When my father was 21 years old he served in the United States Army and “fought” during the Korean War. In honor of yesterday, which would have been his 89th birthday, I’ve ( very modestly) edited one of the war stories that he recorded for me as part of his memoirs.
So anyway, after that they sent me to Korea. And, of course, I corresponded with Rosemary while I was overseas. Course I embellished the letters I wrote to her. I made it sound much more warlike than it really was. And over there, while I was in Korea I knew a guy by the name of Harry Probst Van Osdale, his momma owned a department store in Akron I believe, or someplace. Anyway, we got to be friends.
And I got with this UPS outfit, Unit Personnel Section, because when I first arrived in Korea, we were out there and they were assigning us to different companies. Most of them were going on the line. Finally, the Sergeant asks “Is there anyone here who can type?”
Well my hand went up like a Roman candle because I didn’t want to go up on the line, believe me. And so they signed me and I was the morning report man for the time that I was there.
The main thing I was interested in was the whores around the compound when we were in Chuncheon, and that’s where I met Sandy. Sandy was a good whore and had been taking care of this young boy named Kim. I think he was seven years old when I met him. I ended up taking care of him. It even got to where we had a cot for him in the tent. There were 8 of us to a tent. One was a football player who could reach over the barbed wire fence and pull him up where he could sleep safely in our tent at night. And of course we gave him cigarettes and, you know, we fed him. I knew that when I finally rotated back to the United States you could only bring so much Yen, which was the military money. So when I left there, I wanted to make sure Sandy would continue to take care of Kim. I gave her the sum of $750.
And the day I was gonna go, I’m looking through the barbed wire fence at Kim and he says “Tippo, someday me America go!”
I said “Well, I certainly hope so, Kim, cause you really deserve it. You’re a good little man.”
While I was over there this captain that Johnny, my step-father, knew in the Army called me on the phone and boy that pissed everybody off. Here I am, I’m up near the front lines and I’m getting a phone call from this jackass who just wants to know how I’m doing. This is the same guy that one time while he was driving down the road, he dropped something and he reached down to get it, stopped looking at the road and ran into a telephone pole. So, you know what kind of a brilliant son of a bitch he was.
I have to tell you this now. The war, we’d been all over. And I’d had one night where I was guarding a gasoline dump. And they put me down there. The first night we had moved, our tents are not even up, I’m on guard duty. I gotta go and guard the gasoline. And on the way down there the Lieutenant that was taking me down there says “Oh yeah, well last night, the guy that was guarding down there, we couldn’t find him in the morning. All we found was his helmet and something else, but the rest of him was gone.” So, that really interested me. That night it was, I don’t know, 20 below zero, one of them kind of nights. And when gasoline drums are in that type of cold, they crackle. So there I am, they have a tent with a small stove for the guard to be in. Well, I’m thinking about that guy that disappeared the night before, and my ass wasn’t going in that tent where they would suspect I was going to be. I was hiding out between the goddamn barrels.That was one of the scariest fucking things that I was involved in, in Korea.
Time goes on and now the war’s over. And we’re in this place on the side of a mountain and we’ve set up our tents. And we’re still doing business but kind of haphazardly because there wasn’t anything going on. There wasn’t anybody getting killed and all of that shit like it had been, which I knew because of the morning reports that I made out every day. I would know exactly who, if anyone, had been killed the night before.
Now we were there with the warrant officers. Three or four of us got into a poker game and we’re drinking Canadian Club. All we could get over there was Canadian Club. And it came through the Koreans. We were playing and we ran out of whiskey. And now we’re deep in this game and we’re about half drunk and we don’t have any whiskey. So, Mr. Hall says “Well Tipton, there’s a chogie camp about a mile and a half down the canyon. Why don’t you go down there and buy us four bottles? I think there about 10 dollars a bottle. Here’s 40 dollars, let’s cut it out of the pot here. We’ll do it up now and we’ll all pay for it.”
So, down the fucking canyon I go and I come to this place where they got a bunch of small tents. This was where the Korean workers lived. And in this one big tent, that’s where the commanding officer is. So, I talked to this Korean and I tell him I want to see the Cap-i-tan. And he knows what I’m talking about, we go in there, he then disappears and the Captain is sitting there behind a table in a uniform. And he says “How many bottle you want?”
I said “Four.”
And he called to a person that was in the other side, in another compartment of the tent evidently. And in a few minutes, he comes in. He brings the bottles and sets them down.
The Captain said “That’ll be forty-four dollar.”
Well, he was already beating me for a dollar on each one. But anyway, I thought about it for a few minutes like I was gonna get the money out of my pocket and I says to him “My Captain would really take it good if you would give him this “presento.”
“Oh, no, no, no. I can’t do. No, no, no. You don’t understand!”
He told me I didn’t understand.
I said “Yeah, I understand. My Captain would appreciate if you would give him these as a present.”
“Oh, no, no, no. Impossible. Not possible.”
I took my .45 out of the holster and I pointed it at him across the table and I said “My Captain would really like it if you make a present of these.”
“Oh, it’s fine, fine. Very good! Very good, very, very, very good!”
So now, I’ve got this. I’ve already made my deal and I’m backing out of the tent. It’s a flap and as I’m coming out the flap there was a Korean coming in the flap. So, I just took that .45 and knocked the shit out of him. He was out, completely I’m sure. I didn’t stay there long enough to find out because I’m out in the night and I’m running away from this chogie camp and I’m beginning to think that what I’ve done is really ignorant.
I’m running and I’m running and I hear behind me men yelling in Korean. These motherfuckers are jabbering and I can tell they’re on a dead run to find me. I’m running up this goddamn canyon and I look and there’s this little space that I would call a wash, but it had some brush and growth in it. Now I knew if I kept running that they were gonna get me and kill me. So, I got in that canyon as good as I could do it and I lied on my back and I had that .45 pointed up. I said to myself “Well, the first motherfucker that finds me is gonna meet his maker. After that I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I know that motherfucker is going to die from finding me.”
Well, here they come and they’re all around me. And they’re even standing on a little ledge on top of where I’m looking up at them. They don’t see me. Oh they run here. They run there. I don’t know how long I lay there, it seemed like an eternity and pretty soon they withdrew. After I was pretty sure they were gone – the majority of them, cause I figured I could kill one or two if I had to, but with all of them I wouldn’t have a chance – I got out of there as fast as I could.
When I got back up to the poker game warrant officer Hall says “Well, goddamn. It sure took you a long fucking time to get them.”
I said “Yeah, well there was a bit of a problem.”
“Bit of a problem?”
And so I set the bottles on the table and I say “The Captain down there made you a present of these.”
He says “A present? You don’t know what the shit you’re talking about. You really are drunk.”
And then I explained the whole story and they laughed their ass off. They thought it was funny as could be.
Oh, by the way, this Harry Probst Van Osdale deal that I mentioned earlier… the guy that lived in the same tent that I did. He was going with Sinclair Lewis’s daughter and he was writing to her, but he didn’t know what to write or what to say, so he asked me if I would write her. Boy, I really wrote her. I wrote her flowery letters and really told her how Harry was doing in the war, but like it was Harry. And Harry would copy them and send them to her. So, I thought that that was kind of interesting.
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