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Interview with Robert Krishef [July 14, 2002]

Patricia Kuentz:

Okay, we are on tape.

Patricia Kuentz:

All right. Today's date is -- it's Monday, July the 14th, I believe, of the year 2002. The place of the interview is at Bob Krishef's home in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. The person being interviewed is Bob Krishef. His real name is Robert K. Krishef, that's K-R-I-S-H-E-F, and he was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota; birthdate is February the 11th of 1931. He served in the U.S. Army in the 2nd Infantry Division -- should I say and the 35th --the 35th Infantry Regiment?

Robert Krishef:

No. No. It was the 38th Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Infantry Division.

Patricia Kuentz:

Okay. And then subsequently at Division Headquarters of the 2nd Infantry Division. Okay, and your highest rank that you attained?

Robert Krishef:

Sergeant.

Patricia Kuentz:

Bob was in the service from December 2nd of 1952 to September 3rd of 1954, and he was in during the Korean War. He served at Indian Gap, Pennsylvania which basically was basic training, right?

Robert Krishef:

Indiantown Gap.

Patricia Kuentz:

I said that--I wrote it right and said it wrong.

Robert Krishef:

That was sixteen weeks of basic--infantry basic training.

Patricia Kuentz:

And in Korea; So, let's get started.

Robert Krishef:

All right.

Patricia Kuentz:

Bob, how did you get into the service? Were you drafted, enlisted or what?

Robert Krishef:

I was drafted. I was in college at the University of Minnesota when the Korean War broke out. And at that time, students were deferred until they got their degrees. I got my bachelor of arts degree in journalism in June of 1952, and I worked from June until December as sports editor of the Moorehead Daily News, and then I left because I was drafted.

Patricia Kuentz:

You were drafted, okay. How did you feel about that? What were your thoughts about being drafted?

Robert Krishef:

In those days it was just accepted that it was going to happen, and I didn't give a second thought about it. As corny as it might sound, the country calls and you answer and that's the way we felt -- that's the way I felt about it.

Patricia Kuentz:

And so you were living in Moorehead at the time?

Robert Krishef:

I was living in Moorehead at the time.

Patricia Kuentz:

All right. How did you pick the Army? Or was it the Army that picked you?

Robert Krishef:

The Army picked me. The Army picked me. I knew some people who had enlisted in the reserves, for example, Naval Reserve. I had--I had a friend who was killed in Korea. He was in the marine reserve and they called him up. But if you waited in those days to be called, then you were drafted into the Army.

Patricia Kuentz:

Okay. Tell me about those first days when you were in the service. How did that all go? How did you get to basic? You know, kind of the details of the first few days.

Robert Krishef:

Well, we went to Fort Sheridan, Illinois, I believe, and went through the processing, and then we were sent out to various camps for our basic training. In my case, for whatever reason, I was sent to Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, where I found out later I shouldn't have been because I was a so-called C-profile. There was A, B, C physical profile, and I was a C-Profile and C-Profiles were not supposed to go to Korea. So I shouldn't have gone to Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, because that was by and large training for people to go to Korea.

Patricia Kuentz:

How did they peg people in A, B, and C? Or do you know?

Robert Krishef:

Well, as I say, it was how you fared in the physical. I had bad feet and bad eyes.

Patricia Kuentz:

Okay.

Robert Krishef:

As a matter of fact, I didn't find out until basic training that I couldn't fire a rifle from my right side. I couldn't sight--sight up from my right side. I had a blind spot in my eye.

Patricia Kuentz:

Oh, so corrective lenses didn't do anything for that?

Robert Krishef:

No. No, so I had to fire from my left side which was a little awkward.

Patricia Kuentz:

Yeah.

Robert Krishef:

But it's hard to tell why they took me at all. Sometimes I wonder about that, but they did. It was 16 weeks of training and the 13th week someone said to me, "You're not supposed to be here."

Patricia Kuentz:

It's a little late for that.

Robert Krishef:

And they assured me I wouldn't go overseas. Then they assured me if I went overseas, I wouldn't go to Korea. Then they assured me -- meaning whoever I talked to at the time -- then they assured me that if I went to Korea I would be in a rear echelon unit. It didn't work out that way.

Patricia Kuentz:

(Laughing) That sort of sounds like the Army that I'm familiar with. So --

Robert Krishef:

Yes.

Patricia Kuentz:

So what was it like then being that far away from home?

Robert Krishef:

Well, as far as being away from home -- first of all I was away from home after I graduated from school. But it's just something -- I just decided. I just adjusted. That's all -- it's just something you had to do, so you did it. I had a hard time in basic training until I got a pair of boots that fit me. I had a lot of trouble walking, but it's just something you did.

Patricia Kuentz:

Did you feel that basic training prepared you to do whatever you needed to do next then or --

Robert Krishef:

Well, you never know what's going to come next. It toughens you up. You learn to deal with weapons and so forth. It gets you, I guess, as ready as you can be. Then you go on to the next step.

Patricia Kuentz:

Yeah. Do you remember any of the instructors in particular?

Robert Krishef:

Specifically?

Patricia Kuentz:

Um-hum.

Robert Krishef:

Not really, no.

Patricia Kuentz:

Okay. Did you feel like anybody was particularly overly tough or that they were really doing the training --

Robert Krishef:

Tough on me, you mean?

Patricia Kuentz:

Well, yeah, or the group?

Robert Krishef:

Well, they were tough, you know, you had to get in shape, and they would--we'd have long marches in full field pack leading to more long marches until --I think the longest march was I think 26 miles in full field pack up and down hills and so forth. And you just went through a process of getting ready to, as I said, take the next step. I don't remember anyone in particular being any tougher than you'd expect.

Patricia Kuentz:

Okay.

Robert Krishef:

You had to make an adjustment. When you're going from a sheltered life as a civilian to no privacy whatsoever and demands--physical demands and so on-- of Army life, you either adjust or you don't. And if you don't, you're going to have a lot of trouble.

Patricia Kuentz:

How did you find out you were going to Korea then?

Robert Krishef:

Well, after the 16 weeks were over you just waited for your orders to ship out. And the first--I was not in the first batch of our company that got their orders to go to Korea; almost everyone--if not everyone as far as I know--and I was maybe in the final ten percent who for some reason were still waiting for orders but then they came, so --

Patricia Kuentz:

You were off?

Robert Krishef:

-- I had a leave. I had a leave, you know, to go home. I don't remember how long it was, two weeks leave, and then we went to -- to -- where did we ship out from? Fort Lewis in Washington.

Patricia Kuentz:

And you got there by train?

Robert Krishef:

Yes. Yeah, it was a train.

Patricia Kuentz:

Okay, and then from Fort Lewis you went --

Robert Krishef:

Went by ship, but --

Patricia Kuentz:

Did it stop anywhere?

Robert Krishef:

No, went directly to Sasebo, Japan. From Japan, we took another short boat ride over to Pusan.

Patricia Kuentz:

How was the ship going over?

Robert Krishef:

Well, on a troop ship, first of all, the living conditions are not great. You're in a huge room. That might be the wrong Naval term, but it was below deck with four bunks, canvas bunks, and the first one would have been maybe a foot from the floor and then on up. And so when people started getting sick on the ship, which happened, and which wasn't very pleasant. For the first couple of days I didn't eat much, but I--I didn't get sick, but I felt a little queasy. And then afterwards it was just smooth sailing, I guess.

Patricia Kuentz:

You adjusted?

Robert Krishef:

You did a lot of thinking on the ship. You didn't know what would happen, so, you would wonder.

Patricia Kuentz:

Well, yeah. Well, tell me what you did then in your first job assignment once they got you over there and--

Robert Krishef:

My first job assignment, we reached the second infantry division. A place called the repo/depo; it was a replacement depo. And we waited for our further orders where we would ship out from. And my first job at division headquarters was as a clerk. I don't remember what specifically I was doing as a clerk, but what I really wanted to do was get into public information--public information office--because being a reporter and writer and so forth.

Patricia Kuentz:

It was your field?

Robert Krishef:

It was my field--and the warrant officer got a little upset with me. The warrant officer to whom I reported in this office was a little upset that I tried to get in an easy job. And so the division was still in reserve. At that point the division was still in reserve, so he said he was going to ship me up to the 38th infantry regiment. So that's where I went. And I was with headquarters company. And I was still a clerk. And then the division went on-line July 13th, and during that time--even a headquartered company--we were under some artillery fire, so we spent some time in foxholes. But basically that was the maximum danger that we endured. And then the war ended July 27th. This was all in 1953.

Patricia Kuentz:

Right. Right.

Robert Krishef:

And somehow I learned that that warrant officer had rotated. So I hitchhiked a ride back to division headquarters and tried again to get into PIO, which I did.

Patricia Kuentz:

PIO?

Robert Krishef:

Public Information Office. So that's where I spent most of my time of duty in Korea was PIO. It was a very good job considering where I was. I was fortunate. I was very fortunate that the war ended when it did. I wouldn't call it an easy job. There were difficulties there but, you know, I was luckier than a lot of people.

Patricia Kuentz:

Now, what were you responsibilities as a PIO there?

Robert Krishef:

Well, let's put it this way, the combatant general of the division wants to see his division, and maybe himself sometime, written up, get publicity, just as much as a president of a company wants to see his company be well publicized. So our job in the Public Information Office was to publicize the division in a positive way. And I wrote stories that ultimately got into Army Times or Stars And Stripes, that type of thing, and that's what I was doing. And then eventually I became the non-commissioned officer in charge of PIO, Public Information Office.

Patricia Kuentz:

Okay. All right. Tell me about your most memorable experiences in that role. Now, I think I know one of them.

Robert Krishef:

Well, one of the memorable ones was spending the time in the foxhole when rounds were coming in, but the most memorable positive experience was when Marilyn Monroe came to our division, the movie star, of course. And being in the PIO, Public Information Office, we were kind of responsible for being the host, or arranging publicity photographs and things of that nature.

Patricia Kuentz:

Um-hum.

Robert Krishef:

So, in the time that she was there, we and I, got to know her fairly well in that brief time.

Patricia Kuentz:

Um-hum, how long was she there?

Robert Krishef:

A matter of hours.

Patricia Kuentz:

Okay.

Robert Krishef:

She came in in the morning. She--Most of the time when a movie star, a celebrity, comes in to visit a division--incidentally we didn't get people like this when the war was on. This was after the war.

Patricia Kuentz:

Right, right, when the danger--most of the danger--

Robert Krishef:

When most of the danger was over. Most of the time the general and the officers would want the celebrity to have lunch with them. Marilyn turned them down. She wanted to have lunch with the enlisted men, and she was very cooperative. I would arrange for hometown pictures to be taken, including one of myself. At that time I was the assistant NCO. Myself and the NCO were in that picture. But I would--would--she would be seated and I would slide one soldier in on one side and another on the other side, and she was very cooperative, and we kept doing this for awhile. We had lunch there. She--I believe this was on her own --she decided to serve lunch to the troops for a little bit. Then there was a show in a place called the Bulldozer Bowl which has been on television probably a thousand times in the last 50 years. I was behind stage during that show. Then she left sometime in the afternoon.

Patricia Kuentz:

Who else was on the show, do you remember?

Robert Krishef:

No. I'm sure there was somebody. In fact, I think I have photos of it; sort of a warm-up act.

Patricia Kuentz:

Yeah. Yeah. Now she sang or --

Robert Krishef:

She sang a couple of songs, I think. There were about 10,000 troops gathered there. It was literally an amphitheater carved -- you know, bulldozed -- out of the area.

Patricia Kuentz:

A hill kind of, yeah.

Robert Krishef:

Yeah. And the troops were obviously enthusiastic.

Patricia Kuentz:

I would guess.

Robert Krishef:

But she was the nicest person. I've met a lot of celebrities since, and she was about the nicest person I've ever met.

Patricia Kuentz:

Very down to earth?

Robert Krishef:

Very down to earth; very cooperative; a super gal. It was really--I had no way of knowing what kind of life she would have or would like to have.

Patricia Kuentz:

Maybe she didn't either at that point.

Robert Krishef:

I don't know. I don't know.

Patricia Kuentz:

Hum, were there any -- There must have been some casualties in your unit, I would assume, along the way?

Robert Krishef:

Not in my unit-- because we weren't a line company. We were maybe about a thousand yards back of the front line and so, like, one hill and then another hill and then the front line. And I was aware of the casualties because I was writing about some of them, writing about the awards and decorations that they got.

Patricia Kuentz:

Oh, yeah. Yeah, so you wrote the stories?

Robert Krishef:

But nobody in our--at that time everything was pretty well dug in. Early in the Korean War, of course, things were much more fluid with--the U.S. and UN forces were overrun a couple of times and driven back to Pusan and had to fight their way back. By the time I got there -- which is one reason I said I was so lucky -- the lines were dug in, well fortified, and the combat was a lot of patrols and probing at different parts of the line. Chinese probing us; different parts of the line. So I was -- nobody at headquarters company when I was there -- in the two weeks I was--when the war was on, nobody was injured. Except -- you know I really -- come to think of it, I think some rounds or a round dropped in on the motor pool, so I don't know if anybody was hit there or not.

Patricia Kuentz:

We talked a little --

Robert Krishef:

I remember--I'll tell you this one story.

Patricia Kuentz:

Yeah. Yeah.

Robert Krishef:

I remember getting to the repo depo, and we were all gathered around--this is before I knew where I was going--and the commanding general -- I can give you his name if you want it.

Patricia Kuentz:

Yeah, sure.

Robert Krishef:

William Barriger, B-A-R-R-I-G-E-R. He came in on a chopper--helicopter. One time we also had a helicopter crash right in our compound, too, come to think of it. Anyway, the general came in, and he gathered us all around, and he got up on a platform. And I remember he gave a little speech, almost like a football coach gives before a team goes on the field only, of course, more serious. The one thing I remember about his speech. He said that, "You are here to do one thing. You are here to kill Chinamen." But as serious as the situation was, when I looked at this general--who has long--must long since passed now, I'm sure, obviously--he looked like he was trying to be a General Patton. He had the sidearm, ivory or pearl-covered sidearm -- and he had -- what is that? Stirrup or something -- and his pants were well creased. He looked like he came out of a fashion show.

Patricia Kuentz:

(Laughing)

Robert Krishef:

And I didn't know--I didn't know where I was going to wind up, but I just--I had to stifle a smile when I looked up at him.

Patricia Kuentz:

Um-hum. He was almost like a caricature --

Robert Krishef:

To me he was.

Patricia Kuentz:

-- in some ways?

Robert Krishef:

To me he was.

Patricia Kuentz:

Um-hum; let's talk a little bit about life then.

Robert Krishef:

Okay.

Patricia Kuentz:

Before we got on tape you talked about writing letters and getting letters. How did you stay in touch with your family?

Robert Krishef:

Well, by letters. One time late in my service over there, when I got to an R and R leave, a rest and recuperation--rest and rehabilitation leave--to Japan, I was able to talk to my folks on the phone. And I made a record that I sent them, a brief record. But otherwise there was no telephone communication where I was. I don't know how it was in the rear, down in Seoul or something. And so it was strictly by letter. And my mother wrote quite often and I wrote as often as I could.

Patricia Kuentz:

Yeah, which was maybe --

Robert Krishef:

I was pretty good about it; couple of times a week.

Patricia Kuentz:

And your mom wrote how frequently?

Robert Krishef:

She wrote almost every day.

Patricia Kuentz:

Oh, sweet.

Robert Krishef:

And she sent--she wrapped up chocolate cake and stuff like that and sent it.

Patricia Kuentz:

Did it make it to you intact?

Robert Krishef:

Well, one time a CARE package didn't arrive, and I think we found out that the Chinese sunk the ship. But except for that, everything arrived intact and everybody in my unit was very happy when it did, 'cuz we shared the goodies I'll tell you.

Patricia Kuentz:

Your mother was a good cook?

Robert Krishef:

She was a good cook and we shared and the--you know, those brownies and that chocolate cake was delicious, you know. They wrapped it in tin foil and so on. Maybe it wasn't in as good a shape as I thought it was, but it tasted so good anyways so-- but she was very faithful about writing, and there's some things she didn't tell me at the time. My dad was very concerned about where I was, and he was not feeling well, and when the news was bad, especially, and so she never told me about that, and she told me later. And there were things I never told them. I never told them really where I was. They figured it out. Well I did -- but I didn't tell them how close I was to the action.

Patricia Kuentz:

Yeah. Were any of your letters censored?

Robert Krishef:

Pardon me?

Patricia Kuentz:

Were any of your letters censored that you know of?

Robert Krishef:

No, I don't think so. Really I didn't say anything.

Patricia Kuentz:

You said you made them a record. A record or a tape?

Robert Krishef:

A record; a real record.

Patricia Kuentz:

How did you do that?

Robert Krishef:

I went to a place that made records and it was maybe two or three minutes of recording. I still have it around somewhere.

Patricia Kuentz:

Oh, my gosh. I didn't know that could be done even.

Robert Krishef:

I have it around somewhere.

Patricia Kuentz:

I didn't know that could be done. Was that at a military place or the local --

Robert Krishef:

You have to remember I'm very old. I don't remember things very well anymore.

Patricia Kuentz:

That's a lot of detail. You're not very old. Come on.

Robert Krishef:

Let's see, my inclination is to believe that I was on a base where they produced the record.

Patricia Kuentz:

Okay.

Robert Krishef:

I think so, but I'm not sure. I really am not sure.

Patricia Kuentz:

Like I say, I just never had heard that before.

Robert Krishef:

I bet if I looked on the record it would show where it was made.

Patricia Kuentz:

Oh, it might, on the label?

Robert Krishef:

Yeah. Yeah. And then also as I said, I talked to them.

Patricia Kuentz:

Right. Right. Do you have kids?

Robert Krishef:

Yes.

Patricia Kuentz:

Have they ever listened to this record?

Robert Krishef:

I don't think so.

Patricia Kuentz:

That may be a fun thing to do.

Robert Krishef:

We have an oldtime record player downstairs. I don't think they have.

Patricia Kuentz:

The next time they're over you might--hear their dad when he was a young whipper-snapper?

Robert Krishef:

Yeah, that's right.

Patricia Kuentz:

Well, before we went on tape, too, we talked a little bit about food. So will you tell me about the food you had while you were in the service. What was it like?

Robert Krishef:

Well, there was a lot of powdered food, of course; powdered eggs and powdered milk and so forth. There wasn't -- where we were didn't get a lot of fresh food. I had told you before that we had always heard -- and I can't confirm this -- it makes sense to me and so forth -- the train loaded with all these goodies and so forth started from Pusan south and headed north. And at each stop more and more of the good things got dropped off. And so where we were, we would get the leftovers. But I think I told you before, you know, we just took it. We adjusted and that's what we had to eat. And when I made sergeant and got into the NCO mess, the food was pretty good relatively speaking. I had never had any complaints about the food.

Patricia Kuentz:

That's good. Did you feel like you had plenty of supplies? The things that you needed were available to do the work, and for those who were fighting, you know, to do the fighting?

Robert Krishef:

Well, since I was never a combat soldier in that sense, other than the time in the foxhole--I did get combat pay for one month.

Patricia Kuentz:

Did you?

Robert Krishef:

I did get -- By the way I did get awarded a combat infantryman's badge. That's what my MOS was -- Military Occupational Specialty -- was as a rifleman. And I wore the CIB on by fatigue uniform and I have a photo of it in my dress uniform.

Patricia Kuentz:

CIB?

Robert Krishef:

Combat Infantryman's Badge. And then I found out the order for the CIB had been rescinded because I was on detached assignment from division headquarters. It never made much sense to me, but by the time I found it out, I wasn't interested in going through the bureaucracy to fight it. So I have pictures wearing the CIB, and theoretically I didn't get it, theoretically, but --

Patricia Kuentz:

Yeah.

Robert Krishef:

-- but as far as supplies to the combat soldiers, as I said before, at that time everything was dug in and there was no really interference with supply lines anymore. So we pretty much had everything that we needed, I think, throughout the division. Sometimes -- I lived in a squad tent, and I can tell you a story about that, too.

Patricia Kuentz:

Yeah.

Robert Krishef:

But to finish the first point, sometimes we ran out of heating oil so it got pretty cold. But we could always get another huge barrel of it soon enough, so we didn't lack for supplies.

Patricia Kuentz:

Because sometimes it got pretty darn cold over there.

Robert Krishef:

Very cold. Especially when you're outside -- and I was outside for long stretches, too. So, yes, it got very, very cold. But, again, it was not like the soldiers had to endure in 1950 -- and the late 1950s -- when they were outside all the time and they were being driven back to Pusan and then had to fight their way back. The combat soldiers--those combat soldiers--had it very tough. When I was there in the rear echelon units, they were down in Seoul. Seoul, of course, was down south of us. I don't know how they lived. So they were probably a lot warmer than I was but --

Patricia Kuentz:

Well, probably. Tell me about the place you lived. What was it called again? You called it a name, a word. I don't know, go ahead?

Robert Krishef:

The place where I lived?

Patricia Kuentz:

Yeah, you lived in a --

Robert Krishef:

Squad tent.

Patricia Kuentz:

Squad tent?

Robert Krishef:

Squad tent, yeah.

Patricia Kuentz:

Okay.

Robert Krishef:

Yeah, when the war ended July 27th, we pulled back the line, however far back we went, and we moved into a tent with a floor, and that was a big deal to be in a tent with a floor. And then the Army in its infinite wisdom moved us again a few days later. Why, I'll never understand. And where we moved then, there was just the dirt. Our tent was to be pitched over the dirt. So we looked at each other in our unit. I was in public information and I was with headquarters company. And we decided that we wanted to get that floor, and so we got some saws, and we somehow got a deuce -- a two-and-a-half ton truck -- deuce and-a-half they call it -- from motor pool and we went back to the place where we just left and started sawing up the floor into three sections. And while we were doing the sawing, the other unit arrived that was supposed to live there.

Patricia Kuentz:

(Laughing)

Robert Krishef:

And I just told everybody to keep sawing. And we looked as though we were just following orders. I thought there was going to be a fight, a real fight, but they just stood and watched us.

Patricia Kuentz:

(Laughing)

Robert Krishef:

And so we sawed up the floor into three sections; loaded it onto the truck; took it back and put it together. It wasn't fastened together, but it was better than dirt; pitched our tent over it and we had our floor.

Patricia Kuentz:

(Laughing) and the other guys were probably never the wiser.

Robert Krishef:

I have no idea. As I said, I thought there was going to be a fight. And they must have assumed we were doing what we were told; just a bunch of privates, private first class I was, I would think, but we were just good soldiers doing what we were told.

Patricia Kuentz:

That's a good story.

Robert Krishef:

There was an unfortunate--it wasn't tragic--but it could have been -- but we had always been warned not to drink the water from the springs in Korea. It was very hot when we were sawing up this floor. And two or three guys -- we were all thirsty and the running water besides where we were was very cold -- and they drank from it. They got hemorrhagic fever. They became very, very ill. That could have been fatal. They could have died from that disease. But they had some bad moments, bad days, I think. They were hospitalized.

Patricia Kuentz:

Yeah, that's kind of frightening. They told you not to drink the water for a reason.

Robert Krishef:

Oh, yeah. Well, they told us the reason: For hemorrhagic fever.

Patricia Kuentz:

Yeah, but it was worth the risk to these guys and, you know. You mentioned Marilyn Monroe, but what other entertainers came over while you were there? Do you remember?

Robert Krishef:

Oh, an actress named Roberta Haynes who made a movie or two; someone named Marilee Anders, something like that, who made a movie or two. We didn't-- We didn't--a boxer named--his nickname was "Slapsy." "Slapsy" Maxie Rosenbloom.

Patricia Kuentz:

"Slapsy" Maxie?

Robert Krishef:

"Slapsy" Maxie Rosenbloom. He was a professional fighter. He was light heavyweight champion of the world, I think, in the 1930s. He came over to talk to the troops. There might have been some other big names, I just don't recall. While the division was in reserve we had some USO entertainers come over, and I was impressed that they did it, you know, they put on a good show. It was nice that they did.

Patricia Kuentz:

Bob Hope was never where you were?

Robert Krishef:

Bob Hope was never where we were, no.

Patricia Kuentz:

You said you had a leave--you know, after basic training. Did you ever have another leave?

Robert Krishef:

Well, when I was in Korea I got to Japan three times. How I managed that I don't know. I got three R and Rs. I think the normal was one or two. I got three. And I was in Tokyo for three--three, four days, I guess, Okura and Osaka. So those were the leaves I got.

Patricia Kuentz:

Okay. All right. And did you enjoy that seeing Japan, or was it so good to be away?

Robert Krishef:

Both; both. This was not long after World War II. It was a little tense at times.

Patricia Kuentz:

Oh, sure.

Robert Krishef:

But it was good to get away. I had another leave during--for religious holiday for a couple of days. But outside of that, those were the leaves, that was it.

Patricia Kuentz:

Right. Right. Do you remember any particularly unusual event or maybe any humorous event?

Robert Krishef:

Particular event or humorous event?

Patricia Kuentz:

Yeah. It's okay if you don't --

Robert Krishef:

Nothing that comes to mind at the moment.

Patricia Kuentz:

Okay, did anybody pull pranks, like pranks with each other?

Robert Krishef:

I do remember something -- I wrote about this one time. This was when--was when I was in the PIO. We had a stray dog--well, actually we had two dogs -- and one of them we named Marilyn because she wiggled when she walked.

Patricia Kuentz:

(Laughing)

Robert Krishef:

And the other was a stray dog, a very independent dog, a very independent dog--this isn't a funny story. This dog was all scarred up. He had got in a lot of fights. And he was very independent, as I said, but he would tolerate us, come in for food every so often. But this dog, strangely enough, when the general lined up the troops, this dog was always there, and the general got angry at that, and he told the MPs to get the dog and to shoot him. You want me to go on with the story?

Patricia Kuentz:

Go ahead.

Robert Krishef:

-- and for about a month our dog eluded them, and eventually they caught him. So we weren't too happy about that.

Patricia Kuentz:

No; that's sad.

Robert Krishef:

Yeah, that was a sad story.

Patricia Kuentz:

Yeah. Do you have any copies of any articles that you wrote, too. That might be something --

Robert Krishef:

I think.

Patricia Kuentz:

--maybe we can scan one or two of those.

Robert Krishef:

Again, I might have to dig through scrapbooks. I think I have some.

Patricia Kuentz:

Well, it would be fun to send one or two of those in, too, so they can see the product of your work-- or some of your work?

Robert Krishef:

Eventually I wrote -- I also wrote a sports column. My first job, was as I said, was a sports editor. I was also sports editor of the Minnesota Daily News.

Patricia Kuentz:

Oh, while you were in school?

Robert Krishef:

Yeah, so eventually I started writing a sports column for the division newspaper. That was a separate department from PIO.

Patricia Kuentz:

Okay.

Robert Krishef:

So I might have some of those, too, I'm not sure.

Patricia Kuentz:

It would be kind of interesting to see one or two of those, if you can find them easily. What did you think of your fellow soldiers, the officers that you worked with while you were over there?

Robert Krishef:

Well, the officers, the PIO that we had when I became part of that unit was a wonderful guy. His name was William Barnett. Major; Major Barnett. He was a very, very nice person. He was probably too nice. We had the impression he was a little too nice for the Army. I don't know how he got his commission, whether he was regular Army or what his status was. But we got along very well with him. He eventually rotated, and he was replaced by a first lieutenant, second lieutenant, who I didn't think a great deal of.

Patricia Kuentz:

What do you mean by "too nice for the Army?"

Robert Krishef:

Well, I think the Army--in order to--you see, the Army is built on discipline.

Patricia Kuentz:

Right. Right.

Robert Krishef:

And he pretty much--not that we were undisciplined, but we were in our role of publicizing the division. He supervised us, but he didn't really demand a lot of things. I probably demanded more when I took charge of the office than he did. But I don't even remember if he was there when I took over as NCO. As I said, we had it very easy as PIO people. We never pulled guard duty for an example.

Patricia Kuentz:

Did you have inspections of your quarters?

Robert Krishef:

Occasionally.

Patricia Kuentz:

Okay.

Robert Krishef:

But the major didn't really do that.

Patricia Kuentz:

Um-hum.

Robert Krishef:

But we functioned well.

Patricia Kuentz:

Yes.

Robert Krishef:

Maybe he was leaving well enough alone, I don't know. All I can tell you is that he was a very nice guy.

Patricia Kuentz:

I think I asked you if you kept a diary or anything like that before we went on tape?

Robert Krishef:

Never kept a diary. I have all the letters --or most of the letters I wrote home, and most of the letters my parents wrote to me.

Patricia Kuentz:

That's wonderful. That's wonderful. Let's talk about--a little at the end of your service time. Do you remember the day that your service ended? Did you know it was coming, or did you just get orders that it was over or--

Robert Krishef:

There was a point system, and you really started counting the days. I don't know when I started, but I was very eager to get out of there. At some point when you were counting days there was an expression: "Going casual," at least in our own minds. There was also initiated sometime in 1954, because the war was over, an early release system if you wanted to go back to school.

Patricia Kuentz:

Oh?

Robert Krishef:

So I applied to get an early release to go back to the University of Minnesota. And as it happened I rotated only about two weeks sooner than I would have rotated anyway, but I was just so eager to get out of there --

Patricia Kuentz:

Yeah.

Robert Krishef:

-- that I applied. And I thought as long as I had been away from home for almost two years, I wouldn't want to--I just wanted to stick around home for awhile, so I mine as well just go back to school, which I did. I went back for one quarter. It was in a quarter system, and there was a gray area in that regulation. They didn't say really how long you had to go back to school. Theoretically, I suppose, you could go back to school, drop out after a period, and you would meet the requirement. I just don't know. As I said, I wanted to stick around. So I went back for one quarter to get my Master's degree in journalism. I was doing okay. I was doing better as a student then than I did originally. And so I decided I mine as well stick around for two more quarters, which I did, and I got my masters.

Patricia Kuentz:

Oh, great, so you used the GI bill for that? You had benefits?

Robert Krishef:

Yes. Yeah, benefits. I don't remember how much we got per month. I remember how much my combat pay was. I got an extra 60 dollars. An extra 60 dollars for the month of July, but I don't remember what I got to go back to school. But with what I had saved -- I had paid my way through school originally -- but in this case when I went for my masters, probably was sufficient to cover the books and tuition in those days, or close to it. And then I was living at home and I had money saved up so -- I sent all my money home anyway --

Patricia Kuentz:

Good. Yeah. Yeah, and then did they save it for you or they used it to live --

Robert Krishef:

-- oh, then another story.

Patricia Kuentz:

-- or did they save it for you?

Robert Krishef:

Yes. They saved it for me.

Patricia Kuentz:

Okay.

Robert Krishef:

No, I only gambled two or three times when I was in the Army over--on the ship going over we shot craps and dice.

Patricia Kuentz:

Okay. Okay.

Robert Krishef:

And, nobody cared about money really, losing, because we didn't know what would happen. When we got to the replacement depo I played poker for about two nights. And I ended up 30 dollars, 40 dollars ahead and I sent it home. It was a lot of money in those days.

Patricia Kuentz:

Yeah.

Robert Krishef:

-- and never gambled again. So anyway the money -- not from that -- but the money that I earned while in the service, probably I used some of it to go back to school, too.

Patricia Kuentz:

Did you use any of the other benefits like a VA loan or anything like that?

Robert Krishef:

No, I never -- and I didn't retain the insurance; most people did. I decided not to for some reason.

Patricia Kuentz:

Any close friendships while you were in the service? Did you develop any?

Robert Krishef:

I didn't develop any close friends that I kept in contact with since then. There was one or two people I saw a couple of times, but I couldn't say that they were close friends. They were from all over the country.

Patricia Kuentz:

Um-hum.

Robert Krishef:

The person I referred to was from Iowa, and I think he was working for awhile in the Twin City, so I saw him on occasion. I made a very good friend who was the NCO prior -- I succeeded him as NCO when he rotated -- and I corresponded with him for awhile.

Patricia Kuentz:

Do you remember names?

Robert Krishef:

His name was--his real name was Richard Ardolino.

Patricia Kuentz:

Ardolino?

Robert Krishef:

He had done some stage work under the name of Richard Mason.

Patricia Kuentz:

Okay.

Robert Krishef:

And the person from Iowa was a fella named Jerry Harget. We were also--the unit I was with, I didn't keep in contact with him -- but was a fella named Don Bartholmy who, when we were there -- he came in after I did. He was there after I left. He was a writer. He was trying to write a novel, and he become a well-known writer in New York. He died--I don't know what he died of--a number of years ago. But his books are in the library. He was a very good writer.

Patricia Kuentz:

So he went on with that successfully in his career?

Robert Krishef:

He went on with it. I'm an author. I've had books published, but not fiction. He wrote a -- wrote a novel; short story. I've had some short stories published, too, in fiction, but he hit the big time.

Patricia Kuentz:

Did you join any veterans' organizations?

Robert Krishef:

I just did that.

Patricia Kuentz:

Really?

Robert Krishef:

Yes. I just joined the VFW, Veterans Of Foreign Wars, and I just -- not just -- a number of months ago I just put a Korean Vet license plate on my car. I did that after 9/11.

Patricia Kuentz:

That was kind of the impetus?

Robert Krishef:

Yes. And as far as the license plate, it goes against my character. That's why I never did it. And even after I decided to do it, it took a couple of months, after a couple of months I did it. I wanted to try to send a message. So I joined the VFW. That happened just a couple of months ago.

Patricia Kuentz:

Did you have friends who were members, too?

Robert Krishef:

No, I --

Patricia Kuentz:

Just decided to do it?

Robert Krishef:

To show some support. I think this country needs to know what veterans did; not necessarily me, but you know --

Patricia Kuentz:

-- in general, yeah.

Robert Krishef:

In general, yeah.

Patricia Kuentz:

We talked a little bit before the tape, too. Tell me a little about where your career went after you got out of the service and went back to school and got your masters.

Robert Krishef:

I got my masters, then I decided to leave the sports field into another branch of journalism. So I was a city-side reporter, police beat, courthouse, general assignment in Waterville, Iowa for awhile. And then I--for a couple of years--and then I came back to town to be a freelance writer for a couple of years; did very poorly the first year; pretty good the second year. Then -- Let me back up. When I was a freelance writer the first time, I didn't do well at all. So I took another job. I was city editor of a publication called the American Jewish World --I'm Jewish-- American Jewish World in Minneapolis, a weekly. Then I left there to try freelance writing again. * * * * * * * * * * (Recording ends abruptly.) * * * * * * * * * *

Patricia Kuentz:

So, we're back on tape and we were talking about your career. And I think you were just talking about stories you'd sold?

Robert Krishef:

When I did my second stint as a freelance writer, I sold some fiction stories. And--but more importantly as far as making a living, I had got some accounts, writing accounts, and I had to tie up with an advertising agency; did that for a couple of years. And then, that took me to about 1960, and then I decided I wanted to move to California, and I had some contacts out there, the people I sold fiction stories to. And I knew someone in television, in movies, in some way, and in advertising, and I had made all these contacts, and two things happened: One, I got an offer for a full time job with an advertising agency in Minneapolis; and secondly I met my wife-to-be. So I stayed here.

Patricia Kuentz:

That changes things.

Robert Krishef:

That changed it.

Patricia Kuentz:

You were thinking California was the place to be because of all these contacts you had, or what was the deal with California?

Robert Krishef:

I thought it might be the place to be because of the weather and so on and because of opportunities. I don't know how well I would have done in that -- in that work climate. It's different from Minneapolis. I've had -- I had opportunities through the years to go to the big city, you know, either to New York or Chicago, and I didn't want to do it. So had I gone out there in my younger days, whether I would have been happy out there or not, I don't know. Who knows? I don't really look back on life that way and wonder what if.

Patricia Kuentz:

Yeah. Yeah.

Robert Krishef:

But I stayed and things worked out. So I went to work for this--if you want me to continue --

Patricia Kuentz:

Yeah, sure.

Robert Krishef:

I went to work as a public relations writer for this agency and eventually--I did other things on the side through the years, not initially, but through the years. I was in the PR business for maybe 40 years. I owned a country music newspaper for awhile on the side, and I owned a resume writing service, and I wrote books, children's books. I had fourteen or fifteen children's book published, and an adult biography I wrote.

Patricia Kuentz:

My goodness.

Robert Krishef:

What else? Oh, I was editor. I went back to that American Jewish World and I was editor and general manager of that publication for a couple of years.

Patricia Kuentz:

So that's published here in Minneapolis?

Robert Krishef:

Yes, those were all side ventures; basically I was in the PR business. But I was able to do these things because somewhere along the line I opened my own company within the agency and I was independent. Actually this was about 1977, I was going to leave the agency and go independent. They made me a better offer, financially, to stay. But I said, I said, "Okay, but I would want to start my own company and have my own identity within your company," which I did. And then eventually we--some partners and I--bought out the advertising agency. So I owned that, too, a part of it, until I retired.

Patricia Kuentz:

And you've been retired now how long? Sort of retired?

Robert Krishef:

Well, I think--I think I started evolving into retirement about eight or nine years ago; evolving into it. I gave up the agency business and became a one-man operation working primarily for one account with some side accounts, too. And I had an office with a secretarial service and that type of thing. And then eventually I moved my office home. So that was the next step. And then eventually I decided that I was ready to retire. This was maybe three, four years ago. And the account that I was working for, I told them that I wanted to retire, and I had said I'd stay on for another year because there was some things going on, if they wanted me to, or I would retire in two weeks. I didn't care. They wanted me to stay on. And actually I stayed on for about 18 months and that was it. Now I have just one small account I work on because, as I mentioned before, either off tape or on tape--

Patricia Kuentz:

I think we were off tape.

Robert Krishef:

It is reasonably easy to handle, and I don't take a lot of hours a month doing it. So it just keeps me busy.

Patricia Kuentz:

That's good. Here's--not a philosophical, but sort of close to it question--how would you say your military experience affected your thinking about war and the military in general?

Robert Krishef:

Well, I don't know quite how to answer that question except--because I don't know how I would have felt had I not been in the military --

Patricia Kuentz:

Good point.

Robert Krishef:

-- but I have some very firm feelings about--Well, first of all, nobody likes war, least of all the people who are in it, or in some kind of dangerous circumstances or whatever. I'll tell you what--maybe this would help answer it. I'll tell you what I thought right after 9/11. And like many people, I remember where I was. I was on a treadmill getting my daily, not daily, almost daily exercise. And there was news--watching TV and there was news about the plane flying into the World Trade Center. And at first I thought--they didn't say what size plane at first. I just thought the pilot had a heart attack. And then I was watching live, the second plane flew in. And I said to myself--continuous thoughts, you know--

Patricia Kuentz:

Right.

Robert Krishef:

-- that we are in World War III. And that this war is going to last for years, decades, maybe a generation or two, and I wonder whether this country is going to be tough enough or competitive enough to deal with it, because a significant portion, a significant percentage, of the people in this country have never experienced inconveniences on the home front, much less, you know, being in a war.

Patricia Kuentz:

Right.

Robert Krishef:

I know when I was in Korea--Korea was called the forgotten war so often. Well, it's been called that so much now that it's now remembered and we have our memorial, which by the way one of the things I wanted to see while I still could, which I did, in Washington, DC I'm talking about.

Patricia Kuentz:

Um-hum.

Robert Krishef:

When I was in Korea, a lot of people, lot of my friends didn't even know I was there. The people who had loved ones there, they were aware of what was going on in Korea.

Patricia Kuentz:

Sure.

Robert Krishef:

But, you have to remember that Korea was not long after World War II, and people didn't want to deal with that.

Patricia Kuentz:

Yeah.

Robert Krishef:

So when we came home, it was really--we just picked up our lives and that was it. You know, apathy among a certain number of the populace about that war. I think. This is just me talking. The Vietnam war, of course, they had it very difficult -- the vets coming home -- they came home to hatred, and I hated the way they were treated. Near the end I realized in my judgment that it was a futile war and we better get out, but that had nothing to do with the people who had to fight it. They weren't there by choice. They were there serving their country. Now, I'm patriotic. I'm very patriotic. And I believe that there are a lot of people in this country who don't realize how lucky they are to be here. And as the cliche goes now, there is a saying, it's a cliche now. Freedom is not free. People have to realize that. I don't know if they realize it. I think they should realize it.

Patricia Kuentz:

I think it tells a lot in the answer to that question, you know. How do you think the service and your experiences in the service really affected your way of life? We talked about your way of thinking, the feeling about the war in general, but personally affected your life?

Robert Krishef:

I don't think it affected me at all. Other than the fact --

Patricia Kuentz:

Okay.

Robert Krishef:

-- other than the fact that of all the friends I had, for some reason, I was the only one to ever go to Korea. I can't believe it. I can't believe why I was so chosen.

Patricia Kuentz:

(Laughing)

Robert Krishef:

A veteran's life is affected from the standpoint that while he, and now she, you know, while you're away for two years, or whatever it is, other people are getting that far ahead of you.

Patricia Kuentz:

Right.

Robert Krishef:

But I don't bother dealing with it that way. So I don't see that it affected my life at all in that sense. Had I been wounded or injured in some way, you know, maybe that would be different. I had a cousin who was on Wake Island when World War II broke out. He was a prisoner of the Japanese throughout the war. That's -- you know, obviously one's life is affected in that sense.

Patricia Kuentz:

Right. Right.

Robert Krishef:

I don't --

Patricia Kuentz:

Do you think you would have gotten the master's degree?

Robert Krishef:

Good question. Would I have gotten the master's degree? Possibly not. Maybe; maybe--I never thought of that. On the other hand I might have been making more money sooner.

Patricia Kuentz:

Yeah, that's true. You never really know.

Robert Krishef:

You know, that's a good point. When I was getting my master's degree, I was asked if I wanted to come back for my Ph.D, and I didn't want to do it, which makes me think that maybe I might not have gone back to school. So maybe that's a positive point that came out of the war. I used to get letters from the journalism school, not just to me, but they had a group of people asking if I wanted to teach a course. In this case, at that point it wouldn't have been a journalism course. It would have been a public relations course. And I would take the letter and put it down, and then gradually more papers on top of it. Finally I realized that if I really wanted to teach, I would have done it. And by the way -- as a side bar, so to speak -- teaching is a skill. I don't know if I would have it. I had it with one on one, or one on two, or one on three with employees.

Patricia Kuentz:

Training and develop --

Robert Krishef:

I had at one time maybe 20 or 22, 23 employees, but in a classroom setting teaching, that's a skill. I never appreciated that when I was in school. So I don't know if I would have been effective anyway. So I don't know if I was really school-oriented now that you brought the subject up, so I might not have gone back. Probably wouldn't have; probably wouldn't have.

Patricia Kuentz:

One last question. Anything we haven't covered in the interview that you think ought to be on the tape about your experiences in the Korean war, et cetera?

Robert Krishef:

You want to turn that off for an hour and I'll think about it?

Patricia Kuentz:

Sure. An hour?

Robert Krishef:

Anything I missed? I'm sure there'll be things that I missed.

Patricia Kuentz:

But nothing comes to the top of your --

Robert Krishef:

Nothing comes to mind at the moment.

Patricia Kuentz:

Okay. Okay.

Robert Krishef:

I can, I suppose, call you if I think of something brilliant.

Patricia Kuentz:

Yeah, do. Well, you don't have to. I mean, you don't have to come up with anything brilliant. Well then I'll wrap it up. So, Bob, thank you ever so much. For taking the time to spend with me this morning, and I'm delighted to have met you, and it will be fun to send the tape in and it will be available to researchers down the road who want to learn some more about the Korean war and the people who were in it. So thanks a lot.

Robert Krishef:

Okay.

Patricia Kuentz:

Thank you very much.

Robert Krishef:

You're welcome. * * * * * * * * * *

Patricia Kuentz:

Well, we're back on tape for just a second. Bob had a further thought that he would like to get on tape here.

Robert Krishef:

Well, General Douglas MacArthur arouses a lot of feelings: Positive and negative. He was a controversial character in his--during his lifetime. And he accomplished a lot as a general. When the Korean War started, of course, the North Koreans overran South Korea, and the few troops that we had there, and we were driven all the way back to Pusan; and we had to fight our way back--not me, I wasn't there then--but we had to fight our way back. And along the line MacArthur was named the command of troops, and he made that famous Inchon landing where he outflanked the North Koreans and we--I think it was during that period--it might have been when the Chinese came in -- in any event we fought our way back. We pushed the North Koreans back across the 38th parallel. And I felt --I felt all through the years that we accomplished our objective of pushing the North Koreans back where they came from. And MacArthur, I think, had other ideas, and he was warned a number of times, I'm positive. This was public knowledge that China warned the United States, United Nations, not to get too near Chinese border and, of course, the Yalu River and so forth. And MacArthur kept going, even after we had driven the North Koreans back where they came from. And in the process of keeping going our supply lines were strung out--you asked about supply lines. Our supply lines were strung out from the south to the north. And then all of a sudden our troops there found themselves attacked and overrun by, Lord knows how many Chinese. And we were driven back, and we had to fight our way back all over again. And so I feel that the war was prolonged by maybe a couple of years, and I don't know how many people died during that time; and that we were, at the end, basically right back where we started from. I think our lines ended up a little north of the 38th parallel. But I thought it was tragically unfortunate --

Patricia Kuentz:

Yeah.

Robert Krishef:

-- that MacArthur did that. Of course, he was relieved of command finally by Truman.

Robert Krishef:

Yeah.

Robert Krishef:

All right. Thank you. (End of interview.) * * * * * * * * * *

 
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