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Interview with Earl Hufford [November 26, 2003]

Andrew Fisher:

Mr. Hufford, before we get to Korea, before we get to your basic training, let's start with where you were born and raised, went to school, and how you got in the service. And then we'll move through your service time till you are discharged.

Earl Hufford:

Okay. I, Earl R. Hufford, am proud to give this interview for our Congress and our government. I was born in Perrysburg, Ohio and I went to school in Perrysburg High School, graduated there -- from there. And I was going to go into the ministry; so I was a parish assistant at the First United Methodist Church in Perrysburg. I then went to college at Bowling Green State University and got my preacher's license for the Methodist church and also went to school at Bowling Green for one year. I then ...

Andrew Fisher:

You had -- how did you get in the service?

Earl Hufford:

How did I get in the service? Well, I was drafted.

Earl Hufford:

lot of my buddies were going and I left school -- I could have gotten out of school and I left school to go in the Service because I didn't believe my buddies should be alone without me with them.

Earl Hufford:

lot of my buddies died and I'm one -- one of the lucky ones that came home.

Andrew Fisher:

And where did you go to basic training?

Earl Hufford:

I went to basic training at -- I went first to Fort Meade, Maryland and then they gave us a test to -- and then they saw that I was good to be a medic; so they sent me to Camp Pickett, Virginia where I took eight weeks training in the infantry and eight weeks training in the Medical Corps. I then went to there. I got high grades and I went to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where there I -- they taught me more about medicine and I liked it very much. And then I went to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri where they taught me how to do autopsies and the Medical Corps I would not be afraid to go back to Korea if my health and my age would let me. I'm not afraid. I'm not afraid to die.

Andrew Fisher:

You went to Fort Lewis, Washington then?

Earl Hufford:

Yes, I went to Fort Lewis, Washington to go out to be sent to Korea and it took us several days to get there and I got seasick.

Andrew Fisher:

Didn't we all?

Earl Hufford:

And I'm afraid they had to tie me -- when it came to my time for my post to be guard, they had to tie me to the ship so I wouldn't fall overboard. And I was located in the fifth bunk up on the ship, the General Housey (ph) it was called. And fellas from the mess hall would bring me fruit to eat so I wouldn't dehydrate; and I was close to the latrine -- or what do you call it in the Navy, I don't know.

Andrew Fisher:

The head.

Earl Hufford:

The head.

Andrew Fisher:

Yes.

Earl Hufford:

And it was an interesting trip. That's all I have to say about that.

Andrew Fisher:

For a young man from Perrysburg, Ohio the ocean can be a terrible thing.

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

And so you went to Korea?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

And where did you go?

Earl Hufford:

General MacArthur -- our boys were pushed back to Puson and General MacArthur made a plan to go into Inchon and there I helped the corpsmen along with the invasion of Inchon.

Andrew Fisher:

Now where is Inchon in relation to the North Korea-South Korea border?

Earl Hufford:

Close to the North Korean border.

Andrew Fisher:

The 38th parallel?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

And so you were up at the 38th parallel?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

And wasn't MacArthur planning to or didn't he intend to continue right on?

Earl Hufford:

He con -- he -- General MacArthur wanted to go up to the Yalu River and continue to beat this war; and I'm sorry to say that President Truman stopped him. And that's a terrible thing to say for a president; but he felt that too many lives were taken and he felt that we didn't need to go up there as long as we made a truce. And remember, the war isn't over with. It was a truce. It was not -- it wasn't -- what do I want to say?

Andrew Fisher:

It was -- it was not a clear victory?

Earl Hufford:

It was not a clear victory.

Andrew Fisher:

As we know, Eisen -- MacArthur was then fired --

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

-- from that position and came back home?

Earl Hufford:

Yes. And he had a ticker tape parade in New York City because the people felt the same way that I did. He was a great man to know.

Andrew Fisher:

And what were you doing then -- you were a medic. What were you doing up there near the 38th parallel?

Earl Hufford:

Well, I was just helping going to Inchon. And then when we got the foothold and got into Inchon and pushed the enemy back, then I went to Wonju, Korea to the 11th Evac Hospital; and there I worked as -- both on the injured and I helped my part in the surgical end of it. I ran the first dialysis machine that was invented. And we had one in Korea and one in Germany. And now they're only about a foot; they're so small it's pitiful.

Andrew Fisher:

What exactly is an evac hospital? There are other smaller hospitals before you get to the evac hospital. Explain where you were then with this evac hospital. If a soldier was injured on the line, where did he go first?

Earl Hufford:

He went to the surgery right away.

Andrew Fisher:

But you mentioned a MASH Unit?

Earl Hufford:

Yes, I was stationed --

Andrew Fisher:

Where is a MASH Unit in relation to the front line?

Earl Hufford:

About 2 miles behind the front line.

Andrew Fisher:

I see. But now if they can't take care of him at the MASH Unit, where --

Earl Hufford:

Then he would come to the 11th Evac Hospital.

Andrew Fisher:

Then he came to you?

Earl Hufford:

Yes. And if we couldn't take care of him, then he'd go to the general hospital in Tokyo.

Andrew Fisher:

I see. So you had the most severe cases come to you --

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

-- in the evac hospital?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

And then you had to decide whether he could be treated there or moved to the larger, apparently more well -- a better equipped hospital --

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

-- in Japan?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

I see. And so you saw all sorts of injuries?

Earl Hufford:

And dead.

Andrew Fisher:

And dead. How did you feel? How did you handle seeing all this --

Earl Hufford:

Well, my --

Andrew Fisher:

-- misery?

Earl Hufford:

-- purpose in the Medical Corps was to try to save lives and not -- and not take lives. And I felt bad for the -- real bad for the wounded and I felt bad for their families. But I just did my job and I thought I did it pretty good.

Andrew Fisher:

So do you become used to seeing misery and pain?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

You do?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

Do you become inured to it?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

And you have to move on to the next person you --

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

There was no time for sentiment in your job?

Earl Hufford:

No.

Andrew Fisher:

I see.

Earl Hufford:

I always said a prayer for them. That was one of my most important things, pray to God that they come through.

Andrew Fisher:

And incidentally while we're talking about that, did you have priests and ministers and Rabbis --

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

-- up there?

Earl Hufford:

We had a chaplain. When I first went to 11th Evac Hospital, they didn't know what to do with me so they let me be the Chaplain's assistant; and I made up a newspaper and started a newspaper for the 11th Evac Hospital.

Andrew Fisher:

And what did you do as the chaplain's assistant?

Earl Hufford:

Helped with the services, drove him around, drove into villages and all around, everything that a chaplain's assistant would do. I helped him in the services. I made up this newspaper, and things like that.

Andrew Fisher:

Were there chaplains of all faiths or did a chaplain --

Earl Hufford:

One chaplain was -- he knew how to give Mass, he knew how to give a Protestant service; so one chaplain did it all.

Andrew Fisher:

And I saw some pictures earlier of -- taken of you at the evac hospital, which is back from the lines but yet I see sandbagged foxholes?

Earl Hufford:

That's right.

Andrew Fisher:

That meant apparently that you were still subject to enemy fire --

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

-- or enemy bombing?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

Or enemy artillery?

Earl Hufford:

That's right.

Andrew Fisher:

Did you -- were you ever bombed --

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

And did they know it was a hospital they were bombing?

Earl Hufford:

Yes. They didn't care.

Andrew Fisher:

They didn't care.

Earl Hufford:

They didn't care. In fact we had to take off the Red Cross sign because it was too much of a target for them.

Andrew Fisher:

I see. That was a preferential target?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

I see. And speaking of that, you went to Inje, North Korea?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

And what did you do there?

Earl Hufford:

In Inje, North Korea we took care of the wounded enemy because we believe that everyone's life is important -- we Americans -- and so we took care of the wounded enemy there.

Andrew Fisher:

Where -- did you take care of any Americans --

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

-- that might be captured there?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

Okay. Now you just told me that they were bombing your hospital?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

And yet you're in North Korea?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

Building a hospital for them to take care of their wounded? Why didn't they do their own? Take care of --

Earl Hufford:

Because they didn't have anything. They left their men on the field to die.

Andrew Fisher:

They had no doctors?

Earl Hufford:

No.

Andrew Fisher:

No medics, nothing?

Earl Hufford:

No.

Andrew Fisher:

They were left to die?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

And so the Americans took care of their injured?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

I guess that's typically American, isn't it?

Earl Hufford:

That's right.

Andrew Fisher:

They bomb you and you build their hospital?

Earl Hufford:

That's right, sir.

Andrew Fisher:

That is a strange story that I never heard anything like that about Korea before. So you built a hospital in Inje, North Korea for them. And what did you do then? Did you stay in North Korea or was that a short-term thing?

Earl Hufford:

That was a short-term thing and I came back to the 11th Evac for a while and then they sent me up to Seoul, Korea to a MASH outfit. And if you ever watch MASH on television, that's the way it is. We even had a Klinger.

Andrew Fisher:

I guess everybody knows what -- who Klinger was.

Earl Hufford:

Yeah.

Andrew Fisher:

Of course, he is one of our hometown products from Toledo, Ohio.

Earl Hufford:

That's right.

Andrew Fisher:

Now there were the real emergency cases?

Earl Hufford:

No, we treated hemorrhagic fever patients.

Andrew Fisher:

And what does that mean?

Earl Hufford:

And hemorrhagic fever is -- is a disease -- oh, excuse me -- is a disease that you bleed internally and you die if you don't get it in time. And it's caused by mites or from rats and we had a lot of rats there. And I felt very fortunate on saving those boys' lives.

Andrew Fisher:

Speaking of rats, was that a jungle like atmosphere environment there?

Earl Hufford:

No.

Andrew Fisher:

It wasn't?

Earl Hufford:

We just had a lot of rats.

Andrew Fisher:

Just had a lot of rats, I see.

Earl Hufford:

And because of the sewage situation and things like that.

Andrew Fisher:

Okay.

Earl Hufford:

And a lot of the boys thanked me that I saved their lives and I got several letters and several -- I got -- I'll never forget getting a letter from Puerto Rico, one from Belgium, one from -- someone sent -- one of the Germans sent me a lighter for my pipe; and so I was very proud to be over there helping them out.

Andrew Fisher:

So you were -- this was a, of course, a UN force?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

And many different nations were part of the UN --

Earl Hufford:

That's right. We took them in also.

Andrew Fisher:

I see.

Earl Hufford:

And part of the UN forces got the hemorrhagic fever.

Andrew Fisher:

It sounds almost like the Black Plague back in the 14th or 13th century --

Earl Hufford:

Yeah.

Andrew Fisher:

-- in Europe?

Earl Hufford:

And the United States -- they bombed us quite a bit there because the enemy thought we were a bacteriological warfare center; so we got bombed a lot and strifed a lot and we had to put the boys underneath their cots in order to save their lives.

Andrew Fisher:

So being back from the front line was no guarantee that you weren't going to be killed or wounded?

Earl Hufford:

No, no guarantee at all.

Andrew Fisher:

Of course you carried no weapons?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

Oh, you did?

Earl Hufford:

They let us have either a side arm or a (carby) but I didn't carry any myself.

Andrew Fisher:

Did you ever come up against any enemy?

Earl Hufford:

No, they --

Andrew Fisher:

They never -- they never got into your camp --

Earl Hufford:

No.

Andrew Fisher:

-- or your hospital?

Earl Hufford:

No. But when I was there someone broke in and took my foot locker and I didn't have any clothes or anything and they took my rifle. They took my money that I was saving to go on R&R and all my clothes. And I had to go up to the quarter master and get all new equipment.

Andrew Fisher:

What is R&R?

Earl Hufford:

R&R is rest and recuperation and it was usually in Japan, Tokyo or Hiroshima or someplace like that.

Andrew Fisher:

I had heard some went to -- to Thailand?

Earl Hufford:

Well, they could have. I went to --

Andrew Fisher:

I see.

Earl Hufford:

-- Tokyo.

Andrew Fisher:

So you saw Japan?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

And of course this is you're in Japan six years or seven years after the war or after the bombings of Japan?

Earl Hufford:

Mm-mm.

Andrew Fisher:

What did the country look like?

Earl Hufford:

They were just building it up when I was there. And there was a lot of construction going on.

Andrew Fisher:

And so they were -- they recovered quite rapidly?

Earl Hufford:

Yes, they did.

Andrew Fisher:

Of course --

Earl Hufford:

The United States helped them.

Andrew Fisher:

Of course again in the great American way, we bombed them and then we built their cities back for them?

Earl Hufford:

That's right.

Andrew Fisher:

Can you imagine another country that would do that?

Earl Hufford:

No, I couldn't.

Andrew Fisher:

Can you imagine another country --

Earl Hufford:

Only the United States of America would.

Andrew Fisher:

Would another country build a hospital to take care of their wounded enemy?

Earl Hufford:

No.

Andrew Fisher:

So, you spent how long -- how long were you in Korea?

Earl Hufford:

Fifteen months.

Andrew Fisher:

And is that a normal tour of duty?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

And so at the end of 15 months, where did you go?

Earl Hufford:

From there I came home.

Andrew Fisher:

I see.

Earl Hufford:

And it was wonderful to see the Golden Gate Bridge. But I'm not sorry that I was there because I'd do it all over again.

Andrew Fisher:

I see. You were quite well trained when you went in -- I mean after you had been in. You went to Fort Meade; you went to Camp Pickett; you went to Fort Sam Houston; Fort Leonard Wood; and finally Fort Lewis. So you were a well-trained military man?

Earl Hufford:

Yes, when I came home, the hospital -- Veterans Hospital in Ann Arbor wanted me to come to work for them and I refused to because I fell in love with a girl that I loved very much and I spent 27 years with her and had seven children.

Andrew Fisher:

Oh.

Earl Hufford:

And then she got rid of me and divorced me because of the illnesses that I had.

Andrew Fisher:

I see.

Earl Hufford:

And she wouldn't take care of me; and I met this lady up here with her children but they're just like my children.

Andrew Fisher:

Wonderful. Before we leave Korea, I'm looking at a letter of appreciation from the Republic of Korea.

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

And it came with a -- with a --

Earl Hufford:

Medal.

Andrew Fisher:

And I'll read it in part. "Dear Veteran, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, I would like to offer you my deepest gratitude for your noble contribution to the efforts to safeguard the Republic of Korea." And it goes on to say, "We Koreans hold dear in our hearts the conviction, courage and spirit of sacrifice shown to us by such selfless friends as you." And it ends, "I thank you once again for your noble sacrifice and pray for your health and happiness. Sincerely yours," signed Kim Dae-jung, president of the Republic of Korea. That is a wonderful keepsake and a wonderful --

Earl Hufford:

Yes, it is.

Andrew Fisher:

-- commentary --

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

On America's presence in Korea?

Earl Hufford:

It is. I also got a citation from Sigmund Ree, President Sigmund Ree.

Andrew Fisher:

And what was that? That's all right. Was it a like -- Oh, I see, it's a ribbon.

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

So the -- so the Koreans were -- the South Koreans that is -- were happy to have the Americans there?

Earl Hufford:

Yes, they were.

Andrew Fisher:

And I guess if you see -- if you'd see pictures of Korea now today?

Earl Hufford:

It would be much much different because the United States made it so.

Andrew Fisher:

I see. So --

Earl Hufford:

They even have sewage system now.

Andrew Fisher:

And probably fewer rats?

Earl Hufford:

That's right.

Andrew Fisher:

So what did you do when you came home?

Earl Hufford:

When I came home I went to work for Mr. Harold Beisenstein (phonetic) and became -- we became like father and son. He was so nice to us. He gave us a house. He gave us -- me a new car every year. I met some wonderful wonderful people like President Eisenhower and President Reagan and General Norstead. Because -- he introduced me to these people because we felt like father and son and he wanted to be nice to me. General Nixon sent me seven -- I had seven children and he sent me seven half dollars, Kennedy half dollars that were brand new and through Mr. Harold Beisenstein he sent me seven of them with him when he flew home from Washington.

Andrew Fisher:

And apparently Mr. Beisenstein was an important man in the community -- or in the nation --

Earl Hufford:

In the nation.

Andrew Fisher:

-- to have such renowned visitors?

Earl Hufford:

Yeah, he -- yes, he -- he was called a dollar a day man and he worked with President Roosevelt and every president since just to help them in, in -- in any way that he could.

Andrew Fisher:

So he was one of those who gave his time and efforts and knowledge to the government and asked for nothing in return?

Earl Hufford:

That's right, sir.

Andrew Fisher:

There were in World War II and in Korea a few of those very unselfish men, weren't there --

Earl Hufford:

Yes, there were.

Andrew Fisher:

-- who did that? But you worked directly for him?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

And what did you do?

Earl Hufford:

Head gardener.

Andrew Fisher:

I see.

Earl Hufford:

And General Norstead would come up and help me every weekend in the greenhouse. He wanted me to teach him how I grew -- my carnations were 8 inches across in diameter.

Andrew Fisher:

I see.

Earl Hufford:

And you can see these carnations out there.

Andrew Fisher:

And you've retired since -- or did you go to work then for --

Earl Hufford:

I went to work then for the Perrysburg Board of Education because Mr. Beisenstein died.

Andrew Fisher:

Oh, I see.

Earl Hufford:

And so the Board of Education before he died even wanted me to come to work for them because they heard of my -- the way I feel about things and my knowledge. And so I worked for the Board of Education and worked as a head of custodial at the junior high and I was an engineer over six boilers.

Andrew Fisher:

And you have since retired?

Earl Hufford:

Yes, I have. I went on disability retirement, because my knees couldn't take it any more. And I retired when I was 58.

Andrew Fisher:

I'd like to include in this interview your activities with the Korean War Veterans Association.

Earl Hufford:

I helped find the chapter in Toledo, Northwest Ohio; and I was their first -- I volunteered to be their first secretary -- I'm always volunteering for something -- and I was a charter member of that; and now it's up to 142 members.

Andrew Fisher:

I think I should point out on the tape that I was at your Korean War Veterans Association meeting and the thing I remember most about it is that a man stood up and gave a report about your association's activities at various schools.

Earl Hufford:

Yes. We go around to schools and educate the children because there's only about a paragraph in the book -- history books about Korean War and we want to let the children know that there's more to it than just a paragraph.

Andrew Fisher:

The Korean War has been called the forgotten war?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

And you are doing your best at least here in Toledo or in Northwest Ohio I should say to ... (____+ seconds blank). END OF SIDE ONE, TAPE ONE BEGIN SIDE ONE, TAPE TWO

Andrew Fisher:

How do the school children receive you?

Earl Hufford:

We get letters from them. We even get money from them. We don't ask for it but they even send us money. And, you know -- and the children are surprised to hear what was going on that our papers weren't printed in the United States here.

Andrew Fisher:

Korea was the first of our political wars?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

That's my thought. And that -- they were -- those wars were oft times run by the politicians and not the Generals?

Earl Hufford:

That's right.

Andrew Fisher:

And of course we saw it happen even more so at Vietnam?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

Why do you think that the, the textbooks contain so little about the Korea War?

Earl Hufford:

Because they didn't know what -- the historians did not know really what happened over there. And they should have written much much more about it.

Andrew Fisher:

How often do you go to these schools to talk to the children?

Earl Hufford:

Oh, every year we have four or five schools we go to every year.

Andrew Fisher:

And the --

Earl Hufford:

All over Wood County and Lucas County.

Andrew Fisher:

And the staff at the schools welcomed you?

Earl Hufford:

Yes, sir.

Andrew Fisher:

And so you tell the story of --

Earl Hufford:

Of Korea.

Andrew Fisher:

-- of Korea? Apparently not to glorify it but to tell them what -- about the horrors of war --

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

The reasons for war?

Earl Hufford:

Everything.

Andrew Fisher:

Right. Do you belong to any other organizations?

Earl Hufford:

No, I quit the American Legion. I did belong to the American Legion but I'm poor and I couldn't afford both of them.

Andrew Fisher:

I see.

Earl Hufford:

So I chose the KWVA.

Andrew Fisher:

The Korean War Veterans Association?

Earl Hufford:

Yes. And even one year I was so poor I couldn't even afford my dues and they wouldn't let me go. Someone else paid my dues for me.

Andrew Fisher:

And do many of the Korean War Veterans Association members also belong to other organizations?

Earl Hufford:

Yes. They belong to the Legion, VFW, almost every -- Marine Corps.

Andrew Fisher:

I've said this many times in the interviews I've conducted and I'll say it again, these veterans organizations have become America's historians and they have taken it upon themselves to teach the young people about war and about -- about their part in the war and America's part in the war; and I think that's a wonderful service that the veterans associations do.

Earl Hufford:

Yeah. We're trying to -- also one of our projects is to try to change the name of the new bridge in Toledo to the Veterans Memorial Bridge. And it's -- they've got another name for it. I've called Marcy Kaptur, our Congresswoman, and all of our representatives and we've sent out letters to try to change that to the Memorial Bridge.

Andrew Fisher:

Without saying anything political, I'd like to say, though, that it appears that Marcy Kaptur, our representative in Congress has been doing a wonderful job with the veterans.

Earl Hufford:

She's veteran orientated. She has done a lot for me. I've kept in contact with her. I almost love her with everything she's done for me.

Andrew Fisher:

Yes. She seems to have taken on the plight of the veterans?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

And she now, of course, is a high profile representative in Washington because of her seniority?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

And wasn't she involved in one of the Memorials built in Washington?

Earl Hufford:

Yes.

Andrew Fisher:

Which was that?

Earl Hufford:

The Korean War Veterans.

Andrew Fisher:

So she was -- she was instrumental in getting that built?

Earl Hufford:

Yes. And she came to Toledo and -- and she's in the center of this bridge organization and that's why we're fighting that.

Andrew Fisher:

So you'll probably win that one?

Earl Hufford:

I don't know whether we will or not.

Andrew Fisher:

I see. In many interviews that I've been on, the veterans have decided they'd like to make some comment on the present day situation?

Earl Hufford:

Well, I think we couldn't have a better -- I think we couldn't have a better understanding. And I appreciate this interview. I love my country. I love our government. May God bless America.

Andrew Fisher:

An appropriate way to end the interview.

Earl Hufford:

Yes, sir.

Andrew Fisher:

Mr. Hufford asked that I add this postscript to this interview. I dedicate this tape to all the veterans and servicemen and women in service today and may God bless them all.

 
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