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Interview with Don F. Adams [4/4/2002]

Larry Ordner:

This tape is made April 4th, 2002 with Don F. Adams, date of birth 1-26-1929. Mr. Adams resides at 409 North Redbud Drive in Santa Claus, Indiana 47579. He served in the United States army artillery as a corporal from July 1st 1949 through August 28th 1952. He served in Korea. This tape is made before (inaudible) a regional director of (inaudible) from the Evansville office.

Larry Ordner:

Mr. Adams, tell me, please, how did you happen to enlist? Where were you living at the time?

Don F. Adams:

I grew up in Ogdensburg, New York up on the St. Lawrence River. I graduated from high school in 1947 and had a scholorship to go to a two year forestry school in the Adirondack Mountains. I graduated from there in May of 1949 and in spite of having a two year degree, so-called associate degree in forestry, I really didn't know if I wanted to become a forester or not, so I got interested in the army and just enlisted in Syracuse, New York on July the 1st?

Larry Ordner:

Now, what was going on in Korea at that time?

Don F. Adams:

Nothing.

Larry Ordner:

1949?

Don F. Adams:

Nothing.

Larry Ordner:

There was no whimper of any military action ahead?

Don F. Adams:

No, not that I knew about.

Larry Ordner:

Okay. So it was really peace time for the United States at that time?

Don F. Adams:

Yes. It was a good time to go in the army I thought. Within a week or two I was sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey, and I almost changed my mind about the army after we met our first sergeant who called us you ratcruits. He was very firm and very forward, but there was one advantage you might say with our first sergeant. I can still remember him. I can't remember his name. When we went in the orderly room there was a TV in there, black and white, very small, but it was the first TV that I had ever seen. Fort Dix, New Jersey.

Larry Ordner:

Do you recall what you were seeing on TV? What was the image on the screen? Do you remember?

Don F. Adams:

I don't remember anything. I don't remember now, but it was the summer of '49, whatever.

Larry Ordner:

So what was it like for you to go through basic? What was the basic experience like?

Don F. Adams:

It was I guess pretty much what we expected. It was hard work but we did have time off I think after the first six weeks and I was able with friends to get into New York city and spend a weekend there and travel back and forth and --

Larry Ordner:

So you got to see the sights a little bit of New York?

Don F. Adams:

Of New York, yes.

Larry Ordner:

What was that like now? Had you been there before to the city?

Don F. Adams:

Only when I was a child. We went to the New York World's Fair in 1940. But New York was, I think what I remember most about New York City in those days was Sunday mornings peaceful and quiet and birds sweeping back and forth in the canyons and I was over awed when I saw the Empire State Building. So tall. I just got a crick in the neck looking at it. We, I guess we enjoyed ourselves on the weekend, and then went down to Grand Central Station and hopped on the train to go back to Princeton, New Jersey and then back to Fort Dix.

Larry Ordner:

How long were you at Fort Dix?

Don F. Adams:

From --

Larry Ordner:

Roughly.

Don F. Adams:

From July to September. Our training was three months, 12 weeks, 14 weeks I believe. And then I was assigned to Fort Lewis, Washington and again that train ride was quite an event going across country.

Larry Ordner:

Did you have an inkling where you were going? Did they tell you where you were headed?

Don F. Adams:

Yes, they did. We had no conception of what it was like or where it was.

Larry Ordner:

And that was a long train ride, wasn't it?

Don F. Adams:

That was a long train ride. We went to Chicago, had a chance to stay there for half a day, so I remember leaving the train yard and going down to the lake and looking, walking along or looking at the museums in Chicago and a few other things and getting back on the train. And we were so kind of over awed by the service we received on the train, white coated waiters just served us fine meals, linen tablecloths and the finest settings. I mean you could hardly cope with it. But it was nice. I can remember, oh, I can remember back at Fort Dix during the basic training one weekend I went to see some relatives of mine, my mother's on Staten Island, and I'll never forget this, it was just a little act of kindness but it loomed so big in my mind. You went through turnstiles to I guess go where you wanted to in and out of the stations, and for a ferry ride, and I started to go through the turnstile, and a little old lady said, soldier, she said, I pay your way to Staten Island. Here is a nickel. And I almost cried. I put the nickel in the slot and went through and went on over to Staten Island. I've never forgotten that. And even in 1949 wherever we traveled we were well treated and looked at with respect by all people. You could talk to anybody in those days. I guess my --

Larry Ordner:

And of course coming off World War II there was, that was still very fresh in everyone's mind?

Don F. Adams:

I think it was, yes. Yeah, because the army was still in occupying Japan under General MacArthur. He was the Supreme Commander or Pacific Commander or something and he was pretty much in charge of everything there at that time.

Larry Ordner:

When you went to Fort Lewis then did you have a specialty school that you were sent to?

Don F. Adams:

Yes. I was assigned to the 36th field, and we simply trained in field artillery areas.

Larry Ordner:

Is that something that you were just assigned to? Did you have any --

Don F. Adams:

No, I had a choice.

Larry Ordner:

You had a choice. What was the other choice? Do you remember?

Don F. Adams:

Infantry or engineers I guess, whatever, but I chose artillery. I had a sneaking feeling that the artillery might stay further behind the front lines in case anything happened and that was true. Made a good choice.

Larry Ordner:

Where were you when the U.S., or I should say where were you when things started happening in Korea and you had then assurance that the U.S. was going to be involved in that situation?

Don F. Adams:

I was at Fort Lewis and we received the word on a Sunday morning to the best of my knowledge, and I know this sounds odd, but our greatest regret at the time was that we would have to get up and get dressed and go on duty on Sunday morning. No more Sunday mornings off to read the Sunday paper. We just had to go to work. And things picked up greatly. As time went on we, well I can remember this, you can ask somebody this, but when the National Guard and U.S. army reserves were activated Fort Lewis was one of the activation stations or points and for awhile I was assigned to sit at the table and register in national guardsmen and U.S. army or reserve forces, and the area was critical because men 50 and 60 years old were called up and their wives, their children, their grandchildren were with them screaming and crying and carrying on, don't take him, don't take him, he's too old to go to war. That kind of thing got me for awhile, although the young men were of course called up too.

Larry Ordner:

Do you think anybody had any inkling at all what this conflict was going to turn into?

Don F. Adams:

I don't think so. No. We started getting news releases and everything and of course the North Koreans were moving steadily down toward Kaesong and they formed the Kaesong perimeter, but I don't think anyone realized the ramifications or implications or how big it would get back when I was at Fort Lewis in the artillery force that summer of 1950 but we would listen and different units would get activated and move out. I was assigned to go, as I mentioned, to Fort Sill, Oklahoma for survey school and it became Christmas and my turn came. My brother came down from Ogdensburg, 16 years old, on a bus, to spend Christmas with me. He brought two suitcases, one of them with his underwear in and one of them with presents, and when he reached the bus station I had already gotten telegrams from Fort Lewis, report to the 204th Field Artillery Battalion for overseas shipment. So when he came we just sat in the barracks at Fort Sill. I found out later I could have gone home and spent about a week or two with my, what do you call it, my loss, you know, everything because when I finally got out to Fort Lewis I found out that the 204th field everybody was home at Christmas down in Logan, Utah and other places in Utah. They were a Mormon outfit and I never encountered any better men than those, than the commander, Colonel Joseph --

Larry Ordner:

You said it was a Mormon outfit? Was that --

Don F. Adams:

Mormon unit.

Larry Ordner:

Was that by design, that it was Mormons?

Don F. Adams:

Not necessarily by design but mainly because everybody in the outfit was Mormons. They were from Logan, Utah and from around that area. So that was really in my favor, but the thing is when I got there I spent the time packing, packing, packing, putting stuff together and grumble, grumble, grumble, growl, growl, I could have gone home. I'm trying to remember, we shipped out in mid to late January and it's funny how you remember the little things because we got ready to go and got on the buses and got up to the embarkation point in Seattle, and the ship was there, I forgot her name, I have pictures of her here somewhere, and we were, I was sitting second row seat second seat back on the right hand side of the bus, and the first sergeant came aboard and yelled we need some help in the dining hall meal before we get on the ship, and I want you, you, you, you, you, you, you. Okay. KP. Well, from nice starched clean good smelling soldiers we came back on that bus a wreck and went on that ship stinking and greasy, so damn tired, I'll never forget it. And I used to say that I hated the navy because all the way across your kidneys I guess get activated and all and everything and whenever I had to go to the, what do they call the bathroom on a ship?

Larry Ordner:

The head?

Don F. Adams:

The head. They were always being cleaned, they were always being locked. You couldn't get in. I hated the navy. Boy, that's funny. There's been little effects of that through the years too. But as far as washing things we could wash our clothes by tying a long rope to them that was tied to the stern of the ship, throwing them overboard and watching them bounce in the wake way back there somewhere. They were salty, but they were clean. I guess you remember little things too. The Pacific can be kind and it can be wavy, and our stomachs weren't too strong at times and I can still remember the bunks that we had were like cots they folded up into the wall the bulkhead about four high. I could never begin to even get in the lowest one now. But one morning the ship rolled and we were in our bunks looking at this companion way coming down and well what do you call where you eat?

Larry Ordner:

I'm not sure what you call it on a ship.

Don F. Adams:

Dining room or kitchen or whatever. But as we looked out to the right here comes a kid, soldier, sailor or soldier somebody carrying a huge pan of something. Just as the ship took a roll he was about even with that stairway, companionway and it tilted, pancake batter came dripping down that thing and we took one look and everybody just heaved. How you remember little things like that. We got used to the utensils and things at our meals sliding back and forth.

Larry Ordner:

What was the food like on that ship?

Don F. Adams:

It was okay. Yeah, we were happy to get it. The ship, it was the USS General Anderson. I remember her name now. She had different classes you might say of people aboard. We were the lowest, so we were the common soldiers, and then up above were officers and nurses, there was a battalion of nurses up there, and I remember until our officers got after us we liked to do nothing better than tease the nurses, come on down, we'll have a party. Well, anyway, and then to show you how the services work the ship arrived at Sansapaul (ph), Japan, and it was quiet and everything, and all of a sudden you heard a great rumbling, hatches opening, and some of us went up on deck and took a look and they were swinging about two limousines over the side onto the dock, and here comes the captain and officers all in their dress blues, grays, greens and whatever and went ashore for a meeting. Korea, of course, tried to stage a riot and it was to have a summit or something I guess. Is this still taping?

Larry Ordner:

Yes?

Don F. Adams:

Okay. Well, we figured, well, wouldn't you know, our dream did come to an end in Kaesong Harbor though. I think that was January of 1951, January, '51.

Larry Ordner:

What was it like just knowing you were, you had arrived and it was a new culture and this was going to be another shock for adjustments or what was that like? What were your thoughts like when you got there? You were in a boat before with a lot of other people going through the same situation?

Don F. Adams:

Yeah. I guess we were kind of resigning ourselves to the fact that we were going into a country where fighting was taking place.

Larry Ordner:

Did you have a sense of really what the scope of the mission was there? Did you know that you were really I guess fighting under a U.N. --

Don F. Adams:

Yes.

Larry Ordner:

-- pact?

Don F. Adams:

Yes, we realized that although we hadn't seen any other troops from anywhere. Ours was just tied up in harbor, unload, go ashore, get on trucks, go through Kaesong and go north where a campsite had been selected. We had very little time to talk with anybody else until we had been in camp for I would say a week or two. Then we were given some leave so that we could go down through Kaesong and you could mix and mingle if you wanted to. We were waiting in camp I think about three or four miles north of Kaesong for our equipment to come over. We used 155 millimeter self propelled guns and it took awhile. Here's what it looked like right there.

Larry Ordner:

Uh huh.

Don F. Adams:

I have a lot of pictures of them there. So that took I guess the better part of a month. I got it. It's all detailed in a little book here. That was written by our commander. That was years after. Our camp, however and there was, this brought home to us the reality of war I guess, was directly opposite an island in the river that was a prisoner of war camp. It wasn't too close, it wasn't too far either, and we could see densely packed figures moving around in that camp, and so we kind of kept to ourself a distance from it. And then finally when our equipment came.

Larry Ordner:

Who was, who commanded that camp? Was that a U.S. controlled?

Don F. Adams:

Yes.

Larry Ordner:

Okay.

Don F. Adams:

It was.

Larry Ordner:

Well, was it --

Don F. Adams:

I guess it was sort of what you call Republic of Korea controlled camp. North Koreans at that time controlled the camp. Of course this was all after the debacle at Chosen had already happened and Inchon (Ph) had just been taken by General MacArthur and the attack on Seoul had just taken place, and the North Koreans were being driven out of Seoul at that time. So when our equipment came I think we finally got into action about April and to get into Korea proper we got on boats and sailed around the tip of the country. Here's Kaesong. We sailed around the tip of the country and went on up to Inchon, which doesn't show on there I guess. Right about there. We went ashore and Seoul had been retaken, so we moved into the city of Seoul with our guns and our equipment and I remember we camped there for a couple of weeks before we moved out north, on north to go up toward the 38th parallel and the Inchon River. But we were firing, firing, we were firing missions in April right on through. Got our guns and got them assembled. And then from there for almost the next year we were basically moving straight north of Seoul and to the west and to the east and pretty much around the 38th parallel. And I remember in April North Koreans and Chinese attacked us. We had to pull back. It was kind of an amazing feat because the engineers had built pontoon bridges across the river and we were taking like a battery of guns south. They would set up and fire while we were moving our other batteries down and getting them registered. And how close we came to being wiped out I guess the Lord's hand was in it because the Chinese attacked in April or May and came in from the side and they did wipe out a British outfit that was fairly close to us. We were in a big valley and we had to move and move fast. I just, I know the Lord's hand was with us at that. But then there were times during that when we would just sit in camp for weeks and do nothing except fire and fire and fire and fire. Later on I think before about the end of Panmunjom we were actually sending our guns behind enemy lines and firing into the back side of the ridges because we couldn't really touch them on the front side of the ridges, they were too well dug in and all, but on the back side our guns accompanied by infantry were just moving wherever we wanted to go and we were firing into the back side of them. I guess that did some good.

Larry Ordner:

How did you get or did you get word of how the conflict was going? Did you have a sense that you guys were really getting it done?

Don F. Adams:

Right.

Larry Ordner:

How did you get? How did you?

Don F. Adams:

We lived on rumors, and we lived on a little newspaper that was put out believe it or not and also we had briefings from our officers and from our commanding officer. The rumors were thick and fast sometimes. After General MacArthur was relieved you might say of duty General VanFleet took charge. We had a favorite saying about General VanFleet. He was a fine gentleman, but at that particular time we started yelling we were going to retreat with VanFleet and we sure did retreat at times a few miles, turn around and go back up. I'm trying to think of the commander that took General VanFleet's place. Westmorland. General Westmorland. Yes.

Larry Ordner:

Is that William Westmorland?

Don F. Adams:

That's William Westmorland.

Larry Ordner:

The same one that we knew from Viet Nam?

Don F. Adams:

Yes, that was him. And we heard that he carried grenades on the straps of his harness everywhere and I had a chance to see that once because we had heard that General Westmorland was in the area and everybody had to polish whatever we had and we had to wear our steel helmets, I shouldn't be saying this, but we almost never wore our steel helmets but we did that day, and it was in kind of a cavalcade of all of the three quarter ton trucks and all we were going, and somehow we stopped something and somebody pointed out General Westmorland and sure enough he was wearing those hand grenades on his belt. We felt pretty comfortable with him in charge. Of course, he was, but from what I understand our unit did its job. We fired over 100,000 rounds of 155 millimeter.

Larry Ordner:

Can you kind of describe for me what, just what were the conditions like for you though? I mean how, what was, did you think you guys were going get it numerous times or how close were you to the actual combat being artillery?

Don F. Adams:

Well, we, we got some mortar rounds in our unit that blew up our mess tent. I was out on guard duty I know and that scared us because what happened there were all these refugees going down the railroad north and south, and we had to stay pretty close to the road to get our guns without getting them stuck in the rice paddies and fields so we were pretty close to people most of the time and they were refugees moving generally south. And among those refugees were North Koreans wearing peasant costumes and stuff. We heard that, for example, some of them would wind a little string around a button or something on their shirt and that's how you could tell who you were talking, but they carried information, they had eyes, and they were smart. They would take a look at us and report back and it might be here comes a mobile mortar platoon or something in the hills, and then they would fire rounds at us occasionally. That happened several times. The 13th field artillery was in a big valley to the north of us one time and our headquarters battery, which I was in was up on the side of the hill and we were thoroughly scared because the persons in the field were only a mile or so down the road and the North Koreans infiltrated and stabbed a lot of the men in their tents. We went out and we doubled the amount of barbed wire around our camp and that was one of the first things we did if we were going to stay awhile we put barbed wire around. But other than that I don't guess we came too close to direct combat, hand to hand, nothing like that. Our guns fired, we did get credit for kills though if our guns were registered on a convoy of vehicles or something like that. My job pretty much was radio operator and I had contact with the little L19 spotter planes which looked like a Piper Cub I guess only bigger long wings you know, and the pilot would fly out over the lines and spot something and radio back to me on my shift and I would relay to the fire control right here and they would plot the location coordinates on the map and then they would call the gun battery and say fire one round or two rounds or something and then the, it worked, the plane, the pilot out there would see that round land, fire back corrections and so on until you're satisfied that we could hit the target and then we would fire for effect and they would turn loose. I've got pictures here that show that.

Larry Ordner:

What kind of friendships did you develop during this time?

Don F. Adams:

Pretty good ones. Pretty good ones.

Larry Ordner:

Was there anybody in particular you want to share some recollections of or maybe some funny times that occurred during that period? There had to be a few I'm sure?

Don F. Adams:

Yeah, there had to be a few. Well, I made some friends like back in, back in, it's a funny thing, I can't remember anybody's name with clarity although I've got a list of the entire outfit here. I could tell you a terrible thing and I haven't told this to anyone really. I almost shot a man in our outfit once. He was a replacement. He was a young black fellow from Washington, D.C., Washington area and he caused quite a sensation in the outfit because he too was a radio operator and our call sign was princess, and princess one four this is princess one two, ooooover. Well, that kind of thing over the airways got the attention of the air force, army and different units and all and they poked fun at us. He happened to be in my tent and I was in charge of him, and we got along pretty well by not talking to each other, because he was a gay fellow and had some friends in the other battery. And one morning, it was winter, I asked him, and it was a cold morning, here, take a look here, I asked him to go out and pull the tarp off the 50 caliber machine gun on our three quarter ton truck. Right there, that one. And he kind of raised up a little bit from his bunk and said I'll be damned if I do. Oh, I saw red instantly. I just grabbed my carbine and I levered a shell in the chamber and I pointed it at him and I said you blank blank blank, I said you get your blank blank blank out there or you're dead. Oh, I was mad. I mean I just blew up. Whew. He paused. He looked at me, and he said oh, all right, and he trekked out the door. Whew, I prayed to the Lord for not letting me pull that trigger. Just a very few days later my wallet disappeared from under my pillow. I had my suspicions but I never could prove anything, but that was that was the closest combat I had I guess. No, I had some good friends though. We palled around and went to Japan together on R and R.

Larry Ordner:

That's what I was wondering.

Don F. Adams:

Yeah, we did. Our first break came at a big German hotel in Seoul. We had three days there and that was neat, and it was funny too because here we go riding in the jeeps with our M1 rifles or carbines. Actually the weapon for the artilleryman was a .30 caliber carbine almost but here we go into Seoul and we go up these marble steps into the hotel, beautiful place, and it was so funny because we had to check our carbines in the checkroom where we used to check your hats and coats. Took my carbine, put my name on it. And then of course we had steak and ice cream and mashed potatoes and showers and clean uniforms. It was heaven. Big garden walls around the hotel. Kept pacing there there too and soft voices from outside the wall. Some of the guys kind of climbed over and that kind of thing. And it was a very pleasant three days because we had time to get things loaded up. The next R and R came and we had the opportunity to go to Japan and I want to say that Mount Fujiyama is certainly beautiful, looking out the window of a C3 is it, or whatever the two engine planes were that we had, we landed at the airport and taxis were waiting to take us into the approved military type hotel which we had to go to. And the taxi we rode into Tokyo, it landed near Tokyo, and we rode into Tokyo, was commandeered by a policeman who jumped on the running board and started screaming at the driver. We picked up speed and we were racing down the street. I thought we were going to kill everything and everybody in sight, but somewhere ahead was a colonel and he had to be caught. I don't think we caught him, but we sure got a clear shaking in the back seat of that car when we got in. So we went to a hotel and made ourselves comfortable and then for a week we just visited Tokyo, got on the train and rode here and there, visited the markets and bought souvenirs and got them mailed home. We had dates. I'll show you. We met some telephone operators, very nice girls. There's my book with letters in. God bless his heart. I'll send him some money. He's asking for money right now. And again something you remember. Oh, yes, there she is. That was our code instructor. Boy I wish I weighed what I did then.

Larry Ordner:

And this, this class was integrated by that time, right?

Don F. Adams:

Yeah, I guess it was. Yeah, it was. This was July, August of 1952. This was just before I got out of the army. Yes. What am I looking for here? Oh, yeah, right here. Here we go. There's our girl friends.

Larry Ordner:

I see.

Don F. Adams:

I met my boyhood growing up chum I had gone to college with him for two years at Paul Smith in the Adirondacks and he came up from where he was stationed somewhere down in Japan and we palled around for two or three days and that made it kind of pleasant. One thing, and this is sort of my letter written home and my mother saved them all. Typical Korean scene right there.

Larry Ordner:

Written on Red Cross stationery too?

Don F. Adams:

And okay, on Red Cross stationery. Any kind of stationery.

Larry Ordner:

Those are wonderful photographs you have.

Don F. Adams:

Oh, thank you. Korea I felt was a beautiful country if it hadn't been for the war and all. Let me get this straight. I used to drive a three quarter ton truck up little rivers, not deep, just near the camp.

Larry Ordner:

Okay.

Don F. Adams:

And deserted things nobody around. That's a fake thing there you had. I wrote stories home and they were published in the three local newspapers, mainly about amazing and interesting things that happened.

Larry Ordner:

Roughly how many of these were published? Do you have any idea?

Don F. Adams:

You mean --

Larry Ordner:

Your letters home that were published in this newspaper?

Don F. Adams:

Oh, I think this one and another one probably in the newspaper but my home town paper published a few too.

Larry Ordner:

That's great?

Don F. Adams:

This was our newsletter. This was I forget what it was called. Welcomes the 204th field artillery to Korea. Unfortunately the sticky, stickum stuff has kind of done a job on the newspapers through the years. I should have found something better I guess. Here's our guns. I hated those guns. Even being separated away from headquarters battery when those things went off you had to have cotton in your ears or some protection. It was intense. We had candles, no electricity and when the guns fired it would blow the candles out from the concussion. My wife today only half believes me when she says I tell you things and you don't listen. I say it's my war time injuries, honey, my hearing is. We've gotten a little sample of the culture there. One of these things that we had we went into Seoul and visited Syng-man Rhee's home. Oh that was outstanding. There was a caretaker, and I felt absolutely guilty about tromping around on those beautiful parquet floors with combat boots on. I said, I told the guys when we went in the house I said, you know, maybe just for the sake of propriety we ought to take our boots off. No. No. And we started up the stairs in the home. There was a curtain of beads, like a beaded curtain. We pushed those aside and yanked a few off for souvenirs, and I felt worse for that. Went upstairs in the home and here were these low mats or beds but they were flat to the floor, do you know what I mean, they didn't sleep in regular beds like us, and Mr. Rhee, I think at that time I think he might have been from Japan absent from his post. That was me firing up the PE210 which supplied power to the radios right here. We saw quite a bit of damage done, but that's sitting on the ground kind of.

Larry Ordner:

What's this?

Don F. Adams:

That one wheel fell off.

Larry Ordner:

Oh.

Don F. Adams:

We got into kind of a firefight with the U.S. navy one day. We are in a valley and along comes a united nations or I think it was our convoy of supplies and troops, an F80 got the coordinates mixed up and started strafing them and we had some twin .50 calibers and quad 40's, four guns in a group, and we cut loose at those jets as hard as we could. Even, even the jets drove our little spotter plane almost into the rice paddy. He was hedge hopping over the rice paddies trying to get home. I'll tell you the airways were alive with everything you can think of trying to get them quieted down. Script. There's a black market there, and we used to buy what we called one two or three something wine and we paid for it with our script, which was okay for awhile, but then we would get the word that the script was going to completely change over night, don't tell anybody, turn your old in for the new. And of course, the black marketers it was quite hard on them. They used to save all the whiskey bottles and liquor bottles and manufacture their own brand of. . And then the trains being robbed. Children we always had a feeling for.

Larry Ordner:

Wonderful photograph?

Don F. Adams:

Some boards was placed over a mound and they would jump on the end of it and it would push the other person up in the air and when this person came down this one would go up in the air. We tried it and nearly killed ourselves. It has a name but I don't remember.

Larry Ordner:

Great picture.

Don F. Adams:

Yes.

Larry Ordner:

I'm sure probably you found yourself even looking for those kids, didn't you?

Don F. Adams:

Oh, we did. Yeah. Here's our commander, Colonel Joe Whiteside. He was the greatest. His wife was an Adams. We always tried to see if we had any relatives anywhere. He was a great man. I loved him. Yep. I did write a story about three boys. We had three boys come into the camp. Apparently they were orphans that had parents somewhere. We took care of them, got uniforms fixed up for them.

Larry Ordner:

How old were these kids roughly?

Don F. Adams:

Eight, nine, ten years old maybe. They did chores for us around the camp and we fed them and took care of them. And it broke our hearts when one, when the two boys came back and said that one of the other ones had died somehow.

Larry Ordner:

Uh huh.

Don F. Adams:

That kind of brought the war out.

Larry Ordner:

Do you know how he died?

Don F. Adams:

It was and I think it was a virus or something. I'm not sure. But I remember when we went to Seoul when we were on our way to the hotel for our R and R children would just follow our jeeps and vehicles, shine shoe, shoe shine, shine shoe, chew gum, in broken English, but following us. And I can still remember how empty and desolate the broad avenues and streets of that city were when we were there. Now, I understand it's full of people in Seoul. This is going backwards in time a little bit I guess. (END OF SIDE ONE OF CD ONE, BEGINNING OF CD ONE SIDE TWO).

Don F. Adams:

I had these copied from some pictures that I gave a newspaper reporter several months ago and you're welcome to them.

Larry Ordner:

I'll include those with your --

Don F. Adams:

They're just samples.

Larry Ordner:

I appreciate that.

Don F. Adams:

They're so realistic. The copier that we had a work they printed them.

Larry Ordner:

The reproduction quality is really good, isn't it?

Don F. Adams:

Yes.

Larry Ordner:

Very good. Just amazing. That would be a nice addition to your written material.

Don F. Adams:

Thank you. Yes.

Larry Ordner:

Any other comments you have? How did you finally get to come home? Tell me about that?

Don F. Adams:

By the numbers. You worked up a list.

Larry Ordner:

So your time finally came?

Don F. Adams:

My time finally came in February, early February of 1952. I think it was either late January or February which would have put our time overseas I think about 11 months.

Larry Ordner:

So were you part of an occupational force after, after the the --

Don F. Adams:

No. No. See the shooting had stopped by then and they were meeting at Panmonjum and literally getting nowhere. It seemed like every other day we would take pot shots at each other but on odd days everybody would come out and walk around, you could see them, up there in the hills and in trench positions. We were grumbling and growling because when they came out you wanted to shoot at them, but it was scary, because when China entered the conflict oh man I'm afraid we did cuss General Macarthur out for going into China, but, and I know there's films, I've seen some films about Korea and they really concentrated on the move north of the 38th parallel up to the boarder occupation of Ping yang, Chosen Reservoir, all of that. Boy. Other than that it became see saw, and it's still not of course settled.

Larry Ordner:

So what was it like to come home?

Don F. Adams:

It was nice.

Larry Ordner:

I'll bet you were glad to be home?

Don F. Adams:

Glad to be home. You bet. I have a d story I can tell you. There's a picture of the ferry boat. We went to an airport, okay, we came into San Francisco Bay in under the Golden Gate bridge. My wife never lets me forget that because she's always wanted to go across it to see it too, in the US General Halsey it was called, a little bit smaller troop ship than what we went over on, and the minute the ship stopped there was trouble because it was doing this, doing this very slightly. Our stomachs kind of went to pieces. We were all shined and polished and ready to get off that boat. I still remember seeing the shore and all. And we had a movie actress, I can't think of her name, but she was so cute, wearing a red coat. Here's my discharges, if I can find it. I'm sorry this has been kind of disjointed.

Larry Ordner:

That's all right.

Don F. Adams:

Here's the ferry that took us up from San Francisco to Fort Ord, I believe. That's where we went into the barracks again to stay for two or three days, and then we went to the airport and got on planes to come home to come back to Fort Dix. There's my son. He was a West Point graduate, 1981. I believe in my e-mail I wonder if it would be possible for him to be put in that.

Larry Ordner:

Where is he? Where is he at now?

Don F. Adams:

He's in a town called, he's not in the army now, but he's in a town called Waterviette, New York, by I think Albany, he's a minister. He got out of the army after about a year.

Larry Ordner:

What's his first name?

Don F. Adams:

William. William Peter. Bill Adams. I can't find it. I don't know where it went. Okay.

Larry Ordner:

Next time?

Don F. Adams:

Where I can reach you and stuff.

Larry Ordner:

Well, how would you, looking back 50 years later, how do you assess what the U.S. did in Korea? What's your feelings about it and how do you feel about being part of that experience?

Don F. Adams:

Well, what can I say except we went as part of the United Nations forces and I guess we took the brunt of the action though too and it was more than a conflict. My license plate front bumper out there says Korean conflict on the front bumper but I think we saved a country from total communism. If the North Koreans and Chinese would have taken over the south it would have been nothing like it is today I'm sure. And I do feel sorry for North Korea and the system that they've been under all of these years has killed them, has wiped them out. We send food to them now I guess. But we lost somewhere near 56,000 people in Korea. I think we did the right thing and --

Larry Ordner:

Were you able to use your GI bill?

Don F. Adams:

Yes.

Larry Ordner:

Tell me about that?

Don F. Adams:

When I was discharged I did the paperwork and applied for the GI bill. I was discharged in August and I applied immediately to attend St. Lawrence University in New York, which is up in northern New York near the mountains. The GI bill was approved and took care of room, board, tuition, and gave me a stipend, I think of, I forget what the stipend was, but I got a check every month, and it was so great because the GI bill provided at that time a day and a half of education for every day in the service. Can you believe it. A day and a half.

Larry Ordner:

And you were in?

Don F. Adams:

And I was in a full three years and one month.

Larry Ordner:

That's tremendous?

Don F. Adams:

So I had, I went to college at St. Lawrence University for two years. Went broke. Called a friend and an old car and a minister candidate friend of mine who was going to Merriville College, Merriville, Tennessee talked me into transferring from St. Lawrence to Merrillville under the GI bill went right on. It's funny. It's funny, but I met my wife to be Grace at Merrillville college as a matter of fact at like a community dining hall, big round table, she was sitting right straight across from me, and I thought she was so cute because everything she said came out wrong. Have you heard of spoonerisms? So anyway things went from there. But when we got married my GI bill was adjusted upwards. I got 20 dollars a month more. Oh Christ, 20 whole dollars a month. Can you believe it? I did get 1, I was getting 110, 115, and it went up to 130, 135. I think I remember that. Those were the days.

Larry Ordner:

What brought you to Indiana?

Don F. Adams:

Well, I lived in Merriville, Tennessee after we graduated and I had a school teaching job at the Great Smoky Mountains. Have you ever been there.

Larry Ordner:

Yes.

Don F. Adams:

All right. The lure of the Smokeys captured us, and as a veteran I applied for a seasonal job as a park ranger in the Great Smokeys, got a job and became seasonal ranger at State's Cove, and kind of left and spent five seasons in the Smokeys and then got so interested in the national park service that I quit my teaching job and passed the federal entrance exam and got on as park ranger, but I wasn't sure how the system worked except that they sent you, kind of once you were in the park service, where they needed you and I wound up at Donaldson National Military park at Dover, Tennessee. It's about twenty miles from the Tennessee river down in Tennessee. I spent the next six years there gung ho silver award. Oh my goodness. Even got a Tennessee accent that sounded terrible when I heard it played back on the tape. We had a ball. We started, we started the living history program there where we dressed up in Confederate uniforms and had firing demonstrations and camp life demonstrations, and I thought that was the greatest. We had a chance to move with a promotion from like GS5 as it was called to a GS7 at Stones River at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and that was more of a metropolitan park right on the edge of the city. You know where it is?

Larry Ordner:

Uh huh.

Don F. Adams:

And did about the same thing there. Ran the library. Ran the living history program too. Then I was in a training course at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and got a telephone call, this was after two years at Murfreesboro. We need a historian in the Virgin Islands. Would you be interested? Come on, what bar are you calling me from? What? I'm serious. Somebody had known me and been in class with me and was the chief ranger at Virgin Island National Park, Saint John. I called my wife she and my daughter sat on the couch and cried and said, okay. So we headed for the VI in 1972, October. Came home from there, back here, 1978. That was quite an experience.

Larry Ordner:

I'll bet so?

Don F. Adams:

My job was the historian of the park.

Larry Ordner:

Really.

Don F. Adams:

And I had quite a bit but for some strange reason, amazing lure, but temperature, you know, just warm year round. It was a totally different cultural experience too. So our son graduated from West Point. He was on his way, different oath and training and all. And our daughter had attended Merriville college where we graduated from. She got herself a job with the university of, yeah, university of Tennessee and she applied, she got her masters degree in library science and got to be assistant librarian where she is now over at Tennessee, Weslean College and she's there now. And our son as I said is an associate minister, associate pastor of a church up in Waterviet, near there. By the way he is very much active and involved in religious recruits I don't know if you've heard of it but it's an attempt to well get cooperation with the Christian church and the Jewish congregation and get them together. And right now or at least he was, he's supposed to lead a tour to Israel in November. My wife has signed me up for that so --

Larry Ordner:

Wow. That's pretty --

Don F. Adams:

Anyway we came here to Lincoln Boyhood national memorial. You passed by that.

Larry Ordner:

Many times.

Don F. Adams:

In 1978 and retired in 1997. So I haven't, I been supported by the government all my natural life. Gee whiz. Okay. One of the services we had almost all of the while we were there was the service of washer women. They would come and take our fatigues, clothes, anything we wanted washed, and go down to the river, usually or any water supply, and I know this sounds weird, but they would beat the clothes with rocks or sticks or flat boards and then rinse them and bring them back and they would hang them over our tent ropes until they dried. We paid them a little bit and appreciated the services.

(END OF INTERVIEW)

 
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  October 26, 2011
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