Belgium Brussels (6)

>> I am Robert Decoling. I am born in Bruges, in Belgium, on 21st of December, 1922. I joined the Army in 1949, and I went to Korea in 1953, our squadron leader in Korea, section leader. I went to Korea in Korea Battalion in May 7th, 1953, and we departed to Korea in 19 July, 1953, just before the end of the war. We were held in Camp Drake in Tokyo when the armistice negotiations were closed. So I entered Korea after the war, so I was not in the war, so I left to Korea in the 16th of July. The armistice was on 27th of July, so we entered in Korea a few days later. We stayed first in Camp Drake, later on in Sasebo in Japan and then in Korea. So I served 11 months in Korea after the armistice, after the ceasefire. Nevertheless, we had a lot to do. We have to patrol. We have to look out. We have exercises. We are on the way every day, so we had a hard and rough time over there but not the danger of the war. That's all I can tell about Korea. >> Why you volunteered? >> I volunteered because it was a sort of adventure for us. Korea was a country far away from us. We never thought we'd have the chance to go there, so there was a sort of adventure for the most of us. I was a young sergeant, a young military, so to see the world, also perhaps to help the Koreans, but it was not our first goal to help the Koreans. Only we look at as an adventure, the most of us. I have to tell the truth. That's the reasons. So that was the reason of why I went to the Korea. >> Hundred died. >> Mm-hmm. Yes. Correct. >> Three thousand one hundred seventy-two ... >> I know. >> ... served. >> Mm-hmm. >> That must have changed when you came back. >> Of course. Of course, we saw a lot of misery. Oh, those were totally different when we left to Korea. When we left to Korea, we knew nothing about Korea, nothing. It's a country far away from us, not knowing the people over there, but when we came back, we know the people of Korea. I'm very, very thankful to be for some help to the Korean people because I'm sure the Belgian troops over there helped the people there. There are a lot of [INAUDIBLE] and the people [INAUDIBLE] all the way, even though when we come back to Korea, we are always very welcome in Korea, all the veterans are going there. I have been four times in Korea since the war, so I know what I'm talking about. >> I was told about the Belgians never lost a position. Explain that a little bit. >> I wasn't there at that moment. >> Oh, yeah, but you heard about it. >> Oh, of course. I heard the stories, of course. >> Mm-hmm. >> Yeah. I know the history too. >> Mm-hmm, so what does that mean? >> Well, it means [INAUDIBLE]. >> Mm-hmm, especially about artillery and parachutes, right, historically? >> Yeah, but we didn't have parachutes in Korea, you know, but the story of Belgian army is another side about the good artillery. There were good parachute jumpers, yeah, of course. We were world champions many times for world champion parachutes. [INAUDIBLE] so he is one of them. Yeah. >> Do you remember the saying, "Belgians can do too"? >> "Can do too," yeah, of course. >> What does that mean? >> That does mean that we can do anything that another army did, but we are a small batallion. There are very few over there in our battalion. We needed the help of the Koreans even to make our battalion complete. We needed Koreans to serve with us because there were not Belgians enough to have a full battalion over there. >> How many is a battalion? >> There about 800, I think. I think we had the support of 40, 50 Koreans in the battalion serving, I think. I'm not sure of the amount, but I think that it must be that, during the war in one area, yeah. >> Oh, Korean soldiers, KATUSA, KATUSA. >> Korean soldiers, yeah, they served with us, yes. >> Oh. >> Yeah. Also, there are many. Six deaths among the Koreans who served with us, six casualties, yes. >> Do you remember about the Korean civilians? >> Of course. We have seen ... >> After the war doesn't mean armistice is signed and everything is wonderful, right? That's when the country needs to rebuild, right? >> Of course. Yeah, we saw Korea. When we left Korea, Korea was flat. It was just destroyed, Seoul, not much left in Seoul, so no, when we left, and we returned, no, it was any sort of difference. Korea is a wonderful country at this moment, oh, but the moment we left, it was destroyed, completely destroyed, and the people were poor, needed help from everywhere, from anyone, yeah. >> I am very interested in the armistice. >> Uh-huh. >> Do you remember reading about the armistice? Who signed it? Why? Do you remember a little bit? >> The signing was between the North Koreans and the Chinese and the Americans also. You know the members. I don't think there were Belgium among them. It mostly between the North Koreans, Chinese and, of course, the Russians behind. Russia was one of the supporters of North Korea, so on the other side, on our side, was the Americans. They supported the South Koreans among the 23 other countries who helped South Korea, so yeah, that is all. >> Everyone must have been very happy that ... >> Of course. Everyone was happy that the war ended, especially the people. >> And you were very lucky. >> I was very lucky. >> Yes, you were very lucky. >> I wanted to join the Korean battalion before, and a friend of mine came to my parents to ask if I could go with him, and my father said, "Oh, no, no, no, no, no." It doesn't happen, but 1 year later, I joined anyway. [INAUDIBLE] was the name of the man who came. He was a friend of mine at home, and my friend, he died already, yeah. >> In the war? >> No, not in the war. Afterwards. >> Okay. Good. Okay. Well, do you have anything that you'd like to share, anything else? >> No. No. >> No? >> I'm glad I have been in Korea. I'm glad I could be of some help to the Korean people. I met Korean people because they are very friendly. >> Well, thank you, Grandpa. >> You're welcome. >> I'm very grateful for you.