Many times during the few months that I was in Korea – pre war, I passed under the 7th Infantry Division sign and beyond this check point was Camp Sobbingo.
The building in front of us was the Headquarters Building where I worked as a clerk typist. We had drills. I did my share of guard duty. Not much KP because we had a lot of native Koreans who needed employment. There is a building to the right were our barracks stood.
I remember one night of guard duty I will never forget. There was a train accident about 100 miles south of Seoul where 7 or 8 of our soldiers lost their lives. They were brought to a place in the camp where the bodies were embalmed. The bodies were then to be shipped home to the families for burial. I was the guard from 12 midnight to 4 am. It was pitch black. I could turn a flash light on but this would expose my position and I used it sparingly. The sergeant in charge did not give me a walkie talkie because it was too far from the rest of the camp for this to work. There was such quietness and stillness that about the only thing I heard was my heart beat and when my boot would hit a rock or object. The sergeant told me when he let me out of the jeep at midnight that if I needed help to shoot my rifle in the air 3 times and they would be there in an instant. I was never so glad in all my life to see jeep lights come up to relieve me.
Another night I was on guard duty and making my rounds near a fence that the locals would sneak across and run home with almost anything that was not tied down. No matter how many times the fence was repaired, it was penetrated time and time again. The Lt. in charge instructed us not to shoot the culprits but try to scare them. This was also close to some huts where the natives lived. I got so interested in watching them preparing their food and having a family meal that I forgot to keep walking the post. I heard the Lt. yelling my name “Graham” and noticed the lady in the house jump in fright. I casually walked out and gave the usual “who goes there?” He asked “what were you doing there so long”. “Checking the fence sir”. I doubt that he believed me but that was what I was supposed to be doing instead of “peeping tom” chores.
Sergeant Wetzel gave me grief. He was in charge of the enlisted men in the G-3 section. Col. Hampton was the over-all in charge but he left things up to Sergeant Wetzel. I am not sure why he didn’t like me. I told him one day shortly after I got there that I did not like coffee and did not think I had to make it for everybody else. He had a different idea. That may have set us off on the wrong foot even if I obeyed his order and took my turn at making coffee.
I eventually got promoted to corporal in spite of his not too good recommendations. The Col. liked my typing because of accuracy and speed. The Col. was instrumental in getting me my TOP SECRET clearance to type many of his sensitive documents. Sometime in August or September of 1948 I was typing this document that indicated the troops were leaving South Korea. Syngman Rhee, the President of South Korea was itching to get our troops out. He thought that his army was well prepared to keep the county safe from the North Korean Dictator and his army supported and armed to the teeth by Russia. I thought that this was a bad mistake that President Truman was making but he had a lot of pressure on him to bring more troops home. The proposal was to leave 500 American Army Advisers to continue to build up and train the South Korean Army. I was just a lowly corporal in the G-3 section in Seoul at that time. I could not even talk about the letter I was typing.
Sargent Wetzel is the short one on your right.