Just for a little variety, here are some pictures of Korea as it was about 35 years ago. This was in the countryside up near the DMZ. I guess now everybody in Korea lives in a nice McMansion and drives a Hyundai to and from their city jobs. Wasn't that way back then.
The countryside was medieval. There was no electricity outside the towns, and in the really rural parts I doubt they had changed anything in 500 years. People still heated their houses using coils of charcoal they burned in recesses under the floors. Naturally people died from carbon monoxide poisoning but they just considered it part of life. They used human feces for fertilizer. You'd see the wife and kids in the morning, out ladeling the goodies onto the rice from the "honey pot" buckets. In the summer the place stank so bad you could not breath around the fields. The smell got in your hair and your clothes.
Korea in those days was a rough place. Life for the country people was hard, and brutal. Their soldiers were that way, too. I liked the Korean military, but I never made the mistake of thinking that they were "just like us." All people are not alike. Thinking that they are is a mistake made by lots of Americans who have never traveled further afield than Cancun.
I have worked with a lot of armed forces from around the world. It's my experience that Americans, Canadians, and Europeans tend to be very generous and friendly with an indigenous population. Assuming, of course, that the locals are not engaging in activities like sniping, ambushes and mining the roads.
Korean kids in the villages loved Americans. They knew the Americans had good things and would give them these things. They liked gum, they liked the crackers and cheese or peanut butter from C-rations. They would ask you for cigarettes. The first time a Korean kid the size of a peanut asked me for cigarettes, I was flabbergasted. The Korean Lieutenant I was with was greatly amused. He told me the kids wanted smokes for their moms, dads, and grandparents, all of whom lived in one little house. So I gave them cigarettes. I guess I'd go to jail for that today.
Older Korean kids from the villages would work in the U.S. tent camps. They would shine boots, keep the diesel stoves in the tents going in winter, haul off the trash, whatever. It was against regulations to have them do that, but trying to keep them out was a losing battle for the Military Police, who were using their services like everybody else anyway. The only time I ever saw these kids mistreated was if a Korean NCO was in our area and saw them. The Koreans of the day beat on their subordinates for anything. How bad they beat them depended on the nature of the transgression. We always tried to prevent that kind of thing. "Hey, Sgt. Pak, come on in here and let us pour you some American coffee." Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. The kids seem to take it in stride.
I only had to do one winter exercise in Korea. It was miserable beyond belief. The cold was incredible. How the Korean War was fought in the winter was beyond me. That Marine on the left is a WM (woman marine) . Her name was Moyer. I liked her because when we went to the field, she was the only WM that didn't pull strings to keep from going. Nobody likes "going to the field" except maybe the Grunts. The Air Wing hated it. Thank God I don't do that anymore. Like the old Confederate Veteran remarked in one of Shelby Foots books, "the best thing about being in the Army is remembering it years later, sitting by a fire with a full belly."
They would invite you to their house and spend more on the meal for their guests than they could afford to. The men and male kids would eat at a little table six inches off the floor, sitting cross legged. The wife and daughters would serve. I always tried not to eat a lot because I worried the wife and the girls wouldn't get any supper if I did. The Koreans worked hard, had a strong sense of honor and family. I liked them. I don't know any now, but I hope they haven't changed all that much now that their country is rich.
After an exercise concluded, sometimes you got liberty before you went back to Japan. In this picture, the guy on the left was the squadron maintenance officer. The older guy was our squadron commander, and this picture is important because I think it's one of the few times I saw him sober.
That's me in the middle, (I was the operations officer) and the fellow on the right was a good friend from up at Group. We were in Osan. Osan was a good sized place, and it was famous for things made out of brass. I still have all kinds of vases, spirit lamps, a big Globe and Anchor plaque, made out of brass from Osan. They also sold furniture made out of wicker. You could buy the furniture in Osan, the seller would deliver it to the Air Force Base, then the Marine C-130's from MCAS Futenma on Okinawa would fly up there, pick it up, and you'd go over and get your stuff at the airfield. Then you shipped it home when you went back to the States PCS. These were known as "Wives logistics training hops" because most of this stuff hauled back from Korea on the Hercules were things the wives wanted back in the states. Unaccompanied tours meant you left your wife and kids at home for 13 months. The only person I ever knew who took his wife to Okinawa on an unaccompanied tour was my brother in law. He took my sister over there and for 13 months she lived in a tiny little Okinawan apartment. I think she wished she'd stayed home. It's really hot and humid in Okinawa, among other things, and the Okinawans didn't use air conditioning like we did on the American base.
I went to the Noritake Store on K Street outside Kadena AFB, and bought a 12 place setting with the completer kit. I think I paid about $600 for it. Because it's now a discontinued pattern, a single plate runs $145.00, so I got a pretty good deal. Of course, my wife and I only used it once in our married lives (so far) and it stays in the hutch otherwise. She plans on giving it to my daughter once that one settles down. But it was a ritual. The other things you brought home from Japan were Samurai swords, Japanese paintings, pottery and art, and for a lot of the guys, Japanese women. Nobody can go wrong with a Japanese wife. They are centered on the husband and the family. That's their life's purpose. Maybe that isn't true today though. We did a lot for the Japanese after 1945, but inflicting our culture and our values on them sure wasn't something they should thank us for.
So, that was Korea in 1979 and 1980. I was stationed in Japan for 13 months, so I didn't spend more than about 8 weeks in Korea on exercises, but I went over there on liberty sometimes. On any Saturday, you could go to Kadena AFB on Okinawa, and for ten dollars you could fly to the Philippine Islands, or Australia, or up to the home islands, or Thailand. Then the following Saturday you could fly back to your base for another ten dollars.
Well, at least this post is different. Maybe we have all had enough bad news from the television for a week and a break won't hurt.