licenses, thus causing us extra duties not charged to other troop members. At that point, there was Stu Graber, Oeji, one other Caucasian and me, and two Nisei that had been newly added. In all, about seven or eight of us with one supply sergeant, three lieutenants and the Russian Captain made up our remaining group but only Stu Graber and I had drivers licenses.
I never hid my disgust as the lieutenants would come in during the evenings and request a driver to take one or two of them to the "Officer's Club" where they would go for a couple of hours, have drinks, and have social entertainment with the invited nurses. In particular, there was one unmarried lieutenant who made the trip quite often. In spite of his apologies, it didn't stop the cold, as I would have to remain outside sitting in the jeep for two or three hours during his visits.
I don't recall who started the ensuing fray, but I certainly kept it stirred up. Nightly, we would start hooting out loud in a cadence "Ve Gonna, Ve Gotta, Ve Must! Ve gonna lower da boom!" Because the Russian Captain spoke with a husky accent, the junior officers were well aware that we were mimicking him.
We sang this ditty out loud every night for about two weeks in continuous repetition for about an hour or so before lights out. There was a generator that would keep our tent lights on until 10:00 p.m. when it was turned off. Finally, one of the lieutenants came into our tent asking us to stop the nightly chorus and wanted to know what was going on. No one offered remarks and since we weren't ordered to stop, we kept it up for a few more nights before each one of us was called into the Headquarters tent and questioned by the senior lieutenant.
I'm sure that at least some of us had taken the opportunity to address our grievances. However, when I stated my disapprovals of the changes made in our daily and nightly routines, the lieutenant didn't hesitate to tell me that if we continued in our protest, we could be charged with mutiny. I then appealed to his good sense and requested that if some modifications could be made that our morale would greatly improve. The lieutenant then stated, well we'll take it under consideration, but if we hear any more of the "Ve Gonna, Ve Gotta, Ve Must! then you all can be assured that the Captain will lower the boom on all of you.
A week later, we were told that we no longer would have the forced drives into the mountains, and that the officers were once more granted the right to drive jeeps on their own, but that we would have to continue performing nightly guard duties. The compromise was worth it to me since I only had a little more than two months left. My countdown was 63 more days before rotation to the states.
Thirty-three days before my departure, I received a couple of casual civilian shirts sent from home that we were allowed to wear in the evenings. I had requested these from my wife and left them behind for the other GIs upon leaving Korea.
I said my goodbyes to the fellows that had been my chums for the past year, and after a jeep ride to Seoul, I was put on a troop cargo plane and sent back to Tokyo where I boarded what seemed to be the same troop ship that I had previously arrived by. I was an old hand at this experience in spite of the fact that the trip back was a repeat of the first. I ate boiled eggs for the first four days out for breakfast, lunch and supper. The cuisine got much better for the remainder of the journey. Anxious as I was, the trip took just as long to get back to Seattle's Fort Drake where upon landing I was surprised not to have guard duty to perform.
After two nights, via troop train, a large number of us were sent southward to Arkansas's Camp Chaffee. I spent about three days there taking indoctrination seminars, medical checkups, more shots, and finally, severance pay of $385.27. Travel allowance of $25.28 was included. Still in military garb, I carried my duffle bag and by army truck was let off at the train station to board a civilian train home on January 13, 1954.
I was with three other fellows that were bound for New Orleans. One was a Negro who lived around Rampart Street, another was an Italian from the Irish Channel, and the third was a Cajun from Norco. I actually ran across all three of them on several occasions for years afterward.
A Veteran Returns Home
When I returned home in the first week of February 1954, I looked forward to being with my wife. I hadn't seen her for 14 months and had not only written to her on a daily basis, but I had kept up a routine of writing her three letters a day and sent her many pictures.
Service Awards and Medals
Only after many years, on reviewing my Military Separation Form DD-214, I became acquainted with the Service medals or ribbons that I would have been allowed to wear, but never had. The only pin that I recall wearing was a sharpshooter bar that I received after Basic Training.
Service Medals allowed are: KSM, UNSM, NDSM, two BSS, 1 O/S Bar, GCM and as I now understand, a few new ones were approved by the U.S. Army. None of which have I received.
Fort Sam Houston San Antonio, TX Induction center
Fort Riley, KANSAS BASE CAMP PVT E-2 RA 25500385
COMPANY "I", 87th Infantry Regiment, 10th Infantry Division
Camp Drake Seattle, Washington December 1952
Tsudanuma, Japan Aerial Photo Analyst Intelligence Training MI (FECOM)
Chunchon, Korea Interrogator of POW'S
Assigned to: 508th Military Intelligence Service Platoon APO 86
Separated (1/30/54) from service at Camp Chaffee, Arkansas and received $385.27 as final pay.
Service Medals: KSM, UNSM, NDSM, 2 BSS, 1 O/S Bar, GCM