India – New Delhi

Veteran Stories

>> Well, actually, I really don't know from where to begin. It's all the same. I was a young captain with Second Battalion of the Parachute Regiment when we got orders to move by air to South Korea to supplement the effort of Custodian Force India, which consisted of five regular battalions with the brigade headquarter. Perhaps Custodian Force was part of Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission with its headquarters at Pyongyang, and they [INAUDIBLE] because our job was essentially to repatriate the prisoners of war. No decision had been taken how to dispose of the prisoners of war. So we ... The brigade went there by sea, but having reached there, they realize that the force was not adequate to look after and manage the prisoners-of-war camps, so we, my battalion, which was the parachute battalion, was moved, and the Globemasters were provided by America. I had never seen a Globemaster because the biggest aircraft we had was a Dakota with a capacity of 20 and a Fairchild Packet, which was the World War II vintage aircraft with a capacity of about 15, 30 to 40, and this Globemaster could carry in two tiers about 130 troops fully with their kit, so it was a great experience really. We stopped at Clark Air Base in Philippines early in the morning. Now it was an eye-opener. It was about, I think, 3 or 4 a.m., and the troopers were already lining up to have their breakfast, and we, you see, the Indians had by and large in that period of that stage of our development was hardly 5 feet, 7 inch, 5 foot, 6 inch, and there we saw Afro-Americans lining up, and it was a tremendous experience, and the amount that they could eat for breakfast, it was really ... From there, we were taken to Japan, and I think it was Tachikawa or some airport, and then we were transferred to a battleship, which took us to the Incheon airport. There Mr. Syngman Rhee was the President of South Korea. He thought that Indians were pro-communist. Although India was the chairman of Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission, which consisted of India as chairman, and we had a very famous general officer, General Thimayya, who later on also served in the United Nations. Besides India, there was Poles and Czechoslovakian representing the communists and I think if I recollect Norway or Sweden ... >> Sweden. >> ... [INAUDIBLE] the other part of this force, of this headquarter, and Custodian Force India under the general officer consisting of five battalions I mentioned earlier, so Syngman Rhee refuse to let us go by train from Incheon or go through South Korea to the demilitarized zone where we were destined, our Custodian Force was placed. Again, it was a great experience for me as a young officer. Helicopters were unknown in India in those days, but seeing helicopters from the ship like you see ... It was an experience again. The helicopters were small. Just they could take about four or five along with their complete as we call kit [INAUDIBLE] operational kit. Everybody goes with it. And we were put in the demilitarized zone, and we landed there. I was then [INAUDIBLE] rifle company, which generally consists about 18 men, and it was about 5 in the evening, and it was getting bit dark when I was given orders to relieve another company and take over straightaway the prisoner-of-war camp. There was no head count. I was just told that about 500 prisoners of war were in that camp. There was about five or six camps there. And lo and behold, lo and behold, middle of the night, and it was a subzero kind of temperature. We were not equipped really for the Korean climate. We were not equipped. There was a breakout, and our sentries on the [INAUDIBLE] were firing to stop the exodus. It was a nightmare. We were in our under [INAUDIBLE] sleeping, and suddenly this commotion was taking place, and perhaps they had timed it also. They knew they were very seasoned, those who had fought the war, but some of them were hard-core communists who never wanted anybody to either go to South Korea or to any Western countries, and they were creating terror in the camp, so any way to continue with this breakout, lot of them got through. They were very keen to go to South Korea or to go to south or to [INAUDIBLE] anywhere else, but it was a major setback for me that this happened when I was in command of the camp. That's a different story. I had to face a bit of disciplinary action for that. Then we were taken. You see, I appreciated the amount of hard work put by the generals of the American army to prepare a camp for about 800 soldiers and officers and be centrally heated. That itself was quite an experience that they were able to set up, and it was just [INAUDIBLE] canvas sheets and with some kind of heating arrangement in the center where perhaps diesel was being burned to keep the warm and also the ... You had the wooden floors and things like that and ... But one thing was that our senior commanders never wanted us to take on the United Nations, the American dress. They wanted us to remain ... They permitted the troops to wear clothes to be comfortable, but to officers, whatever we were entitled to, then what we had taken, which was certainly not ... wasn't adequate but to set an example that the leaders themselves were being given Indian rations whereas the troops were allowed to have rations with the other United Nation troops were. Initially we [INAUDIBLE] because we were uncomfortable. >> Mm. >> The clothing wasn't warm enough. Neither was the food. It took us hours by pressure cookers to cook the [INAUDIBLE] and the [INAUDIBLE] and all that whereas the troops were being fed the Californian oranges and the lamb and the ... all that frozen lamb and nice cheese. Anyway, gradually we were able to convince the senior [INAUDIBLE] that it is not [INAUDIBLE]. It's all right to set an example, but an example should also be related to the actualities on the ground and the situation. Now the ... We had also ... A hospital was also there to cater for. Let me concentrate first on the behavior of the core communist leaders. They had created cells in the compound, deep cells, wanted to give you protection against the climate, and second was that they used to torture those perhaps who were very keen to break away ... >> Mm. >> ... and torture them so badly that they will kill you, and in the morning, what you saw was two, three bodies being put on the gate of the ... which was a barbed wire kind of gate. It was a very tough situation, and you could do nothing. We could do nothing against the torture that was going on in the camps. Once we settled down, then I'm relating to what my job was. I was given the job of presenting prisoner of war from my camp to the team of NNRC, Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission, team, and each prisoner of war was exposed to them in a tent or something like that [INAUDIBLE] tent. >> Mm. >> And there each ambassador are part of that team will bring messages and those recorded messages but played requesting these fellows to come back to their own motherland, go back to North Korea, to China, wherever. But there was no force involved in this whole exercise, but as luck would ... bad luck for me. And these prisoners used to restrict so that they carry no weapons or no sharp ... to harm the ... There is a bit of representative of the NNRC. And we used to strip them, and as I said, my bad luck came. One of the prisoner had kept a blade somehow. I don't know where. And he slashed one of the faces of [INAUDIBLE]. There was a commotion. >> Wait. This is very ... >> He had hidden a blade, a shaving blade, somehow, which we didn't know this, and he slashed the faces of one of the members of the Neutral Nation Repatriation Commission's team member. Anyway, he was overpowered, and of course I had to face the music later on through my normal army channels, but the officer who was conducting an inquiry into the whole thing was very considerate that it wasn't something intentional. There was no motivation on my part to relax, and therefore I was honorably ... And it was quite a bit of tension [INAUDIBLE] as a young officer I had then about 6 years service, and I was about 26 years old then. >> Mm. >> These were the ... But the life generally was very made reasonably comfortable. Later on, they permitted us to have the [INAUDIBLE] and all those facilities with the other United Nation troops were having. But what ... As a young officer, it was an eye-opener, and you match yourself professionally and otherwise in smartness, in alertness, in [INAUDIBLE]. We ... I thought, "I am as good or even better in a sense than officers from the other ... some of the other countries," so it built a lot of confidence in me as an individual, and perhaps that's the reason that I rose to be the vice chief of the army later on in life. >> Wow. Vice chief of the army? >> Right. Right. >> Wow. >> So we used to have ... Once I was taken off from that and I was made adjutant of the battalion, that means I was not involved in the looking after the prisoner of war but managing the affairs of the unit. We had a comfortable stay there. Our officers' mess was there. All the facilities were given, even [INAUDIBLE]. >> Mm. >> And we used to naturally sit in a huge transport carrier and which was warm enough to [INAUDIBLE]. I remember seeing a movie of Nat King Cole, the great singer of those days, and the son I remember, "What a Beautiful World," "What a Beautiful World," which was a great song in those days. Then we celebrated our festivals, Diwali and all that, and showed to the rest of the [INAUDIBLE] of the [INAUDIBLE] and the others. Perhaps it must have been explained to you that we were five battalions. That means a brigade nearly would service about 5,000 troops. Indian troops were there, which is quite a contribution. Do not [INAUDIBLE] but later on. >> For how many years? For how many years? How long? >> Oh, yes. It was in 1953, '54. That means we came back about 10 months, 10 months. We were ... >> In 10 months, there were 5,000 of you? >> Mm-hmm. >> There were 5,000 of you? >> Yes. >> Five thousand? >> Yeah. >> For 10 months? >> Ten months. Yes. >> Wow. >> Yes. >> Because before the war, the unit was very small, less than 400. >> [INAUDIBLE] it was [INAUDIBLE] which was part of the ... But this was ... I'll show you the plate I have. >> Mm-hmm. Later. We can ... >> Later. We have a plate for that. Then also we got a chance to visit the NNRC headquarter, which was at Pyongyang, North Korea, and now North Korea, and there was again a world of difference between the attitudes, the reading of the situation. It was entirely [INAUDIBLE] aggressive. You could see there the aggressiveness on the part of ... The Chinese were still there too, but we were dealing with only prisoner of war. >> How long did that take, that process? So the armistice is signed, okay? >> Mm. >> And then so ... Then you start negotiating, right? >> Mm. >> The army, not negotiating. The negotiation was already done. >> Unite ... You see, United Nation was part of the fighting, so this was a ... I think under Geneva Contention or some, a Neutral Nation Repatriation Commission. Repatriation, which is a self-explanatory thing, was to repatriate or give an opportunity to the prisoner of war where they want to go, but again, it may be premature. Unfortunately, we were not able to achieve our task. No final decision was taken, and we had ... We returned the prisoners of war back to the neutral nations, and we came back ... >> So that ... >> ... without achieving the aim. >> And it took 10 months? >> Yeah, less than 10 months. >> Mm. So what happened to the person that slipped or slipped a person, the POW? >> I wouldn't know because that [INAUDIBLE] was taken by the Neutral Nations Repatration Commission. >> Was he Chinese or North Korean? >> Again, I wouldn't know. >> Mm. >> I wouldn't know because there was not written that they are North Korean, or they are Chinese or whatever. >> Because I know POW is still a very ... That's why the war lasted 3 years. >> Yeah. >> I heard ... >> Yeah. >> ... that after 1 year, by 1951, the battle was already kind of decided. It was all within the 30 ... along the 38th parallel. >> Parallel, yes. >> And it was just up and down and up and down, up and down, not different parts, but the reason why it dragged was because of the POW issue. >> Mm, mm. >> And it was hard to come to ... >> You would be surprised that I think [INAUDIBLE] came to India. >> [INAUDIBLE]. >> And ... >> Who did? >> And ... >> POWs? >> Uh-huh, and they were now ... They are part of our association, and they are businessmen there in Delhi. >> Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. What do you mean? The two are Koreans? North Koreans? >> South Koreans. >> South ... Okay. After the war. >> South ... >> After the war. >> South Korean prisoner, they came to India. >> Oh. >> They opted for India. [INAUDIBLE]. >> They were captured by the enemy. >> Yes. >> And then when they were repatriated, they said they want to go to India. >> Yes. >> Interesting. So they are ... >> Actually, this fellow, the [INAUDIBLE], should be able to tell you exact name of this person. He was a businessman. >> Oh. >> Yes. >> Well, I guess ... >> But I don't think he is ... I don't know, but we keep on meeting him. We have get-togethers, association get-togethers, and he attends that. Whether he has given up his citizenship, that I am not aware whether he is [INAUDIBLE]. >> So the association has members of both the parachute, the ambulance and the ... your unit, right? >> Not mine only. Custodian Force India was the executive branch of the Neutral Nations Repatration Commission. >> And that was 5,000? >> That was 5,000 troops with a [INAUDIBLE] hospital, big hospital, not only an ambulance [INAUDIBLE] ambulance but a big hospital with all facilities. I think they could maintain ... The back strength was about 50 or so, big, big hospital. >> So all together less than 6,000 Indians went to Korea? >> Yes. >> And luckily only one died, luckily. >> Mm. >> How did he die? >> Hmm? >> What kind of accident? How did he die? >> How did he die? >> Mm-hmm. >> I don't know the ... >> The one Indian ... >> ... actual ... But again, while we were there, I mentioned their aggressiveness. They even want the General Thorat. He was a general officer of the Indian army who was the head of the Custodian Force. They were maltreating some prisoners, so he went in to see for himself, and there this aggressive lot, must be North Koreans or Chinese, they made him captive ... >> Hmm. >> ... a general officer, and then a big operation was ... More force was brought, and he himself was a seasoned World War II veteran. >> Hmm. >> So he was able to convince them that they cannot keep holding onto him. He will be free, so it is better that they do it in a peaceful manner rather than bloodshed. >> Hmm. >> And he was able to convince to them because the troops have then ... We were part of that to take action if something goes wrong. >> Hmm. >> So these kind of situations were ... Then we had ... On a Diwali day, I remember I led the ceremonial parade of the normal ... And we put up Malcolm ... I wonder if you ... You may not have heard. Malcolm is a martyr. How long you been in India? >> Two days, 3 days? >> Malcolm is an exercise. It's to strengthen your muscles and things like that. A greasy pole taller than this, about 15 feet, which you climb, a greasy pole, so you climb by maneuvering your body in a manner, and you reach on top, and then in a pyramid sort of fashion, more will join like that, then display ... And it was subzero. I think it about minus 10 or 15, and they are absolutely naked. >> Mm. >> [INAUDIBLE]. So what I mean is that a cultural sort of exchange was also there besides the military parade and things like that [INAUDIBLE]. >> Because there were so many different cultures there. >> Yes. >> So many different cultures. >> Rest of the countries were there. >> Yes. So it was very interesting. >> Have you been back to Korea? >> Yes. I went there in 2002. >> For the first time? >> No, 2002, yes, only once. I went there once. >> That was during World Cup. >> During the [INAUDIBLE] so was absolutely ... There were nothing. There was nothing standing in the capital, and one was really surprised to see in 2002 the development which had taken place. I think its credit goes to the South Korean or Korean as a whole, I would say, that the sense of discipline, the sense of dedication and also perhaps motivation through their education, through their parents, through their teachers, through the general society that they have been able to achieve wonders. >> I think Koreans have a strong sense of duty, and we are very grateful people, and I believe that we recognize that so many foreigners came to Korea to defend our freedom and that we owe it to all those who served to really rise above, rise from the ashes of war to become successful and prosper, and I ... Although I'm Korean American, I'm very proud when I hear that the Korean government really treats the veterans with the utmost respect ... >> Oh, yes. >> ... and gratitude. >> We've been receiving signed by the president of South Korea messages of this gratitude and also this system of ... And it is maintaining the link with the next generation and the next generation. Already the grandchildren are ... They go on this kind of program where they are taught. They mingle with people from all the countries, and also, I think they are even offered now scholarships. >> Yes. >> Yes. Thereby, you can opt to take a job even after to learn Korean language, and, yes, all these facilities are being given. >> Yeah. >> And we are really surprised that while ... Even China, China in 1949, '50, was much behind India in its GDP, and even throughout [INAUDIBLE] reign, it's only [INAUDIBLE] or somebody. When he became president, I think he became president after [INAUDIBLE] that he brought the technical know-how. Firstly, they were so proud that they disconnected. They thought that the Soviets were too overpowering and neutralizing their character, and so they gave that up, and then they had all the technology made up with Americas and see what they have achieved. They have become ... They are a superpower now. >> Mm. >> And so is South Korea. They are known as five tigers of Southeast in development in technology, in all sphere of activity. >> Mm-hmm. >> I wish that we in India could also somehow become a little more disciplined [INAUDIBLE] because, through discipline, we can achieve. It also moderates your character, your integrity, but in spite of our teachings, we are really civilizational, somehow the ... I shall be saying, but somehow the leaders, the political leaders and the bureaucrats have affected the development side. >> Mm. >> But it is improving. >> Yeah. >> It's improving. >> Yeah. >> Yes, and there is a hope. >> Yes, and I have so many Indian-American friends that they're ... The diaspora, they're very, very, very prosperous, and they'll bring back that kind of knowledge and ... because that's what Chinese ... >> Where are you staying in? >> I ... >> Stay USA? >> Washington, D.C. >> Washington, D.C. >> Yes. >> Yes. >> And there's an Indian-American congressman because I worked in Congress for a long time, and, yes, I think all over the world with many of the diaspora bringing back the knowledge and just the sense of, I guess, more discipline, like you said, because when you go abroad and you're not in your home country, you have to work as harder. >> Harder. >> And that's why I feel like I've achieved the American dream because, for my parents who sacrificed their life to come to America for us, we think we got to succeed, right? I think that's the same analogy of the Korean people. The parents all over the world, the veterans, came and sacrificed, so the Korean people think, okay, for them, to honor them, the people and the country, they have to succeed, and so I hope that ... I'm very glad you got to see modern Korea with the tall skyscrapers. >> [INAUDIBLE]. >> Yes. Everybody says there was only one bridge over Han River. Now there's 16 bridges, and I ... There's Samsung. There's Hyundai. There's ... all over the world. And I hope when you see that, that you feel very proud, that you were part of that making. >> Yes. >> Mm. I really hope that, and that's why I wanted to come, and I wanted to just ... I know you know, and you are proud, but it's also nice to hear it again, to say thank you again. >> Tremendous, tremendous. >> Yeah. >> [INAUDIBLE]. >> So I do want to say thank you. >> Yeah. >> Oh, in the Korean custom like in New Year or when you pay respect to the elder, we bow. >> Mm. >> That's the proper way of saying thank you, so I wanted to actually do that because this is ... I tried ... This is not sorry, but I tried to wear something a little bit kind of Indian to pay respect for you, so I'm going to do that because that's what we do, and I will say thank you the proper way that I was taught to do.
>> My name is Levinjel A. Banaje. I had joined the Army in 1948 and retired in 1986 as a lieutenant general. When I joined the Army, I had volunteered for parachute duties, and so I had the opportunity of joining 60 Parachute Field Ambulance as a lieutenant in 1950. This unit, 60 Parachute Field Ambulance, was India's contribution to the United Nations in the war against North Korea. North Korea had invaded South Korea, and the case was taken up, and as such, the United Nations send help to South Korea to fight the North Koreans. India's contribution to this was a field medical unit, and 60 Parachute Field Ambulance was selected. This unit sailed in a U.S. warship [INAUDIBLE] Johnson on 8th November '50 and landed at Pusan, the present Busan, on 20th November 1950. This unit proceeded to Daegu, and then as the war was supposed to be finishing, we were rushed to the front area to join the 8th Army, which was there at Pyongyang. So having spent a few days at Daegu, the unit moved to Pyongyang, and we landed in Pyongyang on 29th November 1950. We hardly stayed at Pyongyang for a few days when the Chinese troops moved in, and the whole 8th Army had to move back. So we went back south of Seoul in a train, as well as with our [INAUDIBLE], and we are told to join the headquarters of the 8th Army, the Yongsan as we called it, on 4th of December. Sixth of December, we came back to Seoul, and we were allotted to give medical cover to 27th British Brigade. This British Brigade was the second brigade with us counterrouted by the British Army. They had the 28th Brigade also. The 60 Field Ambulance, which was named 60 Indian Field Ambulance in Korea, was allotted to British Brigade, and throughout that in Europe and Korea, it remained with the British Brigade. The field ambulance provides medical cover to the fighting troops in the forward areas. It's mobile. So you can move back and forth, but the advantage of this parachute field ambulance is that it had two surgical teams, so we could do life-saving operations right at the forward areas. After moving back from Seoul, the war went as a ding-dong type, sometimes going up, sometimes down, and we had been looking after the British, American and Korean troops as well as some prisoners of war. The unit was not fully mobile in the sense that the vehicles which was with the unit could not move the whole unit at a stretch, so the unit divided into two parts. The forward section stayed with one surgical team, and the other rear went back to Daegu with the other surgical team. That happened sometime in January 1951. The forward unit became a part of 27th Brigade and moved on further from Seoul to a place called Uijeonbu. The rear detachment, which was the mediant supply stores for this medical unit, went back to Daegu. They also had a surgical team, and they started looking after the civil hospital at Daegu. So by 9th February '51, a fully functional civil hospital at Daegu was being done by the rear troops of the 60th Indian Field Ambulance. The forward detachment after that went on various movements, at times forward, at times retreat, giving support to the 27th British Brigade. Being a parachute unit, the commanding officer warranted the services of his surgical team to the 187 RCT, the Regimental Combat Team of the U.S. Army, for any operation which they desired, which took place on the 18th March in Operation Tomahawk at Munsan-ni, a surgical team of the England field ambulance took part in the same operation, along with 187 RCT, Regimental Combat Team, and did a good job there. The other detachment, the forward detachment, which was with the 27th Brigade, took part in the operation throughout their tenure in Korea. There have been few important operations, one at Kapyong in which a lot of casualties were looked after by the Indian Field Ambulance. By the middle of year 1951, the Commonwealth Division was formed, and the Indian Field Ambulance became a part of the Commonwealth Division, giving medical cover to the same 28th Brigade, instead of the 27th British Brigade. Commonwealth Division was formed on 28th July. The unit took part from Operation Tomahawk with various operations which was given to the British Brigade and the Division for which they were given the Meritorious Unit Citation by the U.S. Army. This took place on 17th August at Daegu, and the Meritorious Unit Citation was given to the 60 Indian Field Ambulance. On the 17th, similar citation was given by the Korean Army. I don't remember the name of the general who did it, but this happened there at Daegu in a parade, the citation by the Korean Army was given to this unit. After that, there has been various operations, one of them being Op Commando by the Commonwealth Division in October of '51 in which this Indian Field Ambulance took a major part and did a good job looking after two important battalions, the 3rd Royal Australian Regiment and the Northumberland Fusiliers. The rear detachment has been looking after the particular hospital and have treated more than about 40,000 patients, outpatients, looking after the civilians in this particular period. >> Wow, 40,000? >> Yeah, they were as outpatients. >> Wow. >> That was ... After that, the war has been on a ding-dong type advance-and-retreat, and the forward detachment was involved in looking after this British Brigade. I was particularly lucky because I was all the time along with the forward detachment, and so I have been taking part in most of the operations which the Commonwealth Division and the British Brigade had to do. >> So you were a surgeon? >> No, as a general duty medical officer. >> General duty medical. >> There you go. >> So as a general duty medical officer, what did that entail? What did you do? >> It was more of a life-saving first aid which you do, bandaging wounds ... >> Wounds. >> ... splints and giving general surgeons [INAUDIBLE] >> So immediate. >> Immediate, and evacuating to the rear. >> Why is it called a parachute, 60th Parachute? >> Because all the troops are paratroopers. >> Oh, really, everybody? >> Everybody. >> Even you? >> Yes. >> Wow. >> Oh, I have it, see here. My son also joined the Army later, and he is also a paratrooper. >> Really? So you are trained as a paratrooper ... >> As a doctor. >> ... and a doctor. >> A doctor, yes, that is the advantage of the ... >> You need to learn how to parachute. >> Yes. >> You know, the paratroopers. >> So right now the 60th Ambulance in Agra, they do ... They parachute ... >> Yes, all are paratroopers. They all qualify. >> Oh, but not medical? >> Medical, yes. >> Them, even now? >> Yes. >> Not only there in the Korean War, even now? >> No, they have because we have to fight ... and it has to stay. Anytime an operation ... >> So they're paratroopers and medical officers even now? >> Yes, yes, even now. They go on changing. They're all doctors, and they are trained. So if there is a requirement, straight away they are brought. >> Wow. Did you know that? >> Yeah. >> That is how the commanding officer volunteered our services ... >> Yes, I wanted to ask. So how many total went, and how many were wounded, and how many had died? >> We had been there for nearly 3 years. >> Okay. >> So I won't be able to give you all the figures, but we had our troops. I remember no one was killed during the war, but a driver lost his foot, blown up by a mine trying to evacuate divisions. Another driver lost his arm by a mortar, and there were a few other minor injuries, but these two major injuries I remember. >> And how many, do you think, in total, Indians went to fight for Korea, at least in the field unit? You know? >> In this, 317. >> Three hundred seventeen. >> Out of us, there were 17 officers, 10 JCOs and 304 other ranks. The JCOs is Junior Commissioned Officers. >> Okay. >> And the rest are troops, various, as you call it in America, sergeants, corporals, lance corporals, that sort of thing. >> And what was your rank when you went? >> I was a captain. >> You were a captain. >> Captain. >> How old were you when you went? >> I joined '46. I was, let's see, 26. We went in '50, so I was 24. >> Twenty-four. >> I was 24 at that time. >> And you went in 1950. So you are now 91. >> I'm 91 now. >> Did the soldiers, did the military people who went to Korea, did they volunteer, or were they drafted? >> Here we volunteered for parachute duties, and after that, when a unit moves, you move anywhere. >> Okay, so the ... >> You don't have to volunteer for parachute duties. >> Okay, you volunteer for parachute, but the military sent you to Korea. >> And then what anybody wants us to do, we are sent. >> Okay. So most of the people that went to Korea, when they came back, they still served? >> They went to different places. >> But they all stayed in the military? >> They stayed in the military. Yes, they are all regular troops. >> So if you really think about it, the Indians that went to Korea were very experienced. >> Yes, they had been in the Kashmir War before that. >> The reason why I say that is I interviewed many veterans, right. >> Mm-hmm. >> They were 16, 17. They volunteered. They didn't know anything about war, and they were just young soldiers sometimes seeking for adventure, but I think Indians were different. They sent serious, experienced ... >> We had a part of the unit, and then you hold the unit. >> Wow, that's amazing. So when you came back from Korea ... >> Yes? >> After 1 year, right? >> No, I stayed there 3 years. >> You stayed there for 3 years? >> Nearly 3 years. >> Wow. >> The unit, this was what they do. All the units which went to Korea from the rest of the countries, they used to go back after 1 year, but this Indian Field Ambulance stayed for nearly 3 years. >> Everybody? >> Not everybody, the people went on coming back, some of them. I'm one of the longest, but there was some ... >> Who decided for you to stay 3 years, you or the military? >> Military. >> Uh-huh. >> Unless ... >> So you were high-ranking? >> No, not high-ranking. They decide who will come back. >> Well, maybe they wanted you to stay because you are really good at ... >> No, not particularly. Partly I will say that is correct because they have to get officers volunteering for doing parachute duties and going to Korea. When we went, our doctors ... I won't say the whole unit was, but about 60 to 70 percent of the troops, they're qualified paratroopers. The rest had joined, but they had not qualified so far. >> It's incredible because I know, so for example, in America, 1.8 million went, okay? And 54,000 died. So, of course, it's a big war, but even in America, Korean War is called the Forgotten War. You know? >> Yeah. >> But in India, I know it was right after India was independent. Right? India gained independence, and then shortly after, you went to Korea. >> Yeah. >> But why do you think very, very, very, very, very, very few people know about India's contributions in the Korean War? >> It's just a small unit. Actually, it depends on the number of troops given because apart from India, there were about 12 nations that took part. >> Yes. >> Some of them also, as you said, Norway, Sweden, they got a hospital ship or a MASH ... >> Yes, Jutlandia, Jutlandia, yes. >> ... and the Philippines. There's so many other troops. They just sent a battalion. Battalion being about 600 or 700 troops, fighting troops, mind you. >> Yes. >> Yes, except for ... >> Who flew your plane? >> The American ... >> British? >> Oh, went we went to Korea? >> No. We went by ship. >> I know. I know, but you're paratroopers, right? >> That was the Italian-American operation. One, as I told you, 187 RCT, the Regimental Combat Team. That's ... >> So you flew with them and then jumped with the Americans? >> Yes, the Amerns. We volunteered because we had a surgical team. The Regimental Combat Team had their own medical supply, but they didn't have a surgical team, so we volunteered. So our surgical team, one surgical team, went with them, and then ... >> How many people in one? >> Twelve. >> Twelve? >> Twelve. >> Twelve. >> Surgeon anesthetist and two doctors. >> And ... >> There's others helping him. >> How often did you go with them in combat? >> No, no. That was only operation [INAUDIBLE], Operation Munsan-ni. >> Munsan-ni? >> Yeah. >> So for 3 years, okay? Describe to me maybe your everyday, typical, average day. You stayed there for 3 years. >> Three years. >> Yeah, so, you didn't ... Did you have to take care of the patients every day? I mean ... >> The patients are there. We had a small ward. The patients come here. You look after them. They may be outpatients. Just give them medical care, and they go back. Of if they had, sort of, to be kept as a patient, we had wards where the patients are kept and looked after. Or if they are still serious, we send them to go back to the MASH. >> To the MASH? >> Yes. >> And then the MASH sends some ... >> MASH looked after ... Anyway ... >> So you are even more urgent care than that? >> Yes. We're the earlier care. >> Okay. >> The first time ... >> This is so interesting. >> So it's a ... >> So you were like the emergency room? >> Yes. The first, what we look after ... >> Yes, yes. >> ... giving the life-saving treatment and evacuate ... >> And then send to MASH? >> As soon as possible because being a field unit, we had the bigger ambulance and the smaller Jeep ambulance, so we quickly second them back. >> Okay. >> That drove to the MASH. >> Okay. So you had American and British patients, but did you see other patients from other countries? >> No. It was mainly British, British and Australian, New Zealanders, being a part of the Commonwealth Division. >> Part of the Commonwealth ... >> And some Americans, when we were part of the American operation, and also sometimes Koreans who had ... the South Koreans, not bad ... >> Not civilians though? >> Civilians? Yes. >> Really? >> Civilians also, if they are wounded. Villagers, they came. Civilians ... Now that is entirely different from the civilian hospital being done at Daegu. That was separate, running as a hospital. Half the unit was there at Daegu, and we used to alternate them. Same people used to go to the forward areas, and the others from the forward used to come back to the rear for a change and stay, and then we can go to the forward areas. So forward, so it changed all the time, wherever the ... >> Yeah, wherever the troops ... >> But you had a base at Daegu? >> Base at Daegu. >> Daegu. Oh, this is so interesting. >> Our resources of field rations and others, which used to come from India, used to go to Daegu and then send forward. >> Daegu, okay. So you ate Indian food? >> Yes. >> Because I asked Ethiopia, because I came from Ethiopia here. I said, "What did you eat?" >> Yeah. >> They couldn't eat Ethiopian food. >> No, no. >> Yeah, they didn't. >> Yeah, but ... >> But you did? >> Yes. >> Yes. >> No Korean food? >> Korean food? No. Because ... >> So you had cooks and everything there? >> Cooks? Yes. The unit consisted of everything, all types, the tradesmen we called them. We had cooks. We had barbers. We had washermen washing clothes. >> Really? >> Because, you know, some, I think American, many other troops, they had Korean houseboys, Korean ... >> Yes. >> Yes, right? But you didn't? >> No, no. We didn't have any because we ... We had everything, including barbers. We had a dentist also. That was ... >> You had dentists? >> Dentists also. The 17 officers, we had two dental surgeons. >> Really? >> Yes. >> For both the wounded and for you? >> Yeah, yeah. Dentist was there. >> Wow. >> Looking after and also because they ... And a field ambulance has this dental officer also. >> Yes, yes. Oh. >> Yes. >> And nurses? >> No. >> No women? Nothing else? >> We used to call nursing orderly. They used to do the nursing jobs. They're specially trained, like operation groom assistants, physiotherapies, laboratory technicians. We have all these things, but they've all been trained as paratroopers. >> So were you married before you went to Korea? >> No, I was not married. >> So you married after? >> We had married persons also there. I'm not. >> Well, good, because you stayed there for 3 years. If you were married, that would have been difficult. So you came back and you got married and you had ... >> Yes. >> Yes, and your son is also a paratrooper? >> My son is also a paratrooper. He's in the Army. >> Really? Even now? >> Yes. He's a brigadier in Lucknow. >> In ... Where? >> At Lucknow, in the UP. >> But not in the 60th Field Unit. >> No. He served in 60 Field Unit. >> Oh, he did? >> He was a part of 60 for quite some time. >> Wow, wow! So do you have other children that are also ... >> No, just one son. [FOREIGN LANGUAGE] Left side [FOREIGN LANGUAGE]. >> [FOREIGN LANGUAGE] >> [FOREIGN LANGUAGE] >> Do you have ... Did you ever go back to Korea? >> Yes. >> You did? >> I did. >> When? >> I have been ... I went ... The first batch of revisit to Korea took place in 1991. >> Yes? >> And I was the only chap from India that went there. >> Wow! >>Because I had been there. >> 1991? >> 1991. >> What did you think when you went to ... >> [FOREIGN LANGUAGE] >> [FOREIGN LANGUAGE] >> [FOREIGN LANGUAGE] >> [FOREIGN LANGUAGE] >> This is, of course ... >> Of course, [INAUDIBLE] >> This is ... >> Your son? >> That's my son. >> Oh. >> And my wife. >> Okay, and you? >> And me. >> Wow! >> This was while I was serving, and this is when I returned. That was my family, but unfortunately ... >> A little higher? Okay. Thanks. >> This is ... And unfortunately I lost my wife and my grandson. >> Oh. I'm so sorry to hear that. >> So that is ... >> Well, I know you lost your grandson, but we have ... You have a new, one more Korean granddaughter. I say ... I call all the Korean War veterans around the world my grandpas because ... >> This is lovely. >> Yes, because I say if you didn't go there in Korea and fight for Korea, I wouldn't be here. >> So nice of you. >> And I really mean it, and that's why ... You know, I used to work for the United States Congress for 7 years. I was chief of staff to a member of Congress. He represents [INAUDIBLE]. He was a Congressman for 46 years, and he decided to retire when President Obama retired. And before I start a new career with a new Congressman, I said, "You know what? God has been so good to me. I've been living the American Dream, you know? How many child, women, young person of an immigrant family in America were in politics?" As you know it's still white-dominated, men, and here I was, and I said, "Wow. I'm so grateful." So I said, "I am going to take a break, and I am going to visit all my grandpas all over the world." >> So nice of you. >> All over the world and say thank you because many of you are very old now. You're not young anymore, and I wanted to say thank you, but also I wanted you to remember that me, not only me but my friends, my family, even Koreans in Korea and all over the world, we don't forget. >> Yeah. >> You know? Right? We don't forget. >> So nice of you. So nice. >> Yes, yes, and I know when you visited Korea in 1991, I'm sure they said thank you. >> Very happy now. They're happy too. >> And maybe the Korean embassy here, right? >> Yeah, no. They have been looking after ... given so many sort of citations and others. It is very, very rewarding, and it is another thing. >> Yeah, so, I said ... >> And the best part is, having seen the country that time in 1950, '51 and '52, '53 and visiting Korea now: What a difference! >> You must be so proud! >> Yes, proud! How can a country which was in that state at that time, within these few years, come up to this height? >> It was in rubbles, nothing. >> There was one bridge over the river in Seoul those days. >> Yes, the Han River. >> Han River. >> Yes. I think now ... >> Unfortunately I have donated recently my personal album to the museum. It's the Korean Embassy at Lucknow, and these are all there. There's all the pictures of the Korean thing. >> Oh. >> What I did was, they wanted my father, when he was here. He kept all the paper cuttings of the period. >> Wow. >> Of the ... >> Oh, when you were in Korea. >> When we were in Korea. >> All the paper. >> In the newspaper, and he wrote down even the announcements on India Radio. >> Wow! >> And when I came back after 3 years from Korea, he gave it to me as a booklet. >> Oh! >> And that, along with my own personal album ... >> That is ... >> ... which I had from Korea taken, I hand it over to the Korean Embassy. >> Wow! >> It's there now in Seoul in their national museum. >> Museum, War Museum! >> War Museum in Seoul, it is there. >> You know, after my last, final destination is Seoul. I go to, first, Busan, where the cemetery is. >> Yes. >> And then I go to Seoul, where the War Museum is. I will go and find your ... >> Yes, you'll see! >> Wow, that's so amazing! >> I have been to Korea three times. >> Wow. >> The last time of course was the year 2000 when it was the 50th anniversary. >> Yes, yes. It was huge. >> So the 50th anniversary. >> So my boss, he's a congressman, but he also was a Korean War veteran. And he went to the 50th anniversary too. >> That's really ... >> Yes. >> That's the last time I went. That was in 2000. >> Well, thank you, so I think I saw some pictures over there of you when you were a soldier. Can you show? Can we go and see? >> Yeah. Unfortunately ...

Paying Tribute









    Yes, It is OK to communicate with me via email

    Memorial Site

    The Republic of India participated in the Korean War from December 1950 to 1953. During the war, the Indian medical unit gained the respect of Commonwealth soldiers for its high-quality medical care and the courage of its soldiers under fire. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru sent the 60th Field Hospital as a support unit.

    In total, India deployed 627 medical soldiers during the war and a 5,000-strong Custodian Force to mediate the repatriation of the prisoners of war after the ceasefire (July 27, 1953) for a year.

    The Korean War Memorial is being planned to be constructed in New Delhi.