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"The Russians always said they had nothing to do with the Korean War and that was a total, blatant lie." (Video Interview, 26:45)

   Donald L. Campbell
Image of Donald L. Campbell
Donald Campbell [2003]
War: Korean War, 1950-1953
Branch: Navy
Unit: Submarine Service
Rank: Torpedoman's Mate Second Class
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A farm boy from small-town Nebraska, Donald Campbell was admittedly looking for a little adventure in 1948 when he joined the Navy out of high school. Although he never set foot on the Korean Peninsula during the Korean War, Campbell and his mates aboard two submarines (Bugara and Pomodon) did their own parts by patrolling the waters between Japan and Korea and between Siberia and North Korea. They saw evidence of Soviet ships supplying the North Korean war effort. They also escaped serious harm when their anchor chain broke during a storm and they drifted into rocks which severely damaged the boat.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (7 clips)
»Complete Interview  (45 min.)
More like this
»Submarines: The Silent Service
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (7 items)
Why he joined the Navy at 17: looking for adventure and to follow his 8 cousins who had served in the Navy in WWII.; born on a farm in Nebraska, so the sea was exotic to him; taking a train to California with other recruits from the heartland; excitement on seeing the ocean for the first time. (02:06) His first submarine, the Bugara (SS 331); had one day's notice to report to the sub, which was leaving the following day for Japan; his parents were coming to visit him in Hawaii, so he had to call them collect; local operator in his home town putting the call through to neighbors, where she knew they were having supper; first voyage through a storm; he had topside duty and was looking up at the waves; in bad weather being tied in to their bunks to avoid falling out; boat stayed on the surface because of difficulties surfacing in heavy seas. (04:16) In Japan for six months; country was still very poor five years after the war; gave shipyard workers any surplus food or clothing they had; Christmas 1950, orphans brought aboard the boat for a dinner and tour of the sub; trying to avoid a blizzard one night, they sailed into a bay; they dropped anchor, and the chain broke; drifted onto rocks bow first--where he was sleeping; boat was seriously damaged and unable to run under its own power; captain's career was over as a result. (04:45)
Back to Pearl Harbor for their boat to be converted from the WWII model to a more streamlined sub with a snorkel and long-range batteries, the GUPPY (Greater Underwater Propulsive Power) program; running trial dives with civilian managers on board; sprung a small leak and the civilians panicked. (02:57) Qualifying in submarines--able to do every enlisted man's job--which "earns your dolphins" (insignia); transferred to the Pomodon (SS 486), a sub which had lost a torpedo man to appendicitis; first man he saw below was a high school classmate from his home town in Nebraska; patrolled off Siberia and the northeast coast of Korea; watching Russian ships leave loaded with soldiers and cargo and returned empty from North Korea, putting the lie to their denial of involvement in the war; skipper got so angry one evening in the spring of 1952, with the war at its height, that he ordered two torpedoes loaded, but he would not have been allowed to fire them on his own. (05:44) Went into Japanese cities; ashore one time on Shikoku, smallest of the islands; stared at because most locals had not seen any Caucasians; occupation force at that time was one Army lieutenant and five enlisted men, who had gone virtually native; in Tokyo, getting some icy stares from Japanese veterans, especially those missing limbs from their service; treated generally well, and he and his comrades tried to return the favor. (02:27)
Telling sea stories in their spare time; a lot of the crews on both subs had served during WWII and had some harrowing tales to tell; during war games, surface ships would try to track them and then signal they had found the sub by tossing a hand grenade over the side; its explosion, according to the WWII vets, was the equivalent of a detonator on a depth charge going off, a "bang" before the "BOOM." (01:29)  
  
 

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  October 26, 2011
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