8/30 Honolulu, Hawaii (11)

>> 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.