Subject: KOREA '53
Leslie Stevens wrote on August 22, 2013
Email Update Needed
City and State: FALLS CITY NE
Unit: COMPANY 98 PHOTO REPO COMPANY
Service or Relationship: Army Veteran
Comments: I was there from Feb '53 till Nov '53 doing contact prints in the photo production line.
I enjoyed reading about us. Thank You
Keywords: Photo Reproduction
Subject: PHOTOS OF 98TH ENGINEER CO. AND SEOUL
Cole Smith wrote on September 26, 2010
City and State:
Service or Relationship: Family Member
Comments: My father Nobe Smith was in the 98th during 53-54. I have posted all the photos he took of his buddies in the base and around Seoul on SmugMug:
Keywords: Nobe Smith, 98th Engineer Aerial Photo
Subject: CPL STEVEN LASKO JULY18-50 TO /6-22-51
Steven C. Lasko JR. wrote on June 30, 2007
City and State: CLAREMONT NH
Service or Relationship: Family Member
Comments: MY DAD CPL. STVEN C LASKO WAS IN COUNTRY FOR NEARLY A YEAR, HE WAS WITH 5HT CAV UNIT H,HQ. HE WALKED/RODE FROM PO HUNG TO THE YALU AND BACK, IF ANY ONE KNEW MY DAD I'D LIKE TO SPEAK WITH YOU. AS HE HAS A PURPLE HEART , BUT WHEN HE DIED I RECEIVED HIS RECORDS AND THE IS NO MENTION OF THE JEEP HITTING THE MINE. I WOULD LIKE TO MAKE THE RECORD RIGHT FOR DADS HONOR AND THE THOUSANDS OF OTHER VETERANS WHO SERVED WITH HIM. PLEASE CONTACT ME AT SCLASKO@YAHOO.COM IF YOU KNOW ANY WAY TO HELP........MUCH APPRECIATED......
STEVE LASKO JR.
Keywords: KOREA HILL 303,WAEGWON,RADIO MAN SERVED (JULY18 1950 TO JUNE 22 1951)IN COUNTRY.
CORPRAL STEVEN C LASKO
Subject: LOOKING FOR BUDDIES
Barbara Kasiewski-Cunningham wrote on August 1, 2006
Email Update Needed
City and State: PHILADELPHIA PA
Service or Relationship: Family Member
Keywords: 98th Eng.Aerial photo Repro Company
Subject: 98TH PHOTO ENGINEER AERIAL CO.
Barbara Cunningham (Kasiewski) wrote on October 29, 2000
Email Update Needed
City and State: HUNTINGDON VALLEY PA
Unit: 98TH PHOTO ENGINEER AERIAL
Service or Relationship: Family Member
Comments: ATTENTION ON DECK!!!
I AM THE PROUD DAUGHTER OF EDMUND J, KASIEWSKI,AKA
EDDIE CASH OR KAZ. HE PASSED AWAY 8 YEARS AGO AND I MISS HIM DEARLY. HE NEVER GAVE TOO MUCH INFORMATION ABOUTH WHAT HAPPENED IN KOREA. I HAVE LEARNED VERY MUCH SINCE. MY FATHER HAD A "A" WITH
IN A CIRCLE. WHICH I FOUND OUT THAT HE WAS WITH THE 98TH. I AM LOOKING FOR INFORMATION FROM ANY OF HIS OLD BUDDIES OR ANY ONE WHO WAS EVEN IN THE SAME GROUP, WEATHER OR YOU KNOW HIM OR NOT. HERE IN PHILLY I HAVE WORKED VERY HARD FOR THE LAST 3 YEARS TO HELP BUILD THE KOREAN WAR MEMORIAL.I AM THE PUBLIC RELATIONS CHAIRWOMAN ON THE BOARD OF
DIRECTORS. THEIR IS NOT ENOUGH THAT I CAN SAY OR TO DO FOR YOU GUYS,BUT YOU WILL NOT EVER BE FORGOTTEN. NOTE: SPECIAL THANKS TO GERALD TRETT AND TO JOE MILLER FOR ALL THEIR HELP OVER THE LAST FEW DAYS--THANKS GUYS.
FOREVER IN YOUR DEBT,
BARBARA A. CUNNINGHAM
Keywords: LOOKING FOR BUDDIES
Subject: REMEMBERING THE FORGOTTEN WAR
Gerald L. Trett wrote on October 2, 2000
Email Update Needed
City and State: VA
Unit: 98TH ENGINEER AERIAL PHOTO
Service or Relationship: Army Veteran - Korea
Comments: The 98th was a unique outfit, and I am surprised that virtually nothing has been written about it. Until "Mash" appeared in 1970, I had thought that no book or movie would ever catch for posterity what the Korean war was really like for most of the GI's that served; the war behind the lines, that is, after stalemate set in and there was a DMZ and all the senseless killing that continued until the 1953 truce.
"Mash" will remain, I suspect, the best and truest memorial those of us who were there will ever have. It didn't get everything right, but it caught the spirit of the war as nothing else has: our generation was called by cultural historians who go in for that sort of thing The Silent Generation who got trapped in the forgotten war. I have never thought so: trapped we were, and said so; nobody wanted to be there. But we were irreverent and subversively, happily, playfully disrespectful of authority. One of my indelible "army" moments of advanced Basic came on the parade ground at Fort Lee on a blistering Saturday afternoon in July. We all had weekend passes, and the AWOL rate was so high that the entire battalion had been ordered to the grinder for a talk by no less than the major who commanded. He began by appealing to our patriotism: "Doesn't your heart thrill when you look up and see Old Glory fluttering in the breeze?" And complaining indignantly that one joker had called in to ask for an extension on his AWOL! The major's pep talk on Duty, Honor, and Country was peppered with catcalls from the ranks and muttered comments (all unlocatable, of course) like "Fuck you, Asshole!" (We kept our passes; "they" knew by this time what they couldn't get away with.) This joker, incidentally, came from our training company; he returned, tried to kill himself, was rehabilitated, and rewarded by being sent to EUCOM; the rest of us went to Korea.
"Mash" got the irreverence exactly right, and the behind-the-lines goings-on in the movie and TV series were only slightly exaggerated, if my experience is any test, though life in the 98th was hardly typical.
I arrived at the 98th in the bitterly cold January of 1953 and did the whole 16-month tour; separated in June 1954. My arrival was apparently a godsend. The manpower shortage was so acute that by an assignment system only the government could concoct, I, who was trained to be a quartermaster, became overnight, courtesy the Army of the United States, an Engineer. I was the long-awaited and never-expected second man in charge of the photographic supples used in the plant, completely separate from company supply. It was an undemanding but responsible position. We were accountable for hundreds of thousands of dollars of expensive photographic materials (big bucks in those days), and we answered only to our own sergeant. As a private I positively enjoyed saying No to all sorts of people outranking me, from NCOs to officers who hadn't gone through channels! The corporal I was second to had been working 12 to 16 hour days; he was glad to see me; once I learned the ropes, he did day shift, I handled the swing shift (and middle-of-the night emergencies for the graveyard shift). His name was Mike Passalacqua, great little guy, always cheerful, totally competent, seldom seen off duty since he lived off post with his Moose (my first surprise of many. News of that part of the war never made it back to the States, except discreetly in "color" stories in the press about the million-dollar mail-order business Sears did in Korea).
The Company was set up to do 24/7/52, and we did. The fighting was still in full tilt. We were organized into 4 platoons, each of which worked one 8-hour shift producing aerial photographs of the fighting of the day before. The schedule shifted about every month so that no group got stuck with the graveyard all the time; each rotation included a month working around the company area maintaining and cleaning (but mostly resting and going into town for a little local R and R, not always at the PX). Each platoon had a lieutenant in charge and a platoon sergeant. I was in the separate Operations platoon; we did not rotate because we did special technical operations and that's all we did, except stand guard occasionally.
I do not remember one of the officers or their names (with an exception I'll get to) except for Lt. Rotty, who headed the Operations platoon. Most of the officers were just smart enough (and Rotty was one, a good guy) to realize that the noncoms ran the army, and the outfit, and all they had to do was sit back and let them and us do it. Some of these I remember well. Church was platoon sergeant of Operations when I arrived; cool, easy, effective. "Wild Bill" Harper replaced him. Harper was an old master sergeant who served in WW2: he was, in the parlance of the time, a real pisser: tough as nails, absolutely fair and the man who made things go. We had an emergency one time, a shortage of a certain grade of photo stock, and I as a mere private couldn't get the air force , who supplied us, to hand it over. So Wild Bill put us in a jeep and we motored up to Kimpo where he demanded to see, and saw, the commanding officer of supply. We got the stock. The air force major who released it, said to Bill, "You're very . . . efficient . . . Sergeant." Big Bill winked and said, "Hell, Major, I'm regular army; a master sergeant does more in one day than a flyboy major does in a month." That was Wild Bill. He figured in one bit of hijinks that really pissed off the CO, who could do nothing about it.
When I arrived, the Plant operations officer was a CWO named Shumate (as I recall). Why him and where they got him only the army knew. He was a near total incompetent everybody had to work around if the jobs were to get done. When, soon after I got there, his tour was up, he was, of course, awarded a medal for Truly Meritorious Service: for the ceremony the company was assembled, shaved and showered (and ordered to be there), in front of the Plant. That afternoon Operations held its own medal ceremony behind the Plant for Bill Harper, who was also ending his tour: whole platoon lined up at sharp attention while one of us read the mock citation. It consisted of a recital of every Shumate fuckup Wild Bill had salvaged and the awarding of his medal: a large circle of thick Ozalid paper with an inscription like "Meanest Son-of-a Bitch in Korea, and the Best." The frosting on the cake was the whole company command structure peeking out the windows at us, with the expression on their faces that said "What are they doing now?"
I had three close buddies. One was Jim McKee, a rich-boy Texan, wild and high-living who'd been "volunteered" for the draft by his father after Jim eloped with the wrong girl and Dad got it annulled. Another was Cooper. When his platoon was on shift, he was a chemical mixer who in cold weather hung out in my supply room. Fat, jolly kid who told wonderfully gruesome stories we all ate up, about his (interrupted) training to be a mortician. The third was "Buster" Keaton. Buster was black, the first African-American in the unit (arrived 3 months ahead of me). The army was still not fully integrated at the time, and although we had a large contingent of good ol' southern boys, it is a tribute to our generation, I think, that Buster's entrance into this all-white pretty special outfit caused not a ripple. He was cool and funny, and I heard not a word against him the whole time I was there (or the other blacks who were assigned later).
I also remember a lot of faces, mostly from Operations, but not that many names. One was an aging, rather frail-looking corporal who had once been Top Sergeant in an infantry company. One time in bivouac, on maneuvers, he had to get up in the middle of the night and, quite by mistake, of course, managed to piss all over his CO's face. He sought me out, just wanted to shake my hand, because in his many years he'd served with men from all 48 states except North Dakota. That was me, and he seemed genuinely happy to shake my hand. One was a young RA sergeant named George (Blunt, I think), barely 23. With Ray Helton, he was one of the original members of the unit who had reupped. He was from Oklahoma, big, fat, sloppy, witty (and loved jazz). A high school graduate only, he used to lecture me, good humoredly, about being "too educated." He was probably brighter than I was, and I don't think the army ever realized this or used him well. I hope he got out and did better things. Another, definitely not RA, was Alex Ostapachuk from New York City. He was, predictably, prickly, if not hostile, a little suspicious of everybody and buddied with nobody and was, not so predictably, always interesting and original. Alex believed that we didn't have his big-city street-smarts; he was right, we didn't. Neil Vanderploeg was a young married man (one of the few) who could be a little naive: he regaled us one night with the tale of their town drunk who thought his wife was cheating, so he strung her up by the ankles, stuck toothpicks into her snatch, and lighted them. "He was arrested," Neil added seriously, "for arson." That was Neil, from Wisconsin. Nick Dosen, on the other hand, from Arizona, was one version of the perfect 50s young male: a high school football player, sober, no-nonsense, second generation, Slavic, who could drink and swear like a trooper; but he was a serious Catholic in one area: unlike most of the other Catholic guys, he (painfully) stayed true to his fiancee back home. He was a rock when the rest of us got too wild, and we admired and respected him for his strength of character, but of course never said so. That's just the way we were in the 50s. Straight-forward and plain-spoken, referred to sometimes as "Nickel-ass," Dosen was his own man, as opposed to most of the rest of us, who were, you might say, still working on that problem. Except for myself, we had no real oddballs or eccentrics (I was the latter).
Those are the men I remember best. Off-duty life revolved around our Club (officers permitted). When I arrived, the Club wasn't much, a small shack that happened to serve cheap liquor. Within a few months that shack was replaced by a rather large building with dance floor, paneled walls, genuine stateside bar with mirror and real bar stools, tables with not-army-regulation chairs (I don't remember flashing strobe lights). And, most important, a full supply of beers (first time I tasted San Miguel, the real one, not the watered-down version available here) and imported hard liquor, the best, from around the world. A shot of anything cost a quarter; for Chivas Regal you paid 30 cents. The Club was open seven nights a week. Even on EM pay, you could do a lot of serious drinking at those prices. One master sergeant was in charge as his only duty. Saturday night was party night, with local ladies trucked in from all over Seoul (not on the sly: always approved by the CO, because the officers played too). At midnight you could "go home" with one of these ladies, for a reasonable price. Many did.
We owed all this splendor partly to our well-connected, old-army NCOs, but mostly to Marilyn Monroe. Part of the 98th's mission, and there was a separate staff, headed by a professional photographer named Crosby, to execute it, was Special Projects: usually something top secret that went straight either to FECOM or to 8th Army HQ. Crosby had Hollywood connections, and he'd inveigled somehow, from friends, a copy of the negative for the calendar that turned Marilyn Monroe into every GI's wet dream. We lived (or played, rather) on poster-size enlargements of that picture. Every guy in the company who wanted one, had it, but we didn't give them away. They were parlayed into the material that built the new Club, the booze that stocked it, the steak and fresh vegetables and fruit (occasionally available) that we had for dinner 5 nights a week. And Ms. Monroe was used to bribe the medics at 8th HQ to falsify our VD rate, which for a while was highest in South Korea.
That rate dropped, but not for the reasons the CO bragged about to his frowning superiors. Now, I think I am right in recalling that in addition to being the healthiest army in the field in U.S. military history, we were also the best educated (I don't say brightest). Such were the anomalies of the screwed-up mobilization in 1950 that the Pentagon found itself with all these college guys, some with Ph.D's, at their disposal and hadn't a clue as to how best to use them. I think every man in the 98th was a high school graduate, and in Operations half had some college and 3 of us had degrees. Picture, then, our CO's brilliant solution to the VD problem: the whole company lined up one snowy morning with our hapless, trying-to-be-serious Top Sergeant standing before us with a broomstick stuck through his legs to an appropriate length and at an appropriate angle demonstrating how to apply a condom. True. It was the Second Dumbest Army Moment in my career. What lowered the VD rate was the appearance of drips that penicillin didn't cure; hence, condoms. My Dumbest Army Moment came on the troop transport to Korea in December: the afternoon movie one day was the latest Martin and Lewis (I think); the preceding short subject was a WW2 army training film: "How to take a shower and get a shortarm inspection." With real live models. We all missed that Martin and Lewis film. There was only the sound of mass exodus: herd of young studs thundering out the exit to the main deck.
There was a typical (for the 98th, at least) follow-up to the how-to-put-on-a-condom demonstration. Now, I suppose that soldiers are soldiers, whether in Alexander the Great's Macedonian hordes or the WW2 guys in Normandy, and that healthy young men in their early twenties aren't much different the world over; in the early 50s in America, sexual mores were, supposedly, at least, conservative. There is no doubt that there was a lot more going on below the officially chaste surface than was acknowledged (except privately among buddies); but while there was no way of knowing, given the bragging factor (and any man who came of age a decade later during the sexual revolution of the 60s would find this astonishing), I would estimate that in our group well over a third of the guys got their sexual initiation in the army (many admitted it: living together as we did for over a year, we often got painfully honest about many things), and went home worrying about how to explain their prowess to future (or for the married, present) wives.
The follow-up is this true story: Across the road from the main gate and up on a rise stood our local whorehouse, dubbed "Rabbit Hill" (apparently, because as I was informed on arrival, if you have to, "get in and get out quick": off limits). We almost never patronized it, because it was considered the dregs of the dregs, and disease-ridden, and as a matter of principle. Who needed it when you could go home to your Moose or get laid Saturday night with Seoul's best ladies from the Club? But shortly after that demonstration we got a group of about 4 or 5 replacements who had trained together at Belvoir and arrived as buddies. They were young and perhaps not all that bright. When they'd been there a week, they, virgins all, I'd guess, decided it was time. They couldn't wait, so, despite warnings, even from other EM, condoms in hand they took off for Rabbit Hill one afternoon. Turned out to be full, or busy, or whatever: turned away. In frustration, or playfulness (and no idea that the house was, like most temporary housing in that rubble-scattered city, pure flimsy), they promptly retreated to the higher slopes surrounding the house, and, boys being boys, constructed giant snowballs half their height and proved the adequacy of their training as construction engineers: on signal they released their giant snowballs which rolled down the slope and, not rocked the house, as planned, but crashed through the side panels into it. Naked women erupted from all sides into the snow, screaming, followed by angry GI's proving they were well-trained soldiers, prepared to defend themselves anywhere, even with their trousers down, and toting either their M1's or carbines, ready to shoot. Our boys, tails between their legs, beat a hasty, successful retreat. In the company history I partly helped to write later (never published, I am sure), I wanted to include that incident as a chapter entitled "Skirmish at Rabbit Hill," but it was vetoed: no way the army would admit something like that ever happened!
The second Rabbit Hill story is odder. It happened before my time, and I only heard about it. It seems the girls "rented" out their house one afternoon to a group of GI's who paid each girl handsomely in advance, then kicked them out, locked the door, and, the girls reported, giggling, because they peeked, the guys then did themselves, as it were. This is the only time in Korea I even heard of an incident of homosexuality, let alone run into it, and the reported response was, in retrospect, interesting, given the troubles in today's army: a laugh, a shrug, some disbelief, and that was that. We'd all heard of queers, but they weren't even a blip on our radar screen and we never talked of them. I suspect the story was true (Corporal Klinger in "Mash" was not a comic exaggeration, he was an impossibility. No way, GI!).
We were certainly inventive at getting what we wanted, rules or no rules, and there's no reason to think that they were any less adept at something as basic as that.
So that was daily life at the 98th Engineer Aerial Photo Reproduction Company: do your simple, boring job that wasn't much different from civilian life, seven days a week without let-up; write home to anybody, everybody, who would write back; drink to excess and get laid regularly and as often as possible; snap hundreds of pictures the shift you are off (everybody acquired expensive cameras, duty-free, and became instant photographers after arrival; supplies courtesy U.S. Army); and talk, talk, talk, as only men in their twenties can and do when they feel their life lies ahead of them with the best yet to come: about family, women, jobs, women, plans, past triumphs, hoped-for future ones. I think we knew each other, in a depth and detail, better than we ever knew anybody else in our lives except for the families we grew up in and our families yet to come. Easy duty. We had movies every night, in the day room in winter, in the ruined stadium in good weather; not always new: I think I saw "Ruby Gentry" 6 times. Occasionally we (with permission) jeeped down to the HQ theater, when, say, something special like "Roman Holiday" played and we all came back in love with Audrey Hepburn. In the one stinking hot summer of my tour we swam as we pleased in the pool that supplied the Plant with water, bare-ass, as I remember (where could we have gotten suits?), if only because we were sure there was some army regulation against it (and there probably was)!
Easy duty, for a war zone. Sure. But there were stresses, and they were pervasive and unremitting (one man shot himself; a little-known fact about the Korean war was that, up to that time, the army experienced the highest suicide rate in its history, among doctors in field hospitals; morgues were large refrigerated rooms the size of a small factory: row upon row of naked bodies strung up by their feet, their dogtags smashed into their dead mouths. "Mash" never confronted those realities). You were forced to live in very close quarters over a very long period of time in the constant company of men, only some of whom you liked, others merely tolerated, and vice-versa, with your life on hold, ignored by your country and all at home but your own family, surviving mostly intact, I now think, only because of young men's natural resiliency and high spirits. Whether we developed the tight bonding of men in combat units is a good question. The near-absence of messages at this site suggests that we did not. Stephen Ambrose's D-Day warriors knew their lives depended on the man standing next to them. We didn't have that. In the best of circumstances young males with their juices flowing can get prickly about their place in the scheme of things. We had animosities and put-downs, but in the main got along well, even enjoyed each other's company, united, probably, by the overriding attitude that it was Us against Them.
Did we feel any guilt that only miles away there were guys getting their asses shot up every day? Any soldier knows the answer to that one: not for a minute. You learn quick that the army may supply you with bed, board, and clothing, but after that it's stick or get stuck, and if the breaks go your way and not his, that's just the way it is. Better him than me. It's the survival training the service teaches by example only, and you never forget it.
After the truce in 1953 (preceded by a week or so of BedCheck Charlie, the North Korean pilot who in his slow WW2 plane flew under the radar and dropped a bomb at random around 10:00 every night) duty changed, but not by much. We cut back to one shift at the Plant but still kept our full complement of men; so the usual mickey mouse began, especially with Maxwell Taylor as commanding general. Regular inspections, weekly runs, map reading, the whole bit. Two incidents stand out.
One was our celebration on July 27, 1953, the day the Truce was signed at Panmunjom. Whether the CO closed the Plant or we just walked out, shouting "It's over!" I don't remember. Operations personnel retired to our hut, ordered our prearranged tub of ice from the Club, and, with specially invited buddies from other platoons, got gloriously, rip-roaring drunk. All day and night drunk. Late in the afternoon, the officers, who no doubt were sipping rye and scotch whiskey at the BOQ, got wind of this and our lieutenant burst in demanding what the hell we thought we were doing. We shouted "Get Lost or join us." He retreated when one of our more volatile Italian types threw a boot at him and the party continued. You can get very drunk when your glass is a regulation army canteen cup filled with straight gin. Next day we had no noticeable hangovers. (In fact, when I got back to the States, I could drink anybody under the table, and often did. Alcohol flowed so freely the last months of my tour that I, and everybody else, reported every morning for duty at the Plant carrying a fresh canteen cup of coffee, well laced with booze, replenished at noon; I suspect that we all worked, perfectly competently, half tanked all the time). Next day we celebrants of peace were lined up and read the riot act, and that was that. No repercussions. What could they do? Send us to Korea?
It was after that I had the one moment of real glory in my army career. It was a very small glory, but certainly real enough, one I have been proud of ever since, given what was about to happen in Viet Nam. Part of the Maxwell Taylor mickey mouse was a weekly TI and E session (that's Troop Information and Education, to those who have forgotten): the official bullshit dropped from on high about not much of anything, and required, no exceptions, for all troops. Anybody could simply read off the stuff, but "they" preferred to have it "delivered" as interestingly as possible. Being the man in the company with the highest education (a master's; I went on to become a college professor), and able to talk on his feet (boy, could I talk!) I was the unlucky recipient of the honor and did my best. Weird as it sounds, I subscribed to the Sunday New York Times (arrived in bunches, 6 weeks late! I was very popular with the guys from NYC!), so I was pretty well informed and could beef up the bullshit with tidbits from that source. One week a whole session was devoted to official doctrine announced by me 6 weeks earlier, and it was a change in policy. So I said to my group: "Now, you recall, guys, that some time back I gave you all these brilliant reasons why it might become necessary for American forces, like us, to get involved in Indochina, to defend our freedoms from the Commies who are trying to take over. But you can forget that: we're not going. And we're not going because our esteemed Commander-in-chief came in from the golf course long enough to discover what his Deterrent-happy secretary of state was threatening. And our Leader said: ‘Get involved in a land war on the continent of Asia? Forget it!'" Would that Eisenhower's late wisdom had prevailed after his term. Our history would be different.
It happened that I was being observed for this session (and I knew it and didn't give a damn) by a major from 8th Army HQ (who had nothing better to do, as usual). He was truly pissed. I got my ass kicked the next day by the CO: I'd let him down, I'd shamed the outfit, I was a disgrace to the uniform. I knew better: the guys had laughed, knowingly and uproariously, at my announcement, and afterward said, "Best yet, buddy!" We were the army and knew it. Needless to say (and this is all that happened), I went home the mere corporal I'd been for a year. And didn't give a damn. I never looked back.
When I was 50 I ran across a large box of photos saved from the hundreds shot during my tour with the 98th. I hadn't seen them for years, hardly remembered them. My favorite was one of the whole Operations crew, shot for some reason now long forgotten, at the Club, everybody sitting on the floor: grinning up at the camera, clearly a little intoxicated. My response was: "We were men doing men's work in a war zone! Why do we look so . . . young? Were we ever really that young?" I put them away and didn't look again. With my 70th birthday coming this month, I may have to find that photo and look again. I suspect my response this time may be "Who in hell are all those fresh-faced boys?"
I realize, finally, that some I served with may object to this account of life in the 98th, preferring to forget how it was, perhaps because, in our puritanical times, the young have become more uptight than we ever were at their age, and certainly less tolerant. Or because they don't like seeing their service recorded as an endless round of dull work made bearable by booze and sex and skirmishes with authority.
Memory is notoriously selective, especially 50-year-old memories. These recollections may not be accurate in all details, yet I am sure that they are true to the spirit of the events recalled. As I looked over my pictures, I was struck by one discrepancy: how beautiful the images of our surroundings were, and how ugly and depressing the sordid reality of the ever-present destruction we lived in every day of our lives: the derelict buildings, rubble everywhere; the ubiquitous filth; maimed ROK soldiers cast adrift; blind and dumb one-legged beggars catching at your arm at every turn; 10-year old boys pimping their sisters. As these memories came flooding back, I was startled at how vivid they became, even down to sights and smells: who could forget the unrefrigerated, fly-encrusted sides of beef hanging in the open downtown meat markets; the odor of kimchee and the inescapable stench of "honey buckets"? I believe that our easy duty affected our lives, not always positively, more than we ever thought it would at the time.
We were forced to expend our youth in an alien country reduced to ruin, run by a corrupt and inefficient government whose decent and likable people were forced to barter their goods, persons, and services simply to survive. The young woman who did my laundry in a miserable hut across the road from us was a widow with two small children and a university graduate. She and I would converse in German, the only foreign language I mastered in college. Her plight almost justified my being there. You don't forget that. We did our duty as best we could and as we saw fit, and did it, I'd say, with real style, "grace under pressure." The 98th was unique, and that experience deserves an honest look and a modest memorial as one of the ways men fight wars.
My own conclusion shortly after I got home and resumed civilian life was something my brother said of his WW2 days in the navy; and though probably a popular saying, it seems to state one of those few rare universal truths about soldiering: "I wouldn't pay you 2 cents to do it again, and I wouldn't take a million dollars for the experience."
Keywords: See Comments section.
Subject: 98TH ENGINEER PHOTO
Joseph Miller wrote on June 17, 2000
Email Update Needed
City and State: BIRMINGHAM AL
Unit: 98TH ENGRS.,550THENGR.,I CORPS. ENGR
Service or Relationship: Army Veteran - Korea
Comments: I was THE advanced party which went ahead 2 months before the company to get us set up. I picked out the Old school Area by the Han River With the stadium and shot up swimming pool. Also made all arrangements to get the buildings built. I still see Sgt. Ray Helton on occasion. He is in Mobile. Duer was a jackass of the first order. Everyone hated him. He threatend to courtmarshall me because I bought booze for the troops at various officers clubs so they could get it cheap and not have to buy possibly bad stuff on the black market. He wouldnt get it from Balcom for them because he was afrid someone would get drunk and try to kill him.
Keywords: 98th Engrs.
Marion (Hank) Krueger wrote on May 10, 2000
Email Update Needed
City and State: VIRGINIA BEACH VA
Unit: 98TH ENGR AERIAL PHOTO REPRO CO
Service or Relationship: Army Veteran - Korea
Comments: 98TH ENGR AERIAL PHOTO REPRO CO
Keywords: Bed Check Charlie