Monday, March 21, 2011

The Korean War: one soldier's experience

When cousin Shannon and I set foot in Seoul during a layover on our trip to Thailand, we were not the first members of our shared lineage on our moms' side had been in Korea.  My grandfather, Harold Bateson Waddington, served in the army from June 1951 - June 1954, and was stationed in Korea for about 15 months towards the end of his service.

Harold Bateson Waddington
I never asked Grandad about his time in Korea or in the service - it's thanks to my mom that I have any info or pix at all! I'm glad that writing this post today is giving me a chance not only to learn about a time of Korean/American shared history, but also to connect a bit more with the memory of my grandfather.

Grandad in Korea

You may remember from one of my earlier posts that Korea was occupied by Japan for much of the first half of the 20th century, and that the Korean peninsula was divided into north and south in the aftermath of WWII and the surrender of Japan, with U.S. troops administering the southern region and Soviet troops in the north.  There were attempts to create free elections, however the division along the 38th parallel deepened, and open warfare erupted when northern forces invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950, which is considered by many to be the first armed conflict of the Cold War.

U.S. forces came to the aid of South Korea, and China supported North Korea.  Although swift infantry attacks and air bombing raids were strategies employed in the beginning of the war, the end was marked by pre-WWI methods such as trench warfare.  A ceasefire was signed on July 27, 1953, and the DMZ was established, however the two nations technically remain at warfare. In a previous blog post,  I briefly discussed a recent North Korean attack on a small South Korean island that has heightened tension and inspired emergency preparedness drills. 

My mom has been really helpful in finding some old pictures of Grandad and sharing some of the details of his military service with me. He spent a little more than half of his 3 year stint with the army stateside, mostly in the San Francisco area, particularly at the Presidio and Camp Irwin, Fort Baker and Fort Cronkhite.

It's so weird to see Grandad holding a gun!!!!

Grandad spent 15 months in Korea in 1953 and 1954, corresponding with some of the final months of the conflict and the eventual armistace.  He served in the Battery C 9th AAA Gun Battalion, receiving the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal,  and the National Defense Service Medal.

Grandad is on the left in this photograph

Grandad is on the right - he looks so young in this picture!!!

When I was a kid, Grandad would flip his hat to the side and ask if he looked like the cool kids....I thought it was in reference to kids he saw walking around his neighborhood with their hats like that, but with his off-kilter hat in this pic, maybe he originated the style:)

About a year after Grandad returned from the war he married my grandmother, Lorraine Shockley, and shortly after they had my mom and Aunt Sue.  Mom remembers that at some point early in my grandparents' marriage, Grandad had a nightmare referencing his time in the service and he woke up thrashing and bolted out of bed. That was enough to freak grandmom out, and from that point on, every evening when she went to bed after grandad she would wake him from his slumber to let him know she was coming to bed so she wouldn't startle him and trigger any old war memories. Poor grandad....he was woken up after just falling asleep almost every night because grandmom was so nervous!!!

Here's an old photo of Grandad with mom (left) and Aunt Sue (right) on the sidewalk in front of the house Grandmom and Grandad lived in for almost 50 years in Orange, CA.

Whenever I visited Grandad when I was a kid, I would inevitably end up in his den at some point, looking through books about U.S. history. Grandad was really proud of his service and had army memorobilia displayed proudly in his study. I'm glad I've been able to honor his memory by writing this entry!


  1. GrandDad was the most patriotic person I've known. He always wore a US flag pin on his lapel. We grew up knowing he was proud to have served in the military and we were glad to have an honor guard perform their detail at his graveside.

    I still can't make a bed to his 'army specifications' :-)

  2. Speaking of dressing cool... How about that snazzy tie knot? Also, you're right, Grandad does look young, YOUNGER THAN YOUR DAT??!!!!