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The Best Service Assignment Ever! May 5, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Humor, People.

After three weeks at sea dodging typhoons (and sergeants), dad made it to Korea on November 1, 1946:

“Here I am in Korea.  The country is quite backward ~ noticeable from the first glance.  The chief crop is rice and most rice fields have a rather strong odor.  Human manure is used as fertilizer.”

“The food is quite well infected with disease germs.  Soldiers are not allowed to eat Korean food. The houses are built of mud with rice stalks for the roof.”

“I have not been assigned.  Most of the men have though.  Healy left yesterday.  He is going to be an M.P.  Others went to infantry, engineers, signal corps, harbor patrol, and medical corps.”

A few new arrivals interviewed for “the best service assignment ever” ~ as agents with the Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps:

“Six of us had special interviews with an officer and may get the biggest break that I could even hope for.  It is better than going to O.C.S..  Now we are waiting with our fingers crossed.  We are sleeping in tents on cots. There are twelve men in each tent.  They gave us comforters so we were plenty warm even if we could see our own breath.”

On November 6th, dad shared his good news with his step-mother:

“Dear Margaret ~ I am now in Seoul, the capital of Korea.  The special work I was interviewed for has headquarters here.  Out of the 6 of us, 5 were selected.  What a break!  I am living in a Japanese Hotel.  There are two of us to a room.  We are served at tables by waiters.  The chow is very good.  There is a jeep for every two men.  I had a driving test yesterday and will have an army license soon.”

“About the work ~ I am assigned to the Counter Intelligence Corps.  I can’t tell you much about it except that it is some of the army’s most important and secret work.  I was issued an army 38 cal. police colt today with holster.  I don’t want either you or Dad to worry.  Unless some serious international trouble arises the work is not especially dangerous.”

As agents, they received officer uniforms to wear, without insignia, and were instructed to ignore the rank of superior officers.  Everyone was treated as an equal. No saluting required.

“This work is the most desirable in the whole army.  We live in better quarters than a lot of officers and get the best food.  We are allowed to wear officers clothes and are not supposed to salute officers ~ even generals.  I am very lucky to get into this outfit.”

“The usual requirements are 20 years of age, a college degree, and F.B.I. or similar training.  They are short handed now and I was lucky.  Out of the last 2000 men to reach Korea, we were the only 5 who met the current qualifications.”

Dad ~ Top Right

Dad had another nice surprise which he shared with his sister Marjorie on November 23rd:

“Last night, I was in the theatre and right under my name [in the book signed by fellows from Vermont] was Stanley!  I went and found him and drove him around Seoul a little in my jeep.”

“I think I will go hunting over here.  There are deer, partridge, and pheasant right near here.  We have M1’s, carbines, and shot guns to hunt with.  On one hunting trip they shot a couple of wild boar.  I finally received my first letter from home since October 1st.”

Aah . . . that’s better!

Continued next Monday . . . Say CHEESE!



1. Jill Weatherholt - May 5, 2014

These letters are such great treasures, Nancy. Thanks for sharing them with us! Happy Monday!

nrhatch - May 5, 2014

Thanks, Jill. I’ve enjoyed reading and sharing excerpts from his letters. When he wrote them, he was 18. At that age, I felt brave for heading to Wmsburg (6 hours from home) for college.

2. A Slow Boat To Korea | Spirit Lights The Way - May 5, 2014

[…] Continued next Monday . . . The Best Service Assignment Ever! […]

3. suzicate - May 5, 2014

I know I’ve said it before, but these letters are such a treasure. It is so interesting to read these. I can’t begin to imagine the courage it took for these men to endure these times.

nrhatch - May 5, 2014

Thanks, Suzi. I agree. He accepted things with such equanimity. I’m sure I wouldn’t have done as well as that age.

4. katecrimmins - May 5, 2014

What a great experience he had and he is so upbeat about it. You did have me at human fertilizer though. Not very appetizing…..I much prefer chicken poop myself.

nrhatch - May 5, 2014

I would be reluctant to eat food fertilized by our two-legged brethen. Decidedly unappetizing.

Dad viewed his time in the Army as an exciting adventure, even if some parts were a bit disgusting. In his words:

“P.S. I really do not dislike the army. Of course there are moments that are a little disgusting.”

5. Grannymar - May 5, 2014

I am fascinated. Your dad’s overseas stint was only beginning when my husband was recovering and re-learning to walk after his experiences in India and Burma during WW11.

He told me his letters home were all well censored and half the info above would not have been allowed. It would be blacked out with indelible pencil. They were not allowed to say where they were or what they were doing. His parents did not know where he was for most of the time he was away.

nrhatch - May 5, 2014

None of the letters I’ve seen from dad have any censor marks. It may be because dad was overseas during the lull in action between the end of WWII and the beginning of the Korean War. The biggest issue with dad’s letters (to and from) was the delay between writing and receipt.

I seem to recall that you met your husband after he returned home from India and Burma ~ on a vacation to Portugal?

Grannymar - May 5, 2014

Jack was back in England, encased in plaster when WW11 ended, in fact he often told me he did not remember the end of the war. I was not born until 1947, the year he was discharged from the forces. We met in 1976, while on holidays in Spain.

nrhatch - May 5, 2014

That’s right! I remember your recounting of meeting him in the dining room and thinking it was fate that you went on that spur of the moment trip.

6. Val Boyko - May 5, 2014

Its so interesting to hear and see this through your Dad’s eyes! Its a different world and a different generation but the appreciation of humanity is the same.

nrhatch - May 5, 2014

Most of his letters exude a teen’s enthusiasm for adventure ~ out on his own to see the world. At last!

At that age, we’re in such a hurry to grow up. Now, I’d like to put the brakes on!

7. ericjbaker - May 5, 2014

(South) Korea is one of the most rapidly transformed countries in history. It’s amazing to read your dad’s words about the primitive conditions. Everything there is very techie and digital now. If you go into the countryside, you can still find old Korea, though.

nrhatch - May 5, 2014

Good points, Eric. South Korea has moved forward by leaps and bounds in this digital world. I wonder if dad would recognize any of his old haunts.

8. I am J - May 5, 2014

These posts about your dad are fascinating, Nancy. It’s fun to hear about “history” on a more real level. Human manure? Yikes.

One of my family members was in the CIC, as well, in the late-1950s stateside. He still won’t talk about his military service, though being in the States, his history probably isn’t as interesting as your dad’s.

I hope you have more “dad” stories to share. I’m loving this. Thanks!

nrhatch - May 5, 2014

That’s cool, J! Dad included information on his assignment in Korea in a short autobiography he wrote later in life ~ he talked about people he met, the interpreter he worked with, etc. But he didn’t share too many war stories with us.

That’s why I’m enjoying these “unfiltered” letters which convey his youthful exuberance at going overseas.

I am J - May 5, 2014

It’s so fun to see our parents in their youth, albeit in letters or journals, isn’t it? I’m just reading, for the first time, my mom and dad’s letter to each other well before I was born when my sisters and brother were kids. Their letters are rich in the history of the times and their daily life. I’m cherishing every letter and am so thankful that my mom saved them.

And, I’m truly enjoying getting to know your dad through your posts here.

nrhatch - May 5, 2014

Awesome! Glad you’re enjoying the peek back in time.

My mom saved a number of letters to and from dad in their scrapbooks. Some are quite eye opening as mom dealt with 4 kids under the age of 5 while dad traveled for Bell Labs.

9. jannatwrites - May 5, 2014

I’d say that was a pretty cool assignment! Hotel, officers’ uniform, edible food, and a jeep – can’t get much better than that 🙂

nrhatch - May 5, 2014

When we first moved to FL, I kept pinching myself to make sure we were really here. I expect dad felt much the same.

In addition to the perks, he enjoyed the interesting nature of the work and his fellow agents. A lucky break indeed.

10. Three Well Beings - May 6, 2014

Your dad wrote very informative letters home! I think he maintained such a positive attitude and the letters show that he was continually making the best of it and learning all along the way. I found it very interesting that the men weren’t allowed to eat the Korean food. I have a feeling that some of the conditions weren’t quite as cheerful as he maintained in his upbeat letters. I think he must have been a very special man!

nrhatch - May 6, 2014

Thanks, Deb. Dad did practice the “grin and bear it” approach to life. He was NOT a whiner or a complainer. He followed the adage, “Do what you can with what you have where you are.”

When life hands you “Boston Cream Pie” . . . enjoy it!

11. Pix Under the Oaks - May 6, 2014

These letters are great little gems. CH isn’t up yet but he will love me reading this one to him! Yay for CIC!!!

nrhatch - May 6, 2014

Cool! I’m glad that you and CH are enjoying the series. I have a few more letters to share before dad retraces his steps and heads back home to Vermont.

12. Booksphotographsandartwork - May 6, 2014

Wow he really got lucky to acquire such a great position.

nrhatch - May 6, 2014

He felt extremely fortunate that they were short-staffed and willing to take him with only one year of college under his belt.

13. Behind the Story - May 6, 2014

Your dad and the other four men were so lucky, not only to have comfortable and safe living conditions, but also to have such fascinating work.

When my husband started working at the Asian Development Bank in 1971, he worked on several Korean projects. Before Hyundai started making cars, he worked with them. In fact, he suggested to one of the bosses that they get into the automobile business. He really enjoyed working with companies in a country that was making such fast progress.

nrhatch - May 6, 2014

Dad lucked out ~ being in the right place at the right time. Even so, he was happy to leave Korea when his enlistment was up.

South Korea really took off by leaps and bounds after the war. Glad that your husband had a chance to assist with the progress.

14. Tokeloshe - May 7, 2014

What a beautiful photo and you are so fortunate to have he’s journal. Thank you for sharing,

nrhatch - May 7, 2014

Thanks, Tok. It’s been fun reading these letters written more than 1/2 a century ago.

15. joannevalentinesimson - May 8, 2014

Nancy, your letters from your dad are fascinating! He was there between the wars – after WWII (Japanese occupation) and before the Korean War.
Did I ever give you a link to my book on Korea? It includes an appendix on Korean history. (I tell people it’s worth the price of the book!) “Korea, Are You at Peace?” by J.A.V. Simson

nrhatch - May 8, 2014

Exactly right, Joanne. He left Korea a year before the start of the Korean War. I did check out a link to your book ~ you make history come alive.

joannevalentinesimson - May 9, 2014

Thanks! I do hope you do a collection of your dad’s letters and make them available in some sort of e-book form.

16. bluebee - May 8, 2014

What strikes me about your dad’s letters is his gratitude – he does not complain but highlights the best in every situation.

nrhatch - May 8, 2014

I like how you summed him up, BB. He did tend to look at the bright side of things . . . and also accepted what he could not change.

17. Say CHEESE! | Spirit Lights The Way - May 12, 2014

[…] Continued from . . . The Best Service Assignment Ever! […]

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