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USAF, South Korea, 1971-72 – Part 3

At the beginning of last year, I started scanning some of my dad’s photos from South Korea in the early 1970s, when he was serving in the U.S. Air Force. I’ve been meaning for a long time to pick up the project again, and just before Christmas, the spark to do so arrived in the form of a surprise email through the Flickr page where I’m archiving the pictures.

Pat Bachman served with my dad from January to December 1972, and said he found the pictures I’d posted through an online search for the 5th TAC Kojin. The radar site, he explained, was a detachment of 5th Tactical Air Command (The Road Runners), headquartered at Clark AFB in the Philippines. Pat also added a few comments to dad’s pictures on Flickr, so I updated a couple photo captions in a previous post. He said he remembered my dad fondly as a hell of a nice guy, and graciously offered to send along a few of his own pictures for the collection.

This is Pat’s shot of the “short-timers’ board” in the 269 Lounge. Pat offered the following notes: Placement on the board represented placement in line for catching the “Freedom Bird” (represented by the helicopter) and rotating out. The Freedom Birds belonged to the Army and were part of the Jolly Green Giants. The name tags under the helo are the 10 who had recently left site – pic shows 11 because two rotated out on same date. Tags at the very bottom-left were visitors (VIP’s or pilots making first trip to the site). Tags on the donkey cart were the “Mule skinners” – truck drivers who routinely delivered supplies.

“Short-timers’ board.” Dad’s tag is on the downhill train, directly beneath the helicopter’s front wheel. He was fourth in line to leave. Photo courtesy of Pat Bachman.

Sincere thanks to Pat for getting in touch, providing these photos and some background, and for inspiring me to finish scanning dad’s photos in the days and weeks to come.

(Click on any of the photos to visit the full gallery and larger versions of the images.)

This is the mine field above the base, with the radar antenna just visible at the upper right. Photo courtesy of Pat Bachman.

Base camp. Photo courtesy of Pat Bachman.

Butler. Photo courtesy of Pat Bachman.

Front door security post. Photo courtesy of Pat Bachman.

NCO club. Photo courtesy of Pat Bachman.

And finally, Lifer – the site mascot:

Lifer. Photo courtesy of Pat Bachman.

 

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January 3, 2015 Posted by | 1970s, Family history, photos, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

USAF, South Korea, 1971-72 – Part 2

I’ve scanned another couple pages’ worth of my dad’s pictures from Korea. (Click here for some background on this project and the first batch of photos.) Clicking on any of the images will take you to the full photoset and much larger versions of the pictures.

Dad’s standing on the right. The guy on the left is in several of dad’s photos.

Update 1/3/15: Flickr comment from Pat Bachman, who served with dad: “Medic’s hooch at Kojin in 72.”

Also provided by Pat Bachman, via Flickr: “Mr. Ahn – cook and part time bartender at the 269 lounge.”

As noted previously, I’d love any feedback, input or insight into the locations and situations captured in Dad’s pictures, so if you know someone who served in this area around this time – or even if you can translate some of the Korean signs in the photos – feel free to get in touch with me through the comments or by emailing booth(at)fieldsedge.com.

February 16, 2014 Posted by | 1970s, Family history, photos, Travel | , , , , , | 4 Comments

USAF, South Korea, 1971-72 – Part 1

In addition to diving into my own memories of the early-to-mid 1970s, another project I’ve undertaken for this year is collecting my dad’s photos of his year in Korea, when he was serving in the U.S. Air Force, just a little more than four decades back.

This picture has never failed to make me smile.

Judging by Dad’s hair being parted on the wrong side and the reverse lettering on the guy’s uniform at right, it would appear this photo was flipped during developing.

There are several pages’ worth of these black-and-white pictures, unlabeled, collected in one of my mom’s earliest photo albums. I also seem to recall a box of color slides from Korea that used to be in our attic. I’ll have to ask about those and maybe look into getting them digitized. I figure I’ll post them a few pages at a time, publishing smaller images here, and linking to the collected Flickr set of larger versions. (Clicking on any of the photos will also take you to that set and the original 600 dpi scans.)

They’re a regular, everyday mix of scenic photos, posed pictures, and context-free slices of whatever life was going on at the moment.

All of these pictures were taken between July 1971 and August 1972, but not during February 1972, since Dad was home on leave then. Possible locations are near the USAF Osan Air Base and a radar site at Kojin, which seems to have been just south of the DMZ on the east coast, near a body of water named “Hwajinpo.”  (I have a baseball-style cap of Dad’s embroidered with “Kamp Kojin Korea” on the front, “Doc” along one side and “Commander USAF Hospital” on the back. Another cap I have says “USAF HOSP Osan ’71-’72″ on it.)

I welcome any feedback, input or insight into the locations and situations captured in Dad’s pictures, so if you know someone who served in this area around this time, feel free to get in touch with me through the comments or by emailing me at booth(at)fieldsedge.com.

Update 2/16/14: Part two of this project is now online.

January 25, 2014 Posted by | 1970s, Family history, photos, Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Veterans Day 2009

Despite the fact that my Dad served overseas during the Vietnam War, I never really thought of him as a “veteran.”

He’d been stationed on a base in Korea near the DMZ. He never told “war stories.” I don’t remember groups of old Air Force buddies visiting the house when I was growing up. No medals or mementos around, unless you count the tables and lamps he had shipped back home as gifts for mom.

TigerCoat

It also says "Tiger" over one pocket.

I was only two years old when his four-year service in the U.S. Air Force ended in 1972. He came back from South Korea to Lima, Ohio – I honestly don’t remember him being gone, though I do remember being small enough to wear the jacket in this picture – and he and mom and I went about our lives.

Among Dad’s pictures from overseas is a shot of him yelling across a crowded bar that always reminded me of a scene from M*A*S*H, and in the background is a sign reading, “Pardon me, sir, but you’ve obviously mistaken me for someone who gives a shit.” I always liked this picture because a) Dad looks like he’s having fun, and b) the sign said “shit,” and swearing was funny, especially when I was little.

After this recent post, my mom commented that she and Dad were supposed to get married in October of 1968, but they had moved the wedding up to early September after Dad was drafted.

This was news to me, and didn’t seem to make sense, since he’d been in the Air Force, so I visited mom yesterday morning to find out the story.

It goes like this, give or take:

Dad graduated from Upper Sandusky High School in 1965 and took a job at a manufacturing company, painting auto parts: one of the pieces that held the grill of a Pontiac Tempest in place, Mom thinks.

On the job, a piece of heavy equipment fell on his ankle and lopped off that bone that sticks out the side. He had it fixed with a pin, but the injury was enough to earn him a deferment when his number came up in the draft for the first time.

He spent a year at Bowling Green State University, but didn’t have the money to keep attending, so he returned to Upper Sandusky and got another job.

Mom, who went to nursing school right after high school, remembers the U.S.S. Pueblo’s capture in January 1968, and said suddenly it took a lot more than a pinned ankle to get a deferment, and when Dad’s number came up after that, he chose to enlist in the Air Force rather than be drafted into the Army.

He was barely six months past his 21st birthday.

When he was doing basic training at Sheppard AFB in Texas, Dad decided he wanted to be a medic.

This was an odd choice: All through her nursing school education, Mom said Dad never showed any interest in medicine.

In fact, he had apparently always planned on being an accountant. (This image of my Dad as a numbers-cruncher is so out-of-whack to me that I have trouble drawing even a remotely appropriate parallel.) Mom says Dad had even begun correspondence courses in accounting, and they bought an adding machine which she stuffed into his duffel bag so he could keep up with his schoolwork when he went into the service.

So now, here he is calling to let her know he checked the “medic” box, and her mind is immediately filled with images of Dad hauling injured guys from the battlefield under heavy fire, and she kind of freaks out.

After basic, they were transferred to Kincheloe AFB in Michigan’s upper peninsula, where Dad met a guy who told him about this thing called “anesthesia,” and about how being an anesthetist looked like a good career choice, and that’s where Dad decided what he’d do after finishing his Air Force service. (He also got papers todeploy to Turkey while he was at Kincheloe, but those were rescinded due to me arriving on the scene in November 1970.)

Not long after that, Dad wound up serving in South Korea, but I’m a little fuzzy on where, exactly. I always thought he was stationed at a place called Kojin – I have a baseball-style cap embroidered with “Kamp Kojin Korea” on the front, “Doc” along one side and “Commander USAF Hospital” on the back – but I can’t find any references to such a location online. Another cap I have says “USAF HOSP Osan ’71-’72” on it, and along the back edge, “Johnny”, “Rich” and “Pam.”

My Dad, Richard Earl Booth, returned home in 1972 and became an anesthetist and a tremendously awesome father of three, and

DadsTrenchcoat

This coat even made a goof like me feel cool: Thanks, Dad.

despite his pre-Air Force aspirations always referred me to Mom for math advice once I was past Algebra I.

When I was about 16, he gave me the heavy wool Air Force trenchcoat he got when he enlisted, which I absolutely loved.

Dad died of complications from kidney cancer on May 12, 1993, one week after his 46th birthday. I think of him regularly, though until this year, for some reason, never really in the context of Veterans Day.

He always gave the impression that his time in Korea was no big deal; that he never did anything “heroic”; that he only did what he needed to do to take care of his family in the long term.

But what gets to me now, as a father coming all-too-rapidly to the end of my thirties, is thinking about the choices Dad made when was only 21, and then having to leave Mom and me an ocean and a continent away, and comparing that to where I was when I was that age, and wondering how in the world he ever did it.

I miss him. And I’m thinking of him today trying to truly appreciate what that choice meant.

Addendum: I would also like to thank my editors at GeekDad for compiling this Veterans Day list and including my father.

November 11, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Current Affairs, Ohio | , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

   

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