In the fall of 1948 upon returning to San Luis Obispo from working that summer in Detroit, I registered for the draft. I was afraid of being drafted. The draft had been reinstituted in 1948 and at 18 years old, I was classified l-A. ·My friend Bob O'Hagan pointed out to me that if you joined the California National Guard you were exempt from the Army and could fulfill your military obligation by serving seven years in the National Guard. He had already done so. Consequently I joined the 3668th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company, California National Guard, at Camp San Luis Obispo (CSLO). They had a four hour drill every Tuesday evening ln the Armory at CSLO. The armory was a former post gymnasium across the street from the Cuesta College tennis courts and served as the Cuesta College Gymnasium in later years until the college built their present gym.
We were also expected to attend a two week
summer training session at CSLO. The Tuesday evening drills were
training sessions in close order drill, Army regulations, tactics
and practice doing what a medium maintenance company did. An unexpected
benefit of joining the National
Guard was a job working in the motor shops at the camp.
When the War ended in 1945 the army had left a vast amount of military equipment and hardware at CSLO for the California National Guard when they turned the camp back over to them in 194 7. There were thousands of vehicles, trucks, jeeps, half-tracks, tractors, tanks etc. parked bumper to bumper and fender to fender in all the motor pools at camp. Our job was to remove the weather-proofing from them repair them as needed and restore them to use. I was given a job in the Paint Shop as a utility Repairman. We got the vehicles out of the motor pools where they had sat since 1945/48 in the weather, put batteries in them and got them started and drove them to the shop where we did any necessary body repair, sanded them and painted them so they were like brand new. Before they were painted of course the motor shops at camp put them in tip top mechanical order. However most of them needed nothing more than a battery and clean-up of the preservative cosmoline material in order to run perfectly.
Shortly after being employed I was offered a chance to become an "Active Duty National Guardsman" (i.e., instead of getting just a salary and my monthly pay for going to Tuesday evening drills I would get "Rations and Quarters" pay, which was more than my salary and my drill pay, and be allowed to wear my uniform to work which meant I didn't have to furnish my own work clothes. Altogether it was a better deal than being a civilian employee so In early 1949 I went on active duty with the National Guard.
Before the summer of 1949 the 3 668 was transferred to Los Angeles and the men who didn't want to move had to transfer into a newly formed unit the 161st Ordnance Depot Company. This move had no effect on our working status so my job at CSLO didn't change, only my reporting unit for Tuesday night drills. In May of 1949 due to the usual governmental budget problems they laid off a bunch of us at CSLO and so I worked in Pismo Beach at the Turf Arcade which was owned by Bert Polin, now a local real estate broker, until November 1949 when I was re-hired to work in the warehouses at CSLO.
However I attended Summer Camp in 1949 with about 60 local county guys for two weeks in July under the Command Of Captain Chelquist. My first summer camp was an interesting and exciting experience. (i.e., playing soldier for two weeks was fun.) We were stationed in the four man unheated huts just east of the Highway One overcrossing. The same hutment area was used in the 1970s' by the California Conservation Corps started by Governor Jerry Brown.
We also had a three day campout (bivouac) in a small forest that was beside the creek near the SPRR horseshoe curve where the California Men's Colony now sits. They taught us how to live in the field, shave in cold water, and eat "C Rations". As a 19 year old I had a great and exciting time. After Summer Camp we continued our normal Tuesday evening drills and occasionally reported to CSLO on weekends to fire weapons on the various firing ranges. We fired everything from rifles to .50 caliber machine guns and went through the close combat range several times.
In the Fall of 1949 Captain Chelquist left and command of the 161st was taken over by Lieutenant Robert P. Nimmo who was later to become our State Assemblyman and State Senator in the 1970s and 1980s (Colonel Nimmo als served as the first Secretary of Veterans Affairs under President Ronald Reagan) after retiring as the CSLO Camp Commander. Nimmo offered me the job at CSLO in the warehouses and I began employment once again in November in the clothing warehouse. I also worked in the stationery warehouse with Sergeant Lee Todd who became a lifelong friend. After a short while I was transferred to the Signal warehouse working with Sergeant Kenshaw Landice, who would later be my First Sergeant in Korea in 1951 and L.T. Petker, a civilian who became one of my best friends. In fact he and I roomed together at my Father's house in San Luis Obispo. I was happily, again working as an active duty National Guardsman and received a promotion to Private First Class which gave me a $15.00 a month raise. As I recall my pay with ration and quarters and drill pay was about $231.00 a month which was as much as my dad was making at the SPRR so I was *fat, dumb and happy". In fact I would have made a career of work at CSLO as a number of local people have except that when the annual budget crunch came in June of 1950 I was again laid off.
I immediately got a job as an opticians apprentice in Monterey and was preparing to move there when the Korean War started. In fact I was sitting in my car in front of my girlfriend Barbara Bradford's house in Paso Robles on my way to Monterey telling her good bye when the radio announced the North Korean invasion of South Korea. I remember I said to her, "Oh Shit, in a month I will be in the Army". I was wrong it took almost two months. I reported to my job at Monterey Optical Co. and at the end of the first week two MPs from Fort Ord showed up at the shop with orders for me to report to CSLO for the National Guard summer camp. I had previously received approval from Lt. Nimmo to skip Summer Camp in 1950 because it would be unfair for me to ask for two weeks Military Leave when I had only worked for Monterey Optical for three weeks. The orders given to me by the MPs said I was to report to CSLO for two weeks summer training and preparation for being conscripted into the Regular Army for shipment with the 161st Ordnance Depot Company to Korea. Consequently I attended the 1950 summer camp in July.
We were stationed on the east side of the main entrance road at CSLO right next to where it ends with the intersection with the cross road which now goes to the California Specialized Training Institute. The huts we lived in have since been replaced with new barracks. Our mess hall was on the corner of the two roads. Our Mess Sergeant was Claude Batchelor who after the Korean War got a contractor license and specialized in home repair and maintenance and later pest control. His son Jim Batchelor now runs the company because Claude died of lung cancer in 2002. I remember one incident during that 1950 Summer Camp. I went home to my dad's house one Thursday evening for the night and overslept. When I got to camp about an hour late the First Sergeant Harry Zalazney chewed me out and took my Class A pass for the weekend. Consequently I had to spend the weekend at Camp instead of traveling to Paso Robles to be with my girlfriend. However I made arrangements with the cooks to feed her at the mess hall and had my Dad bring her to camp Saturday afternoon and pick her up Saturday evening and bring her back Sunday morning and take her back to Paso Robles Sunday night. Hence she and I spent the weekend together at CSLO. I had my car there so we went up to the firing ranges and hiked and explored the rural areas of camp.
About half way through summer camp at Reveille one morning Lt. Nimmo read our orders that we would be federalized effective August 21, 1950 and we were to get our personal affairs in order to become soldiers. In the meantime the 161st began a recruiting drive among local county youths in order to bring the company up to its full complement since we still had only about 35 men. Our strength was supposed to be around 160. Because they were probably going to be drafted anyway numerous local men joined the 161st between Summer Camp and August 21, 1950.
When we were federalized we had 90 men. We had a plaque made in 2002 with a short 161st. history and the names of the original 90 men who were federalized August 21, 1950. It is on the wall of the dining room of the American Legion Post 66 with a picture of the 161st at Camp Cooke in 1951. Some of the plaques were acquired by members of the 161st including myself. In 2003 one was given to Major Mark Johnson of the California National Guard at CSLO to be placed in the CSLO museum.
There are numerous stories about how we got these additional men. One interesting one concerns the Delgado brothers. One of the original 161st guys who was also working at CSLO like myself, Wallace "Wally" Powell, told his best friend, Richard Delgado, about our impending federalization. Dick said, "No way are you going into the Army without me." He then enlisted to be with Wally. As a consequence Dick's brother John and their nephew Bob Delgado joined the 161st. Because of Wally alone we gained three recruits. This story was repeated many times during the months of June and July 1950.
By the time we were federalized on August 21 the 161st had ten sets of brothers from San Luis Obispo In our Company. They were:
Also during summer camp we got our shots
and vaccinations. Since I had never had a shot in my life it was
a rather fearful experience, particularly with the WWII vets in
the 161st telling us new guys we would have to get a shot with
a square needle in a very private part of our bodies. We didn't
really believe It but they acted very serious and of course since
they were WWII veterans we listened to them in order tolearn.
I remember the two guys In front of me in line both fainted.
One of them was Roland Blair, now deceased. I managed to get through it without fainting but, I was quite uneasy. Seems silly now but when you are a 20 year old small town hick it was scary.
Anyway, before sunrise on August 21,19 50 we gathered at CSLO with all our belongings in front of the Armory, to begin our Army careers. After forming up and getting a pep talk from Lt. Nimmo and Sergeant Zalazney we marched to a building somewhere in the main part of camp where we got complete physical examinations. I have two recollections of that day. One is the first blood test I ever got. When I saw the blood being drawn I did faint. The rest of the day is generally a blur. In any event that evening found us billeted in four man hutments across from the Armory where the Cuesta tennis courts are now. Our mess hall was about where the new Cuesta Gymnasium is now.
Originally when we got our active duty orders we were to get basic training and ship to Korea. However we were delayed at CSLO because many of our guys were employed at the shops and warehouses there. We could not leave SLO until they hired civilian help to replace them.
Consequently we stayed at CSLO until October
31 1950. Besides training we assisted in the re-opening of Camp
Roberts and Camp Cooke, now Vandenberg Air Force Base. Supplies
were brought into CSLO by rail and we unloaded the equipment and
hauled it to Roberts and Cooke.
Each of us who were heavy truck drivers were issued a tractor and several trailers. We would haul a load to Camp Roberts and help unload them at the warehouses. Then we would haul the empty trailers back to SLO. The next day we would pick up a loaded trailer for Camp Cooke, travel there, help unload it and return to CSLO.
Hence every day we were hauling supplies to one camp or the other. While we were still working at CSLO, an Ordnance Base Depot Company from the Pennsylvania National Guard was federalized and shipped to Korea in our stead. They were caught at the Chosin Reservoir when the Chinese entered the war and virtually wiped out. But for the grace of God and CSLO Camp Commander Colonel Wayland L. Miller, San Luis Obispo would have lost most of us. Besides driving trucks and working in the warehouses and motor pools at CSLO we trained on the firing ranges, went through the close combat ranges, camped out on bivouacs and marched all over the area. A number of times we marched from our company area up Cerro Romauldo, a mountain overlooking Camp San Luis Obispo, where we practiced war games. We would eat a hot field lunch on the mountain compliments of our mess sergeant Claude Batchelor and the company cooks who brought the food to us under field conditions. After further war games, we would double time march to the camp swimming pool for an hour swim before marching back to the company area for dinner. Then it was back to town to see our girlfriends and families. For the three months August, September and October it was great duty. It was really like having a job except for guard and KP duty. We got to sleep at home almost every night if we so chose as long as we were back for reveille the next morning.
On October 31, 1950 we moved to Camp Cooke. Those of us who had cars were allowed to put all our equipment in the cars and use them to move. Louis Rodriquez and I went in my car. Since it was Halloween we stopped at numerous bars on the way and got to Camp Cooke late and somewhat inebriated. The First Sergeant Harry Zalazney was quite unhappy and we got chewed out and threatened with extra duty. However I guess he forgot about it because we never heard any more about it.
We were originally billeted in barracks at the first fork of the road with the 6014th Adjutant General Replacement Company. In fact for a short time we ate in their mess hall. While there I don't remember doing anything except close order drill and attending classes on warfare and its appurtenances, such as the famous trench foot and venereal disease films. These were usually shown just before lunch. It probably saved the military a lot of money because we couldn't eat after seeing those movies.
Shortly before Christmas of 1950 we moved to the old German Prisoner of War Camp barracks in the western area of Camp Cooke. These were old single wall buildings which consisted of a wooden frame with plasterboard dry wall on the outside. Between WWII and the Korean conflict while the camp was closed the buildings had been vandalized.
There were big holes in the plasterboard
and the wind and rain blew through. We scrounged up some material
and covered the holes as best we could. Claude Mulkey had the
end bunk and whenever it rained he would have to move his bunk
into the center aisle so he wouldn't get wet.
They were replacing the water and sewer lines and trenchers back hoes and other heavy equipment crisscrossed the area and made it a sea of mud. It was impossible to keep your shoes and clothes clean. At the end of each day around the company area we would be covered with mud. There was two small kerosene stoves in· each building. However the only time I remember being cold is in the latrines which had no heat. We used to run straight hot water in all the showers for about ten minutes before we took a shower so we wouldn't be so cold when we disrobed. It sounds terrible now but at the time I don't think we noticed it. I guess young people don't get cold.
The only time I do remember being really cold was during guard duty. We had to patrol the company warehouses and motor pools all night. The wind blew off the ocean and it was always foggy. I was colder on guard duty at Camp Cooke than I was later in Korea during ten degree weather. I used to walk guard duty with two sets of fatigues and my woolen army over coat and was still cold.
All in all, Camp Cooke was not bad duty. We trained, worked, marched, fired all kinds of weapons on the firing ranges, and went through the close combat ranges. We had Class A passes and so at 5:00 almost every night we all headed back to San Luis Obispo. Some of our guys were married and they would go home to their wives in SLO. My girlfriend lived in Paso Robles. I would go to SLO 50 miles, visit my Dad and drive to Paso Robles, another 30 miles, about three or four nights a week. I would leave Paso about midnight and stop by my Dads to get a couple of hours sleep. Then at 4:00AM I would head back to Camp Cooke in time for Reveille. Most of the guys in the 16lst did likewise. We must have been a hardy bunch. I'm surprised none of us got killed traveling back and forth every night over the old Casmalia Road. It was 100 miles round trip from Camp Cooke to SLO. Several of the guys who didn't have cars used to ride with me and pay for my gas.
We did have a lot of fun when we couldn't or didn't want to go to SLO. We would go to the soldiers club and drink, or to the PX and drink or go into Lompoc and cruise the bars, and drink or go to Santa Maria and drink. The single guys among us of course also looked for girls! I met several really great girls in Santa Maria and Lompoc.
In early spring of 1951 we moved to some regular two story barracks in the center of Camp. They had central heat and solid walls. By comparison with the POW barracks we thought we had it made. We were across from a franchised PX called the Rotisserie they had food, and beer. I spent a lot of fun evenings there with the other SLO town guys talking and drinking beer. We continued our routines till the summer of 1951, when they started to pull individuals out of the 161st and send them to Korea. The 40th Infantry Division of the California National Guard from the Los Angeles area had been federalized and shipped to Korea and some of our guys went with them. I took a thirty day furlough in July and went to Yosemite. For one month I had one of the best vacations of my life. But that is another story. When I came back in August, I could not recognize the 161st. Most of our officers including Captain Nimmo had been shipped to Korea. Our new Commanding officer was Captain Frank Boggio.
All through September individuals from the outfit were being shipped to Korea attached to infantry companies. Since we were an Ordnance Depot Company and had little training in infantry tactics, this was scary. Then in October Captain Boggio announced the 161st was going to Desert Rock, Nevada to take part in the Atomic bomb tests. However, forty five of us, including myself and 20 other men from SLO and some of the men from the Pennsylvania National Guard, were transferred into a newly formed 502nd Ordnance Depot Platoon and ordered to Korea. We were all moved into an adjacent barracks and separated from the 161st. I recall standing there with tears in my eyes watching our buddies in the 161st in their trucks pull out of the company area headed for Desert Rock. After they left the company area was deserted. Instead of 200 soldiers in the company area we now had 45.
Since we were going to Korea we were given
a last furlough to put our personal affairs in order and visit
our families. Depending on how far you had to travel home they
gave ten to thirty day furloughs. Since all us guys lived fifty
miles from camp we got the ten day furlough. Upon our return we
were restricted to base until we shipped. Our families had to
come to camp to see us. Virtually every night a caravan of people
would travel from SLO to Cooke. My dad came almost every evening
and brought my new girlfriend named Barbara Wollam. The Paso Robles
girlfriend and I had tired of each other after two years together
and broke up in January of 1951.
Every night we would meet with our families at the Rotisserie and spend the evening talking. It was rough on my Dad because he worked nights at the SPRR and needed to sleep in the evenings. The top sergeants in the barracks had private rooms. They let my dad sleep in their rooms each night so I could spend time with my girlfriend.
Just prior to leaving we had a Company party at the Camp Cooke NCO club. It was a great but tearful party because we knew in two days we would ship to Korea. My dad and his girlfriend Ethel Tonini, whom he later married for the rest of his life, and Lee Todd who was my friend from CSLO warehouse days and his wife and my girlfriend all attended the party. Since half of the 45 men in the 502nd were from other states and couldn't have anyone there, our three women didn't sit out a dance all night.
In the latter part of October 19 51 we got on a chartered Greyhound bus with all our gear and headed for Camp Stoneman near Pittsburg, California. Our new C.O. Lieutenant Zickerman told us we would stop in SLO about 9:00AM for fifteen minutes. We called our families and most of us had relatives or friends waiting when we stopped in SLO at the old Greyhound bus depot on Monterey street next to the Fremont theater. My Dad and girlfriend were there. We had fifteen minutes to say good-bye and we were on our way. I recall looking at the Fremont Theater and the county courthouse through teary eyes as we went up Monterey Street and wondering if I was ever going to see another movie at the Fremont.
We arrived at Camp Stoneman in the afternoon. We were at Stoneman for a week or ten days waiting for a ship to Korea. Other than lying around camp and drinking beer at the PX we spent our time in training sessions about Korea. I remember in the first one the first speaker said" You gentlemen are about to suffer from the country's newest social disease called, GonetoKorea. It got a big laugh. Also one of the trainers said after three months in Korea you were either crazy or had a yo-yo. Afterwards we all bought yo-yos at the PX to take to Korea with us.
Around the fifth or sixth of November we got on a ferry boat at 4:00 AM and traveled to Fort Mason in San Francisco. We arrived there in the afternoon and marched onto the USS General Mann. We were the last troops to board and as we were still finding our assigned compartments the ship sailed out of the bay. Scott Cody, Manual Carvalho, Al Pool, myself and several more of the SLO guys stood together on the bow of the ship as we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge. I doubt that any of us had dry eyes. I do remember lt was so foggy that you could barely see the bridge above us. We all wondered if we would ever see the bridge again. I got grabbed almost immediately and put on guard duty. The MP Officer took me to early chow and put me in a compartment as a fire watch. As we got past the Farralon Islands the ship began to pitch to and fro, and many of the guys got seasick. The smell of vomit was quickly overpowering. It was all I could do to keep my dinner down. I did find an air vent and stood under it so I got some fresh air. I found out that as bad as that was I was better off than Manual Carvalho and Albert Pool. They were given the bow watch and besides getting seasick they almost froze to death. Carvalho maintained he was never so cold in his life before or afterwards.
For the most part the trip was uneventful. Eating, and lying around on the hatch covers snoozing. But about seven days out, we hit a typhoon and for three days they locked us in our compartments. The ship felt like it was going up and down stairs and even the strong-willed guys got sick again. Scott Cody and I spent most of the restricted time playing chess. However due to the severe bouncing of the ship we never finished a game. The rocking kept knocking the pieces off the board. It was not a very pleasant experience in fact I thought we might sink any minute despite the denials of the ship's crew.
On the twelfth morning Mount Fujiama appeared on the horizon. It was beautiful and very inspiring. I was surprised that it was so big. Later that day we docked in Yokohama Japan. Then things began to happen rapidly. Two of our Warrant Officers Richard Marcum and Norbert Volney had flown to Japan prior to our departure on the General Mann. They were waiting in Yokohama for us. We got off the ship and marched to a waiting train and immediately upon our boarding we left for an unknown destination. As we later discovered we traveled for three days on that train from Yokohama to Sasabo in southern Japan. Such a trip should have been a wonderful experience but under the circumstances we were not happy soldiers. For one thing we ate box lunches for every meal. Also the train had wooden seats built for the Japanese people who were generally much shorter than us. Consequently it was not very comfortable. We spent most of our time complaining and hanging out the windows calling out to the Japanese girls we saw in the various cities we traveled through. Cody and I continued to play chess. At night we slept either on the floor since we didn't fit the seats, or climbed up into the luggage racks. Several memorable items of the trip were Hiroshima and Nagasaki which had not yet been rebuilt. The destruction was unbelievable. Also the city of Kobe which had been the Detroit of Japan was almost totally leveled. It was interesting however that the factories were in rubble while the adjacent apartments were still standing though obviously they had been damaged. We were proud of our bombardiers and the Norden bombsight. It was clear that though it was necessary to kill civilians in the bombings our bombers made an attempt to keep it to the minimum. We talked about it and it made us proud to be American.
In the evening of the third day we arrived
in Sasabo. The train stopped on a dock. We got off the train and
marched across the dock to a Japanese ship named the Tagasaka
Maru and marched on board. The conditions on this ship made the
General Mann look like a luxury ship. It was old and dirty. Instead
of bunks there were straw mats on the floor.The sailors said it
was a Japanese troop ship during WWII and the US had confiscated
it for transporting our troops to Korea. The compartment was so
small that the air quickly got stale especially considering we
had gone three days on a train without bathing. Most of us quickly
dropped our gear and went topside. I spent the night on a hatch
cover along with a number of our company. Though cold because
it was November it was better than the smelly compartment. I talked
to an Infantry Sergeant who
was on his way back to his Company at the front in North Korea. He had been wounded for the second time and sent to Japan for treatment.
However he was healed and so they were sending him back. I felt sorry for him when he said, "I have lived through two woundings but I am afraid another time will kill me." he sure didn't want to go back. I often wonder if he ever got back home.
Early the next morning November 21, 1951, we landed in Pusan Korea, although we didn't know where we were. We marched off the ship into a large warehouse where they had cold cereal and powdered milk for breakfast and hot coffee. After four days of box lunches it seemed like a feast. However it turned out someone by mistake had put salt in the sugar bowls. I got a big bowl of Corn Flakes poured on the powdered milk and a lot of sugar (salt). I took one bite and it almost gagged me. I quickly told the guys around me not to use the sugar although several had already done so. Then followed a typical army situation of the kind that showed me why I didn't want to make the service a career. I went to the mess line explained the problem and tried to get another bowl of cereal.
The Mess Officer a smart-alecky Captain,
told me I could not waste the cereal. He told me to eat it salt
and all. Consequently I had only coffee for breakfast that morning.
Not a very auspicious introduction to Pusan. After breakfast we
boarded trucks and went around Pusan Bay to the
226th Logistical Command Korean Ordnance Base Depot Number One. We were given a pep talk by a Colonel who we later found was the commander of the base. He warned us about the communist girls in town who would try to entice us with alcohol, sex and/ or drugs and welcomed us to Pusan.
We were billeted in eight man pyramidal tents on wooden frames with wooden floors. Each tent had one small kerosene stove in the middle which put out enough heat to stop us from freezing but not much more. The second or third night we had a severe wind and rain storm which blew the tent away. We had to gather up our soaked belongings and spend the rest of the night in the mess hall. Between then and Christmas we had that happen three times. The mess hall was one of the few permanent buildings in the battalion area. The Mess Sergeant was a good guy. He brought out several bottles of whiskey and passed it around for us to warm up. He said he was at the battle of the Bulge in Bastogne in WWII and kept from freezing by drinking lots of whiskey. He told us that from then on he always kept a little whiskey in his stomach to ward off the chill. As we learned during the rest of our tour there he wasn't kidding. However he did run a good mess hall. Even though we had powdered eggs and milk and unmeltable butter, the meals they prepared were usually good.
Back to the tents, they used diesel fuel instead of kerosene in the tent stoves. Consequently about every three nights the chimneys would plug up with soot and fill the tent with smoke. We would wake up choking and in the middle of the night have to take the stove pipes apart and clean the soot out of them before we could go back to sleep. Forty four years later it is hilarious but at the time it wasn't very funny. Claude Mulkey figured out that if you bent the float on the tent stoves they would get red hot and thereby heat the tent better. Then if you poured cold water down the stack it would blow out he soot. After that it became a daily ritual just before bed time for someone to climb up on the tent with a bucket of water and pour it down the stack. It was somewhat dangerous because the hot steam and water blasted out of the stack so you had to pour and duck fast. It's a wonder no-one ever fell off the tent or got burned. But at least we got to sleep all night unless of course a wind storm blew the tent away, which continued to happen with regularity.
I became friends with a soldier from another company in our battalion who worked on the night crew and he told me that the night crews got real milk and all the fresh eggs they wanted. I immediately volunteered to work the night shift on the docks unloading supplies. At breakfast which we had at 2:00AM we got fresh eggs, real milk and occasionally real sirloin steaks. It was one of the best kept secrets of the war. The cooks said that they didn't have enough for the rest of the troops and if they found out we were getting special meals they would have to stop giving it to us. Needless to say we would have died before we told anyone.
The depot was the main ordnance warehouse
for the Korean peninsula. They would unload ships in the Pusan
Harbor onto wooden barges which were owned by Korean civilians.
The Navy would tow the barges into the depot docks and we supervised
Korean ctvlllan crews who
unloaded the barges. Supplies also came in on trains and trucks and the Korean crews unloaded them to. My major memories of the winter was constantly being cold. Since we were Californians the zero degree weather was not much fun. I used to go to work on the waterfront with lighter fluid hand warmers in my pants and shirt pockets. On one trip to Pusan a sailor I met took me to his ship and gave me a set of rubberized canvas Navy foul weather gear.
After that I wore them every day and stayed warm. In fact the rubberized canvas though heavy kept in my body heat in so well that I sweated. Just before Christmas we moved into some old wooden Japanese barracks right beside the entrance to the depot. Though I think they were fire hazards they were warm. We spent the Christmas holidays there. On Christmas Eve we spent the evening drinking and gathering around a small artificial Christmas tree that someone had gotten from his family in the mail. It revolved and played Christmas Carols, or so we thought. We sang all the Christmas carols we could think of accompanied by the tree. When we all sobered up Christmas morning we discovered the tree only played one song, Jingle Bells.
After Christmas we moved into newly constructed Quonset huts. They were better than the tents but they were tropical Quonsets and had screening on the ends. They put tar paper on the ends to cover the screens. However in cold weather that did not hold the heat from the stoves very well. We requested returning to the barracks but they had been taken over as Bachelor Officers Quarters (BOQ) J'. We again adjusted the floats as we had in the tents so the stoves and pipes halfway to the roof got red hot. We again began the routine of pouring cold water down the stacks each night. We also put flashlight batteries into each stove because someone said the acid when heated would lessen the soot build up. Then at night we would put our canvas cots in a circle around the stoves so the heat would radiate into our blankets. However it was too hot for our heads so we slept in our metal helmets to protect our heads. When I came home, for a long time it seemed funny sleeping bare-headed.
In May we got the happy news that all National Guardsman would be sent home. Consequently after exactly six months in Korea all SLO guys and the National Guardsmen from other states were loaded on trucks and taken to the water-front barracks in Pusan. After three days processing we were put on a second WWII victory ship, whose name I can't remember, for the overnight trip to Sasabo, Japan. Early the next morning we arrived in Sasabo and disembarked. We were taken by bus to Camp Mower for two weeks of processing for shipment to the States. We embarked onto the USS General Gordon on May 31, 1952 for the trip home. As usual the Military was totally democratic. The 200 Officers on board the Gordon got the upper half of the ship and the 3000 enlisted men got the lower half of the ship.
However we didn't care as long as we were going home. Our attitude was significantly different than it was in November when we went west. The trip home took twelve days which were generally uneventful. I did draw KP for two days which was great for the eating but hard work on a pitching ship. But 21 of us SLO guys were together and on our way back to San Luis Obispo which caused much happiness. We spent the days sunbathing on the hatch covers and talking about what we would do when we returned to SLO. We stayed out of the compartment unless it rained.
On Thursday, June 12, 1952 we sailed under the Golden Gate to Fort Mason at Pier 38 in San Francisco. There were fire boats that sprayed their fire hoses into the air and other boats blew their horns to welcome our return. We were put on Ferry boats for our return to Camp Stoneman for discharge. After processing all day Friday June 13th most of the 21 SLO guys got weekend passes and traveled to SLO to get an early visit.
Richard and Bob Delgado, Gerald (Sonny Lopez) and I were put on KP for Sunday June 15th. Consequently we did not have time to go to San Luis Obispo with the others. The four of us hitch hiked to Stockton and stayed at Lopez's brothers house. We had a great time in Stockton but that is also another story.
We returned to Stoneman in time for reveille and did our Sunday KP. Monday we continued processing. Over the next several days each of us were mustered out and returned home. I arrived in SLO at 2:00A.M. on Wednesday June 18, 1952. I was so happy to be back in SLO that I decided to walk to my Dad's house at 1515 Toro St. I remember carrying my duffel bag on my back and slowly walking along Monterey Street to Santa Rosa to Buchon to Toro thoroughly enjoying once again looking at the familiar houses. It was some of the happiest moments of my life. I was never so glad to be anywhere before or since. The big war time adventure for me was over. I was safe at home in SLO Town again. My Army days were completed. My new civilian I was about to begin. That also is another story!