The weeks on the ocean were un-eventful but not unpleasant for me. I ate with the officers, so I finally had some decent meals. The few stormy days we had did not bother me but I did miss seeing land for so long. Finally, after several weeks, we reached the "Yellow Sea." I know now why they called this the Yellow Sea: the entire area had a light brown look from the silt which came from the rivers of China.
It took several more days until we finally saw land. I was very excited when we landed in Yokohama harbor. Here I was. less than a year ago I had still been working at the Philips Import-Export office in Eindhoven and now I was setting foot on Japanese soil. My first impression of Japan was that of an industrious country. This sounds funny now as Japan is a leader in industrial production but in the spring of 1953 Japan was just recovering from WW II and the damage was very visible, especially in Yokohama. But people were rushing around. Everybody seemed well dressed and busy from early morning until late at night. As a matter of fact we saw construction going on throughout the night under artificial lights.
I do not remember how long we stayed in Japan. I do remember walking in the main streets downtown. Before long we were on our way to an airport where a gigantic troop transport plane was waiting for us. The wingspan was enormous and the back opened up into a gaping hole large enough to load tanks, jeeps and armored vehicles. Two gangplanks, which from a distance looked like two match sticks, were lowered and, after everything was loaded, we were marched into a cavernous two story high compartment. Inside were many rows of seats made out of canvas straps on which we were placed. We were given instructions how to strap ourselves in and here we sat, shoulder to shoulder, hundreds of GI's with their duffel bags and rifles squeezed somewhere under and between our legs. It was highly uncomfortable and we were not looking forward to the flight which, we were told, would last at least four and a half hours. The plane, the "Flying Boxcar" as it was called, started down the runway with a deafening roar. It shook and creaked and I was sure that it could not get off the ground but, after a long arduous time, it did. I was lucky to be able to see out of a little window. The plane climbed so slowly that it seemed to me to go backwards. When it eventually reached the required height it seemed to stand still but little by little I saw Japan disappearing and we flew for several hours over water. By now, most of the soldiers were fast asleep. I cannot sleep while traveling, even now, so I just sat there staring at the water below. Occasionally I could notice a ship but mostly I saw just the gray sea and gray sky. Before we landed we were given lunch boxes with some un-edibles. I only ate the crackers and cheese and chocolate bar.
After many hours we arrived outside of Pusan on the southern coast of South Korea. Luckily it did not rain because they lined us up in formation on the tarmac and let us wait there for a long time until trucks came to take us to the train depot. It was pitch black when we arrived there. Because it was war time all the lights were blackened. Only little slits of the truck lights gave us some help in moving around the area. We were not allowed to light cigarettes because the enemy might notice the troop movement. I got the incorrect impression that out there in the dark, we were surrounded by enemies. What did I know? We stood there for a very long time. Little by little we were loaded onto the train and seated on hard wooden benches, four on each bench. It was crowded and stuffy and smelly ( we had not had a shower for more than twenty four hours), so we were looking forward to the train to get moving. Well, they did not seem to be in a hurry because we stood there for several hours. Finally we left. The train moved slowly, very slowly. I will never understand, why. It just crawled. Officers came around with instructions: no smoking, no flashlights and, if we were attacked, we had to lie flat on the floor. And, oh yes, we all got another lunch (dinner?) box with the same food as we had on the plane. I was hungry but I could not see myself eating half the stuff they gave us. I was very popular with the guys around me because I gave them nearly all there was.
The trip was endless. For hours we crawled in the dark, in this noisy, squeaky train, with nothing to do or see. Every few hours the train came to a creaking halt and stood still for a while before it started to crawl forward again. All we knew was that we were going North and with all these hours we kept going we thought that we might end up in the middle of North Korea. After many hours, close to the morning, we heard cannon and machine gun fire and we all fell to the floor. Soon the officers came around and told us that the firing was not directed at us (thank G'd) and that we could sit up again.
Finally we reached another train depot. It was dark again and by the little light from the trucks we were loaded up to be taken to a processing area. It was an eerie feeling. It was still fairly dark when, after several hours, we drove into a valley surrounded on all sides by treeless mountains. I thought that, by now, we must already be in North Korea. Not so. We were told to make ourselves comfortable under an enormous canopy, large enough to hold all the soldiers from the train. We spent the whole day there without getting any orders. It was boring and nerve wrecking as we heard occasional machine gun fire, not very far away, which was answered by a more distant firing. But after a while we settled down. There were field showers for us and that was a new experience for me. There was plenty of water, but one moment it was ice cold and the next minute scalding hot. It was a real adventure just to wash and rinse and not get hurt.
At dusk the shooting activity increased and by nightfall it sounded like a free-for-all. On the American side a machine gunner started his activity with a rhythmic salvo after which he gave it his all. Then the answer came from the other side and we saw the tracers going over our heads. After a short while the big guns started from both sides. We were surrounded by mountains and safely situated in the valley. But the firing came from both sides of the mountains. It was a constant sound of booms and rattata's. Some of my companions were getting very nervous. When it was completely dark our valley was lit up by the constant firing, very much like the continuous lightning of a severe thunderstorm and the noise became deafening. As it became late I decided to go to sleep. It probably was because of my previous war experience that I was fairly calm and I thought that I probably would need the energy of a good night sleep the following morning. It was not the most comfortable place to sleep. We were still situated under that giant canopy. There were no beds or any conveniences so the ground was my mattress and the duffel bag my pillow. I also kept my M-1 rifle loaded with a round in the chamber, just in case of an attack. I do not know if that was the proper way but I felt more secure. I did get some sleep even though I woke up many times during the night. The firing went on until the early morning and by daylight it became quiet again. This was my first experience with live enemy fire. Luckily it was not directed at us.
After breakfast we received our orders. I was assigned to an engineering outfit as a typist (remember how experienced I was in typing?!). A jeep picked me and a couple of other G.I.'s up and soon we were leaving the safety of the valley and entering the open road. It was a dirt road full of muddy ruts. We passed by a train depot, probably where we had arrived the previous day. There we saw many Army ambulances and jeeps which brought wounded and dead soldiers to be transported to the appropriate places. It was not a pretty sight. In spite of my WW II experience I had never seen any wounded or dead victims. It shook me up quite a bit. I was relieved when we worked our way past that mass of vehicles and continued along rice paddies and farms. These did not look anything like the farms I knew from Holland or the U.S. The rice paddies looked like miniature lakes and the farm fields looked like little patches of rough sand and mud. And did it smell! Our driver explained to us that the Koreans used human fertilizer and he warned us not to eat anything raw if offered by a Korean. It never occurred to me that I might have contact with Korean civilians but I soon found out that we did.
After a long arduous and bumpy ride we arrived at a compound surrounded by rolls of barbed wire. We entered through some kind of a gate where a guard challenged the driver who knew the secret watch word. We drove into a very small area with just one large tent surrounded by four or five smaller tents. This was a different world, an army different from the one I was used to. In the first place, nobody looked particularly sharp or even neat and officers walked among enlisted men without being saluted. Everybody seemed friendly enough. We were taken to the officer's tent. He looked as if he had just come out of Westpoint except for his casual fatigues (Army work uniform). I came to attention and saluted him but he said right away: "At ease, soldier" and he explained that it was not necessary to salute officers in the compound because they were walking around the area all day long and it would be too much of a bother. He told me what my duties would be, which included guard duty but not K.P. My main occupation was just typing. "So far so good" I thought. Then he went into security arrangements. I had to get acquainted with the area surrounding the compound. We were relatively safe there because we were situated in a neutral triangle, just south of the demarcation line, near Panmunjon. There were no fighting units allowed inside that triangle, which was not very large. There was some understanding that we would never be attacked but you could never know when the North Koreans or the Chinese Army would violate that agreement. So, we always wore our steel helmets and carried our M1 rifles outside our tents. That rifle became pretty heavy after a while and so did the steel helmet. I never managed to keep it all neat and in the proper place.
And so I started my new career in the army, another new lifestyle. It took me a while to get adjusted but after a few days I got used to it. Even my typing improved after a while, though I still kept typing with just four fingers (I still do that). We had a certain routine of work with many breaks and a lot of joking and talking during work hours. And we had long lunches. There was no mess hall. We were served food on our small tin canteen plates and cups which, after eating, we dipped into two barrels , one with soapy hot water and the next with boiling clear water. I never learned how to do all that with the rifle slung over my shoulder. It kept slipping off and the steel helmet frequently landed on the ground. I think that I was not shaped properly for the Army. We slept in tents that were placed on the soil which was often muddy after a heavy rain. In the tent was a dim light, a stove and eight bunks on which we slept. At the foot of each bed was a footlocker in which we kept our meager belongings and, when we were in the tent, we hung our rifles under the beds. Nights were very cold and I often slept in my fatigues curled up inside a sleeping bag and an army blanket. Only my nose stuck out. It was hard to get out of that warm bag when we had guard duty. We were then unceremoniously awakened, put on our heavy, furled parkas and thermal boots. Then the sergeant of the guard marched us to the guard tent and assigned us to our post and gave us our secret password which was changed every night. We pulled guard four hours on and four hours off. During our off-hours we had to stay in the guard tent and try to catch some sleep before we were awakened for our second four hour round. Once, late at night, a jeep approached my post and I challenged the passengers. They gave the correct password and when they drove by me I recognized our commanding officer. I felt embarrassed but he gave me a compliment for doing my duty. I could never become a good soldier.
There was the problem of the alerts. We were never told if the alert was for training purposes or if there was a real threat. We had to carry heavy machine guns and mortars out of the compound, drag all that equipment with ammunition boxes and our trustworthy rifles up a steep hill and assemble it all as quickly as possible and get into firing positions. I was lucky that we were never attacked during my stay there because I never managed to get it all in place before the "all clear" was announced and we had to dis-assemble the whole lot. I hate to think what could have happened to me in a real attack, especially with my helmet rolling down the hill. Everybody got a good laugh from my antics. Needless to say, we had to keep our weapons sparkling clean and I still needed help re-assembling them. But everybody took it all in good spirit and I got the necessary help.
The evenings were spent outside watching movies. Our "movie-theatre" was a sandy or, after a rain, a muddy field. We had a different movie every night. Everybody sat on a full case of beer, brought in from the PX at headquarters, which would be empty before the movie ended. I never got into that habit and I must say that, during my one and a half year stint in Korea, I was one of the few who did not drink or swear. Needless to say, I was the butt of a lot of jokes but I did not mind that because I was very much accepted by my peers. It always was done in good fun.
The highlight for us was the daily mail call. Anita was just wonderful. She wrote me nearly every day. Very soon after I arrived she wrote me in a letter that she thought that she was pregnant. Soon that was confirmed in another letter and after that she often sent me pictures of herself so I could follow the progress. Of course I shared the news with my confreres who celebrated the occasion with an extra case of beer and many toasts. Anita always kept me informed of the changes in her and the progress of the baby growing inside of her. I appreciated that very much.
One day while talking to a sergeant, I mentioned that I played the flute. He was surprised to hear that they had not assigned me to a band. I did not know that there was a band in the combat zone in the middle of a war, but the sergeant explained that this was done for the morale of the troops and that the band often played for different occasions. Then he said that, if the band needed a flutist, I would instantly be transferred to the band which was based at the 25th division headquarters, some fifteen miles south of the front line. Well, that sounded good to me, so I asked for an interview with the band commander. That sergeant helped me immensely.
The next morning I got a pass to leave our compound and the sergeant took me to the headquarters in a jeep. After about an hour of being shaken up on the dirt roads we arrived at headquarters. Well, to me it looked like heaven on earth. I had not seen anything like that since I had left the States some three months earlier. There were real, albeit dirt streets lined with lawns and neat tents and large Quonset huts all on wooden floors! Army buses, trucks and jeeps were hustling about. There were stop signs! Wow, like a real city. I was impressed. And here we did have to salute the officers, and there seemed to be a lot of them. Soon we arrived at one of the Quonset huts. The sergeant dropped me off and I entered the band rehearsal hall. The band leader was a warrant officer. He was very nice and encouraging. He wanted to hear me play the flute. Well, my flute was in New York, a million miles and a life style away. So, he gave me somebody's flute and I played some scales for him and one of my favorite flute solos. He wanted to know if I also played the piccolo. I told him I did, although I had never in my life had a piccolo in my hands. He asked me some questions about my background and then we parted with an "I'll let you know."
Early the next morning, my commanding officer came to
my tent and handed me my orders: bag and baggage as soon as possible for
transfer to the 25th Division Band! I never got ready so fast in
my entire life. After lunch a jeep took me back to headquarters where the
warrant officer greeted me with open arms. They sure needed a flutist;
I was the only one there for the next sixteen months. He personally took
me to the headquarters' supply sergeant where I received dress fatigues
and dress uniforms, helms and boots. Everything had to be custom fitted,
so a Korean taylor took my measurements. I never expected anything like
that. Then I had to turn in my rifle and instead I received a lightweight
carbine and a fancy light helmet, beautifully colored with the 25th division
colors and insignia and fancy belts and belt buckles. I sure felt like
someone special. They gave me new boots and music stands and pouches and
even new and better canteens from which to eat. Then I was taken to my
tent. It had a wooden floor and frame! No more sleeping in the mud! We
had less soldiers in each tent and we had cabinets for our instruments
and music. We did have to pull guard duty but not as frequently. The band
area was situated in a beautiful corner of the division headquarters alongside
a lovely creek.
|This was the new life I started and lived for the following sixteen months. It was a more relaxed and comfortable routine. We were awakened much later and the day was taken up mostly with rehearsals and time for individual practice. The latter was a lot of fun because some of the musicians in the band were excellent jazz musicians. It was a privilege to hear them practice and rehearse. The drummer would practice different rolls and combinations for hours and there was one trumpet player who could improvise on one theme for a long time. They tried to get me interested in forming a combo of flute, drums, trombone and trumpet but I could never become familiar with the rhythm necessary for jazz. I and a French horn player were the only ones with a classical background. We had two conductors: the warrant officer for classical music and concerts and a master sergeant for jazz and marching music. For the marches they needed a piccolo and, as you may remember, I had told the warrant officer that I could play that instrument as well. I quickly made a call to Anita to send me a book to study the piccolo, which she did. There is not much difference between playing the flute and the piccolo so I caught on very quickly although I always had trouble with fast passages. The keys of a piccolo are so close together that my fingers got in each other's way. But somehow I got by. I enjoyed the weekly Saturday morning "Pass in Revue" parade routines with the inspections. First we would parade several times around the grounds playing different marches. The shrill sound of the piccolo drew a lot of attention. It seemed that they had not heard that for a while. Then we would stand to the side and play soft waltz music for the inspection. I could never figure out why waltzes were needed for military inspections but that is how it was. After that we played some concert music, sometimes a classical arrangement, sometimes jazz and sometimes, my favorite, Broadway musicals and film music.|
I mentioned that I "quickly " called Anita. In reality I only started the call as soon as I could. The procedure for making a call from an army base in Korea was very long and tedious and you needed special permission which was not given easily. The telephone was more like a field radio with a little crank which connected us from division headquarters to I-Corps headquarters which then connected us to the Army headquarters in Seoul or Pusan and then finally, via Japan to the States. Needless to say that this took quite a while and sometimes they sent me back to the band and called me to return later when the connection was finally made.
Now I started a new and more pleasant life again. We had to spend a lot of time keeping our uniforms, shoes and helmets in "spitting" clean and shining condition but even that was made easy for us. We had a Korean house boy! We each gave a little money, I do not remember how much but it was a small amount, and this house boy cleaned and shined our boots and washed and ironed all our clothes and kept our tent in good order. Now that was a new experience for me. I never had that luxury before or after. Only the carbines were not to touched by him. That was too bad because I still needed help with assembling my weapon. In the evening he often told us about his family, in broken English, and he taught us a few famous and beautiful Korean songs.
On December 6th 1953, I was called to see the warrant officer. He handed me a telegram from New York: I was the proud father of a healthy baby boy. I was shaking with excitement and I did not know what to do or say. I was overcome with emotion. I asked if it would be possible to get a furlough to see my wife and son but that was impossible. However he offered me the opportunity to make a call directly from the band officer's tent to my wife. This seemed to me a miracle. This telephone was a battery operated and hand cranked field phone. I was overcome with emotion when I heard the voice of my wife for the first time in nearly five months. Tears still come to my eyes when I remember that emotional moment. We talked only for a short time but it was a tremendous morale booster. I was up in the clouds when I returned to my tent where I was greeted with a loud ovation; the news had spread throughout the band compound. It was not easy to return to the reality of Army life.
A while later, around Christmas time, we went all the way North to the front line to play for the G.I.'s who were guarding the area near Panmunjon at the 38th parallel, which later became the armistice line. We arrived there after dark and entered the base after many security checks. The boys were extremely appreciative of our performance of Christmas carols and some jazz and marches. They had been stuck there for months without any entertainment or change of scene. After the concert we had some coffee and refreshments. Suddenly we heard a female voice with a strong Korean accent speaking over a loudspeaker. "G.I.'s, wouldn't you like to be home with your loved ones and have a Christmas dinner with your wives and children. Don't you want to put your arms around your girlfriends? Tell your commander that you want to be home for New Year, etc." And so it went on for some ten or fifteen minutes. The fellows just laughed and shrugged it all off. This was the Korean version of Tokyo Rose trying to break the morale of the troops. It almost seemed ridiculously simplistic but it did have some effect on me. I had not heard a female voice for many months. But soon this passed too and we had a good time there. We were told that the soldiers had gone through this experience many times before. It had little or no effect on them.
Frequently we got orders in the morning or in the afternoon just before we had to give a concert. There was a lot of preparation for these occasions. We had to shine our shoes (spitting shine!) and make sure our ceremonial uniforms, helmets and pouches were in top shape. Then we loaded all the equipment, instruments and ourselves into Army trucks. We frequently played in Korean villages after a school was opened, built by the American Army. That was a very unusual experience. Korea at that time, in 1953-1954, was still very primitive. The roads were all dirt or mud roads, depending on the weather. Either way it was no fun. If it was dry and hot the dust would blow into the open trucks which took us to the villages and cover us from top to toe. When we arrived in the village we immediately jumped off the trucks and cleaned ourselves the best way we could. Most villages did not even have water for us to wash ourselves. The Koreans were still dressed in their traditional outfits, the women in billowing white dresses, often with bare breasts, and the men in ballooning pantaloons and loose shirts. They would crowd around us, stare at us and clap loudly after each piece of music. Then officials gave their speeches, in Korean, and we would be cheered some more. Afterwards the Koreans had a picnic and they often offered us something to eat or drink. As we had been warned about serious consequences of eating that food, because of their poor hygiene and the human fertilizer they used, we of course declined. They were always friendly and courteous. Sometimes they danced for us the lovely Korean folk dances and sang the songs we had learned from our house boy. Needless to say that I always took both my movie camera and my 35 mm camera with me and that I took a lot of pictures and movies. These are now priceless memories of the old Korea. I understand that those narrow dirt roads are now four lane divided highways and that the old villages, where fish used to be dried on top of the straw roofs, have now skyscrapers and high rise apartment buildings.
Our favorite village was Vijombu. I believe that this was a district capitol. It was a lovely but primitive town with only dirt roads lined with little huts. The foul smell of natural fertilizer and drying fish greeted us from afar before we reached our destination. But the villagers were wonderful and appreciative of our performances. They lined the streets and greeted us with smiles and hand waving. We played there more often than anywhere else.
One day we were sent to a place in the far outlying area
of the district. I do not remember the name of that village. But I remember
a beautiful mountainous area surrounding the hamlet. It was green and covered
with trees. This may not sound unusual to you but for us it was an unusual
sight. Most mountains in our area were denuded from the constant bombardments
and most of the valleys had lost their greenery after many fires. To us
it was a real treat. I asked and received permission to hike into the hills
and take some pictures. I made sure that I kept the band in sight so I
would not get lost. One of the band members accompanied me. We discovered
an old graveyard with a couple of beautiful monuments. There I took several
pictures one of which became my favorite: my companion took a photo of
me leaning against one of the stone sculptured monuments. I always sent
all my film to Anita and this picture was included in an article in a New
York newspaper which interviewed Anita as a young mother with an infant
whose father was in the Armed services in Korea.
|Before the birth of my first child Anita sent me pictures
showing her ever expanding body and after the birth of our firstborn, Mark
Edmond Groenewoudt (that was still my official last name), she sent me
pictures almost every week so I could follow the progress Mark was making.
That was wonderful of her because it made me feel that I was part of a
family. She also wrote me long letters daily with all the exciting things
happening to our little but fast growing infant. She also included me in
all the decision making, although sometimes solutions could not wait for
an answer through the slow mail. But throughout the remainder of my stay
in Korea I felt very much that I was partaking in the development of our
child. Needless to say, I shared the pictures and all the latest developments
with my buddies in the band.
My last name gave a lot of people a problem: on the one hand they could not pronounce it when they read my name and on the other they did not understand when I had to report somewhere and give my name. In the band they came up with a clever solution. There was a popular tune in the early fifties in which the name "Piccolo Pete" occurred. So, as I played the piccolo as well as the flute, more and more band members started to call me Piccolo Pete or just Piccolo or more often just Pete. I am sure that most of them only knew me by these names. It did not bother me. As a matter of fact, I considered it a complement because they tried to adjust my name to make it more user friendly.
|One night, while I was pulling guard duty, it started to pour. Within a short time little rivulets formed around the band area. I was not too uncomfortable in my thermal boots and winter parka, so I walked around the compound. When I came to our little stream behind our tents I saw that it was fairly swollen. So, I decided to keep an eye on it. In a very short time it started to approach the banks and I realized that it would not be long before water would go over the banks and flood the band area. I quickly woke up the sergeant on duty and then our commanding officer. We had to make small dikes around our area. Of course, I was still on guard duty, so I just overlooked the scene while the others were working hard in the drenching rain! Soon after that I received my one and only promotion: I became a corporal! It felt to me as if I was promoted to general. I felt very important.|
|Soon after that the fighting in Korea came to an end:
in July 1953 all parties signed a truce agreement, with the troops staying
at the 38th parallel, at the same point where a half year earlier we had
played our Christmas concert for the soldiers. Now life became somewhat
easier for us. Improvements were made in our living quarters. We received
new tents with better wooden floors and a wooden frame and a door frame
for the entrance. A pure luxury for us! We also started to give more concerts
and farther away from our base and we were more entertained by USO shows
from the US.
The climate in Korea was not always very pleasant. During the summer it was humid and brutally hot. In the winter it was dry but very cold, often below 0" F. And in between was the rainy season. During the latter it could pour steadily for weeks. Often our tents were full of water. The worst part of this was our guard duty. Even though it was a much lighter routine than in the Engineer company, the weather made our lives very difficult. The winter nights were horrid. We did have excellent clothing; our parkas were lined with real fur and we had thermal boots which kept our feet warm, although sweaty. But it was uncomfortable. One night, while pulling my four hour shift of guard duty, I felt a cramp in one leg. I tried to walk it away but it seemed that the cold air and the heavy, sweaty thermal boots made it worse. Finally, I collapsed. I dragged myself to the guard tent where the sergeant in charge called in a relief guard for me. I was helped back to my tent where I tried to rest and sleep. The next morning I could not put weight on my left leg. It just buckled and it was very painful. Soon I receive the orders for my transfer to a hospital. A jeep took me there.
I do not remember where this hospital was but it was far away from the front line. It was not a field hospital but a regular, brick building. This description sounds superfluous but, believe me, that after many months in tents and quonset huts in dust and mud and seeing only soldiers in uniform or Koreans in their primitive outfits, it was quite a change to see a normal hospital building and doctors and nurses in civilian clothes. I stayed there only a few days. They put me in traction and I received some physical therapy. And finally they made arch supports for me! The lack of these was the cause of my problem. I always had problems with my feet and needed arch supports. This was not entered in my original induction records. Here is an example of a bad thing ending with positive results. The hospital visit was entered into my permanent records. During the rest of my life I received many benefits because of this mishap. I will write about that later. After a week the pain disappeared and I could function normally again. Nevertheless, I received orders that I would be excused from pulling guard or going on long marches. I had no argument with that order! It made life easier for me.
By this time I had settled down to a pleasant routine in the band. We had a large Quonset hut where we had our rehearsals. There was plenty of free time for private music practice and reading. The house boys took care of all the hard work and we had a change of routine whenever we had to give concerts or play for parades or for visiting dignitaries. One of these was General Mark Clark who at that time was the commander- in- chief of the armed forces in Korea. Of course, I took plenty of pictures of all these events.
Once a fire broke out in the hills surrounding our camp. Everybody was called out to help and form a water brigade. Instead of joining them I picked up my cameras and ran around in the opposite direction and took some dramatic scenes. I am still surprised that I was not court marshaled for dis-obeying orders, especially since several small Korean hamlets burnt to the ground. I think that, by now, I was known as that crazy guy with a camera around his neck. Later we played concerts for these villages after the US Army helped restore them. Every once in a while we played in a village where a new school, built with the help of our Army, was opened. This was a major event for the villagers and every one in the surrounding area came to hear our presentation. Flower girls presented flowers to the division commander and speeches were made, some in broken English but most in their native language. Again, I took many pictures of these village scenes, which are now priceless. And so my life was full of adventures.
One day in April 1954 I received orders to go to Seoul to receive my naturalization papers. Already for months I had been asking when I would receive my American citizen papers which had been promised to me when I was sworn into the American Army. So, finally the day was here, one of the most important days in my life: I became an American citizen. It all happened with little fanfare. A jeep took me to Seoul, a journey of several hours, mostly on dirt roads, from our Headquarters. Seoul was at that time already a large city. It had large, wide paved streets, (something I had not seen in a year!) and a few high rise buildings. Soon we arrived at our appointed place, a beautiful palace with lovely gardens. I took many pictures of the area until I was called in for the naturalization ceremony. I was worried that they would ask me history questions but everything was very easy. An officer only asked me what democracy was and that I knew. Then I went to a room where I was sworn in. I had expected to see more people there but I was the only one. Just before I took the oath the officer asked if I wanted to change my name officially. I was so lucky that he thought of it because with all the excitement I had forgotten all about the difficulty my Dutch name was giving everybody. He probably could not figure out my last name, therefore the suggestion. So, I said:" yes and please change it from 'Groenewoudt' to 'Greenwood', thank you, sir". He asked if I did not want to change my first name, too. I could not understand why. Then he explained that, officially, my name was registered as "Freddy" ( thanks to my friendly and easy-going father) and he gave me the opportunity to change that to "Fred." I followed his suggestion and so my name became officially Fred Samson Greenwood. I walked out of that palace a different person: I was now a U. S. Citizen and a proud one at that. I immediately called Anita before returning to our base. It was a lot easier calling from a normal phone in a regular city. When I returned to the band I was greeted with a lot of applause and congratulations.
One day we found out that Marilyn Monroe would visit the 25th Division Headquarters and give a concert for the troops and that our band would accompany her! Believe me, that was a highlight in our otherwise dreary existence. When that day arrived I was ready with my 35 mm camera and my movie camera. We were told to stay at our compound but when the helicopters approached the small landing strip not far from our band area, I quickly ran to the field where the helicopters were landing. In the band I already was accepted as "the photographer" and with all that camera equipment hanging around my neck the military guard at the landing strip probably thought that I was an official press photographer. Anyway, they never questioned me and so I got some outstanding pictures of Marilyn Monroe landing and getting out of her helicopter. Was she ever so beautiful! She wore Army fatigue jeans and a flight jacket but she looked as glamorous as if she were dressed in a beautiful evening gown.
That night we played at the concert and I must admit, that I spent more time taking pictures than playing the flute. I had both my 35 millimeter camera and my movie camera on my lap, ready for action pictures. Sometimes I wonder how I got away with all these things I did, but somehow I was never reprimanded. And so I have some priceless pictures and movies of Marilyn Monroe. The next day when she left I again left the band without asking permission and ran alongside her jeep constantly taking pictures. At one point her jeep stopped and she blew a kiss at me which I caught on movie film. Maybe she recognized this crazy GI with all the cameras constantly hanging around his neck.
After I had been a year in Korea, I was sent on R & R (Rest and Recuperation) for a week to Japan. This was a wonderful change. I stayed in Yokohama and did my share of sightseeing and shopping. It was very different from the surroundings in which I had been living for such a long time. I did not quite know what to do with my time, so I spent most of it at the USO club. One night I went with some GIs to a bar but I felt very much out of place. I was not a drinker and the waitresses were rather aggressive and spent much of their time sitting on the laps of the GI's. I did not feel at ease with that. So, the following day I decided to take a tour to an Island where we saw a beautiful Japanese temple with a large Buddha in front of it. I also toured the large Yokohama harbor which I found very interesting. It reminded me somewhat of the days I had spent in the harbor of Rotterdam when I had worked for the Dutch government.
I was very impressed with the activity of the Japanese people. The Koreans, especially the farmers with whom we mostly had contact, were very laid back. By contrast, the Japanese always seemed to be busy and in a hurry to get things done. They were mostly well dressed and properly polite. We saw a lot of construction and many busy stores. A few months later I went on my second R.& R., this time to Tokyo, and I also enjoyed that thoroughly. I had now more experience with travel in Japan, so I spent most of my time sightseeing. I was lucky that I was there on the Emperor's birthday when the Palace gardens were open to the public. There were tens of thousands of people crowded in the enormous gardens which were extremely beautiful. At the end of the day, when it was time to leave, I saw in the distance the bridge which I had to cross and which was solidly packed with people. To me it looked over-crowded so I decided to stay on a low hill overlooking that scene and take some pictures. Later I heard that people had been crushed to death on that bridge. So, as so many times before and after, I was lucky to have been saved from such a horrible experience.
About six months before my return to the States, I heard that the band librarian was going home. I did not wait a minute. I immediately went to the band commander and told him about all the "experience" I had with library work which by now, I suppose, was almost the truth. Anyway, he was duly impressed and the next thing I knew I became the new Band Librarian. This was not a minor improvement because the library was located in a large Quonset hut, which was much superior to the tents in which we had been living for more than a year. Inside the Quonset hut was the rehearsal room and a separate room for storage of instruments and music books. There was also a room which was the office of the librarian and it was large enough to hold a bed and some cabinets and a desk. So, here I was, for the rest of my stay in Korea, in my private quarters. No more tent shared with other band members. I felt like a king. Before concerts I had to get the music ready but, except for rehearsals, I had a lot of free time which I used to practice the flute to get ready for my civilian life which was slowly approaching. I also had to copy music parts from the main score, one for each of the instruments. I enjoyed that very much.
During all this time Anita kept me posted on the progress which Mark was making. Needless to say, he was smarter and more handsome than any baby around. She sent me a lot of photographs including copies of a photo of Anita holding him, used to advertise some baby products. She also moved away from her parents' apartment where she had stayed after we got married. She now moved into a coop apartment around the corner from where her parents were living in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York. We were very proud of that achievement because we owned this now. We had talked it over (in our letters), and had agreed that this was better than renting. This was one of the many highlights in our lives. With the money she received for the baby's pictures used for the advertisements she bought a washing machine and dryer and so we were already on our way to set up house!
The time for returning to the States was coming closer. I had to make plans for my future. After all, I was now responsible for a wife and a baby, a family. I was twenty four years old and I had no idea what I would do. I wrote to Uncle Maurice asking him to take me back into his diamond factory but he was non-committal. Is it possible that he could feel from my letters that I was not all that enthusiastic about going back to that work? And yet, I had to make a living to support my family. So, I wrote a few more times without any better results. I was aware that I was eligible for the GI Bill of Rights benefits which included money for studies and subsidy for the family. To me that seemed quite a bit of money. Again, Anita and I discussed that in our correspondence and we agreed that, without a definite promise from my uncle, we would go it alone.
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