Fifteen letters
[ Fifteen Letters ][ Introduction ]
1954: [ June 5 ][ June 15 ][ June 26 ][ July 10 ][ July 27 ][ Aug. 1 ][ Aug. 11 ]
[ Sept. 18 ][ Sept. 30 ][ Oct. 29 ][ Nov. 3 ][ Nov. 11 ][ Dec. 13 ]
1955: [ Jan. 23 ][ Feb. 20 ]
[ Epilogue ]

13 December 1954

Hi Aunt Ruth,

Here I am again on the typewriter. However this time it concerns work. I have been instructed to brush up on my typeing prior to some project or other. As a result I am spending this morning practiceing. Rather I should spend my time dropping the e's out of words when they are not needed. Anyway since it is on company time I'm killing two birds with one reather ill aimed stone.

I have setting before me a Christmas Card that adds a spot of color to the landscape of grey paint-peeling wall. yes, I think you were doing thewriting about as well as it could be done. And to have done it theother way would have made too short lines for difficult reading- like this "typeing".

We are planning to decorate a little bit in the section if we can. May make some sort of modernistic tree out of cardboard to hang up somewhere or other. Perhaps a mural painted on the paper used to keep the window warmer will add to thecheer. And a good assortment of cards scattered around will help.

Dave Anderson has received about 200 pounds of clothing from his church that he plans to disseminate during the holiday through some people he knows here in Seoul. A worthy project altho I have some scepticism concerning the fairness with which he can dispose of it knowing the urgency with which it is needed and the resulting tactics that will be employed to obtain it.

There has been a change of inferior command around here in which the Detachment Commander, subordinate to the Company Commander, has been replaced. The new D.C. has his own ideas about the coduct of us men, andas a result we now have to wear the silly red scarves, the proper uniform withname tags to identify us villians, and well-shined shoes or rather boots since it is now illegal to wear shoes no matter how hollow the reason. No, the time has come when I wold definately like outof the unit and a transfer to another unit either here in Korea or in Japan.

This morning we have finally gotten some snow. Just a few flakes but enough to say we had snow since it is thus far sohard to come by.

I almost got to go on R&R but one guy too many accepted so now I have to wait again. Darn it! I'm not sure whether I'd rather spend Christmas here or in Japan. Either way will only be so-so. We are planning a Party for thenight of the 23d so that we ought to have some fun.

A streetcar stopped at a rail station in SeoulLast Saturday I finally got to ride on a streetcar. Now I know why they look socrowded all the tme. They are. But beside that, the things have only two small wooden seats running parallel to the sides, one on each side running half the length of the car. Result is that almost every person has to stand up so even a moderate load is full of standees and gives the impression of crowdedness. Because civilian vehicles are off-limits to servicemen, a GI on the car is a rarity and I was allowed toride free -- the conductor refused the 100 hwan note I offered him -- the cost is 10 hwan (2) - and soI rode free for about a mile or so from the Han River Bridge to the South Gate into the main part of Seoul. All the riders, many students in their black coats and Conductor-style hats, were amused at the GI riding on the car and smiled big friendly smiles of half amusement and half friendliness.

Snowball fight near YongsanWe are having "fun" here in the section. For a long time our stove wouldn't run properly and so we had a fellow come to repair it. Now it burns at full blast all the time and the only way that we can stop it is to turn off the gas completely. Also since we had mosquitoes to keep warm during the night we had to leave the fire on all night and by the next AM the oil would be all used up. So it's cold anyway, the mosquitoes are cold anyway and we are too. I'm sitting here wearing my field jacket and with a scarf wrapped around my neck covering up the lovely maroon one that is supposed to be so pretty. Hands are sort of numb but by typeing like mad and letting theerrors go they manage to keep at least somewhat limbered up and capable of moving. To make matters worse the stove-pipe in photo next door plugged up last night so their stove too is fouled up and we get no heat from their section to take off thechill. Ah, yes life is truly rough on us poor abused war heroes.

Homes in YongdungpoI'd like to be in a Korean home about now. They have the best system of heating that I've ever heard of for an inexpensive home. Under the wooden, concrete, or dirt floor is a system of air ducts. A fire is started in a hollowed out pit and thesmoke is led through these ducts and finally out a chimney at the other end of the house. As a result all the heat is carried through these ducts before discharge and not as in our systems partly carried directly through a chimney and wasted. To attest to the heat thrown out, at the37th PMC, billeted in Korean buildings, the soles and heels of boots left on the floor at night have been chared ruining the boots. Also a wooden footlocker was burned through and some clothes inside were burned solely from the heat absorbed by the concrete floor. The fellows cannot walk barefoot on the floors after the fires have been going for a while without being burned. Small wonder that the walls of the houses need only be of one layer on inch board and the doors sliding wooden jobs with a beeswax sort of covering over the laticework to keep out direct drafts.

I am sowly finding out why the practice typeing. It seems that I have to type up the rough draft of the book that is to be published from the mosquito data concluded from the surveys that we have been summarizing for the last three months. Perhaps it will be a useful job yet.

Han River BridgeThe day that I rode on the streetcar, I walked from here to the Bridge, about 2-3 miles. I tried to remember all that I saw and succeeded in forgetting most of it. What I can remember. Soon after leaving the gate in the village just adjacent to thecompound were big stacks of rice straw about ten feet high which will probably remain through the winter save for that used as thatch, fuel andwhatever other purposes may arise. Across the street on the hill was thenewly completed Church nearly as big as the one in Conway, made of a stucco material colored a pastel pink. Walking along I nearly stepped in the spring that emerges from the road. These springs are everywhere, even under the concrete ofthe main road to Seoul as water bubbles out from between the concrete blocks and runs down the gutter to a drain into a paddy. Planted alng theside of the road were trees with a bark resembling our buttonball, all topped at about 15 feet and hence rather bushy and short. These trees are laden with a fruit about the size of a small black walnut, as hard, and hanging on a stem about 6 inches long. These fruit are hung heavily on the trees and are targets of boys with slingshots. Just beyond thelittle village is a cut through a hill. The banks are about 25 feet high and steep.

The Han RiverAll this land near the Han River is of a semi-rock consistency that is rather difficult to dig with a shovel but that will erode with water. Apparently the cementing material is water-soluble. To prevent washing into the road, the cut is terraced. A series os stepss about 8 inches high and 3-4 inches wide are cut from top to bottom and the flat surfaces are covered with a layer of mangy turf that somehow manages to take root and grow. This catches the water as it comes down and holds the land in place. A system that seems better thatn theone employed by US road construction firms that try to seed the whole slope. Perhaps the seasonal rainfall here makes such a method easier than the erratic rainfall of New England.

Walking on down the road in sght of themain road to Inch'on, I saw one of the donated greyhound busses, painted in the brilliant colors of Korean buses, stop to pick up passengers. Alwaysoverloaded it is a miracl that they still keep running. Beyond the grey-brown of trees and dirt houses arose a white puff of racing smoke as a train flashed by on the run to Pusan. Other local busses passed in the distance. Trucks would roll by, those mongrel vehicles of wire and cast off army trucks. Almost all tires in Korea are warn out military tires, even on automobiles whose hubcaps are all stolen. All sorts of hoods, of front ends, of transmissions and rear axles. In fact thelocal busses are in every case rebuilt army trucks with new bodies made of scrap sheet metal and windows of old window glass and windshields. And yet they run despite their makeshiftness.

Still on the same side road to the 121, I noticed the ROK replacements airing out their bedding. That is tosay that their rice-straw mats were hanging over the wire fence for airing.

Yongdungpo Some of thesoldiers were playing soccarball while others just stood around in groups and talked to while away thetime.

Then the interesting little oddments began to become scarce so I walked on just watching the people and seeing nothing strange. Because few GI's get that far on foot there were a lot of kids who would give out their big toothless smiles whenever I would make a face at them or wink or something. Two boys were playing down on a garden plot below the road. They looked up and smiled and started showing off while I watched them and noticed the drained paddies with their intricate terracing and theinverse garden strips which rather than having terraces mounded up around them, have ditches around to drain off the extra water that is present especially during the rainy season.

Bolts of fabric for sale in YongdungpoApproaching thenext little hamlet I passed through a very deep road cut so deep that even a few spots of ledge were showing amidst the sparse brush and the gravelly soil. There in the bank were caves. These caves, some only a few feet deep, others running far into the hill, could tell a terrible story I suspect. They served as bomb-shelters, homes, and machine-gun nests. Now only a few are homes and the rest are abandoned and are beginning to fill with eroded gravel.

In the hamlet proper were the various marks of industry. Their was a grain store where the grains in various forms were placed in ricestraw mats abut 3 feet in diameter and four inches deep (Excuse the Arabic numerals) These were sitting on the ground for sale as food. Other stores sold fish, vegatables and a great assortment of nuts that are now ripe and being sold. At night all these streetside shops are illuminated by little candles which look like little beacons in the night. It is a strange and almost pretty little s ight

Street vendor in SeoulPassing these shops, both those with buildings for protection and those that are merely a table of dusty goods, either salvaged or stolen usually which are sold by the poorest of the "operators" in their desperate attempt to survive. It is pitiful to see these ragged people sitting day and night by their little stands of goods which are of little use or desire save the ones selling either pens or blackmarket cigarettes and gum. Leaving the shops behind I came to theend of the trolley tracks where everyone is disgorged to transfer to a bus or to walk across the bridge to catch another car. This system may seem strange, but during the war 2 of the 5 spans of the Han River Bridge were knocked out by bombing and the wooden and metal engineer spans connecting the remaining three have no trolley tracks. The three remaining spans have numerous scars of the war with gaping holes from .50 caliber shells and shrapnel. For this reason the trolleys end on either side of thebridge and busses carry thepeople across to either ride on into town on the bus or to catch the cheaper trolley.

SeoulI walked across the bridge and then caught the trolley there. After the ride which left me in Seoul proper, I walked up a side street tothefamed 1000 steps at the top of which is a Buddhist temple and from which one can get a magnificent view of Seoul. I was surprised to see how many quite large buildings actually are in Seoul. Many of them are not used now but their shells still stand. Returning to the teaming city below, I wandered in the midst of it visiting the little shops to get some idea of what their was to buy. Not much was my eventual conclusion. I even went into the Metropole, theonly department store in Korea. In it, unlike US ones, the various parts are concessions to small operators making it more of a central shopping place than a department store. Even here the choice of goods and quality is quite limited. Leaving I decided it was time to return for supper, so I caught a 6x6 and rode back to the Compound. So ended an afternoon with the little people of Korea.

SeoulIf you are still with me, despite the horrible "typing", I'II comment on the weather. Thesnow came down quite hard and now we have a nice mantle of white. Took some crazy shots, cavorted around, tossed a few snowballs and enjoyed our first touch of the gentle white stuff.

But now I must wind this up and go on to some packing work. We are preparing to send some more specimens to themuseum of something in D.C.

Also, I got my R&R and leave the 20th for Tokyo. That means Christmas in Japan rather than Korea. Don't know just what I'll do but it'll be fun at any rate. After I get back I'll open my packages, one from you which I have already received as I think I've already told you.

So I leave you for now.

With Best Wishes for a Swell Christmas