Korean War Letters 1951-1952 by Kenneth Zill.
Below are a few of the letters that my father, Kenneth Zill, wrote to my mother, Rosalie Nash, while he was in the army from 1951-1952. They had just started to date when he was drafted, having to leave Michigan State College, his family and his new girlfriend. My father was a CPL. in the 45th Division, 180th Regiment, E Company, 2nd Battalion.
To read more letters and see more pictures please visit my website at www.lvandenberghe.net.
From his hometown in Ann Arbor, Michigan Ken is shipped to Fort Sheridan, IL where he is sworn into the army. He is only stationed there until Jan. 22nd, 1951.
Jan 17, 1950 (51)
Well, I’m a soldier now. We got sworn in yesterday P.M. about 4 o’clock. Outside of getting sworn in yesterday, we did nothing but play cards. We played from 9-12 and from 1-4 and 4:30-6:00.
We got so much coffee and donuts yesterday it was pitiful. We got coffee at the bus station, coffee when we got on the bus, also when we got to Fort Wayne, then when we went to the train station. Every place we got about three candy bars too. We got razor blades, soap, cigs, Bibles, shaving cream and all sorts of stuff like that.
We just got our barracks assigned and just got back to them with our blankets and sheets. Me & Gus go in the same barracks, he’s at one end and I’m at the other. It’s getting close to dinner time now, but I don’t know when we get to eat. We are going to get our fatigues this P.M. (work clothes)
Tomorrow we start drilling. We got Pullmans for a train down here. It took 13 Pullman cars to get us all on. There is 346 in our class. We had to be in bed by 10 last night. Oh yeah, we went through Lansing last night about 10. I don’t know how we went thru there on our way from Det to Chi but we did. It took us 12 hours to go from Det to Chi last night. We stopped every time a train came by.
Tonight to get to go over to the P.X (sic). From what I heard you can buy beer over there, so me & Gus will be over there most of the time.
This barrack is just a bloody fire trap, it’s about the dustiest place I’ve seen in my life. Lights go out at 22:50 every night and Reveille is at 06:25 every morning. We live on the second floor.
We got ten minutes before dinner so I’d better close. Gus said to say hello and he said to send you his love. We just got back from dinner, had pork chops wasn’t too bad either. We had to make our beds so you could bounce a coin off of it. Gotta close now and get our uniforms.
Lots of Love
On January 22nd, Ken is shipped down to Fort Polk, LA where he is stationed for his basic training until the end of May 1951.
March 5, 1951
Camp Polk, La
I got your picture in the mail today. You weren’t fooling, it’s really a beautiful picture. Thanks a million for sending it. I really fell in love with it, more or less, literally speaking. I got it up on the shelf right about my bed. Only maybe you shouldn’t have sent it, 31 guys in the barracks said that they were going to write to you, the other 9 can’t, they’re married. No fooling, it is really a swell picture and I’m glad that you mailed it to me.
About five of us got in from the field and so we missed mail call, and we were kinda heartbroken because we missed it. When we got back to the barracks we found out that they had called our names for packages. So we went and rounded up the mail clerk. The poor cuss was already in bed, but he got up with a little persuasion and got our mail for us. We missed chow on account of mail call, but it was sure worth it.
Its bedtime now so I gotta close now. This is a pain in the arm going to bed at 9:30 every night.
Loads of Love
After a short furlough home in Michigan, Ken flies to San Francisco to await transport to Hokkaido, Japan. He is stationed in Japan from June 1951-Nov.1951.
Hi Sweet heart
Feeling kinda low tonight. We’re going to move out of our Quonset, if everything goes according to plan. We don’t know exactly where we’re going, but everyone has the same idea as to where it is. If we move it will be within the next few weeks. If you don’t get this for awhile, it is because the mail is being held up til we have left here.
I don’t think anyone is really looking forward to moving, but in this case none of us volunteered.
We’ve spent the last couple of days checking all our equipment and gear. We have also had our weapons put into good working order now. (All were supposed to write home is that we’re moving).
Tomorrow we get a bunch of shots and then turn a lot of our clothes into supply. Guess we won’t be needing our dress uniforms any more.
We had a real nice meal for dinner today, about the best one we’ve had since we’ve been in the army. All you could eat too. The cooks stayed up all last night fixing it. There was 25 different things on the menu.
I wish that you were over here tonight because I need, need you to love and need someone to talk to. Everyone here is in the same boat. Everyone tries to make a joke out of it but deep down inside, everyone is scared, not for themselves so much, but mostly for their loved ones. Scared too that their life’s dreams won’t come true. I don’t think I’d be selfish by wanting to bring into reality our dream. That sweetheart means more to me than anything else.
We’ll just have to leave it all in God’s hands. All we gotta do is have faith in Him and everything will come out OK. He won’t let us down.
Well sweetheart that’s about all I can think of now, so I’d better close. Remember I always love you and need you. Don’t ever forget that.
All my love
On December 6, 1951, Ken arrives in Korea as a foot soldier on the front lines. He remains there until he is wounded on June 12, 1952.
18 Dec 1951
We’ve been up on the MLR now for 2 days. We’re sitting on a hill overlooking a real wide valley. The Koreans are on one side of the valley and we’re on the other side. It must be about 4000 yards wide or so. We control the valley in the day time and the Koreans control it by night. We got here about 6 am Sunday and immediately we got put on a listening post about a quarter of a mile out in front of the lines. We sat there for about 27 hours. Talking about being scared at night, I was so scared I could hardly talk. The Koreans hit on both sides of us, but they didn’t hit us. We could see their machine guns a ways off to our right, but we didn’t shoot at it.
We’re living in bunkers now. All they are is glorified foxholes, but they keep us pretty warm. The days are pretty mild and the nights are cold.
We don’t get much water up here, just enough to drink, not enough to wash in, so I’ve got dirty hands as they haven’t been washed in about 4 days. So you’ll have to excuse it if this paper is rather dirty.
I haven’t gotten your Florida address yet as we’re missing a week’s mail. Maybe I’ll get it tonight.
Well honey I gotta close now and work come more on my bunker. Don’t forget honey I love you now and always. By for now
All my Love
7 Feb 1952
My Dearest Rosalie
I hope you’ll forgive me, but this is my second letter to you today. Haven’t got anything to write, but I feel in the writing mood. I guess that I’m just in a gay mood tonight, feel like going somewhere, but there ain’t too many places to go.
Got another sweet letter from my true love today and you asked about my camera. I got it over here with me. I’m taking pictures all the time, but it is awful hard to get them developed. We got to wait til someone goes on R and R to either Tokyo or Seoul.
Our patrols over here aren’t too bad. Our company has drawn it about 10 times and only once we’ve seen any Koreans. That was back on Jan. 12th. That day we really seen the Koreans. We were supposed to take a hill with about a squad or so on it, anyway when we got up there, there was a battalion waiting for us. We didn’t retreat from the hill, we got chased off. I was never so scared in all my life as I was that day. Its times like that you really know there’s a God up above you looking after you. Some of the boys weren’t as lucky as I. They got hit. Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this, but all the guys in “E” Company wasn’t going to mention it in their letters home. But Bob Barsantee (in G Company) wrote home and told all about it. He made it sound a lot worse that it really was. So I figured I’d better tell you about it before you hear a lot of wild rumors. The whole thing lasted about 3 hours I guess that we were actually in contact with the enemy. Someday I’ll tell you all the details but right now I‘d just as soon forget about it.
Well sweetheart that’s about all I can think of so I’ll close for now, but first darling, I’m going to tell you that I love you with all my heart and really miss you. It won’t be long and I won’t be missing you I’ll be there with you, – for always
Bye for now
All my Love
24 Feb 1952
Somewhere in Korea
My Dearest Rosalie
I’m feeling pretty good right now, had most of the day off. Spent one hour this morning guarding 214 cases of beer. They don’t trust the boys in E Company, we gotta keep a guy there with a loaded gun all the time. It sorta discourages a guy from trying to hook a couple of cases.
We had church services here tonight. They were about half a mile down the road. It started at 6 pm, and it was kinda chilly out there.
We went up to dig on our positions yesterday and found a couple dozen dead Koreans laying up there. They got killed during their big spring offensive last spring. We found one hole with 15 piled up in it. It just about turns your stomach to look at them. When we find them like that behind our lines we usually just throw some dirt over them. It’s a heck of a way to bury a guy, but there’s not much else we can do.
Guess what, mail just came in and I got the pipe you sent me and honey, it’s really nice. I love it sweetheart, thanks a million for it. I wish I could thank you personally it, soon as I get home I will. Got the candles too, so now I can smoke my pipe and write letters after dark. It’s really swell of you to send me all this stuff and I love you for it. Didn’t get any letters tho, we’ll probably get some letters tomorrow.
That’s about all the news there is right now. We’re headed back up to the front around the third or fourth of the month. I hope that next time we go up the war’s over.
Good night sweetheart. I’ll see you in my dreams. I guess pen and ink will have to do, til I can say “goodnight dearest, I love you” personally.
Bye for now
All my Love