Honolulu, HI – United States

Veteran Stories

>> My name is Ken Tashiro. My wife and I like to sing, and when we were living on the big island, I was inspired to write this song, and she helped me with the lyrics.

>> What is the song?

>> It’s “This Land is Your Land,” and it was written by Woody Guthrie, and it was sung by Pete Seeger. And so we took those words, and we made new words for it that applied to Korea. I was in Korea from July 4th, 1950. I was there 1 week after the war started. I was in Japan with the occupation, so this song details all the things that I’ve seen. I started out in Busan, went up to the [INAUDIBLE] and had the first battle and went up to …

[ Chatter ]

>> Okay. All right. And then we went up to North Korea, went to Pyongyang, and then we were 5 or 10 miles south of the Yellow River when the Chinese communists came in, and so we had to retreat, so …

>> Were you part of the Task Force Smith?

>> No. If I had been, I’m afraid I would’ve been dead, but we were … I was fortunate and got back, and got back south of Seoul, and then in June of 1951, I had enough points to rotate to go back to the mainland or to Japan, and since I had almost 10 months left, they had me sent to Japan. Then I got out May of 1952, so I almost spent 5 years in the army. But this song reflected my feelings and the third verse about the people that were killed and about the people who were wounded, and maybe they weren’t wounded in body, but they were wounded in mind or in the soul, so that’s what that came from.

>> Can you take it out, the lyrics, so I could show the lyrics?

>> Yes.

>> How long did it take you to write it?

>> [INAUDIBLE].

>> Okay.

>> [INAUDIBLE].

>> You know, here I was so surprised that you wrote against the armies of North Korea and the Chinese commies too. Many of your friends, your comrades in the chapters, they’re Chinese Americans, and, first of all, you as a Japanese American, what did it feel like to you? Because there’s a very complicated relationship between US and Japan at the time because it was right after World War II and Pearl Harbor, and you were here in Hawaii. And then, of course, the Japanese had colonialized Korea before, and so there was that very complicated relationship. So what, as a Japanese American … It’s not like you chose to make all of that happen. It was more political. What, as a young boy, how did it make you feel? It must’ve been so difficult.

>> Well, as a young boy during World War II, the Japanese Americans were evacuated from the West Coast. I was born and raised in California, and we were forced to leave there and go inland. And then we went to a camp in Gila River, Arizona, and we were in camp for 2 years. Then I was sent out because my dad, who was in the 442, he was an [INAUDIBLE], he was in the 442, but it didn’t make any difference. So we had to go to Minneapolis, and I went to high school there. And finally we got back to California, and then in 1947, I volunteered for the army.

>> Why did you want to volunteer? I would’ve been so angry, honestly.

>> Well, I’m a Christian, first of all.

>> Yes.

>> And so first, I felt very angry about the war, but then I decided that the war, it’s one of those things. There’s a saying in Japanese. [FOREIGN LANGUAGE]. It means, “Can’t be helped,” but anyway. So I went in the army. I went to army language school. I studied Japanese, and …

>> Did you face any discrimination in Korea?

>> Beg your pardon?

>> Did you face any discrimination or racism in Korea?

>> Well, yeah. In any situation, because of my face, I was often taken for the enemy, and so one thing that saved me was I knew a lot of swearing in American language. And I’d swear like that, and then they’d say, “Oh, he’s GI.” So, anyway.

>> Hello, my name is Tommy Tahara, and then I was stationed at Camp [INAUDIBLE] in [INAUDIBLE], Japan, before the Korean War. That was in 1950 when … And then when the Korean War started, I was in the 7th Division, Company E … No, Company F. “Fox Company,” they call it, Fox Company, and then I was stationed in Camp [INAUDIBLE], and then … What do you call it? When the war started, took none of our personnel from our company and put them in the 44 and 25th Division, so we were left. We were [INAUDIBLE] starting [INAUDIBLE] our company. So, actually, we went in August. We went to Camp Fuji, and we were waiting for the KATUSAs to come in. They picked up all the young kids or whoever old men from Korea, and they loaded up them on a ship, and they shipped them to Yokohama, and then they trained them to Camp Fuji. That was in August of 1950, and one of a friend … He’s the old chapter. He’s a KATUSA. His name is Seok, and then he was with the 7th Division. Our 7th Division, we had about 9,000 KATUSAs, and every company had about 100 KATUSAs. In other words, that made us, you know, combat-ready, but we had to train those guys because they came from Korea, and when they hit our cafeteria, our kitchen, they’d get a cup of coffee. They’d put about 10 teaspoonful of sugar in there because, you know, sugar was … They couldn’t get it in Korea, but anyway, they were terrible. They had diarrhea and all that after that, but after we trained them only for about 3 weeks, and then we loaded up on a ship, and we sailed to Korea. We waited in Pusan Harbor, and we waited outside of Pusan Harbor and waited for Operation Chromite. That was invasion of Korea with the 1st Marine Division and the 7th Division, Infantry Regiment. Anyway, I was in the 17th Infantry Regiment, and my friend Seok was in the 31st Infantry Regiment, and okay. We landed in Inchon, and then we headed towards Seoul, but at that time when we left, we were still young. I was only a [INAUDIBLE] 19 years old, and then we saw all the dead bodies all over the train station, civilians and all that. First time we saw those dead bodies, and most of us … Korean civilians over there. They’re … I guess they got killed by the bombing and all the artillery and the ships because we had over 100 ships outside of Inchon. Anyway, after that we went to where the first battle. It was a hill over Seoul, and then that’s the first time I saw bullets flying all over my head, and my buddy right next to me, he got shot right in the throat. He was standing right next to me, and he got shot in the throat, and you know how frightened you get because that’s the first time you see a guy bleeding from the throat now. Anyway after that, we headed towards Suwon and Suwon side, down south. It was the North Koreans were retreating back. It was we were coming back from the Naktong River side. They were coming back up, and we were going down and meeting them, so we had some few battles over there, around [INAUDIBLE] Suwon earlier, and later on, you know, until almost October, they trained … We’re a convoy bound to Pusan, and from Pusan, we loaded up on our LST and then we headed up north on our [INAUDIBLE]. What sea was that? Japan’s sea all the way up north, and then we passed Wonsan and we landed in Iwon. That was in November of 1950, so you see, the 7th Division had three regiments: 17th Infantry Regiment, the 31st Infantry Regiment and the 32nd Infantry Regiment, and I was with 17th. Okay, that’s … I think the 31st one on our left, they closed the Marine side, the 1st Marine Division. They came up from Wonsan, riding down … What it called? San … What it called? Sanjin, or they’re … Anyway, they call that [INAUDIBLE]. I think they call it Hyesanjin. Hyesanjin, that area. Anyway, the Marines were on the left side of the Reservoir. Then couple of battalions of the 31st and 32nd went on the right side of the river, and our friend Seok was in the 31st. He was on the left side, and our 17th, we went up our way through Kaesong. We’re 80 miles above the [INAUDIBLE] to Chosin Reservoir. We ride up to Kaesong and then to Hyesanjin. It was right on the Yalu River over there, and we still [INAUDIBLE] was in the [INAUDIBLE] yeah. Anyway, was in the [INAUDIBLE]. October/November, anyway. That’s the first time I saw snow. The first time I saw snow, I’m from Hawaii, and it was real warm. [INAUDIBLE] just like cotton falling down, you know? So excited. Anyway, we went inside our [INAUDIBLE] first, before [INAUDIBLE] on Yalu River, and then [INAUDIBLE], we found a reindeer [INAUDIBLE] over there, so the guys shot one reindeer, and that was before Thanksgiving now, so they hang up the reindeer, and they cut it all up here, and I think I ate some. I’m not sure [INAUDIBLE]. Anyway, after that, we stayed there in, what do you call, Hyesanjin for a couple of weeks of [INAUDIBLE] in the new [INAUDIBLE], once you’re in [INAUDIBLE]. It was so cold, so anyway, right about that time, the Chinese came down, right through there, or [INAUDIBLE], what [INAUDIBLE] got paid back or something like that, and then the Chinese kept pouring in, so we had to retreat, so what we did was threw the [INAUDIBLE] lot of our equipment. We dropped. We [INAUDIBLE]. Another we had [INAUDIBLE] we couldn’t carry. We could run it, and then we kind of retreated back there. I think, gee, that must have been about over 100 miles to Hamhung, H, A, M, H, U, N, G, Hamhung, and then I think in a couple of weeks, we entered Hamhung, and we set up out base outside of … The 1st Marine was trapped inside here by the Chosin Reservoir, with about two, three regiments of the 7th Division, 31st and 32nd. I think that was called task force [INAUDIBLE]. Anyway, so we were down by Hamhung, and we set up our position over there in the … What do you call it? When the Marines got to the trap over there, they escaped. They came down from Hungnam. Hungnam, it was, Hungnam, and they moved to Hamhung, Hamhung. That’s where they had the big park over there, and we had, oh, so many ships out there, Japanese ships, all kind of ships because we had to escape. We had to get away. Whatever equipment we could carry, and then we load it up on the ship. Was in almost December, almost Christmastime, and the whole division loaded up on a ship, LST or whatever, and then we headed to Pusan. Again, the last outfit that left there was the 3rd Division. They were the last ones there, to blow up all the places that Hungnam, Hungnam, the park over there. And then December, Christmas, almost New Year’s, we were in Pusan, and then we had frostbite. Most of us had frostbite because the cold. Sometimes it was about 30 to 40 below 0, and the wind was terrible. You cannot go outside and just use the toilet over there because it’s so cold, you can’t … You know what I mean. Thirty, 40 below 0, so all our hands all black. You see my hands? Oh, yeah, all black. Anyway, so anyway, we went to Seoul or Pusan. We went to medical. They checked us out, and I guess at that time to last [INAUDIBLE] leave like a South Korean troop, so they got something out. At that time in the ’50s, a [INAUDIBLE] Caucasian, Asian. They’d call us gooks, again, even though I’m an American, but since I’m Asiatic and I look like a South Koreans or whatever, and they looked down on us, some of them, and some of them are nice, but anyway, after that, in January of ’51, we went up north again. [INAUDIBLE] set up position. Maybe [INAUDIBLE]. I know I remember when Chief [INAUDIBLE] someplace in the [INAUDIBLE]. They said Chief [INAUDIBLE] had a gold mine, so everyone [INAUDIBLE] gold mine [INAUDIBLE], and then [INAUDIBLE] went up to [INAUDIBLE], [INAUDIBLE], and then they all went to this, so the reservoir over there, I think it was [INAUDIBLE] or something like that, and then there was a lot of fighting over there, and actually scariest fighting we had was in February of 1951. At night, as a first stand we had a attack from, what do you call, like a bonsai attack where all of [INAUDIBLE] shoot the flares up in the air and the trumpet and the bugle and all that, and they come charging up there. That was the scariest one because you was young and only 19 years old. Anyway, that was the first experience. I said that [INAUDIBLE] because in the dock, you just keep firing. You don’t know who you’re shooting at because [INAUDIBLE], and a lot of troops died here. In fact, the scariest thing is when you shoot in a foxhole, and you wake up in the morning, and your companion is missing because the Chinese coming. You’re in a sleeping bag, sleeping. They grab the sleeping bag and drag you. They drag you, so when you look at, your buddy is gone. It’s very scary, so actually when I came back home, I used to get nightmares. When you’re in bed, you get what they call PTSD. [INAUDIBLE] screaming in bed, and you are yelling. Yeah, I was like that all those years. Anyway, after June or from 1951, they gave me a, what do you call, rotated. They rotated me out because I had enough points, so instead of coming back to Hawaii, I met my friend in Sasebo. Sasebo, and you know what he did? My friend, he went to personnel, and he changed my order, saying that he’s … I’m going to what do you call? I’m going to the East Coast with him, and he gave my name and his address, so they shipped me over to … on a ship, and we went to San Francisco, and the three of us, with friends, took a train all the way to Chicago and, from Chicago, caught another train to Baltimore. Went to Baltimore. In Baltimore, my friend, he had a wealthy family. They had a hotel, like a inn, a restaurant and a barber shop, so my friend’s dad, he bought him a new convertible, Ford convertible, and that was in ’51. Let me see what’s that, July … No, it was in August, September. Two months I was staying with him in Baltimore, called Baltimore. Anyway, we had a lot of fun. Then we separated. He went to Fort Benning, Georgia, and they sent me up to Fort Dix, New Jersey, so I was with the 39th, the 9th Infantry Division, 39th Infantry Regiment. There was a basic-training company, and then, see, I couldn’t stand the New Jersey weather. It was terrible. It was so cold. [INAUDIBLE] Atlantic Ocean, but it was … because I had all frozen hands, fingers. I didn’t like the cold, so I said, “I need a transfer.” So they tell me, “Where you want to go?” They gave me three options: 3S, it was on the great [INAUDIBLE] 3S [INAUDIBLE] same thing or Germany or Japan. When they said Japan, I said, “Oh, okay! Okay, I’ll go back to Japan,” so they sent me back to Japan, but you know where they sent me? They sent me with the first captain, the first captain that [INAUDIBLE] Korea from [INAUDIBLE] to [INAUDIBLE] Okaido. I went with a … They sent me with a 7th, I mean a 1st Cav, 7th Cavalry Regiment in support, outside [INAUDIBLE] Cav [INAUDIBLE] profit, so we had ski training over there, and anyway, I was there for all about, what, 2 months. Then I went AWOL. You know AWOL? And when I came back after about a week, they threw me in the brig, all of us in the brig. Well, they sent us back to Korea! Instead of giving us [INAUDIBLE], they sent us all back to Korea, so I ended up with a 3rd Division, so 3rd Division when I went there was in 2nd Battalion. They send me to 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Division. This guy … They sent me to his headquarters company. It’s like a, what do you call, this Japanese guy, Futo. He was heading a squad of Koreans who could speak Chinese and all kind of Shanghai and Mandarin and all that, and then they could speak Japanese and, of course, Korean, so anyway, a squad of Crown, we call that the King Fishes, so I was put in charge of that. I was a squad leader for that, and it was all Koreans, and they don’t know Japanese. I could speak a little Japanese, so that’s why they put me in there. Anyway, what we did was … Everybody, we had some radio and we’d listen to the, what do you call, the Chinese and the North Koreans, whatever they say on their radio where they communicate, and we intercept them, and we tried to decode what they’re saying. They’re all talking [INAUDIBLE] we call it [INAUDIBLE]. The Chinese are talking code, so they’d translate to me in Japanese, and I’d try to translate it in English to the battalion headquarters. Most of the time, we were up on the hill because when we sent out a patrol at night, that’s when you … We had to listen to see if the enemy is … They came on the patrol that’s coming in, so anyway, sometimes when we’re up on the lookout, way up there and then we’re looking down, and then the Chinese threw artilleries, hundreds of artillery on us. In fact, one time the artillery was so close, it hit our bunker and then blasted us. It was almost a bit, only about 4 feet or 5 feet in front of me. I said the whole bunker, and I had three, four Koreans with me that were translators. All of us in that bunk [INAUDIBLE], and before I knew it, I was on a helicopter. They sent us back because my eardrum was blasted. Couldn’t hear, had concussion, and so they sent me back to the back. I don’t know how far back we went but helicopter. It was the first time I rode in a helicopter, and I was so scared. You know, helicopter is so nice, so small. Those days, the helicopters were small. Anyway, I was there for almost 1 month, and they sent me back to the company, and you know what? To this day, I cannot remember anybody, the first sergeant, the captain in that time. When I came back, I don’t know how I came back, and it took me months and years to find out how I came back, and I had PTSD. Anyway, when I came back in 1953, I’m telling you, oh, I didn’t know what to do because I couldn’t remember a lot of stuff. It was because of that concussion and all that. My doctor said maybe I had something, amnesia. You forget, yeah? And those days you didn’t have this kind of VA and all that. I had to go to a private doctor, and the private doctor … My hands were all blue and cold. They thought I had Raynaud’s disease, so I had to quit smoking, and I had to quit drinking coffee because it affected my hands, so to this day, I don’t drink coffee or smoke. I used to smoke two packs a day, but … Ah, that’s okay. Anyway, after that, when I came home in ’53, I found a job in the Marshall Islands with AEC, Atomic Energy Commission. We were testing those atomic bombs or hydrogen bomb, so we were a service company [INAUDIBLE] and in our, let me see, [INAUDIBLE] November. November, I went back to the Marshall Islands to stay there in Enewetok Atoll. Enewetok Atoll has about 22 small islands, and we were on Parry Island, and then what we did was our company was service [INAUDIBLE] of scientists, the army personnel there. You know, we’d clean. We’d clean their house, laundry, everything. It’s the kind of job we had. Anyway, I stayed there for about a year and a half. Then I came home for a couple months. Then I went back, and I did that for about 6 years until … from end of 1953 to about 1959. Almost 6 years I did that. And after that, when I came back, I worked for the US Post Office, and then at the post office, I was assigned as to deliver mail. At that time, we were delivering mail with a motorcycle, motorcycle with a sidecar. We’d put all the mail in a sidecar and then deliver the mail, so actually after that we had trucks, all different kind of trucks, and during that 44 years I worked as a carrier, I got bit six times by dogs because at first when you ride in a motorcycle, we didn’t have any leash law in Hawaii. Leash law is you’ve got to leash the dogs, but the dogs were always running loose all over the place, and they’d chase the motorcycle and jump on you, and they’d bite you. I got bit six times. Anyway, after that, we had the leash law, so they had to tie down the dog or put them in a fenced house, so they cannot be running around loose, so I was 44 years as a carrier, and then I retired in 2004. Ah, that’s about it.

>> And right now you play such an instrumental role …

>> And then in 1988, I joined our chapter, Chapter One, and then later on, 1988 and about 2006 or 2007, I started helping out with the POW/MIA guys. They used to come every year to what you call a reunion. Every year we had a guy in our [INAUDIBLE] POW [INAUDIBLE] Matsumoto, and he used to handle that, and I used to help him with our [INAUDIBLE]. Anyway, that’s how I learned how to do things, how to make a reunion in order. After I knew how to do that, I had to contact with all the personnel down in Hickam, down in Camp Schmidt, Hickam, and then me …

>> What …

>> Me and another guy, we did all our chapter’s event, even punch bowl event or [INAUDIBLE], whatever event we had in [INAUDIBLE] Christmas or whatever.

>> What does it mean to you, the legacy of Korean War veterans?

>> What’s that?

>> The legacy of Korean War veterans, what is it to you?

>> At first, we didn’t know where Korea was actually. I’m telling you, but we heard of Korea, but when we went there, the first thing we saw was, the Koreans at that time, they always walking with that hat. What do you call it, the long hat, the black hat?

>> The gat.

>> Yeah, with the [INAUDIBLE].

>> Yes, gat, gat.

>> And they got white, white shirt. Everybody wore white those days and then the smell of the, what do you call that thing, honey bucket? They used that as fertilizer, yeah? They put on the whatever, the waste from each house. They put it in a bucket, and they get the ox to move it, and we would see that, and what they did was they threw that thing, that dew, into the rice field as a fertilizer, but that’s the first time we seen it. Anyway, Korea, when we left over there, it was a wreck, nothing. Everything was flat, and I was surprised when I came back for the revisit. I think it was in 2001, the first summer I came back. Wow, everything was built in [INAUDIBLE], those big towers, all that. I was really surprised. I tell you, though, Koreans, they really worked hard, and they did a good job. And I guess they always respect [INAUDIBLE] soldiers or whatever for helping them out because if it wasn’t for American soldiers, our soldiers from the different countries that helped Korea, Korea would be just nothing, just like the North now. Look at the North. At night, you cannot even see the lights, so anyway, I’m really thankful that Korea is what it is today. Okay.

>> My name is Jose Jimenez. No. Frank R. Chang, and I was in the First Marine Division, and at that time, back in the 1950s, right after World War II, I joined the Marine Corps, and it was rare at that time because there were no Chinese in the Marines, very few. They were just starting to let them in, and I was one of probably the first half dozen to a dozen, at best, in the Marine Corps. Okay? What else do you want to know?

>> Did you get to … Why not the Army? Why the Marine Corps?

>> Oh, there was a lot of good movies put out on the Marines in those days, so that’s what got me in there, and it was very romantic and brave and heroic, and they were going to save the world, and I was a young guy, and didn’t know any better, and so I joined the Marine Corps when the war, Korean War, broke out. That was December of 1950, I don’t know, 1951, ’52.

>> Knowing that the war was ongoing, and knowing that you could die …

>> Oh, when you’re young, you don’t worry about dying. You think you’re going to live forever.

>> What do you remember?

>> What do I remember?

>> Where did you get trained before …

>> What do I remember?

>> Where were you trained? Which camp?

>> I trained in Camp Pendleton, California. Down there towards San Diego, between San Diego and Los Angeles. I was probably one of the first half dozen orientals that joined the Marine Corps at that time because it was right after World War II, and prior to that, and during World War II, they did not have … bring in the Chinese or orientals in the Marines, and especially during the Korean War you would be mistaken for an enemy because at that time, they were stripping our wounded and dead and wearing our uniforms because they were poorly equipped. The Chinese that came into the war in Korea were not equipped very well. They were recruited fresh from China, and they were only in Chinese uniforms, and it was winter when I went over there, so they were stripping our dead and wounded of their clothing and wearing it, so it was quite something that I was able to go over there because, being oriental, that’s the first thing you aimed and pulled the trigger on because we were fighting North Koreans and Chinese at that time.

>> Did you face discrimination among other …

>> Well, they always thought I was the enemy, and having joined the Marines, I was probably, like I said, probably one of the first half dozen, not even a dozen that joined the Marines and were able to be part of the Marine Corps, and many times I was pushed out of the foods lines, what we called the chow lines, because I looked like a Korean or a Chinese, not Chinese but mostly Korean because we had a lot of Koreans working for us.

>> Oh.

>> So if I’d get in the chow line, they’d kick me out.

>> Because they thought you were one of the houseboys or interpretors.

>> Yeah, they thought I was one of the houseboys or one of the what we call … I hate to say it, but that’s … We used to call them chiggy bearers, and these were the Koreans that we recruited to work for us.

>> What bearers?

>> We used to call them chiggy.

>> Chiggy?

>> Yeah, C-H-I-G-G-Y, chiggy.

>> What does that mean?

>> I don’t even know what it means, it’s just a name, but these were Koreans that we hired and they carried all our ammunition, all our food on their backs up these mountains, and this was when I was young and wild, and I called them the chiggy bearer, but I soon learned that these were not just chiggy bearers and slaves. They were people, and one of … A little old Korean man taught me a lesson that I will never forget.

>> Share that.

>> Well, we just got through battle, a battle, and we took a hill. We took the position, and as we were digging in, as we call it in the Marine Corps, we were digging out foxholes and building fortification, this little Korean chiggy bearer, as we used to call them, this little Korean guy, after carrying a big, heavy box of food or ammunition up those mountains to us, after they drop off all the supplies, before they go back down the mountain, they’d spread out through the area, and that day, after the battle, I was cutting a huge log for something, and being a young person and a Marine, I looked down on this little old guy, but he pushed me aside, and he grabbed the ax that I was using, and I’ve been working on this log for maybe an hour or 2 hours or 3 hours but forever, and I hadn’t gotten very far, but he grabbed the ax from me, and he proceeded to chop it up in about a minute and a half. He was like an automatic machine, and as I leaned against a tree or wherever I was leaning against, I thought to myself, “I’m ashamed of myself. I’m very ashamed of myself because I looked down on this little Korean man. He carried my ammunition and my food up this mountain, and I’ve been working on this log for 10 years and didn’t get very far, and he comes up here and he shows me in a way how to chop a log up,” and he had it chopped and piled up in less than a minute and a half. He was like a machine, and that’s when I learned, as a young person, never look down on anybody else, no matter what, and even though I came over to this country to help him, he showed me something, and I was ashamed of myself, and that was a lesson in life. I never forgot that.

>> Humility, huh?

>> Never look down on another human being, no matter what.

>> Let’s talk …

>> That’s my story.

>> Yeah. Let’s talk about Punchbowl because Punchbowl is a very famous battle.

>> Well, by the time I got to Punchbowl, the hills had been taken.

>> When was that? What month and year?

>> I don’t remember the month. I’ll tell you the year: The year was about … I think I was … I don’t even remember. I think I was over there in ’51, ’50 or ’51. We were there. I was there, and I spent a Christmas there. Christmas Eve, I was walking by myself, and the guns … And we had big guns in the Punchbowl area, and they would fire off every so often, and it was one of the most … How could I say it? Incredible sounds that I hear to this day, the big guns firing. Christmas Eve in Korea, a cloudless moon. It was a beautiful sight, really, in your memory, and the guns would fire off every 5 to 10 minutes, and the echo reverberated through the Punchbowl area because it had, what, three sides of the mountains all around you, and I hear those sounds today, periodically, so that’s kind of a memory of Korea.

>> Many died in that battle.

>> Many, many, many.

Many, many, many, and they … not ours but on the other side, the enemy, they laid where they died.

>> North Koreans or Chinese?

>> Pardon?

>> North Koreans or Chinese?

>> Probably a mixture because you couldn’t tell. They all looked alike. I looked alike. I looked like them, and in fact, I’m probably … Like I say, I’m probably one of the first half dozen, other than my comrades here in the group because they were … I guess I’d say they were probably in the northern part or the western part of the … I don’t know. I was young at that time, but in the Marine Corps, in our sector, I was probably one of the first half dozen that was in combat. Yeah. Because in the Marines, they didn’t have Chinese, and they didn’t have orientals, and in fact, when I went over as a replacement, there was one other guy that came in from Tarrytown, New York. His name is Al Hui. That’s that guy right there. That’s Al Hui, and …

>> His last name was Huey?

>> H-U-I, Hui.

>> Oh, and where … Which state was he from?

>> Huh?

>> Which state was he from?

>> No, no, I’m sorry.

>> What’s his hometown?

>> There were two. That’s Al Hui there. He was from Tarrytown, New York, and this is Herbie. That’s the other oriental guy that I met over there.

>> Where was he from?

>> He was from Wisconsin some place, which is from unusual, and I was from the San Francisco, Bay Area, so there were three of us. We got all separated in different parts of the First Marine Division, but Al and I landed together, ended up together at the replacement depot where the new guys came in, and they called Al and myself into the commanding officer’s tent, and commanding officer is siting at a table there, and we were standing at attention in front of him, and he said, “You two guys” … I remember, he pointed at … “You two guys are not going to go up on line and join an outfit.” He said, “You won’t last more than a week,” because we were fighting the Koreans and the Chinese at that time, and it was wintertime, and they were stripping our dead of their clothes and wearing them, so the first time orientals in the Marine Corps, there was no such thing. There were, like I say at that time, there were maybe six, half a dozen at best of …

>> In the entire Marine Corps or just your division?

>> Hmm?

>> In the entire …

>> In the entire Marine Corps, in the entire Marine Corps because the Marines were fighting in the islands during World War II, so they were fighting the Japanese, and they had no Marines, as far as I know, and I’m pretty darn sure because when we went over there, Al and I stayed together, and the commanding officer said, the replacement depot officer said, “You two guys are not going to go off the line. We’re keeping you back here. You won’t last more than a week,” and I looked at Al, and he looked up at me, and I said, “No, sir, we want to go up on line and join our company,” and I remember his exact words: He said, “You sure?” and I said, “Yes, sir. I want to join my company.” He said, “Okay. You won’t last more than a week, but if that’s what you want, you will join them,” and I joined Dog Company, and Al joined the Easy Company, which when we went up on the battle together, battle lines, we were always together, the two companies, alongside of each other.

>> Did he make it back too?

>> Hmm?

>> Did he make it back?

>> Al made it back because he was a machine gunner, and machine gunners are pretty good. And, well, we were both lucky.

>> And you saw combat?

>> Oh, yeah.

>> So you saw people actually die next to you?

>> I wasn’t with the company more than 2 weeks. I walk down the hill one morning. There was roughly 27 guys. Next morning, four of us was carrying a stretcher, and one of my guys that I went over there with, we carried him on that long, up a mountain, and by the time we got within about 25 feet of our line, he rolled off one last time and died. I carried him all night. We carried him all night up a mountain. So that was my beginning in Korea. Yes, we saw a lot of people die. We saw a lot of people never made it home. This is why, today … That’s why today, I still don’t forget. You never forget.

>> And you were how old?

>> I guess I was … No, I was 17. I joined when I was 17, April 5th. I was in Korea, I think November, November of that same year, after training …

>> In 1950? In 1950 or 1951?

>> 1950 … I don’t know. It was 1950 or ’51. I forget the year now. I haven’t looked at the records or anything.

>> Because the war broke out on June 25th, 1950, so maybe ’51?

>> Well, it might have been ’51. I forget now. My mother had to sign on a dotted line for me to get in because I was 17. Yeah.

>> How old are you now? Or how young are you now?

>> Eighty-four.

>> Well, you’re still considered young compared to some of the veterans, right? And you keep yourself very, very fit and healthy and young, and I guess …

>> Well, God has been good to me. He gave me good genes, and I guess I took care of my body.

>> Because you probably understood how precious it is.

>> I stayed fit. All my life I was pretty fit because I’ve been in the outdoors. I was at … No, actually, I have to take that back. See, I have to think because I never even thought … I was 18. I was 18 when I went over to Korea. I was 17 when I joined the Marine Corps, and in the Marines … I went in at 17, and I had my 18th birthday a month later. I had to get in so bad. That’s another story from way back.

>> When’s your birthday?

>> But I had to have my mother sign on a dotted line.

>> When’s your birthday?

>> Hmm? April 5th.

>> Your birthday is April 5th?

>> Yeah.

>> I went in March 7th, March 7th.

>> My birthday is in April too.

>> You’re another Aries, that’s why.

>> Oh, I’m a Taurus.

>> Oh, you’re a Taurus.

>> Yes.

>> Oh, well.

>> Even more stubborn, Tauruses.

>> Yeah.

>> Well, first of all, you …

>> Yeah, well …

>> Many followed … You’re a pioneer, in a way, because many … Now we know there’s many Asian-American …

>> Oh, nothing but orientals in there now, many, many.

>> My cousin was …

>> In fact, I have a grandson …

>> Yeah, my cousin was in the Marines for more than 20 years.

>> Yeah, my grandson was in there. Where is my grandson? There’s my grandson. He came back from Iraq.

>> That was another difficult war.

>> This shows him come back from Iraq, and I was carrying his pack.

>> Mm. You must have been so proud.

>> I was carrying his pack.

>> Now, you have some pictures here. Did you take any of them yourself, the pictures?

>> Oh, I probably did. These were in Korea. These were the only ones that survived in Korea. I had what we call a Pony 135-millimeter camera in those days, but the thing is I had several rolls of film, but the moisture, and we could not develop over there, so by the time I got them back, they were all moldy, so I never bothered to develop a lot of these pictures, and they were all …

>> But they’re still very well-kept.

>> Well, not all of them. They were mostly all ruined. I didn’t take a lot of these pictures. A lot of these pictures I … Some of these, I took. This was over there. This was over in Korea. These are the hills in Korea, and I think these were too, yeah, but very few of them survived. That’s when I graduated from what we called boot camp. This is a picture over here in Camp Pendleton that I was at, 18 years old, but the only pictures that really survived … This is a battle picture that survived.

>> Where was that?

>> I don’t know. One of the many hills. Right here, this is one of the many hills that we took, and here’s that Al, up in the battle line. He was in Easy Company, and I was in Dog Company, and we was always together.

>> Did you both keep in touch afterwards?

>> Pardon?

>> Did you keep in touch after the war?

>> Yes. We both made it through and came back, and we kept in touch, and he was a smoker, so he did himself in.

>> What do you think … Looking back, while at the time you were young and you wanted to seek adventure, so you joined, but looking back now, almost 70 years later, what do you think … What do you think your legacy was?

>> What do I think of what?

>> What do you think your legacy …

>> I have no legacy. My legacy is, I behaved myself, became a good Marine, did my part for something. I don’t know what, but the most important part is, God taught me many lessons.

>> And you’ve been back to Korea?

>> Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Most wonderful part because the Koreans over there had a program for these last … How many years now? God, 30 years, 40 years, and I’ve gone back and able to visit and see the growth and what was accomplished, and it kept me humble.

>> I hope you feel very proud.

>> Well, I just did my part, just like many, many guys, and especially the guys that never made it home. That’s what I’ll … And that’s what … That’s what I keep remembering. I made it home, and most of these guys that we had reunions later on that I was able to get ahold of, we owe for all those that never came back …

>> Well …

>> … that never came back. We were all young men at that time, and these reunion pictures that were taken, we grow old from young men. We grew old, and there I am old.

>> And I would like to say you lived to tell the stories, and honor the memories …

>> Well, it’s important …

>> And honor the memories of those who couldn’t come back.

>> Yeah.

>> So thank you, and I guess that’s what I’m just trying to do to honor your memories.

>> Well, not so much as mine but those that never made it home.

>> Yeah, but …

>> That’s the important …

>> You’re the one that’s tell theirs …

>> Well, I can …

>> … because who will remember them?

>> I can do my best to tell the story as best as I can, but it’s not just me. It was many, many of them, especially those that I went over with. They never saw a month. They never saw one month more.

>> I guess when you’re young … Well, not even when you’re young, but many people think it won’t happen to them, like you read in the paper about somebody crashing and dying in a car accident, but you never think it’s going to happen to you, but so many of fearlessly just joined, thinking it won’t happen to you, but it must have been very, very real when it did … you saw …

>> When you’re young, your mind is small, and you don’t experience a lot of things. You go over there as a young man. As a young man, I walked down the hill. I wasn’t over there a month. I walked down the hill one morning with, I would say … I have the number in my head 27. Twenty-seven of us walked down the hill one morning, and the next morning, to my knowledge, there was only four of us that walked back up. I carried a stretcher within one of my buddies at 18 years old up a hill all night long after a battle during the day. We walked down a hill 27 of us. Next morning, four of us walked back up carrying a stretcher.

>> So what do you think was … How are you the four that survived? What do you think was your, I don’t know, blessing, luck, fortune, skill, whatever it was?

>> God. There’s such a thing as a God.

>> Well, why do you think …

>> See, I was raised in an orphanage that was a Christian orphanage.

>> Okay, that’s what I thought.

>> So I believed in a God quite early as a young man.

>> Okay, so it was God, but why did God spare your life if, maybe out of the 27, all of them believed in him?

>> That’s what I asked. Through my many, many years to my old age, I talked to God constantly. I don’t quite follow him well enough, but he’s there. I know there is a God. I believe in a God.

>> Oh, I do too, but sometimes I ask, “Why me?”

>> That’s the question that we all had. That’s the question that all of us asked, not in public, but I can tell you this between you and me that I don’t talk to other veterans a lot. We don’t talk about it too much, but I know in our secret of our time together, sitting on a couch, sitting on a chair, sitting on a bench, sitting outside, looking around, we know there’s a God, and for those of us that really knows him, we thank him for allowing us to be back here to raise our families, raise children, have grandchildren, but never, never a week goes by that I don’t think of those I left behind that never came home.

>> Even after 70 years.

>> That never came home. Our debt is to our buddies that never came home, and when you see the craziness and the wildness in the youth that is growing up thinking that there’s forever, we do the best that we can for those one-on-one, maybe, and pastors in churches or whatever, they do it one on the congregation, and we try to tell a message that, “Hey, sober up. Mature. Do something for maybe one other. For as many as will listen to you.” See, I owe a debt, not to me but to those that never came home, never got old. I’m an old man now, not a young guy anymore. Not a young guy, 18 years old in Korea. I owe my buddies a debt to be a better person, to do something worthwhile. That’s the important part. That is the most important part.

>> And I’m sure you’ve fulfilled it.

>> I’m very fortunate. God loves me, and I’m still here. I have grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

>> And one more.

>> My name is Earl Kalani Simerson. I went to Korea in 1950, July 1950. I followed after the 5th Regimental Combat Team had left before me. I was at that time at the [Indistinct] general’s office in 4th Chapter.

[ Chatter ]

>> You’re a local native Hawaiian. As a local native Hawaiian, what did you know about Korea and the Korean War before you went, and how did you feel about it after?

>> Before the Korean War, I didn’t know nothing about Korea, but after I went there, I left Korea. In Hawaii, well, we always had kimchi, so when I was in Korea, there was a lot of kimchi, so that was my meal, kimchi and rice. Still today, I still got kimchi and rice.

>> You had kimchi before you went to Korea?

>> Yeah.

[ Chatter ]

>> Wow.

>> [FOREIGN LANGUAGE] kimchi.

[ Chatter ]

>> Tell me about your experience in the war. Your experience in the war and after.

[ Chatter ]

>> In the beginning, I saw a lot of casualties, and as a young boy, I never seen this in my life, and so I couldn’t eat for 11 days. I was so upset. And after that, I started to eat, understand I got to eat. Otherwise, I’d die. But I learned a lot about the Koreans. They were very nice people. Everywhere we went, they were taking care of every soldier, and otherwise, that’s about all [INAUDIBLE].

[ Chatter ]

>> You can talk about anything you want.

[ Chatter ]

>> Whenever you’re ready.

[ Chatter ]

>> Well, one of the things that we were there, we didn’t have supplies, so I never changed clothes for 3 months. That’s how bad. There was no supplies, no clothing.

[ Chatter ]

My clothes was just like leather. Most of us, every time we went to take a shower, everything was frozen, and so we couldn’t take showers but … And we used to burn houses to keep warm because you had no facilities, and so as we advanced, we’d stand under a house with a cigarette lighter, keep warm. That was it, but we had no winter clothing. By the time April came, 52 of the supplies came. It was too late, but that was because of the war started, and then America wasn’t in any war at that time so unprepared for it, the Korean War.

>> You know Hawaii didn’t become a state officially until 1959?

>> Yeah.

>> And you were sent to Korea in 1950. I don’t understand.

[ Chatter ]

>> Yeah, well, we were a territory of the United States.

>> I know, so did you volunteer, or were you drafted?

>> I volunteered in the Army.

>> Why would you want to volunteer for? Technically it wasn’t even your country.

>> Well, I volunteered in 1948. There was no jobs. Well, most of us all … After you got out of high school … Because of the second war, my parents went broke. We lost everything due to the Second World War so couldn’t go to college, so after I graduated from high school, joined the Army. Most of us all did. We joined the Army to get income, I guess, because at that time, there weren’t many jobs around.

[ Chatter ]

But that was one of the reasons why. Yeah.

[ Chatter ]

>> That makes me sad because you risked your life.

>> What’s that?

>> That makes me sad because you had to risk your life.

[ Chatter ]

It makes me sad because you had to risk your life for it.

>> Yes. When I think of it, oh, my god, I was lucky, but thank God.

[ Chatter ]

All my friends got wounded or were killed in action.

[ Chatter ]

So I’m thankful for what I have today.

[ Chatter ]

>> Thank you.

Paying Tribute









    Yes, It is OK to communicate with me via email

    Memorial Site

    An estimated 25,000 from the state of Hawaii served during the Korean War era. In total, 407 from the state never returned home from Korea, including 71 POW/MIAs who still remain unaccounted for.

    This memorial located in Honolulu pays tribute to these heroes.