My Korean Friend…
Arriving in Korea, the night before Christmas, I was greeted by a Katusa, the other American soldiers called Jerry Lewis. (Shown on the left) Jerry’s job was to serve side by side with me and teach me about serving in a totally different world I was accustomed. He was my own personal ambassador.
Jerry’s real name is Jung Myung. Jung’s side job along with serving as an Ammo Bearer on an 81 Millimeter Mortar is to help the Americans in our platoon, understand the country, customs and some of the language. Jung was our daily orientation program.
After just a few days of serving in our Weapons Platoon, Jung, came up to me with his big Jerry Lewis smile and excitedly told me a funny story. He was speaking Korean with a few English words sprinkled in. I had no idea what the words or the story meant, but the excitement and fun in his voice and mannerisms, told me that this was very funny. It was great to experience the joy exuding from my new friend.
I laughed as hard at his funny story as if he was Private Pagliano, telling me the same story in English. (Pagliano is shown standing on our bridge just to the right of Corporal Jung)
The first Korean I ever met , felt like a close friend, during my stay at Camp Hovey, and then later on the Korean DMZ.
Jerry Lewis, AKA Jung Myung from Taegu, South Korea and I met on Christmas Eve in 1966. I never referred to him as Jerry Lewis. I only called him “Jung.” He always called me” Perkiso,” which was fine by me.
Over the year, we shared many laughs, even though, I didn’t always know why I was laughing. Thinking back after 50 years, I believe Jung did his job well. Jung gave me a Christmas present I will always appreciate and will never forget.
KATUSA stands for Korean Augmentation to the United States Army. When the Korean War began in 1950, South Korea had no Army. The United States and twenty-one member nations of the United Nations, went in to push the Soviet backed North Korean invaders back across the 38th. parallel. General MacArthur created a KATUSA program at that time to get native Koreans to fight side by side with the US and United Nation forces. They served directly under the US commanders.
When I arrived in Korea, in December of 1966, the KATUSA program was still going strong. These men knew the territory and the language and could negotiate with the villagers and give us great information on what we should expect in the different areas we served.
United States forces still help protect our Korean friends. The KATUSA program lives on today in South Korea, even on Christmas Eve…
Your friend and author,
Formally Specialist Fourth Class Wayne F. Perkins
B Company, 3rd Battalion, 32nd Infantry, 7th Division. Camp Hovey Korea and later the Korean DMZ 1966-1967