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Korean War Photos
September 2, 2012 1:23 PM   Subscribe

The Korean War is sometimes referred to as the "Forgotten War", overshadowed by the massive effort of WWII and the political contretemps of the Vietnam War. For a lot of Americans, our only frame of reference for the war is the TV series M*A*S*H, which itself lasted more than three times as long as the war itself. This set of over 60 color photographs taken by an American soldier who served in Korea during the war offer some compelling first-hand images of the daily activities of the troops (no combat photos) and of Koreans of that time. (via Reddit)
posted by briank (35 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
There are Republic of China (Taiwanese) troops in those photos.
posted by wuwei at 1:30 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, there are.
posted by briank at 1:34 PM on September 2, 2012


I spent a bit over a year in Korea in 1971, some of these photos of the village scenes, children, markets don't look much different than it did almost 20 years later.

Nice collection of photos, thanks.
posted by HuronBob at 1:35 PM on September 2, 2012


PSY's current counteroffensive is proving to be quite effective.
posted by delfin at 1:46 PM on September 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Here's a picture of my dad in 1950 or so around the time of the Inchon Invasion. His ship, the USS DeHaven, was one of the six Sitting Ducks that began the shelling before the invasion. There are some photos of the shelling taken from the DeHaven on that website. The DeHaven was the only one of the six that took no damage in that attack.

And yes, my dad had a mohawk in 1950. He said they got in a lot of trouble for that.

Those pictures are great, thanks.
posted by Huck500 at 1:49 PM on September 2, 2012


Oops, here's the picture...
posted by Huck500 at 1:49 PM on September 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


This is fake. I can tell because this doesn't look like the hills of Southern California.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:51 PM on September 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


Note black and white soldiers serving together. The Korean War was the first time the US allowed desegregation to happen properly and officially in the military.
posted by Jehan at 1:58 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Any idea what the green and white helmet signifies?
posted by MtDewd at 2:03 PM on September 2, 2012


The Korean War was the first time the US allowed desegregation to happen properly and officially in the military.

I used to work with a black Korean War vet (he was also on the original DEW line). But I never asked him about it. The only war story he ever told me was how they (I guess he was an electrician) used to test 110V lines by putting the wires on their tongues. I'm still not sure whether I believe him or not.
posted by DU at 2:17 PM on September 2, 2012


I'm still not sure whether I believe him or not.
I've known guys who did that, so, yeah, believe him.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:33 PM on September 2, 2012


Huck500: "And yes, my dad had a mohawk in 1950. He said they got in a lot of trouble for that."

Heh, my dad also had a Mohawk back then, and he was in the navy. I think he had the mohawk before he was in the navy, but I'm not sure if he had it when he was in the navy. I heard mohawks were a bit of a rage back then.
posted by symbioid at 3:07 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


(though actually, my dad was a bit younger than that, and I think it was the late 50s when he had his mohawk, not that it has anything to do with the Korean war. think I'll just bow myself outta this convo.)
posted by symbioid at 3:10 PM on September 2, 2012


Any idea what the green and white helmet signifies?

I believe it signifies a military police Lieutenant. MPs were known as "snowdrops" for their white helmets and (in WWII at least) white gaiters. I think the gaiters were dispensed with in Korea.
posted by rdone at 3:12 PM on September 2, 2012


Am I wrong, or are some of these in Japan?


Also. Hey, it's the helicopter from MASH!
posted by Atreides at 3:17 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


My grandfather has an entire album of photos from the Korean war which I would like to share, but I am afraid he might get into trouble as he is still living. He said he was not supposed to take the pictures, he would sneak the cameras out (they are images of active-duty soldiers, dead Americans and Koreans, pictures of whole units moving across a mountain side, etc.) and have them developed in the states.

But I think the pictures are important, historically, and one day in the future I will put them on the web.
posted by Malice at 3:22 PM on September 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


My Dad served in the Army during the Korean War. He was sent to France, after he got out of college, where he'd specialized in language.

One day, a Major commissioned my Dad to travel to the coast, as there was some rule that the local French could only handle the mail, but some good number of service men had had packages from home going missing.

"Just stand here and listen," said the Major. My Dad complied.

The gist was, "we're stealing packages right and left, and this dumb American doesn't know shit. I'll give you a lot of Francs to keep your mouth shut and keep passing these packages to me."

My Dad translated it and he said he never knew what happened after that, but he understood how much the French hated us after WWII, because some soldiers had done some bad things, so my Dad had to wear his Civilian clothes the entire time in France, during the Korean conflict. Because it was that bad, the French hatred of Americans.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:26 PM on September 2, 2012


A quadruple exposure?
posted by rlk at 3:43 PM on September 2, 2012


My grandpa was stationed in Germany just prior to the war, his unit was deployed in late 1950. There was some issue with him deploying with the rest of his unit, he was literally called off some roll call line as they were boarding a bus when is CO told him to go back to the quartermaster to get some different boots. He told me that within 3 months, 98% of his unit had been killed. His life was probably saved because his boots weren't the right size.
posted by sopwath at 3:57 PM on September 2, 2012


Interesting stuff, and hard to believe, somehow, that it's 60 years ago. This one, though, is in Japan, I'm pretty sure.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:01 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Malice, I'd wager dollars to donuts that he wouldn't get into trouble, but that would be at the top of my AskMe list if it was my situation.

Maybe it's not comparable, but vets have been publicly selling war paraphernalia for decades, and looting was/is a huge no no.
posted by Brocktoon at 4:06 PM on September 2, 2012


LOL I saw those pics when they appeared on reddit. We bought one of those army surplus tents for our local Occupy Wall Street camp. We called it the MASH tent. The pics confirm that these damn tents haven't changed a bit and they were just as miserable dwellings back then.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:11 PM on September 2, 2012


BTW I thought people might be amused by the Army Manual for those tents. [PDF]
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:22 PM on September 2, 2012


Let us not forget that the Korean War is still ongoing, technically.
(Someone needed to say it).

These are otherwise great pics.
posted by Mezentian at 4:42 PM on September 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


My grandpa was stationed in Germany just prior to the war, his unit was deployed in late 1950. There was some issue with him deploying with the rest of his unit, he was literally called off some roll call line as they were boarding a bus when is CO told him to go back to the quartermaster to get some different boots.

This reminded me of my great-uncle, who slogged through the Italian mountains fighting against the Germans in the Second World War. Unlike my grandfathers, my great-uncle was called back into service when the Korean War ignited on the peninsula and the North Korean army rolled all the way to Pusan.

My great-uncle was born on an ancestral farm in Southwest Virginia in a hollow known as Sugar Hollow for the sugar maples that grew nearby, amongst rolling hills and mountains. His father had been drafted and shipped over to France just in time to not fight in the trenches, and so he was the next generation to be pulled into war. Before the Second World War, he had moved off the farm, leaving behind an agricultural tradition that reached back generations to a German immigrant who stepped off a boat in the 1700s. After the war and for the rest of his life, he only returned to Sugar Hollow only to visit his parents who remained on the farm until their deaths in the early 1980s. Thereafter, he failed to truly have a reason to go back, and as he grew older and retired to Florida, simply stopped going back.

About five years ago, my father and I, decided to go back and visit the area and we invited my great-uncle to return with us. Now a widower and a far cry from the young man who had left the mountains for a future beyond farming, he was very much excited at the prospect of seeing the old home place. From past visitations, we sadly knew that the family farm which had passed into his younger brother's hands through rather wicked machinations of that man's wife (who later died of a curse from her father-in-law, but that's another story), had eventually been abandoned to ruin. A house that had been the home to generations of the family, which had started as a one room log cabin and slowly grown larger with every generation was nearly hidden behind overgrowth and vines. It was a hard experience to see a place of so many happy memories neglected and virtually overcome by the unstoppable progression of nature left wild.

My great-uncle handled the experience solemnly, and afterward, we drove down the narrow country road named for the family that had settled it centuries before. We spotted the house of a distant cousin and pulled in to visit. It was just another of the old country houses, oddly shaped rooms, low ceilings and a fine porch to sit and watch the passing ons. We sat inside chatting with an elderly couple who knew my great-uncle well, the family in general, when an unexpected visitor arrived. He was of my great-uncles generation, and like him, now a bent over, withered old man. After shaking hands were done, he immediately declared, "Your great-uncle saved my life!"

As it was, when my great-uncle had been called back to the military, the army believed that the combat tested veteran would best serve his country by evaluating draft materials and deciding where to send every young soldier for training at Fort Meade, Maryland. It likely was a quite unexciting job, but probably one he was happy to take instead of being sent off to a foreign land to fight in yet another war. One day, he was looking over the papers in front of him and to his surprise, noted a name that jumped off the page. It was one of the young men back home in the mountains. Perhaps with a mind to the horrors he had witnessed in the Italian mountains, he decided then to make sure that his old friend would never see such tragedy. He filled out his paperwork and the young friend from home, his name was Jack, eventually found himself being sent to Quartermaster school at Fort Lee, Virginia. Later when soldiers were dying in Korea, he was stationed in Japan overseeing the shipment and reception of supplies. In a grateful tone, he told me that day, my great-uncle had indeed saved his life during the Korean War.
posted by Atreides at 5:16 PM on September 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


This is fake. I can tell because this doesn't look like the hills of Southern California.

You forgot the laugh track.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:21 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was on a troop ship heading for Korea in 1950..all the guys were in good mood till a big announcement that some 350 thousand Chinese soldiers had crossed over into North Korea.

We climbed down into landing ship while artillery going on during what is now called the Pusan Perimeter--that spot Am were contained in when driven South. Soon, the Inchon landing, which turned things around

And yes. Blacks integrated. I had previously been in the army when it was segregated (1947)
It was that integration of the armed forces that helped convince the govt that integration could work.
posted by Postroad at 5:54 PM on September 2, 2012 [10 favorites]


It was that integration of the armed forces that helped convince the govt that integration could work.

It's important to note that although President Truman had officially desegregated the armed forces with Executive Order 9981 in 1948, the Army had dragged its feet for two years and was still largely segregated when the war began. (The newly independent Air Force, by contrast, did much better, with the Navy and Marines falling somewhere in between). Even after the start of the war and the arrival of the Chinese in the fall of 1950, the Army was still trying to maintain segregated units on the battlefield. But because those units got badly mauled by the North Koreans in the early part of the war, and the need for constant reinforcements was so great, the brass finally realized it was logistically impossible to send only white replacements to white units and black replacements to black units. It wasn't until the spring of 1951 that the Army officially announced that all its units would be integrated. The last all-black Army unit, EUCOM's 94th Engineer Battalion, wasn't deactivated until November 1954.

Before then, though, there were a number of all-black units that distinguished themselves in the war, most notably the 24th Infantry Regiment, which provided UN forces with their first decisive victory in July 1950. The unit also produced two Medal of Honor winners, Cornelius H. Charlton and William Thompson. However, the unit, like other all-black units, was used as a scapegoat for the problems that beset the entire postwar Army. The most notorious example of this was the court-martial of Leon Gilbert, which became a cause célèbre for activists seeking a real end to military segregation.
posted by Rangeboy at 7:57 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


My uncle was killed in Korea. We didn't know a great deal about the circumstances of his death until my brother was browsing the Internet last year and found a self-published book by someone who'd been there (Outpost Kelly) when he died. It was tremendously moving to read and I am glad the author took the time to share his story.
posted by agatha_magatha at 9:20 PM on September 2, 2012


computech_apolloniajames: "This is fake. I can tell because this doesn't look like the hills of Southern California.

You forgot the laugh track.
"

And not one of those guys is wearing a dress to try and get a Section 8.
posted by Bonzai at 9:56 PM on September 2, 2012


Am I wrong, or are some of these in Japan?

Well, this one is. It looks like the same guy that is in a lot of the other photos however, so I would assume he was rotated out to Japan for a bit.
posted by Winnemac at 1:03 AM on September 3, 2012


The reddit link is worth looking at. The poster linked to more albums than just this one, and other redditors are helping him figure out some of the photos (translating text for him, identifying a university, and so on). He also explains that the photos showing Japan are from R&R. Here are some of the other albums he's linked to, found from his posting history: 1, 2, 3, the camera.

I think these photos are great. My dad is a Korean War vet, although he was stationed in Germany and was there for Germany's signing onto NATO. The men in these pictures look so young. It's something to remember when you see an 80-year-old: Born in the Depression, growing up during WWII, drafted into the Korean War, completely overshadowed by the much larger generation that followed them, and ultimately somewhat forgotten as a generation. But an 80 year old man was, not too long ago, just a young handsome guy who had been through a lot by his twenties, maybe scared but definitely determined. He wasn't always the older man we see now. There's a lot we could learn (lessons and perspective) from them.
posted by Houstonian at 1:27 AM on September 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


oh man my Grampi is going to love this whole post. He was a fry cook for the army during the war. He brought so many beautiful things home to my grandmother, we still have this royal blue silk kimono (its huge) with an embroidered dragon on the back.
posted by billypilgrim at 6:01 AM on September 3, 2012


Am I wrong, or are some of these in Japan?

The photo of the movie theatre showing "It's a Wonderful Life" is taken in Japan.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:48 AM on September 3, 2012


My father was in the Korean War, in the Gloucestershire Regiment, who were among those surrounded and captured in the Battle of Imjin River. He was doing National Service in the early 1950s, and found himself in Korea. I never fully understood his background until five years ago, when we were reunited - when I was a baby, my mother divorced him, undoubtedly in large part due to his problems on his return (what I'm sure now would be diagnosed as PTSD). Here he is, interviewed: Private Morris 'Brassy' Coombes recalls Imjin River battle. I can't imagine the resilience it took to get through that.
posted by raygirvan at 2:51 PM on September 3, 2012


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