LETTERS THEMSELVES needs book sources

By Anthony Long,2014-05-29 13:18
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LETTERS THEMSELVES needs book sources









     SEPTEMBER 2005


     Figure 1 Harold Mulhausen - Somewhere in Korea, Summer, 1951

    “My wife wrote almost every day…she wrote about the family, what she was doing, about our life when I return, what was happening around the city, and 1our love for each other…”

     1 Harold Mulhausen, questionnaire answers





    1.1 RECIPIENTS page 6

    1.2 TIME LAPSE page 7

    1.3 MATERIALS page 7

    1.4 FREQUENCY page 8 CHAPTER 2 COMBAT page 10

     2.1 MORTALITY page 13

     2.2 KILLING page 15

     2.3 HUMOUR page 16 CHAPTER 3 KOREAN PEOPLE page 18

     3.1 COMPASSION page 19

     3.2 RACIST OR ALOOF page 21

     3.3 ROKs page 24 CHAPTER 4 WEATHER page 26

     4.1 FROSTBITE & COLD PROBLEMS page 27

     4.2 UPBEAT LETTERS page 28

     4.3 REALISTIC LETTERS page 30 CHAPTER 5 „HOME‟ page 33

     5.1 IMPACT AT HOME page 33

     5.2 LETTERS FROM HOME page 34

     5.3 MAIL CALL page 37


     5.5 WHAT IS „HOME‟? page 42


     6.1 „POLICE ACTION‟ page 44

     6.2 PAY page 46

    CONCLUSION page 47

    BIBLIOGRAPHY page 49



     “I know they have called this just a Korean Police Action, but I am over here and I say this is in no way just a Military Police Action, this is war and before it

    2is over it may dam well prove to be one hell of a war.”

     “…a letter arrived at my parents home addressed to me…Someone told me it was

    from my Uncle Sam. Now I don't have an Uncle Sam. I do have uncles Pat, Mickey, Larry, George, Glen, and two Howard‟s, but no Uncle Sam…After my first joy had subsided I finished the letter „You have been drafted.‟ With that the smile left my


     Thousands of drafted Americans were introduced to the Korean War by an innocuous letter from Uncle Sam. It was a letter that initiated their involvement in the Twentieth Century‟s third most costly war in terms of casualties, after World Wars

    One and Two. From 25 June 1950, when well-trained and equipped North Korean

    thtroops attacked South Korea across the 38 Parallel, until 27 July 1953, when the

    armistice was signed at Panmunjom, the Korean peninsula raged. Under United

    4Nations auspices, the United States was to lose some 36,576 men in those three years,

    a figure narrowly outstripped by the nation‟s losses in Vietnam over a period of more than a decade. The US troops were engaged against North Korean and Chinese forces in a “justified and necessary” war; defending a country that clearly wanted to be


     James Webb has declared that during those three years, the Korean War consumed America‟s emotional and intellectual energies as well as the blood and sacrifice of its

    6citizens. Only the latter part of his observation rings true. The American reliance upon „all or nothing‟ Jacksonianism, and the „insistence that what really makes wars

    7memorable is their lasting impact upon national domestic development‟ have

    marginalised the Korean War. Henry Pruitt summarises this “You know, there

     2 Charles Morrow, „Somewhere in Korea‟, to Uncle Arthur, 6 July 1950 3 Denney Kelley, in Korea, Korea, Hank Nicol (ed.), email 11 August 2005 4 Department of Defense statistic.

    Accessed 5 June 2005 5 William J. Fulbright, The Arrogance of Power (Middlesex: Penguin, 1970), p.25 6 James Webb, Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America (New York: Broadway Books,

    2004), p.300 7 Allan Millet, „Introduction to the Korean War‟ in The Journal of Military History Vol 65 No 4 (2001),



    wasn‟t any reaction one way or the other over my return. Nobody was particularly

    8 upset about the Korean War”.

     The letters written by the American men that served in the Korean War are valuable historical documents. They offer insights into personal experiences that have been forgotten, marginalised or ignored by American society. Deeply moving, they are the truly felt history of the Korean War. This study of Korean War letters has been mainly based upon contact made with surviving veterans. Any general conclusions are applicable to this source and must not necessarily be applied to Korean War letters as a whole. The most frequently occurring themes in the letters studied for this dissertation will be analysed combat, the Korean people, weather and „home‟.

    Alongside this will be an analysis of the letter-writing process in Korea and brief mention of themes less frequently addressed pay and “Police Action.” Certainly,

    other subjects were written of; love letters were common, though their value is obviously mainly personal. Spelling and grammar have been left in their irregular glory. Just as the soldiers‟ handwriting and the letter‟s folds and stains add lively authenticity, so too do the idiosyncrasies of the author bring him closer to us.


    “Letters make a big difference to the fellow or gal on the ground. I doubt that

    9you can quantify the value but it is there.”

    10“Most of my spare time was spent writing letters.”

     In an analysis of Korean War letters, of equal importance with the letters‟ contents is an illumination of the letter-writing process itself. It is wrong to ignore this aspect, which upon first reflection appears staid and dry. This includes identification of the letters‟ recipients, the time lapse between sending and receiving, the writing materials employed, and the frequency with which the letters were sent. These elements are rich and varied, woven from a skein of personal circumstance.

     8 Henry Pruitt, in Frank Pruitt (ed.), Delayed Letters from Korea (1st Books, 2002), p.387 9 Stanley Jones, questionnaire answers 10 Franklin Lyon, questionnaire answers



     Upon analysis, a hierarchy of recipients becomes evident, the template of which can be transposed onto almost all correspondence from soldiers who wrote home. For the married serviceman, letters to his wife are always paramount, then letters to his parents, and finally letters to family and friends “I wrote to my wife usually every

    day or two; to parents every week to 10 days…to sisters, other relatives and a few

    11 For the unmarried soldier, parents were in the ascendancy, friends occasionally.”

    usually above a girlfriend if there was one, then family and friends. For many other soldiers, parents or wives were the only recipients “I usually wrote only to my


     The above generalisation identifies a trend rather than a rule. Recipients could be as varied as the personal world the soldier had left behind. An example of this is the letters sent by Franklin Lyon. His address in Korea had been placed in his local newspaper in Missouri. The result was a deluge of mail both to and from Lyon

    “Many people wrote to me…and I tried to answer all. Some people I knew and some

    13I didn‟t.” On occasion, even total strangers could receive letters from Korea.

     This hierarchy of recipients possessed a dual purpose. Not only was the author‟s wish of contacting his recipient fulfilled, but also in many cases a wider audience was reached. The author was often aware of his recipient‟s ability to percolate important information down his chain of contacts. From just one letter, a whole network of correspondents could be informed and the soldier would be saved the task of repeating himself to more people in more letters

“My wife stayed about a half mile from my folks so she could stop and tell them if

    14anything was important.”

    15“My wife was living with my mother so she read my letters to my wife too.”

     11 Philip Tiemann, questionnaire answers 12 Anon., questionnaire answers 13 Lyon, questionnaire answers 14 Lawrence Towne, questionnaire answers 15 Harold Mulhausen, questionnaire answers


    1.2 TIME LAPSE

     Correspondence during the Korean War did not possess the immediacy that is possible with contemporary war correspondence. An email can be sent from Bosnia or Iraq one moment and be read by its recipient the next. Although such immediacy was not available during the Korean War, its participant‟s contact with America was

    efficient and effective “mail thru the Army Postal Service was speedy and no snags

    16 (One should note however that letters from [were] encountered in either direction.”

    Korea enjoy a form of intimacy that emails struggle to reach. Beyond the content of the letters, personalities are intimated in the handwriting, and the cold and phlegmatic monitor or printout has none of the „life‟ and authenticity of the irregular damage, rips, dirt or stains of real letters). Most servicemen could expect their letter to arrive at its destination approximately one week after they posted it “The fastest a letter would

    17travel in either direction was 7 days.” Indeed, the assiduous mother of Robert

    Graham noted a „received on‟ date on every letter she received from her son, the average lag being seven days. Interestingly therefore, the cultural and spatial dislodgement experienced by American servicemen in Korea was not replicated in the time it took for them to contact home.


     The soldier is silent without the materials necessary to write home. Where possible, the U.S. Armed Services employ a precise methodology, and letter writing is no exception. Generally, letters from Korea were written on “standard paper” and placed

    18in “standard envelopes.” It was the soldier himself who produced the deviation

    from the anonymous and regulated. The vast majority of mail, coming and going, was written on air letters, sheets of blue paper with tabs that were glued shut by

    19licking. In many cases, the writer had ready access to all the materials required for writing home. Marvin Myers was especially fortunate, for in his work of typing correspondence for the Division Adjutant, he “always had paper, pencil and most of

     16 William Burns, questionnaire answers 17 Jones, questionnaire answers 18 Robert Graham, interview 14 August 2005 19 Nicol(ed.), Korea, Korea, email 11 August 2005


    20 However, there were other servicemen, the time a typewriter at [his] disposal.”

    usually on the front line, much less able to contact home so easily and frequently. Korea was a war of unpredictable fluctuations, and like the soldiers themselves, writing materials were at their mercy. One soldier could write “only if envelopes

    21were available, which was not always the case.” A shortage of stationery was a

    problem on the front lines but could be solved through resourcefulness “In a letter on

    7 April [1952] I wrote that we had been able to beg 300 sheets of paper and envelopes

    22from the Chaplain for a company of 310 men.” An even more ingenious solution

    was found when this supply was exhausted “Several men used a panel from a C-

    ration box; they wrote their message on one side, put the address on the other side

    23with “free” for postage and sent it off as a type of postcard.” Such ingenuity

    suggests the importance contacting home held in the lives of these men.

    1.4 - FREQUENCY

     A lack of materials was just one of many factors affecting the frequency with which contact was made with home. Other external factors could render the letter writer unable to write as often as he may have liked. The most frequent of these was combat. The daily dangers of war meant contacting home was simply not possible. Harold Mulhausen was in Korea forty-five days before he wrote even his first letter because

    24he was “at the „Chosin‟ and there was no way to get letters out.” Letter frequency

    often directly correlated with the „temperature‟ of the war – “I wrote in spurts when

    25able, depending on mission priorities.” Periods of inactivity had to be rapaciously

    seized upon, for writing could soon be impossible “I wrote more often when in

    26reserve, and less often when on the line and in action.” Nonetheless, even combat

    could not stop the most assiduous and determined of writers all the time. Dug in and awaiting the approaching Chinese, Bob Spiroff wrote “I don‟t know when I‟ll be

    27able to mail this letter. I won‟t hardly have time to write it. I‟ll have to hurry.” A

     20 Marvin “Jimmy” Myers, email 8 July 2005 21 Anon., questionnaire answers 22 Jack Parchen, questionnaire answers 23 Op. cit. 24 Mulhausen, questionnaire answers 25 Bud Farrell, questionnaire answers 26 Parchen, questionnaire answers 27 Bob Spiroff, Outpost-Dug-in around hill, to „My Dearest darling Wife‟ (Cassie Spiroff), 3 January 1951, 9.30am.


    further external factor is revealed in the letters of Dudley J. Hughes. His almost daily ritual of writing to his wife could not be interrupted by combat or lack of material, but only by an officious and zealous superior “I missed writing you yesterday because

    28 the colonel doesn‟t like to catch anyone writing letters!”

     Despite the pressure exerted by these factors, it was the letter writer himself who was the prime determinant of the pace of contact with home. Many made a

    29“conscious decision to write as often as possible.” Officially, keeping a diary was

    frowned upon because of concern that its secrets might fall into enemy hands. However, regular correspondence could act as a substitute for the memorialising diary. Furthermore, the letter home is a proof-of-life statement and the more frequently it arrives, the less worry will accumulate at home. The severing of this link, if only for a week, could trigger frantic letters from concerned loved ones. The mother of Marvin “Jimmy” Myers employed a cunning emotional blackmail to ensure her son

    would write frequently. Before he left for Korea, Myers had to promise “Even if it‟s just a postcard, Jimmy, write me at least once a week to let me know you are all

    30right.” Myers was to write more than 200 pages of letters to his parents during his time in Korea! “I continued writing, almost every day, even when there was nothing

    3132to report, in keeping with the promise to my mother.” A promise is a promise.

    33 Such frequent writing “I wrote to my wife usually every day or two” - was

    certainly not invariable. A more steady and regular pace was also adopted. This was not always a premeditated decision, but rather can be explained by the personal experiences of the letter writer - “My time was boring, [there was] not too much to

    34write.” The attitudes toward writing home were also vital “I was lazy. I was a

    35terrible letter writer.”

     Finally there are those servicemen who never wrote home, or only on extremely rare occasions. Crucially, this concerns the recipient as much as the sender. A letter needs a reader. The soldier who received a lot of mail was usually the soldier who wrote an equal amount. The reverse of this is also true “I wrote home only when I received a

     28 Dudley Hughes, to Robbie Hughes, 14 March 1953, in Dudley Hughes, Wall of Fire A Diary of the

    Third Korean Winter Campaign (Oregon: Hellgate Press, 2003), p.143 29 Tiemann, questionnaire answers 30 Myers, email 8 July 2005 31 Myers, email 12 August 2005 32 Myers, email 8 July 2005 33 Tiemann, questionnaire answers 34 Robert Graham, questionnaire answers 35 Hank Nicol, questionnaire answers


    36 It would be folly indeed to write home if there was nobody willing or able to letter.”

    write back. “I received only 2 letters and 1 package from home and responded only to one letter writer and the package sender (same person) during my year in combat in



     “You asked for color – if most of it happened to be hemoglobin red, it wasn‟t

    38because I wanted it that way.”

     Korea marked a watershed in the writing of war letters in that letters home were free from the censor‟s critical eye that had been present during World War Two. On the

    whole letters were more graphic than those of World War Two as the GI was given carte blanche on his content a decision that could blanche the face of his readers. Nonetheless, the overwhelming majority of letters still simply ignored the dangers of

    39war “My letters sounded like I was on a Boy Scout camping trip, having fun.”

    There is a correlation between the detail and embellishment of descriptions of combat and death, and their intended recipients. Almost always, the recipient was someone who could empathise with these harrowing and stressful accounts. When writing to

    40friends, Bill Burns‟ letters adopted a “more macho” posture, and Bud Farrell would

    41mention “some detail regarding losses to friends but not family.” Only family

    members who could understand what the author was going through were privy to this information usually a father or brother who had experience in the services. Jack Parchen gave “relatively detailed descriptions of where I was, what my command was like (including company and platoon positions)” to his father, himself a soldier in

    42World War One and “somewhat of an armchair adventurer.” John Harper also

    detailed small unit actions and casualty information, including his own, to his father

    a World War Two Lieutenant Colonel.

     36 Anon, questionnaire answers 37 David McDonald, email 13 May 2005 38Lt. John W. Harper, to Father, 24 September 1951. http://www.koreanwar- 39 Hughes, Wall of Fire, p.114 40 Burns, questionnaire answers 41 Farrell, questionnaire answers 42 Parchen, questionnaire answers


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