I report into the Orderly Room at K-13 in late February 1953, am assigned to a barracks (tent with a wooden floor, a pot-belly oil fired stove, and wood-canvas cots lining the sides, four to a side. My duffel bag is emptied onto the cot, contents carefully placed in the wood chest at the foot of the cot...just like at basic training.
I walk to base headquarters, my assignment: steno-clerk to the Commanding Officer, 8th Fighter Bomber Wing. Across the field is the 56th Fighter Interceptor Wing. Both the 8th and 56th fly F-86 jets...flying into North Korea; the 8th dropping bombs while the 56th provides top cover for our bombers from MIG 15s (Russian jet). This is MIG ALLEY country.
My job is working under the Adjutant, 8th Fighter Bomber Wing, taking dictation, writing letters, writing orders, mostly routine office work under supervision of a Master Sergeant.
K-13 has a high wire fence surrounding the airfield. No one is permitted to leave the base without specific orders...and then, only when armed with a weapon.
Korean civilians are employed as "house boys" to clean our quarters...and to work in the kitchens of the mess halls.
Working in Base Hq (Headquarters), I routinely review correspondence passing over my desk. One day, reviewing a list of newly arriving airmen, I come across the name of my high school classmate, Bruce B. B.B. has been assigned crew chief for one of our F-86 Sabre Jet Fighter Bombers. I find B.B. on the flight line where we greet with hugs. The next year B.B. and I spend much time together...he even visiting me at Panmunjom a time or two. I have great times riding the brakes of B.B.'s F-86 as he moves it with his tug (small 4-wheel tractor) from the sandbagged revetment to the fuel depot or maintenance shed.
B.B.'s F-86 is flown by a North American Test Pilot, visiting K-13 to demonstrate the capabilities of the aircraft. This Test Pilot never using the runway...takes off from the taxi-way, rolling the plane 360 degrees as the wing tips barely clear the concrete. Landing is made in equally short distance...the pilot bringing the plane to nearly hover position, sashaying from side to side as the F-86 settles to the ground.
Three C-47 - Gooney Bird - transport planes are assigned to the 8th FBW. Working in 8th HQ, I write my own orders, signed by the Adjutant, authorizing my flight to KOKURA, Japan...to purchase supplies. Only once am I questioned in Japan as I report to the local air base to fly back to K-13. A quick phone call by the Marine M.P. (Military Police) to 8th HQ back at K-13 clear my uninterrupted travel to Japan and back.
A tennis tournament is held at the 8th Air Force Headquarters compound in Seoul. I receive orders to travel to Seoul to participate in the tournament. During the night, Bed Check Charlie flies over. Jumping into the ever-present trench, I watch the aircraft, engine idling, glide toward me, not 50 feet over my head. Two bombs fall as it passes...the bombs clearing the compound wall 100 feet behind me, exploding in the street. Two civilian Koreans die in that explosion. I could easily have hit that aircraft with a rock.
B.B. and I, receiving orders to visit Seoul, catch a ride from Suwon to Yong Dong Po, a large community on the south side of the Han River across from Seoul.. We visit the Army Motor Pool in time for lunch...then walk across the military floating bridge into Seoul. The main bridge crossing the Han River has been bombed during earlier fighting, the road deck lying in the river below. Most buildings are collapsed, streets, littered with rubble reminiscent of scenes of World War II Berlin after B-17 raids.
Walking the torn-up street, B.B. and I are surrounded by pre-teen age boys...Hey, Joe...you got cigarette; Hey, Joe...you give me money; Hey, Joe you want virgin...my sister, she .... Before we get away, B.B.'s back pocket is slit open, his wallet yanked out by the running kids.
Months later, B.B. and I, returning from his visit to Panmunjom, walk the highway south to the north gate of the walled city of Seoul. A young boy...about 6 or 7 years old, lies half on the pavement...half in the gutter, crying...reaching out to us. HE HAS NO LEGS. I walk toward him...B.B. grabs my shoulder...don't touch him...if you do, he's yours. I stare at the creature, look at the indifferent Koreans walking by...and leave the boy where he lay.
That boy often visits my dreams.
Early April, I receive orders to report to UNC-MAC (United Nations Command - Military Armistice Commission) at Panmunjom... near the ancient city of MUNSAN-NI...30 miles north of Seoul. I hop onto a Beaver - Canadian Bush Plane, together with three field-grade officers, for the flight to Panmunjom. Our plane flies low over a field being leveled by some bulldozers and road graders. We fly back toward Seoul in a sweeping circle, returning to the field...the equipment moved aside as the Beaver touches down, bumping across the partially cleared runway, coming to a stop next to some tents.
I have arrived at the Base Camp on the United Nations side of the 38th Parallel. 15 miles to the north lies the Communist Base Camp. In the center lies the meeting place for the peace talks.
As I step off the plane, guns are firing a short distance away...the Korean War is still in full swing.
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Have not ventured out into the liquid sunshine drizzle falling onto passersby...many without coats. Most of the day, I have tended to my mini-computer, checking e-mail for the hoped-for reply to my request(s) for employment. No such luck. Prepared and submitted three more on-line employment applications.
In the morning, plan to drive the 30 miles south on I-5 to the town of Mt. Vernon, Washington. I have entered the "Jingle Bells" Run/Walk for Arthritis...a 5K competition to raise $$ for arthritis cure. Still am a bit weak from lying prone in the hospital for three days, but invested $45.00 to compete, so will go anyway.