On Tuesdays I have lunch with members of The Pathetic Golf League (PGL). During a conversation with a prominent local attorney I was surprised to learn that he had served in the Army of Occupation following World War II at Kunsan, Korea. He must have seen my jaw drop, because I, too, served at Kunsan near the end of the Korean War. I have never met anyone who served there or even knew where it was since I returned fifty-five years ago.
At the time my friend, Tom, served there it was an Army Air Corp Base. Following the War President Harry Truman created the United States Air Force and that Air Corp base became K-8 Air Base during the Korean War. This coincidental discussion brought back many memories, especially since Tom mentioned that he served as the Assistant to the Chaplain. Actually, his duty assignment was made because Tom had left the seminary to enlist in the Army.
As lunch proceeded I related the fact that I was the Base Provost Sergeant as a member of the 3rd Bomb Wing Air Police Squadron. During the War, security was extremely tight with K-8 being designated as a secure site with no one being permitted beyond the boundaries of the base. Once the Peace Treaty was signed the tight security rules were relaxed and, while there was continued tension, the atmosphere was morerelaxed.
Gambling was always prevalent in the huts and tents, and it frequently became a trouble-some concern to the Base Commander. To bring some order and control over the situation, my Squadron Chaplain organized a Friday Night Crap Game. He ran the game and took a house cut to augment his Religious operations at the large non-denominational church tent. I was assigned to provide security and maintain good order, and I recruited a fellow member of my Squadron to be in attendance with his guard dog. Since we both carried a side arm, and had that German Shepard we had a unique influence with the assembled.
Once we appeared, good order prevailed and the Catholic Priest’s presence caused the severity of the language to be significantly improved. I remember Father telling us that he was totally qualified to oversee the Crap Game, because he had frequently provided leadership to games of chance at his home parish back in Omaha. Additionally, the Chaplain volunteered a Supply Sergeant and a Master Sergeant from the Food Service Squadron to acquire and dispense beverages. Life was much improved, and everyone looked forward to festive Friday evenings, since we were all still restricted to the confines of the base.
Some evenings we had as many as one hundred fifty men in attendance. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, there were few women assigned to our base, with the exception of one Red Cross Woman and two Air Force Nurses. They were kept isolated to themselves for self-preservation sake.
In the winter months we heated the tents with oil burning stoves. One night someone turned the oil flow level too high and the entire tent caught fire ending the game quite prematurely as we scampered for safety.
Life in Korea during the War was most arduous with high levels of tension, but conditions and morale changed dramatically once the Peace Treaty took affect. I vividly remember one Airman who had just won a whole pile of money screaming, “WAR IS HELL,” grabbing his money and getting out of the game. Fortunately travel orders to go home were increasing at record levels so the attendance dropped dramatically at our Friday Evening Prayer Meetings, but it was a real morale booster as long as it lasted.
Then just last Saturday I was talking with my cousin’s husband, and related this story, which brought another surprise. While serving in the Marine Corp during the Viet Nam War, he was temporarily assigned to K-8 Kunsan for a few days. Another small world occurrence, each separated by many years.
Thanks to our Tuesday luncheon meeting some pleasant memories flooded back from the deep recesses of my aging brain.