Chapter 12 Arriving in Seoul Korea

 

Arriving in Seoul Korea

 

 

 

Finally we dock at Inchon. Inchon Harbor doesn’t seem like the most accessible port in the world with its high bulkheads and very brown muddy water. We disembarked on what I think they called wide rope ladders  onto a speed boat that took us ashore. I guess the boatswain thought he was being funny as he shouted to move fast in case the “Gooks” (a derogatory name for the North Koreans) started SHOOTING at us. What war? The armistice had been signed some time ago. From there we are taken but 2 ½ ton truck to Yongson City., although I wouldn’t really call it a city. From there most of us would be sent to either 7th Division, I Corps or  the First Cavalry all of which meant lousy food and sleeping in tents. I’m in luck as one of my friends from grade school was in charge of assignments. Marty eventually became a bank president and is currently retired in Mexico. He manages to get me a job in 8th Army Headquarters, working for a general. General Thomas Griffin it turns out was a decent rather quiet but friendly type. The outfit was called EASCOM; Eight Army Support Command which was part of SAC, Seoul Army Command. A little complicated but then that’s the military for you. The sleeping quarters assigned to me was a single room in a brick building right next to the JAG section (Army attorneys).  This was just outside of Seoul on the MSR. The MSR-Main Supply route was the dirt road which went into downtown Seoul. There were no paved roads or sidewalks rebuilt yet. Being an Army HQ it was a pleasant setting of mostly brick building and some Quonset huts, a decent PX and a mess hall which after getting settled I tried to avoid as much as possible. The PX was reasonably well stocked (at one point I wrote a report suggesting improvements which were followed although they never gave me the credit for the suggestions).  Some of the items were quite fascinating. Cigarettes were vital as they could be sold on the black market along with Ajinomoto (MSG) which was used extensively in Korean cooking. I only smoked cigars and a pipe so the cigarettes came in handy for trade. The most fascinating item were the jars of Gefilte Fish. I guess the Koreans took a liking to that also, as they were very much in demand. I was the NCO in charge of files and reports and I was given a Top Secret clearance. The FBI did a thorough check and I was called in and asked about my in laws being born in Russia. I assured them that they were not Communists and that my immediate family was far from that. They gave me the clearance. The PX was just a short distance from the Fire House and they were on one end of the base. One night suddenly we get a Red Alert signal which meant a possible enemy attack from the North. Since I had the security clearance that meant I had to put this waxy thing on top of the security files and it burnt all of the way through and destroyed the classified documents. I didn’t believe that there would be an actual attack and if I did this every time there was a red alert there would be no files for us to work with. It turns out that it was a smart move on my part as the alert was due to a fire on the base. Out go the fire trucks with lights and sirens blazing. They made a right turn (the PX was on the left) and go all around the base looking for the fire. The fire! Where the hell was it? Wait until you read this: it turns out that the fire was in the PX and it burnt completely down. If they had turned left instead of right they would have seen the blaze less than 300 feet away.  A couple of weeks later a ship docked at Inchon with supplies to refurbish the PX, including enough cigarettes to fill a 2 ½ ton truck. It is escorted by MP’s on motorcycles from Inchon to Seoul. When it arrived at SAC and it was unloaded almost half the cigarettes have disappeared. To this day the case have never been solved.. If you had asked anyone at HQ how the cigarettes disappeared they would have smiled and point to the MP battalion.

 

Everyone in our office had a security clearance and we were constantly warned to keep our mouth shut and never reveal anything that we read or learned. We even restricted our conversations amongst ourselves and we were scared to death that we could reveal something that was Confidential, Secret or Top secret which were the classifications used. The army was hyper about security and when we read the English language paper, The Korean Republic which would be printing things from our files we of course wondered where they were getting their information. Was it the Korean Mamasan that cleaned our office? She seemed like such a sweet old lady. To give you an idea of the military mentality; the enlisted men alternated serving watches at night. They were called CQ’s or Charge of Quarters, along with an officer who was an OD or officer of the day and yes he was on duty at night. We would get a list of files to declassify and then when the OD came on duty he would scratch out the classification with a red marker, rendering the document safe for distribution. Breeches in security were not tolerated. One evening a tired young Lt. Johnson starts working on the files and ¾ of the way through marking them he falls asleep. When he goes off duty he has forgotten that he put the remaining files in the drawer instead of the locked classified file cabinet. Remember that technically these files had been declassified. As his luck would have it the next morning the CID (criminal investigating division) shows up and discovers the files. His is court marshaled, convicted and is busted to a sergeant. When I think of Wiki Leaks today I wonder how things have so changed.  My job however is great. I have access to a jeep and even a 2 ½ ton truck if I need it, along with all kinds of perks, including lots of free time to listen to records in the recreation center.. Since one of my assignments was to find billets (brick sleeping quarters) for Majors, Colonels and foreign officers who come down from division whether on leave or special assignment I am endowed with all kinds of “trading” power. Whether I fly either on R & R (rest and recuperation), which I receive often, TDY (temporary duty) or leave, I get to fly on VIP flights. These can be luxurious and some even have sleeping quarters on them. I joined various enlisted men’s clubs so I wouldn’t have to eat in their illustrious mess hall which was supervised by Sgt. “Drunken Hines”. Soon I discovered the OEC club which was the Office of Economic Cooperation and yes we did give foreign aid to countries back then also. This was a civilian club that allowed all ranks as long as they had “special” status. Of course I managed to get myself and my buddies, including Lenny, Jimmy and a few others into the club. The food and the drinks were fine. One day we got a special invite from the club to attend a special YMCA charity outdoor party to raise funds for the poor Korean children. The YMCA was just up the road from the SAC entrance. There would be games; dignitaries, food and beer, also there were all kinds of carnival activities and at one of the stands you had to throw a baseball at bottles to see if you can knock them all down. There was this guy dressed with a jacket throwing the ball all over the place, except at the bottle. Being an ex pitcher I went up to him and give him pitching instructions. Allie Reynolds of the Yankees he wasn’t.  He was very appreciative and we all hit it off great, take pictures and make our rounds having fun. Now it turns out that this gentleman Cosme Garcia was the Ambassador from the Philippines to Korea and that his brother is the president of the Philippines and as we are parting company his honor Mr. Garcia invited me to dinner at the Chosen Hotel in the center of Seoul.  At the time the Chosen hotel was reserved for generals and dignitaries. I get a kick out this as there is no way that they are going to let a non commissioned officer in. So I figured we would just have to find another restaurant when the time comes. The planned day arrives and I am outside my room having a catch with the boys waiting for the gate to summon me when all of a sudden this long black limo with flags flying pulls up and it is Cosme Garcia with his driver. I am stunned and ask him how the hell he got through the gate and then drove right up to the buildings? You can’t come on any army post! He replies that as an ambassador he can go wherever the hell he wants to. Yes but not the Chosin hotel I tell him. He pays me no mind and we proceed to the Chosin and he announces that I am his HONORED guest. You had to see the startled look on the faces of the enlisted doorman. Holy shit. How am I going to get out of this one? After a brief conversation with the Maître D’ he pulls out his documents and amazingly we are seated. Facing us are four generals (unfortunately or maybe fortunately not the one that I work for) and their Aide de camps. I had privileges but that didn’t include eating at the General’s mess. This Major as it turns out later would become my nemesis. Major Jaworksi comes storming over. “What the F— do you think you are doing here soldier?!! I try to explain that I am an invited guest of the ambassador, who then tells the Major in no uncertain terms that the major is breaking protocol. I got a very mean steady glare form Maj. Jaworski and he spits out that he will find me and remember me. Sometime later he surely does. Three months before I am to leave Korea that day does come. Len was another close friend who was stationed with us. He was an attorney and a budding professor but his first love was the stage.  In Korea Len needed a mentor and someone who could keep him out of trouble and guide him in the ways of the world. That assignment fell on me. The task was performed with my obtuse humor. Sometimes on a Sunday we would tour Seoul and end up at the Deoksung Museum, while the few buildings that were left were either not destroyed by the Japanese or the war.  Although the museum was closed on Sunday we would bribe the guards to let us in. On one visit I had Len take a picture of my lying on the “Kings gold Sleeping Chamber”. I still have that picture somewhere. This was relaxing and fun and so on our next visit I asked Len to take a picture of me lying on the Queen’s bed. This was apparently frowned upon and maybe even considered sacred territory so he was scared to death. As he was about to snap the photo a guard is running down the hall screaming in Korean, leveling his rifle and either took a shot at us or was about to. As we race out the exit Len is screaming “don’t shoot, don’t shoot I’m an American, I’m an American. Len was not happy and he always make it known that was my entire fault that he wasn’t shot. That was our last visit to the museum. One day Len and I are in the PX and he confessed to me that he was in love with one of the Korean sales girls. (They spoke almost perfect English). It was however against the rules for them to go out or in any way fraternize with a foreigner. It was also strictly against their tradition and since this was a prize job for a Korean to have, they would never take the risk of getting caught. I then convinced Len that I could arrange it for him. He believed me and was thrilled. The plan was as follows:  About 2KM (Less than 2 miles) from SAC was the YMCA compound.  We would meet the girl in front of the YMCA but of course it wasn’t going to be the girl from the PX. I arranged for some MP friends of mine to have the girls standing in the dark and when Len approached her they would jump out, arrest him, after which time I would appear and save him. A snag developed as Len says that he will not go on the dark MSR unless I accompany him. There was no choice so I had to walk with him. We are happily walking along as he spots what he thinks is the girl from the PX , thanking me and running forward when all of a sudden; he DISAPPEARS.  Hard to believe my eyes, then I hear moaning. He had fallen into what was probably a deep shell hole and bruised his ankle badly. The MP’s saw what had occurred and drove him back to the base hospital to get a cask put on.  The following week we were scheduled to fly to Tokyo for R& R. There would be little “rest and recuperation” on this trip” as I had to help lug him around on his crutches throughout our stay in Japan. Len had sworn revenge and in the next chapter you will find out how he exacts that.

 

 

 

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