Saturday, February 20, 2010

Letters Home: "Well, I shot him"

This letter was tucked into a letter sent home by my father. It was from his older brother J who was then deployed to Korea.
February 19, 1952
South Korea

Hi “Short Timer”
Well I am sitting close to the stove and trying to keep warm. We are way down in South K. now but its still sort of cold.
I have been out on an Out Post for about 5 days guarding a Coal mine. They were 9 of us all together and we were about 5 mi from the rest of the Company so you can just about picture what we did. All I did was see that there was a guard list made out and there was plenty of wood cut.
I would have the last man in guard wake me up at 6:00 o’clock so I could go hunting. I never got any thing so far except Crows and Hawks. I have seen Fox and Tracks that I think were Wolf.  Also Deer. There are Wild Boars also. I use a M1 and carbine. I suppose I have shot up about 800 rounds in the last weeks just shooting at different things. I am No.2 on the ration list so I should be on my way home in about two weeks.
I finally made Sgt. at last and I sure hope you can do better than that before you get out of the Army. Well I must close for now and get some sleep.

By for now
Be good
P.S. Don’t write me until you get my new address
I have no clue what the terrain looks like in South Korea but from his description of the types of animals it sounds like southwestern Wisconsin. The area where my dad and his brothers grew up is rich farmland interspersed with densely wooded bluffs known for their spectacular fall colors. Growing up just outside of city limits, they were used to hunting and tracking small game and deer in the bluffs surrounding Richland Center.

Uncle J was the oldest in a family of 8 siblings and in fact, J stands for Jr. because his first name is the same as my grandfather's. A few years ago my brother was visiting him and they were looking over his gun collection which spans a couple three generations. My brother, somewhat of an expert on weaponry, was intrigued by a curious-looking handgun that stood out as a foreign make. Completely unaware of the possible circumstances of his possession, and forgetting that uncle J was a Korean War vet, he asked him about it. According to my brother, their brief conversation went something like this:

Where you get it?

Off a soldier

Was he dead?


How’d you know?

[a brief pause ensued]

Well, I shot him.
My brother told me that at that moment he felt about 2 inches tall, as if he'd bumbled upon an old man's secret.

They say that guys with combat experience rarely talk about it and I have found that to be true.  My backyard neighbor, a marine with two Iraq tours still doesn't talk much about his experience.

It's also not unusual for soldiers to bring back souvenirs from war.  I used to date someone whose father had a Nazi flag that he got in Europe during WW II. But back in '50s it was no doubt easier to bring a gun back than it would be today.


  1. I like how your father's brother signs off by telling him to be good. What a loving family you have! These letters are wonderful!

  2. It was a very Waltons like, depression era family like I said back here on Trooper York.

    I just got a bunch of old 35 mm slides converted to digital so I'm think about starting a new series to include some early '60s underwater shots that he took and will otherwise go abandoned.

    Oh, and one other thing. There's something unsung about the eldest child in every family. They make all the mistakes first and the younger one's learn many life lessons from them. I'm a big believer in how sibling position molds one's personality.