Thursday, August 21, 2008

Local soldier tells of his experience landing at Inchon, Korea in 1951

The Argus-Observer issue of Aug. 17, 1953 carried a detailed account penned by Sgt. Jay R. Draper of his impressions upon landing at Inchon, Korea in the fall of 1951. Draper, who had attended Ontario High School, later served in Japan and studied journalism on the side. He wrote these impressions for one of those courses.

As soon as he arrived on shore, he noted, “a loud-voiced captain formed us into ranks and marched us single file to a waiting fleet of canvas-topped trucks, loading us twenty per truck while he counted heads or noses of bodies, whatever he used for a measure.”

Draper described the scene as the truck entered the city:

“Down muddy, rock-filled streets we went, passing box-like houses, surrounded by high board fences and poorly stocked stores displaying a few cans of dusty C-rations, a meager supply of dried fish and pitifully few fresh vegetables.

“Dirty, ragged people lined the road, stared at us in awe or hate or fear and begged for food in high-pitched, sing-song tones. Bombed buildings with gaping holes, armed guards with big guns, an armless beggar in the tattered remnants of a uniform --- all gave mute evidence of war and hunger and death.”

Draper marveled that only a few short months before he’d been walking down the streets of his home town whistling at the pretty girls while Korea was “only a name.”

Although he conceded his service in Korea“was necessary,” he wondered in print two years later, “what politicians had the God-given right to decide that we, out of the masses available, should come to this distant land and kill and bleed and die?”

Luckier that many of the Americans who served in Korea --- particularly National Guard troops -- Draper served 16 months in Korea before he became eligible to come home. He opted to be transferred to Japan and expected, in the fall of 1953, to be released from the service at the end of the calendar year.

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