Richard Whittle

Richard Whittle

Bulldozer operator during the Korean War

By Christine Baldwin, AFRH-W Librarian

Richard entered the Army on June 21, 1952.  He was sent to Pusan Korea on January 31, 1953.  He was assigned to a railroad outfit in the engineer section as a bulldozer operator.

One of the things he remembers is the North Koreans flying Kamikaze missions at night.  These were low flying aircraft. They followed the river and if they saw a light from anything below, they would drop a bomb. The airplanes weren’t much better because their flights were a one way trip; when they ran out of gas they crashed. They called these planes “Bed Check Charlie,” because as soon as you got to sleep, lights would go out and sirens would sound.  Then, you had to go to the air raid shelter. One night, nearby the bombs destroyed two rail lines and killed two Koreans.  Fortunately, Richard was not on duty that night. 

South Korea’s President, Syngman Rhee released prisoners of war and they roamed the countryside.  As a result, all United Nations installations were on lockdown.  Since Richard’s job was outside the compound, he had to have an armed escort. This was a difficult time because you didn’t know who or where the enemy was.  The Armistice was signed on July 27, 1953. Richard was overjoyed thinking he would be going home!  But the reality was that he still had another year in Korea.

One of the things Richard enjoyed while in Korea was talking with the older Koreans.  He learned about their history and how, before the war, everyone seemed to live in harmony.  During the war, this changed and everyone was just trying to survive.  He enjoyed his stay even though he had many memories of difficult times.