Friendships begin in Korea

3 Heroes on the DMZ

3 Heroes on the DMZ

Three men I am so proud to have served with in the Army include Billy Lewis, Song CK and Jung Muyung.

Upon arriving at our home base at Camp Hovey, Korea on Christmas Eve, in 1966, these three men along with Tony Rangel provided me a family many thousands of miles from home. I never had a brother growing and these three along with so many others became my brothers in the “Land of the Morning Calm,” Korea.

From Left to Right…

Two, KATUSAs, (Korean Augmentation to the United States Army)  Sung and Jung, are seated next to Billy Lewis, showing them how to embrace their duty in a foreign land.

Billy Lewis…

Shown on the left was one of the first guys I ever met in the Army. We were stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, located on the Tennessee/Kentucky border. Growing up in a small, rural area of Tennessee, he was my personal Davy Crockett, the King of the Wild Frontier. (For those of you who read my narrative non-fiction book, “The Last Flight of the Daisy Mae, ” I used Billy Lewis as my Dad’s rifle instructor during World War II, but he became my rifle “coach,” when I was at Fort Campbell in Basic Training. He was a trainee just like myself, however on the very first day on the rifle range, he would fire his M14, like no-one the instructors, had ever seen before. No one ever experienced a shot grouping so tightly packed together no matter the target distance.

When I raised my M14 rifle to shoot for the very first time, I was wild and was afraid of the kick. I was flinching badly on every shot. When the instructors stopped the firing to reload, they sent Billy Lewis, to give me some help.

He reacted as the true Country Gentleman he truly was, and with a little advice, coaching, and using Tennessee wind-age and Kentucky elevation, I was soon shooting like a pro.

After Basic Training at Fort Campbell, he, Tony Rangel and I were all sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey, for Light Vehicle Training School. We were only there for 5 weeks, because we were needed badly in South Korea, as six men on patrol were ambushed on our side of the South Korean border and 50,000 South Korean (ROK) troops were sent to help our American forces in Vietnam.

Billy and the KATUSAs in the picture are sharing stories and culture as they are helpful in translating for us and are sworn to put up with our outrageous behaviors.

Song, CK…

Before arriving at Camp Hovey, I spent a few days, waiting for a unit to start up. I,  along with the three men shown in the picture, would be the first soldiers in  the Weapons Platoon, (3rd Platoon) of B company 3rd Battalion 32nd Infantry, Regiment of the 7th Division.

After the bugle for reveille, “Aejukga,” the National Anthem of Korea and then the Star Spangled Banner, would play. We would hold our salutes through both. Aejukga is a beautiful song and immediately gave me a sense of purpose in being in such a unique foreign land.

When I arrived in my hooch, a Quonset Hut that could hold 40 soldiers, immediately Song and Chung came over to help me unpack my duffel bag and help me arrange things in my wall locker and foot locker.

Korea in 1966
Camp Hovey during the cold winter in Korea

I never met a native of any country before and now I was meeting Song and Jung for the first time, just like Billy Lewis shown in the picture at the beginning of this story.

Telling Private Song in English that I love the sound of his Korean National Anthem, “Aegukga,” he was beaming his approval to that statement and asked, “Perkiso, do you want to learn how to sing it?”

What an honor, I thought, “Yes I would.”

In teaching me the song, he was very patient with my pronunciation of the words, laughing at times, and then he sang it with such a beautiful voice, it almost brought me to tears. Even though I was nineteen years old, I was so appreciative of my new friends and was willing to give my life for Billy and my new buddies shown here.

Song, whose name fit, because he was always happy and singing, appreciated our compliments, always had a smile on his face. He struggled to learn English but he taught me all of the words to the Korean National Anthem, which I still remember today. After teaching me the Anthem he began to sing a song called “Arirang.”

Arirang, in English sounds like “ah-di-dahng.”  You can hear it played in every shop and restaurant. It is a story about a man leaving his home to go to work and hiking up through a pass in the mountains called “Arirang.”

The strange thing about it is  Arirang means different things to different people. To Privates Song and Jung, (pronounced Chung) it meant “friendship between Americans and Koreans.” It means whatever the listener wants it to mean. Walking down the street in Seoul or in the village, a stranger may be humming the song, from the other direction another Korean may hear it and start singing it. The country of South Korea was a Broadway Musical. Arirang is the featured theme song of the country. Played as a marching tune, “Arirang”  was the official marching song of my 7th Division. It was designated the official marching song after the cease fire agreement in 1953. Even though the 7th Division is stateside now, they still play “Arirang” as a march to salute their Korean comrades.

Here is Arirang followed by the South Korean National Anthem, “Aeguka” played a Flash Mob of University students. Listen and enjoy the YouTube video.

Jung, Muyung…

AKA  “Jerry Lewis,” because of his smile and sense of humor. Jung was the first KATUSA, I met after arriving at our new “hooch, ” Quonset Hut barracks at Camp Hovey.

Shown on the far right is Private Jung Muyung. Jung, and Song sat with me my first night in Korea, showing were to put my clothes and gear to make sure I was ready for inspections that happened  all of the time.

Friendships begin in Korea
Privates Billy Lewis, Song C.K, and Jung Myung swap stories and build friendships.

Jerry and I Get in a Fight?…

One Sunday, we were off duty in our hooch, and I began telling Jung about American hand-to-hand combat. When the 7th Division practiced hand to hand, we either used the bogus stuff we learned in Basic Training, or we had to use our rifles with bayonets attached because we were know as the “Bayonet Division.”

All of our KATUSA’s, there were three assigned to each platoon, went to another area down the road and practiced taekwondo.

I challenged Jung, to a match, and within a few seconds I got him locked up. We were in a standing position, and all of a sudden, Jung gave me a head butt, and I started falling backwards. Jung began yelling, “Perkiso, Perkiso,” as I was seeing stars and falling backwards. Even as I was dazed and falling backwards, I tried to signal him that it was okay and not to worry about me.

He hovered over my limp body until I came to. We were just goofing off and Jung felt badly and so did I. The head wound didn’t hurt as much as knowing my new friend, reacted just as he was trained to do in combat by his KATUSA leader, SGT Han.

All of us went up to the DMZ together on Labor Day, September 4, 1967. That was the last time I got to talk with Song and Jung, but when I listen to the Korean student flash mob, I think I still am communicating with my good friends…

Wayne F. Perkins US54805848

3rd Platoon, (Weapons Platoon) 3rd Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, Korea, 1966-67…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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