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"The sergeant said to me, 'Welcome, you are the first replacement since the war ended.'" (Video Interview, 7:12)

   Richard Alvin Simpson
Collection image
Richard Simpson [2006]
War: Korean War, 1950-1953
Branch: Army
Unit: 196th Field Artillery Battalion, 8th Army
Service Location: Korea
Rank: Corporal
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Though he did not arrive in Korea until shortly after the July 1953 truce was signed, Richard Simpson does offer a vivid account of those first two years of uneasy peace. In his first days in country, he was introduced to 100 soldiers, all of them gone within two months. He points out that had the hostilities erupted again, there were few men with real combat experience left to wage the war. Living and working near the DMZ, he found the tension palpable. Booby traps and land mines abounded, random shots were fired. He saw much destruction and stark evidence of starvation. Opposed to the war while he was a college student, he changed his mind once he saw how much worse conditions might have been under North Korean rule.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (7 clips)
» Part 1 
Download: video (37 min.)
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»Korean War
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (7 items)
First job in Korea was surveyor; measured distance to other mountains in North Korea for future targets; first impressions; landed at Inchon, noted the huge difference in tide levels; kids begging for food; Seoul was shot up, with sporadic electricity; greeted as first replacement soldier in his battalion; within two months, the 100 soldiers he was introduced to on his arrival were gone; scary that there would be no soldiers with combat experience if the war started again; pulling guard duty, working along the DMZ to maintain the peace; over 50 years later, there are still 30,000 soldiers there doing the same thing. (04:12) From his tent, every hundred feet there was a barbed wire fence all the way to the DMZ, with booby traps and land mines; never walked any place in Korea where someone had not walked before you; pulling guard duty in the cold winter weather; using guard dogs, protecting them from the locals, who would eat them. (02:25) On guard duty, encountering two Korean boys likely coming through fence to steal food; South Korean soldiers tied them to a tree and beat them with a branch; recalls at Christmas going to an orphanage and seeing the appalling condition of the children there, so thin and with nothing to wear but blankets the U.S. had given them. (02:08)
Living conditions; 8-man tent with mosquito netting; taking pills to prevent hemorrhagic fever; rigging up shower for 3-minute sessions; avoiding eating kimchi but its smell was a giveaway for a Korean; filtered drinking water from the river; running trucks without stopping them in the winter to avoid their freezing up. (03:04) Not seeing any women for months; doughnut dollies paid visit; one of them was a woman he dated in college; North Korean radio propagandist Pyongyang Pearl would tell them exactly what their activities were; incident involving Christmas lights and sabotage. (02:46) When he was in college, thought the war should end; understood once he was there why the war had to be fought; examining intel photos taken from the air; discovered much later that the North Koreans had been digging a tunnel into the South, big enough for train tracks that could move one regiment of soldiers in one hour. (02:12)
Not in favor of war in general but would rather see us with 30,000 troops guarding Korea than having another war; speaks of the war as being forgotten; thrill of coming home to St. Louis on train; belongs to veterans group that tries to promote education of the war among high schools. (01:20)  

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  October 26, 2011
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