In late 67 & early 68 I expected orders for Vietnam any day since I only had 14 months active duty left until my US Army time was up, but to my surprise, I received orders to report to South Korea! After arrival at Kimpo airbase, I was assigned to the 8th Field Army Support Command as the Assistant Trans Officer. My home & office would be Yongsan Compound for the next 13 months!
My specific assignment was “Contract Surveillance” which meant overseeing Korean companies under contract to the US Government for a variety of functions. The contractors included The Korean National Railway, Stevedore Companies at the Port of Inchon, a fleet of passenger buses driven by Korean Army Veterans that serviced all of our bases & many other contractors including a few with truck washing facilities creek side where Momason, Popason & their kids would drive US military vehicles, mainly ¼ ton and ½ ton trucks from their assigned base to a local creek where the entire family washed those vehicles & then returned them to base! Only the Popasons had a base pass and were qualified to drive the trucks. They would meet off post the rest of the family members that would help him washing the vehicles and when complete they would drive the clean vehicle back to the base.
I don’t recall who signed off on authorization for base clearance, but I recall many Koreans had that authorization to include a crew of men and women with hand held sickles who “mowed” the lawn! Amazing work ethic bent over all day using the sickle for very little compensation!
I don’t remember exactly where our BOQ was, but I do recall entering the “main” gate (former gate1) walk a bit and to the left was the United Nations Command Headquarters and the parade field adjoining it and to the right was the 8th Field Army Support Headquarters. When I left my office and headed towards the rear of the base, I would arrive at the officer’s club where we ate most of our meals. Continuing towards the rear of the compound, I would arrive at our barracks of single rooms with separate, common showers and bathroom. Continuing in the same direction I would arrive at the gymnasium where we spent a lot of our free time.
On weekends, we often were invited to the home of Mr. Al Aulea, a civilian employee of the US Army whose housing was at the UN Hdqts apartment complex. He had married a wonderful Korean lady many years before and they were more comfortable living in Korea than the USA. She had full PX privileges and we frequently were invited to Sunday’s meal. The PX Commissary had fresh seafood from Alaska and I recall devouring shrimp as big as one’s thumb followed by King Crab legs accompanied by drawn butter and/or saucy sauce that was just delicious! And all of this while we watched the previous weeks NFL football game on the Armed Forces Network! We didn’t know who had won that game the week before, so it was enjoyable! Plus, we had no TV in our BOQ so being able to watch the games was a special treat along with the wonderful meal!
I will never regret my military service! Upon discharge, I joined the trucking industry and spent over 50 years in various transportation industry functions to include owning a heavy duty, commercial, lease/rental company and sales of Property and Casualty Insurance to Motor Carriers.
In March 1969, just before rotating back to the US, the Korean Veterans Association who operated the bus company I worked with, gave me a beautiful award in recognition of the 13 months working together. If has been on my book shelves for 50 years!
Last year in 2018, I decided to sell on E-Bay a Sansui receiver, a Pioneer turntable and two AR4 Speakers that I had bought upon arrival at Yongsan 50 years earlier, March 1968. I received a call from a gentleman who was interested. He was Korean and spoke broken English, so he put a friend on the phone. After answering their questions, I invited them from their home in NYC to our home in Southeaster PA to see the equipment and to conclude the purchase if satisfied.
Well, the Korean and his friend who also was Korean arrived on Memorial Day, 2018. When he walked through our front door, I noticed a ROK emblem sewn on the vest he was wearing. I immediately questioned it, and to my unbelievable surprise, here he was a former Korean Marine! I took him into my library where a picture of me rests in my dress uniform. When he saw it, he immediately snapped to a very crisp, military salute! I was very impressed by his courtesy and I returned the favor and broke out some of the Korean “human interest” photos of 68/69 I had! He immediately said: “that’s North Korea today!” How true! He was very happy with my stereo system and although he originally only wanted the Sansui receiver, he bought everything! I’m very pleased that it ended up in the hands of an appreciate Korean since that’s where it originated 50 years earlier!
By Carl F. Rost.