BOE SIMPSON COLLECTION
Learn more about A1C Boe Simpson's experiences in South Korea during the tense days following the Armistice.
BOE SIMPSON COLLECTION
Learn more about A1C Boe Simpson's experiences in South Korea during the tense days following the Armistice.
Welcome to the South Frozen Chosin
Our C-124 flight from Japan to Korea was uneventful until we tried to land at K-16. Fog was so thick we had to go back and land at K-2. We landed in the rain. When we arrived, there was no room in the transient tents and the Sar’hint said we had sleep in the Service Club. On the way to the club, this dude opens his tent door and proceeds to urinate. What a greeting! I learned later urinating in the squadron area is an “Article 15 offense.” He escaped that punishment because of the rain.
 Seoul Airbase
 K-2 is Taegu Airbase. See map in Appendix 1.
Ed Shook and I arrived at Kimpo in late
February 1954 after a memorable voyage
on the good ship USNS Edgar Collins.
We arrived in Kimpo just barely six months
after the Armistice was signed and things
Ed was assigned to the 67th
Reconnaissance Tech Squadron and I went
to the 12th Tactical Reconnaissance
Squadron (12TRS). When I processed in the
12th squadron, supply issued us a canteen,
mess kit, bayonet, web belt, steel helmet
with liner and a sealed package.
"What is this sealed package?" I thought.
Out of curiosity, I opened it. Lo and behold it
was a gas mask. “Why do we need these?” I thought. (I later learned it was due to our close proximity to the DMZ, the 67th Wing issued these as a precaution.) I was beginning to feel a little tense so I put it on and adjusted it. I was the only one in my tent that did it. Some didn’t even open theirs.
We had periodic ground alerts requiring us to rush to our defensive positions. Uncertain if it was ever the real thing I asked an 'ole Sergeant how we would know. He replied, “If supply issues you a bandolier of carbine magazines and some K rations you’ll know.” Random “Red Alerts” were also issued. On these alerts where we had to run like hell to the trenches. We had to stay there until the sounded all clear.
My squadron, the 12th, was known as the “Blackbirds”
because they flew Douglas RB-26 Invader aircraft
painted all black. We were part of the 67th Tactical
Reconnaissance Wing. The Wing had two other Tactical
Reconnaissance Squadrons, the 45th “Polka Dots,” flying
RF-80 Shooting Star jets, and the 15th “Cottonpickers”
flying the RF-86 Sabre Jets. The 15th moved to Japan
shortly after our arrival at Kimpo. An additional squadron
was spun off from the 12th and became the 11th Tactical
Reconnaissance, a weather squadron. On the other side of
Kimpo was the 4th Fighter-Interceptor Wing. They had
three squadrons that flew F-86 Sabre jets. They would
take off in pairs to patrol the DMZ.
The purpose of our Wing was to furnish intelligence interpreted from the aerial photography to the ground forces. The 12th’s mission was to photograph the enemy at night using photo flash bombs to illuminate features on the ground. As mentioned before, the 12th flew the RB-26. The RB-26 had a three-man crew, one pilot, and two navigators. One of the navigators operated the cameras.
The photography was flown to provide stereo coverage in mosaic form to allow detailed interpretation. Flight crews had to provide a minimum 55% overlap and 15% side lap to assure maximum stereo coverage permitting accurate interpretation.
My section, the Photo Interpretation Section, did a preliminary
analysis of the mission after our photo lab developed the film.
If deemed acceptable, the film was then forwarded up for
I believe our cameras were 28-inch focal length for vertical
photography. Besides the night photo training missions and
day training missions, the 12th also flew missions parallel to
the DMZ to monitor North Korean military activity. The planes
carried a 48” focal length oblique camera capable of collecting intelligence on activities being conducted by the North Koreans.
These missions were particularly dangerous because enemy MIG fighter jets were on the other side waiting for our unarmed Blackbird to wander across the line. Fortunately, our aircrews, especially the navigator, were experienced enough to stay on the south side of the lines. Intelligence gleaned from oblique photography revealed the Communists, as expected were not adhering to the terms of the truce. All sorts of new equipment were photographed.
 Demilitarized Zone: The neutral border between North and South Korea
Under the terms of the truce, both sides agreed to refrain from introducing any new equipment to the area. The United Nations inspection team made periodic visits to Kimpo to assure the terms of the truce were being complied with.
One day in early Summer, I moseyed on down to the section and I noticed an RB-45 parked on the ramp near the 12th’s aircraft. I asked one of the older heads where that came from. He reiterated that under the terms of the truce, there would be no introduction of new equipment. The RB-45 was parked on the ramp the day the truce was signed and had to be brought back every time the inspection team came through so they could count it.
1020 N. Charles Street
At Kimpo, we lived in tents. Ours, was a six-man squad tent
mounted on a wooden frame. We called it 1920 N. Charles
Street (subtle humor). The occupants of 1920 N. Charles
Street were Mel (dad), Tony, John, Spence, Chris and me. We all
got along pretty well considering the living conditions. Dad was
a WWII vet who survived Pearl Harbor.
All the tents on base had a Korean houseboy who made up our
bunks and kept the tent clean. It cost us two dollars a month for his services. Ours was named Ro (Ro Yon Sup). He was a student at a local school. We made his day by buying his school uniform for him. He was like a kid with a new toy.
I was first introduced to the “frustrated feelings” of the troops when one of my new found friends stepped out of his tent and bellowed “I hate this F%4@?$g” place!” He was due to rotate home soon and was “letting it all hang out.” I thought “what am I in for?”
The orderly room posted the names of those convicted of Article 15 offenses. Chief among these offenses: “Urinating in the Squadron Area.” Every tent had a 55-gallon barrel filled with water beside it to fight fires. Most of the offenders used it as a urinal. The offenses with the names of the offenders were posted to discourage others from committing the same. Our new Commander, Major Tharp called a meeting one day emphasizing the need to refrain from this activity. He said this place smells bad enough.
What he said was so true. When the farmers of the rice paddies adjacent to the perimeter fence began their rice farming, they fertilized the fields with fecal matter collected from our latrines. They parked their “honey cart” next to the latrine and ladled “the stuff” out exclaiming in broken English “G.I. schitt No. 1”. Occupants of the tents close to the fence suffered the most. As the temperature increased, the smell got worse. It was especially bad when you had guard mount.
The malaria threat was so serious we had to periodically take Chloroquine tablets for protection.
 The pictures of tent 1920 N. Charles Street is a parody of a street in Baltimore, MD where the “upper crust” live. It was a very affluent neighborhood.
"Today 25 May 1954, a surprise move took place. Effective at 1300 hours all of the MPC’s (script) that were in our possession were invalid. That means for all the GIs over here. It was done to curb black marketing. We had to turn all of the old money in, sign a form and get the new currency sometime tomorrow.
You see darling, there was an awful lot of MPC circulating around here in Korea illegally. Practically every Korean you’d run into had a bunch. By declaring the old MPC invalid, the Koreans were caught with their pants down. They had no way of getting rid of their MPC. After 8:00 PM this evening, no GI can turn any in either. The FEAF and FEAMCOM pull a currency switch about once every 12 months to curb the great amount of black marketing that goes on.
We were all laughing when we thought of all those black market operatives with the MPC and it not being worth a tinker’s damn. All of the PX’s, theatres, clubs etc run by the UN closed down too and no one could do any business after 1300 hours this afternoon. No one has any money and better not have any either. If they do they are stuck. There were a few instances where those merchants came up to the fence looking for a GI to turn in their script for them I don’t know if any were successful."
The Darker Side of Kimpo
On a sadder note, we had two disgusting activities that in my opinion were the scourge of the military – loan sharking and gambling. Loan sharks loaned money with the stipulation that payback was double the amount borrowed.
On payday, the gamblers would meet in the Day Room and set up shop. There were usually four games going. The next day, two games and the last, one game. The winner-take-all was a professional gambler (a Tech Sgt from the Orderly Room) who ended up with the most money. One of my tent mates, an A3/C lost all of his money and would hit me up for a $5.00 loan. Payback was $5.00 the next Pay Day. After several instances, I cut him off because I was sending most of pay home to my pregnant wife.
In late September or early October, Al Kopel and I had R&R in Japan at the Karatsu sea-side inn. It was great to get away from the daily grind of Korea.
Our wing supported two Korean orphanages from offerings taken up at Sunday chapel services.
One of them had a children’s choir which sang for us a few times. Tears flowed freely.
My duty at the section was to spend every third night doing a preliminary interpretation of the missions flown that night. I then had to deliver the film canisters to the 67th Recon Tech Squadron for more precise interpretation.
The shift was from 1700 to 0800. One side benefit was attending midnight chow. Sometimes the mess sergeant wouldn’t allow us to have breakfast at 0800 and we had to wait until lunch to eat again. Speaking of the chow, I believe the 67th Food Service Squadron did a fabulous job-trying make the chow palatable considering what they had to work with.
We had to sleep in the Section tent and during the monsoon season. That thing leaked like a sieve. Fortunately, there were no missions to worry about, but we had to be there just in case. The monsoon season lasted for two weeks raining 24/7.
1st Time on Guard
Since the truce was signed on July 27, 1953, the
atmosphere on the base was tense because no one
knew how long the truce would hold up. Consequently,
we had perimeter fence guard mount carrying M-1
Carbines with 30 rounds of ammo from dusk to dawn in
three-hour shifts during the winter months and five-
hour shifts during the summer months.
The summer shifts between 2100 and 0300 were the
roughest because they threw off one’s normal sleep
pattern. I was required to perform perimeter guard
duty at least twice a month. For me, this was the
most-tense time wondering if everything would stay
quiet and peaceful while I was out there. There was lots
of time to think about our ground alert and “red alert” drills.
Our posts were approximately 100 yards long and it sure was lonely, especially in the bomb dump, which was outside of the base. The Corporal of the Guard would check us out. Moonlit nights were the best time to have the duty. While walking guard mount during the daylight hours we were constantly bugged by the little Korean children outside the fence begging chewing gum and candy. The (Republic of Korea (ROKs) GIs patrolled outside the fence carrying M-1s and I always hoped they were South Koreans.
The first time I had “the duty” was during a peaceful night. That is until I heard the unmistakable sound of machinegun fire. I immediately crouched for cover wondering if hostilities had resumed and if I alone by the fence would have to defend the base. The rapid gunfire continued for a few minutes then abruptly ceased.
When the Corporal of the Guard finally came by, I asked him about it. He laughed and said not to worry. This was a routine occurrence. The gunfire was only an F-86 Sabre Jet from the Fourth Fighter Interceptor Wing synchronizing its guns.
The Fourth Wing occupied the other side of the runway out of my view. This information was quite a relief and if I remember correctly, I may have had to change my underwear after returning to my tent!
 Summer month shifts were from 1900-0000 and 0001-0500. Winter month shifts were from 1800-2100, 2100-0000, 0001-0300 and 0300 to 0600.
Another night, I was walking on perimeter guard duty up at the end of the runway where there was a gate. It was locked by using a chain. There was a 6-man squad tent for the ROKs on the other side. I walked past the gate several times and each time I could hear a GI voice arguing loudly with a PaPa-san.
I recognized it as a loud mouth jerk from our squadron. I had just passed the gate when the jerk forced his way through it back on to the base. I yelled, “halt” and I believe he messed his pants.
He starting yelling, “G.I. 12th Tac!” “Don’t shoot!”. He told me the ROK guard had an M-1 pointed at him and he ran when he had a chance. This idiot was going to rotate home in about a month or two. To complicate things the guard relief truck had just passed and I thought someone might have heard me yell, “Halt”.
I decided to let him go, taking a chance the Corporal of the Guard hadn’t heard me, telling him to run like the wind. The next day this jerk is in the Day Room bragging about his close call. I told him if he ever pulls that crap on me again, I would put a round in his backside and ask questions later. He quickly shut up.
Second "John" Caught Unawares
One night, I was assigned a post in the Bomb Dump. These buildings were very close to the fence line. I was between buildings when I spotted headlights bounding up the road. It was a jeep. No vehicles were supposed to be in this area so I ducked into the nearest building. When it got close enough I yelled as loudly as I could “Halt who goes there?!”
The jeep screeched to a halt idling for a few moments but otherwise did nothing. I yelled again “Dismount and be recognized!” One individual from the passenger side slowly exited, standing in front of the jeep. I remained partially hidden out of his sight. He muttered something I couldn’t understand so I began hollering “Corporal of the Guard; Post –!!!“. several times as loud as I could.
When the Corporal finally arrived, he agreed this was unusual, but not to worry. I did the right thing. Turns out the passenger was an Army Second John. My only mistake was not forcing the driver to dismount; however, I was not chastised for this error.
This time, I imagine the Second John and his driver required a change of underwear upon returning to their tents while anticipating the sound of a round being chambered by a very nervous and well-hidden guard!
 “Second John” is slang for Second Lieutenant
Rain, Rain, and More Rain
We got a lot of rain in Korea making guard mount a real pain in the @zze. The amount of rain cannot be emphasized enough and as it rarely ceased. Remaining dry during a three to five-hour shift presented a serious challenge as my sole defense against this relentless barrage consisted of a single poncho and a pair of five buckle overshoes.
One of my tent mates “slicky schicked” some canvas from the local maintenance hut from which he made a pair of leggings that covered from the waist down over the overshoes. Armed with a helmet liner, poncho and leggings, one could finally stay pretty dry. We shared the poncho and the leggings with our tent mates, making guard duty more bearable for us all.
 Slicky schick is slang for steal
The Ingenuity of the Enlisted Man
Once again, I had “the duty” at the bomb dump patrolling an interior road in the pouring rain. In the dark spotted a pair of headlights approaching. It was the Corporal of the Guard. Oh schitt! Where am I going to hide this time?
I bolted a few yards off the road plopping down on my belly in mud. “Halt! Who goes there!” I challenged. He didn’t know where it came from. Only after he correctly responded did I reveal my position by standing and walking towards him. He complimented me for my ingenuity. Us “enlisted cats” have that gift, don’t we?
The Tug Caper: A Typical Enlisted Man's Stunt
Life wasn’t all guard duty. Here is one humorous experience that happened one midnight on the way back from the mess hall.
Excerpt from a letter home:
16 March 54 (Tues)
1815 PM (Kor.)
0415 AM (EST)
“Well here is something funny I want to tell you about. We rode over to midnight chow on a “tug”. A tug is a little tractor like vehicle that is used to tow aircraft around. On the way over to the mess hall this kid named Ham from my section drove it over. One guy was sitting on the hood, another on the right rear fender and I was sitting on the left rear fender. We parked it in front of the mess hall and went to chow.
When we came back we all took the same positions and Ham still took the driver’s seat. Well the kid that was sitting on the hood decided that he was going to drive. In plain words he had his back to the front of the tug and he would have to work the pedals backwards from the normal way you drive. You know how you move your right foot from the gas to the left to the brake pedal. Well he had to move his right foot to the right to the brake pedal as he was sitting backwards.
Ham was operating the clutch and shifting gears. We got to going pretty good across the apron and when we got to our side, this kid started to maneuver the tug around and in and out of the aircraft sitting there. Well he swerved to miss an oxygen bottle cart and was heading straight for a ditch.
Instead of remembering that (this part is really funny) he had to work everything opposite from normal driving, he pushed the panic switch. Instead of moving his right foot to the right to engage the brake pedal, he thought he had his foot on the brake pedal and kept pressing harder.
That old tug really took off and we hit that there ditch a flying. Yes we did. Wal that there old tug stopped dead and we all flew through the air. I landed in the middle of the road in a running stance and really had to keep moving to retain my balance. The driver did a tumble-somersault over the hood and I don’t know what all.
Poor old Ham ended up in that there ditch on top of the other passenger. Luckily none of us were hurt, but it was so funny the way it happened that we all busted out laughing. Honey if you had seen it you would have gone into stitches that old tug really gouged a hole in the bank of the ditch. We pushed all of the dirt back into the hole and covered it up.”
Yet Another Enlisted Man's Stunt
The mess hall served scrambled (powdered) eggs for breakfast. One morning I was sitting in the back corner of the mess hall. Looking around while eating I noticed some boxes stashed in the corner. Curiosity got the better of me and I opened one up. “Saints be praised!” Bottles of either ketchup or chili sauce. I opened a bottle and enjoyed my eggs. I was able to do this every time the cooks served powdered eggs. I don’t remember if they ever moved those boxes.
CQ Duty at 12th TAC Headquarters
Since the Blackbirds flew a lot of night missions, the PI Section and the Photo Lab had to be manned 24/7 most of the time. Even when it rained. I and two other enlisted men had to rotate each night; duty hours 1700 to 0800 the next morning. I had to work every third night.
The duty was to do a preliminary interpretation by plotting the photos to see if the flight crew accomplished their mission. We then delivered the film and photos to the Recce Tech Squadron for in-depth interpretation for intelligence purposes.
One late night in September, there was a lot of racket around a Blackbird. Curiosity got the better of me and I went to see what was going on. There was a lot of frantic activity around one of our aircraft. Lo and behold I saw a “Light Colonel” helping load 100 lb Photo Flash Bombs into the bomb bay while other assorted personnel including officers were messing with the cameras. I thought “O Lord, is the truce over?” I just knew all hell was breaking loose and the war must be on again.
As things turned out, a group of officers from the other Tac Squadrons bet the officers of the Blackbirds that they couldn’t get the plane ready for a mission within a certain time limit. I was just witnessing a friendly barroom bet between officers. Phew!!! The Blackbird boys won the bet by the way.
 Lieutenant Colonel
Another Day of CQ Duty
One night before I rotated [home], I had CQ duty at Squadron headquarters. I received a call from Fuchu. An Airman from the 12th was requesting travel by air instead of troopship back to the states. His girlfriend or fiancé was either dead or on her deathbed. I said the Chaplain has to make that decision and I called him and gave him the message. The chaplain called back and said no to the air travel. The young woman was not the airman’s spouse. I hated to be the bearer of bad news.
The same night or another time I had the duty, one of the playboys was not in his bunk at midnight when I had to do a bed check of the barracks. His roommate tried to fool me by stuffing blankets under another blanket to make it look like a body was in the bed.
I told the roommate I was going to another barracks and will come back and check again. When I came back to check, the playboy was there. I told him he was almost AWOL. He thought it was funny.
News from Home & Other Memories
The most memorable events in my life were the letters from Lorraine especially the ones about my soon to be born daughter Debbi. One of her comments would be “the baby just kicked me”. This precious little girl was born on September 16, 1954. I could not express my joy over this blessed event without flowing tears.
Mel moved from our tent down to the flight line in July to his new quarters, a Quonset hut. It was a whole lot more comfortable than our tents. Dave Shives had just arrived and was assigned to 1920 N. Charles Street.
After three pass overs, I was finally promoted to E-4 in August or September and the additional increase was greatly appreciated. This meant additional class Q allotment for Lorraine and Debbie.
Our radio network was the American Forces Korea Network, which was run by the Army. They had a program that would play song requests from relatives at home. Lorraine would send Kitty Kallen’s “Little Things Mean a Lot” which was our favorite. Needless to say, it was difficult to hold back the tears.
When Lt. Smith rotated back to the states, he was replaced by Lt. Bob “Bones” Harrington, a black officer, who came up through the ranks and was a great OIC. Lt. George Cummings replaced Lt. Taylor who rotated home also.
During the Summer, a replacement pilot reported into the Squadron. I don’t remember his name but he was not well regarded by the men. He was a Naval Academy graduate with the Air Force rank of Captain. His first blunder was ordering names on the RB-26s painted over. This raised a ruckus among the maintenance crews. Some of the older pilots, mostly “Mustangs”, advised the Captain that the names were morale boosters and he should remember that these same crews maintain the planes he will be flying. Subtle threat? He wisely backed off.
His next unwise move was to require our tents to pass white glove inspections. This guy had a severe case of “cranial rectilitus” to think that &%3@? tents needed white glove inspections. The CO (Commander) of squadron said: “Ain’t gonna happen.” The Captain backed off that dumb @zze recommendation too.
 It is Air Force tradition and a point of pride among maintenance crews to paint their names on aircraft they maintain.
 “Mustang” is an affectionate slang term for an officer who was formerly enlisted.
 “cranial rectilitus” is slang for “To have one’s head up one’s rear end”
Fifth Air Force finally decided to move all squadrons to Japan. Early in October or November, the 12th moved to Itami AB near Osaka Japan. The squadron was going to transition to jets. We left Kimpo late at night on a C-124. Our house boy Ro was heartbroken. We gave him a watch which brought him to tears. We were a little misty-eyed too. When we arrived, we thought we had died and gone to heaven. Enlisted quarters were barracks two men to a room. No more powdered eggs or powdered milk. Oohrah!
 The 12th moved to Itami AB, Japan on 8 November 1954 (Air Force Historical Agency 2016)
For more stories, be sure to download Boe's letters here.
1. Air Force Historical Agency. 2016. 12th Reconnaissance Squadron Fact Sheet. Aug 22. http://www.afhra.af.mil/Information/Organizational-Records/Squadrons-and-Flights/