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"I can't believe how lucky I was… If I had been sent to the front I probably would have killed myself, you know, shoot myself in the foot or drop a grenade on me." (Video Interview, 29:49)

   Kenneth Bentz
Collection image
Staff Sergeant Kenneth Bentz
War: Korean War, 1950-1953
Branch: Army
Unit: Adjutant General's Section, Headquarters Company, 7th Infantry Division
Service Location: Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Chip'yong-ni and Chunchon, Republic of Korea; Fort Custer, Michigan
Rank: Staff Sergeant
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For someone who modestly admits he did "nothing special" while serving in Korea, Kenneth Bentz offers an informative and entertaining look at the life of an Army clerk in wartime. Drafted six months after the start of the war, Bentz did not ship out with the men he had trained with and went over on his own. His voyage took so long that there were letters waiting for him when he arrived in country. His three sisters were good to him, sending him everything from cookies to a camera to a cot. He was stationed for time in Chip Yong Ni, where one of the big battles of the war had already been fought and where he contracted malaria. He typed, did personnel work, and occasionally pulled guard duty, thankful he wasn't carrying a weapon out in the field. His tour of duty was extended by one week: He agreed to interview outgoing GIs in Japan for a ticket on an airplane back instead of passage on a ship.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (4 clips)
»Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 
Download: video(1) | 
Download: video(2) | 
Download: video(3) (91 min.)
»Photo Album  (17 photos)
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»Korean War
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (4 items)
Drafted in December 1950; put on buses to a train station, on to St. Louis, then to Ft. Leonard Wood; one brother had been drafted for WWII, discharged for his asthma, and another served in the Marines and was wounded in the Pacific; just before he was drafted, his family had to move to rooms owned by one of his older sisters; a month after he went in, his mother died; his company was assigned to engineering training, which did him no good when he got to Korea. (06:07) Couldn't find combat boots that fit him; gave him work shoes, and his pants were too short for them; cobbler was able to customize them. (01:18) Given leave for his mother's funeral; watched as men he served with shipped out until he was the only one left; joked about waiting for orders from the Pentagon; going out on his own; seasick in San Francisco Bay, even before they reached open water; voyage took 13 days; recordings of WWII-era songs on board. (03:29)
When he got to his final station in Korea, there was a stack of mail from home waiting for him; journey to Chip Yong Ni; big battle has already concluded by the time he arrived; symptoms didn't appear until he came back to the U.S. and stopped taking Atabrine. (04:14)  

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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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